October 19, 2007

Guatadopt thoughts on the Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference

Right before we left the conference, Kevin and I sat and tried to decide how to write up our thoughts on the conference. At the time, it seemed simple enough to say "Let's just write our own perspectives on it". The point was to get our review on the site quickly….laughable, considering Kevin would be on a business trip the very next day and I would be trying to get the calendar pre-order page working. But alas we have them pretty much ready to go...

From Kelly:

Before I even boarded my plane back to Atlanta, I knew there was a lot that I wanted to talk about. Technically, I guess this could be filed under our respective rant and opinion columns….but considering the current state of affairs, it seems appropriate to file these summaries on the NEWS page.

GENERAL THOUGHTS on the Conference
While I know that many readers would rather jump on down to the review of the Future of Guatemalan Adoptions Forum with UNICEF on the panel, I felt it was important to start with general impressions of the conference. Some things relate to where we stand today with Guatemala adoptions and others do not.

First, I want to thank the organizers for sticking their necks out in so many ways during this conference. It was apparent (and appreciated) that they cared about our conference experience. Linh Song, Executive Director of Ethica, Inc. spent much of her time “working the floor” as did Trish Maskew, President of Ethica. With the diverse range of views, it was a challenge for them to make sure everyone had a chance to express their opinions. I think that they did an awesome job of setting a respectful tone to the conference.

OK….so, lets get to the nitty gritty. As expected, the general tone was rather negative since most who attended this conference have seen the dark side of adoptions and want reform. Along with this, was the typical splintering of perspectives caused a strange tension between the adult adoptees/birth mothers who felt victimized by their adoptions AND the adoptive parents, agencies, etc, who were focused on adoption practices rather than what leads to the need for adoption. Each group, I am sure, would have liked the issues to focus more on their concerns. I was offended by several statements that just rubbed me as being “anti-adoptive parent”….but I decided that I needed time to absorb and analyze. In many ways, it is a shame that parents and children who have good experiences don’t typically feel the need to attend such conferences (I am sure Kevin and I were in the minority as far as our experiences go!). It would be nice to have more “yardsticks” to which one can say “Cool, this obviously, worked well”. Instead, there was a lot of idealistic suggestions and no bridge to get there. I would summarize several major flaws in the collective thinking such as
1. The assumption of infinite resources to fund social programs or ideas.
2. The blanket “one size fits all” approach.
3. Contradictions in philosophy – birth mother rights vs. a system deciding what is best for the birth mother.
4. Sacrificing the best interest of the child in the name of deterring bad adoption practices.
5. Blurring the concept of coercion (human vs. economic)?
6. The assumption that the biological or cultural ties should always trump adoptive ties.
If we were all exactly like “XYZ” would there really be a need for any discussion? IMO, NO. Could anyone really believe that universal laws are appropriate for all situations and all cultures? I certainly don’t. All in all, it was not a “working” conference as I would *like* to define one…ie: having written plans on tackling these issues and coming up with viable ways to implement them. But in retrospect, Kevin and I learned a lot and our minds were spinning with ideas for Guatemala.

I think the most valuable part of the conference were the meetings and discussions between scheduled events. We had the opportunity to meet with a variety of individuals and discuss the issues as WE perceive them. It was encouraging that we were sought out for our ideas, concerns and participation in these ‘private’ discussions. We felt a huge responsibility in our representing our readers and ourselves.

I’ll tackle the UNICEF forum separately or in pieces (as I am sure that Kevin will have more to say on the subject as well). All in all, we felt that the conference was extremely valuable and some constructive lines of communication were opened. Lets hope we don’t close them up to quickly after they read our criticisms (smirk).

From Kevin:

The Ethics Conference

First off, I think Ethica and the Evan B Donaldson Institute did a great job with the conference. By that I mean that they did their best to pick relevant topics for discussion, they tried to get relevant speakers, and they went out of their way to give equal attention and respect to people of all viewpoints. That wasn’t easy as let me tell you, opinions and positions are very strong in the greater adoptive community.

While there were many in attendance I’d describe as activists and advocates, included, mostly it was academics, social workers, and agencies. So in the end, it was a lot of discussion, good discussion, that serves primarily to create frameworks of thought, study and analysis more than it does to enact real change. I don’t mean for that to sound bad, I enjoy intellectual stimulation. The conference was about what I expected it to be and well organized. But if anyone went in expecting to change the world, they’d have been disappointed.

It was a good mix of people whose primary concerns lie in many areas – domestic and ICA. And one thing is clear – there are huge needs for children and there are very, very complex issues for which many haven’t a clear answer. One simple example that comes to mind is this. We all know about the laws that allow a mother to leave a child at a hospital or fire station with no questions asked. This makes sense. We’ve all read the stories about people who hid pregnancies, gave birth, and left the child in a dumpster to die. Shouldn’t she have a better option? But what does allowing that do to the rights of that child to know his/her identity at birth?

In any case, as I started with, it was an interesting experience and did prove educational.

Now for what I know everyone is wondering about…

The Guatemala Adoption Session

In attendance were representatives from Unicef Guatemala, Tom DiFilipo from JCICS, and Elizabeth Larsen, a journalist and mother of a child from Guatemala. Each member of the panel had a few minutes up front before it turned to questions from attendees.

