June 24, 2007

When the Solution Does not Address the Problem

The barrage of negative reports from US DOS, Guatemala, World news, UN Reports, etc. have certainly put a damper on the excitement of adopting. Critics of the system have never understood why our feathers are ruffled when we are faced with another attack. I wrote a bit of a response to another post, but I believe that it represents many *Guatemala* Adoptive Families, especially, those who frequent this site.

Yes, there are some serious abuses in Guatemala THAT MUST BE STOPPED. We ( believe that it has become more serious in the last year OR maybe, we are just getting more of the reports. The US government cannot reveal it's proof to placate families in process. The accused must be given due process and if there is any hope that the abusers are to be prosecuted, then the evidence and the details of the ongoing investigations are not going to be circulated to the general public.

Each entity has a different result they hope to achieve with adoption reform.
DOS, DHS and the US Embassy in Guatemala are not child welfare organizations. The ultimate solution for them is to make sure that EVERY adopted child meets the current criteria in the orphan classification and that they meet the criteria of the Hague (which in theory is intended to protect the child). The key point is that this "protection" does not extend to children who are NOT adopted. Therefore, if there are only 5 adoptions that are Hague compliant (and eligible for a Visa), they have met their goal. The children that are left behind are now outside their jurisdiction. It is also a goal to reduce the necessity of oversight by the US government...and therefore, staffing.

The Guatemalan government has a few goals. The first is to keep political relations strong with the US. Another is to improve their human rights reputation…at least in public. It is embarrassing that such a small country has so many children leaving the country for foreign families. Their reputation would greatly improve if fewer children were to leave the country. But the Government of Guatemala also realizes that if fewer children leave, then they are now accountable for the welfare of the children left behind. This has caused a great deal of conflict. Not only is the Constitution of Guatemala at odds with some of the proposed solutions, but the Congress is under pressure to meet EVERYONE else's idea of a solution (DOS, UNICEF, Hague Convention, their own Constitution, etc.).

The priority of UNICEF and other Human Rights organizations (as they state it) is to reduce the human rights abuses at the macro level. They believe that removing practices that involve human rights abuses is the answer.

Adoption Agencies and Adoption organizations such as FOA and JCICS are child centric and their concern is for every child in need of a family. Unfortunately, they are considered "tainted" because of their financial interest in the adoption industry. It is also unfortunate that the bad apples have effectively discredited the ethical providers in this industry.

That leaves the adoptive families - adoption advocates. ….such as and our readers. Our views are child-centric. Every viable solution is in terms of the effects on the children in Guatemala. We would like abuses to end but not at the expense of the child. So, here is OUR tirade:

1) As adoption advocates, we do NOT believe that *adoption* should be considered a cure for the SOCIAL ILLS of Guatemala (nor a cure for social ills of the US). Many of the problems have remained unresolved under the current system because of LACK of accountability. Some of these abuses stem from racial friction. Historically the indigenous people of Guatemala have been treated as sub-human and the discrimination is still very prevalent. For example, there is a increase in the number of women who disappear or who are killed without a second glance because of domestic abuse or even employer abuse. Little attention has focused on these problems within Guatemala. The women victimized by enslavement, abuse and even murder do not have a prominent place in society; therefore, their abusers are seldom sought and prosecuted. So, it is no wonder that these inequities and abuses extend to adoption. In fact, this is not unique to Guatemala. It is a common denominator in about every country or society in various degrees (ex: Child labor, gender pay inequities and class pay inequities). The degree of inequity is the CAUSE of many of the abuses that plague the country NOT just adoptions!!!!

2) Listing and analyzing the problems plaguing the system do NOT JUSTIFY an INHUMANE SOLUTION. In our society (this adoption community), each of our children are highly valued. We perceive the need of the individual child first and foremost. Adoption is an OPTION provided to a child who has no reasonable means for a loving family or home otherwise. If red tape or Hague compliant laws prevent this eventuality, then his/her human rights have been violated. That does not mean that we think that abuses are acceptable as a means to completing our happy family. On the contrary, we want the abusers PURGED from the system!!! A moratorium on adoptions does not punish the abusers for they will go onto other careers. It punishes the honest law-abiding citizens and it punishes the CHILDREN. Furthermore, every law/process introduced must be critically evaluated to make sure that the children's best interest are secured rather than negotiated away.

