November 05, 2014

Viva Los Irish

ND Chapines.png

Some of you remember my strange dichotomy at being both Jewish and a Notre Dame alumni. Well there is no greater pleasure than brainwashing your children into loving the things you love...

Last Saturday I took my kids to the Notre Dame-Navy game at FedEx Field. I had a huge tailgate planned as it is close to home. About an hour after I was all set up in the parking right, I looked to my right and saw that two spaces over was a family that looked like mine.

As you can see from the pic, my kids who are usually bored while daddy cooks and drinks beer had a wonderful and a new friendship was formed between fellow Notre Dame lovin' Chapines.

The other kids' faces are covered as I forgot to ask if it was okay to post. And to the parents, whose names I of course can't remember.... get a hold of me!

Posted by Kevin at 12:06 PM

March 07, 2014

Congratulations - Homecoming!

It has been a long since we have posted a homecoming story. And it is both amazing and shameful that they have taken so long. Congrats to the Rice family!!!

Admittedly, I'd like to talk with the copy writer at their local news station. The constant use of "third world nation" seemed unnecessary but most of all, why would anyone put "Adopted" under the child's name. "Finally home" would have been more appropriate. Nonetheless, great that they covered the story and a happy ending to a rough journey!

Posted by Kevin at 08:37 AM

December 26, 2013

Top 10 All Time Guatadopt Posts

So it is that Top 10 time of year and I got the crazy idea to ponder, what were the top 10 posts on Guatadopt? So I decided to compile my list.

I did so off the top of my head and I am sure there I have missed some stuff. And of course, this is the Top 10 from the perspective of the person who was dealing with these issues. So what may have seemed huge to me, may not have to another.

Please post with any that I missed and would make your list. Brought back a lot of memories...

So here we go..

10. Sesame Street Casting Guatemalan Twins: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000278.html
No, not a huge deal but a totally cool memory. I received the e-mail from them as I arrive in Guat to bring home our son. Come on, how many people can say they cast twins on Sesame Street?

9. The raids:
a. Casa quivira Raided: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000686.html
b. Waiting Angels Raided: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000621.html
c.Primavera Raided: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/001024.html

8. Attorney General Auditing Reaching Arms International: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000561.html
This was my first real scandal. A few months later, RAI was out of business. And for quite some time there were some wonderful families caught in nothing short of hell.

7. Rico Suit Against: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000945.html
This one would have never made my list had they not chosen to sue me and Guatadopt.

6. Guatadopt Interview with Consul General John Lowell: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000755.html
Another cool experience and one that was eye-opening for me. It was amazing of John to grant me the interview and he and I hit it off pretty well, opening more opportunities to try to work together. In case, my enemy was nothing of the sort!

5. Dateline NBC and Guatemalan Adoptions: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000615.htm
We were so scared to announce this. We had no idea how the story would go, even after working for well over a year with the producer. The aftermath of this episode though is the real reason. Behind the scenes, we got very involved in an unsuccessful search for the third kidnapped child. It is a long story but in the end, we had no way of knowing it and we had no involvement with the segment on the kidnapped kids, but we had unknowingly known where that child was prior to the show airing and when we made the connection, things got crazy. We hired a PI, had a family put up in a safehouse, got warned by people high up in the gov to be careful, and never found her. I will be scarred to the grave with the memory of this even though I could not have done more. Very painful!

4. Mary Bonn
a. Mary Bonn Arrested: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000566.html
b. The Family Speaks Out - http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000737.html
This one was huge for me. I was right in the middle of it all and the aftermath was huge. It was during this time that my Guatadopt work was taking over!

3. Ortega Passed: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000771.html
The new law that ended adoptions. Need I say more???

2. Finally! (Hague overturned): http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000113.html
Huge in so many ways. Personally, it meant I was going to be a dad. It also was the issue that made Guatadopt immensely popular and spurred the amazing community that would develop for years to come.

1. Welcome Home Mi Hijo: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000283.html
In honor of all the Welcome Home stories, the one that meant the most to me - my son Sammy coming home!

Posted by Kevin at 03:32 PM

November 27, 2013

A Thanksgiving to Remember - When did you get the call?

One of the happiest moments in our adoptions was undoubtedly the call that we were out of PGN! For us that also happens to correspond to Thanksgiving. Say what? You got the call on Turkey Day? Your agency was working on Thanksgiving? Well not exactly, read on for a cool story and why tomorrow is the 10 year anniversary of something spectacular!

As background, we were extremely fortunate during our first adoption, back before I had any adoption-community notoriety, because our agency did put us in direct contact with our daughter’s foster family (with whom we remain very close today). So we got regular e-mail and picture updates directly from them. We knew what Dr. Montiel said on a checkup before our agency did often times.

So it was Thanksgiving Day. My wife and I were just about to leave the house for the 90 minute drive to friend’s in San Francisco. I don’t know why but something possessed me at the last minute to check my e-mail (and Guatadopt probably, I was hooked at the time). Low and behold, an e-mail from our family telling us that we had exited PGN.

Turns out there was a secretary at the attorney’s office who was a little loose lipped with the foster moms. In fact, often the biggest angels in the adoption system were the “insignificant” players who used their hearts. So the secretary had told our foster family.

At the time, we had our doubts. But we had no reason not to believe them. We also knew that there was no way in hell we could ask the agency, even if by some stroke of luck we could get her on the phone. To do so could have gotten our foster mom and the office angel in trouble. So we waited the whole weekend (and Monday as I recall) to finally get the official call.

So yes, it was ten years ago tomorrow that I knew, after infertility treatments, after a failed referral, after a second referral passed away, after the Hague Fiasco I would finally be a dad!

Posted by Kevin at 02:23 PM

October 31, 2013

Way to go Bieb!!!

Admittedly, I am not a fan of Justin Bieber and am quite thankful that my kids feel the same. Generally speaking the kid seems like a spoiled brat who has been allowed to let his fame get too far into his head.

But I give him a solid thumbs up for this story and hope that his feelings don't change and he continues to support Guatemala.

http://www.inquisitr.com/1010032/justin-bieber-says-lets-all-help-change-the-world-evidently-guatemala-video/

Posted by Kevin at 08:17 AM

October 17, 2013

OMG - I support Foster Freiss

I came across this Op-Ed published today by Foster Friess in the USA Today. The piece, titled "For orphans, family is a human right" sounds much like something I would have published, with the exception that my tone on Unicef would have differed on this matter. But what is says is correct, right and left can unite on this and it is with no trepidation that I salute and promote the dude who bankrolled Rick Santorum's campaign.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/10/17/adoption-foreign-landrieu-foster-friess-column/2996355/

Posted by Kevin at 02:57 PM

February 17, 2012

Molina in Office & Story in Defense of Susana Luarca

Click on more for a couple of stories of interst. The first deals with some of teh mized messages being sent (non0adoption) during Molina's first days in office. Truly amazing if you follow Guatemalan politics.

The second is a blog post from someone who recently met with Susana Luacra. There is the link as well as some of my thoughts on it.

What's Molina been up to? Click here: http://ghrcusa.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/president-perez-molinas-first-week-in-office-provides-a-glimpse-of-the-four-years-to-come/

The story on Susana is here:
http://illicittrafficking.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/guetmalan-adoption-witchhunt-the-case-of-susana-luarca/

Let me state upfront because I know what is coming... Guatadopt has ALWAYS done our best to bring all perspectives and relevant stories to our readers. Does this blog type-thing qualify? I say "yes" for a few reasons:

1.) The author - she teaches human trafficking at one of Guatemala's better known universities and has some strong credentials (bio is available when you click on link above).

2.) One thing that has disturbed me in all the discussions on the Anyeli atrocity is the inference that assuming the Karen Abigail that lives in MO is in fact Anyeli, it correlates to Susana being guilty of being complicit in the kidnapping. As I have stated numerous times, while I have no connection to and many disagreements with Susana (and have not corresponded with her at all for years), I do not believe that she would knowingly have been involved in a kidnapping case. This story digs into that.

Up front, I don't know Katrina Mason, the writer of this story. I have no idea what, if any, validation she did on things like the DNA results pointing to a close relative being complicit. I also admittedly don't follow the part on there being two different children both named Karen Abigail and the implications of it. I will reach out to Ms. Mason to see if she will participate in any discussion that follows.

So bash me if you like for posting it. I'm not taking any position beyond what I have written previously and it is up to you to decide for yourself. One thing remains PERFECTLY clear, a DNA test of the child living in MO today needs to done to put to rest any questions stil lingering about whether she is in fact Anyeli.

Posted by Kevin at 11:20 AM

December 07, 2011

On Finding Fernanda and More

Last week I finished reading Erin Siegal's Finding Fernanda. What you can read by clicking on more will be a combination of a book review and personal reflection. Because myself personally and this site were mentioned in the book, being part of the story so-to-speak, it was impossible to separate the book from my personal involvement, albeit minimal, in it. And as you will read, it also caused some self-reflection.

Let me start out by offering a positive review of the book. In my opinion, it tells the story in a compelling fashion and tries to be objective and direct. Of course, to those of us who have advocated for ICA over the years, it is very simple to think otherwise because it doesn’t “show both sides”. But what I had to keep in mind is that this book is about one story and that is a story that exposes things that many of us thought impossible.

Erin Siegel researched this story for years. In the many discussions I had with her, I found her to be open-minded and very interested in really understanding all the dynamics that were going on. She didn’t investigate from afar and she put herself at risk in her determination to document what really happened. In my mind, all of these things were evident in the book.

The sad truth is that this underbelly in adoption from Guatemala did exist. The story details how the worst-of-the-worst operated. It also dives into how half of the problems with adoption are a manifestation of ills that plague Guatemalan society as a whole in ways that are difficult for us to imagine.

We can’t run away from, deny, or create excuses for what happened to Fernanda, her family, and the Emmanuels. There is no one claiming that this case represents the whole of the adoption system. And there is no way to justify a single such case because it was the exception. In my mind, we collectively need to realize it and fight to ensure adoption systems can function without these criminals being able to consider such heinous acts.

I realize this isn’t much of a review. But what can I say? It was easy-to-read. It did a good job of describing the system so all readers could understand it without generalizing so much that people like us are screaming about it missing things. Factually, I found two minor errors that I have since shared with Erin, neither of which is relevant to the main story. My biggest issue was honestly that there were too many typos, something which I find plagues all print media today. The worst of which was of course my last name being misspelled once 

With all that said, the depiction of me and Guatadopt did not “make me happy”. Up front, I am not claiming any bias or any inaccuracy about either in the book! As I read it, realizing it isn’t a book about Guatadopt, I put my ego aside to be objective. So what follows is not a “my side of the story” because that’s not necessary. What it is, though, is a chance for those of our readers to better understand what Erin would have written had she unwisely decided to delve deeper into my involvement in this case and overall at the time.

Unlike most families I communicated with years ago, I do vividly remember Elizabeth Emmanuel contacting me. It was just a day or two after the Dateline NBC story aired and I was in New Mexico for a sales meeting talking to her in a hotel lobby that was under renovation. At the time, I was unaware that Elizabeth was a little skeptical of Guatadopt and as a result didn’t share 100%. Please don’t read any animosity or anger into that because there is none and if I was in her shoes I may have been the same. (For the record: Guatadopt never received a penny from ASG for the ad on the site. We put it there because so many people asked us for their contact info and because they had helped many families with basic info free-of-charge.)

To speak of skepticism, I admit I had some about Sobrevivientes. At the time, we had never seen evidence of a kidnapped child actually being adopted. We knew attempts had been made, but we wrongly believed that the Embassy approved doctor offices doing DNA samples were secure. We had become very concerned about the number of cases we saw turning into abandonments because it was a trend that stood in the face of conventional wisdom that “judicial” adoptions were not the problem.

Back to Sobrevivientes… When they got into the press, Guatadopt reached out several times trying to help, offering to post the pictures of the abducted children. At the time, we had the best vehicle available to reach the group of people most likely to (a) recognize one the children if they were in the adoption system (b) want to ensure this child returns to his/her family. For example, even if the adoptive parent chose not to come forward, there were good odds that someone else in the Guatadopt community would have seen the person’s referral pics. I mean let’s be real, we all loved to share pics of our children-to-be. Despite numerous attempts, Sobrevivientes never replied. Maybe it was our ego or maybe it was healthy skepticism in a politically charged environment, but it seemed to us that if this was all legitimate, they’d have taken up any offer of help. As such, we were not sure if the stories being presented were exactly as they appeared.

I did receive some criticism around this time for how I reacted to the hunger strike. With hindsight being 20-20, I do apologize to all the mothers for the doubt I placed on the veracity of their stories. It was never intended to deny their rights to have their children back in their hands. It was never to deny that there were abuses in the system. It was more that kidnappings seemed unnecessary in the adoption system and near-impossible to move through the system. There were DNA tests showing a maternal connection. The requisite conspiracy seemed more far-fetched than the possibility that women had changed their minds and attorneys were unwilling to do the right thing in that event. But I was wrong and I feel horribly for it.

One of the things I did after Elizabeth contacted me was to check with some of my contacts to see what they knew about this case. Two sources came back to me with the same story. They had heard that Mildred (Fernanda’s mother) had relinquished the children but then had tried to offer them to other attorneys for more money. These two sources had both been proven trustworthy in the past and had no known connection to one-another. So we’re talking two “independent” sources saying the same thing. One of the sources was the investigator referred to as “Pablo Hernandez” in the book. While I won’t divulge who the other was, I think it is important to say that it was not Susana, who by that point in time was pretty upset with Guatadopt. It is clear now that, for whatever reason, what they told me was incorrect. At the time, it seemed more plausible than the wild story portrayed in the newspaper, which by supposition indicted the sacred DNA sample sites.

Elizabeth could confirm that my position if in fact this had been about a mother’s children going to the highest bidder, never once did I support anyone hiding the children or taking any action other than the attorney with the children brining them into the court system with full disclosure and transparency. And of course my position was irrelevant anyway

Not coincidentally, the meat of the book occurs during a period of time when my personal faith in the system was diminishing. If one could plot the tone of Guatadopt over the same period this would be clear. The truth is that things seemed to be rapidly deteriorating based on the number and type of things families came to us with. Things were getting ugly and we were doing what we could to help it. We were supporting the families who refused to be victims to adoption service providers they thought had wronged them. We were giving PAPs as honest and direct of advice as we could. In a few cases, we helped get information into the hands of those who could do something with it. And at times, those same sorts of folks came to us for help. Maybe I’m being defensive but the depiction in the book, without attacking its accuracy or intent, was more of someone trying to maintain the status quo and that was not the case.

What I have had to come to terms with since that time is this reality that children were kidnapped and made it through the system. No, I don’t believe there were many, however it is that one would go about quantifying “many”. But we now know it did happen and I regret it took me as long as it did to embrace that reality.

It’s important to point out a distinction in that last paragraph and that is the part about kidnapped children actually making it through the system. Sick and stupid people did horrible things. There was one mutilated child found where it appears some such monsters actually believed they could sell her organs. We knew from the Dateline story that kidnapped children had entered the system, but had no evidence that any had exited it and joined a family in the United States.

Most of our avid readers know that much of our work was done behind the scenes, helping individual families with an open ear, compassion, honesty, and experience. And when I combine that with how our status made us privy to pieces of other things, well maybe I should be the one writing a book. We pieced together many puzzles with some amazing results. Heck, Finding Fernanda is evidence of that. For while I write this defense-of-sorts, the reality is that Elizabeth Emmanuel first made the connection as a result of reading a Prensa Libre story posted on Guatadopt. Who knows where Fernanda would be today without the site. For that, I am immensely proud. But then there is the other side.

My children are my life. I cannot fathom someone taking them from me. And for that, combined with my combined Guatadopt experience, I shall forever live with something between guilt and sadness, maybe some remorse, for what I could have done. I know in my heart with 100% certainty that never once did I act in a manner that was anything but ethical. Never once did I knowingly allow anything that meant a mother would involuntarily lose a child unless a court deemed her unfit. Nonetheless, “if I had only known then what I know now” bears a toll.

It would take a full length novel to go through this all but I am going to share some things I’ve never before disclosed publicly as I get this off my chest. It involves kidnappings and all this what I now know stuff. And it revolves around the same time period as the book.

In the aftermath of the Mary Bonn arrest and Reaching Arms International investigation, we were helping many families. And what we found from those impacted was at times frightening. If one digs back through the state of MN decision to remove RAI’s license, I believe you can see some of the detail. But the long story short is that there were children involved whose history and origin was not certain. And based on what I know now, there were similarities to the scenarios in now verified kidnappings. To be clear, these adoptions were never going to happen. The process was not moving. We had no idea where the children were physically and so far as we could tell, odds were that some scumbags were renting out their kids to other scumbags to make it appear as though these children were relinquished. Today, I think at least some of the kids were likely abducted. I don’t know what we could have done back then even if we had thought them abducted. But this does not change my regret/remorse. For the record, none of those cases were directly tied to Mary Bonn and I have no evidence that RAI would have known their origin. I am making no accusations explicit or implied that either Mary or RAI were complicit in this.

And then there is one case that is different. A case that we learned of shortly after Dateline aired and shortly after Elizabeth Emmanuel read about Mildred’s story on Guatadopt. But this is the case of a family who never went to the newspapers and who never got the attention of Norma Cruz. Imagine this scenario. At one point in time, you are helping a family get a child out the hands of someone who is working under an alias because he/she was banned by the embassy. The case is not moving. As part of this, the child physically moves to a safe hogar even though no one is confident the case will proceed. But at least we figured the child would be safe and in the courts if need be so. Months later, when we’d lost touch with the case, we discover that this child was kidnapped. This was not an infant and we were able to have the child’s parents verify it from pictures the PAP had when the child was at the hogar. Unfortunately, by this time the child had left the hogar and been given back to the adoption service provider, whereabouts unknown.

We went to great lengths to try locate this child during a period that was one of the most stressful of my life. We spent thousands of dollars out of our pockets (actually every penny of profit the original DoGood LLC made) for a private investigator and to keep the child’s family safe during the search. We made sure that the US Embassy and officials in Guatemala were informed. In fact, we were told that the inside of every Embassy window that does the visa interviews had the child’s picture taped to make sure the child didn’t slip through with a false identity. But we were never able to locate her. I can’t find the words to describe the permanent impact this has had on me. It is not guilt because we did all we could and acted properly based on our limited abilities, yet that doesn’t remove the wondering about how it could have turned out right. And as a father, that wondering is painful.

One last note of interest is that from everything I now know, every verified kidnapping had some connection to the same cast of characters involved with Fernanda. I can only hope that means they were the only such ring, though that is far from certainty. And of course there is a ton I don’t claim to know about all the public cases so someone can correct me in the comments if I am wrong about that.

So where does this all leave me? With all this remorse has my overall position changed? Do I now wish I had chosen to advocate for ending adoptions from Guatemala? Do I regret having been a ICA advocate and promoting the things I did?

The answer to those questions is almost entirely “no”. I support ICA and I think these laws that end the systems are wrong. We don’t disband the stock market when a few traders act illegally. We don’t end college football or the Catholic church because of child abuse. In fact, the real problem and answer is exactly what I advocated for many times –rigorous enforcement of laws and prosecutions of those that break them. If you read Finding Fernanda, this fact will be clear as day. Mildred’s courage is amazing and the lack of attention she received from law enforcement is inexcusable. The fact that the perpetrators are free today shows the exact issue – because even if caught little would happen. The same goes on the US side of the equation where we have been anything but proactive. If that changed, these people would think twice before being the rotten apple(s) that ruin the barrel.

Nonetheless, even as we realized that things were getting bad, they were obviously worse than we imagined. We only get to live each moment once and we can ask no more of ourselves than to always do the right thing as we see at the time. Even when we do that, even when we objectively know we have, it doesn’t make the heart fully recover from something like missing the opportunity to right a hideous wrong. There is more to that kidnapping case that I am not getting into here that would have definitively changed the end result. But those are things I can’t change and I am sure that have caused some others to share my “if only” pain.

In conclusion, read Finding Fernanda. Selfishly, please don’t use it to create any opinion on Guatadopt or myself because it’s not a book about either. I’ve written about any second thoughts I have in this post and as you have seen, they don’t involve looking the other way or creating justifications or ends-justifies-the-means explanations.

Posted by Kevin at 01:57 PM

October 06, 2011

Abandoned in Guatemala - MUST Watch Video

Here is a must watch new 20 minute video from Reason.TV. I applaud them for making it because it is a story that needs to be told. While I am the first to admit it doesn't portray the problems that existed in a thorough manner, that was not its intent and there are currently numerous sources of info on that. But what has not been getting any coverage is the reality of what the shutdown means. Lastly, it did cover the most important thing that should have been done - rigorous enforcement of the laws that existed. Maybe if some prosecutions had happened a few years earlier, this video would never have needed to be made. You can watch below or find it directly here: http://youtu.be/vWrdz-Aqw-U

Posted by Kevin at 05:42 PM

May 20, 2011

CCAI Report on Guatemala Trip

CCAI issued it's report on the trip to Guatemala. A very interesting read that backs up much of my opinion/explanation of the Senator vs Cicig. Also, interesting to see how UNICEF's dollars continue to directly impact adoption.

You can read the report here:
http://www.ccainstitute.org/images/stories/ccai_20_20_vision_program_report_-_guatemala_2011.pdf

Posted by Kevin at 08:52 AM

May 11, 2011

On Susana, CICIG and the Senator

There are two different newsworthy items that I've been neglecting to post. And the more I pondered the "how" to address them, the more I realized that they were intertwined and best managed combined in one post.

Story One - Susana Luarca's bail was revoked and so far as I know, she is currently incarcerated while awaiting trial on a string of charges

Story Two - A war of words between CICIG and Sen. Landrieu over just how bad the old system was or wasn't

Upfront, I'm not expert on either of these stories. So if I get something factually incorrect, post it to the comments.

As you know, Susana has been charged with a variety of things – child trafficking, falsifying documents, etc – stemming from the Anyeli case as well as at least one other (the case of Daphne Nayeli Camey Perez). For many months she has been under house arrest (essentially out on bail) and that was recently revoked, apparently considering her a flight risk. Seems like a stretch considering she’s had months to leave the country and hasn’t thus far. But who knows what evidence to the contrary may have presented.

Before I get into this any further, I want to be 100% clear, honest and open about where I stand with regard to Susana. It’s the same thing I’ve said for years. Susana was undoubtedly a huge friend to Guatadopt and everyone who adopted from 2003 on. Without her, my children would not be my children, it’s as simple as that. She didn’t have anything to do with my adoptions personally, but without her the system almost certainly would have ended before my kids came home. It was because of this work, and the manner in which Guatdadopt became the place she updated parents, that this site had its huge popularity for a long time. (I think I could kiss her and kill her for that.) None of that relationship or history makes Susana a saint. None of it means that we did not have very serious disagreements over very serious things in both public and private settings. And most importantly, none of those things would ever make me turn a blind eye to something like kidnapping!

So what’s my point? It is to give some background or legitimacy to my opinion that from everything I know of Susana, both good and bad, she would never be knowingly complicit in a kidnapping. Read those words very carefully. In no way am I refuting the stories of these children’s mothers. In no way am I even claiming that Susana was not the attorney who pushed through the abandonment case of a child who was kidnapped. But what I have yet to see is any evidence of what I say I have a hard time accepting - that she would have done so with knowledge that she was “laundering” a kidnapped child.

Now I move on to how this all ties with the Landrieu vs CICIG debate. For those not familiar, CICIG is a UN instrument in Guatemala to fight against corruption and impunity. CICIG has done a lot of great work and I will not disparage it or moreso the fundamental necessity of its purpose in Guatemala! With that said, it issued a report detailing its findings on investigations into adoption cases.