Elizabeth Larsen – upfront, I think she’s a wonderful person. I met Elizabeth when she interviewed me months ago for an article in the current issue of Mother Jones Magazine. Elizabeth spoke from the heart. She told a story about how after reading the Families Without Borders report she made her son not do the Unicef trick or treat campaign for school. But then she also came to see the good that Unicef did in areas like immunizations and clean water and wondered if by not collecting, would those programs be impacted (note to readers or thought on this - why not raise funds for another organization to keep the spirit and good happening…).

I know Elizabeth was nervous and a bit uncomfortable with being on the panel, and I applaud her for her contribution and honesty, whether or not I agree with it all. Elizabeth was lucky to largely be saved from the Q&A, but she was a balancing voice.

Unicef – the real courageous ones for doing this… I’m not sure what I can say other than that they were what I would have expected. The folks were very nice, hospitable, and well spoken. They spoke on human rights, the merits of their organization and problems in Guatemalan adoptions. But there wasn’t anything more than official positions and common jargon. Upsettingly, they would not directly answer question, choosing instead to do what I can best compare to politician press conferences where whatever the question, after one or two sentences they roll into whatever it is they want to continually say.

I was given the honor of asking the first question, on behalf of Focus on Adoption. My question was about how they can support cookie cutter legislation that has failed in other countries. Is the cart leading the horse to enact this type of reform with no structure or social services in place? Well I asked it in a much more complex manner (CD is in my car so I can’t get the exact words), but that was the general idea. Unfortunately, it wasn’t answered. Instead I heard about they really do need more data on what has happened in Honduras and El Salvador, about how Guatemala needs to be Hague compliant, about how Ortega was passed in an old form and now needs to go through amendments (thanks for that newsflash Manuel!). You get the idea.

Unicef in one breath talks about how they don’t legislate but then shows how intimately involved they are in assisting the Guatemala Congress. They want to admit they support these laws but then have no responsibility for what happens with them. Which was pointed out by Tom DiFilipo very we’ll, but we’ll get to him in a moment.

Unicef denies any payments or huge sums of cash for ending adoptions. They claim their annual budget is $5 million, only $60K of which is spent on adoption related activity. But here’s what I wonder and didn’t think of until afterward. That may be Unicef Guatemala’s budget, but what about Unicef HQ? Do they have money to play with?

Unicef also claimed that President Berger never said that in process cases wouldn’t be completed after Jan 1. So, was DOS lying? Or is it a careful choice of words because technically, Berger wasn’t saying that? But if he was saying that all cases as of Jan 1 will need to be Hague compliant and since the US hasn’t yet ratified, no adoptions can be completed. Once again you get the idea – listen close to what they say because sometimes you don’t need to lie to not really tell the truth. In any case, don’t read anything into that statement as it relates to the grandfathering situation. Just read it to see how words can be used. I thank Noam Chomsky for what his work has shown me about linguistics…

But that was really Unicef at this thing. Not directly answering, staying on message, not making you feel any different about them, and worst of all not saying anything to really piss me off and get me fired up! Not because it doesn’t fire me up, but because there was nothing new and they seemed like decent people. The lady on the panel was very nice and just what I’d call a real person. Manuel, the head of Unicef Guatemala, comes across more like a polished politician, but was not arrogant or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t change my opinion of the organization. Unfortunately, people don’t always agree and in this case, children are negatively impacted because one side has the prevailing power and influence. Well that’s not fair because in the case of Guatemala, our own DOS’s hands are far from clean.

Another side note: thanks to David K for pointing out DOS’s absence. Actually, DOS was there and was invited to participate. And they intended to. But sad as it seems, it appears as though “higher ups” wouldn’t allow them to do so since it would be on the record. Hmmm. Government of the people, by the people, for the people. How many times did I hear about transparency at this conference? How about some transparency from the folks who represent me and whose salaries are paid with my tax dollars! I’m not asking for top-secret info, just honest info on what they are doing, where they stand, etc.

One last Unicef thought. At one point Manuel stated that we should all be demanding that the Guatemalan attorneys declare their incomes to show that all the money going into adoptions was not supporting a private form of social services. That’s all good and fine but Manuel – how much do you get paid there buddy? Do you do all your fine work for free?

Tom DiFilipo, President of JCICS – I have often been quite critical of JCICS and I still can’t say that I love the organization, but Tom did an excellent job on this panel. He spoke very well about what I will call “our concerns” with good force and energy. There was a lot of back and forth between him and Manuel from Unicef and Tom did not let down his guard. His arguments were fairly straightforward and showed a good amount of frustration over where we find ourselves today in regard to Guatemalan adoptions. Tom was not afraid to go after Unicef’s policies and did so in a voracious but polite fashion.

One great point Tom made, in addition to the one I mentioned earlier, was about the numbers of children adopted. Unicef mentioned figures of 400,000 children born annually. They also mentioned 15% living in extreme poverty. So Tom did the math – that makes 60,000 children born annually into extreme poverty. Does 5,000 (one in twelve) seem unreasonable for adoption? Unicef of course pointed out its bullsh*t that poverty can not be a reason for relinquishment (okay, credit for that b.s. also goes to the Hague). But we all know the reality that extreme poverty is why many mothers are unable to care for their child and choose to relinquish.

On the other end was one question from the audience that Tom could not answer – where does all the foreign fee money go? Tom’s answer was honest that we don’t know that and that the one part of the system we don’t have good transparency with is how the children enter the Guatemalan system. This is a real problem with the current system but it is worth noting that no one in the audience was there to say the system does not need reform.