3) To rid us of abuses, we must also rid ourselves of the abusers. Unfortunately, governments are not SHUT down in order to purge abuses; School systems are not shut down; industries are not shut down nor even DEFACS when serious abuses are found! Guatemala and the US get a resounding *D* in their attempts to rid the industry of these abusers. The result is that FEW of the violators are punished or banned (We know because we have reported quite a few!). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if they are not banned they will continue their unethical practices and encourage other unethical practitioners to join the club!!! Red tape and lack of resources to crack down on the criminals are in effect depriving families on both sides any sort of hope for justice. Accountability is non-existent. If adoption laws and ethical treatment is not enforced, then there will NEVER be justice for the women/children abused in this system.

4) Human Rights organizations and those influenced by them often get so carried away by the problems, that they fail to CHAMPION the needs of the individual child. The child is invalidated to SUPPORT their position or worse, the child is expected to take a backseat to the controversy. Unfortunately, many of the proposals (even the most humane) are intended to HIDE social ills instead of addressing them. If you are caught up by the statistics of HOW MANY children leave the country as opposed to WHY these children are in need, then you are destined to fail at solving the problem. Address the problems (demand accountability) and there will be less need to find these children adequate protection. But NEVER sacrifice the wellbeing of the child. Regardless of the child's situation, he/she deserves a chance to obtain a family. He/She should never feel inferior because the people around him/her failed to protect him/her.

A good example of the solution failing to address the problem is Cambodia. Children are still in need, but now they are ineligible for adoption to the US. It is easy to say that the Human Rights organizations, the Cambodian government and DOS have failed to provide any protection for children AFTER their options were forcefully removed. This story illustrates the conflict: Trapped in Cambodia. Isn't it sad that our own government is so unyielding?

Posted by Kelly at June 24, 2007 10:49 AM

Well put! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out!
Thanks Kelly.

Posted by: Belinda at June 24, 2007 03:22 PM

I know this is picky, but the DOS does not fall under the department of homeland security. Secretary of State Rice reports directly to the president. This is one of the confusing things about international adoption. The embassies themselves are part of DOS, but there are INS (or BCIS) who are part of DHS working at the embassy for part of the adoption. And DOS has been chosen as the central authority for Hague compliance. So DHS declares a child an eligible orphan and DOS issues the VISA? At least that's the way I think it is; I'm likely confused. But I do know that Condy Rice does not report to DHS (had to look up the secretary's name - Michael Chertoff).

Posted by: picky at June 24, 2007 03:45 PM

Picky - Yes, I over-edited a more complex paragraph. I have corrected the paragraph as I only intended to mention DHS because of its INFLUENCE on the adoption process.

Posted by: Kelly (guatadopt) at June 24, 2007 05:46 PM

Well said Kelly!
I believe that UNICEF is also interested in world population control.
Romania is another example of a country full of children who are still in need, but now they are ineligible for adoption to the US.

Posted by: anonymous at June 25, 2007 01:08 AM

Excellent piece! Now the trick is to get the "powers that be" to understand the plight of the children and not their personal agendas.

You mentioned more than once a moratorium on adoptions. Are we at risk of seeing this become fact? What a shame that would be. So many of us have waited a long time to bring our children home. AND there are still so many that have yet to find a family. The horrors these children would face if not adopted is unthinkable. Not to many in process adoptive families would walk away from their child if the case was held up indefinitely. Breaks my heart.

Posted by: Gayle at June 25, 2007 11:11 AM

Nice statement. Frankly, I wonder how much truth there is behind the accusations of adoption malpractice in Guatemala.

The lawyers are not the only ones who have a self-interest. UNICEF has had an anti-american agenda for decades. The Hague agreement was put together by leftist europeans, communists and third world anti-american propagandists.

The articles of the Hague agreement basically state that a child's "right" to be raised in his birth language and culture supercedes any economic consideration. Interpreted strictly (which is being done in most third world countries) it means it would be better if children were aborted, malnourished and impoverished than suffer the theoretical pain of having lost their native culture.

This irony is that a conservative Republican administration has bought into this twisted, out-of-date euroleftist anti-american BS.

Posted by: Bob at June 25, 2007 11:44 PM

Excellent. Now the hard part. HOW CAN WE MAKE OUR POINT HEARD!!!!!

Posted by: sallyb at June 25, 2007 11:46 PM


I would have to strongly disagree with the statements you made. The Hague has failed in its purpose - certainly. But your characterizations of it are incorrect.

The US is a signatory for the Hague. We were deeply involved in its drafting.

The Hague does not make the leap of faith you did. The Hague does state that poverty is not a reason for adoption. Biut that is poverty "all other things held constant". The inability to provide food for a child is not considered the same thing as poverty. To some degree, I believe these were protections for bithmothers so that an evil government could not snatch people's kids because of poverty.