Its finding (a portion anyway) based on looking into approx. 3300 PGN files:

From the analysis of the data gathered, it was found that over 60% of the processes for adoption contained abnormalities such as theft and illegal purchase/sale of children, threats and deception to biological mothers, and forgery of documents to carry out "adoption processes” both before and after the entry into force of the Adoption Law (31 December 2007). In many cases there are multiple and clear indications that the illegal procedures were promoted by transnational organized crime who acted along with the participation or acquiescence of state officials. Currently, the Public Ministry investigates more than 325 adoption processes which present serious irregularities.
Senator Landrieu replied that she “does not share all of CICIG´s findings" and CICIG has asked to respond with exactly what it is she disagrees with.

For me, all of this is very reminiscent of what has been going on in this debate for far too long. So I will attempt to bridge the gap of linguistics and statistics for the benefit on CICIG, Sen. Landrieu, et al.

60% of cases contained abnormalities. Approx. 10% (325 out of 3342) presented “serious abnormalities”.

For years I have tried to walk a dangerous pragmatic middle ground on the 50% of cases that had what I will dub “non-serious abnormalities”. I take these to mean all those things that happened way too often, were not compliant with US or Guatemalan law, and happened for reasons good and bad stemming from both adoption specifically and the overall societal reasons why CICIG is necessary in general. Ultimately, I am making a leap of faith that the key difference in CICIG’s mind in deeming what is “serious” is whether or not it appears that the child’s mother intended for the adoption to occur. Other things could put something into the “serious” category but I think we can all agree that logically, CICIG would not consider any case “non-serious” if they felt the mother’s intent was violated.

Some examples of what might be the worst of “non-serious” abnormalities:
US law would not allow a married couple to relinquish a child for adoption into the US. So IDs get faked to make the mother appear single.

The child was born in a neighboring country like Honduras with no adoption program. So in order to relinquish in Guatemala, a phony identity is created.

A woman wishes to relinquish but is concerned over her privacy. She worries about what might happen to her if her local community finds out, so a fraudulent identity is developed.

And of course, what happened most often in varying levels and degrees, a woman is paid to relinquish her child – often the pregnancy being intentional.

Now, I am not defending any of these practices. And while all of them have the important attribute of the relinquishment being the intent of the child’s mother, they raise VERY serious issues about the child’s rights to his true identity/history, children being treated like a commodity, and exploitation of the poor by the rich among others.
However, in a world largely absent of social policy, in a country riddled with corruption where “tips” and “bribes” are commonplace, when the US has stupid rules that prevent a married couple from deciding to relinquish, where starvation and infant mortality are epidemic, the solutions to these adoption woes fall outside of the realm of adoption. And in my not-so-humble opinion, if treated solely within the confines of adoption law and policy, the solution may be worse than the problem.

So in essence, I am agreeing with both CICIG’s numbers as well as Sen. Landrieu’s assessment of them.
Now let’s move on to where the attention needs to be paid – on the “serious abnormalities” and how this ties to Susana. There is no doubt that the Anyeli case would be a serious one. Her mother says she was kidnapped. I have no reason to doubt her. The child was presented in adoption as a relinquishment. The accounts I have read claim that Marvin Bran (who is a wanted man) was the attorney and that Celebrate Children Int’l was the agency. A failed DNA test occurred. At that point, the PAPs approached Susana to take over the case as an abandonment case. No one, to my knowledge, claims that Susana had any involvement in the original referral or more importantly, Anyeli’s entry into the adoption system.

You can click here for Susana’s description of the case but it’s pretty simple. In Guatemala, the process in a case like this was for an attorney and/or hogar to present the child to a judge who can then rule whether or not to grant guardianship to that attorney/hogar. The judge also ultimately hands down the decision on whether the child is adoptable/legally abandoned.
So the question becomes this as it relates to Susana - what evidence is there that she had any knowledge that this child was kidnapped? Because to me this is a major question. The case obviously falls into “serious” but might Susana’s crimes, if in fact she committed any, fall into the “non-serious” category of how, right or wrong, things got done. And if so, what should the penalty be for it?

If it was common practice to move a case to Mixco where there was an “adoption friendly” judge, is that or should that be criminal? What if the alternative was the likely Guatemala City judge who never grants an abandonment decree? Is that in the child’s best interest? Let’s remember that even Unicef has been extremely critical of how the courts leave children in limbo an average of 6-7 years unless there is someone like Susana pushing.
I am not here to say whether Susana did all she could to determine the child’s history before moving to abandonment. Given that the PAPs were her clients by this time, there is undoubtedly a potential conflict of interest. But it is one that was legal in Guatemala’s system and was often brought to the forefront of issues in need of reform in the system. Quite honestly, I doubt she did all that was possible to find her origins - the result here may be evidence enough of that in a moral, if not legal sense.

One can argue that there was a failed DNA test and that in and of itself should have raised red flags to dig deep and not worry about the speed of abandonment. While failed DNA tests happened they were not very frequent or common. When investigated, even UNICEF once found that the most likely causes were what I deemed “non-serious” – mom is married so a sister poses as her sort of thing. So given that, if a non-match comes in and there is no one connected to the original referral requesting the child back, what should Susana’s assumption have been?

I lack the answers. I lack a clear opinion in my own mind on some of this. The one thing I believe strongly is that it is wrong to prosecute someone for the ills of the overall system. Or at least, it is wrong to prosecute them for illegal acts they were not involved with or aware of. If Susana was negligent, but not in direct knowledge of Anyeli’s origins, then I believe it wrong to prosecute her as if she did have direct knowledge. If in fact the evidence proves that she did have this knowledge, then I can think of no punishment too severe.
And as CICIG and Sen. Landrieu, both deserving of respect for their work and passion, banter in their battle of linguistics, it seems to me as irrelevant as a debate over evolution vs. creation because in my mind the two are not mutually exclusive. The net effect of it is a dodging of the real central issues both short and long term. Short term is the hundreds of cases STILL in process and what should be done with them. How can they finally be resolved safely? Long term is how to find a way to create international adoption systems that don’t end up with the dark legacy that clouds so many, Guatemala included.

As things stand today, the problems move on to the next country when one closes down. Little is done to address the systemic reasons for the adoptions and the corruption in the first place. Those of wealth and power are rarely held to account for their actions and the victims are almost always those most vulnerable. And this is a shame!


Posted by Kevin at 03:08 PM

March 30, 2011

Amazing Real Life Mystery - a must read!!!

This story is about the death of Rodrigo Rosenberg. a case that nearly brought down Guatemala's government. It's really a must read as it gives great context into Guatemalan 'power" both current and historical.

Most of all, I say it is a must read because as I read this story, I thought aout how much the general nature of the "mystery" echoed how things went down in adoptions. I thought about all the times PAPs turned to us to help figure out the truth behind cases and how that truth turned out to be something logic would never have pondered, as occured in this Rosenberg story. And as we continue to see cases regarding the aftermath and corruption allegations with adoption, this story is a good one to keep in the back of your mind when trying to determine "the truth" and how with all things Guatemala Adoption (and beyond), things were not black and white.

http://www.newyorker.com/services/referral?messageKey=477aeafa8283b1bd5643b68fe4f69d15

Posted by Kevin at 11:45 AM

March 22, 2011

Getting Caught Up - Recent Happenings

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110321/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_guatemala_election_divorceA few items of interest out there:
1.) The mothers who had protested heavily through Sobrevivientes are back trying again to bring attention to their plight. It is unthinkable that these women have been waiting so long for answers - whatever they may be., Story in the Prensa Libre on it: http://www.prensalibre.com/noticias/justicia/Mujeres-demandan-justicia_0_446955314.html
2.) Speaking of Sobrevivientes, Norma Cruz will be the featured speaker at an upcoming conference in DC April 4. Also on the agenda are a number of othe familiar faces. I'm hoping I cna attend. You cna find all info here: Download file
3.) Aye aye aye. It's going to be an ugly election season in Guatemala. In order to get around a law that prohibits family members of the president from running, First Lady Sandra Colom has filed for divorce... You can find it here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110321/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_guatemala_election_divorce

Posted by Kevin at 02:49 PM

February 15, 2011

New Book on Guatemalan Adoption - Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl's Journey Through Adoption

A new book is coming out that tells the dramatic story of one child's adoption and subsequent trip to meet her birthfamily. You can click on more for more info that came to me by the author, Jacob Wheeler.

Jacob has been working on this book for quite some time and I was very impressed with his research. Many times he came to me to see if things made sense, what could be behind something he's found, and to do his best to walk the line between what he saw and experienced and perspectives that might explain them.

The end result is a great book valuable to us all. One caveat, please read the forward, written by yours truly, as it may help prepare you. And for the record, I was paid nothing, will be paid nothing no matter how many copies it sells, and only get a free copy for having written it.

From the author:

I'm elated to share the news with you that my book, Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl's Journey Through Adoption will be published on April 1 by the University of Nebraska Press. Writing this book has been a six-year undertaking, and during that time I've been blessed to meet you and learn your stories as they pertain to Guatemala and international adoption. Thank you for your words, your guidance, your constructive criticism, and your encouragement.


Please take a moment and check out my blog, http://betweenlightandshadow.com/ and also the University of Nebraska Press' website if you wish to order a copy: http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Between-Light-and-Shadow,674763.aspx
Here are the Press’ words to describe the book:

“In Between Light and Shadow veteran journalist Jacob Wheeler puts a human face on the Guatemalan adoption industry, which has exploited, embraced, and sincerely sought to improve the lives of the Central American nation’s poorest children. Fourteen-year-old Ellie, abandoned at age seven and adopted by a middle-class family from Michigan, is at the center of this story. Wheeler re-creates the painful circumstances of Ellie’s abandonment, her adoption and Americanization, her search for her birth mother, and her joyous and haunting return to Guatemala, where she finds her teenage brothers—unleashing a bond that transcends language and national borders.

Following Ellie’s journey, Wheeler peels back the layers of an adoption economy that some view as an unscrupulous baby-selling industry that manipulates impoverished indigenous Guatemalan women, and others herald as the only chance for poor children to have a better life. Through Ellie, Wheeler allows us to see what all this means in personal and practical terms—and to understand how well-intentioned and sometimes humanitarian first-world wealth can collide with the extreme poverty, despair, misogyny, racism, and violent history of Guatemala.”

Posted by Kevin at 04:45 PM

January 26, 2011

Victimized Mom Wins Battle #1

For those of you following the case of Encarnacion Bail Romero and her son in Missouri, the state Supreme Court today ruled in her favor stating that proper procedures were not followed when her son was deemed abandoned after she was incarcerated following a DHS ICE raid. As you'll see from the story, this case isn't done yet and her child hasn't been returned to her. Hopefully that is soon to come!

http://www.carthagepress.com/lifestyle/family/x1651177332/Mo-court-sides-with-immigrant-in-adoption-appeal

Posted by Kevin at 03:04 PM

December 29, 2010

December 22, 2010

Misc Stuff

I've been woeful lately on posting. Partly due to being busy. Partly due to legal annoyances. And partly from the long standing frustration of not being able to help out the families still waiting.

Here are some stories/items of interest:
1.) Interesting story on ICA today from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-feffer/the-baby-trade_b_800039.html
2.) CICIG has released a report critical of adoption (among other things). I haven't been able to find a good translation of the whole report. But they even have issues that the investgations in to identity of the children post-new law has been insufficient. http://cicig.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=65&cntnt01returnid=67
3.) Pres. Colom cracks down on organized crime in Alta Verapaz. Remember, some of these gangs are the same slime that were involved in adoption unethical practices. http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/12/20/guatemala.siege/index.html
4.) HUGE issues with stunted growth and malnutrition. People - give all you can to help children in Guatemala! http://abcnews.go.com/Health/video/beautiful-baby-growing-guateala-peter-rohloff-doctor-12388327 http://abcnews.go.com/Health/slideshow/guatemala-devastating-effects-malnutrition-12387162

Posted by Kevin at 04:13 PM

December 07, 2010

Special Advisor for Children's Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs to Travel to Guatemala

She's heading to talk about the legacy cases. Here's to praying it helps!!!

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/12/152441.htm

Posted by Kevin at 03:57 PM

October 05, 2010

Our Inexcusable History

The story about US STD medical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s has been all over the media. If somehow you missed it, click here.

It's taken me a little while to figure out how to "cover this" as I am so distraught about it. Yes it was long ago. Yes, we did the same thing to some of our citizens. Yes, it was done with the approval of the Guatemalan government of the time.

But on another note, it is being covered in the Guatemalan press that some orphans were part of the experiment. Children!

When I think of children being used in sickening medical experiments in the 1940s, it is the Nazis and Josef Mengele who should be front and center, not my country!

Posted by Kevin at 05:09 PM

September 04, 2010

Heartwarming Adoption Story - Michael Franti

Over the last couple of years, I've become somewhat of a Michael Franti fanatic. Some of you may know him as the guy that sings the "Say Hey (I Love You)" song. To me he is the Bob Dylan of our time (with a much better voice). Also an awesome show to go to with the kids. He even has all kids on stage with him for the Say Hey song.

In any case, he also happens to come from a multi-racial adoptive family. So here's his story and my opportunity to try to spread his message of peace, understanding, and activism to our Guatadopt community...

Posted by Kevin at 09:02 AM

June 10, 2010

Head of CICIG Resigns

Citing corruption and a lack of government support for its mission, in particular in regard to the Attorney General, the highly respected head of CICIG resigned. You can find a story on it here.

I have read a few stories on this (mostly from Guat press) and this is the first one that tried to tie anything to adoption (6/11 - see update on this). Given the state of affairs for the still in-process cases, it seems rather hard to believe the AG has done anything to support adoption! With that said, I don't his history or where/how the NY Times got an adoption connection.

CICIG's work in Guatemala is EXTREMELY important. You can find some info on it here. So adoptions aside, this is saddening to me.

Click on more for an update 6/11...

UPDATE 6/11

1.) Reyes is out as Attorney General http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/12/world/americas/12guatemala.html2.) I've received a few e-mails about what I said about Reyes and adoptions. That connection had appeared in past press reports, just not ones I had seen. Of course, there's no specific allegations which doesn't mean anything one way or the other.

In short, I'm glad he's gone because as originally posted, CICIG is crucial!

Posted by Kevin at 04:30 PM

April 28, 2010

Guatemala 900 on Radio Show

Members of hte Guatemala 900 were featured on an adoption radio show yesterday (if only it was CNN instead!). You can find it here: http://toginet.com/shows/adoptionjourneytomotherhood

Posted by Kevin at 11:49 AM

March 18, 2010

Guatemala to Re-Open (Don't get excited)

Just passing on a story about the pilot program we've been aware of. Loooks like it will kick in this June...

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jTqbMxI6dXX6mBQdiP7karrj066QD9EGKH501

Update Fri 3/20:
Another story appeared today in the Miami Herald. It is linking this "reopening" with the in-process cases getting resolved. That could make sense based on the six week promise. And of course, we all hope nad pray for those cases to finally be resolved.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/19/1536789/backlog-of-adoptions-may-finally.html

Posted by Kevin at 03:28 PM

March 17, 2010

Interesting Story on ICA

Sorry, it's been a while since I've posted anything.

Here's an intersting story I found on ICA, with some focus on Guatemala.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20100314/wl_csm/286103_1

Posted by Kevin at 04:15 PM

January 30, 2010

CNA Meeting with Hogares

Last Wednesday the CNA held a meeting for hogar directors in Guatemala. While not an adoption-specific meeting, I think we all realize the stake and concern we have for the systems being developed in the wake of the adoption law, Hague standards, etc.

Nancy Bailey from Semillas de Amor was kind enough to write us a synopsis. Click on more for that.

The meeting with the CNA on Wednesday, January 27th, was an all day meeting to discuss standards of care for children’s homes and the new data base system to keep track of kids in the children's home. The data base system is GREAT and something that has been needed a very long time. The data base system is easy and will allow the CNA to track the kids, see how many kids are in care and what the needs of the children are. Before the CNA could not answer the question, how many children are in the homes? Number of boys and girls? Disabilities? Education level? So now this will give the CNA a tool to track the children.

The morning began with Xiomara Campos, a consultant with the CNA, discussing standards of care, based on the meeting we had in late November with the CNA. Xiomara has also traveled to several countries, Peru, Colombia and even the US (Florida) to see other children's homes. I have sent Xiomara and the CNA the spanish translation of Elizabeth Bartholet's work on the effects of the institutionalization on children. An adoptive mom from Semillas de Amor had the entire document legally translated into Spanish. For those that don't know, Elizabeth is with the Harvard School of Law and is the director of the child advocacy program. I don't have the link for her recent articles, but this woman is amazing and well worth reading. Maybe Kevin has the link. I know there was a post awhile back about Betsy’s work.

The meeting with the CNA went very well. There were at least sixty children's homes in attendance. I really felt that our concerns were addressed, that the CNA really wanted to hear what we had to say and many times thanked us for being there and working with them. This is UNHEARD of in any Guatemalan government office. Jaime Tecú gave a very inspirational speech, which I feel came from his heart. I have a pretty good BS sensor after living in Guatemala so long and I felt as though the CNA really cares about what happens to the kids. I also felt, for the very first time ever, that the CNA would be approachable and be willing to deal with difficult cases. Although they really have no control over the “grandfathered” cases. The CNA clearly is on the side of the children's homes and they are there to support us. What an incredible concept, because that does not happen in Guatemalan government

The downside, is that we will continue to have to work within the children's court and with the PGN. I am not totally clear what the PGN’s role will be. The new judge has arrived in Chimaltenango and I have heard good things about her.

A few things about the CNA, just as an FYI: There are 500+ kids that have a certificate of adoptability. The CNA is still in the process of selecting which four countries they will work with, out of the 10 who applied, and the decision will be based on what countries that will be willing to take older an special needs kids. Special needs kids might be children with illnesses, disabilities, sibling groups, older kids. The CNA has identified 60 children in that category that will be part of the two year pilot program. The CNA is starting out slowly and cautiously. I expect it will be quite some time, if ever, before toddlers or infants will available. Adoptions should begin in May or June of this year.

The Children's Court judge still decides where a child is placed. Children's homes DO NOT have to have an adoption program, although the CNA encourages that children not be institutionalized.

Children’s homes are being certified, as time permits. The CNA was very clear that they want to work with the homes as a team and want to hear what our concerns are. The reality is that the CNA needs the children’s homes and it makes sense that we all work together, the priority is the child. But that does not often happen in Guatemalan government so it is exciting to hear and we will see, as time passes, how we all work together.

All in all I felt positive about the meeting and ready to move forward and I know other homes felt the same way, although I suspect we are all a bit cautious.

Nancy Bailey
Semillas de Amor Children’s Village
www.semillasdeamor.org

Posted by Kevin at 09:35 AM

January 13, 2010

Investigation Clears Pres. Colom

A UN based investigation has found that Rodrigo Rosenberg commissioned his own killing, filming the video to try to place blame on President Colom. For the sake of the country, if for noother reason, I am happy this was the finding.

Very interesting...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100113/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_guatemala_lawyer_killed

Posted by Kevin at 09:06 AM

January 11, 2010

PEAR releases first series of State Directories of Adoption Resources

Posted on behalf of PEAR:
Derived from the gaps identified from PEAR’s POSitive study and the recommendations from PEAR’s Mental Health Resource and Therapist Resource surveys, PEAR has created State Directories of Adoption
Resources. These directories are designed for prospective adoptive parents, adoptive parents and service providers looking for local resources.

This library is temporarily housed at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PEARdirectories/ , where you can freely download the pdf directories until our website can be updated.

Series 1 has five directories: Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform (PEAR) does not officially endorse any listing in these directories. The contents are provided for informational purposes only as a community service. PEAR has no means of certifying the competence or quality of practice of any practitioner. PEAR makes no representations, warranties, guarantees or promises on behalf of or for those listed, and does not assume liability or responsibility for any service or product provided.

Each state directory is arranged into four sections: Health, Education, Bureaucracy, and Support alphabetically by city.

Health contains Early Intervention information and licensed practitioner listings. Each listing has a designation for specialty or service with a PEAR. See the index at the beginning of the document for definitions. Residential Treatment Centers are included here.

Education contains tutoring, remediation, specialized schools & interventions by non-licensed practitioners.

Bureaucracy contains information about:
Apostilles & Authentications
Medicaid waivers
Better Business Bureau
State statutes on adoption
Criminal background check
Notary
Recognition of foreign adoption decree or Delayed Certificate of Birth
Social Security offices/how to obtain card
Filing consumer complaints
State adoption subsidy
Licensed agency checks
USCIS
License checks for health professionals
Vital records (birth, marriage & divorce cert.)
Hague Convention information (due diligence and complaints) Support contains state-based support groups, web-support, and organizations. Respite care is also included here.

Keeping Directories Current:
These directories will be updated at least twice yearly. If you know of any
resource that assists internationally adopted children and is not on
this list or if you have corrections, please email information to pveazie@pear-now.org

Check the PEAR Directory Library Yahoo group soon for the release of the 1Q10 Directory of International Adoption Doctors and future state series.

Posted by Kevin at 03:25 PM

January 05, 2010

A few stories

Here's a few items of interest:
1.) In case you missed it, there was a wonderful Guatemalan band in the Rose Bowl http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=7167453
2.) Pres. Colom raised the minimum wage in Guatemala. Kudos for that move!!! http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2009/diciembre/30/365599.html
3.) The Children's Hospital in Cincinatti is loooking for children adopted from Guatemala for a study on a rare disease. http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/research/trials/current/adoption-studies/adopt-guatemala.htm
4.) Things are stepping up on the ICA pilot program. Looks like ten countries are interested in participating, only five will be chosen. http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2010/enero/05/366371.html.

Posted by Kevin at 04:56 PM

December 18, 2009

Yippee!!

Just wanted to say how happy I am about this story.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091218/ap_on_re_us/us_asylum_domestic_abuse

Posted by Kevin at 12:46 PM

Check this out!!!

So.. Now there is a move to try to drive my name through the mud. The Pound Pup Legacy site has an anonymous comment from some ignorant moron trying to tie me to all sorts of implied impropriety.

http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/41474

By clicking on more, you will find my reply to this comment (just in case they don't post it). But I am leaving the comments on Guatadopt closed because I'd much prefer to see them on the Pound Pup site.

Thanks to them for this last hannukah present!

My reply

To anonymous,

I do not see why in the world you would choose to bring my name into this story. It is personally insulting and just hugely wrong.

To set the record straight..

1.) You are implying some sort of financial gain on my part and that Guatadopt is some sort of business. I have NEVER received a single dollar for ANYTHING involved with Guatadopt. The closest thing was when some of our readers sponsored us to attend an ethics in adoption conference a couple of years ago. I challenge you or anyone else to find anything to the contrary. Being “Kevin from Guatadopt” has cost me thousands of dollars over the years.
2.) ASG is not a “main advertiser”. They are not an advertiser at all. We put their “ad” link on our site for FREE! We did so because of all the free help ASG has given us and our readers. There were many times when for no money they would find out if someone was still in PGN, Family Court, etc. We do have Google Ads on the site (pay per click) which have never even driven enough revenue to cover the hard costs of running the site.

3.) Susana and Guatadopt do have a long history together. It is 100% true that had it not been for Susana’s “Thursday Updates” in 2003, Guatadopt would likely never have become as popular as it did. If that had made me a wealthier man, I’d thank her for it. But truth is that it has done little for me personally. What it did do was create a place where THOUSANDS of PAPs turned for accurate information and help. What it did do was create the one place where people could go to find out the truth, despite what their attorney and agency may have been telling them. What it did do was create a place where some like Elizabeth Emmanuel found out that the child she had been referred was abducted. What it did was create a place that led to that child being returned to her mother.

4.) I have been involved with Guatemalan adoptions for years now. I have experienced/been privy to many many things. I have experienced first-hand how difficult it is to get to the bottom of things. There was a time when Susana and I were what could loosely be described as friends. Moreso we were both working on similar goals. Having nothing to do with anything involved in these allegations, we have not been anything close to friends for some time. But really this is irrelevant.

5.) If I am guilty of anything it is that I have my opinions on things. I have been and remain convinced personally that Susana would never have knowingly adopted out a kidnapped child.
I will continue to do as I have always done and follow my heart on Guatadopt. I will continue to state opinions as opinions and fact as fact. I will continue to do all I can to help children in Guatemala. Geez, why didn’t you mention our calendar that will raise about $10K in direct aid for children in Guatemala. Last year, did we donate any money Primavera? Nope. Did we actually donate to a hogar hugely at odds with Susana because we know that they were receiving adoption “fallout” cases – yes.