Other thoughts on the Guatemalan Session:
There were many great questions asked but nothing groundbreaking came from them. We left the room in the same boat as we entered it. Guatemala has passed the Ortega Law like it or not. Changes will need to be made and Guatemala needs to improve its social services. So back to my question to them that started the Q&A, I’d say I left thinking “yes, the cart is definitively leading the horse and no matter what Unicef wants to say, no matter how they try to pretty up their actions and positions, they are largely responsible for what ends up happening to innocent children in Guatemala after this goes into effect”.

After the session ended we went to speak one on one with the Unicef folks. They said they have an open door policy and so Kelly and I were willing to take advantage of it. Admittedly, I was very disappointed by what we got from Manuel. He tried to tell us what we need to do, going so far as to say that we should research and post on our site how many birthmoms only relinquished due to money. That was ludicrous and insulting which I inferred to him. He claimed they had no figures on what has happened in El Salvador and Honduras, suggesting that maybe adoptions are still happening, just not to the US. That was total b.s. Nonetheless, I don’t want it to seem as though he was arrogant or anything like that. It was all quite nice. The other representative was a little more open. I told her that I had officially challenged them a number of times to a formal debate. She said she knew someone in Guatemala that would be perfect for that so we’ll see what happens. But once again, I have to admit that this lady was quite nice and as much as I hate to admit it, seemed like someone I could be friends with outside of the differences in our views on ICA.

Other musings from the conference:

Aaaah yes, the person who was there from Unicef HQ. Unlike the Unicef Guatemala folks who I have some nice things to say about, this lady, Alexandra Yusta, was a fricking moron and the complete personification of what we mean when we claim that they need to get out of their ivory towers. In one of the initial sessions, she was asked a question about how you can push restrictive systems that limit a woman’s right to choose what she wants for her child when there are no social systems in place to help her. This Unicef dope had the audacity to reply, and this a direct quote, “there are no such countries”. In one of the breakout sessions, she repeated the garbage about how it is bad to supply prenatal and post-natal care for women who plan to relinquish because then it is an incentive to do so versus them doing a doing a domestic relinquishment. Excuse me, but how about you guys do something to provide pre and post natal care to ALL women to remove that inequity! How in the world can this huge organization that purports to help children suggest that any woman not receive available care that can help ensure a healthy child be born. Crazy!!!!

I learned a lot about other issues in the world of adoption. There were birthmothers and adoptees who have some real issues with how things work. I realized that we all need to be prepared for what our children may feel or face as they grow older. I call upon all of us to think about these things and be prepared. Our children may mostly be too young right now to have the feelings of loss, questions about their origin, etc. But the day will come when those things become very real and we have to be there for them, equipped to help them through it. I also learned a lot about problems in our domestic system.


So far as you, the majority of our readers, are concerned, the best value of the conference was all of the meetings/sit downs we had outside of the actual conference. Guatadopt was there on your behalf. We met with representatives of the Guatemalan government, CIS, academics advising the country, and of course Unicef to some degree. Please understand that we can not publicly state exactly what we discussed as that would breach confidences. But I will say that Guatadopt’s “agenda” is of course to do all we can to have adoptions continue to be an option for children in Guatemala in need of permanency. We advocated for ethical, pragmatic processes. And to any you out there reading this who have something to hide, we advocated for rigorous prosecution of those who behave in unethical and illegal manners, jeopardizing children and mothers. I sincerely hope that these powers-that-be will continue to realize the value of our experience, knowledge and dedication to ethical adoption so that Guatemala does not become piece of adoption history.

The ego bit

I’ll end this piece with one last thought that admittedly shows some ego but also gives kudos to those in attendance, especially Linh Song of Ethica. We know that folks had some concerns about us. They thought there was the potential for us to be disruptive. Despite this, Kelly and I were treated very well and truly felt like our voices counted. And of course, we remained on our best behavior (okay, realistically Kelly is more level headed than I so maybe it’s that I remained on my best behavior).

One fascinating bit that we kind of already knew but confirmed. You should all know that EVERYONE reads the site. By that I mean Unicef, the US government, the Guatemalan government, academics, etc. Don’t let that scare you as it is a good thing! And please readers, understand that no one is going to signal out your case for posting on this site. Because of your support Guatadopt has become not only a popular blog, but also a voice that is heard and is considered a representative for the community of parents involved with adoptions from Guatemala. That is a role Kelly and I take very seriously. We can’t claim to speak for everyone. But we do promise to push for an adoption system that keeps options open for children and operates ethically.

Last thoughts
Wow, what an experience. For someone whose income is in no way related to adoption, I was exposed to many things I had never thought of. I walked away definitively feeling like I had accomplished some things, though only the future shall show the fruits of this.

It was really wonderful to meet so many people who I knew only through the internet prior to this event. Special thanks to Lee, Kevin, Sandy and Susan because without y’all we wouldn’t have been able to make it.

I left the conference not feeling a ton better about what the future holds for intercountry adoption. While there are certainly offers of “open doors”, discussions of things like concurrent planning, and other positive signs, it still seems to me that there is a major gap in how we view the rights of the child. I think the world community, adoption service providers, social service providers, NGOs, and academia need to take a long look at what the CRC and Hague have become and figure out how to make them more effective in achieving the goals for which they were intended.

