Prensa Libre strikes out again against adoptions. I think the sources of the anti-adoption folks have made themselves known: UNICEF and of course, First Lady Berger. I will warn you that it is rather upsetting to read. But it certainly explains the current delays prompted by an administration that is in its last term year.
My Sincerest thanks to Gregg who spent his time translating this article to share with other prospective parents....
The original article in Spanish can be found HERE.
Guatemala, baby-exporting country
Counts more than 160 adoption agencies. The easy process creates a business that rents wombs, that has law firms dedicated to the process, and produces more than $150 million USD in revenue per year.
By: Olga Lopez, Claudia Munaiz, Carlos Menocal
It is the second time that Laura (a fictitious name) visits the medical lab located on the third floor of a building in Zone 10. She isn’t nervous because she knows that she and her baby only need to give a blood sample to verify that neither are carriers of HIV, an essential requirement to initiate the process of adoption.
It is also the second time this 24 year old woman “rents” her womb to give light to a child she will give for adoption. “They’re giving me 5,000 Quetzales (a little more than $650 USD), and during my pregnancy they fed me, bought me medicines, and my childbirth was in a hospital”, she relates.
Children “a la carte”
The demand has grown, as the laws of the country favor notarial adoptions, and to a small extent, judicial adoptions.
Guatemala lists more than 160 international adoption agencies that tell their clients that the process will take less than nine months.
“Typically the children will be Hispanic looking, meaning light to medium brown skin with dark eyes and brown or black hair. All the children receive the regular well-baby check ups and are tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and other diseases. Pictures and medical reports are available upon referral.” Married couples and single women up to age 55 can adopt, states Adopt Abroad on its internet website (www.adopt-abroad.com).
They are children “a la carte,” assure the social service agencies. For the most part, they are adopted by citizens of the United States, Finland, England, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, Israel, Canada, and Ireland, among others.
Each couple will have paid up to USD $40,000 to obtain a baby and will have generated for this industry some USD $200 million per year.
In the nine years since 1997, the country has given for adoption 23,474 minores, and more than 90 percent of these have gone to the United States.
On a per capita basis, Guatemala occupies first place in the world for exporters of newborns. Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, India, and Kazakhstan, also used by many agencies, all have larger population but none approve more than 2,000 cases each per year.
This year, the office of the Attorney General (PGN) has received more than 4,141 dossiers for adoption and has approved 1,544. En 2005 the country assigned 4,048 children, and 3,838 in 2004.
On average, 690 petitions for adoption enter the PGN monthly, and it is predicted to rise due to a warning that the U.S. government will suspend them next year if Guatemala doesn’t approve a law that protects children.
Victor Hugo Barrios, Assistant Attorney General, says that the agency lacks sufficient personnel to handle all the cases received by the PGN.
Alejandra Vasquez, from the Social Movement for Childhood, explains that there is an economic interest in this matter. “It is worrisome, because there is no law that follows-up on these cases” she advises.
Mario Taracena, member of the legislative commission on Childhood and the Family, affirms that there are proposed laws on this subject. “The first talks about an entity made up of various institutions, but with the participation of notarios. The second proposes that adoption should be a judicial process. Congress will revisit this subject”, he states.
The number of international adoptions contrasts with the 3,000 orphans and abandoned children in hospitals, whom the state has under guardianship. The reason that these children are not attractive to the lawyers and agencies is that their situation is under the responsibility of a court.
Carmen de Wennier, director of “hogares comunitarios” (community homes), of the Secretary of Social Work of the First Lady (SOSEP), says that if they are declared as abandoned, orphaned, or subject to adoption, the process has to pass through the program of adoption and substitute families.
Nancy Amaya, director of adoption programs for SOSEP, indicates that international adoption agencies are not using this program because that they know that these children have been judicially declared as abandoned.
Josefina Arellano, lawyer for minors, attests that adoption has become a lucrative activity in which children who do not need to be born are given for adoption. “Abandoned children are not going to be adopted. There is a low incidence of judicial adoptions”, she states.
