July 09, 2006

The Guatemalan Perspective...CON'T

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 (

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.

Not abandoned
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.

Without regulation
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.

The Process
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, 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?

Posted by Kelly at July 9, 2006 11:42 PM

Here is my favorite part:
"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."

No where does it say that this appeal was successful! It goes right on to say how the country needs to implement the treaty! It's as if they have forgotten that to do so would be unconstitutional!!!

Posted by: Becky at July 10, 2006 08:22 AM

Could somebody explain something to me? The US is *going* to implement the Hague in 2007. The US has said that they are going to recognize Guatemala as a Hague country despite the ruling that the Guatemala's ascession to the Hague was unconstitutional. So basically the *entire* adoption system is going to change in Guatemala.

Why, then, are they (the Wendy Berger's) still trying to "legislate" their will from the PGN pulpit? It's over, Wendy. You won. Just let us get the kids in process out - don't try and keep them locked down in PGN. Take your resources and use them to figure out how Guatemala is going to be able to handle it's social welfare problems after the Hague.

Posted by: Stephanie at July 10, 2006 09:35 AM

When I saw the Sunday morning headline from the front page of La Prensa Libre on the Internet, I cringed. I am married with a Guatemalan woman. We have family members in Guatemala, and have been pursuing a Guatemalan adoption for 1½ years. We are close to bringing our baby home.

Say what you will about Guatemala's often sensationalist press, but personally I find the Prensa Libre the least biased of Guatemala City's 4 or 5 dailies. However, as is clearly the case in the United States, there is no guarantee that journalists are strictly ethical. Reporters and news agencies often take an agenda and advance it, regardless of the facts, as mouthpieces for politicians and political parties. It's my guess --- and a guess, at best --- that this story was spoon-fed to La Prensa Libre by a certain political figure.

In the caption for a photo that accompanied the article this morning, the newspaper made what I believe is a sensationalist claim that was clearly designed to sell newspapers, but unsupported by any hard evidence in the article: "Organized criminals steal children for export, have clandestine nurseries, and falsify documents. The Police have recovered more than 20 minors this year." Pretty strong stuff ---- but then nowhere in the article does it make any mention of DNA tests, interviews with social workers, etc.

In any event, this front-page article has to have the people in Guatemala talking, and certainly must be having some effect on the political climate. Citizens of Guatemala understand that the United States has a long tradition of viewing their country as a cheap provider of goods and services. It should come as no surprise that once again, anti-adoption stories are circulating.

Are adoption agencies and lawyers in Guatemala motivated by a love for children and for finding them their "forever families"? We all certainly hope that our agencies and attorneys are.

Are others motivated by the potential profits? Well, do the math. Regardless of how one feels about the slant of the article, there’s no denying that there’s a boatload of money involved.

When my wife and I were still pursuing private adoptions in Guatemala, we couldn't find an attorney who would do it for less than the "market rate" that others in "the industry" were charging --- even though they had none of the expenses of doctor bills for mother and baby, child care, placement, etc. to deal with. Because we live in the United States, the assumption was that we are willing and able to cough up the customary amount, and they still demanded $20,000 or more to process our case.

On a personal level, my immediate concern is that our daughter’s foster mother not be subjected to any harassment due to articles of this type.

Gregg (and Esperanza)
anxiously awaiting Marilu

Posted by: Gregg at July 10, 2006 10:10 AM

Kelly, The thing it stated about there may be no adoptions in the year 2oo7. What will happen to my baby if we haven't gooten her by January. We haven't even got a social worker report yet. No telling how long we will be in PGN.Will they still allow the adoptions that are going on now? Please let me know! Lisa

Posted by: Lisa at July 10, 2006 11:33 AM


You are mixing up a few things. Guatemala's adoption system is not going to change (unless they pass some new law).

The US is implementing the Hague. The US says Guatemala is part of the Hague. The US also says that Guatemala's system is not compliant with the Hague. The net result of tat is that the US will not allow adoptions from Guatemala UNLESS they change their system so that it complies with the Hague.

Guatemala is considered a part of the Hague because they did everything required to be considered a member of it (except pass legislation to comply with it). By the Hague's standards, once that is done they are in it no matter what their courts subsequently said. In order to change that, Guatemala would have to formally withdraw in writing - that is the only way they can get out of it according to the Hague. And even then, they are in it for one year after the Hague receives the withdrawel. But given that Pres Berger doesn't want adoptions, it is highly unlikely they will formally withdraw.