Posted by Kelly at October 19, 2007 01:19 PM

Kelly and Kevin thank you for being a voice for each of the families adopting from Guatemala. Your work and voice is greatly appreciated.

Posted by: Debbie Wolfe at October 19, 2007 06:54 PM

Fantastic, very well said. Thanks for going and presenting the views of adoptive parents. I plan on sending another check to help you guys offset some of your expenses for doing these things. Again thanks.

Posted by: cheryl at October 19, 2007 07:39 PM

Thanks, K&K. Great summary. I attended Day 1 of the conference and had a very similiar reaction to the UNICEF panel. And, I too was struck by the pervasive assumption at the conference that there are infinite resources available. It felt a bit like la la land to be honest. Long on broad strokes -- short on action items. Admittedly, there are some very overwhelming issues to deal with. As a PAP from Guatemala, I laid VERY low. Some of the attendees were so very angry -- It's pretty obvious why adoptees and adoptive parents with good experiences steer clear of the conference. I felt rather beat up by Monday night. BUT, I did take away a few very positive action items for myself: (1) get out there and meet some adult international adoptees that can provide me with real ideas on how to approach parenting a child of a different ethnicity. Reading is not going to cut it. (2) Stay informed and educated -- and try to keep the emotions in check when it comes to the big issues. Best of luck to everyone out there, Cathleen

Posted by: Cathleen at October 19, 2007 08:13 PM

Wow--thanks so much for representing!

Posted by: LeAnn at October 19, 2007 08:58 PM

Thank you for both the report and for attending the conference. I guess my question for you is how you square the desire for reform with the lack of reasonable details (for example, the belief in social service without regard for costs). Maybe it's just the myriad examples from the last eight years of US domestic policy (NCLB, for example) in my opinion, but when someone says they believe in reform, but then equivocate on the details, obfuscate the facts, and knowingly fail to adequately fund it, I am no longer prepared to take them at their word. In fact, I expect them to be operating against it in everything but name. And I am prepared to recognize that I may be overly paranoid, but when I try to look with an open mind, I see word of mouth advanced as fact rather than actual studies. Please don't get me wrong - I am not questioning you or this website in any way but looking for evidence of sincerity in those on the other (or what I suspect is the other) side.

Posted by: Glenn at October 19, 2007 09:51 PM

Kelly & Kevin,

Thank you so much for all that you do to represent the children of Guatemala and to represent your readers!!!

Posted by: Krystal at October 19, 2007 10:16 PM

Kelly and Kevin,
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for representing us all so well. I can't think of any two people I would rather have had there speaking on behalf of adoption than the two of you.

Posted by: Kimberly at October 19, 2007 10:31 PM


Posted by: shannon at October 20, 2007 09:44 AM

Kevin & Kelly,
thank you so much for all of your hard work...

Posted by: alex at October 20, 2007 09:57 AM

Thank you for advocating on behalf of ethical ICA and for sharing your experiences with us!

Posted by: erinberry at October 20, 2007 02:09 PM

Kevin and Kelly;

If Adoptions continue, people like you will be owed a debt of gratitude. The honesty required is coming at this point in the debate form only a few rare places, like Guatadopt.

As you know, I have been asked in these comments on other postings for evidence of coercion or irrgularities in adoptions, and had mentioned the Mary Bonn affair. No response by the people who have asked, so in further search of the truth, and in the name of ethics in adoptions, would like to offer an article in today's Prensa Libre. I will cut and paste my translation followed by the article's original script, with your indulgence:

During an audience in the headquarters of the attorney general's office of the Nation (PGN), this institution denounced the lawyer Susana Luarca Saracho, of having tried to subtract in an illegal way a girl of 11 months.

The complaint was presented yesterday in the Public Department (MP), to investigate the crime of “subtraction” of children and to have caused damages in a public building, reported Mario Gordillo (PGN).

This past Thursday, Luarca arrived at the PGN in the company of Telma Aracely Rabanic, who would deliver in adoption her daughter, Ana María, of 11 months.

Before signing the documents, Rabanic expressed that her parents were obliging her to relinquish her baby, because they had received money from the lawyer Luarca.

When she saw that Rabanic would not deliver her daughter, Luarca lost control and attacked verbally and physically the personnel of that institution; and even broke a glass door, injuring her right foot.

The parents of Rabanic, immediately took the arm of their daughter and fled, while the baby remained in the care of the social workers of that institution.

Hours later, Rabanic communicated with authorities of the PGN, and requested protection for her and her daughter, saying that her parents had abandoned her. The two were sent to Casa Alianza.

Gordillo commented that it is not the first incident in which Luarca was a protagonist in that institution.

Durante una audiencia en la sede de la Procuraduría General de la Nación (PGN), esta institución denunció a la abogada Susana Luarca Saracho, por haber intentado sustraer de manera ilegal a una niña de 11 meses.

La queja fue planteada ayer en el Ministerio Público (MP), para que investigue a esa abogada por el delito de sustracción de menores y por haber causado daños en un edificio público, informó el procurador Mario Gordillo.

El jueves recién pasado, Luarca llegó a la PGN en compañía de Telma Aracely Rabanic, quien entregaría en adopción a su hija Ana María, de 11 meses.