The Latin American Institute for Education and Communication (ILPEC) conducted an investigation at the request of UNICEF, concluding that adoptions are not focused on orphaned and abandoned children that need new families, but upon babies that are being produced for this purpose.
Laura admits: “When we went to for the exams, there were more than 50 women in the lab that were going to sell their child.”
The business has grown to such an extent that classified ads are placed, suggesting the possibility of an adoption resulting from a supposedly unexpected pregnancy.
“The economic engine of adoption has created a labor force in which the financiers, mothers, intermediaries, foster care providers, translators, lawyers, adoption agencies, and children’s homes receive benefits”, concludes ILPEC.
Fernando Linares Beltranena, criminal lawyer and adoption lawyer, claims that there is no proof that this supposed business exists.
“While there are more adoptions, good. There will be more lawyers that offer their services, more foster homes, more pediatricians. All of this will reduce the cost because there will be a larger offering of services”, he asserts.
Rosa Ortiz, a member of UNICEF, of the United Nations, states that the country is a paradise for adoptions because there is no intervention by the state.
Guatemala is the only country in Latin America in which a judicial process is not required. In fact, it is a process carried out by lawyers connected with the agencies.
The only contact that the judicial system has in this process is when the social worker interviews the mother in the Family Court. After that, the PGN approves the case.
According to investigators from the Minors Section of the national police, complex networks exist that could be linked to the international trafficking of children and child prostitution. In fact, there are recent reports saying that during this year thirty children of three years old has been stolen.
The case worries the social service organizations, concerned that these little ones could be placed for adoptions under suspicious circumstances.
Anomolies are also reflected in cases that have been filed with PGN. This year, 33 have been rejected after anomalies have been detected in the documents presented by the notarios.
Duplicity in birth certificates, falsification of documents and of the biological mothers, are some of the irregularities that have investigators from the section on Childhood of the PGN have detected.
“It has been established that many women use the identity of children that died some 20 years ago”, states Josefina Arellano, in charge of the section.
En March of 2003, the government ratified the Hague Convention, concerning the protection of children, and anticipated that the state should control the process of adoption. In September of that year, several notarios pledged to lodge an appeal in the Constitutional Court against it.
Guatemala hasn’t completed the implementation of the agreement. For Byron Alvarado, lawyer with the Social Movement for Childhood, Congress should incorporate the Hague Convention. “Guatemala has committed itself to conforming with international treaties”, maintains Alvarado.
Nidia Aguilar del Cid, chief attorney for Childhood, of the office for Human Rights, affirms that the agreement confirms that in the adoption process there should be no thought of making profits.
“We’re not saying that the notario shouldn’t earn any money, but when we see what the adoption of a child entails, above all with the United States, the situation changes”, he says.
The assistant attorney expounds: “We would like to have a law that regulates the adoption process, in which the PGN will take part with central authority, but where the case would be judicial.”
The case hasn’t been dealt with by the Legislative body, and, according to Taracena, is awaiting a new brief to initiate the discussion. “This law has been in Congress for 18 years”, he says.
Study: Announcement and analysis of the case
Institutions are worried over adoptions.
ILPEC states that adoptions are not carried out with orphaned children that need substitute families, but with newborns that will be “produced” for this end.
Besides, he states that 60% of children given for adoption are less than 10 months old. Some 82% were confined to private homes, and 12% come from institutions that take in abandoned children.
The activity is developing with a parallel judicial procedure, in the form of ads in the press that say: “Unmarried woman, do you have problems because of your pregnancy? We will help you. We offer you a legal way out. Place (your baby) for adoption.”
One case: Testimony
Three months ago, Jose and his wife Raquel Umpierre, from Puerto Rico, reported that they only needed to obtain a child’s visa and pay $6,500 USD to adopt the child. But the baby was already promised by a nursery to another couple from the United States.
“We went to the children’s home, paid $6,000 USD and signed a power of attorney. We began to share the life of our little Manuel with every trip”, he added.
