Friday, March 18, 2016

Sentencia - We're officially a family! (Colombia Adoption)

Today was our 'Sentencia', which is the day that the judge signs your papers, and your adoptive child is officially a part of your family.
It used to be that Sentencia would take place in Bogota. But, Bogota is such a large city that the judges are overwhelmed and would not have time to view the adoption paperwork for 3-4 weeks, thus dragging the process out as much as a month longer than necessary.

Now they are changing the process a bit, and now send families out of Bogota to smaller towns, where judges have more time and can get to it more quickly. We were sent to La Mesa, a small village in the mountains. We had to stay 5 days to claim 'residency', and then the judge can sigh the papers in one day. One day! Compared to 3-4 weeks if we had done our Sentencia in Bogota.

While in La Mesa for the 5 days, for our residency requirement and then adoption process, we stayed at the Finca Hotel Paraiso Terren. It was a beautifully restored historical hotel in a super tiny village in the mountains. It had 3 (3!) swimming pools, including one for smaller children, which our daughter loved. It also had tons of lounge and sitting areas for relaxing, hammocks for napping, and tons of games and activities, such as pool, ping pong, Parcheesi, etc. There was also a playground for children, including a teeter-totter, swings, and jungle gym bars. Finally, there were trails into the woods of the farm, and you could go for walks and see the waterfalls and the river, but the entire area is fenced in, so really safe for your kids to run around in the woods. There is also a huge cinema room to watch movies, though not many DVDs to choose from, so bring your own. The large screen is attached to satellite TV so we found plenty for our daughter to watch on the rainy day. There was tons for children to do. We had a room with a second smaller one attached for our daughter, so that we could have a little bit of privacy but still have her near. The owners were super nice, accommodating and friendly, and are into protecting the environment and thus have made the entire hotel a haven for wildlife and flora. The hotel itself is a national historic landmark, with a really cool history, and old photos of it at the turn of the last century when a train used to come through. This place was great, and we have a lovely time here. I recommend it as a little mountain/nature retreat, for relaxing by the pool. Our only complaint was maybe the duck pond right next to the swimming pools, which was a bit dirty, and we wondered about mosquitoes growing in it, though, that said, we hardly had any issues with mosquitos the entire time we were there, and our daughter loved looking at the ducks and geese and trying to feed them. Our only other possible complaint was the WIFI... it only worked in some areas, and we really wanted to be able to check internet and work email from our hotel room but had to go out to one of the lounges to get a signal. It would be nice if they had WIFI all over the hotel, but this said, they are currently renovating new sections and improving it even more, so that may come in the future. And, realistically, you come to the tropical mountains of Colombia to de-connect from the Internet, so you can reconnect with your family, so this could be okay too.

On our last day in La Mesa, when the 5 day residency requirement is met, we went into the village/town of La Mesa to the court house and signed the official paperwork to adopt J. Once we sign it, then the judge signs it, and it is official!  Your child is yours! Her name changes, and we get a new birth certificate for her with us as the parents and with her new name.

With that we can go and request her new passport.

We are officially, and legally, a family now!