Antes de firmar los documentos, Rabanic expresó que sus padres la estaban obligando a entregar a su bebé, porque ellos habían recibido dinero de parte de la abogada Luarca.

Al observar que Rabanic no entregaría a su hija, Luarca perdió el control y agredió verbal y físicamente al personal de esa institución; incluso, quebró una puerta de vidrio, lo cual le causó una herida en el pie derecho.

Los padres de Rabanic, inmediatamente, tomaron del brazo a su hija y huyeron, mientras que la bebé quedó al cuidado de las trabajadoras sociales de aquella institución.

Horas más tarde, Rabanic se comunicó con autoridades de la PGN, y les solicitó protección para ella y su hija, pues dijo que sus padres la habían abandonado. Las dos fueron enviadas a un hogar de Casa Alianza.

Gordillo comentó que no es el primer incidente que Luarca protagoniza en esa institución.

Posted by: steve at October 20, 2007 03:58 PM

Thank you Kelly and Kevin for the detailed report. You are right that everybody reads your site -- I was just at Casa Grande in Guatemala City & everybody was talking about your site as being the definitive place for info on Guatemalan adoptions. You two rock!!

Posted by: Susan Nieser at October 20, 2007 05:18 PM

Read the post from "4fromguat" in the general discussion section of the guatadopt forums, under the heading about Susana.

I am all for free speech, but prefer all facts to be presented. I was always taught in school, that lies can be told by leaving pertinent info out, just as easily as telling the lie outright. Prensa libre is known for disinformation. Please take time to gather all sides of information before you pass judgement on people. Please don't "indulge" us any further on this issue!

Proud Mama to Anarosa
Also Mama to Migdalia, anxiously waiting to hold her.

Posted by: eb at October 21, 2007 01:22 AM

The Prensa Libre article about the Susana Luarca incident omitted several salient details: (1) Since the birthmother was 16 and a minor, she was being interviewed in the Minors' Section of PGN to ascertain if she was giving her consent freely. (2)The interviewers in Minors' Section are alleged to pose inappropriate questions, questions that sometimes lead the young mothers to revoke their consent. (3) Her parents are indigent and have trouble supporting their 16 year old daughter, let alone a grandchild. Moreover, the 16 year old is alleged to be pregnant with a second child.

Posted by: Blackie at October 21, 2007 04:00 AM

Kevin & Kelly, Thanks so much for all your work and efforts in representing both adoptive children and parents. Your work is truly appreciated and so incredibly necessary for the sake of the innocent children who unfortunately are the ones caught up in the political posturing that goes along with reform and unrealistic ideals. Thanks again!!

Posted by: Sally at October 21, 2007 08:17 AM

We had heard about the incident with Susana and the article in PL was drastically different from what we heard...not a shock! We have not had the time to translate the information nor post a separate entry.

I don't typically credit PL for having the most accurate information. Niether do I elevate PGN officials as being "capable" of determining corruption when they have their own issues. Bribery and/or financial coercion are no strangers to Guatemala and that unfortunately, extends to the government and PGN. I've always found it ironic that coercion and intimidation by government officials (whether US, Guatemalan, etc.) is considered perfectly acceptable. Its not.

Obviously, I did not witness this incident. But I suspect this to be just another attack on ADA when so many of the people we have difinitive proof of corrupt practices have remained "untouched" by officials.

One thing we talked about during the conference and will talk about that a birthmother should have compassionate representation (a social worker?). Instead, she is easily intimidated by WHATEVER side wishing to push their own views on her...whether it is government views or attorney views. Neither should be tolerated. It SHOULD be the choice of the birthmother (UNLESS she threatens the life of the child).

What more can I say?


Posted by: Kelly (webmaster) at October 21, 2007 09:52 AM

Lizzie, I was asking K&K's indulgence. If you choose to read here, you will have to deal with it as best you can. I presented facts I had come across ( The fact being, this is what the local paper said. That's a fact) Everyone can now add, or challenge as they choose. BUT to suggest someone not post here until they are ready to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt ( especially when dealing with shadowy activities) smacks of bullying by slanted logic.

Blackie; 2 of your 3 salient details used the word "alleged". Please refer to Lizzie's comment. I think you two might have an issue.

Kelly; You are so right, that the PL has issues with the truth....But so does the ADA. Susana has recently been verging on if not actually being slanderous in her statements (as fact) regarding future actions of the President.
Americans seeking adoptions see these incidences as attacks on an advocate for their cause, but Guatemalans see them as glimpses into the attitudes and motives of the people involved. And losing one's cool in public is about as bad as it can get here. To Guatemalans, that may have been the most embarrasing part of the story. What are the actual facts? Again, we may never know fully. OK, maybe the girl lied and maybe the door attacked Susana. But if you think that the PGN and MP a) simply decided to take a case and embarass Susana at random and b) had no substance to their case, you do not understand the battle, and the rules of engagement here in Guatemala.

So what do we do when we hear something we really don't want to believe? 1) attack the messenger(s) 2) search for evidence and opinions contrary to the original source 3) keep it out of "site" ( as some sites have already done with this guys again win the fair and balanced award!)