I leave with this thought to Anonymous: Shame on YOU!

I also just added a second comment to point out that Susana was not involved with either of my adoptions (and that it would not be something to hide if she had)


Posted by Kevin at 11:46 AM

December 09, 2009

New CNA Notice

This is not the first CNA has requested this but they are again...

CNA is again requesting that all children in public or private care be registered with the CNA. The notice is addressed to the hogares, not APs and can be found here: http://www.cna.gob.gt/portal/.

They are saying this is essential for them to understand how many children there are for many reasons. There's nothing I see in this that makes it tied solely to the children who had been referred for ICA.

Posted by Kevin at 11:37 AM

December 08, 2009

Reuter's Story

Reuter's has a story running about how Sobrevivientes is pushing for US help in obtaining DNA tests for the children we're read so much about. My opinion is that I support the US trying to help out how it can, within the framework of the law of course.

There's one paragraph in the story worth pointing out:
"Some 3,000 cases that started under the previous adoption system are still in progress, with prosecutors promising to meticulously examine the files for fraud. So far, about half have been completed successfully, and the rest will likely be resolved by the end of January, said a spokesman for the new adoption authority."

I have no further info and can only hope there is some truth to this!!!

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5B741820091208

Posted by Kevin at 03:37 PM

December 06, 2009

Updates on some of the worst things...

Both of these stories make me ill. SO I'm not going to say much...
1.) Update on Tedi Hedstrom: http://www.actionnewsjax.com/content/actionlocal/story/Mom-accused-of-abusing-11-adopted-kids/DweDTp2sREqGdptXkrhPQw.cspx?rss=12.) Update on the Barretos: http://www.amw.com/fugitives/case.cfm?id=69657

Posted by Kevin at 04:02 PM

November 05, 2009

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hearing

Legal and medical experts are testifying tomorrow in support of intercountry adoption to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. From what I read on this, I am extremely happy about two things:
1.) The experts conclusion, according to the press release is "Adoption abuses should, they say, be addressed through enforcement and strengthening of laws prohibiting such abuses, not through closing down international adoption and thus denying homes to children." A-FRICKING-MEN!!!
2.) "The delegation will urge the Commission to initiate an investigation to examine what effect closing international adoption opportunities in these countries has had on unparented children." It's about time!

You can find all the information by clicking here.
or click on more for the press release.

Legal and Medical Experts to Testify Before Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Support of International Adoption
Recent closure of international adoption programs in Central and South American countries violates children’s human rights, experts say

Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a hearing regarding the “Human Rights of Unparented Children and International Adoption Policies” in the Americas on Friday, November 6, in Washington, D.C. The hearing, requested by Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program and the Center for Adoption Policy, will begin at 2:30 p.m. at the Organization of American States, Ruben Dario Room, GSB Building, 1889 F St. N.W., Washington, D.C.

International adoption is the subject of a heated debate among those in the human rights field, and the hearing comes in the wake of policies that have virtually shut down international adoption in Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru.

This hearing represents a major development in the human rights debate surrounding these issues, as the Commission will address human rights violations that to date have been largely ignored. Many have claimed the human rights mantle in opposing international adoption. The legal and medical experts testifying on November 6 will argue that restrictions on ethical international adoption violate children’s basic human rights by condemning them to damaging institutions or to the streets. They contend that every child has a right to be placed in a nurturing permanent home, whether that home is in the country of birth or abroad. Adoption abuses should, they say, be addressed through enforcement and strengthening of laws prohibiting such abuses, not through closing down international adoption and thus denying homes to children.

The delegation will urge the Commission to initiate an investigation to examine what effect closing international adoption opportunities in these countries has had on unparented children.

The testifying delegation includes leading pediatric experts on early brain development, and legal experts on human and child rights:

· Elizabeth Bartholet, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of Child Advocacy Program, Harvard Law School;

· Paulo Barrozo, Asst. Professor of Law and International Human Rights Scholar, Boston College Law School;

· Karen Bos and Charles Nelson, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

A copy of the written testimony to be presented to the Commission is attached, and a tape recording of the testimony will be available after the hearing at the following website: http://www.cidh.oas.org/prensa/publichearings/Hearings.aspx?Lang=EN&Session=117

The Child Advocacy Program (CAP) at Harvard Law School is committed to advancing children’s rights and interests, and to training generations of students to contribute to law reform and social change. One of the only legal programs of its kind, CAP unites the study of law and the practice of law. The Center for Adoption Policy is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote effective legislation and ethical practices governing domestic and intercountry adoption. It is not affiliated with any organization involved in adoptive placement.

Posted by Kevin at 09:37 PM

October 20, 2009

Check out Susana's Blog

Susana has posted some of the information she has been talking about in regards to the Anyeli?karen Abigail case - pictures from the failed DNA, pictures of Karen at Primavera, and the DNA test results.

http://susanaluarca-english.blogspot.com/

Posted by Kevin at 11:53 AM

October 15, 2009

Story on A Family Journey

The Minnesota Tribune has run a pretty extensive story on a case involving A Family Journey. Seems like reading this story was a who's who from Guatadopt days past. So hello to Mary, Tamara, Karen, RAI and Kelley - it's been a long time and I never imagined I'd have all of you ever combined into one thought. If only John Lowell had been included...

There's some stuff in here that shouldn't be. It is a newspaper story after all. So expect some of the usual but also remember that this is about someone's heartbreak.

http://www.startribune.com/local/63909282.html?elr=KArksUUUycaEacyU

Posted by Kevin at 09:42 PM

October 10, 2009

Susana's New Blog

Susana has launched a blog of her own. On it currently is a detailed description of her involvement in the Karen Abigail case. So for all of you asking to her to continue posting, she's doing so in a forum of her choosing which is, in my opinion, totally cool and within one's rights You can find her blog here:

http://susanaluarca-english.blogspot.com/

Posted by Kevin at 11:24 PM

October 06, 2009

CNA Process Clarity

There has been a lot of confusion for folks in process with transition cases that involve CNA. Some of this is due to CNA releases, posts on Guatadopt and other forums, etc.

Our friends at ASG have met with CNA and provided us with some great information for those in process and going through CNA.

Please click on "more" to read a FAQ and download some documents that explain the process.

FAQs
1.) I’ve heard I don’t need a lawyer in Guatemala?

There have been some posts saying it’s illegal to represent a family. This is not true. The law states that the family has the option to hire a mandatory for the transition case (Article 42 of the new law of adoptions). Besides the authorization granted by the adoptive family, the Civil Code, as well as the Judicial Court establishes the rights and obligations of the Mandatory. It’s important that families understand that it’s an option to have a mandatory and if they don’t then they can follow the case themselves.

2.) Is the CNA process free? Does CNA take payments to expedite the transition cases?

The CNA process is free!!. They have been hearing that some people are talking about payments to the CNA. If anybody hears someone talk about a payment to the CAN, it should be questioned and brought to the appropriate authorities.

3.) Can an attorney or agency guarantee that a transition case will be approved by the CNA and then by the Court? Etc. etc.

No! The CNA is worried about some information they are getting regarding families being misled about the guarantee that an agency/attorney can give them related to the adoption process. As you know, there’s no way to guarantee the outcome of a transition case at the CNA.

4.) Do families need an attorney to go through a transition case at the CNA?

No. But as you will see below, there is a lot of case follow-up paper pushing, and documentary knowledge required. Coming only from me (Kevin) and not anything ASG has said, I would not recommend trying to go it alone.

5.) So what is ASG, and presumably others, doing as an organization/mandatorio?

• Talk to the PAP about the legal regulations, how the process works, responsibilities of the parties, etc.
• Orient the PAP about the legal requirements and help them with the documents required
• Review and translate the documents once they are in Guatemala
• Submit the file to the CNA. (This is when the POA is also registered and submitted to the CNA)
• Follow up on the case with CAN Attorney Ramirez to make sure that the documents are completed. If there’s a missing document or a document that needs to be fixed then the mandatory will let the family know and help work on it.
• Once the CNA studies the child and the social report and psychological evaluation have been reviewed, confirm with the CNA when the Empathy Study will start.
• Submit a document n the family’s behalf with the dates and place where they will be in Guatemala for the Empathy Study.
• Bring the notifications from the CNA on the Empathy Study to the Court and Home where the child is located.
• Go with the PAP to the first meeting of the Empathy Study.
• When necessary, bring a translator to the final Empathy Study interview.
• Once the process is approved by the CNA, receive the notification of the approval on behalf of the PAP.
• Sign the document when the file is sent to the Family Court.
• In Family Court, follow up with the court staff, Judge, etc.
• If the Family Court issues a previo, pick up the notifications, coordinate the notifications to the CNA and depending on the previo, get the proper documents to fix it.
• Once the case is approved by the Family Court, get the certifications of the approval.
• Requests certifications for the CNA.
• Follows the case through RENAP.
• Get the child’s passport
• Gather and legalize the proper documents for the PAP to get the VISA at the USE.

Here are some documents that spell out the CNA and Family Court processes:

CNA Process: Download file

Family Court Process: Download file

Posted by Kevin at 12:26 PM

September 29, 2009

The Suffering from the Drought Continues

Something truly sad to see. Despite many efforts, the food shortages continue in parts of Guatemala. Grain prices in the US continue to be moderately high, above normal levels but far short of last year's highs. And for corn, it's looking like a possible record crop in so far as yield. Of course, much gets used for ethanol. As an environmentalist, I am torn on ethanol. Because the effects of that use have been seen by those who have nothing.

Amazing world we live in...

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/5min/story/1256933.html

Posted by Kevin at 07:02 PM

September 19, 2009

Do you know me?

It's probably a long shot... but it would be wrong of us not to try. If you were ever adopting a boy who would be 3-5 years old right now (my guess from looking at him), please take a look at this video. It is of a child who seems to have been cared for pretty well who has found abandoned. If you know who he is, let us know and we'll help get you in contact with the authorities.

We know of no connection between this child and adoptions. Just know the story was in the news. But if we have any chance of helping this angel out, we'd love to do it...

http://www.telediario.com.gt/index.php?id=191&id_seccion=187&id_noticia=14555

Posted by Kevin at 08:56 AM

August 31, 2009

Hunger Strike

Tomorrow a hunger strike is being launched in the US with participants around the globe in honor of the Guatemalan cases. It is being organized by some folks who have contributed to this site for some time. Before anyone comments, I want to point out part of the e-mail that was sent to me from one of the organizers on why - "Because we value and celebrate adoption done in ethical and moral practice". No matter how it is done, it is important that the community of adoptive parents make it 100% clear that we value and celebrate adoption in that manner.

Here is the site: http://www.threedaysforthreedaughters.typepad.com/

Posted by Kevin at 04:17 PM

August 24, 2009

Interesting story...

The Boston Globe ran this piece, written by an intercountry adoptee. The question at hand, "how much is too much when interjecting a child's birth country into his/her life". We all have our own beliefs in this area and if nothing else, this story has some interesting perspective to ponder.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/08/23/one_overseas_adoptee_explains_parents_embrace_of_the_home_culture_can_have_its_costs

Posted by Kevin at 03:42 PM

August 16, 2009

DOS Listserve for In-Process Families

DOS is creating a listserve in order to better communicate with in-process families. If you are one, I'd highly recommend signing up for it.

http://adoption.state.gov/guatemala.html

Posted by Kevin at 08:54 AM

August 02, 2009

PBS Video on Aftermath of Postville Raid

PBS's Frontline recently aired a piece about the aftermath of the DHS raids at a Postville, IA kosher meatpacking plant called Agriprocessors. The video does not get into the non-immigration labor violations found at the plant, but it documents the story of the Guatemalan undocumented workers who worked there. Please take the 15 minutes to watch the video.

Thank you Gregg for sending it to me!

The story can be found found at: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2009/07/guatemala_a_tal.html

Or you can watch it below...

Posted by Kevin at 04:13 PM

July 14, 2009

Understanding Guatemala

I came across this very intersting and insightful piece about Guatemala, its modern history, politics, social woes, etc. I found it very interesting and figured I'd pass it on...

http://www.speroforum.com/site/article.asp?idCategory=34&idsub=158&id=19862&t=Guatemala:+just+holding+on+to+democracy

Posted by Kevin at 03:47 PM

June 27, 2009

Powerful Report - Watch this Video!

A powerful "investigative report" has been done on the situation with the kidnapped children. I urge everyone to watch this with an open mind, rather than on the defensive. Upfront, there are inaccuracies in it. There are things that make inferences of connections that are not correct. Kids were not sold for $50K. The problems at Casa Quivira did not involve kidnapping. I could mention more. And yes, it was produced by al Jazeera.

But do not let those things cause you to discredit everything it is saying. I can not put into worst my dismay at the allegations of fraud at DNA collection! The mother's featured are not lying, their heartache is real. And while I am in no way directly involved in these cases or much "in the know", based on what I do know 95% of this report is accurate.

My opinion is that I hope the DOJ will work with the Guatemalan authorities. And I think David Smolin has excellent insight and recommendations for the families in the US who are victims here as well.

Lastly, this is all such a tragedy to a wonderful institution. We as adoptive parents need to understand and come to terms with the corruption that will always cast some shadow of doubt on our families, no matter how undeserved. So watch with an open mind, digest it, and then come to your own conclusions.

I wish we didn't have to be posting this sort of stuff. But we can't escape reality.

Peace!
The video and report can be found here:
http://familypreservation.blogspot.com/2009/06/why-i-am-going-to-guatemala.html

Posted by Kevin at 08:42 AM

June 08, 2009

Guatadopt - The New Country Music Sensation

A few years ago, we helped an AP that was caught in the fallout of one of the major adoption scandals. Little did we know for some time, Tammy Cochran was a country music star. If you do some research on her, you'll see this is someone with a huge heart.

Tammy's new album, 30 Something and Single, comes out Tuesday, and we humbly thank her for the thanks she has given us on the CD credits and in this interview: http://www.gactv.com/gac/nw_headlines/article/0,3034,GAC_26063_5943840_,00.html.


For those of you who are newcomers to Guatadopt, hearing about us from Tammy's connection, welcome. If you want to learn about all things associated with Guatemalan adoptions, you've come to the right place. Before going any farther, it is not possible for US citizens to adopt from Guatemala right now. So put that out of your head.

Some time spent on this site and its forums will give you a glimpse into the joys, challenges, experiences, and issues that surround(ed) intercountry adoptions from Guatemala. You will find that adoptive families come from all walks of life and philosophies. You'll find heated debate on any of a number of topics. But within it all is a unified concern for the children througout this world, particularly Guatemala, who deserve permanency in a loving family environment.

Guatemalan adoptions were ideal in many ways. Children received excellent care through private foster homes. My children's "cuidadoras" are now their aunt and third grandmother. They were the true stars of the system. It was also relatively quick. Without getting into the huge stress that is the adoption experience, all other things held constant, it is in a child's best interest to join a family as young as possible. And of course, many of us have some knowledge of the language and culture of Guatemala. It is a wonderful country to visit, full of rich history, and not too far away. Keeping Guatemala a part of our children's lives is not a stretch. For these and other reasons, many families chose to adopt from Guatemala.

I like to repeat what someone once said to me, "At its best, there is no system as good as Guatemala's. At its worst, there are none worse". Unforutnately, money breeds corruption and law enforcement from both countries left much to be desired. Innocent people like Tammy and Shawn were caught in the middle of it. As a result, laws were passed that ended adoptions from Guatemala. There are hopes it will re-open in the future. They are still near 1,000 families attempting to complete adoptions started before the law went into effect in January 2008.

This site was a place where they could turn in confidence. We are not adoption professionals. We didn't process any adoptions. We were just a place where people could go to run their situation by someone with experience. And through that came many strange things. None the least of which, being thanked on a CD.

That's our story...

Posted by Kevin at 07:50 PM

Children now at Amor Del Nino

Four children who ahd been housed at the hogar Los Pinos (which we're told have closed) have been moved to Amor del Nino. They are all boys and their initials are H.E.S., B.B., B.R.N., and R.A.L.G. The folks at Amor del Nino would love to hear from you. You can contact them via their website at: http://www.lovethechild.org.

Posted by Kevin at 07:46 PM

June 01, 2009

JCICS Survey - In Process Families

JCICS has created and launched a short survey in an attempt to quantify and identify the in-process cases. If you are a PAP still waiting to complete an adoption from Guatemala, I can't think of a good reason why you would not fill this out.

You can find it through the JCICS site (with more information) or directly here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=vBcHg1mPyh_2bJ1631MrNM0A_3d_3d

Posted by Kevin at 09:07 PM

May 20, 2009

Buffalo CIS - New E-Mail Address

I was supposed to have posted htis weeks ago. Sorry to our pals in Buffalo that I was out of town with site problems at the time, and then just plain old forgot. But here it is..

The Buffalo CIS office opened a new email address specific for G-884 inquiries. It should only be used if inquiring about the status of G884 for children who came to the US on an IR3 visa. The e-mail address is: BUF-G884@DHS.GOV

Posted by Kevin at 02:33 PM

May 12, 2009

Radio Show Wednesday

One Wednesday at 12:00 est I will be appearing on Dawn Davenport's "Creating a Family" internet-radio adoption show. The title of the show is "Guatemalan Adoptions: What Does the Future Hold".

You can find all the info on how to listen (you can listen anytime after it airs via the internet), who else is on it, and how to call in here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/creatingafamily/2009/05/13/Guatemalan-Adoptions-What-Does-the-Future-Hold

Posted by Kevin at 07:38 PM

May 07, 2009

Finding Culture When You're A Huge Minority

Every once in a while, someone sends us something and asks us to post it. We always try to accomodate when feasible, especially when it raises an intersting thought or perspective. Here is something sent to me by Nancy Hoffman, who many know from various adoption related activities. Admittedly, my family used her travel services numerous times during our trips, including our first and a translator when we met our children's birthmother.

This article she sent me deals with Guatemalan adoption from a very different scenario than most - a US ex-patriot living in Guatemala with her Guatemalan son and attempting to teach him her form of Judaism and its culture.

It's a good read and if anyone ever cares to celebrate Shabbat in Antigua, now they'll know where to go. So click on "more" to read it....

Posted on behalf on Nancy:
My nine-year old son Michael lives in three cultures, one of which is creating the greatest challenge for our family. I am his North American Jewish mother. He is my adopted Guatemalan son, and we live in Antigua Guatemala, close to my Guatemalan ex-husband and his family. Like many adoptive families, my ex-husband and I have made a series of decisions about how to raise our son in multiple cultures. Before adopting him, I knew I would raise him as a Jew, even while acknowledging that this would be a challenge in a predominantly Catholic country (whose closest organized Jewish community was over an hour away from our home).

Like many children adopted internationally, my son has grown up to be bi-cultural and bi-lingual. We visit relatives in the States once a year and he attends a bi-lingual school in Guatemala. If you were to ask, he would tell you he is “North American” and a Red Sox fan. It’s easy to bring North American culture into our home. We celebrate Halloween with candy, Thanksgiving with a turkey, July 4th with fireworks, and follow sports and popular culture through the magic of cable television. We don’t need a North American / “Western” community to learn about and practice that culture – it is pushed in advertising and every other aspect of daily life.

But our third culture – the Jewish culture – requires more of an organized community to be fully realized. Obviously, there are home-based holidays and rituals that we can celebrate ourselves, and we do! We light candles and sing on Friday nights to welcome the Sabbath. Every night before bed, we recite the Sh’ma prayer. Mezzuzot are affixed to every doorway, inside each a sacred scroll. When the time arrives for the Passover Seder (ritual meal) each Spring, I seek out the one or two other North American Jews living in my town, plus a variety of old and new friends to celebrate. But to my chagrin… my son is the only child at the table. As he is getting older the need of enrolling him in Hebrew / Religious school to learn about Jewish history, holidays and traditions; and to formally prepare him for his Bar Mitzvah - the ceremony / rite of passage that welcomes a thirteen-year old into the adult Jewish community keep growing and weighing heavily upon me. If we were living in North America, I would seek out a synagogue where we could attend family services and holiday events with other Jewish families. I’ve considered Jewish summer camp in the States, but the Guatemalan school year extends from January through October so that is not an option.

So, here we are in Guatemala. Yes, an organized Jewish community exists about an hour away in the capital city, but I am not comfortable in that primarily Spanish-speaking community whose Judaism is far more conservative (in ritual and political terms) than I would want for my son. Nine years ago while holding Michael in my arms on his first day of life, I called the synagogue in Guatemala City to arrange for his bris (ritual circumcision). I was told that since his biological mother was not Jewish, they would not have their Rabbi perform the ceremony. Needless to say, I was aghast and ever so disappointed. I wanted him to be lovingly received into a Jewish community. I wanted to share with him the songs and traditions I am familiar with. For me, being Jewish is part of my identity, my values and morals, my spirituality, my being. One synagogue is not interchangeable with another – I want to share with Michael the experiences I grew up with. I have yet to find that in Guatemala and he keeps getting older without a Jewish community.

My quandary is how can I create a meaningful Jewish experience, and ultimately a meaningful Bar Mitzvah experience for my son. I can go to the USA as I did for his conversion ceremony and his naming ceremony, but that is not the community where we live. I am from the USA, but we live in Guatemala. To travel just to have some basic needs met is not congruent with our life style. Also, his Bar Mitzvah is a family celebration and his / our family is here.

So … I frequently “Google” to see what I can find in the way of Jewish resources in Guatemala. Recently through internet research I found a relatively new Jewish community (again in Guatemala City) “CASA HILLEL” as well as their North American rabbi / sponsor - Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn. Through Rabbi Cukierkorn, I was able to meet the half dozen Guatemalan families who have created the Casa Hillel community. They have extended their hospitality to me and Michael to join them for Sabbath evening dinners and holidays. Our specific rituals and methods of Jewish expression have not (yet) meshed, but I look forward to the contact and what we can develop together.
Rabbi Cukierkorn serves a Kansas City Reform Jewish congregation that generously supports his travels internationally to serve families who want to re-cover their lost Jewish heritage or explore a Jewish path. This extraordinary Rabbi speaks 8 different languages - Spanish, Hebrew, English, etc. His wife is Honduran, so he has a special connection to Central American Jewry. He has performed weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, namings, conversions, etc. in a variety of countries in numerous native languages. I was impressed by his multi-cultural and welcoming approach to Judaism and modes of worship.

I had the recent opportunity to meet with the rabbi here in Antigua. I shared my experiences and voiced my concerns and wishes for a more organized Jewish Community here in Antigua. We talked of many possibilities and in time, I hope to develop something more structured to meet the needs of locals and travelers with a liberal North American or “Western” orientation to Judaism.

I am excitedly in conversation with Rabbi Cukierkorn about how we will together begin Michael’s formal Jewish education and plan for his Bar Mitzvah here in Antigua, Guatemala.

With Rabbi Cukierkorn’s support, I am exploring how to create bilingual Jewish learning events and activities in Antigua, Guatemala, to attract both Guatemalans and travelers interested in Jewish activities. I see him as my bridge builder as a way to honor and integrate Michael’s full cultural heritage.
Being able to celebrate this important religious experience in the place where I live with the community in which we live is an answer to my prayers. I would hope that our world-wide adoptive community can also find bridges to have the ability to celebrate our integration of cultures and beliefs.

I encourage anyone who wants to share their experiences to contact me via email Nancy@Guatemalainfo.com


Thanks !

Posted by Kevin at 08:58 PM

CNA Notice to Hogares

The CNA has issued a notice to hogares on their website. It can be found here: http://www.cna.gob.gt/anunciomayo.html

Here is a translation of what it says:
Advisory to all hogares to meet standards to be authorized and be registered by June 29, 2009 as required by law, Articles 30 and 31 of the Law of Adoptions.

Failure to register, the hogar will be subject to legal sanctions and not allowed to function as such.

