By Ivett de las Mercedes
HAVANA TIMES – Talking about adoption isn’t very common in Cuba, there are very few children who meet the requirements for this process, and it has been a real torture for 32-year-old Lourdes Casas Gomez, who is still waiting after many years.
HT: When did you and your husband decide to adopt a child?
Lourdes Casas: We’ve wanted to have children ever since we got together, but I never fell pregnant. We weren’t concerned at the beginning; we were young and sex wasn’t just for procreation. When I was 25 years old, I went to my first appointment at the America Arias hospital, known as Working Class Maternity, where I was sent to get a test done.
The result was unexpected: I had problems with my ovaries. That was really hard to hear for both of us, but we finally accepted it, and I decided to undergo a series of very painful tests, to see if I could fall pregnant with my condition or not. The test results soon came in: I couldn’t have children.
I was depressed for a long time and that put my marriage on the rocks. I couldn’t imagine my life without children. I suddenly felt all dried up and nothing made sense anymore. It was a long process for me to finally accept that a woman isn’t fulfilled by her children, but that children contribute to her fulfillment. Two years later, we began to seriously think about adopting a child.
HT: Where did you go to find out information about this process?
LC: A friend told me about children’s shelters. I plucked up my courage and when I felt I was ready, I went to the one in the Plaza Municipality. I asked for an appointment and I was surprised to be seen by someone a few hours later. That’s how I found out about the steps I needed to take and I filled out my application and handed it into the provincial education department.
HT: What happened afterwards?
LC: A methodologist opened up a file for me and explained that they would have to carry out some evaluations, that I would have to be patient as there are many pending cases and not many children who meet the requirements. To tell you the truth, I had never thought about that, I wasn’t even that familiar with our Family Code, and that’s wrong, but very few of us read it, and we only inform ourselves when we face a problem.
A child can only be adopted when parents have lost their parental rights over them and this sadly only happens when they become orphans. It’s hard for a father or mother to lose their parental rights, even when children have suffered abuse at the hands of their parents (and parental rights aren’t even stripped from them when these parents are serving prison sentences); children end up at shelters for the duration of this time or until they become adults.
HT: With so few options, how come you never gave up?
LC: The methodologist’s words only fueled my desire for a child and I let her know this. She read me the requirements one by one, driven by my interest. We didn’t find any other obstacles as we met all the requirements: we were 25 years old, that is to say, we were young; we work and our financial situation would allow us to take on the needs of the future family member. Our behavior as a couple and as members of society was also good; and we didn’t have any physical or mental handicaps that could result in problems for the child.
HT: How did they verify that you met these requirements?
LC: First, I had to present a birth, marriage and criminal record certificate, as well as medical certificates that testified to our health. Later, I had to request a wage transcript at work, which had to be cosigned at a court.
HT: What went through your heads during this waiting period?
LC: In the beginning, I was hopeful, but I later understood that there really are very few children who are orphans and have lost both parents. Of course, I was overcome by depression again and I begged my husband for a divorce. I didn’t want to deprive him of the chance of having a child in a new marriage. I know from experience that unfulfilled dreams are what kill love and I wanted to hold onto a happy memory of our relationship, but he refused. Our marriage has gone through stormy waters, but it’s come out unscathed.
Some people ask us how we’ve managed without having children, as if children were the only thing to keep a couple together. We are still young and he assures me that these children who stay in homes, who have been physically and mentally abused by their parents (who are drug addicts, alcoholics and criminals a lot of the time) will one day have better lives with functional families who are willing to take them in.
Why not think that these requirements to adopt a child can change? Many people believe that the problem with adopting a child in Cuba is a matter of bureaucracy, but that’s not the case. I believe that the media should give this situation a lot more coverage, I have a friend who joined a foster home program and she looks after a child until they become adults. If this were all public information, many families would opt for this instead. I haven’t signed up to this program because it would be very painful for me to let go of a child, precisely when they become adults.