I do not trust the PL beyond what I can discern through critical interpretation, but this story is one that is not hard for me to believe, regarding a young girl whose parents have been paid to "deliver" her baby to a certain entity. I am aware intimately of two such instances. In the one case, it got worse, in that the step father had raped th 14 year old girl, and then was paid for his crime by a well known adoption presence here. I know her state of mind because she had sought refuge while pregnant with friends of mine, and they were shepherding her through her pregnancy and delivery when the baby was spirited at midnight out of the hospital. Thinking they were dealing wiht a baby stealing ring, my friends eventually pursued it, but found everythihng to be "legal", as the girl's guardian had "given" the baby to this adoption service.

That may hurt to hear. AND that baby needed to be doubt there. BUT that is why we need to reform this system, and reconise that the people resisting specific reforms may not be telling you all the truth.

Posted by: steve at October 21, 2007 11:52 AM


I can appreciate anyone's motivation to reduce/eliminate corruption even if we do not agree on the way to go about it.

A very high percentage of people are motivated toward self preservation. So honestly in reading the report of Susana Luarca, my gut instinct was that only a very emotionally unstable person would behave in such a way as that, especially given the curent political situation, and I don't think Susana Luarca fits that profile. Behaving that way would be career suicide for Luarca. So I'm left to strongly consider that the report is incorrect.

Posted by: cheryl at October 21, 2007 12:46 PM


I appreciate your analysis and sincerity.

I see three things in the article that might be the behavior you are sure Susana would not engage in:

1) monetary inducement and collaboration with the parents in coercion of the minor to give up her baby.
2) abusive language and actions towards the PGN personnel
3) Breaking a glass door in a way that caused her foot to be injured (presumably she did not mean to break the door, and did not mean to cut her foot) badly enough to be taken away in an ambulance. (this from the picture accompanying the article)

So, I just want to ask this, not knowing myself what the outcome will be: IF any of those are verified by whomever you would consider to be aceptable, will you allow that your thought processing is more gut than fact based, and that you need to reconsider how you reached that conclusion?

There is a song that is popular here and just about around the world, called "La mentira" and it says it all, when people are more interested in their agenda than in the truth. When that type of people are the only witnesses ( both sides) to an incident, reading between the lines, and using preconceived impressions are all we have. So I do not mean it was wrong of you to base on your gut, BUT it is important to review and adjust our impressions, as events, and facts evolve.

Posted by: steve at October 21, 2007 02:43 PM

I would like to thank Steve for posting/translating the article. I feel Steve simply POSTED this article just to share and bring attention to what has been reported from one source. I do not feel in any way he was offering an opinion. I for one appreciate the chance to see some discussion on this, since discussing this is NOT allowed on the adoption forum.

Is the PL article accurate? I have NO idea...but something did happen. Whether or not the PL reported 100% facts...the situation is still a big deal. I have believed Susana to be a huge adovate for adoptive families and waiting children. Whether she did or did not do the things alleged in the is still some VERY negative media attention once again on adoptions.

This is a horrible time for all those involved...with so many "unknowns" as to the future of adoptions and what is going to happen to in-process cases. We need to be armed with as much knowledge as possible.

Just some of my thoughts...

Posted by: Jennifer at October 21, 2007 04:32 PM

go to the general forum discussion and read what Susana told a parent on the phone. When you read that you will see PL stated facts but omitted a WHOLE lot of what led up to her actions. I find it disturbing that the paper printed a statement from the PGN but did not get one from Susana. A bit of one sided journalism????

Posted by: jandc at October 21, 2007 05:00 PM

Jennifer, I agree with you, we need to hear all the voices and read between all the lines.

Steve, thank you for posting the PL article and for taking the time to translate it for us. I for one appreciate it.

This is indeed, a big deal and frankly scarey for Susana and her hogar and for other hogars run by ADA members. I find the whole situation sad and look forward to hearing both sides.

Peace, for we really need it.

Posted by: Melissa at October 21, 2007 07:41 PM

Let's assume that the PGN personnel pulled a fast one, and separated Susana from the young mother. Let's say they coerced and pressured this young, and highly vulnerable girl. Let's say they locked Susana into a room.
As a lawyer, do you think her best recourse was to kick down the door?

Someone asked what she was doing there at that time, anyway. Does the lawyer routinely accompany the birth mother in the PGN interviews? Is it a normal thing to have had a PGN interview? I really think there is MUCH more here than was said in either the PL article or the phone conversation referred to. But that is just my cynical paranoia setting in.

MOre realistically, I had heard that the judiciary had said Just this last week that the PGN was not doing thorough investigations, especially centering on the origins of the children. I wonder if they were responding to that pressure in having this type of interview.

Posted by: steve at October 21, 2007 09:39 PM

Steve said above
“In further search of the truth, and in the name of ethics in adoptions, would like to offer an article in today’s Prensa Libra” and, “I have been asked in these comments on other postings for evidence of coercion or irregularities in adoptions.”

Are you not offering this Prensa Libre article as evidence of coercion and irregularities? Did you offer anything else besides that article as evidence of coercion and irregularities with regard to this particular issue? Did I misunderstand what you meant by those two comments above? Is the Prensa Libre the place where you generally go when you are, “in search of the truth”? Tell me how these statements made by you are not evidence that you have already passed judgment based on the “facts” in this newspaper? (If you think I have misinterpreted, and your intent was really not to drag Susana through the mud.)

Lizzie said above
“Please take time to gather all sides of information before you pass judgment on people.”

Lizzie said above
“Please don’t indulge us any further on this issue.”