Posted by Kevin at 12:44 PM

May 05, 2009

Story on ICA Immunizations

This story should not be new news to anyone but I figured I'd pass it along. It's basically confirmation of what we already knew - in ICA sometimes immunization records may not exactly match what the bloodwork would show. The story unfortunately doesn't give any specifics on Guatemala. And for those not aware, there is a titres exam that can be perfomed on a child to see if they have the immunities.

http://www.genengnews.com/news/bnitem.aspx?name=53825382

Posted by Kevin at 04:36 PM

February 22, 2009

An Opinion Article To Read - And Amen!

Here's a great opinion column about the fact that our kids can't become president. This is something mulling around in my head about how we can go about changing it. More on that in the future.

Here is the article: http://www.milforddailynews.com/opinion/x309632283/Connaughton-Presidential-dream-still-out-of-reach

Posted by Kevin at 08:03 PM

January 25, 2009

Searching for PAP

We are trying to locate some PAPs. Last names are Venegas and Todd. The child's first and middle initials are J.G. We have some imporant info for you. So please contact us.

Posted by Kevin at 11:21 AM

January 22, 2009

A day in history....

inaug.jpg

I'm sure you all saw it on TV and have been listening to the pundits. But I thought I'd post a first-hand, non-political perspective on the inauguration. First of all, we didn't make it to the swearing in. The place was packed and it proved to be just not compatible for us. But really, it didn't matter.

This was my third inauguration and it was unlike any of the others. I have never been in such a crowd where there was no tension, a sense of unity, and an overall aura of hope and belief. People of all ethnicities, geographies, and religions came together to celebrate our country overcoming a huge barrier in belonging. I am not able to 100% feel what this day meant to the African-American population, but there was no doubt about the intensity of the emotion.

I am so gald that we took the kids. In the years to come, it will prove to be a powerful moment to show them that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it. And now it is time for us to work to overcome the next barrier that directly impacts our kids - the Natural Born Citizen rule. Because our kids deserve the right to do what Obama has accomplished.

It remains to be seen whether Obama's vision an or will to come to fruition. For it to happen will require more than Congress passing laws, it will require a change in how each of us lives our daily lives and how we view our world. No matter what happens in that respect, we should all relish the fact that our democracy showed we still are in touch with the American ideals. So whether you supported Obama or not, please appreciate what a powerful thing has happened!

Posted by Kevin at 07:40 AM

December 18, 2008

Today's "Worst Person in the World"

I admit it, I stole the title from Olberman's "Countdown" Show. Each day, Keith Olberman picks the three most idiotic or shameful newsbites to proclaim who is facetiously the worst person in the world that day. He actually stole the idea from some old radio show or newspaper.

I found the story below about Warren Buffet and his granddaughter. Upfront, I've always been a fan of Buffet and this story doesn't speak of his side of things. It is obviously his choice to do with his money as he wishes. He's totally entitiled to cut off a grandchild from his wealth. But if he in fact wrote the letter mentioned in this story, the one where he says he and others in the family never adopted this girl, then Warren - you are today's worst person in the world! Shame on you for lashing out like my three year old and being so cruel!!! Adopted or biological - she's your granddaughter!!!!

http://www.marieclaire.com/warren-buffett-granddaughter-nicole-buffett


Posted by Kevin at 06:21 AM

December 13, 2008

A Nice Story - Congrats Donald Yager!

Anyone that has run into any complication in an adoption knows how hard it is to find people who will help and not just blow you off. Sadly, this is the worst when dealing with the government. He's a nice story about a great guy at USCIS who I can say from my interactions with him is the excpetion to the rule. It's great to see him recognized in this story and I'm ecstatic he received the award in DC!

http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/story/521901.html

Posted by Kevin at 07:19 PM

November 22, 2008

New ICA Website

DOS has retooled their ICA website in honor of Nat'l Adoption Month. You can find it here: http://adoption.state.gov

Posted by Kevin at 08:15 AM

October 17, 2008

Film Festival

Event: Central American Film Festival
Dates: November 3-8, 2008
Place: Vienna Austria

The event will take place at the Austrian Museum of Volkskunde and many other locations. It has many sponsors. For specific information of the many interesting film presentations please visit: www.centroamerica.at

The Films that will be presented are from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Honduras, Belize and Spain.

This event is organized by Papaya Media Association.

"Papaya Media Association is an independent, pluralistic and non-profit non-governmental organization which promotes the cultural exchange between the South and the North. Its objectives are the fight against ethnical, religious and sexual discrimination as well as the promotion of a peaceful living together of humanity in accordance with nature."

Activities include communication projects and the use of audiovisual means such as radio, cinema, video, internet, etc. Production and exchange of musical and visual expressions, of plastic art, journalistic services, information about solidarity, environment protection, cooperation, peace, human rights, social inclusion and social justice.

Visit their site: http://www.papayamedia.org

Posted by Marie at 05:10 AM

EARTHQUAKE

A strong earthquake was felt throughout Guatemala, which caused much alarm among the population, especially in the south and east, where it was strongly felt.

According to official information from the Insituto de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meteorologia e Hidrologia (Insivumeh), the earthquake measured 6.6 on the Richter scale.

The first shake was felt at 13:41, and continuing tremors insued.

The epicenter of the quake was 200 kms from the capital, and 75.20 kms from the coast of Chiapas. Technically it is known that it occured at the Placa de Los Cocos.

Emergency services are calling for calm during futher tremors and to have emergency supplies handy.
Updates on damages will be reported as verified news comes in.

Posted by Marie at 04:41 AM

October 16, 2008

WEATHER ALERT

A tropical depression is warned for Guate, heavy rains are expected.
A yellow alert has been issued and the areas most affected will be:
The departaments of Izabal, Peten, Alta y Baja Verapaz.
Affected areas will be updated as we get verified news.

Posted by Marie at 03:51 AM

October 05, 2008

GT News: Prison Term for Child Trafficking

Translated below by Marie, Guatadopt.com

Going To Prison for Trying To Sell Children on the Internet

By: Jessica Gramajo, Sunday, Siglo 21

Link:http://www.sigloxxi.com/noticias/23609

Two women who were in custody were sent last night to prison by order of the Judge on duty, Angel Contreras, for trying to sell two children. The Prosecutor's Office against trafficking in persons sought to prosecute the women for the crimes of trafficking, conspiracy and unlawful association.

The accused tried to sell them through the Internet, a child of 2 years of age and their biosilbing, another child who is about to be born.

The detainees, who demanded 5 thousand euros for each child, are Karen Evelyn Velazquez de Galindo, 42-year-old, and mother of the infants, Gloria Elizabeth Giron Velasquez, 28.
The operation was aborted after a warning that was received by representatives of Casa Alianza Spain by two Spanish journalists, who conducted an investigation posing as parents who wanted to adopt a child from Guatemala.

The local headquarters of Casa Alianza denounced the fact to the Public Prosecutor's Office last Thursday, according to the prosecutor Juan Jose Mendez.
"The captured offered several children, among them Marlon Velasquez Alejandro Giron of 2 years of age and his brother, who was not born yet," said Claudia Rivera, director of Casa Alianza Guatemala.Guatemala.

5 THOUSAND EUROS:
=for each child, that is what the women were asking from the alleged adoptive parents who were Spaniards.

Follow up-
For full story see Link: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/octubre/05/267922.html

Translated below :

".......Reporters investigating the purchase of children from Latin America, viewed several Web sites, where they scored their data, and were posing as an interested family.

But only response received from Guatemala. Velasquez sent them a video illustrating her experience in the field and how she had delivered a child in Panama.

"The mode of operation was to take the women who was pregnant with the child to be born abroad, and then that the adoptive parents to register it as their own," said Juan Jose Mendez, of the Human Trafficking Unit of the Attorney Against Organized Crime.

According to Mendez, Velasquez would have 10 years of engaging in this business, but it was until this year when they started with this method for selling the minors, because of the new law on adoptions.

Posted by Marie at 05:17 AM

GT Culture: Guatemalan Cuisine

If you are not a follower of our Forum, then you may not know that Guatemalan cuisine and recipes is one of our favorite topics. We are in hopes of putting together a Guatemalan cookbook to raise funds for our DO GOOD foundation, hopefully after the calendar we can start putting this major project together.
We will keep you posted. In the meanwhile, while cooking shows are all the rage here in the states, it too is in Guate. Below is a translated article from the newspaper. Those that know me well, know first hand how I wish I could be on this show! Enjoy and Buen provecho!
Marie, Guatadopt.com

Link: http://www.sigloxxi.com/noticias/23574
(see photo provided)

Touring the Guatemalan Kitchen

The new television program, The taste of my land, whose first installment will air on October 17, displays the gastronomic wealth of the country.

Carla Natareno, Siglo 21 | cnatareno@sigloxxi.com


The producer, a Guatemalan, Ana Carlos presents a new television program called "The Taste of My Homeland", where two Guatemalan chefs embark on a journey through the country to discover the secrets of culinary and gastronomic delights of each of the corners of Guatemala. The first transmission will reach the small screen this upcoming October 17.

This project, according to its producer, comes after presenting the series, "Snack of the Gods", which was broadcast in 2006, which showed the national cuisine. Ana Carlos thought, then take up the idea and make it reach the public in a different and entertaining.

In his head resonated the formula: Guatemalan food + chefs from different parts of the country + cooks + rescue kitchen secrets of cooking traditions = The taste of my land.

"This program is kind of a road movie, as they cook and travel to different parts of the country," said Carlos.

Mircini Molibiate and Eduardo Gonzalez are the chefs and presenter of the program, who travel throughout the country with the intention of discovering and learning to cook from gastronomic delights from every place they visit, with the help and instruction of the inhabitants of the region They share their culinary secrets and their ancestral recipes.

"I have learned many secrets that Guatemalans are unaware of the kitchen, and this program can be a contribution to rescue gastronomic traditions that are being lost," says Molibiate, while ensuring that viewers have fun with the different situations that she and her companion experienced in each program, already living with charismatic personalities and very special.

Creating a National Viewership
Breaking with the idea that the Guatemalans just like to see cable programming, is one of the goals that Ana Carlos has to do in this project. "People identify with national work. This production is so interesting and important as the production of any country, "he says.

With this program, its director also hopes to help keep alive the gastronomic culture of the country and demonstrate the great cultural wealth that is displayed at our table.

The taste of my land will have six chapters and the first will be seen on national television on October 17 on Channel 3, at eight o'clock in the evening. It will be broadcast again on Oct. 26, at ten o'clock, and Nov. 1 at two in the afternoon, on the same channel.

The following episodes can be seen during the months of December, February, April, June and August.
The series kicks off with the program in the east, which shows the preparation of dishes such as mojarra, quesadillas and chicken with loroco, as well as the development of chicharrones. Then, Guatemalans will learn from the hands of Molibiate and Gonzalez, preparing recipes from La Antigua Guatemala, Peten, Coban, Quetzaltenango and the Garifuna community.

In each of his trips, the two cooks will have to adapt to the different cooking utensils from each region, and their ways of cooking. They should use the comal, tusas, firewood and other unusual crafts in the schools of haute cuisine.

Posted by Marie at 04:58 AM

September 30, 2008

RENAP: Agreement Reached

Link: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/septiembre/29/266727.html

After eight hours of negotiations, the Government and mayors of the country agreed on 14 points for the hand over of the registries to the National Register of Persons(RENAP) and has the endorsement of the community and the general population.

The agreements allow for the lifting of the blockades on several roads that kept the communities blocked to put pressure on the mayors to resist the operation of RENAP.

Both sides pledged to do their part to "avoid social conflicts", based on recent events that have occurred, such as the withholding of Mayors, as happened in San Francisco El Alto, Tetonicapan, or blockades today.

While RENAP enter into force as mandated by law, starting tomorrow, it was agreed to implement a transition to the municipalities where there is doubt about the work they do, providing training.

Also, to avoid misinformation that can be misused, it will launch a campaign to explain the nature and purpose of RENAP.

The books of historical records, which they see as its stocked with heritage, continue in the power of municipalities but must be willing to submit to RENAP for its conversion into the computers.

In addition, there is a commitment to enable a permanent table for work that is the point where they resolved all doubts that the mayors have on this institution.

Finally, and as a demonstration of political will, as reflected in the document, the government will collect the concerns of mayors to integrate a package that will serve as inputs for an eventual change in the law of the branch, to which the secretaries of the political parties represented in Congress pledged to provide answers.

Until today, more than 250 communes had moved their records to RENAP.

Posted by Marie at 05:12 AM

August 14, 2008

JCICS/ETHICA/NCFA Appeal

JCICS in conjuction with Ethica and NCFA are trying to get a grip on how many in-process cases there are in order to help them with their advocacy efforts. They have a survey they are requesting all in-process PAPs to fill out. I would lay faith in their promise that personal info won't be shared and recommend everyone fill it out.

You can find info and a link to the form here: http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala.htm

Posted by Kevin at 09:47 PM

July 19, 2008

Kelly is recovering

I spoke to Kelly's husband today. She had her surgery yesterday and is recovering well. Better than expected according to him.

Next week will be very dry. I am moving and am not sure when I will have internet access. Kelly will obviously be recouprerating. Hang in there...

Posted by Kevin at 05:56 PM

June 02, 2008

Cases Only Registered with the First CNA

As most of you will recall, when the grandfathering process and CNA registration process began, there was some controversy of who was in fact the BOD for the CNA. For a few days, cases were being registered by the BOD that had been appointed by former Guatemalan President Berger. Eventually it was settled and the BOD appointed by President Colom took over, got the cases registered with a different form than the first, and issued registration numbers that were not a part of process with "the first CNA".

A certain number of cases, estimated to be possibly as many as 250, were only registered with the first CNA and thus never received registration numbers. These cases at the moment stuck in a state of limbo. A Yahoo Group has been creates to join these families together. If you have never received a registration number, then please click on more to learn about it and read a message from its moderator.

Posted on behalf of the Yahoo group Moderator:

About 250 families were signed up at the first registration procedure, but not the second. Because only the second procedure resulted in a number, these families, who got all their paperwork done and their power of attorney filed on time, have been in limbo for months, their cases unable to go forward. The number of families involved, around 250, is very significant - it is close to 10% of the total number of grandfathered cases. Very unfortunately, a very high percentage - as high as 95% of these families - don't know that they're in this situation. This makes it very hard for this group to advocate for themselves. Since most of the families are unaware of their situation, they are of course not taking any action to rectify it. This is very unfortunate for them - their adoptions are in jeopardy, and there is nothing they can do to help themselves because they are not even aware of their situation.

This probably also has a very unfortunate effect at the Consejo. As they see silence from most of the families involved, they probably assume that the families in this situation don't care. And even those families who do know they're in this situation are scattered and isolated. The legal opinion from Guatemala is that if this were to go to court, the families would most likely win, because their lawyers did do their part to register them with one version of the CNA. The case for these families is legally very strong. But the resolution to this issue has been slow in coming. This forum has been opened to allow everyone impacted by this issue to get together, communicate, and work towards solving the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Yahoo Group name: CNAregistration

Group home page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CNAregistration

Posted by Kevin at 10:11 PM

June 01, 2008

Opinion Column in Prensa Libre

Today's Presna Libre has a worth-while OPINION column entitled "What happened to adoptions". It raises many of the issues faced when cash poor governments attempt to centralize and control adoption systems, at the behest of organizations like Unicef who are all too often more talk and pressure than help. This is a huge issue that Unicef ignores and that the world community (especially the Hague) needs to address to the long term implications of the saddening trend in intercountry adoption.

The story can be found here: Download file

A translation can be found by clicking on more.

What happened to adoptions?

BY:Manuel F. Ayau Cordon

A thankless unfortunately imposition imposed by a law to for Guatemalan children was the success that Unicef had (with its efforts and contributions juicy, bad languages mentioned in $ 900 thousand) to ensure an end to adoptions of abandoned children, who also had success in other countries they made their case histories phantasmatic, leaving thousands of children without families and in a state of miserable poverty, begging, prostitution and crime, if not aborted, for lack of homes willing to adopt them. (I remember that the U.S. Government. UU. Suspended aid to Unicef by indirectly promoting abortion).

Many surprised with phrases like "They do not love the children, since it ceased to be a business." It is cruel and cynical refer to those providing the service to receive, retain, give shelter, feed, providing medicines, dental services, medical and education to abandoned children, recoup these costs through voluntary contributions and the payment of compensation that give services to youths who are abandoned.

The term "trade in children" sounds so insidious as if they criticize the Press news that say "sells for money" or that diplomats from the Unicef charge money for their services. Unfortunately, for reasons that come from far away, even before Dickens earn money has had a bad name, but the entire world does so because it has nothing bad, and even churches seeking money ( "charity").

We know of isolated cases of theft of children in Europe, U.S. and other countries where the cure is not to punish thousands of innocent children, but a few offenders. But here in Guatemala it has been punished to some? Are you aware that foreign adoptions are carried out mainly (95%) for EE. UU. And that its government requires two DNA maternity tests and prior authorization? It is said that they abduct babies to extract organs, as if this does not require the facilities to do so, qualified medical personnel, compatibility testing and acceptance of origin and procedure by the recipient, a process difficult to achieve, especially in hiding. If the government knows this, why not apprehend the criminals? Meanwhile, while more yellow and the ghostly tale, more like a morbid minds.

Now it appears that only the government can handle adoptions and, consequently, have closed private homes for abandoned children, and, according to the Press, adoptions have stopped because the Government has neither the funds nor homes to care for these children. Care costs money that previously was paid voluntarily, without charge to a treasury. Now the new bureaucracy resorts to give them care in a "chosen" people who will have to pay to cover maintenance costs, and so on. We will have to finance the people with their taxes (Will trade?, Do business?, Did bribes?).

The greatest damage, which obviously do not care, has been depriving many young people abandoned a family, a home to grow and develop, an opportunity to be educated, and a promising future. This law constitutes cruelty, and should be repealed, but not like the ambassadors of countries and institutions to "help" and that only because they believe money is entitled to interfere and impose their ideological judgements on what is not incumbent.

----------------------------------
Another translation (which is probably clearer):
Ayau article on ADAGuatemala.org

ADA also posted a new article talking about their take on the recent events HERE.

Posted by Kevin at 10:12 AM

May 15, 2008

Adoption Partners Uncovered by WYFF

Greenville, South Carolina NBC affilliate WYFF aired a story tonight about Adoption Partners and its owner, Joanne Mitchell.

What is interesting and disturbing is that despite numerous complaints to the Department of Social Services, it took WYFF's Emmy nominated investigative reporter Tim Waller to take action. I guess that's why his segment is called "Looking out for you".

Click here for the story. \.WYFF Story

It also worth noting that not too long ago, Joanne purchased the agency Adoption Resource Center of Florida. They also had other offices in Idaho, North Carolina and Maryland with the website: http://adoptresource.org that no longer works (you can find it via archive.org). There are other non-related agencies with the same name.

Posted by Kevin at 10:31 PM

May 01, 2008

A View On The Current Situation

Guatadopt prides itself on allowing all opinions an equal voice and being objective. Obviously from my latest Writer's Corner post and how we covered the current situation, I have been more understanding of what the CNA is facing and the current course of action. With that said, Hannah Wallace is someone for whom I have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration. In the piece below, she makes some very excellent points and hers is a voice that definitely deserves to be heard.

So PLEASE click on more to read her take.

Posted on behalf of Hannah Wallace, President of Focus on Adoption

Last Friday, the Press in Guatemala announced that the new Attorney General and the new director of the Adoption Unit at the PGN, in conjunction with the new CNA, were going to "audit" all cases, and investigate all cases including birthmother interviews. We know that the last PGN were selectively investigating all cases, including abandonments, and sent many abandonment cases -after months of investigating them -
to other courts to have them investigate the abandonment decrees for "validity".

Susana Luarca posted a response to these issues on www.adaguatemala.org that raises the legitimate legal question of whether the CNA has any legal jurisdiction over the grandfathered cases. It does not take a lawyer to know that the only role the CNA has in the grandfathered cases was in their registration and there are legitimate concerns about the abuses of authority which has characterized the last administration, where the rule of law was compromised by many parties: the President, the Department of State, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in arguing for the reinstatement of the Hague Treaty, the Congress in over riding the Constitutional Court in passing the Hague Treaty accession, and the Congress in passing an adoption law - under duress from Unicef and the U.S. Department of State - which violates the notarial process and birthfamily relinquishment rights, as well as putting children at great risk, while undermining the current child care system which is entirely private and relies on adoption fees. There are those who will argue that violations of the adoption law justifies asserting policies which are, in themselves, illegal. * It is a personal opinion that this is a slippery slope.It is easy to find some abuses in the former process, as well as to declare that they are more widespread than they might be, in order to rationalize actions which may have no legal precedent. I think that serious violations (not minor ones) have many LEGAL recourses to address them.

However, shortly after alerting CCAI to those issues and plans, with concerns that the CNA had not started doing the work of developing regulations for new cases, and were inappropriately getting involved in grandfathered cases, the PGN held a meeting with some adoption Attorneys and this meeting was reported as being mainly favorable by some observers and attendees. However, now we have a report in Siglo XXI which contradicts the substance of the meeting and creates a lot of anxiety about when the PGN will begin to approve cases, what authorities they will assume in order to do so, and what role the CNA will play in the grandfathered cases, a extraordinarily large number of which are being considered to have violations (650) by what standard it is hard to know.

There are some who in trying to "understand" the CNA and PGN are in some ways defending actions which are an abuse of authority, violates the current laws, and in so doing are giving the new Central Authority and other now powerful government officials a big benefit of "doubt", as it is not at all clear that those who are now in positions of power in regard to children and adoptions have "the best interests of the child" in mind.
In fact, I think that we need to find out more about the various individuals who now are in power in Guatemala, what their inter-relationships are, what roles they've played in the past, and determine what actually needs to be done in order to (1) assure that all legal adoptions in process get resolved as quickly as possible as many have been delayed for years with no cause (2) examine what the role of the courts are in this new "regime" and whether they are independent (3) examine the history of those who now comprise the power in the CNA (4) determine what has been accomplished by the CNA in developing the regulations which the law does enpower them to do (5) and have a more public dialogue about ways to replicate the services (albeit inconsistent) that were only being provided by private service providers and now are being provided by no one, or by the severely disadvantaged private hogar system of childcare. I call upon Guatemalans with knowledge of their politics to lend some insight into the positions, political alliances, and any prior consideration of child welfare issues to support these appointments.

How many of those orphanages have closed? or are closing? Where have the children gone when their Hogar closes? How many children have been born and not been able to be relinquished since Dec.31 ? What has happened to children all over Guatemala who might have gone into the adoption process if it were available.? With fewer hogares available, with many only able to care for the children already in their care, with few government alternatives and with no funding for childcare, one has to question the emphasis on former evils and lack of acknowlegement of current and future evils which are being visited upon the most disadvantaged in Guatemala.

It's time for all to stop feeding off the problems of the past and begin to try to find solutions within the current law, which the US Department of State and Unicef and other so called child advocates worked so long and hard to pass. Let's not emphasize finding past officials accountable on the backs of the current and pending adoptions; let's follow the law and complete those adoptions AND hold the current officials accountable for putting a new system into place that truly puts children first !!!! That would be a small miracle, IMHO.

Hannah Wallace, President, Focus On Adoption

Posted by Kevin at 07:00 PM

April 16, 2008

Consider Glass Pachas

For those that don't know, in Guatemalan Espanol, "pacha" is the word for a baby bottle (it is "biberon" in most Spanish speaking countries). Sorry for not having proper accents and symbols - they don't always work on our blog program.

We don't usually post this kind of stuff but this one seems relevant. So here is a story worth readong and considering the use of glass pachas: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080415/sc_nm/plastic_bottles_dc;_ylt=AhxHUDqA1AXlz5eW47RsN6es0NUE

Posted by Kevin at 10:56 AM

March 30, 2008

Preparing our kids for racism...

A few months ago I found a cool site about Anti-Racist Parenting. Actually, I found it because I was googling myself and this site had a thread on it about a quote of mine from a magazine story. In any case, I think many of you would be interesting in this site and in particular a thread I found on it today about preparing our kids for the racism they WILL face during their lives.

