August 21, 2007
What Happens When Adoptions End
One of the rarely publicized aftermaths of adoption systems closing is a deterioration of care at orphanages. I have personally met people who described this to me regarding El Salvador (from those who volunteer at an orphanage). In short, adoptions fund the care for many children, not just those being adopted. While we hope this doesn't happen to Guatemala, and while in the months to come Kelly and I will be announcing plans to help in the event it does, this is a sad fact that should not be ignored.
With this in mind CNN has a story about this and how a Peruvian adoptive family decided to help. It's a heartwarming read and gives us all something to ponder.
Click here to read the story.
Posted by Kevin at August 21, 2007 07:52 PM
I agree this story and the whole situation right now in Guatemala gives us all a great deal of food for thought. It certainly makes me feel so very lucky to have my daughter home and well.
I will say, however, that it is sometimes quite hard to figure out how to best give back. I personally feel a real desire and frankly, an obligation, to give something back to the country (and adoption system) who gave me the most precious gift I could ever have in my life. That said, I've personally written to everyone I can find -- including my old agency, people active on this site, some of the attorneys active in the adoption community in Guatemala -- asking for suggestions or leads on how best to give back to other children in Guatemala. For the most part, I get no response and certainly no concrete suggestions. It's been a little demoralizing.
It would help if there were some repository of information about reputable orphanages and their needs. I'm part of a group of 20+ Guatemalan adoptive parents. We would all very much like to give back in an organized, effective and ongoing fashion -- something beyond just sending cash. If anyone's heard of good ideas, please pass them along to me privately.
Try Orphan Resources (www.orphanresources.org), Hands of Hope (www.hands-of-hope.org), Wings (sorry I don't have the URL handy), Coffeekids (www.coffeekids.org). There are other great ones like Seva and a ton of others.
I feel the same way you do. We wanted to do more for the country of our daughter's birth. My husband and I recently felt led to go to Guatemala and volunteer for one year. Plans are still sketchy, but we are talking with manos de amor (google Shalom foundation in Guatemala) and orphan resources. None of the orphanages receive government money , but rely on private donations. Many organizations run schools, clinics and help with livable housing in addition or orphan care.
We think it will be a great experience for our whole family, it all goes well, we'll be there in January. We'll need lots of prayers!
May I suggest that you consider assisting one child with their school costs? I am personally involved with doing this--working directly with the family and not through an agency. This is not a traditional feeding program or a situation where an agency gets 40%+ overhead. Educating one child through highschool can help pull the entire family group up in the long run. The cost is about $300USD yearly and it is greatly appreciated by the family we work with. It is based on trust. It is truly satisfying to see a young person have an opportunity for an education whereas without our help, school fees, books, supplies, and other costs are too prohibitive for most ordinary childen to complete an education beyond primary school.
The Ohio group, Friends Through Guatemalan Adoption (www.ftga.net) sponsors monthly giving back projects for its members and the community. Please visit the website for a wealth of information about various projects they have supported in the past. You can also read about the "Moms on a Mission 2007" trip that just concluded last month.
Here is the URL for WINGS - http://www.wingsguate.org/
Please contact me if you would like to talk with someone there about volunteer opportunities, fundraising, etc.
Like Kevin said, there are tons of opportunities. I'm sorry you've not gotten response from the places you've looked so far.
Please consider joining The Big List. Many members of the Big List have been involved in work in Guatemala, run organizations doing work in GT, and/or share your interests in giving back. Moms on a Mission is perhaps similar to the group of parents who've adopted from GT that you know & they have done wonderful and amazing work in GT. You can find more information about the List by contacting the list owners at
According to CQ staff:
The two Casa Quivira attorneys who have been detained since last Saturday, August 11, had a hearing before the Criminal Judge today, and after reviewing all of the evidence that was presented, the judge made the statement to all of
the attorneys present that based on the documentation and testimony presented, he could not find evidence of a crime having been committed. The 2 attorneys were released on bond, and will report in with the court every 15 days
while an investigation continues, to determine whether the Ministerio Publico is able to present enough evidence to warrant any charges being filed. Until this judicial process is complete and the judge issues a final sentence clearing the attorneys, the attorneys will not be allowed to leave the country.