The Hague's rules really are designed to provide tansparency, uniformity of sorts, and a hierarchy of best interests - bio family, domestic family, ICA. The fact that its implementation sucks is another story.

There is nothing euro-leftist, antiamerican, communist, etc about the Hague. And let's remember that in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, it was the capitalist dictators who acted egregiously. Read up on what happened in El Salvador where the children of suspected leftists were taken away from their parents and adopted into the US.

I hate to see issues impacting children tied in to politics. The well beiong of children is not a capitalist-communist, liberal-conservative, neo-con neolib issue. It is one of humanity.

The Hague was drafted with the best of intentions but the proof is in the pudding. It needs to be reworked, but let's not confuse it with larger geo-political issues.


Posted by: Kevin at June 26, 2007 09:38 AM

Thanks for clarifying how the Hague was constructed and the underlying issues--values/principles do not always translate into effective implementation. The history of El Salvador is most certainly a major dynamic in relation to the fears in the region. There are thousands of children/now adults who are searching for their birth families in El Salvador. They are learning that they were NOT ORPHANS and were removed/stolen from their parents who were believed to be in opposition to the dominant government (this was a form of disappearance as was characteristic of that civil war). As such, ORPHAN VISAS and travel documents were misused in the case of Salvador. Although the dynamics are far different to current-day Guatemala, one thing is constant--some ORPHAN VISAS in Guate have been misused due to false documentation related to the child's birth family (i.e. single motherhood being claimed with death of father rather than the truth of a two-parent family, etc.). When this happens, the child is not an "orphan" and the claim equates to visa fraud. As such, our government has Federal Marshalls who investigate this crime--these are the Marshalls who arrested Bonn and others, such as Lauryn Galindo in Cambodia. So, no matter what the geo-political issues--fraud is fraud and mixing up the complicated governmental relationships and political ideology with fraud is really the wrong way to approach the problem. for the Bush Administration. Remember, the current conservative presidential administration is for 'smaller government'. For them to push forward the Hague and burden the Department of State with another function says something. Frankly, many at the DOS did not want this burden, but the reality is that they issue the visas. Adding the left verses right ideology is really interesting for discussion, but not ultimately useful.There are so many contradictions all the way around. One final thought--Guatemala has also suffered under the fear and oppression of disappearances and the fears of child theft (organ sales, etc.) is one of the outcomes of that terror. Just this past week, a group lynch mobbed some people suspected of child theft resulting in the death of at least on at the hands of an angry village acting out their form of vigalante justice. This comes from multiple international news sources--so, the FEAR is real and comes from a very deep and dark place in a post-conflict society.

Posted by: karenms1 at June 26, 2007 03:02 PM

After three years of trying to survive this adoption process, I have weakened, I have also become more educated to both sides. At first, I bought in to all of the comments about the President and his wife, PGN Director and the UNICEF were all the bad guys. I believed THEY were the ones to blame for my daughters adoption being delayed, errors being made etc. I believed that the adoption agencies in the US and Guatemala attorneys were doing this for the good of the children. Now, I do believe that there is a lot of corrupt agencies, attorneys in both the US and Guatemala. I now believe that this is a business. Clearly there is money to be made and that is exactly what the adoption agencies in the US and the attorneys in Guatemala are doing. The only ones suffering are the children. It should not be political but like everything else, it has become just that. I think that the President of Guatemala, the PGN Director, and maybe even UNICEF are truly the ones looking out for the babies, trying to make sure atrocities are not happening, making sure there is not fraud and trying to make the process work. I still have a daughter there, she is now 8 months old and still have errors made and delays in her case. These attorneys have done this over and over and over again. They realize that PGN is scrutinizing cases yet they continue to make silly errors. After 6 months, you begin to pay foster fees. After several months most people are so excited, they will travel to Guatemala and spend lots of money to visit their child for just a few days. BUSINESS. I still have to get the PA, then PGN then final approval. Still months away. I hope everyone is doing their jobs making sure there is no fraud, holding the attorneys to the fire and then bring home my baby girl. Good luck to all of you waiting, but don't just get caught up in the emotions of wanting to bring your child home, look at both sides.