His wife, Raquel, has lost about 13 pounds since they told her the news. “Araceli Reyes looked me in the eye and told me that my child would arrive the 17th of April”, she states.
Orphans await opportunity
Nancy Amaya, director of adoption programs for the Secretary of Social Works for the first lady of Guatemala (SOSEP), explains that as of this moment seven children, from a total of 3,000 orphans, are classified for adoption.
According to Amaya, SOSEP has a data base of families that want to adopt children under its guardianship.
“We look for a family for a child, and not for a child for a family”, she argues.
If a family wants to adopt a child, they should approach SOSEP. There, they will be given a form and will need to attach documents that prove their quality of life, pass a criminal background check, medical certificates, work history, tax information, and marital status.
Married people and single women can adopt.
The process is totally free, and the family can be considered as a candidate after being subjected to an evaluation of its profiles. Amaya states that they’re not looking for an ostentatious family, but rather one that will give a good life to the child.
In the state-run homes, there are children between the ages of one year and up to 11 years.
Carmen de Wennier maintains that adoption is a noble institution, when it favors needy children.
Response posted by Kelly:
While I could write a book on the faulty reasoning of these articles...I just don't have time. I'm appalled that reporters are more interested in shock value than in thinking through and researching their articles..but I will respond to a few things in no particular order:
* PGN claims fraudulant documents and duplicity: OK...I believe that their JOB is to prevent adoptions from happening under fraudulant circumstances. If they cannot handle or prevent such occurrances from happening (they certainly declare that they have "identified" them), then they are not suited to become a Central Authority. I would recommend that PGN be immediately replaced if they ARE allowing such adoptions to occur. Governments are quick to criticize the private sector (especially, if they are not in the financial loop)...yet they are somehow exempt when they are ineffective at their own government jobs??
* Birthmothers having children for money: While this claim would be hard to dispute (at least whether it happens), I am disgusted by the elitist blanket statements. In only a few visits to Guatemala, I met birthmothers where fathers had been murdered, killed or they were left on their own. I've watched them cry when they talk about wanting a better life for their children. This is a Catholic country where abortion is unthinkable...so, why is it surprising that women find themselves pregnant with children they are unable to support? Certainly, it is no surprise that the first Lady, UNICEF nor any other state organization is unwilling to assist them. Remember folks, poverty is extreme in many areas of Guatemala.
* Abandonments - I know plenty of families that pursue abandonment cases. Unfortunately for them, the process can be long and painful. There are no guarantees and there are judges who are unwilling to grant an abandonment decree regardless of the situation.The process for Relinquishments (whether or not you agree with the current system) is about the only process that has obvious safeguards against stolen children! So, it seems that our dear reporter is contradicting herself!
*State Run orphanages? Well, I have not visited Guatemala for a while. But one thing that was incredibly sad about Central American STATE run orphanages is the number of children shoved into overcrowded and severely underfunded orphanges. To say that a child has a higher risk of attachment and emotional disorders is an understatement. The Privatization is what has kept these children well cared for. I cringe to think of what might happen if the Guatemalan government was tasked with taking care of all orphaned children.
* Most distressing to me: My daughter is a human being with dreams and emotions. She is not an export nor should her biological families circumstances be minimized because of some elitist political views of adoption. I resent children being discussed as objects. Again, I feel there is a severe detachment from the upper class about the economic reality in more rural villages. Notice folks, that the focus of concern seems to be the industry, not what would happen to the many children who would likely have NO sponsors if it were not for open adoptions in this country.
In summary, I realize that it is easy to either dismiss or believe every newspaper article. But these views are a good lesson in the issues facing Guatemala and even adoptions worldwide. Since UNICEF has done very little in actually helping or assisting the poverty stricken in Guatemala but they spend billions on advocating to KEEP these children from having opportunities..They have collected billions of dollars in the name of saving children in Guatemala which is certainly FALSE advertisement because they spend it mostly to pressure governments to do their bidding.
....well, what more needs to be said?