But again, the two attorneys are no longer being detained, and no formal charges have been filed against them.
We are hopeful that this signals the beginning of the end for the illegal takeover of the Casa Quivira home.
With regard to the allegations that the children were in poor health before "bienestar" took over - while I know that data is not the plural form of anecdote - my pediatrician described my son (home from CQ in July) as "one of the healthiest internationally adopted kids I've ever seen."
I second Kevin's recommendation of orphan resources international. They deliver donated supplies to over 40 orphanages in Guatemala. Our church is connected with one hogar called Fundaninos. We visit, take donations, play with the kids, and learn so much. Some of the orphanages that ORI works with specialize in caring for special needs children. Some have adoption programs. Some do not. ORI also works with a great new after school feeding program called "House of Hope" in Santiago.
There's a thread on the Guatadopt forum that details several NGO opportunities in Guat if you want still more options :).
Thanks for posting this article, Kevin. I have a couple of comments:
1) Adoptions from Peru aren't actually closed, but there are only a few happening. Friends of ours have two children whom they adopted (in '04 and '05) from an orphanage there. They found conditions similar to those described in the article. And like Ana in this article, they have started a foundation to help the children there. In the first year, they raised $20K and did things like install new plumbing-- which gave the facility hot water for the first time.
2) With regards to the question about Guatemalan charities, I want to give a plug for Safe Passage, which helps children who live near the Guatemala City dump. SP ensures the kids go to school; provides them with a hot meal; ensures they have access to medical care and social workers; provides a library, computer center and after-school tutoring... I could go on and on. We've been sponsoring a child thru this program for 3 years, and I had the opportunity to visit the facility this summer. I can't say enough good things about it.
I feel a great love and need to give back to Guatemala as well. I have been back to Guatemala the last 2 years with a group called Caroline's Promise out of NC. We collected shoes last year and this year it was school supplies. We stay at an orphanage and do work there and bring much needed money and donations. We also go out into the community and help out. We visited 3 schools this year and took lots of school supplies. It is very rewarding. I also sponsor a child in Guatemala through Compassion International. There are lots of good people doing good work in Guatemala. Many that I have met are adoptive parents who want to give back.
There is also Mayan Families www.mayanfamilies.org they have multiple projects going as well as links to ONIL stove project, water filter project, chicken project, etc. My understanding is families visiting can bring clothing, shoes, wheelchairs, etc and mayan families can arrange for pickup. More info is on their website. There are tons of worthy charities which give back.
I've been thinking about this and little of what we're hearing makes any kind of logical sense. None of this is to say that I don't think the raid was politically motivated and that children are innocent victims here. Let's look at the reports and try to infuse some logic and common sense into what is an emotionally charged situation.
Would political forces could be so stupid as to completely disregard the welfare of these children and intentionally turn away daily medicine, food and (according to accounts) almost go out of their way to neglect these babies? This is no way to win a political campaign. It really makes no sense for them to do so.
I read a post here that said CQ is hiring a PR firm? They've been issuing press releases. ADA has put out a manifesto. To me, this looks like damage control, sabre rattling and spin doctoring. Wouldn't you think CQ would be more focused on finding ways of getting these kids FOOD and MEDICINE if things were really so dire rather than issuing press releases and hiring a PR firm to shore up its image?
We are being asked to believe that in a week, 25% of the children at CQ needed hospitalization due to newly terrible unsanitary and neglectful conditions. It's very difficult to believe that these children have all deteriorated so quickly. Healthy well fed kids usually take a lot longer than a few days or a week for less than ideal feeding and lack of more sanitary conditions to send them to the hospital. Unless they are literally being starved, it would take a while for any neglect to take its toll. However, it is possible for a viral infection to take hold quickly, but that is not what we've been hearing.