Posted by: Shelly at June 26, 2007 06:39 PM

Shelly, With all due respect, if it is your opinion that the agencies and the lawyers are the true corrupt ones and this is essentially a baby business, then why are you adopting from Guatemala???? I do believe there is enough blame to go around but if I thought for a second that I was "buying" a baby that would otherwise be taken care of, then I never would have gotten started. There are bad apples but don't throw out the whole barrel. Do you think the President, PGN lawyers or Unicef are going to take these children into their own homes when/if adoptions in Guatemala are halted??? Have you heard of ANY social changes being made to better the conditions of these people???? Has anyone learned of racism lessening against the indiginous population??? All the money UNICEF threw at Berger, has anyone heard of even one state run orphanage being built/opened??? I don't think anyone is arguing that some change needs to occur but lets put it in perspective.

Posted by: jc at June 26, 2007 11:02 PM

Shelly: Eventually you have to wonder if you are experiencing extortion as your adoption fees continue to climb. Incompetence in the adoption process is frightening and under the Hague, Guate will be required to have a process to make complaints, require set transparent fee schedules, etc. Unfortunately, because the Hague is not in force right now--there is no place/way to make a complaint and request oversight. Theoretically, that is the job of the Central Authority. IF and WHEN there is a functional central authority, FRAUD will be the focus of regulation/investigations. BY THE WAY, the unscrupulous entreprenuers expect you to be quiet about their incompetence/fraudulent activities (that require their fees to climb to upwards $40,000). They COUNT on families being fearful about making complaints and possibly disrupting the adoption beyond repair--it is like holding a child hostage. As such, regulation is REALLY important.

Posted by: karenms1 at June 26, 2007 11:48 PM

A central authority does not prevent fraud. It just reduces number of people you have to pay. What happens if your central authority is corrupt?
Corruption is worldwide. Guatemala does not have the market cornered on it.

I saw no proof other than what was out before 1998. A doctor sharing his story on a girl impregnated.. I'm supposing he turned this story in to authorities so it could be properly investigated and not just sharing over coffee with people who will do nothing about it? Why isn't this splashed in the Guatemalan press? That's called hearsay. I still have a hard time believing all of this is going on when there are people in power now salivating at the chance to stop adoptions who would be dancing all over that case.

I haven't been asked for any background fees yet in Guatemala. Parent's adopting in other countries do occasionally get unexpected fees. The US is not Hague. The "proof of issues IN Guatemala" with key word in I keep seeing is with US agencies. Is that a Guatemalan problem or a US one? Lets not confuse the two.

Locals hanging or attacking people after a real history of issues and repeat stories going through the press today, vigilantism, does not prove the event. It proves the locals do not feel protected. PROOF proves the event. Not rumor. Not hearsay.

I did not coin the term baby farms. Someone else came up with that. I learned about them while searching for what my government apparently doesn't know how to provide.. information. That's where I learned about El Salvadore, which isn't Guatemala, and about the problems that did occur earlier in Guatemala when it was war torn.

There needs to be change and protections worldwide not just Guatemala. It's my perspective there is still LESS corruption here than in other countries and a lot of political grandstanding.

I keep hearing adoption is not the solution to the worlds ills, who said it was I surely didn't, but it breaks my heart how easily people can talk about the greater good and don't seem to reflect for a moment of what that means to children now. Real children. Not just MY child and MY family. It's very easy to discuss the greater good when we aren't the ones who get sacrificed. We are confusing too many issues. Adoptive parents are offering a home and love to a child who has none. The world should quit being angry with us. There are plenty of children left over to live miserable lives while someone sits in their ivory tower and plans for a Utopia where those kids won't exist.

Posted by: mom at July 2, 2007 03:08 PM

Again, I will explain that the Central Authority overseas adoption processes, approves/disapproves service providers, and sets policy and procedure in a country. That is true in the US as well as the other Hague-signatory countries who have effectively implemented the convention. The influence the Central Authority has over fraud is quite significant because they can REFUSE to let someone continue to practie in adoption if they are determined to be breaking the law, etc. They can revoke their standing as a Hague-approved provider. That being said, there will still be fraud but at least now there is somewhere to go for complaint and investigation.
As for the doctor that I mentioned, as I said this was credible. I NEVER said that I learned this over a cup of coffee. This doctor appealed to the Guatemalan authorities to investigate (nothing came of that), he tried to get UNICEF to intervene (nothing came of that), he tried to get Amnesty International to intervene--again, no response. If you'd like I can send you a copy of the short story that he wrote--it covers all of this. Finally, the situation in Guatemala is both a Guatemalan one and a US one. First, Guatemala must regulate and oversee thier citizenry involved in adoptions (attorneys, birth mother recruiters, facilitators, hogar operators). Then, the US must oversea the agencies operating here on our soil as is currently happening with agency accreditation. Also, the USDOS must make sure that orphan visas are being issued appropriately--and there has been some serious fraud in this area because some of these children truly have two parents. As for the visa fraud, I don't think any US family wants to find out that their child is being/was processed on a fraudulent visa. The ramifications could be a disrupted adoption when the child's immigration is ruled to be based on falsehood. If the USDOS begins to see too many cases of fraud, they have the right to suspend all orphan visas from a given country--just as they did in Cambodia a number of years ago. That suspension still stands to this day. This is an action that the State Department took before the Hague implementation. angry as everyone may be at the DOS, they really could have been far more agressive about curbing Guate adoption fraud as they have the right of suspension.

