Couples who live together may adopt in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – The new Puerto Rico adoption law, signed last week by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, modifies the civil code to allow unmarried couples who live together to adopt.
The Adoption Procedures Integral Reform Act of 2009 already established that single or married couples could adopt on the island regardless of their sexual orientation.
The new statute, authored by House Speaker Carlos Méndez, also aims to create an expedited process so the island’s adoption procedures can be completed within two months. The 2009 law also outlined the intention to streamline adoption processes that, in most cases, could extend for years.
“Although there have been significant advances after the adoption law of 2009, this process is still tedious, bureaucratic and doesn’t prioritize the minor’s well-being. Adoption provides a second chance in life for children to be able to grow up in a family environment,” the governor said in a written statement after signing the bill.
Méndez shared that he personally lived through “the bureaucracy of the process, as my adoption case took 19 years to complete. It was 19 years of waiting, and I thank God that I had adoptive parents who persevered.”
According to information provided by the Family Department to Caribbean Business, 523 minors are waiting to be adopted in Puerto Rico while the State Voluntary Adoption Registry (REVA by its Spanish acronym) has 204 people interested in adopting. The expectation with the new law is that the number of potential adopters increases by allowing unmarried couples to opt for that alternative.
“I am confident that [with] the revision of the terms and processes provided by the new adoption law, we will be able to provide justice to children who anxiously wait to have the security and love that a family offers,” said Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar.
The official said that in 2017 the Family Department completed 21 more adoptions than in 2016, or a total of 207.
“Our commitment will be to double those numbers and achieve the highest number of adoptions ever seen on our island for that period,” Andújar said.
In contrast, the leader of conservative organization Puerto Rico por la Familia, Dr. César Vázquez, raised concerns over the “lack of resources” in the Family Department and the island’s court system to carry out the expedited processes proposed under the new law.
“If the benefit of the minor is the fundamental criterion for this law, we understand there are things that concern us. First, 60 days to carry out the process. In some cases, release from parental rights is being conducted at the same time the issue of adoption is being worked on […] Interestingly, in those 60 days, the Family Department has to issue a report; the courts have to hold two hearings; we are talking about a department that has more than 10,000 cases of child abuse it has not been able to resolve, and courts overwhelmed with cases,” Vázquez said during an interview on the Jugando Pelota Dura TV show.
Along that line, Hayrinés Calderón, a specialist in ethics with the Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico (College of Social Work Professionals), lamented that the recommendations presented by the organization during public hearings were not included in the final legislation and that the new law “doesn’t contemplate assigning funds for social work units, from human resources to the team needed to be able to comply with the established terms.”