If there are some vulnerable infants (asthma, underweight, preemies) not being given what they are used to and need, maybe they would have allergic reactions etc. But 9 out of 46 in a few days? How many children were sick and on medicine in these previously perfect conditions? Healthy babies would take a lot longer than a few days to get sick to the point they needed hospitalizations in the absence of really, really awful conditions. As I said, barring some fast spreading virus, deterioration like that takes time. The reports make it sound like in just a few days conditions have gone from pristine and healthy to filthy and sick. This sounds like an exaggeration to me. It would take longer than that for the place to go downhill. Babies are fairly resiliant. Allegedly, the conditions is CQ were far above the conditions in which most children in Guatemala are raised. Are these government workers dipping these babies in pig pens and feeding them E-coli or could it be that they are just treating these babies with the standard of care that is customary in Guatemala, but not necessarily the US standard of care reportedly provided by CQ?
Is one of the attorneys jailed and now released an associate of banned attorney Blanca Martinez?
I think that we are seeing lots of shades of gray here and an elusive truth. The sad thing is that the children are being used as political footballs.
ADA has a new posting out. It is awesome!!
David K, infants (particularly young infants) are extremely vulenerable to non-hydrolized milk protein. If young infants are, indeed, being given powdered whole milk, I do not doubt that they are very ill. Allergic colitis can begin to develop within 48 hours to exposure to cow's milk antigen (the kind in whole milk - not formula). This can cause essentially a shedding of the intestinal lining, malabsorption, dehydration, respiratory and other symptoms.
Also, what other recourse do the owners of CQ have other than to publicly pressure the government of Guatemala? You act as though by hiring a PR firm they are hanging with Paris Hilton and P Diddy. They are merely trying to get (presumably) another government or a person with influence over the Guatemalan government to exert pressure so that they can get to these children.
I have also pondered these same questions.
All the statements reguarding the condition of the CQ home has been made by CQ themselves.
Sounds like damage control for possible future law suits.
Can you imagine what kind of spin could have come out if the SBS
had accepted the "supposed" donations of milk and medicine for the children. Maybe something like-
"Evidently, the SBS is unable to take care of these babies since we are continuing to provide basic needs for them".
I believe in the basic good in people and do think that the government of Guatemala IS taking good care of these precious ones.
Praying for all
While I think the Guatemalan government authorities are clearly bad guys in this case, that does not necessarily make CQ the good guys.
Yes, David K, it is true that one of the attorneys arrested is in direct connection to the dreadful Blanca Martinez. I have been waiting for someone other than myself to finally realize this and take notice. I do not know how CQ hooked up with Vilma Perez, but I'm sure there is someone out there who knows, and is also aware that B. Martinez is somehow linked to all this. It's coming full circle and soon all the fraud and scamming will haunt all involved and end up hurting innocent children and potential adoptive families.
It isn't at all surprising that the gov't. of Guatemala would let these children suffer to make a political point. They let thousands of their children suffer daily without lifting a finger.
And as a doctor, I can assure you that babies can get sick and dehydrated very quickly with improper feeding.
Why not ask parents who have been to this orphanage what it was like? If you read their statements in the press and on other sites, you will find out.
Vilma Perez did work for Blanca Martinez and had her name on many bad and bogus cases. True or not, she'd claim she didn't know what was going on. I am not here to defend her on that because no matter how one looks at it, it was wrong. But with that said, I have personally seen no evidence or reason to believe that CQ had anything to do with Blanca. If they did, I am pretty confident that I would have been hearing from CQ clients prior to this raid about all kinds of problems and that was not the case.
