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'The Right To Be Born' fights to expedite adoption in Cuba and prevent the abandonment of children

DIARIO DE CUBA spoke with those heading up a 'campaign that seeks to help, guide and never question mothers who find themselves in different situations'

Illustrative image on the abandonment of babies.
Illustrative image on the abandonment of babies. Diario de Cuba.

Amanda was abandoned on November 1, 2022 in Cuba. The police have not found the person who abandoned her. The little girl was hospitalized for a month, then transferred to the Casa de Niños Sin Ampara Filial shelter in Artemisa. Last week the baby was admitted to the hospital again for a condition that prevents her from gaining the proper weight and getting enough nutrients.

In a conversation with DIARIO DE CUBA the activist Diasnurka Salcedo, who heads the "The Right To Be Born" initiative, dedicated to preventing the abandonment of newborns, expressed regret that "the delivery of this baby in adoption has been delayed, when there are families that want to offer her a home."

Salcedo has been keeping tabs on Amanda so that she lacks nothing. "The girl had Covid-19, and was admitted. She recovered. We collected donations," she explained. However, she lost weight from gastric reflux and again required admission for specialized treatment.

The activist expressed dismay that the Government, through its official media, publicized Amanda's case, but now refuses to facilitate her adoption.

"The Prosecutor's Office claims that it's investigating, and that the process can take up to three years, which I consider totally aberrant, because this means denying the girl the possibility of being in a family that loves her, that really loves her. It's painful that she won't enjoy that in her early years," the activist explained.

"It is in this stage of life that one requires the most care. Even if they care for her there, a shelter will never be the same. There are so many people eager to provide such care, and still so many obstacles!" snaps Salcedo. The activist called for "fewer protocols, and thinking with the heart."

About the campaign, Diasnurka Salcedo explains that it "arose due to the many cases of abandoned children" in Cuba.

"This is happening because of the lack of condoms. Since there are no medical supplies, there are no menstrual regulations, and no curettages, methods that I have never really supported, but people relied on these as a means of solving their problems," she says.

"Condoms are scarce, and the few available are more expensive. They used to cost a peso, then it was ten, and now they're up to 150 pesos; plus there's the lack of communication by the organizations controlled by the Government, which are not interested in counselling people. All this leads to unwanted babies, and their abandonment. So, I came up with this campaign, which has been quite well received, and quickly," she said.

"The first thing I did was create a page (with the same name as the initiative), a WhatsApp group, and a helpline. Pregnant girls who don't want their children call," she adds.

In the activist's words "the aim of the campaign is to help, to inform, but, above all not to question."

The campaign also focuses on adoption, as is the case with little Amanda.

"In Cuba, under the new Family Code, adoption has been approved. The problem is that this is a long and tedious process. But a mother gives her baby to a family, and all that bureaucracy is avoided."

"What is the most important aspect of  the campaign? First, there are those women who for one reason or another, wish to have a baby, and cannot; and in another group are those mothers who are pregnant and, for one reason or another, do not wish to keep the baby. It aims to help those mothers find families for those children, thus preventing many of those children from ending up at dumps," she explains.

"The Government has the Women and Family Orientation Houses, but they don't really work. The Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) is only there to collect money, but it doesn't provide guidance. Young people need more information, more guidance so that they don't end up committing child abandonment, for one reason or another; generally, the root problem is economic. They have no way to support a family, and no way to prevent an unwanted pregnancy."

According to the activist, "it is a rather complex situation that the authorities should raise awareness of."

Salcedo made references to the case of the "abandonment of a baby in Mulgoba (Boyeros, Havana), whose mother is imprisoned," to another "baby in Las Tunas that they found dead," and to some "abandoned twins at the Maternal and Children's Hospital of Guanabacoa, known as La Fátima," in Havana.

"I will always follow situations like these, as I find these cases outrageous, and we'll try to help and shine a light on this as much as we can so that  people become aware, and don't end up leaving children at dumps."

A legal perspective on the matter

Adoption in Cuba is processed through channels of "voluntary jurisdiction," as per Article 609.1 of the Code of Processes. It is, in fact, one in that, due to the absence of any opposition, and because the approval of the court is requested, legal counsel is not required (applicants can represent themselves, without a lawyer).

According to Article 89 of the Family Code, on the "Purpose" of adoption, it is "a legal institution of family and social protection, of public order, seeking the best interests of children and adolescents" and that "aims to guarantee their right to live in a family and ensure their well-being and comprehensive development."

Article 90 on "Guiding Principles" states that "an effort is made, whenever possible, to keep them within their extended family of origin, or in close affective environments made up of unrelated third parties with whom they maintain lasting, significant bonds."
According to lawyers consulted by DIARIO DE CUBA, "this is the rationale according to which adoption processes should not be protracted, thereby allowing minors to enjoy an ideal environment that favors their physical and psychological development."

The Family Code clearly states that only persons under the age of 18 whose parents are not known, such as abandoned babies, may be adopted.

In the latter cases, before the adoption process, a court has to rule confirming the loss or deprivation of parental responsibility, reflected in Article 98.

"Unfortunately, prior to the commencement of the court proceedings, the case file must be finalized by the Prosecutor's Office or the bodies that have custody of the minors for cases involving care centers, and this is where the proceedings get bogged down. It is a case of red tape that violates the rights of boys and girls to grow up in family settings," the lawyers agreed.
In practice, almost no adoptions have been processed so far in Cuba.

According to article 110 of the same Code, "intervening in the adoption process are: (a) The child or adolescent, if of sufficient age and degree of maturity, who appears with legal assistance; (b) their mothers, fathers or other legal representatives; (c) the administrative body that participated in the extrajudicial stage; (d) the Prosecutor's Office; and (e) the Ombudsman's Office, where appropriate."

The same section states that, "in the case of minors at social assistance centers and homes, the administrators of these centers manage the adoption file, where all the procedures are carried out, compliance with all the applicable requirements is accredited, and, once completed, after approval by the competent authority, it is delivered to the petitioner for presentation to the corresponding court."

"Without ignoring the importance of a proper investigation, or neglecting the carrying out of the corresponding criminal proceedings, the adoption process should not drag on beyond the necessary time," they concluded.

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