Meaning, until you have some facts. Meaning, that most of us come to this website for facts and balance. I believe you have said so yourself. Yes, it is a fact that Prensa Libre ran this article. But because a newspaper presents an article as fact, does not mean that what are contained in the article are all facts. News reporting on a routine basis, slants for sensationalism, or for political reasons, misinforming and distorting the truth by failing to report the entire story, etc. etc. If you have first hand, not hearsay, knowledge of corruption, “facts”, then by all means I want to hear it and I bet most who read here do too. The whole Mary Bonn situation has for sure caused me to be longer away from my daughter, due to so many delays caused by the extra scrutiny that came about right after the Mary Bonn case was exposed. I don’t believe any of us believe that there is no corruption, you are preaching to the choir here. I want you Steve, and everyone else who wants to, to post---but factually. Presenting the Prensa Libre article is not what I take issue with. I take issue with your comments preceding the article, passing off the article as facts and evidence.

Asking for balance, facts, and both sides of an issue makes me a bully who uses slanted logic? Would not slanted logic be presenting, or asking for, only one side of an issue?

Lizzie also said
“I am all for free speech, but prefer all facts to be presented.”

Guess I could’ve said that better. I could’ve said, I am all for free speech, but prefer both sides of an issue to be presented, or prefer facts from both sides of the issue to be presented, like Kevin and Kelly generally do, present their posts with balance. Sorry for the way I composed that comment or any confusion it may have caused. I don’t have much computer time and don’t always check to see if I am composing all my sentences perfectly.

To sum, I quote Steve, “If you choose to read here then you will have to deal with it best you can.” (Now that, to me, does sound like bullying!) And please do not decide for me who I have an issue with. Or what is in my gut. Pain is what is in my gut. (You didn’t do this, claim to know what is in my gut, or how it connects to my thought processes, but you did accuse another poster above of, “your thought processing is more gut than fact based.” Just trying to ward off that comment before it comes my way.)

(Who has been reading on Guatadopt for more than a few years now, but does not post that often, and who plans to continue to do so)
Proud Mama to Anarosa
Also Mama to Migdalia, anxiously waiting to hold her

Posted by: eb at October 22, 2007 12:12 AM

Thank you for posting. Speaking truth to power takes courage. I too recognize that the PL is a bottom sucker for information with little ethics. However, the fact that Susana was presented as such indicates (again) a real shift in the public perception of ICA in Guatemala, the arrogance of the elite adoption attorneys, and the SERIOUS problems related to relinquishment. I hope that the story about Susana is incorrect because it puts all of the children in her hogar in jeopardy. By the way, I suspect that there will be more stories of attorneys behaving badly as they lose their grip of power as the private enterprise model of adoption is halted and crafted into a regulated system. After all, their VERY WELL PAID occupation as adoption attorneys is shifting dramatically as the state takes control over an enterprise and attempts to move towards a human service model.

Posted by: karenms1 at October 22, 2007 08:38 AM

Thanks KMS1. Perception is everything, when it comes to highly charged and emotional issues like...children.

Your reference to a Human service model is a good segue back to Kelly and Kevin's original points in this post. Kelly had spoken of idealistic goals without bridges to get there. There's the rub. Should the Private enterprise model stop, A LOT of cash will stop flowing. Somehow it does not bother me as much as it seesm to concern others, because we have been operating via faith and charity for about 20 years, now, and have yet to turn away a child due to lack of funding. yes, we are always absolutely empty at the end of every month, and yes, it is scary. But I am optimistic that the gap caused by the end of Private Enterprise adoptions in Guatemala will be bridged, by collaborative efforts by people like Kelly and Kevin, and by others who have always been here, but are outside of the ken of the adoption blogs. The babies who are truly abandoned will probably not be as well cared for as is advertised in some of the CQ type websites, and it will be a lot of work, and watchdogging will be needed more than ever. But they will survive, and the dire predictions will prove to have been hype.

It will help that transition if some of the hype that has been promulgated in attempts to get would be parents to commit to a specific agency or process is corrected, so that the task can be addressed and handled, rather than manipulated for gain.

I want to say "here here" to Kelly and Kevin when they state there should not be much hope for good to come from UNICEF involvement...history supports them. And there is not a lot to feel confident about the Guatemalan government. But maybe some of the sensational press might wake average Guatemalans up to the needs of their neighbors. My pie in the sky dream is that there be more help by Americans to encourage and empower local charitable efforts. For that there needs to be a lot of education on both sides, because NGO's here do not have a much better reputation than either the Government or UNICEF. Sadly, it is a well deserved rep for many NGO's.

In heated discussions, that is the problem; people who are in agreement on one point get lumped together by those who disagree...and so we end up bearing the sins of those with whom we agree, even as we blind ourselves to the truth.

Posted by: Steve at October 22, 2007 01:16 PM

One thing we are all forgetting here is that PGN has never been known for adhering to rules and they are famous for doing whatever they want and making up thier own rules as they go along. Kicking out files for ridiculous reasons and keeping people in PGN for months and years. One would never know this but PGN has 3 days to render a decision on an adoption file - YES FOLKS 3 DAYS when was the last time you saw a file get out in a week? Apparently they think it is ok to make up their own rules and guess what they get away with it every single day. Is it possible that PGN threatened that minor- heck yeah they did - if they werent doing something they should not have been doing why would they feel it necessary to lock the attorney in a room or lock anyone in a room for that matter. And why wasnt the minor's mother allowed in the room during the so called interview? - that minor's mother is responsible for that child and the child she gave up. I'll tell you why becasue once again PGN was doing something they should not have been doing and they will continue to do so because no one has been able to stop them. And guess what our friend Susana from ADA has spoken out against the corruption in PGN and has tried to stop their unethical ways yes folks she has gone to bat for those of us who have had to put up with the day in and day out rollercoaster ride and unpredictable jeckyl and hide that is PGN. This month its kick outs to make sure the birthmom really wanted to relinquish the child whats PGN's new rule next month?