David K & gaby:
Both of the twin boys I am adopting from CQ are hospitalized. You ask how children could get so sick so quickly. Well, many of these children are NOT healthy...that is why they are at CQ in the first place. For example, my twins were born about 10 weeks early and were hospitalized for a month. Being so premature has many consequences...one of the beggest is poor lung development, making them very suseptible to lung infections. CQ has incubators, nebualizers, specialty formulas and other equipment and medications that help not only my children but the many children that they receive that are born so very small. Do you really think that these boys would have survived any place else?
You do NOT know the circumstances. While I don't know everything either, I do know that without the vigilance of the CQ staff, my boys would not be alive today.
One other point to make: You act as though CQ had a part in the decision to send these children to the hospital...it was not their decision.
I have been to CQ. I have spoken with the nannies, nurses, doctor, and founders. When my children needed to go to see a specialist, CQ took them there, did not charge me extra, and gave me the results. I know MANY people who have been to CQ, including dozens this year alone, and the rate of multiple adoptions from CQ is very high. CQ has completed more than 1,500 adoptions over the past 13 years and has a VERY strong network of families. In addition, the founders are close to opening a medical clinic to offer basic healthcare to the children of Guatemala that do not have access to vaccines, etc. As with any agency / orphanage, CQ is not perfect and the system absolutely requires reform. However, reform does not happen overnight at gunpoint. And let me say this clearly: the living conditions for the children at CQ are PRISTINE.
Anybody who entrusts the care of children to the Guatemalan government is insane. This is the same government that has forgotten about these children for decades, the same government that refuses to investigate or prosecute thousands of murders, rapes, etc every year.
CQ's request is very simple: allow CQ to continue to care for the children while the legal process works itself out. The police can stay, the social workers MUST go. As adoptive parents, we can wait as long as necessary for our cases to be approved as legal. As parents, however, we CANNOT allow the present situation to continue. Currently, I have no idea where my children are as they have been removed from CQ, ostensibly to a hospital that hasn't been named. Please tell me how this makes more sense than simply allowing CQ to continue caring for the children at private expense rather than the govt's?
Another way that adoptive families can help the children of Guatemala is to report corruption. Families can report to the U.S. Embassy and/or to the Public Ministry of Guatemala by calling 00(502)2411-9335 and ask for an English speaker.
Um, we seem to have wandered from the heartwarming Peruvian story.
Under the circumstances, however, I will also jump on the wandering bandwagon. I am so amazed at the assumptions that each person who posts makes about CQ, GT govt., the CQ children, etc. But we are error-prone humans & we make assumptions based on our experiences, our opinions, history, and more. But, goodness, there is so much conjecture about which most of us know so little.
I mean, who actually knows that the children who were allegedly hospitalized were actually sick or required hospitalization? Just a few days ago we were buying into the apparent myth of some "lockdown" at the Marriott based on some post on Adoption.com. What next? I know we need to talk and process, and even conjecture, but lets simply bear in mind that most of what we are talking about is "spun", biased heresay.
When we chose to adopt -- Guatemala chose us..... we had an instant connection with our children's birth country ......
We have gone back many times..... and each time it is the same...... we fall in love all over again.......
As my chilren grow -- I hope they, like Ana, can learn to give back and share with those who are left behind.......
This story was very heartwarming...... and her story really does show the world the great need for ICA!
Peruvian adoptions have slowed way down..... why??? Because of the Hague and yet, what has UNCICEF done for the orphans in peru???? Why not allow them to have safe and loving homes......
I am sorry - but UNICEF makes me ill... their agenda is not "pro" child....... if keeping children on the streets, poor with no choices is "pro" child than I don't know what to think!
If only Peru, El Salvador, Ecuador, etc continued to place children........ how much better it would be for the children!
I do believe a fair and ethical adoption system is possible for these countries...... I just don't think the governments really care.......
mom to 5 Guatemalan blessings
This is a very heartwarming story. Ana is a very special girl and her parents must be so proud of her. I think it is wonderful at such a young age she is so caring and wants to give back. What a selfless mature sweet girl. Thank you for sharing this.
