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Adopting from Guatemala (1991) and Colombia (1994) using the agency VIDA


Leceta Chisholm Guibault
Jan. 1997



In 1989 while living in New Brunswick, my husband Jean and I decided to apply to adopt a child. This was after suffering for two years with infertility. It was time to jump off one roller coaster on to another. Luckily the second ride wasn't nearly as up and down as the first.

Jean and I first contacted Health and Community Services in Saint John to inquire about adopting domestically. We were disheartened to discover that it could take eight to ten years to adopt a baby in N.B. We said we would be interested in adopting internationally (which was almost unheard of in N.B.), and we were put in contact with the National Adoption Desk in Ottawa. We were told that working with N.A.D. the process could take four years with no guarantee that after three and a half years waiting with one country, the doors could close. We would then have to start again with a new country. (I understand that the process with the National Adoption Desk has improved since 1991). Also, at that time, when I asked our social worker if it would be possible to speak to another N.B. family that had adopted internationally, or was considering this route, she couldn't think of anyone. We were not aware of Adoption Helper or any other resources at that time. We were on our own.

In early 1990, I heard about an American adoption agency in Hudson, New York, called VIDA (Voice for International Development and Adoption). They had just been approved by N.A.D. to work with Canadian families. I phoned immediately and was informed that they could place non-Caucasian American born children or children from thirteen other countries. (VIDA has programs currently in: Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia, Honduras, Bulgaria, Rep. of Georgia, Philippines, Japan and China).

They told me that they place children within six to sixteen months after application. The people at VIDA were wonderful. They answered all my questions, and I had many! VIDA is a private, not-for-profit organization, dedicated to studying and satisfying the needs of children. Their children include all age groups -- infants, toddlers and adolescents, as well as siblings, the abandoned child as well as the child with special needs. Their focus is on developing each child's potential. They accept any child into their placement program provided that adoption is clearly best for the child. VIDA also assists the countries they are working with by obtaining charitable contributions and establishing appropriate programs for the children left behind. For the child who may be adopted, VIDA seeks to find a warm, supportive and loving home. For the child who will never be adopted, VIDA seeks to improve the quality of life. I was very interested in working with an agency that had such dedication to all children. Adoption was not their primary concern. It was aid to children. In June 1990 we forwarded our initial application. Then we started six months of paperwork, homestudy, and document gathering. In Sept. we made our way to Hudson, N.Y. to meet the director Dr. Blackburn and her staff. We spent a full day together getting to know each other and discussing the different programs. Dr. Blackburn asked us what type of child we felt most prepared to parent. We explained that because we were young (27 and 35), with out any parenting experience between us, we hoped for a child as young as possible and as healthy as possible. We felt that the race, nationality or sex of the child were not issues, for us. When we left the VIDA offices that day for our long drive home we knew in our hearts that these were the people that would help make our family grow.

By January 1991 we forwarded our completed packet of photos, letters of reference, medicals, financial reports, approved homestudy and agency fee (in 1991 it was $3000 US) to VIDA.

Our paperwork took six months because at that time in N.B., it was not possible to contract a private homestudy. The homestudy was done by the province, was free, but could take from six months to a year. Also, at this time, we informed Dr. Blackburn that we had been contacted by a young woman in our area who was pregnant and due mid-February. She had asked us if we would consider adopting her child, privately. Dr. Blackburn felt it was important that we should "be there" for this girl, and she would wait to see what happened before referring another child to us. February 11, 1991 "Sue" gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Three days later she phoned us from the hospital to tell us she "couldn't go through with it". She was keeping her baby. We cried, a lot, then a few days later we called Dr. Blackburn. She was so comforting. She told me not to feel too badly. My baby would be home soon. Three weeks later, on March 6, 1991, we got "the call". We were the proud parents of a week old baby girl, 7 lbs, born Feb. 28th in San Marcos, Guatemala. We were told that we would have a wait of 3 to 6 months before the adoption would be finalized in Guatemala and then our daughter could travel. It actually took 5 months. She had been placed in private foster care. Each month that we waited we received one to two full length photos of her and a detailed monthly medical report with all her measurements, weight, diet and personality. She was born in a hospital and very healthy. We also received an extensive social background report on her birth family, including aunts and uncles! We paid our "in-country" fee, (in 1991, for Guatemala, $7500 US). On Aug. 2 we took a plane to J.F.K. Airport in New York to finally meet and hold our daughter, Kahleah Maria de Lourdes Guibault. She had been escorted (fee, $1500 US) with three other baby girls(all four were 5 months old). We were a family!

In 1993 Jean's work took us to Quebec. Soon after, we decided to expand our family. We started our paperwork and once again felt it didn't matter which country our child came from. We hoped for a healthy child, younger than Kahleah. It was important to her that she be a "big sister". In August 1994 "the second call" came. We were now the proud parents of a 3-month-old baby boy, born in Medellin, Colombia. Our son was born in a hospital and received pre-natal care. He had been in a private orphanage since the day after his birth. Once again we received extensive background information. After our initial phone call we were asked to be in Colombia within three weeks! VIDA recommended that we take Kahleah with us. It was a wonderful bonding experience for her. By this time she was three and a half years old. We arrived in Medellin on the 24th of September. On the morning of the 26th we were at La Casita de Nicholas (the orphanage) and Tristan Andrés Guibault, 4 months old and 14 lbs, was placed in our arms. It was necessary to spend three weeks in Colombia to finalize Tristan's adoption. We arrived in Canada on October 14th, and sound. (In 1994, VIDA's agency fee was $4000 US. The in-country fee for Colombia was $5000 US. Our trip was $3500).

For Jean and I there were many benefits to working with this American agency in particular. The fact that they had programs in many different countries meant no waiting time for a referral. The agency had been placing children for ten years and is well established in the foreign countries. They are licensed by the state of N.Y. and approved by the National Adoption Desk of Canada. Not only do they place children with families in the U.S.A. and in Canada, but they also work with families in England, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia and France. They can even help U.S. and Canadian families living abroad to adopt. The people at VIDA took the stress out of our adoption process. They were constantly in contact with phone calls and letters, and became like extended family. We knew they were working for us. Although the exchange on the U.S. dollar adds to your overall costs, this never deterred us because we had top notch "service" and I can tell you that my peace of mind was worth every penny. We also enjoy the fact that Dr. Blackburn and her staff are there for us post-adoption, too. We get together once or twice a year for visits and an annual summer reunion picnic in upstate N.Y. It is a pleasure to share updates and photos with the agency and our children's birth countries, and to be a member of VIDA's ever expanding global family.
VIDA (Voice for International Development and Adoption)
354 Allen Street, Hudson NY 12534, tel: 518-828-4527, fax: 828-0688
email:, web:
Dr. DeGuerre Blackburn, Ph.D., ACSW, Executive Director

Copyright 2004 Leceta Chisholm Guibault,
First published in Adoption Helper No. 23, Jan. 1997 under the title "How we adopted through an American agency".
Previously published online at:

To find resources on adopting from Colombia or Guatemala, see Adoption Resource Central - Country-Specific Resources,

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