Posted by: justwaiting at October 22, 2007 05:34 PM

Kevin and Kelly,
Thank you so much for attending the conference and representing us!
Kevin - I'm not so sure your comments were well-represented in Elizabeth Larkin's article. I thought she made you seem like part of the "problem", as she sees it. Personally, I'm no fan of hers, after that article:

Posted by: JA at October 22, 2007 05:50 PM


Believe it or not I'm actually an extremely flexible person *smile* ha ha ha. And I will modify my opinion as more facts come out. But let me clarify, I felt that article insulted my intelligence. It is obvious that a lot was left out/modified.... As one poster pointed out, it is one sided. Also as many have pointed out Piensa Libre is not a reliable source. If and I say If, Suzanna has done something illegal, then she should be punished. But I reserve my judgement until I hear her side.

Steve, I do appreciate it that you want to clean up the system. I think our disagreements mostly center on how to best accomplish that. No matter what system is adopted, there will be a set of negative consequences. The question is, which set of negative consequences do we find more acceptable.

I know you are concerned about children that adoption attorneys have deemed "unadoptable." I hate using that word "unadoptable" but I have to use some terminology in order to have a discussion. I would like to see this addressed in a more acceptable way than how it is currently being addressed. But I don't think that tearing down the existing system is the way to go. Based on the poverty levels in Guatemala, it looks like a lot of children are in rather bad shape right from birth. Very sad, very sad. It isn't the adoption attorney's fault if certain children are unlikely to be adopted. I think these childrens' needs should be met through charity and by charging extra money when other children are adopted. As we think creatively, we may think of yet more ways of addressing this. So you see Steve, I am flexible *smile* I believe in creative brain storming.

Kindest Regards, Cheryl

Posted by: cheryl at October 22, 2007 07:36 PM


It is hard to believe that, as a social worker, you can continue to promote such unethical, anti-child "solutions". UNICEF admitted at the Adoption Ethics Conference that they are against the private system because it somehow prevents enactment of laws that would benefit all Guatemalans, such as national healthcare. UNICEF admitted that it would take at least 5 years to get the new system funded properly. So, what happens to children in the meantime. UNICEF apparently is ready to literally sacrifice the well-being of hundreds, if not thousands, of children in the name of a distant utopian goal.

You talk about replacing the private attorneys with a "human service model." Well, take a look at our own Foster Care system, in a country infinitely wealthier than Guatemala. As a social worker, you seem prepared to have children shuffled in and out of foster homes and institutions, rather than have permanency and security from as young an age as possible. Everything that you advocate, in terms of state-run adoptions, flies in the face of what everyone knows is necessary for a child to develop properly -- prompt placement with an adoptive family, rather than years spent attempting reunification, wider family adoption, domestic adoption, and only as a last resort, int'l adoption. What you advocate is unethical at best

Posted by: Lee at October 23, 2007 11:02 AM

JA --

You mentioned the Elizabeth Larsen article, Did I Steal My Daughter, in this month's Mother Jones (available on-line at the Mother Jones website). I, for one, thought that it was a GREAT article. I found it thought-provoking and refreshingly candid. She eloquently discussed many of the issues with which I wrestle as a mother of a child from Guatemala. I hope people take the time to read the article for themselves before writing it off as another slam piece.

Posted by: Anne at October 23, 2007 03:41 PM

If UNICEF is really against private adoptions, why don't they start making changes in the US. There are THOUSANDS of adoption attorneys making money on private adoptions right here. There have been stories of corruption going on in the US - people answering multiple ads saying they had a child they wanted to have adopted and then leading on PAP for months only to not have a child for them to adopt.

I believe that there should be reform to the Guatemalan system, but I do not agree that moving to a state run adoption process is the best way to achieve this.

Putting more money to education may be a better way to help solve the problem of extreme poverty. Without even the barest of education reform (one of many) pregnant women will still not be aware of the rights they have regarding their children because they are relying on someone telling them what rights they have instead of being able to read it for themselves.

For UNICEF to say that not being able to care for a child due to extreme poverty should not be a reason for reliquishing a child is simplistic at best. It is happening right here in the US and in other countries.

Posted by: AJ at October 25, 2007 03:14 PM

Concerning UNICEF saying that extreme poverty isn't a reason for a woman to relinquish a child is an illogical diversion tactic. And I think they knew they were using a diversion tactic. Extreme poverty should never be used by a government as an reason for taking a child away from a biological family. However, extreme poverty may well be a motivating factor for a family to put their child up for adoption. UNICEF was using the moto "extreme poverty shouldn't be a reason," but changing the context and the meaning of what that means. UNICEF was counting on us responding with "YES" to this statement without examining how they had changed the meaning behind the statement. Shame on them.

Posted by: cheryl at October 27, 2007 07:19 PM
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