Romania is a complete shutdown. There were children supposedly being "bred' for adoption there and illegal adoptions. Yes, all the things you hear about for Guatemala except I've never seen pictures of childen in Auschwitz situations in government run institutions in Guatemala. To solve the trafficking problems and protect the children they closed international adoptions. So one would think the numbers of children would go down. If we are root cause to the worlds problems and we are creating the situation they shut the door on us things should be better.. right? At what point do people realize women have children underage, have children with no means to care for them, don't want them, can't keep them for whatever reason, parents die, families may not want or have no means to support them, etc and regardless of whether you allow adoption or not there will always be children who wind up in the situation where they need a family so what is wrong with giving them one?
Cut from the US 2006 human rights report on Romania (where on earth is the press):
..."The government was committed to children's rights and welfare, but competing priorities, bureaucratic inefficiency, and poorly allocated resources prevented this commitment from being fulfilled in practice.
Public education was free and compulsory through the 10th grade or age 16. After the 10th grade, schools charged fees for books, which discouraged lower-income children, particularly Roma, from attending. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that approximately 90 percent of primary school-age children attended school.
The highest level of education achieved by most children was secondary school, although Romani students had lower rates of attendance at all education levels (see section 5, Minorities).
A general health insurance plan covers all children until age 18 or graduation from secondary school. All schools have medical units which supply first aid and carry out vaccination campaigns. Boys and girls had equal access to medical care in schools. All medical costs for children are waived, and most drugs are provided at little or no cost. Of the 11,352 persons with HIV/AIDS, approximately 75 percent are children between the ages of 15 to 19 who were infected in the late 1980s and early 1990s through contaminated blood transfusions and other medical procedures.
Child abuse and neglect continued to be serious problems, and public awareness of the issue remained poor. Media reported several severe cases both in families and in child welfare institutions. Abuse observed within state institutions included children tied to cribs with bed sheets and prolonged incarceration for misbehavior. While the law protects children from abuse and neglect, the government has not established a mechanism to identify and treat abused and neglected children and their families. In 2004 police reported that 1,221 cases of abused and neglected children were registered, including 832 cases of rape, 284 cases of sexual intercourse with a minor, 114 cases of sexual perversion, and 101 cases of sexual corruption. Officials believed the number of unreported cases was much higher. At year's end there were 39 hotlines to receive and assess reports of child abuse and neglect and 22 specialized counseling services for centers for abused, neglected, and trafficked children. During the year hotline operators received approximately 5,400 calls reporting child abuse and neglect. During the year the government funded the creation of services for child victims of abuse and neglect as a national interest program; however, implementation was delayed due to the fact that no NGOs bid to provide services under this program.
The abandonment of children in maternity hospitals remained a problem with over 2,580 children left in hospitals by their parents during 2005. Between January and August 1,654 children were abandoned in hospitals.
The National Authority for the Protection of Children's Rights (ANPDC) in coordination with the Ministry of Health made some progress in discouraging child abandonment through prenatal counseling and training of hospital personnel. However, children's rights NGOs and local child welfare officials reported that these efforts were insufficient to resolve the continued high number of abandonment cases, resulting in many essentially healthy children being kept in hospitals because family reintegration or foster placement was unavailable. According to the Children's High Level Group study on the prevention of child abandonment, 60 percent of children abandoned by their parents were left in hospitals, while the remaining 40 percent were abandoned in other places, including on the street.
The 2005 child welfare law and its implementation continued to create confusion among entities responsible for child welfare and to prolong the time that a child spent in the child welfare system before being reunited with biological parents or being adopted. NGOs and child protection authorities continued to report that judges, police, and social workers generally lacked clear instructions from the central government, training, and the resources necessary to implement the legislation. As a result, thousands of children remained institutionalized or in foster care rather than reunited with biological families or legally approved for adoption when family reunification was not possible. There were credible reports of attempts to force family reunification for abandoned children in cases where biological family members explicitly stated they did not want the children or in which there was a high risk of child abuse or child labor.
