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May 14, 2004

In a time of calm…

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While this certainly is not a time of calm in our world, it seems to be one in the world of adoptions from Guatemala. Whether this is the calm before the storm or more long-term in nature remains to be seen. But as I look at this adorable picture of my newly-walking beautiful daughter for whom I am forever grateful, it leads me to some thoughts of introspection about how this is precisely NOT the time to get comfortable in my joy and become complacent to the world of intercountry adoption. Along with the joys of intercountry adoption come a variety of responsibilities we have to our children, the adoptive community, and the children and families yet to be joined.

Our children are and always will be Guatemaltecos; this is not something that we should ever attempt to minimize. We parents must make respecting this fact a priority in how we raise our children. While our children may likely be adults before they fully understand the need to feel a part of their birth culture, we need to the sow the seeds of that discovery. We need to go the extra mile to ensure our children learn Spanish (even if it means learning it ourselves). Where possible, we need to do outreach to the local Guatemalan community as our children are every bit as much Guatemalan as any other immigrant. As an example, The Bay Guatemalan Adoptive Families have been developing a relationship with the local Consulate and will be participating in its official Independence Day celebrations in September. We need to teach our children the history of Guatemala and we must be painfully honest about the struggles that led to their being adopted out of the country. All these things require more work in our already overly busy lives, but they are not to be avoided.

Even though we may have our children home and may never consider another adoption, we mustn’t put the adoption experience behind us. We must remain involved in the community to lend a helping hand to those entering the process. Remember how much help someone’s e-mail to you was about where to stay, what to bring, the process, etc. was? Well as the bible says, “do unto others….”.

While the system may be running fairly smoothly right now, it is doubtful that it is because of some new paradigm or efficiency. The threats to the blessed way we created and grew our families will return: our foes have not disappeared. In the coming years, it is likely that more threats will come from the United States as it moves into the Hague Convention. A current bill before Congress, the ICARE Bill, is a parents dream so far as citizenship rights are concerned, but it establishes a Central Authority with undefined authority, funding, and priorities. Some new legislative aspects designed to protect families also stand to remove our options as they threaten to drive all but the largest agencies out of business due to huge mandatory insurance policies. These are just a few of the pending issues that come to mind. Our elected representatives do not have the time, staff, or desire to thoroughly understand all the proposals that they vote on. Many legislators, for example, now admit that they never fully read or understood all the ramifications of a bill as significant as the Patriot Act. The point is, we are the community impacted by laws governing intercountry adoption. We must be the experts. And we must inform and educate our elected officials. This too is not easy. You won’t just call your U.S. Rep. on the phone and have them invite you over for coffee to discuss it. It takes perseverance and ongoing communications. I admit that I have done a poor job of this personally with my representative. But others have done a great job and in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, it looks like parents will be meeting personally with at least three U.S. Reps to discuss current issues.

Finally, while the system may be running smoothly for most, I do not wish to ignore the difficult struggles many families are facing. The families impacted by IAR losing its license are just now beginning to get the children home. More recently, the Embassy’s banning of the lawyer Blanca Eugenia Martinez de Arce is creating an uncertain future for many families struggling to find out exactly where they are in the process, who is working on their cases, and what roadblocks may lie ahead. Lastly, there are still families who have yet to bring their children home following the Hague crisis last year. Having been a survivor of that crisis myself, I can’t imagine how they must feel today.

So the point of this blog is not guilt anyone into action. It is a rejoice for those of us with our children home and a reminder that intercountry adoption doesn’t end with a Gotcha Trip. I have seen and experienced how peoples’ “activist energy” and desire to volunteer dissipates with homecoming. This is understandable, bringing home a new child is difficult and time consuming. Caring for that child and providing him/her the extra attention he/she deserves is and must be the #1 priority. But complacency leaves the system, the institution, and the community vulnerable to those who either can’t comprehend it or stand against it on reactionary ideological grounds. With more children in need of families being born every day, we can’t just sit back and accept ourselves as being the lucky ones.


Posted by Kevin at May 14, 2004 05:54 PM
Comments

Beautifully written Kevin! You put in words what I couldn't seem to. I will be reading these words to our local Guatemalan adoption support group as encouragement and a reminder to one of the goals of our organization.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Posted by: Aimee at May 14, 2004 09:39 PM

Kevin,

Thank you for this most important reminder. I couldn't agree with you more.

Also, your daughter is really a cutie !

Posted by: Lizzie at May 17, 2004 01:29 AM

Thank you Kevin for a very well written reminder of our obligations. I thoroughly agree with you, but in our busy lives I have put these thoughts on the back burner.
We will never forget our trip to Guatemala and our daughter's heritage, but we feel we still need to learn more so that we are educated enough to teach her about her country.

Linda

Posted by: Linda at May 17, 2004 01:20 PM

She is gorgeous.

Does anyone have good ideas about how to integrate Guatemalan culture into a child's life? What have others done to reach this goal?

Posted by: katie at May 21, 2004 10:57 AM

Kevin,

You know that YOU have encouraged me at the right moment and made me fight for our 2nd adoption when it looked like there was no more hope. As you, I can't imagine how I would feel if our process would still be open because of the Hague Convention... I don't forget to be thankful every day that we finally came trough it and I don't forget the families that are still waiting their children.

As you say, I'm comfortably home with this 2nd Guatemalteco but I've promised to our guatemalan lawyer - and indirectly to the adoptable guatemalan children - that I won't just sit back and enjoy. My country (Switzerland) is still closed for adoptions coming from Guate today but to leave it just like this doesn't give me peace. It will take time but it's worth to try to contact the Central Autorithy in our country, which I did already... the conversation might open slowly and you provided me with some precious documentation that I will surely use. There is a long way to go.

Thanks for your lines and thank you for givin' that push we all need to do the little we can.

Your girl is beautiful, lovely!!

Hasta luego.

Manuela

Posted by: Manuela at May 23, 2004 05:02 PM

This is great Kevin. I'm glad you are bringing this up. I promised I would visit Guat yearly to make sure my baby doesnt forget where she came from. I am going for our first trip in July since she has been home.
I pray the system continues to let many more families bring these babies home. It is such a wonderful thing.

God bless all that are still waiting!

Posted by: April at June 4, 2004 09:02 PM