Colombia has opened its doors to adoption by Maltese same-sex couples, giving them a second option to adopt internationally.

The civil unions law gives local same-sex couples the same rights as in marriage, including the right to adopt, with the first such adoption taking place in 2016.

Until now, same-sex couples could only adopt children from Portugal. 

Meanwhile, Ghana has joined the list of countries open to Malta for adoptions by newly-weds, since it will not require prospective parents to be married for any length of time before adopting.

Prior to the addition of these two countries to the list, the Maltese were able to adopt from six countries: Portugal, Slovakia, Bulgaria, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

However, restrictions vary among these countries, with Portugal having been the only one to allow same-sex adoptions and Slovakia and Ghana not permitting adoptions by single parents, explained the co-founder of non-profit Aġenzia Tama, Shirley Mifsud.

Restrictions on the length of time a couple need to be married before they adopt also vary, with India and Colombia requiring two years of stable marriage, she said.

Colombia will allow adoptions from various kinds of families, regardless of whether they are married or not, same-sex or heterosexual or single parent ones.  

Our aim is to make sure that all those families who are eligible to adopt have the option to do so

Mifsud, whose organisation facilitates intercountry adoptions, explained that having a longer list of countries gives different kinds of families more stable options for adoption. “Our aim is to make sure that all those families who are eligible to adopt have the option to do so,” Mifsud said.

“So, if a country closes its doors to Malta, which has happened in the past, we want to try to make sure there are other countries from which people in Malta can adopt.

“We want to give all prospective parents a choice. Since requirements for eligibility vary according to the country, not all families can adopt from each country.”

It was for these reasons that the agency had instigated the process to begin adoptions from Colombia and Ghana, with the first dossiers (applications) being sent late last year, Mifsud said.

Between 2016 and 2020, 148 children were adopted from overseas, 70 per cent of them from India, while local adoptions numbered just eight during the same period, according to a spokesperson for the Malta Central Authority.

The fact that there tend to be few children to adopt locally is one of the reasons to look overseas, Mifsud said.

Another reason for overseas adoptions is the fear of some adoptive parents that, because Malta is so small, the biological families may find out where they live, according to director of Alternative Care at Aġenzia Apoġġ, Remenda Grech.

However, from experience, this had proven to be very remote possibility, she said.

She added that the introduction of the new Child Protection (Alternative Act) Law was intended to address other issues that discouraged local adoptions.

The new law aims to give children more permanency. For example, it allows children who have been in foster care for more than five years to be adopted by their foster carer.

“With the introduction of the new law, the Directorate of Alternative Care has seen an increased interest in prospective adoptive parents who are applying to be considered for local adoptions,” Grech said.

Right now, all local children who have been freed up for adoption were either matched or were in the process of being matched, she explained.

However, there were others whom the directorate had identified for permanency and it was looking into the possibility of freeing them up for adoption.

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