There were many reports of abandoned children being forced to wait for several years in institutions or foster care while authorities searched for their biological parents to formalize their abandonment in court. The adoptions office announced that 1,136 children were adopted during 2005 and 1,067 were adopted through November. The government claimed there were only 883 children available for adoption in the country in December, and over 1,680 families that wanted to adopt children. However, the number of children available for adoption represented only a fraction of the estimated 9,000 children abandoned each year. These low figures were due to the state's non-recognition of the physical abandonment of children. There was no time limit on parents' absence from children for the children to be legally recognized as abandoned. Instead, government policy aimed to reintegrate children into biological families even years after physical abandonment. Many citizens wishing to adopt the children whom they already cared for as foster parents were forced to wait for the abandoning parents' statement of abandonment in court before the children could be declared legally adoptable. Many expressed fears that the foster children who had spent years in their care could be taken back by the biological parent or relatives and forced into begging on the street.
The public child welfare system tracked approximately 95,000 children. More than half of these lived with extended families or in foster care, and approximately 32,000 lived in public and private institutions. The government continued to build smaller, family-type residential units for children in need of protection, including children with disabilities. The number of children in institutions continued to drop, from 31,000 in 2005 to 27,000 during the year, while the foster care system expanded to care for 19,300 children during the year compared with 16,800 children in 2005. Abandoned children under two years of age were only allowed to be placed in foster care, not released for adoption, if reunification with biological parents failed. Roma children, who were disproportionately represented among abandoned children, continued to suffer racial discrimination and were rarely adopted by Romanian families. Child welfare authorities did not have a system for providing labor market information, skills training, or job placement services for older children in residential care, and there was a high probability that they would gravitate to the streets, where they would be vulnerable to sexual exploitation and crime.
The legal age of marriage is 18, but girls as young as 15 may marry in certain circumstances. Illegal child marriage was common within certain social groups, particularly the Roma. While there were limited statistics available on the extent of the problem, a recent UNDP survey found that 35 percent of Romani girls were married before reaching the age of 16. There were no government programs to address the problem of child marriages.
Trafficking in girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation was a problem (see section 5, Trafficking). There also were isolated cases of children involved in prostitution for survival without third-party involvement, and some instances of boys as victims of trafficking.
The country has a mechanism for the repatriation of unaccompanied Romanian children and for ensuring special measures for their protection. In 2005 approximately 3,250 children and their families benefited from protection and assistance in 12 transit centers in the country.
The national agency for employment is legally required to provide up to 75 percent of the median national salary to employers for hiring persons between 16 and 25 years who are at risk of social exclusion, a group that includes youth reintegrating into society after spending time in state-care facilities or prison; young parents; and other categories of at-risk youth. The law provides that youth leaving the state institutional system may receive state assistance for an additional two years, during which they receive skills training for independent living. However, fewer than 1,000 youth benefited directly from this program during the year.
During the year the NGO Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) reported that doctors in some hospitals were still encouraging parents to give up children born with disabilities. The abandonment of children with disabilities decreased steadily in recent years, as specialized rehabilitation services for such children became slightly more available. There were approximately 75,000 children with disabilities, of which 12,000 were in state care. The MDRI report detailed the physical and mental disabling of abandoned children due to the conditions they were subjected to in state institutions. Several reports detailed the inhumane conditions children with physical and mental disabilities were subjected to in state institutions, including being bound, malnourished, and abused. In one instance, authorities sought to cover up repetitive sexual abuse within a state institution by denying those who revealed the problem further access to the institution. No attempt was made to separate the abuser from the abused until well after the issue appeared in the press.
Child labor was a problem (see sections 5, Trafficking, and 6.d.).
An official complete list of hazardous child labor activities still did not exist by year's end. A draft list was submitted by the National Steering Committee to the Ministry of Labor, Social Solidarity and Family, in February. At year's end, the Directorate for EU Integration was analyzing the document.