Lisa - don't worry. In-process cases will be allowed to be completed.

I hope that makes sense,


Posted by: Kevin at July 10, 2006 01:46 PM

I would greatly appreciate it if somone could explain what "hague" means? And, Kelly, I'm with you when you're wondering if "in-process adoptions" will be OK. All this is very scary and I'm nervous about going into PGN. Thanks for your help :)

Posted by: Jamie Lea :) at July 10, 2006 02:31 PM

I think we should be careful when saying things like "in-process cases will be allowed to complete." No one knows for sure what will happen until it happens - so hard to predict the future. I think there were many families "in-process" in Romania, for example, when it shut down its system entirely. You probably should have a relatively high tolerance for "risk" and a lot of patience if you chose to grow your family by matching yourself with a needy child from Guatemala.

Posted by: B at July 10, 2006 07:16 PM

My grandson is waiting to come home to his forever family...they told us he would possibly be able to come home before Christmas is now July 2006 and we keep getting various stories on where he is or might be in the PGN or system. We heard from another adopting family today and they shared their story tat they have been was EXACT with EXACT details...from the same attorney's office in GC. My daughter is now soooo upset because it is apparent that something is not right, it could not be possible. Is anyone else getting the run around for months on end now? We just do no tknow where to turn anymore. We are tired of the "be patient and pray" speach. Our agency her3 seems clueless and keeps telling us it just takes time. How does one make any headway when you feel like things just are not being told to us truthfully? Any help is appreciated! Mary Lou

Posted by: Mary Lou at July 10, 2006 10:26 PM

There is an article in the adoptive families 8/06 issue regarding the Hague and a website for more info.

Posted by: Judy at July 10, 2006 10:58 PM


"No one knows for sure what will happen until it happens" - So let's not be so pessimistic. There are cases getting out of PGN in less than 40 days. There is always that chance of something going wrong, but for my sanity, and for everyone else's sanity let's be realisticly optimistic. Yes, it seems that we have hit a bump in the road, but there are still children coming home. Some of them more slowly than others, but they are still coming home. Kevin has been one of the moderators for this board for a long time, and if he says that "in process" cases will go through. I for one trust him.

Posted by: J at July 11, 2006 07:24 AM

I really do see the need to try to get children in orphanages adopted. The challenge is the system as we know. We wanted to adopt an older child through an orphanage, but we found the agencies really did not want to work with them due to the long process and risk of health issues. I wish the First Lady would concentrate on fixing the problem of how difficult it is to adopt children in the orphanages and then maybe more parents, especially those that do want older children, would be more open.

Posted by: Anna McDonnell at July 11, 2006 07:28 AM

Anna - The agency I am working with works primarily with older children who are in orphanages. Contact Holt International for more information.
Good luck!

Posted by: Mary at July 12, 2006 02:07 PM

My wife and I are beginning the adoption process and were leaning towards Guatemala. We, after finding out more about Hague, are very concerned. Should we look to another country at this point vs trying to see if we can "beat the clock"?

Posted by: Scott at July 12, 2006 11:25 PM

Mary Lou,

I am in the same situation. Was told I would receive my daughter in March, Then May, now Sept when my daughter turns 1 but who knows how long this will go on for. For me personally, there has to be an end. I won't wait much longer. Have already contacted a lawyer to find out my rights since the agency and lawyer I am dealing with can't seem to tell me a thing except to be patient. I have run out of patience and want some answers and the truth. I understand completely what you are going thru and my prayers are with you. My suggestion might be to write a letter about your situation with you agency and send it to the states attorney where your agency resides. That suggestion was made to me by a lawyer. Maybe if more people know what is going on that somebody will eventually do something.
God Bless