So here is the link: http://www.antiracistparent.com/2008/03/28/race-is-not-a-four-letter-word/#more-373

Posted by Kevin at 04:08 PM

March 12, 2008

In light of recent comments...

We've received a number of questions and comments requesting clarification or assurances that our children are not going to be seized, extradited, or deported. This hysteria is stemming from statements attributed to Guatemala Solicitor General Mario Gordillo in an AP story about Casa Quivira.

The story says this:

If fraud is proven, whatever the reason, Guatemala would invalidate the adoption and try to recover the child, even one that has already become a U.S. citizen.
"We would have to do that, according to the law," Gordillo said.
Custody disputes with Guatemala for babies already in the United States would eventually land before a judge in the adoptive family's hometown, according to the U.S. Embassy.

First thing tomorrow I will see if I can get an official statement from someone. But come on, let’s be real and not freak out. There is no reason for concern, our children are our children. Our adoptions were and are legal. And no one is going to question that.

There is no precedent for otherwise. None. Not Cambodia. Not past Guatemalan scandals. Not Russia. Not even instances in El Salvador where it is known that the children of people suspected of being guerilla were taken by the government and adopted. In the Casa Quivira case, the issue seems to be false identities for the legitimate birthmothers. Hardly all that sinister in the context of other scandals.

Who do you think is going to knock on your door and take your child? Who is going to fly them to Guatemala? Who is going to meet them there? You get my point.

Other questions involve travelling and is it safe. My honest answer is that I am sure it is. Once again, our children are our children. Our adoptions are legal and legitimate. Our children are US citizens.

I do not think that anyone should take one statement as it was printed in an AP story, all of which is not a direct quote, and start hiring lawyers because the adoption cops are about to come kidnap your child. As someone who has been misquoted or quoted out of context many times in newspapers, it happens all the time. Don’t take everything you read at face value.

As I said, I’ll see what official statements I can get. But right now I think our thoughts are best spent directed toward supporting the families and children caught up in this Casa Quivira mess. They do have cause for concern and by god it would be a shame if children were denied loving families because of outdated US law and stupid, blatant disrespect for the rule of law. There is a lot of finger pointing going on about whom it was that falsified these identities. Whoever was responsible I am sure we can all agree on one thing – it wasn’t the children.

Posted by Kevin at 10:24 PM

March 02, 2008

Please take a look - missing kids

The Prensa Libre today has a story about some children that are missing and suspected of being in-process for adoption.

I encourage everyone to go to http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/marzo/02/223477.html# and look to the right. Under the picture, click on "ver galeria" and look at the three pictures. A new window will pop up and then you click on "presione aqui".

If you recognize one of the kids, let us know.

The PAP community has helped before in locating kids and it is crucial that we show PAPs are vigilant about ethical adoption processes and part of the solution.

Posted by Kevin at 08:37 AM

February 11, 2008

Don't trust everything....

Some times when something gets said enough it starts to sound like the truth...

One of the Guatemalan papers ran a story over the weekend about 100+ attorneys not registering cases. One of the cool things about our forums is that Marie posts stories of relevance from the Guatemalan papers. This is done often for cultural and educational reasons as well as for us to see what media the average Guatemalan does.

Just because it is in the papers and just because we posted the story DOES NOT mean it is true.

For the record: Guatadopt does NOT know of ANY attorneys who are refusing to register their cases. Some waited until their amaparo was ruled on. Even if you disagree with the fact that some waited until after the amapro, it is not reason to demonize anyone. To think that out of selfishness they’d prevent an adoption to be completed is crazy. The attorneys want the cases completed too.

In another story in the papers over the weekend, it was alleged that 500 of the in-process cases involve kidnappings. I do not want anyone to believe that any comments we have made imply this to be true because I am willing to bet it is not. The same story alleges that DNA tests are being carried out in an unethical manner. It even implies that tests are done via blood rather than saliva – also not true. Those of us in the adoption community know the rigorous process for DNA and the fact that tests are only done by a select few, embassy approved doctors.

I appeal to the DOS and CIS staff at the Embassy to try to dispel this myth.

In short, don’t believe everything that is in the Guatemalan papers. From my perspective, from Day One the Prensa Libre has tried to defend Berger’s appointees. We all know its history with adoption related issues. So it does not surprise me to see it continuing to be filled with half-truths or non-truths.

Remember, when something is an editorial, even the paper is saying it is an opinion, not fact.

Lastly, please EVRYONE let’s not search for saints and demons because we all lie somewhere between the two. Let’s everyone shed our positions and just stay focused on the immediate task at hand – getting cases registered. To attorneys that means having your paperwork buttoned up and the forms filled out completely and correctly. For the CNA it means being rational. For PAPs it means a bit of patience and faith. Anything that slows down the process at this point is a travesty.


Posted by Kevin at 10:37 AM

February 08, 2008

Attn: Waiting Angels Clients

Suzan Sanford from the MI Attorney General's Office wants to hear from any clients with a grievance against Waiting Angels. Even if you have called or e-mailed her before, you are requested to do so again. Her contact information is: SanfordS @ michigan.gov (517) 373-1140 or Toll Free (877) 765-8388.

I do not believe she reads this stie so do not expect questions left as comments to be answered.

Posted by Kevin at 09:54 PM

January 28, 2008

In-Process Support Group

Click on more for info on joining a Yahoo group specifically designed as a support group for in-process families. This has to be an incredibly stressful time for all of you and any help you can get is a good idea. Public forums and sites like ours do that in part but sometmes the less-public nature of an e-mail group is better. Guatadopt is not involved with this group, we're jjust spreading the word.

Posted on behalf of the group moderator:

This Group is primarily for those in-process in Guatemala. This Group is a safe place for you to vent, share and receive support so you can survive the huge amount of trauma in your life from this adoption! If you are not in-process, please let me know why you are applyng and we will determine on a case-by-case basis whether or not to approve membership.

AGENCY/PROFESSIONALS: Normally, I would not open this group to professionals, but I will leave it up to the members. Your application will be put before the membership prior to approval.

This Group is moderated by a veteran moderator of the Yahoo Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome Group and a local Guatemala Adoption Family group. (I am a homeschooling mom of three children from Guatemala, two adopted in 1999/2000 and one adopted in spite of the 2003 Hague debacle. The picture is one of my sweeties!)
to join, visit: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EstamosEsperando/

Posted by Kevin at 01:39 PM

January 14, 2008

Dateline NBC Website - Submit Your Pictures and Story

Dateline has launched parts of its website. I urge our readers to contribute to the discussion and "portrait" that will inevitably develop. In doing so, I can't urge you enough to walk (or type) the higher ground. Be very careful with your words and please be constructive and critical, yet also polite.

The debate following this show will undoubtedly get heated. There are rational people on all sides of the debate - people with firm beliefs. There are people who have been victimized; we can not ignore the reality in their experiences. Equally important though is the larger picture beyond individual cases. What should countries do about corruption in order to keep the positive aspects of adoption? In that debate, we families with children from Guatemala are the voice of the positive aspects of adoption.

We’re not bureaucrats. We’re not NGOs. We don’t earn our living though adoption. We are just ordinary families with children we love more than words could describe. Many of us now support children and other projects in Guatemala. Many of us know the story of children’s birthmother. Our experience is more than just paying someone in order to adopt a child from some easy country. I could go on but you get the idea.

On a site like Guatadopt, we engage in debate among a small niche in American culture – those involved with Guatemalan adoptions. But with something like Dateline NBC’s website, you are talking about all of e-literate America. With our words, each and every one of us becomes an ambassador for us all.

Links to what’s currently on Dateline’s website are below. Before going there, let me caution y’all that the things Victoria Corderi writes about were uncovered by Dateline. Victoria is not making baseless accusations. Remember that before commenting on the site.

Victoria Corderi's blog (where you can comment): http://insidedateline.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/01/14/577517.aspx

Submit pictures of your children and tell your adoption story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22650538/

No matter what we may think of the Dateline piece that airs, NBC has given us an opportunity to speak about intercountry adoption. We have a chance to show the positive side of intercountry adoption. We have a chance to show the children thriving in loving families because of intercountry adoption from Guatemala. We always ask for balance. Well this is one time where a grassroots effort can tip the scales in a positive way. Tell your friends and family to post about the many blessings that have come through adoption.

But remember, you’re an ambassador!

Use Guatadopt and other forums as the place to discuss the nitty gritty. We can get a bit uglier here. Let’s all use this chance with Dateline’s website to demonstrate why we’re so passionate about Guatemala’s children deserving a chance to join a permanent family - a family just like our own.

Posted by Kevin at 08:05 PM

January 10, 2008

Dateline Air Date - January 20

I just spoke with the producer of the long awaited Dateline NBC piece. The story will air on Sunday, January 20th.

First of all, for those of you with adopted children old enough to comprehend the show, you may wish to consider taping it or watching it without your children present. I am not at liberty to discuss the exact content of the show, nor do I know all of it. But some of it, IMHO, could be detrimental for children from Guatemala to see if they are old enough to understand it, but not old enough to put it into perspective.

In addition to the broadcast, Dateline will also be devoting some of its website to the Guatemala Adoption story. That won't go live likely until the show airs. Their programmers are hard at work right now building some sort of page where families can submit pictures of their kids and their stories. Once I have more info on that, and the URL, we will post it.

Lastly, I'd like everyone to realize upfront that this will not be a glowing story about the beauties and positives of Guatemalan adoptions. No media organization could do a story on Guatemalan adoptions and keep it all positive. Most of the story (which I have not seen) will most likely not be positive. However, I am very optimistic that all sides will be covered and the perspective, if not the ratio of air time, will be balanced. So be prepared for that.

Guatadopt did aid Dateline's producer with this story. Troy will be making his network television debut.... Realize that what we have found with the media is that while helping them does not make it a story we'd write, it does impact the net result. I have seen how talks I've had with reporters don't reult in lots of my brilliant quotes in their finished stories, but they do influence the overall tone of the story. So in short, everyone will obviously be free to criticize us for participating in this, but know that we did it knowing full well what the end result would be, with realistic expectations.

Posted by Kevin at 04:50 PM

January 08, 2008

LA Times Op-Ed and On Milwaukee Piece

Today's LA Times has an Op-Ed witten by Elizabeth Larsen. I think it's an excellent piece that makes some good points and addresses a very important issue all of us must face - how will we explain everything to our kids given all the negative media exposure. You can find the story here: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-larsen7jan07,0,6819256.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

Here is another story written by Molly Edler for On Milwaukee about the challenges of waiting for homecoming: http://onmilwaukee.com/family/articles/motherfest010708.html?13680. I know many of you can appreciate it!

Posted by Kevin at 09:53 AM

December 18, 2007

Misc Updates

A bunch of small stuff going so I figured I'd throw them all together in one post. So please read on....

1.) Prensa Libre yesterday ran a story about he Human Rights office requesting a suspension of adoptions. If you read the comments on our 'Update on In process Designation" thread. You will find alll we know about it. I amnot sure if this is meant to just not have anything to occur on in prcoess cases until Jan 1, if it is an attempt to prevent any new cases from starting, or exactly what it means. my OPINION is that it is irrelevant and this is nothing more than tehe PDH going after some media attention. So don't worry about this one to much. Cick here for the story.

2.) Calendars have shipped and arriving. We apoogize for the fact that we don't have tracking numbers easily available. If you received a confirmation of your order, don't worry they are coming. I've answered many inquiries and have yet to find one where the ordered calendars were not on hte ship list.

3.) Do Good UPDATE - I sent out our first payment for feeding operations yesterday. Since our launch, sales of Do Good items have paid for 10,000 meals for orphans in Guatemala!!!!

4.) The BBC News ran a few adoption stories. I think this one is especially important as it shows pictures of what the private adoption system provides so far as "institutional" care is concerned. This is important for the power barons to remember when they pass laws that give all power and authority to the government. Click here for the story.

5.) After tonight, I will be out of pocket until Christmas. So if you e-mail me (Kevin) and get no reply, it's becaue I have no e-mail access.

6.) FTGA sent me their Holiday Giving Update. As usual, FTGA families and adoptive families throughout the US stepped up to take part once again in the FTGA Holiday Giving Back Project with Behrhorst Partners for Development. To date, families from 17 states have participated raising $7300. Here are the sponsorships to date:

* Family gardens for 24 families
* Chicken farms for 22 families
* Fruit farms for 56 families
* Sponsorship for 60 women to join an embroidery cooperative

All told to date, 162 rural Guatemalan families will be given to opportunity to increase their ability to create family income by these sponsorships. Thanks for your continued support. If you would like to participate in the Holiday Giving Back Project, please visit www.ftga.net to learn more.

Posted by Kevin at 01:48 PM

November 24, 2007

NPR Story on Adoptions

NPR did a very intersting segment on esteem and development of adopted children versus biological families. The study featured basically showed that adoptied children, even in interracial, families do not suffer from low self esteem. You can listen to it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16572430

Thanks to our friend Richrd for sending this on!

Posted by Kevin at 10:26 AM

November 19, 2007

Editorial from FOA

Posted on behalf of Focus on Adoption:

On November 6, leaders of the Guatemalan Congress met in a symposium to discuss the pending adoption law. What has been reported in the newspapers, by JCICS, and other congressional observers is that they decided that new legislation is in order, which would provide:
*a strong grandfather clause
*designate April 30, 2008 as an effective implementation date of the Convention
*allocate $3 million quetzales for the creation of the Central Authority
*create a new government entity to act as the Central Authority
* provides for private, non profit accredited entities to provide services for children
*allows single adoptive parents to apply to adopt
* provides a functional process by which children can find permanent, safe and loving families

This reconsideration by Congress reflects a realistic and responsible assessment of the great needs of Guatemalan children to be provided with protections before birth, during birth, and after birth - especially if their birth families are unable to provide for them and are considering an adoption plan once the child is born, while also taking into consideration the standards and tenets of the Hague Treaty. They also took into consideration the serious constitutional issues raised by the Ortega Bill (#3217) which passed the third reading, as well as the very serious social and child welfare consequences of the Ortega Bill, which provided no funding, no way for relinquishing parent(s) to enter the "system", has children in state run orphanages for unspecified periods of time, and essentially would contribute to illegal and unsafe abortions, infanticide, anonymous abandonment, and put children at great risk. This is why the Ortega Bill had not gotten past the 2nd reading for 3 years, nor had its predecessor, the Valladeres Law, both of which were championed by Unicef and the Permanent Bureau of the Hague. By no stretch of the imagination can the Ortega Bill be considered to be " in the best interests of the child", except that it will stop current adoption abuses because it will stop adoptions. For several months, Congress has had an alternative bill, #3635 which is also Hague compliant, but provides for delivery of the necessary social services in a functional adoption system, with oversight and regulation. This bill has been virtually ignored by the governments of the US and Guatemala, as well as Unicef.

However, it is being reported that U.S. Consul General John Lowell and U.S. Ambassador Denham were highly instrumental in pushing the third reading of the Ortega Law and are now contacting members of the Guatemalan congress individually to ask them to vote for a January 1 implementation date and to pass the Ortega Bill as stands. The only good thing about this is that AT LAST we know where the U.S. Department of State stands, as the transparency which has been called for by the Hague Treaty has not characterized the DOS' interactions with the adoption community in regard to Hague implementation in Guatemala.

Since March of 2006, when the U.S. Department of State announced that they were considering Guatemala to be a Hague country (despite the accession of 2003 being declared illegal by the Constitutional Court) and would expect Guatemala to enact Hague Compliant legislation if Guatemalan children could continue to be adopted by U.S. families when the Hague Treaty goes into effect in the U.S., all participants in the Guatemalan adoption community - especially experienced adoption professionals - have provided input to the Guatemalan and U.S. Congress as well as the Department of State and various Guatemalan and U.S. officials, about creating a model of Hague compliance and regulatory oversight which also assures children the opportunity to gain permanent families as early in their lives as possible. However, while the U.S. is accrediting private adoption service providers to provide the broad range of services an adoption requires, as well as being held accountable for maintaining good practices, the U.S. seems unwilling to accept a similar model from sending countries. Considering that the sending countries also have minimal public social services (prenatal, natal and post natal assistance), - and that Guatemala has the highest infant and child mortality rate, highest child malnutrition rate, lowest education rate in the region -it appears that the sending countries need private services and the involvement of the private sector the most.

Instead of incorporating the concerns of the experienced, and used this opportunity to promote needed improvements to the Guatemalan adoption system, while keeping its strengths intact, the US Department of State has instead contributed to an increasingly chaotic and lawless process in their attempts to stop US citizens from adopting from Guatemala, and encouraged misinterpretations and misapplications of existing laws and contributed to increased polarization and politicization, none of which serves the best interests of the children they are purporting to protect.

Not only did the U.S. insist that Guatemala pass "Hague Compliant" legislation, but they insisted that the Guatemalan Congress vote to reaffirm the Hague Treaty, despite the Constitutional Court decision of 2003. In an effort to protect adoptions of Guatemalan children to the U.S., the Guatemalan Congress passed a law which would go into effect on Dec.31, 2007. The intention was that after that date, the new papers of accession would go to the Hague to take effect by April or May 2008. If the former accession papers could be used, why did the U.S. even insist that they vote again on the Hague? Now the Congress is restating its intentions, by stating that new adoption laws and the Hague Treaty effect date should be on or after April 30, 2008 and the U.S. Department of State, via Consul General John Lowell and the Ambassador, are trying to get the Guatemalan congressmen to set an implementation date for the Hague Treaty and the new legislation for January 1, 2008. They are also STRONGLY supporting the

Ortega Bill despite more than 10 constitutional problems and its serious and horrible consequences to children.
One only has to look at the intercountry adoption systems in all of Central and South America, who have models similar to the Ortega Bill, to see how dysfunctional such laws are in providing adequate adoption services. Thousands of children are in institutions or on the streets or living lives of unremitting poverty, thousands are without families while thousands of families all around the world would be willing to embrace them. These children have become the invisible victims of purported child protection bills. These bills do not provide for more family support services, nor child and family welfare services, they only create bureaucratic hindrances to intercountry adoption.

The Department of State needs to be accountable to the huge number of US citizen families who have been touched by intercountry adoption and those who can bear witness to the fact that children from our children's homelands cannot be adopted. While Congress celebrated the passage of the Adoption Law of 2000 and the US intent to ratify the Hague Treaty, lauding it as an achievement in child protection, we do not believe that this is what was intended. We don't believe that anyone who truly stands for child protections would approve of imposition of a short sighted and cruel policy, when reasonable and Hague compliant alternatives are being promoted. The U.S. has taken 14 years to implement the Treaty. Guatemala has asked for 4 months more. The U.S. is aware that private services with public oversight serve children best, so why prevent that in a country which needs services to children as badly as Guatemala does?
.
You can fax Ana Mary Coburn at the DOS Office of Children's Issues at (202) 736-9111

Posted by Kevin at 11:41 PM

Guatadopt Interview with Consul General John Lowell

With Guatemalan adoptions in an increased state of turmoil, emotions are high. As a writer for a blog that is a combination of news, analysis and commentary, I've often had to work hard to balance my roles as journalist and editorialist. It's a lot of responsibility when I know how difficult daily life is for many of our readers, those whose sincerest ambitions and dreams rest on providing a home for a child.

Late Wednesday night, the journalist in me took over and on a whim, I decided to ask US Consul General to Guatemala John Lowell for an interview. It was much to my amazement when on Thursday he agreed to do it. He accepted so quickly, I honestly hadn't even thought of exactly what I'd ask him yet.

Preparing for this was no easy task. “Journalist or editorialist” kept going through my mind. On Guatadopt I’ve been quite outspoken in my criticism of his role in the state of affairs. This was a chance to get him! On the other hand, the fact that he accepted is impressive. Guatadopt has a large and loyal readership, but it’s just another blog. Do diplomats really worry about the grassroots? Families, mine included, have real questions. Maybe if I ask them directly I can have some answered. I decided the journalist was best suited to this job – especially if I ever wanted anyone else to accept.

So I set off to develop a list of questions. I’m a critic of the US media because when it comes to asking tough but honest questions they just seem to shy away. Determined to be tough but fair, I put together an interview that asked what I felt were the most prevalent questions as well as a few to lighten the mood.

What follows now is the interview I had with John Lowell. Since I have no way to record calls, I had to type as we went. I’ve done my best to keep things as close to word for word as possible, though admittedly I couldn’t always keep up. I’m quite confident that nothing is misstated and if it is, I encourage Lowell to correct me.

What exactly does a Consul General do? What is your role?

As Consul General I am the operational manager for the United States government in Guatemala. I do American citizen services issues – victims of crime. Overall half our work is dedicated to non-immigrant visa interviews and immigrant visa operation – 60% of those are adoption. I am also the local expert on consular affairs.

Can you tell me specifically, what is the US lobbying the Guatemalan Congress to do? And I must say upfront that by “specifically” I mean implementation dates, provisions/amendments? In detail, what is the official US position?

I’ve been here 2.5 years and one of the most important things on my plate is adoptions. I looked at two specific issues that might seem to some not to be in complete accordance with one another. (1) Support Guatemala’s efforts to be Hague compliant and provide appropriate protections for the children, adoptive parents and biological parents. Part of that effort has always been the focus on how to implement the Hague as a functional working adoption system – not something that shuts adoptions down. I continue to believe that ICA should remain an option as well as domestic adoption, but there is currently not a culture for domestic adoption in Guatemala. Hand in hand with that mission was the concern that in-process, pending cases not be harmed by implementation of the Hague. It is a balancing act.

Implementation – on May 22 (the Guatemalan) Congress said it would be Dec. 31, 2007. This would mean adoptions starting in 2008 would have to comply with the Hague. But the Hague allows many technical tactical setups to get there. The US has never said “this is how you have to implement the Hague”. We’ve offered help and technical experience, evaluated draft legislation, provided input on whether something seems compliant and provides adequate protections.


Referring to the recent discussion of an April 30th date, why is the date Guatemala chooses to implement important to DOS? The US has taken many years to implement the Hague, why do you believe Guatemala should only have a month to do it?

It’s not to effectively have only a month. You are correct in implying it will take more than a month. In fact, since 98% of all adoptions go to the US, I’d argue that putting it into effect Dec 31, realizing that US won’t implement until the expected date of April 1, definitely early 2008, (actually gives them four months). This is my argument and other will have different opinions of this. I have personally received some high level assurances that yes in process cases will be processed to completion under the notarial process. We, our guess right now, assuming it remains Dec 31, our guess is that we will have somewhere over 4,000 pending cases at that point. It’s going to take a long time, all of 2008 at the current rate they are processed, for those cases to be completed. We have very good reason to be confident that folks in the process now, that the matching will stay the same, I know it’s impossible for those matched to understand this but not all cases will be approved, the birthmother can change her mind at any point up until the very end. One practical point of extending it to April 1 or 30 is that there would be a significantly higher number of cases.

You’re right that they can’t be ready in a month, but they have also said that they will only process cases to Hague countries so practically that gives them a few months to get everything worked out.

How exactly have you and/or Ambassador Derham been lobbying for this position?

Ambassador Derham (addresses it) at nearly every opportunity, this is not strictly with members of Congress or government officials, when he talks about the key initiatives that are important to the US embassy he has always made it clear that adoption reform and the proceeding to a system that is to the best degree possible child centered is a very important goal of his mission. Of course he has a wide audience, whether in small meetings or larger ones.

Is it true that on the day the Ortega Law was approved that you and/or Ambassador Derham called the leaders of the major political parties represented in the Guatemalan Congress to express your support of the Ortega Law and encourage them to vote in favor of it?