A National Statistics Institute survey released in 2003 on children's activities--the only nationwide survey to document the extent of child labor--found that between 40,000 and 80,000 children were involved in activities identified as the worst forms of child labor, including begging, drug dealing, stealing, prostitution, or were victims of child trafficking. Over 90 percent of these children were from rural areas. Street children, children in urban areas, and Romani children were the most vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation.
While the government did not maintain official estimates on the number of homeless children living on the streets, police, social workers, and NGOs estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 children lived on the streets, depending on the season.
During the year the government continued to administer six national programs for the protection of children's rights. The programs focused on closing large state-run institutions for children; developing services for children with disabilities; creating services for children victims of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation; implementing the national professional standards of child welfare services and monitoring children's rights; improving the foster care network; and creating and developing community social services to support family cohesion. NGOs implemented these programs with governmental funding from the national budget."
In comparison to the Romania report, the country which doesn't allow international adoption to cure its trafficking woes, here is snip from the Guatemala report for 2006. Based on press I would expect Guatemala to be in a much more dire situation than Romania. This is not a knock on Guatemala just a glimpse into our governments human rights reports and all countries have something. But I would expect to see Guatemalas report tower over Romanias given the focus everyone has on it. And this is odd... I can't find the word adoption one time in the entire report.. you would think given its said to be a major contributor to trafficking we'd find it in here. I am not saying adoption is the solution. But I am saying that we are not the problem. Just because two items are related does not mean cause and effect. Are there unethical people out there yes but the majority of adoptions are legal adoptions with the blessing of two governments. And we cannot place blame on Guatemala for unethical US agencies defrauding parents. That is a problem in house and not with Guatemala. Adoption helps some of the children by giving them a loving home but of course it doesn't cure the reasons why they came into the situation. We will never completely prevent children from needing a home and family. But I wish people would look at Romania and realize they need to address the issues in the beginning that lead up to children in that state and not look at the tail end which is sometimes adoption for some of the children. The world sees the number we adopt and think its a large number but sadly they don't look at the number we don't adopt. It's a very small percentage.
...."The government devoted insufficient resources to ensure adequate educational and health services for children.
Although the constitution and the law provide for free compulsory education for all children up to the sixth grade, less than half the population had received a primary education. The UN Development Program's 2003 Human Development Report, the most recent available, estimated that 40 percent of children who entered primary school finished their third year and 30 percent were promoted beyond sixth grade. Completion rates were lower in rural and indigenous areas. According to the Population Council's annual report, the average education level attained varied widely based on background and geographic region. Although the average nonindigenous child received 4.2 years of schooling, indigenous children received an average of 1.3 years.
Boys and girls had equal access to medical care. UNICEF statistics reported that 67 percent of indigenous children suffered from chronic malnutrition.
Child abuse remained a serious problem. The Public Ministry did not provide a figure on the number of cases of child abuse during the year. The Social Secretariat for the Welfare of Children, with oversight for children's treatment, training, special education, and welfare programs provided shelter and assistance to children who were victims of abuse but sometimes placed children under its care in shelters with other youths who had criminal records. Due to an overwhelmed public welfare system, family courts during the year referred 329 minors to Casa Alianza, an NGO focusing on issues regarding street children. The Special Prosecutor's Office for Women included a unit that investigated only child abuse cases.
Child prostitution was a problem (see section 5, Trafficking and section 6.c.).
Child labor was a widespread and serious problem. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), during the year almost one quarter of children had to work to survive (see section 6.d.).
Credible estimates put the number of street children at 5,000 nationwide, approximately 3,000 of them in Guatemala City. Most street children ran away from home after being abused. Casa Alianza reported that increased gang recruitment decreased the number of street children in the capital, because after joining a gang, street children often lived with fellow gang members and no longer slept on the streets. Casa Alianza reported that by year's end approximately 377 minors suffered violent deaths in Guatemala City. Criminals often recruited street children for purposes of stealing, transporting contraband, prostitution, and illegal drug activities. Approximately 10,000 children were members of street gangs. NGOs dealing with gangs and other youth reported concerns that street youth detained by police were subject to abusive treatment, including physical assaults (see section 1.d.).
