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International adoptions resume after COVID-19 travel bans halt process

Posted at 1:07 PM, Nov 30, 2020

Adopting a child from another country can take years. For some families, the pandemic added even more waiting time as countries shut down.

However, as travel opens back up, agencies are finding ways to help families complete their adoptions, like the adoption of Maria Camila in Colombia.

“For most of the summer, we were waiting for just word we were able to travel to Columbia. Just waiting for them to open up,” Seth Christensen said.

Seth and Gwen Christensen live in the U.S. with their three children. They started the process of adopting another child years ago, and just this October, they were able to travel to Colombia and bring her home.

“That was a stressful time but we made it. We made it to Columbia,” Gwen said.

We interviewed Seth and Gwen back in May, right after they went to Colombia for two weeks in March to adopt Maria Camila. However, they had to return to the U.S. without her due to COVID-19 and government closures.

“Everything was just going swimmingly until, sorry they shut down all the courts in the whole country,” they explained back in May. “We had to send her back to her group home and it was awful. But she was old enough, she kind of understood, we cried and she was like OK.”

So they waited, talking with their adopted daughter over FaceTime all summer until October, when they were invited back into Colombia to complete the process.

“It was a complete do over. All the fees, all the appeals, everything,” Gwen explained. “But we got through faster than some families did.”

“There were so many parents going through the system at that point than is normal that everyone was just overwhelmed,” Seth said about their most recent experience in the country.

Due to the delay time, many families took the first chance they could get to return and finish adoptions.

Seth and Gwen spent a month in Colombia, finalizing documents to bring Maria Camila back to the U.S. It's a process Gwen said usually would take less than three weeks, but for them took two separate trips.

“There has been a backlog on the travel piece,” said Hollen Frazier, President at All God's Children International.

The agency facilitates adoptions from a number of countries, including the adoption of Maria Camila. While the process is slower right now due to countries catching up, quarantine periods and other processes, she said adopted kids from most countries are finally getting home.

“In the last six months we’ve seen kids come home from Bulgaria, Haiti, Columbia,” she said.

Except for those from China.

“All of our families from China, they’re all still stuck. Completely stuck,” Frazier explained.

Most countries are finding ways to complete the adoption process safely after many were put on hold all summer.

“Because there were so many other families around it definitely helps to kind of see other people in the same situation,” Seth said.

After a long wait, Maria Camila now lives in the U.S. with her new siblings.

“They’ve been excited to meet her and play with her and introduce her to things,” Seth said.

The 12-year-old 6th grader started school this month.

“She just started online school this week and that’s an adventure,” Gwen said.