Costa Rica is in Central America and has one of the highest standards of living in that region. With a booming tourism industry and an expanding investment in renewable energy sources, Costa Rica’s unemployment rate is 6.4%. Costa Rica also has a long relationship with promoting and encouraging democracy and human rights, and has recently elected Laura Chinchilla of the National Liberation Party to be President. During Chinchilla’s campaign she made a promise to advocate on behalf of children and women. UNICEF estimated that 36,000 children, or 2% of the country’s children, are orphaned.
The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI) is the authority that regulates child welfare, including domestic and intercountry adoptions for Costa Rica. PANI encourages adoption by Costa Rican citizens before intercountry adoption. PANI allows the international adoption of abandoned children who are five years or older, unless the child has siblings or would be difficult to place due to medical conditions. The requirements for parents who want to adopt vary depending on the adoption service provider. PANI requires that prospective parents must be between the ages of 22 and 55 and that foreign couples must be married for more than five years.
Costa Rica recently become party to the Hague Adoption Convention in 2008 in order to increase the safety and protection of abandoned children in the country. PANI emulates the Hague Convention’s goals, and also has their own mission, which is to promote and ensure “the rights and full development of minors and their families.” Due to past cases of abuse, PANI now prohibits private adoption in order to protect the children and parents from scams and fraudulent adoptions; all adoption cases must be processed through PANI.
For a list of Joint Council member organizations who work in Costa Rica, click here.
Unfortunately, Costa Rica has a negative history with child trafficking and abduction cases. In 2008, there were 692 reported cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children, with only 337 perpetrators convicted; this information was provided by the “2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.” In order to cease child exploitation, PANI has created programs to care for children in danger, and has so far offered help to youths in 51 cases of commercial sexual exploitation. PANI also works alongside UNICEF to ensure the protection of Costa Rican children. UNICEF has helped PANI facilitate the creation of 13 local offices and to hire 95 local child protection officials.