On the Ortega Bill, I think there has been a lot of mischaracterization of the Ortega bill. It was presented to congress in 2005 and went nowhere for quite a while until 2007 when congress began to realize that they’ve been trying for adoption reform for 15 years with nothing. What happened was the Director of Congress made a request for evaluation of 3217 to the Hague Permanent Bureau, the HPB invited several interested countries including the United States to serve as technical assistance providers. The US sent a team, there were several people from Columbia, three from the Hague and other representatives there for about eight days at the end of July after having previous drafts submitted officially to them by congress. There were a number of seminars on what the Hague requires. There was also a group of representatives from congress, other interested parties - Bienestar, Unicef, PGN - based on these recommendations they looked at 3217 and said here are things that the Hague requires that are not addressed, here are things we thought might be inconsistent with the Hague. And we talked about ways to address those issues. The bill that had its third reading was very different from the original bill. One of the things we pointed to the need for was an appropriate transition clause for in process cases to be completed under the notarial process. That was certainly in the version at that time. Ensuring there is funding so that you don’t end adoption processing because there is no budget to actually move a case through in quick order and that is something that I am pleased people on all sides have recognized is necessary. A two year adoption process is not something that anyone wants to see.

We certainly thought that it was good thing to approve that law – yes that is correct. I recall being a bit surprised that it was passed so quickly.

Was the loan from the US that was approved the same day in any way connected to approving Ortega?

I don’t have a clue. (note: Mr Lowell did not appear to know about the loan in mention) I know we have a US AID budget of about 50 million annually (note: I had originally transcribed this figure incorrectly. So it had said 4150 million incorrectly). I would love to see it contain support for implementation for adoption institutions. There was one small project that US AID is funding which is assisting Bienestar with locating and registering children’s homes. One thing they are looking at is which children have already been abandoned so that they can be adopted. There are large numbers of “older children” (meaning 2+) who are in a handful of government orphanages, most of them are in a wide assortment of private charitable places and no body up to this point has much of an idea of which are where, how many. One figure that I’ve cited that I found impressive is that in 2005 the figure I have is that 1500 children where ruled abandoned by Guatemalan courts. Our 2005 figures for ICA would have been close to 4000 cases. Out of that we probably only did about 300 abandoned children cases, the rest being relinquishment. Kids that have already been separated from biological families are not being adopted.

How many hours a week do you spend working with Guatemalan officials on matters related to adoptions from Guatemala?

Varies. Not just with Guatemalan officials but working with folks in D.C., working with responses to people who write us like PAPS. I do tend to say I spend 70% of my work week on adoption issues. A small amount is with officials. There is a wide range of Guatemalans who are not officials to talk to about adoption related matters.


You are obviously an established diplomatic and bureaucrat. So you have experience with the degree to which the US exerts influence on other countries to pass certain laws or act in a certain matter. On a scale of one to ten, ten being highest, how hard did the US press Guatemala to pass the Ortega Law?

Oh good lord, I would correct you. I am an experienced US diplomat. In terms of pressing to pass a law, I can’t give you a scale of one to ten. I couldn’t come to guessing on it. As you point out, even though it took us 13 years to implement the Hague, we were at the table to create the treaty. We weren’t thinking about Guatemala at the time. At the time we were told Guatemala wasn’t an expressing sending country. There were other countries being thought about. But the principles seemed very useful to Guatemala.

One point I want to reiterate. Encourage Guatemala to pass the law. Work with appropriate people in congress to be able to offer advice as requested. With particular focus on (1) providing appropriate protections for the children and parents and I think that most of the versions do provide protections for adoptive parents that simply don’t exist today. But focus on the child and at the same time look for ways to ensure that cases already in process are not terminated and forced to start over. And look for ways to help Guatemala arrive at a system that could be functional and actually provide homes for children who need adoptive families.

If you were a betting man, what would you say the odds are of Guatemala approving an amendment to grandfather in-process cases?

I don’t think anyone opposes it. I’d put money down on that one. You might not get a law; that possibility exists. We’re getting short on time. (John Lowell tells me he has an appointment he has to get to).

Assuming it passes, what new requirements do you think there may be for cases in process at the time the law goes into effect? You have mentioned additional steps to confirm the origin of the child and the mothers consent. And would additional steps be just on the Guatemalan side or the US side as well?

I’ve been told specifically in the same meeting in which they said we recognized “in the best interests of the children already involved we need a procedure to complete these adoptions”. Very specifically they said they will be completed under notarial law and the idea is that there would be two steps (1) a required birthmother interview by PGN. A procedure to bring additional staff on board (is in the works and) would keep the current flow through rate (we see) now. It might take the better part of a year to complete all of that (2) somewhat fuzzier - specifically make sure of the origin of the child. In fact, at which point I jumped in to point to the double DNA testing (currently done and) that I was convinced that is part of our process (to ensure the origin of the child). Until you reach a point in which you have a electronic DNA database it will never be 100%. I think that is important. (John Lowell went on to tell me that this would not be too expensive to implement and that then, if a woman claimed her child had been kidnapped, they could swab her saliva and run it against the DNA database of children in the process).

If you could be any kind of donut, what kind would it be and why?
(Laughs). I like the kind filled with applesauce.

I’m fairly confident that they will be able to get a reasonable adoption system back within a few months. Obviously at the beginning the capacity to process large capacity of adoptions won’t be present.

I think that we see lots of healthy kids going through (the adoption process) who seem to be healthy, well cared for, and undoubtedly end up with great families in the US and have excellent chances for life. But the current system is (for some reason I can’t tell what he said here, but it was basically that the current system needs to be reformed, which I agree with).

END OF PHONE INTERVIEW

Over the weekend, Mr. Lowell replied via e-mail to the rest of questions I had written. Below are his verbatim responses.

I want to be fair and give you the opportunity to address assertions I’ve made on this site. So I’m asking these not to be confrontational, but to give you an opportunity to respond.

I have stated that the threat of a new law not ultimately grandfathering in process cases was a red herring. The Guatemalan constitution prevents a law from being applied retroactively unless it is a criminal law. And President Berger has denied ever saying in process cases would not be allowed to continue, which was the basis of the DOS notice. How do you respond?

Not a “red herring” at all. Until the version that was presented on Oct. 3, all previous versions that we had seen of draft legislation, called, in one way or another, for requiring preexisting cases to “conform to the new legislation”. While a wide open statement, it strongly appeared that such “conforming” would mean that parent/child matches made under the notarial “relinquishment” process would not be recognized, which would force adoptive parents (and the children they had been matched with) to start a brand new process, with totally new rules.
Neither I nor the DOS ever said that President Berger made such a statement. I think people misinterpreted a DOS web posting which stated (accurately) that a Guatemalan government official said that once Guatemala implemented the Hague (on 12/31/2007), no new adoptions would be initiated to non-Hague member countries, meaning that from 12/31/07 through 3/31/08, new adoptions to the U.S. could not be processed.
Also, we were much concerned that no implementing legislation would be passed, and were told by a number of officials that Hague implementation on 12/31/07 (without a law providing transition protection) would halt the processing of already initiated cases. Recent statements have now indicated that such cases will still be processed under the notarial process, but a final decision on the definition of “initiated” has not yet been communicated to us and that’s still an important concern..

Following the arrest of Mary Bonn last February, DOS began issuing a series of notices and FAQs about Guatemalan adoption that were “less than complementary”. In addition, DOS supposedly requested that agencies voluntarily shut down their Guatemala programs. Guatadopt has written that this has been part of an orchestrated move to prevent new families from entering the system. In addition we’ve stated that DOS has only pushed for laws, namely Ortega/3217, that have caused a cessation of intercountry adoptions in other Central American countries and globally because ultimately that makes DOS no longer having to deal with adoptions from Guatemala. Are these fair and accurate assertions we’ve made?

Actually, I think we started talking about a warning message in November 2006, as a suggestion that I made (and first posted a message in December). While I certainly then had concerns about the adoption process, my specific reason for raising the question at that point was my fear that we could see a large number of adoptive parents (and children) trapped in adoption processes that might be impossible to complete. That warning referred specifically to the pending changes in Guatemala’s adoption procedures, and the impossibility of being able to predict when and how such changes would be made. My understanding is that about 300 families were trapped when Cambodia was closed down; I was afraid then that 3000 families could be trapped in Guatemala by the impending change in procedures.

DOS didn’t participate in the drafting of 3217. The Guatemalan Congress did ask for assistance from the Hague Permanent Bureau in determining whether it would be Hague compliant. The HPB asked a number of interested countries to assist in that task, including the U.S. A team came to Guatemala in late July, and spent over a week with interested parties looking at a number of Guatemalan adoption issues, including the draft law. Some members of the team sat down with members of the Guatemalan Congress and other government representatives and made numerous suggestions designed to help the legislation meet Hague goals and meet the need for a functional program that could continue to keep adoption (both domestic and international) a viable option for Guatemalan children who don’t have families of their own. As I said when you and I talked, the U.S. government has always been concerned about the need to both provide adequate protection to children in the adoption process (and to both birth and adoptive parents) and at the same time help Guatemala create a program that can ensure that children who need international adoption can find adoptive families.


If the adoption system is as tainted as DOS’s statements have indicated, why hasn’t the US just shut the system down?

The legal authority permitting that to be done is not at all clear. And, once you shut down such a process, when can you be satisfied that the system has been reformed “sufficiently” to resume? It has seemed probable that Guatemala was in the final stages of implementing significant change, and we too were in the final months of our own Hague implementation process.

How did you feel the day Jerry Garcia died?

pass…

Is it your belief that private sector actors cannot be part of any adoption system in Guatemala? If so, what is this belief based on? It can’t be the Hague treaty, since that treaty clearly allows accredited private actors to provide adoption services, which is what the U.S. is currently implementing.

Currently in Guatemala people are searching the villages for women willing to/who can be convinced to give up their babies for adoption. That part of the process is subject to the greatest likelihood of abuse and probably can’t be done successfully in Guatemala by the private sector.

Many adoption advocates are critical of Ortega and proposals like it because they do not set aside specific funds to provide the social services inherent in the current private system. How do things like whether a bill provides social services factor into US support? Are social services DOS’s business?

Again, DOS supports a system that provides protection and that is also functional. The Hague Convention has multiple goals to both protect children in the adoption process and to encourage the building of a wider system of child protection, making it possible for more children to remain safely with birth families, to have adequate temporary protection when they cannot, and to eventually work to increase their hopes of finding permanent families.

Tell me the truth, what do you think of Guatadopt? We’ve slung some mud at you, now is your chance to fire back.

Often quite accurate, and with positions that seem valid to me. Other times not, but potentially because of information that you wouldn’t have been aware of.

What advice do you have for others that Guatadopt may interview?

None at this point.

END OF E-INTERVIEW
And the end of the phone interview we said our farewells with a gentlemen’s agreement to keep the lines of communication open.

Consul General John Lowell came through as a pretty normal dude and not a tightly buttoned diplomat. I think he genuinely wanted to have a direct line to families; though I remain baffled by at least one of his responses.

What kind of donut has applesauce in it? Is he talking about a bear claw or something like that? Oh, the need for follow up questions.

Seriously, one challenge I have found in taking the journalist or respectable advocate route is that sometimes you find yourself actually liking the enemy. This doesn’t mean that it changes my opinion on policy matters, just that I’m able to separate the person involved from it. Sometimes I realize that they are doing their job as prescribed to them. Lord knows many of us take routes in our professions that are not our decisions. I’m not saying that is the case with Lowell, just that it’s something to remember.

Some of the answers did not address the exact questions. And had we more time I likely would have grilled harder on them. Admittedly, I did on a couple occasions politely repeat the question to try to get a more direct answer.

But we did get insights into the US position and learn some new things. To those in process whenever a new law comes into effect, you are likely to face a new requirement that PGN interview the birthmother. My guess is that this would occur while you are in PGN before being released. We heard reassurances, as Guatadopt has been saying from day one, that in-process cases will be grandfathered and completed under the notarial system. I thought we learned the date expected date of US Hague – a hot scoop – until I received an e-mail about ten after the interview that Bush had signed the articles to join.

One interesting point from Mr. Lowell was about how he viewed a January versus April implementation date for a new Guatemalan law. He basically confirmed what Guatadopt has been reporting, albeit in a much less nefarious tone. It would reduce the number of pipeline cases and give Guatemala a few months to prepare for US implementation with no new cases being started. Good, bad, or indifferent – the pipeline cases were obviously a eminent tone in his responses.

All in all, I don’t think my personal opinions on the issues have changed. I still see err in how my government has handled this situation. And I am still upset greater effort on law enforcement does not get emphasized, though admittedly I did not ask a question on it.

Guatadopt hopes to do more such interviews in an effort to keep parents up-to-date and help us all to better understand those who hold the future of Guatemalan adoptions in their hands. We have feelers out for a few and hope that they accept and realize we will be fair and polite while not being afraid to ask direct, difficult questions.

Posted by Kevin at 09:47 AM

November 05, 2007

Guatadopt Profiled "On Milwaukee"

OnMilwaukee is a daily magazine for the greater Milwaukee area (where I reside). Today's edition has a story on Guatemalan adoptions and Guatadopt.com. You can find it here:
http://www.onmilwaukee.com/family/articles/guatemalanadoptions.html

And for anyone wondering, my darling Isabel has a piece of a pizza puzzle over here eye in the picture. We were playing "pepperoni face" when the picture was snapped.

Posted by Kevin at 03:43 PM

September 27, 2007

Guatadopt Pride Revisited

A while back, I posted a thread in my writer's corner called "Guatadopt Pride". As the current environment seems to continually sour, as more and more media read sites like this one, I think it is a good time to remember all the wonderful things about Guatemala, its culture, its people, and the things about its adoption system that should be maintained in any new law. The reason why I remain so involved in Guatemalan adoptions is because I love the country, the amazing bond that I now have with it, and most importantly the two happy, healthy children who have a permanent family through it. So I encourage all to go back here: http://www.guatadopt.com/WritersCorner/KevinsCorner/2007/03/guatadopt_pride.html#000587 and read that piece to remember what Guatemalan adoption is all about.

Posted by Kevin at 09:05 PM

September 24, 2007

Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference - Group Rate

Ethica and the Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute are holding a conference called "Ethics and Accountability:Doing it right makes a lifetime of difference" near Washington DC on Oct 15-16. I am planning to attend. They have offerered a group rate to us if we can put together a group of seven or more.

Information on the conference is available here: http://www.ethicsconference.net/. The group rate wil be equal to the early registration prices of $175 for one day, or $275 for both.

If you are interested in attending, please contact me, Kevin, here ASAP: http://www.guatadopt.com/MailMe.php or at kevin @ guatadopt.com (remove the spaces in my e-mail address).

Posted by Kevin at 10:33 PM

September 20, 2007

Rep. Weller to "Retire"

News sources are reporting that Illinois Rep. Jerry Weller, husband of Guatemalan Congresswomen Zury Rios Sosa and son-in-law of the genocidal dictator Efraim Rios Montt (who was just also elected to their Congress in order to escape prosecution for his crimes against humanity), will not be running for re-election. Rep. Weller has been under investigation for various things and was recently named one of the least ethical members of Congress. Admittedly, I am happy regardless of who ends up replacing him.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/09/20/politics/politico/thecrypt/main3283832.shtml

In other more-tabloid type news, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are reportedly considering another adoption, with Guatemala and Brasil being atop their list. Intersting for a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Angelina, please feel free to contact us for insight on Guatemalan adoptions!

http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/zwecker/565847,CST-FTR-zp20.article

Posted by Kevin at 08:52 PM

September 07, 2007

Problems for Rep. Jerry Weller

Today's Chicago Tribune has a front page story revealing the results of an investigation into Rep. Jerry weller. The story can be found here.

While this story is not directly adoption-related, everything to do with Rep. Weller is indirectly adoption related. So read on and realize that this is not being posted for US political reasons.

Rep. Weller is married to Zury Rios Sosa. She is a member of the Guatemalan Congress and a leader of the FRG party that currently holds the most seats in the Guatemalan Congress. My understanding is that she has been no fan of adoptions. But more importantaly, she is the daughter and largest defender of a genocidal murdering animal named General Efraim Rios Montt. The links on the names will tell you much of what you need to know but they will leave out one important consideration.

It was Montt's short rule of terror that destroyed the villages, homes, economies and ability to survive for hundreds of thousands of indigenous people. This is without doubt a significant cause of the conditions in Guatemala today that ultimately lead to adoption. That is a fact that people on all sides of the adoption debate should be willing to accept.

To read an op-ed I wrote a few years ago during one of his re-election campaigns, visit My Writer's Corner.

Posted by Kevin at 09:17 AM

August 31, 2007

Rumor, Fact, and Interpretation

Last night, many popular Guatemalan sites, ours included, received a post that detailed the results of a meeting/conversation between representatives of Casa Quivira and Josefina Arellano of PGN. Those posts are authentic in having come from Cliff, the Director of Casa Quivira. His full accounting of this is posted at the end of this thread. While we have no reason to question the validity of what was reported to be have been said in this conservation or even that it occurred, we weren't there so obviously we can't verify that this is what Josefina said or that everything was reported appropriately.

Since this information went out, there has been much speculation on what the content of it means for adoptions post Jan 1. Aaah heck, there are a lot of concerned and jittery PAPs out there – let’s face it.

I think everyone needs to take a step back and look at what it claims Josefina actually said. It does not mention a shutdown. It does not mention any impact to in-process cases. What it states is that Josefina does not believe PINA should be applied to cases that begin before January 1, 2008. So what could happen is that shortly the Guatemalan authorities could release that as of Jan 1, all cases need to be brought before a judge to be in compliance with PINA (which probably should not apply to adoptions anyway but that’s ultimately for Guatemalan legal experts to determine).

The mention at the end of “suspending” all the cases is a statement that they can not apply PINA to all in-process cases because they could not have happen to them what is currently occurring with Casa Quivira.

While I am not advocating for PINA in any way, my take on this is that IF the PGN is going to try to enforce PINA, they are looking to do it rationally in a manner that does not wreak havoc on all in-process adoption cases. And of course none of this is of any solace to the children and families of Casa Quivira.

We have heard rumors of Jan 1, 2008 shutdown. But I have to say that none has appeared to me to be anything more than rumor and possibly spin doctors at work regarding the possibility that some new regulations may be applied to the current adoption law. I am not saying that things are fine, dandy, secure and beautiful to begin an adoption right now. Guatadopt issued its warning months ago and it still holds true. The environment is volatile at best. But the needs of children have also not changed.

Updated 12:11 am. Saturday - If what this post says Josefina claims comes to fruition, it does not paint a pretty picture for post Jan 1 referals/relinquishments. Other countries have managed to virtually end adoptions because of how long it takes for them to determine that there is no biological family member or domestic adoption options for the child. I believe that anyone considering starting an adoption close to Jan 1 best pay close attention to what is going on. Jan 1 is four months away and I am certain we'll have more info on this before then.

Next Thursday Guatemala will elect a new Congress and most likely the field of Presidential candidates will be narrowed down to two. And it is these people being elected who will most likely have to sort out what happens to Guatemalan adoptions. For the time being, there is a struggle underway but it is worth noting that adoptions do continue to be completed. And once again, back to CQ, I offer my thoughts and prayers to the children and PAPs involved and hope that all the powers-that-be involved in it resolve the situation so that innocent children’s futures are not put at risk. It is always wrong for children to be harmed by the world of adults.

On a separate note #1: Guatadopt had server problems late yesterday afternoon through this morning. I received no e-mails and I believe that comments posted to the site during that period were lost. So if you posted something and it never appeared, don’t take it personally. And if you attempted to e-mail Kelly or myself, please resend.


Here is Cliff’s description of the conversation between two of his attorneys and Josefina Arellano:

Notes on the Interview of Josefina Arellano, Chief of Investigation
Division of the Procuraduria General de la Nacion – PGN, 29 Aug 2007

Estuardo Castellanos and Vilma Zamora presented themselves to the PGN
on 29 Aug 07 and requested an interview with Mario Gordillo,
Solicitor General and Victor Hugo Barrios, Chief of Section for
Procuraduria both of these declined. They were able to speak with
Arellano and the following are notes of their conversation with her:


From the outset Ms. Arellano was defensive and told Castellanos and
Zamora that she could not make comments about Casa Quivira's adoption
cases under review by the PGN because they are suspended by a judge's
order. The first question posed to Arellano was to ask her opinion
on the cases that are currently in the PGN as to whether or not she
believed there exist irregularities in Casa Quivira cases (cases
previously approved by the PGN as well as current cases being
considered)

JA stated that the only irregularity that she sees with current CQ
cases is that the children are not relinquished to the home under a
judicial order as stated in the PINA law. According to her a judge
needs to grant an order allowing a child to be cared for at a
children's home or orphanage whether the child is placed into
adoption or not. If the child is to be placed into adoption the PGN
is allowed 30 days to investigate the birthmother's socio-economic
circumstances. If it is found by the PGN that she is incapable of
providing support for the child then PGN will investigate the broader
biological family to find if there is a member of the family who can
provide care for the child. If in the PGN's report there are no
family members willing or capable of providing support for the child
the judge will then be able to declare the child adoptable. The
child will then be made eligible to be adopted by a Guatemalan
family, if no family is willing or able to adopt the child then the
child, as a last option; will be made eligible to be adopted
internationally.

Casa Quivira attorneys then questioned Arellano as why the PINA law
is being applied to Casa Quivira's current notarial cases.

JA stated that it is not only the interpretation of the PGN to apply
the PINA law to current Casa Quivira cases but also the
interpretation of the President's Office for Social Welfare
(Bienestar Social), the Ministerio Publico, and the Organismo
Judicial. However, she stated that the PGN's opinion is that these
procedures should not be applied to any case begun before 1 Jan
2008. But they (all of the fore mentioned government institutions)
decided to apply the new regulations to Casa Quivira now because of
international pressure.

Casa Quivira attorneys pressed Arellano to define the "international
pressures," but she declined to elaborate.

Ms. Arellano was then asked by Casa Quivira attorneys to explain how
the pending notarial cases can proceed.

JA stated that Casa Quivira cases can continue to proceed once the
criminal investigation of CQ is finished.

Casa Quivira attorneys then pressed the point with Ms. Arellano that
there have been a number of cases which the PGN has approved for CQ
over the past 13 years does she consider that these cases involved
irregularities?

JA stated that Casa Quivira cases have not contained any
irregularities but current cases cannot be considered by the PGN
until the judge's orders are lifted. She recommended that CQ
attorneys petition the judge to remove the order.


Casa Quivira attorneys stated that it is an injustice against the
institution that these criteria are being applied only to CQ and that
they are not even scheduled to go into effect until 1 Jan 2008.

JA stated that they cannot possibly apply the new criteria to all
current adoption cases as that would suspend almost 5000 cases and
they cannot stop all these cases.

END

Posted by Kevin at 05:01 PM

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 07:52 PM

July 09, 2007

Sad But Accurate Story

ZNET today published a story on the vicious crimes being committed against women in Guatemala. While many such stories appear, I think this one does a great job of putting the current wave of violence into a sociological and historical context. Having been a long-time fan of the author, Michael Parenti, it does not surprise me that he was the one to do this.

Warning - while not overly graphic, this is a sad story to read. But it also puts into context why so many poor women decide that they would rather relinquish their children than risk them growing up in poverty in Guatemala. True, poverty is not deemed a valid reason for adoption. But this explains the impact of poverty in a different light.

Click here to read the story.

Posted by Kevin at 04:51 PM

June 30, 2007

A Special Welcome Home

Welcome home Josephine!

We don't usually post about homecomings but this is a special case. Those who read our site and the Big List regularly have experienced the courage of Rick Spaulding who has posted as Adopting Papi. He and his wife were caught up in a case invovling Reaching Arms and Mary Bonn. This family not only refused to give up, they also refused to sit back and be victimized. Despite the fact that their case was pending, they helped organize families to file reports with authorities about the unethical and illegal activities of RAI. They went public in every way possible to show everyone that adoptive families have rights and can take a stand. It was gutsy, courageous, and admirable! And now they have their daughter home.

Congrats and kudos to you and I can't wait to meet y'all (especially Josephine!) in a couple weeks...

Posted by Kevin at 09:14 AM

May 16, 2007

RAI - They're Done

We have learned that Reaching Arms International has opted not to appeal the repeal of their license. In short, they are out of business. The tactics they used are well documented by the MN authorities in past posts in our archives. Their removal from the adoption scene is undoubtedly a positive. While there is an admitted temptation to relish the moment, we must remember that these things don't occur in a vacuum. And they don't occur without a stream of unfortunate victims.