Posted by: Sandy at July 13, 2006 09:15 AM

We would very much like to share our story with all of you, especially the First Lady of Guatemala. We too wanted to adopt an older child, due to our own Latino heritage, we speak the language fluently and I am a bilingual school teacher. We started this adoption journey January 05. We were approved for a sibling group(up to 3 children)up to the age of 10. In January 06, after a 5 month referral wait time, we finally received a referral for 2 biological brothers, ages 3 and 4. Whose mother made an adoption plan for them because she couldn't feed them. The boys lacked their vaccinations and were visibly malnourished. We were told that there was no way their mother could take care of the boys. So, like most expected parents, our house started to fill up with all those big, plastic colorful toys I swore I would never buy. It took 4 months to get DNA approval from the USEmbassy. This was in large part due to a story about our lawyer on horseback riding through the trackless expanse of El Peten to retrieve a copy of a midwife's cedula. So, after a 4 month wait, we were telephoned by our agency that the DNA was done and it was a go. We would be seeing our boys in a few weeks, everything went well at Family Court and the mother signed everything again. Overjoyed with anticipation we eagerly awaited the mail, and planned for our trip. A week later, we received a phone call from our agency that when the mother was a Family Court the social worker in Guatemalan encouraged her to contact the lawyer and retrieve her children. She complied and sadly we lost our referral. Words cannot describe our feelings. A week later we received our DNA results, along with their pictures taken that day.
Heartbroken, yet determined to have a family. We requested to continue our adoption process. After a stressful home visit from our social worker, who told us we could not adopt an older child, none were available for adoption, the process is too long and the Family Courts in Guatemala make it difficult to do so. Older children are not available for adoption, and non-siblings cannot be adopted seperately at the same time, children whose parents were minors at the time of their birth are not available, due to the courts not relying that an under-age mother can make that decision herself, we were told. So, after 18 months, no children in our lives and leary of any further potential delays, we accepted a referral for a newborn baby boy. We would like to inform the Honorable First Lady, that our concern over the well-being of the 2 boys is sincere. Is there any follow-up visit by a social worker from the Guatemalan Family Courts to reassure that the boys are well taken care of? Are medical need being met? Who is going to continue the vaccination schedule? If the necessary emotional, psychological and medical needs are not being met
by the birth family then it is the responsibility of the birth country to take care of its children. Sadly, this is not the case in Guatemala. If the First Lady, along with others in Guatemala, do not want caring, loving families from over-seas to care for its children, then they must. If the First Lady , along with others in Guatemala from the same mind-set, want people to adopt older children in orphanages, then stop the barriers to doing so.

Posted by: Marie Slattery at July 13, 2006 04:40 PM

I'm starting to feel like this is never going to happen. We have been in PGN for almost 15 weeks. We were told 4 weeks ago that our case was approved but the judge would not release the papers to our lawyer. I don't know what to think or do. I'v been pretty patient as my son gets older and older. As he is growing out of every thing we have for him. How do we know for sure that our kids are going to come home? I haven't heard any happy stories in months. All we hear about is the bad. Are there any happy ending out there? I would love to hear some. I need a life in my spirit.

Thanks Amy

Posted by: Amy at July 17, 2006 07:27 PM


We, too, are still waiting in PGN and completely understand what you are feeling.

There are PGN final releases happening every day. On this site alone, a few of them showed up over the past couple of weeks. On another site with a larger forum, I've been watching, and there are final approvals/outs every day. My point to you is to give you some reassurance that even though things seem to move at a snail's pace, they are moving.

What was your dates going in to PGN, and did you have any kick outs? If so, what was the date of your last resubmit?

Prayers to you and your family during your wait,
Cheri F

Posted by: Cheri at July 18, 2006 12:16 PM

Amy - After three months in PGN, our daughter's case was approved in June. It has taken another month to get the new birth certificate, but she IS coming home! Hang in there!

Posted by: Heather at July 19, 2006 01:15 PM

Chin up, we were just in Guatemala visiting our son and had the great pleasure to meet two couples who were bringing home their children. I know the process is long and at times seems unbarable, but seeing children with their parents forever is priceless. It has made me feel more at ease knowing that they will come home.

Posted by: S at July 19, 2006 02:14 PM

Amy -
After weeks and weeks of watching this site, looking for a glimmer of hope and thankful for everyone sharing their stories, we just got word yesterday that we are out of PGN. We thought we would never get out. We are now waiting for the birth certificate and then to go pick up our little girl. Your time will come soon.

Heather - do you know why it took a month to get the birth certificate for your child?

Posted by: R and J at July 19, 2006 09:47 PM

I am in the same boat you are, we wait and wait our little ones get bigger and bigger. Cases are coming out just not ours my agency had seven cases come out last wk.Just not mine or yours. your turn will come I am hoping mine does. so when I tell you I feel your pain I do. I cry everyday...........The good thing about clothes you can always buy new ones your baby is priceless.... This is my 1st adoption I have been in PGN 16 wks I have no other kids so I really understand! The clothes that do not fit, bring them for the pickup donate them to am orphanage!

Posted by: Rita at July 20, 2006 12:14 PM

I would like to know how to get in touch with Fernando Linares. If you can tell me how to get in touch with him via e-mail, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,


Posted by: Edie Soberon at April 4, 2008 12:39 AM
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