The government closed its two shelters in Guatemala City and moved their functions to a shelter for girls in Antigua and a shelter in San Jose Pinula for boys. Two other shelters in Quetzaltenango and Zacapa served both boys and girls.
The government devoted insufficient funds to its shelters, and governmental authorities often preferred to send juveniles to youth shelters operated by Casa Alianza and other NGOs. The government provided no funding assistance for shelter costs to these NGOs. Juvenile offenders were incarcerated at separate youth detention facilities.
Trafficking in Persons
While the law prohibits trafficking in persons, there were reports that persons were trafficked to, from, through, and within the country. The law criminalizes all forms of trafficking, defines the categories of persons responsible for trafficking offenses, and mandates jail time for traffickers. The government acknowledged that trafficking was a significant and growing problem in the country.
The Public Ministry operated the Office of Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women, Children, and Victims of Trafficking. During the year a task force, which included the Office of the Special Prosecutor, immigration authorities, PNC, and Casa Alianza, conducted an unspecified number of bar raids.
The country cooperated with Mexico on an annual work plan to care for victims and regularize cooperation between the respective government agencies. This cooperation included ensuring that the repatriation of trafficking victims was handled separately from deportations. The country had repatriation agreements for minor victims of trafficking with El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama.
The country was a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation and child labor. One 2004 NGO report, which contained the most recent data available, identified 600 to 700 minors who were victims of trafficking in centers of prostitution across the country. There were no reliable estimates of forced labor trafficking, mainly involving children used in begging rings in Guatemala City.
Trafficking was particularly a problem in the capital and in towns along the borders with Mexico and El Salvador. Child migrants who did not cross the border into Mexico often remained in the country and resorted to or were forced into prostitution. Many women and children also were brought into the country from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras by organized rings that forced them into prostitution. The primary target population for sexual exploitation was minor boys and girls or young women from poor families. Traffickers often approached individuals with promises of economic rewards, jobs in cafeterias or beauty parlors, or employment in other countries. The means of promotion included flyers, newspaper advertisements, and verbal or personal recommendations.
Brothel owners often were responsible for transporting and employing victims of trafficking. Traffickers frequently had links to other organized crime, including drug trafficking and migrant smuggling.
There were credible reports that police and immigration service agents were complicit in trafficking of persons. In a 2002 study by the NGO End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, some minor victims of trafficking reported that immigration officials took bribes from traffickers, gave the victims falsified identification papers, and allowed them to cross borders. There were credible reports that brothel owners allowed police and migration officials to have sex with minor victims without charge. There were no further developments, and none were expected, regarding the investigation of former PNC official Rudy Giron Lima's ownership of three bars where underage persons were engaged in prostitution. During the year Giron Lima remained in prison under a 63-year sentence for an unrelated kidnapping conviction.
The Secretariat for Social Welfare, a government institution, operated shelters in Antigua, San Jose Pinula, Quetzaltenango and Zacapa that housed victims of trafficking and offered social casework, job training, and counseling.
Immigration officials generally deported foreign adult trafficking victims but did not treat them as criminals. Immigration officials deported an unspecified number of women found during bar raids back to Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Victims were not prosecuted and were not required to testify against traffickers.
During the year the government undertook efforts to address the problem of trafficking in persons, including increased attention to rescuing minors from commercial sexual exploitation in bars, brothels, and other establishments. The government released minor trafficking victims rescued in bar raids primarily to the custody of Casa Alianza, which provided shelter, medical treatment, psychological counseling, and job training. Other NGOs provided similar services and, along with Casa Alianza, lobbied for legislation, protection of victims, and prevention of trafficking. "
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