It took a great deal of courage from many families to make this happen. I applaud them all for speaking up and fighting. One such family recently went public with their story to the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee. These stories don't tell everything in their case, but they do give you an idea of what occured in their case. You can see those stories here:

http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/7285181.html
http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/7326341.html

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 PM

RAI - They're Done

We have learned that Reaching Arms International has opted not to appeal the repeal of their license. In short, they are out of business. The tactics they used are well documented by the MN authorities in past posts in our archives. Their removal from the adoption scene is undoubtedly a positive. While there is an admitted temptation to relish the moment, we must remember that these things don't occur in a vacuum. And they don't occur without a stream of unfortunate victims.

It took a great deal of courage from many families to make this happen. I applaud them all for speaking up and fighting. One such family recently went public with their story to the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee. These stories don't tell everything in their case, but they do give you an idea of what occured in their case. You can see those stories here:

http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/7285181.html
http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/7326341.html

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 PM

April 28, 2007

US Reps call for Arrest of Rios Montt

Over thirty members of the US House of Representatives have called upon Guatemalan authorities to order the arrest of former Guatemalan dictator Efraim Rios Montt. Efraim Rios Montt ruled with an iron hand for a short period during which there was arguably a policy of genocide against the indigenous people of Guatemala. Noticably missing from the list of representatives signing this letter was Illinois Reprentative Jerry Weller, who happens to be Montt's son-in-law.

To read a story in the Washington Post about this click here.

Here is a copy of the letter sent:Download file

Posted by Kevin at 01:57 PM

March 20, 2007

NCFA Update

The National Council for Adoption has issued an update on Guatemala following its meeting with members of the State Department. You can read it by clicking on more.

We thank the NCFA for their dedication in support of Guatemalan Adoptions.

GUATEMALA UPDATE: NCFA meets with State Department Officials

On Monday, March 19, Tom Atwood and other representatives of NCFA met
with officials from the U.S. Department of State to discuss the
Department's March 14 "FAQs" statement regarding Guatemala adoptions and
NCFA's reaction to it. During the meeting, NCFA reaffirmed our
previously stated commitment to reform - including the establishment of
a government-run central authority in Guatemala, as required by the
Hague Convention, and increased regulation and enforcement of the
adoption process in that country. NCFA again supported State's decision
to impose appropriate added scrutiny to the approval process.

In the meeting, the State Department reported to NCFA that it had
corrected a factual error in the statement, which NCFA had pointed out -
namely, the assertion that notaries in Guatemala act as judges in their
own adoption cases. The State Department strongly affirmed its
commitment to continue processing I-600A applications to adopt from
Guatemala, albeit with added levels of scrutiny, and emphasized that
previously finalized adoptions are not in question. Department
representatives also estimated that there are enough applicant adoptive
parents in the system to adopt the children waiting in Guatemalan foster
care to be adopted internationally.

NCFA reiterated its concern that the statement is so unqualifiedly
negative toward Guatemalan adoptions that it seems to undermine the
legitimacy of adoptions the State Department has approved and continues
to approve. NCFA urged State to consider making other changes to its
statement, particularly to clearly affirm the legitimacy of Guatemala
adoptions.

Lee Allen
Director of Communications
National Council For Adoption


Posted by Kevin at 08:03 PM

March 18, 2007

USA Today Story

A story on Guatemalan Adoptions is in Monday's USA Today. Well actually, I assume it will be in the actual paper but since it is right now only Sunday night, I can can only say for sure that it is on their website. I was interviewed for this story and, all in all, the writer did not misquote me and I am happy for that. My statement about Guatemala being quicker was taken slightly out of context but not horribly so. I'd like to thank the Steve Friess, the author, for including that DNA tests are done and that many of us like the aspect of private foster care. I guess that how I went on and on about how much we love our kids' foster families, the wonderful care they gave, and how they are an important part of our family to this day paid off.

I encourage people not to get upset by the negativity in any press coverage right now. Given the DOS, USCIS, etc statements out there, a journalist would not be doing his/her job if they didn't focus on it.

You can read the story here.

Posted by Kevin at 10:37 PM

March 01, 2007

Chicago Tribune Story

Cox News Service has written a story about Guatemalan adoptions that was picked up today by the Chicago Tribune. There's nothing much to it but since I was interviewed by the writer, I figured I should post it. I am hoping he will follow up with something more though he admits that space is difficult. Needless to say, I gave him a lot more info. But, I compliment the reporter because for the first time, at least I wasn't misquoted!

You can find the story here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0703010214mar01,1,7692942.story?track=rss

Like everyone else, we're anxiously awaiting word on the protocolo. We'll post when we know what was said. For anyone not aware, it is being announced as I type this.

Posted by Kevin at 02:46 PM

December 26, 2006

View of an Adoptee - Introduction

I am very excited to have another writer onboard Guatadopt.com. While we have our own "perspective" on adoption, there was always a perspective that I felt was missing from the site...and that is of an adoptee. So, it is with great pleasure that we add Meredith's blog: View of an Adoptee. You can access her blog at anytime under the horizontal menu, Writers Corner. Please give her a warm welcome.

About Meredith:
Meredith is a 30-something Guatemalan who was adopted by her parents when she was 8 months old. She has always felt comfortable telling "her story", and at some point was asked to do so as a resource to prospective adoptive parents through such venues as parenting classes, group meetings, seminars, and conferences. She happily shares what a great way international (and specifically, Guatemalan) adoption is to build a family. So much so, in fact, that she's currently in the process of completing a lifelong dream - - to adopt a child from Guatemala herself! Meredith grew up in cities throughout the Midwest and is still in that part of the country. She is currently a Human Resources Manager for a Fortune 500 company and lives with her husband, stepson, and stepdaughter.
---------------------------------------------------


Posted by Kelly at 11:47 AM

December 17, 2006

'Apocalypto'

Yesterday, I came across this article about Apocalypto: Apocalypto' a distorted view of Maya history

Quote from the article:
"Stereotypes of bloodthirsty savagery and moral degeneracy have been used to vilify indigenous peoples for 500 years--by every government that has sought to justify the denial of civil rights to native peoples."

This is certainly true....


"These "entertaining" images affect ordinary people too. Native Americans--like African-Americans, gays and lesbians--are at constant risk of hate crimes."

Hmmm...while I won't dispute this, I don't see a film dipicting that time (or distorting, depending on your point of view) having nearly the negative impact as other "political" statements and actions such as the contraversy of immigration. I certainly do NOT like history being re-written to accomodate a story, but is this the case, is it "creative license"? Mel Gibson states that one should not consider the movie as a historical document. But how much of the "creative license" is being taken....and are the viewers focusing on the history or the story? The problem is that it comes at a delicate time in Guatemala's history where the indiginous are still fighting for basic human rights. They have a right to be proud of their roots...the advances revealed in the ruins are fascinating and simply amazing.

To complicate matters, historians can't totally agree on the reasons for the demise of the Maya Empire. I recently saw a special on Discovery Channel which claims a mini-ice age might have been the culprit (which would have lowered the water supply). Many of us have heard that the civilization was violent *YET* one of the most advanced in areas of math and science.

Like our history books....the stories are still theories based on what has been left behind. There have been several recent discoveries in the ruins of Guatemala and Mexico which have uncovered more theories. In years to come, they may have another finding that conflicts with previous theories!

For now, the movie has exposed a "historical nerve" and we are publically learning a great deal about the historical theories through the criticism of the movie.
Here is an article from National Geographic: "Apocalypto" Tortures the Facts, Expert Says

Again, I can't really say that the movie does this or that....I guess I will just have to go see it.

Posted by Kelly at 04:24 PM

November 09, 2006

Congrats to Tyler, Paula and Joe

The adoption process is gruelling and difficult. Sometimes it nice for those in process to read about how others have gone through it. Here is a story printed in a paper about a friend of mine I've known for many years who is finally a dad. It's been a long road but as I had been telling you, "there's a light at the end of the tunnel".

http://www.salisburypost.com/area/287427782182915.php

Posted by Kevin at 06:11 PM

October 31, 2006

On UNICEF and ICA

Between Halloween promotions and Guatemalan adoption politics, UNICEF seems to once again be a hot topic. It is interesting that every year, a new group of families enter the Guatemalan adoption process, new to any knowledge of controversies surrounding UNICEF and Intercountry Adoption (ICA). And those of us who have been around a while say "here we go again".

The easiest way to become an expert on UNICEF and ICA is to read the entire report written by Families Without Borders. Both Kelly and I from Guatadopt were contributors to this report, and it is a great comprehensive study suitable for academic publication.

A search of our archives will also lead you to lots of information, press articles, petitions and more to give you a sense of it all. But read on here for a top-line assessment.

UNICEF has done many wonderful things during its history. It is impossible to argue with the merits of their feeding and immunization programs. But over its history, it has also had its fair share of controversy. The book, Lords of Poverty contains some of this.

Nowhere in criticisms should anyone assume or portray UNICEF as being an evil organization – it is not. But like anything in this world, it is far from perfect. And the area of Intercountry Adoption is one of them.

UNICEF’s official position would not in itself be a cause for concern. It sounds quite logical and hard to debate. However within it lies the question of implementation, pragmatism, reality, and idealism. In addition, it is worth noting that it was only in the last couple of years that UNICEF’s official position admitted that ICA was preferred to long-term institutionalization. To illustrate my point, it is hard to debate that it is best for a child to stay with his biological family. From there is it best if she stay within her country of birth. And after that, ICA should be considered. Sounds good, but let’s illustrate where the problems lie in the details.
1.) Stay with biological family – should a birthmother have the right to say that she does not wish for her child to grow up within her biological family. Should UNICEF pressure countries to pass legislation that would remove a woman’s right to develop an adoption plan? What if she knows her family would want to keep the child but not provide a safe, stable, loving environment?
2.) 2.) Stay in country – So just how long should a country, under law, have to search for a hypothetic domestic family to adopt the child? What happens to the child in the meantime? What if the country offers no good foster or institutional care?

The main issue with UNICEF’s position and formal lobbying efforts are that they are based on one universal standard that does not waiver or give consideration to the uniqueness of each country. Impoverished nations with poor government infrastructure, absent of social programs, do not have the ability to implement the UNICEF ICA model and end up with a clean, functioning system. Instead what we have seen time and time again in countries like El Salvador and Honduras is an end to ICA with no evidence of an increase in family unification or domestic adoption. This is what UNICEF calls “success”.

Those are the main issues with their formal, above-board position. The other strong points of contention are their more covert operations. I cannot say whether these tactics are endorsed by the HQ or just the actions of rogue in-country staff, but UNICEF representatives have been involved in activities such as instigating false media reports, spreading lies such as organ harvesting, trying to dissuade social workers from processing adoption work, and what could easily be construed as bribery. People can choose to believe or not believe these claims as they are very hard to prove. What I will say is that there have been more than enough false stories in the Guatemalan press with UNICEF officials quoted, reports from people I know who work on humanitarian causes, and more to lead me to these conclusions.

As I wrote at the beginning, reading the Families Without Borders report is your best bet to make an informed opinion on UNICEF and ICA, and then to use that to decide whether or not it makes you unwilling to support UNICEF in its entirety. I could write much more, but consider this a starting point.

Posted by Kevin at 12:21 PM

June 30, 2006

A lesson and memoir

cheese2.jpg

Exactly three years ago today and tomorrow. Hague survivors: do you remember? And for those of you struggling in-process today, read on to hear the story of your Guatemalan Adoption ancestry...

Guatemala had joined the Hague and since March 2003 everything had been virtually at a standstill. Even the “Pre March 15” cases that were to be completed under the old rules weren’t getting out of PGN. And no new rules had been established….

Those of us in “Post March 15” status were in limbo. All we knew was that our cases were going to have to meet some new Hague standard, though no one could say what that meant. And then a rumor spread that on the first of July the new rules would be announced.

For my wife and I, it was especially tough. We were going to visit our precious Isabel, only three months old, for the first time. We were leaving on the third and yet we still didn’t know if we’d ever be able to bring her home. What would these new rules say? If it looked bad, would we cancel our trip?

I woke up that morning wondering whether this would be the best or worst birthday of my life. Yes, it was going to be a memorable birthday for me one way or the other. The very first thing I did after waking up was run to the computer and check, you guessed it, Guatadopt.com. At the time, like so many of you, I was an avid follower of the site. It was my lifeline and only source of reliable information during this turbulent time in our adoption.

Anticipation gripped me as I logged on.

No news…

So I went on with my morning routine. Had a cup of coffee. Played with the dogs. Took a shower. As I was ready to leave for work, I checked Guatadopt.com again. There was news!

We were going to be able to adopt Isabel. DOS had made an announcement. It was the best birthday of my life!

By that afternoon, the story had changed somewhat and the news really wasn’t so great. Nonetheless, Sheila and I went on our trip and it was one of the most amazing experiences of our life. Obviously Isabel came home and 20 months later so would her bio-brother Samuel. Today, our family is complete.

To travel back to that day and read the Guatadopt archives,
DOS Announcement
The Gist of It

To all of you currently enduring your own adoption-process PGN hell, please realize that we Hague alumni empathize with you. We’ve been through the same kind of torture. The only difference is that we know the story has a happy ending. Look at this picture of my kids as testament that you will persevere!

Hang in there…

Posted by Kevin at 11:07 AM

March 11, 2006

Adoption Grants

I know nothing about this organization but I came across the press release annoucing adoption grants and thought I'd pass it along...

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2006/3/prweb356892.htm

Posted by Kevin at 11:13 AM

December 15, 2005

IAC TO ESTABLISH WORLD COUNCIL ON CHILDREN WITHOUT PARENTS

A new council has been formed to address all options on children without parents. In my opinion, this is a very positive step on the road to creating viable options for children, consistent with their rights under international convention, and with a dose of reality attached.

For the first time since since my entry to the world of intercountry, a multinational group has been formed to look into things like concurrent solutions for children, where for example domestic and intercountry adoption options can be moved forward at the same time, with a preference for domestic without causing a child to live without permanency for an extended period of time.

While to some extent this carries the same theme as the Hague originally did, I'm cautiously optimistic, and enthusiastic, that the combined learnings from the Hague, its aftermath, and the parties involved in this council will have a better result.

Read on for a press release on this.

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

IAC TO ESTABLISH WORLD COUNCIL ON CHILDREN WITHOUT PARENTS

Atlanta / Amsterdam, December 15 2005

International Advocates for Children (IAC) announced today that it has received unanimous support from 31 nations and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Chairman to form the World Council on Children without Parents. The Council, a membership organization with proposed financial support from all UN-countries, will focus on all available options for children without parents, including reunification, temporary care, adoption (domestic and international) and institutional care. The council will be named: "World Council on Child Welfare" for orphaned and abandoned children.

Ms. Lynda Lee Smith, Executive Director of IAC and 1st President - Elect of the World Council, said, “In the past we've made a lot of promises to children without parental care and we've signed a few "feels good" types of conventions and declarations but we are still struggling globally to deliver on our promises. The formation of this Council, made up of experts from diverse fields including government, child welfare representatives and non-governmental organizations working on the ground, is a huge leap forward in addressing the needs of these children throughout the world. The Council will move immediately to establish best practices and twenty-first century models for child welfare systems, collect critical statistics, and manage both the successes and conflicts between nations. IAC's new headquarters in Amsterdam, led by IAC's first International CEO, Maarten G.H. Brekelmans, will facilitate the World Council.

In support of the Council were officials from the USA, Italy, Germany, Romania, The Netherlands, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Russia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Armenia, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Argentina, Lesotho, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Pakistan, Vietnam, El Salvador, Republic of Georgia, Bahamas, Mongolia, Ukraine, and Latvia. The unanimous vote, taken in Boston, USA, (in November 2005) at the 2nd World Conference on Children without Parents, founded by IAC, also included 30 different NGO's and other non-profit organizations.

A formal funding request is being prepared for the world community and the Council is now establishing the organizational structure for membership. Two expert committees, Legal and Science, will clearly define areas such as "best interest of child" and establish global best practices that serve children at all levels within the child welfare system.

It is estimated that over 100 million children are in need of permanent care around the globe. With the AIDS epidemic and natural disasters such as the tsunami, that number may increase over the next decade.


Posted by Kevin at 04:22 PM

December 02, 2005

Looking for Interpreter

I came across a request for an interpreter who speaks an Indian dialect, "Conjabul" for a medical situation in the Atlanta area. If you have any information, please contact me ASAP.

Posted by Kelly at 08:20 PM

November 03, 2005

Request from the Embassy

The BCIS at the US Embassy in Guatemala has requested some relief from the large numbers of e-mails and congressional inquiries they are receiving from adoptive parents. The reason being that they are receiving so many e-mails, sometimes multiple e-mail in one day about the same case, that attempting to answer them is preventing them from processing the cases. The same goes for inquiries from members of Congress since the Embassy is legally obligated to answer each of those in writing.

Understaffing has been an ongoing issue with the BCIS in Guatemala and is not something that they necessarily can control. To address this, three permanent staff members have been added and are now currently working in Guatemala. It is everyone's hope that they will be able to speed up the process of getting preapprovals issued.

Some professionals have requested that parents not contact the Embassy unless it has been sixty days since DNA results were received in order to give the Embassy a chance to get caught up.

Please don't shoot the messenger here. Having just been through the process, and having written to them myself in my adoption, I know how difficult the wait can be. However, it appears they have addressed the staffing issue, at least to some degree, and I can certainly understand their position on this.

Posted by Kevin at 03:29 PM

August 22, 2005

An Evening with Susana Luarca

Please see below the invitation to download the registration form.

Evening with Susana Luarca.jpg

Click here for a registration form:
Download file

Posted by Kevin at 03:00 PM

June 23, 2005

Don't Let Guatemala Be Next!!!

I post this story from the New York Times in hopes that Sra Berger, Casa Alianza, and the Guatemalan Congress may read it. It details what has happened in Romania since it passed its law essentially ending intercountry adoption. This is what hapens when good intentions and ideals overshadow the real, immediate needs of children.

To read the story, click here or hit "more"

The longer, original version of te story from the International Herald Tribune can found here.

Law Backfires, Stranding Orphans in Romania

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL,
International Herald Tribune
Published: June 23, 2005

BUCHAREST, Romania - A new law here on the "protection and promotion of the rights of the child" has done little to protect Vasile, a 7-year-old who has lived his whole life in an orphanage in Botosani.

More than two years ago, Becky Hubbell, a pharmaceutical executive from Overland Park, Kan., submitted the required papers to adopt the wide-eyed, dark-haired boy, whom she and her husband had met during medical missions here.

But before that process was completed, the government passed its new child welfare law, which essentially forbids international adoptions. The measure has left hundreds of families without children they had counted as theirs. More important, critics say, the sweeping law leaves thousands of abandoned Romanian children stranded indefinitely in institutions or foster care.

"You have a child in your heart and you've made all the arrangements, and it's clear that child wants a family, too," Ms. Hubbell said. "But for Vasile, time is passing without the stability of a home. And that's harder and harder to make up for."

When, in 2002, officials in Brussels demanded that Romania clean up a chaotic and sometimes corrupt child welfare system as a condition for admission to the European Union, Romanian politicians jumped into action. Law 272, written in collaboration with European Union advisers, aimed to halt decades of mismanagement in just a few years, with edicts that many critics now say were overzealous and impractical.

In response to criticism that orphans were growing up in sterile institutions, the government mandated that no child under 2 could live in one; the new law, it noted, favored reuniting children with biological relatives or placing them in foster care. In response to charges that foreign adoptions were so poorly managed that they sometimes resembled child trafficking, the government declared there would be no more.

Experts applaud the central goal: to encourage Romanian families to stay together and to end the longstanding practice here of abandoning unwanted children. But many child advocates doubt that this poor country, just 15 years removed from a brutal dictatorship, will be able to find good living situations quickly for its huge population of orphaned and abandoned children. Many children currently in orphanages and hospitals, they say, will be stranded.

"There are good impulses behind the law - to provide more assistance to mothers, to keep children out of institutions - and we all felt the system needed more standards," said Gabi Mihaela Comanescu, program director of the ProChild Romania Foundation.

"But there are problems. For example, there are older children who are as adoptable as ever, but there is no one to adopt them now. Also, the law says every abandoned child under 2 should be in foster care, but as far as I know there aren't nearly enough foster homes."

The unintended result is that deserted infants are now passing their precious first years in a hospital ward. There are close to 10,000 children abandoned at hospitals each year in Romania, according to a new study by Unicef, and up to 50,000 children in the care of the state.

Romania's unusual tradition of child abandonment began with a ban on birth control imposed in 1966 by Nicolae Ceausescu, the former dictator, to increase the population. Within a year, women began dropping off unwanted children at state orphanages or hospitals. Their logic was that "the government wanted them, so the government should raise them," according to the Unicef report.

Child abandonment has continued at the same level for 40 years, said Pierre Poupard, head of the Unicef office in Bucharest, even though birth control is widely available in post-Communist Romania. Now, mothers desert babies because they feel they cannot afford to raise them.

Before Law 272 took effect on Jan. 1, politicians from France, Italy and the United States, among others, vigorously lobbied the government to rethink the ban on international adoptions, or at least to allow cases already started to proceed. In January the new Romanian prime minister, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, said he would "not forget foreign families" who had taken steps to adopt Romanian children. To date, however, nothing has been done.

According to the Romanian Adoptions Office, 467 babies were adopted by foreigners in 2002, although a partial moratorium was already in effect. Before that, several hundred Romanian children were adopted annually by families in Italy, France, Israel and the United States, according to adoption groups in those countries. Today the number is zero.

Instead, Romanian county child welfare officials are now required to "reintegrate or integrate the children into their biological or extended families or to place them with a Romanian foster family," said Theodora Bertzi, head of the adoption office.

New families are being trained in foster care to meet the need, she said. Romanian couples (or grandparents living overseas) are being encouraged to adopt unwanted children. Orphanages, called "placement centers," can take children over 2 when no home is available.

Florin Catanescu, 28, grew up in the centers after being abandoned at birth by a schizophrenic mother. Handsome and articulate, he carries his past in one small photo album decorated with a child's glittery stickers. He is skeptical about Law 272, at least in the short term.

"I just don't think the resources are sufficient in our country for this new law, and attitudes will not change that quickly," said Mr. Catanescu, who is starting a nongovernmental organization to help graduates of the centers integrate into society: find jobs, rent apartments, order food in a restaurant. "Children will be stuck - there are still so many families who abandon children."

Because so many of the children are given up for economic reasons, they continue to have contact with their mothers even if they live in orphanages for years, making it hard to define their family status.

Under the old law, if a mother disappeared for more than six months, the child could be put up for adoption. But the new law, with its emphasis on maintaining biological families, stipulates that a mother's right to her child is indefinite, extending through years of separation.

In order for a child to be put up for adoption, the mother must sign a paper formally ending the relationship, which is impossible in cases like Vasile's, in which the mother has long since disappeared. Other relatives have to decline the child as well.

At the Sunbeam Complex of Community Service, a placement center 60 miles from Bucharest, 15 of the 16 children (aged 4 to 9) have had some contact with their biological families. Only one girl, who is 4, is technically adoptable. The tidy two-story house, lying amid dusty fields, is far superior to the huge, impersonal orphanages that made the child welfare system of Communist Romania so notorious.

On a recent afternoon, young residents busied themselves drawing pictures at low tables and playing with blocks. But before Law 272, five children left here each year, adopted by foreign families, said Letitia Stefanescu, the home's director.

The new law "has many good aspects," Ms. Stefanescu said, like offering preventive counseling and financial assistance to young mothers deemed at risk of abandoning babies. But she acknowledged the downside for the children in her care: "International adoptions gave them a chance for a family."

A cute 9-year-old with pigtails, who can only be identified as M.S., said, "I like being here, but I would like more to be with my mom." The girl's mother, who lives nearby, has not visited for several years.