Posted by: karenms1 at July 4, 2007 09:21 AM

I'm a little surprised none of those groups did anything about the report from the doctor. Why? They either aren't doing what they are sworn to do which is to protect the children or they investigated and found nothing or they investigated and are holding the evidence for prosecution as our government claims to be doing. All we can do is speculate while children's lives hang in the balance and we have to make decisions based on speculations. I'm not angry with all of DOS. Just the person who wrote the original warning and whomever approved it. I like whomever wrote the human rights reports and tiering report. The comment on not adopting because how will your child feel if they were possibly born for adoption is horrible. Why do I have to explain how insensitive it is? My grandmother would roll in her grave if I said something like that. I imagine, in the remote chance this were true but it shows ignorance of the person who says this, that our children would feel like they might have been born to be adopted and were adopted versus might have been born to be adopted and never were. Over and over again people talk about the greater good and the perfect world and miss what is happening in the real world now and what has been happening for centuries. Maybe next century we will get it right. I know exactly what the underlying message is. It's sad but the children never should have been born to begin with and for the greater good these children should not be adopted so future children do not suffer. I listened to same message years ago in philosophy class about what if you could have Utopia but it required one child to suffer in a locked room but it would be for the greater good does it make it right? Very sad philosophical question which takes on a whole new light if you think what if you were that child or knew that child or loved that child would that change your decision? And we're the bad guys for asking about the children who exist now. I dont think I need to explain why that message is upsetting. Rumors have it the Russian mafia is all over Russian adoptions. Perhaps the person who is interested in the greater good should go stand in front of children tied to cots there and explain to them how it's for the greater good if parents don't arrive there -or- they can actually go after the real problem. Everyone said they would save Romanian children by shutting down adoptions there and they were. Perhaps they should go visit the non-existant uncared for children there so they can be proud of their accomplishment. It's my understanding Romania still has a huge trafficking problem. How can that be when the nasty unethical Ap's who are adopting only for their own selfish reasons and not for the childs sake are no longer there? Perhaps the Ap's are not the true source of the problem worldwide to begin with. Perhaps everyone goes after us because they can't go after the real criminals so they will show the world they are doing their jobs by going after the law abiding citizens. I know DOS and UNICEF and others feel they are doing the right thing and so do we. Maybe its for the greater good we don't adopt but my children have names. It's easy for someone to philosophize about the greater good for the world when they don't become attached to any of the "sad" but we need to walk away from them children. We are attached. We have to pass through our government multiple times before we can come home. If we pass through and satisfy the requirements I ask them to please leave us alone and do not beat us up for the actions of a few. I also ask DOS not to ask us how our children "might feel" as if we've never considered our children's feelings or welfare. Go after the real bad guys please and quit going after the easy targets.

Posted by: mom at July 9, 2007 09:26 AM

To Mom:
I would just like to respond with a gentle reminder that you have little or no control over what your child/ren will think as they become adults. Due to the nature of Guate adoptions, our families will be challenged with some questions over time. It is unfortunate, but the situation is too contaminated. Questions will be asked and children will have isues to ponder as they go through processes of autonomy, development of identify as young adults, etc. As such, this is indeed complicated. You may be angry at the US DOS was posting such a comment, but I'd suggest that your response is a 'shoot the messenger' reaction rather than a reaction based in long-term thinking. This is a REAL issue for anyone adopting from Guate. There are currently SERIOUS questions and there will continue to be questions. Korean adoptees have been asking questions for years...there are television shows in Korea dedicated to helping Korean adoptees. I don't know what the long-term outcome will be for Guatemalan adoptees. However, there is such a large group of children and the rumors/reports are so disturbing. As a result, we can't entirely predict the long-term impact on the children.

Posted by: karenms1 at July 12, 2007 11:54 AM


I think it is really disrespectful to begin like this

"Again, I will explain . . ."

Can't we discuss, share, disagree, and make our points on this site in a more respectful way?

Posted by: anonymous at July 12, 2007 11:48 PM
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