Ms. Stefanescu has faith that the faults of the new system will be dealt with: New programs will encourage or force some mothers to pick up abandoned children; other children will find foster homes. The four-year-old, she hopes, will be adopted by Romanians, even though they traditionally do not adopt older children.

The Unicef report said it was crucial to take steps to prevent future abandonment, like allowing mothers to start rooming with their newborns in order to encourage bonding and prevent desertion.

Becky Hubbell, who spends holidays volunteering at the Botosani orphanage, says it is great that the government is now helping families stay together. But in the meantime, she said, "there are kids like Vasile who have no options but adoption abroad.
"We already provide support for him," she said. "We will be his family, no matter what."

Posted by Kevin at 09:41 AM

June 17, 2005

Cincinnati Events featuring Susana Luarca

The following comes from Sonya Zumbiel of Friends Through Guatemalan Adoption. For more information on these events, you can e-mail her at szumbiel@cinci.rr.com.
I wanted to share with all of you the opportunity to attend two events in Cincinnati where Susana Luarca will be the keynote speaker. As you may have read earlier in the week, I requested ideas on a nationally known speaker for a luncheon to be held this fall in Cincinnati. The speaker went from national to international when we were so lucky and honored to have Susana step forward to fill the role. A huge thanks to Susana!

Now for the details of events:

September 25th: An evening lecture will be given by Susana on her involvement in keeping adoptions open in Guatemala, the current state of affairs, and a look at her perspective of the future of adoptions in Guatemala. A question and answer period will follow the lecture. The evening will end with a light reception. This event will serve as a fundraiser for organizations in Guatemala and will be organized by Friends Through Guatemalan Adoption in Cincinnati.

September 26th: The Passport to Forever Luncheon will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Cincinnati. Susana will be the keynote speaker at the Luncheon sharing how her involvement in international adoption has impacted her both professionally and personally. The luncheon serves as a celebration of international adoption. This year's theme is Latin America and attendees will enjoy a fashion show (of young adoptees from all over the world), a silent auction, and a wonderful lunch in addition to hearing Susana share her story.

The Luncheon is the annual fund raiser for the International Adoption Clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. The clinic is directed by Dr. Mary Staat and serves as a strong support for families adopting internationally. They offer both pre-adoptive and post-adoptive services. The link will provide more information on the clinic. http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/svc/alpha/i/int-adopt/
I would like to encourage each of you to save this date if you could attend. Come to Cincinnati on Sunday and plan to attend the Sunday evening lecture and the Passport to Forever Luncheon on Monday. Both will be fabulous events to remember. If you think this would be of interest to you, I would ask you send me an email so we can begin to estimate the size of venue that will be needed for the Sunday evening event.

I know there are so many people among us, myself included, that owe Susana a huge thanks for working so hard to ensure Guatemalan Adoptions stay open so our children could join their forever families. I look forward to sharing my gratitude in person.

Posted by Kevin at 09:31 AM

April 01, 2005

A Perspective and Call To Action

Taken from the Focus On Adoption members listerve..

Given the recent wave of negative publicity, Reaching Out thru International Adoption, Inc. thought it might be useful to share this article with adoptive parents and professionals in the hopes of working together for the benefit of the children.

Speak for the Children: Little Things Really Can Make a Difference
By Debbie Spivack, Reaching Out thru International Adoption

International adoption is a life-saving form of care for children who do not otherwise have families. Yet, professionals and families find ourselves increasingly on the defensive from an unwarranted amount of scrutiny and criticism, both abroad and in the United States. Mainstream prime-time television shows in the United States, domestic and foreign press, and foreign politicians bombard the public with stories of kidnapping, corruption, body part sales, and greed that make it appear to those with no personal experience in adoption that international adoption is somehow an evil institution run by thieves, sinners, and ingrates. While these stories do wonders for television ratings, newspaper sales and political careers, they have a devastating impact on children whose only chance for survival and success in life is through international adoption programs.

Country adoption programs are closing everyday due to disproportionately negative media, misinformation and ultimately tainted public perception of international adoption. The time has come for adoption professionals and adoptive families to put an end to the propoganda and use our collective power to correct public perception. Otherwise, international adoption could soon become extinct, dooming millions of children around the world to childhoods languishing in underfunded orphanages, or on the streets, with dim prospects for adulthood beyond drug dependency, crime and prison. The international adoption community has a responsibility to act, for the benefit of these children, and the sooner the better.

We Can and Should Make a Difference

There are over 20,000 children from foreign countries adopted by American families every year, and hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated professionals who devote their lives to bringing these families together. And we all have family and friends who have become as invested in our children as we have. Altogether, we number in the millions, and are a grateful, proud and passionate bunch who recognize the true value of our contributions.

Many of us silently wonder where our children would be today had international adoption not allowed us to intervene in the lives of the children who we cherish. It frightens us to think about it, let alone speak about it out loud! Yet, we must, for there are millions of more children who face the prospect of no such opportunities because of a brewing firestorm of damaging negative misinformation.

Sharing our personal stories, and educating those around us, can have a massive impact on the fate of other children. This is because social change can behave in many ways like epidemics spreading exponentially through a population by one small exposure originated from a singular source, or a small group. This concept is articulated best by Malcolm Gladwell in his relevant book called The Tipping Point:

It's that ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. They are social epidemics. Think, for a moment, about an epidemic of measles in a kindergarten class. One child brings in the virus. It spreads to every other child in the class in a matter of days. And then, within a week or so, it completely dies out and none of the children will ever get measles again. That's typical behavior for epidemics: they can blow up and then die out really quickly, and even the smallest change -- like one child with a virus -- can get them started. My argument is that it is also the way that change often happens in the rest of the world. Things can happen all at once, and little changes can make a huge difference. As human beings, we always expect everyday change to happen slowly and steadily, and for there to be some relationship between cause and effect. And when there isn't -- when crime drops dramatically in New York for no apparent reason, or when a movie made on a shoestring budget ends up making hundreds of millions of dollars -- we're surprised. I'm saying, don't be surprised. This is the way social epidemics work.

The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, (http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/).

It is time to use our stories, knowledge, experience and power to educate the world that international adoption is a wonderful institution that warrants positive recognition not undue focus on scandal. As a group, we need to tip public perception of international adoption where it belongs, a positive blessing rather than a series of negative scandals.

How do we get our message out?

By recounting our experiences and stories to everyone and anyone who will listen. Every inappropriate question, comment or joke by those around us should be recast in our minds from mere annoyances to opportunities opportunities to educate those who need to know that adoption is a life-saving form of care for children in need. Tempting as it is to brush their comments under the rug, or to launch into an emotional counter-attack (bearing our fangs and calling critics ignorant and uninformed), their comments derive from lack of information, or exposure to biased reporting. Knowledge is power. Give them the knowledge they need to understand the situation, and perhaps become a messenger themselves to continue to spread the word.

We also must not exclude the media as a valuable resource to spread the word. Yes, today the press seems fixated on exposing the juicy adoption stories involving corruption or fraud. Yet, we need to give the media the raw material in the form of our stories so that they can see that positive adoption stories are truly far more remarkable than any scandal. Make the press see that the juicy story is truly that of Masha, a child like yours. Masha was saved from a life of prostitution and drugs by a family from halfway around the world who had the resources and desire to care for her. Because of the love and nurturing of this family, which came together through international adoption, Masha became a nurse, or a teacher, and perhaps even a loving mom herself. This is the juicy story worthy of reporting. Sharing our positive experiences and accomplishments far and wide, including with the media, can have an enormous positive impact on public perception due to its access to wide audiences. But we need to consciously work to get the message out.

What Should Our Message Be?

Thats simple -- international adoption is the single best opportunity for children who do not otherwise have permanent families to grow up to be happy, thriving, productive members of society and to achieve their personal potential as human beings. The experts widely agree that institutionalization is harmful to childrens physical, intellectual and emotional development. Even the most lavishly funded orphanages fail to offer the opportunities for nourishment and development that a permanent family offers. Statistics from countries like Russia are plentiful, which demonstrate that children who grew up in institutions had increased rates of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and criminal activity. No alternative, including, foster care, offers the same opportunities for a child as having a forever family to offer unconditional love and the resources for their child to achieve his or her personal potential.

Many of us may assume that these facts were universally recognized. They are not, and it is important to reinforce the notion that a child needs far more than a roof over his head to grow and flourish in his life -- children need families who will love and nurture them in order to grow into secure, productive and happy adults.

We should also recognize that foreign perception towards international adoption is often hostile due to factors such as cultural differences, lack of knowledge and, ultimately, fear. We need to understand that fear so that we can respond to it productively. Consider the fact that the hostility towards adoption may be due to a cultural bias in favor of bloodlines, a lack of understanding of adoptive parents motivations and goals, and ultimately distrust towards with whom they cannot identify. Many foreigners wonder why would someone from halfway around the world want to bring a child from another culture into their home. And they assume the motives are bad since they would not make the same decision for themselves and their own families.

Distrust of this nature plagues international adoption in almost every country and is best demonstrated by the inevitably-spread, never-validated rumor that international adoption is simply a guise for the buying and selling of body parts and organs. Yes, its true -- this rumor is alive and well in many civilized nations from around the world! Even the BBC World (regarded by many as credible) "reported" the dreaded body part/organ rumor as fact in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2004. Investigations into these rumors have ensued in every country where adoptions occur, and have never resulted in a single finding of truth. Nevertheless, it continues to emerge and threaten opportunities for children to find homes through international adoption in almost every country where such adoption programs exist.

We need to humanize ourselves in foreign countries so that foreigners can see our families, relate to us, and, perhaps, better understand our honorable motives. And they must see the children whom they sent abroad for adoption, growing and thriving through pictures, stories, and videos. Humanizing ourselves and our families to the foreign public is the only chance we have to overcome the fears that are widely held and extraordinarily damaging.

The misinformed state that fees paid for adoption demonstrate that it is easy for rich Americans "buy and sell" people like commodities. Again educate! Tell them first that the process is anything but easy. Tell them that adoptive parents open themselves up to the highest degree of scrutiny by the American officials and foreign officials to ensure that they are fit parents. Tell them about the hours you spent gathering documents to share with these governments including tax returns, criminal background checks, child abuse clearances, employment and salary verification, just to name a few. And, of course, recount the numerous meetings you had with social workers, approval at the state level then the federal level, all before going through this all over again on the foreign side. The world should know that American families endure months or years and a great deal of effort to demonstrate that they are fit parents, and that their motives are to love and nurture a child for the rest of his or her life.

Foreigners also widely misunderstand the basis of fees for adoption. Tell them that any fees paid during the course of this process are not to buy a child. Rather, fees are for services to ensure the integrity of the process and keep corruption away. Every protection put in place to protect children corresponds to procedures in both domestic and foreign processing, and that these procedures are onerous and must be followed to the letter of the law. Doing it right demands the navigation of laws, procedures and challenges by intelligent, conscientious, and ethical individuals who choose to dedicate their time and attention to help find families for children despite their qualifications to work elsewhere. The focus should not be on the fact that fees are paid, but, rather, on transparency as to how the fees are spent and assurance that no fees were given to a birthmother to influence her decision in favor of making her child available for adoption.

Critics should also know that international adoption is a non-profit humanitarian mission. Tell them that American agencies working in this field are primarily non-profit, government-licensed and subjected to accountability on a regular basis for our activities. Individuals working in this field have often given up lucrative careers in other industries to help these children. We are highly trained, exceedingly committed, and passionate about the work we do. We want nothing more than to find homes and families for children who do not otherwise have these benefits. There are millions of children in this world who need these things, and we do not need to engage in illicit activities to find them

You should also correct the misplaced characterization of orphaned children from foreign countries as resources to those countries that should not be given away to foreigners. This argument sounds nice on the surface resources certainly has a positive ring to it. But think about it -- children left to languish in orphanages or to fend for themselves on the streets (sniffing glue to stop the hunger pangs) are not being developed or utilized in a way that could reasonably be shown to render them resources to their country (unless you count the insulting suggestion that they should be preserved to join their birth countrys armed forces). In any event, this argument is misguided, as the rights of children to grow into healthy and happy adults should be a separate and important concern that outweighs political considerations, imperialism and national pride.

And, most importantly, do not let those around us continue to confuse the terms child trafficking with international adoption. Many of those with a political agenda use the term interchangeably to suggest that somehow adoption is morally corrupt. The concepts are truly diametric opposites, and the distinction is worth making at every opportunity!

Explain the difference! Child trafficking involves people illegally, immorally and often violently removing children from their homes and placing them with people who intend to use them for illegal and morally corrupt commercial purposes such as slave labor or prostitution. In contrast, international involves adoptive parents who have spent months going through invasive approval processes, additional months or years of waiting for a child, all in the hopes of having a child to love and care for during the duration of their life. They follow the legal process of their childs birth country, as well as their own, to ultimately give a child a home when no such opportunity exists in their own country.

Indeed, child trafficking is a very real threat to the well-being of all children and must be routed out at all costs. It also exploits the desperation of birth mothers to want to do what seems best for their children under difficult circumstances by going around the law and procedures to achieve an improper end. It is incumbent upon all of us to correct this confusion by reminding those around us that the former is a poison, while the latter is a blessing. Using the terms interchangeably perpetuates the notion that international adoption is inherently corrupt.

Finally, give them facts and resources. We have in our midst some fantastic legal and medical experts with credentials that are beyond reproach. Point to their extensive research, first-hand experience and praiseworthy articles when discussing your confidence and pride in the adoption system. Any critic will have a hard time refuting the impressive mountain of study behind your comments. Utilize these resources, and allow uninformed critics to challenge them! The bibliography attached to this article should be everything you need to refute the undue, unwarranted criticism of someone who labels himself a serious critic of international adoption. You should also feel free to refer to the sample questions and answers should you seek further information or explanation.

Conclusion
It is time for us to tip the public perception of international adoption toward the positive. To accomplish this, we must first shift our perceptions of ourselves from lucky and fulfilled adoptive families and professionals, to advocates voices for the children who have not yet been afforded that chance. We are messengers, presented with opportunities at every turn. We must start to take advantage. Little things certainly can make a big difference.

Bibliography

Sara Dillon, Making Legal Regimes for Intercountry Adoption Reflect Human Rights Principles: Transforming the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, 21 Boston University International Law Journal 2, 179, at 238-39 (Fall 2003).

Elizabeth Bartholet, Harvard Law Professor,International Adoption," publication forthcoming as chapter in ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE, Lori Askeland, ed., to be published by Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. in 2005.

Elizabeth Bartholet, Harvard Law Professor, "International Adoption: Propriety, Prospects, and Pragmatics," 13 J. Am. Acad. Matrim. Law 181 (1996).

Elizabeth Bartholet, Harvard Law Professor, Keynote Speech Defining the Best Interests of the Child, presented to FOCUS ON ADOPTION: Conference: In the Best Interests of Children: A Permanent Family Guatemala City, Guatemala Jan 20-21, 05

Frank, et al, Special Article: Infants and Young Children in Orphanages: One View From Pediatrics and Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics V. 97, No. 4 pp 569-578.

Childrens Hospital Boston, Pediatric Views

Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., The Cost of Child Maltreatment: Who Pays We all Do, (Ed. B. Geffner) Haworth Press (reprinted in www.childtrauma.org)

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care, Developmental Issues for Young Children in Foster Care, Pediatrics Vol 106 No. 5, (November 2000)

Posted by Kevin at 05:50 PM

March 17, 2005

SEND YOUR STORY TO CONGRESS

A group of attorneys in Guatemala is looking to put together a booklet of Guatemalan adoption stories. The request was made to Focus On Adoption following their recent conference in Guatemala. During the conference, a short booklet with about 15 sample stories was presented as evidence for "why adoption works". Apparently it made quite an impression and thus came the need for a more extensive booklet of stories that advocates for adoption could share with government officials, Guatemalan Congressional representatives, and basically keep "re-circulating" the positive image of adoption among newcomers to ICA issues in Guatemala.

PLEASE HELP by sending in your adoption story. The ultimate message of the compilation needs to be "Why adoption works". It should focus on how adoption has touched your lives and how you feel about your child(ren), elaborating on the life and opportunity that you would like to provide for your child(ren). Any stories of special needs adoption, older children adoption, sibling group adoption, etc. reaffirm the more extensive need that adoption can also serve. It would also be helpful if adoptive parents commented on how they feel private foster care may have made a difference for their child. Parents should also include 5-10 photos of their child/family. This not only pulls on anyones heartstrings, but also adds to the legitimacy of the stories.

I know that confidentiality is always a question. If you reveal your names in your written story, they will be included in the compilation. But we will not insert names, take them off of the envelope, or anything like that. So if you are only comfortable with your first names being used, dont put your last name into the piece.

Please send stories saved on a disk or CD (also include photos) to:

Focus on Adoption, 312 S. Lincoln Avenue, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002

Also please include a simple statement that says I authorize Focus On Adoption to use and distribute our adoption story.

From these stories, Focus On Adoption is also hoping to publish a more extensive booklet of Guatemala Adoption Stories and possibly a CD or video for distribution. We may also consider offering this collection of stories publicly to help raise funds for our advocacy efforts.

If you have any questions, please contact Jeannene Smith at ReachOutNJ@aol.com.

Posted by Kevin at 11:57 AM

December 21, 2004

The Threat From Within

Nine times out of ten that I am contacted by someone concerned that adoptions from Guatemala will come to a screeching halt it is because they worry about what changes may come from the Congress in Guatemala.

Ten times out of ten I inform people that while there is always the threat of new legislation passing in Guatemala that would effectively end adoptions, the fact remains that the private adoption is deep rooted in Guatemalas Constitution and there are those in the country prepared to fight against such legislation just as they did with the Hague. And ten times out of ten I go on to mention how the real threat to American families wishing to adopt from Guatemala may be coming from right here at home.

While all eyes have been focused on Valladares, UNICEF/Berger, changes to the Civil Code, retaining foster care, allowing singles to adopt, and the like, many things have been going on in the United States that have the potential to end adoptions from Guatemala. Primary among these are the US implementation of the Hague, the ICARE Bill, and possibly the lobbying/involvement of the US Department of Labor in Guatemala.

Is Guatemala still part of the Hague Treaty? The answer depends on who you ask. According to the Hague, Guatemala did formally accede to the Treaty. And once that is done, the only way out is to formally withdraw in writing. Once that formal withdrawal is received at the Hague, the country is no longer part of it one year later. But to my knowledge Guatemala has not sent any such letter because the manner in which it acceded was illegal, as determined by the Constitutional Court. But other countries say Guatemala is still in the Hague. IF once the US has implemented the Treaty, it determines that Guatemala is part of the treaty, the US will most likely decide that Guatemalas system does not adhere to the Hague and that will end adoptions from Guatemala as we know them. Despite numerous efforts to get an answer on how the US will view Guatemala vis a vis the Hague, thus far I have not been able to receive an answer. There are other issues with the US Hague regulations worthy of debate (click here to read about it), but this question of where Guatemala stands has never been brought to the forefront. So when will the US implement the Hague? Who knows, it could happen anytime!

The ICARE Bill has been called an adoptive parents dream because of how it simplifies citizenship and immigration aspects. Under it, a child enters the US with a US birth certificate and a passport as a citizen, not with an immigrant visa. Of course, as Rep. Zoe Lofgren told me, accomplishing this does not require a new law. But the ICARE Bill also does many other, troubling things. It stands to deeply politicize intercountry adoption by placing great discretion and little restriction on one person, appointed by the President, who would become the head of a new Office of Intercountry Adoption in the State Department. The law uses vague terms like best interests, rights of the child, and competent authority that are often used by those who try to create a de facto end to ICA. While there is little doubt that this law was drafted with the best of intentions, I agree wholeheartedly with the comment that it reads more like a preamble than an actual piece of legislation. Click here to learn all about ICARE.

Finally is a troubling development I learned of recently. Can you believe that the US Department of Labor is tying adoptions in with trafficking of humans for things like illegal labor and prostitution? The US Labor Department Office in Guatemala has under its responsibility the effort to "stop trafficking in humans". Someone from the DOL logically stated recently that we need to fight against this, because right now trafficking isn't even illegal here. But then followed this bombshell, "... the adoptions mess has to be cleaned up. We don't want to stop adoptions, but we expect to have a new law passed here in Guatemala in February." No, this wasnt printed publicly anywhere and despite being given permission to state my source, I will keep that person anonymous. You will have to trust me that it came from someone who is a friend to our community but not directly involved with adoptions.

While it does not surprise me that the US would be lobbying for reforms to the current system, and some reforms would be a good idea, it does amaze me that this would be coming from the Department of Labor. And just what kind of law do they expect to be passed? During the Hague fiasco, the US government clearly stated that it has no right to meddle in the legislative affairs of a sovereign nation. At least thats what we were told when needed the help of our government. So what has changed and what does labor have to with adoptions (outside of birthmothers going into labor of course)? Please dont take this to mean that new law is imminent or certain in February, just take it as perspective for the different types of pressure the Guatemalan government is under.

So whats the point of this post? We cant interfere with the legislative affairs of a foreign sovereign nation - that is 100% correct. We have to lay faith that the advocates in Guatemala will protect the institution that has brought us so much love and provided permanency for so many children. But we can get involved with the actions of our government and make sure that we are doing all we can to educate our elected officials on things like the ICARE Bill. Remember that US Reps and Senators dont have the time to become experts on everything they vote on, thats why they rely on their constituents who care to inform them.

On a positive note, there have also been many positive developments in the battle to keep adoption open as an option for children and birth mothers in Guatemala. UNICEF and its soon departing Executive Director Carol Bellamy have been under a lot of scrutiny lately because of how the organization has deviated from its charter. In addition, members of Focus On Adoption have been making great headway with some officials at the United Nations who oversee UNICEF. The upcoming Focus On Adoption conference in Guatemala will feature Elizabeth Bartholet as the Keynote Speaker and she is sure to put some perspective onto who pays the price when countries are closed or severely restricted because of bureaucrats trying to protect children. While were still not sure exactly who will attend the conference, we do know that some, if not all, of the Guatemalan Congress will be there.

As a side note because I am sure this post will raise questions. My family will be on vacation without computer access for the next week. So please just post to the comments and I will to my best to reply there.

Posted by Kevin at 01:53 PM

November 11, 2004

The Blessing of Foster Families

abuelos and parents.jpg

The option of foster care is one of the wonderful things that sets Guatemalan adoptions apart from the other popular countries like Russia and China. While there are isolated problems with less-than-adequate foster care, the overwhelming majority of foster families are wonderful, caring people.

We were fortunate enough to have spent a lot of time with our foster family. When we visited during the process, we would rent a multi-bedroom casita in La Antigua and have our foster mom come stay with us (and our daughter of course). That experience was one that we will forever cherish and to this day we remain very close with the entire foster family.

I learned so many things from our experience, primary of which was how to care for a small baby. But I also learned about Guatemalan culture and what it is like for these wonderful women. Our foster mom told me about how her whole family cries for weeks every time a child leaves. And she told me about how the one thing we wished for more than anything else is to have the opportunity to meet all the families. This is not only because then she is not sending children she loves into the arms of strangers. Her reasoning was more so that she could have the chance to tell the parents all about their child likes, dislikes, nicknames, favorite games and foods, sleep patterns and all the other things that make transitioning easier on the child and adoptive parents.

I know that these things certainly helped us out in those first weeks after homecoming. And I also believe firmly that giving our daughter the opportunity to become comfortable with us while her caregiver was still close by helped our daughter immensely. I know there are those who dont agree with what I will now write, and they may as always feel free to comment. But I have to issue a call to all those agencies, attorneys, and adoptive parents out there to do everything possible to create the connection between adoptive parents and foster families. It not only helps in the short term, it also creates lifelong ties as our Isabel will always have her abuelita in her life. And we love you Betty!

Below is something that appeared a month or so ago on the Big List, written by Salome LeMarche of Families Thru International Adoption about what she learned after meeting with a group of foster moms. It provides some great insight and answers the in-process age old question of what should we send down. It is of course posted with her permission

From Salome....

I recently had an opportunity to meet with a panel of foster mothers in Guatemala. I learned some things that I would like to share with the group. I was there to facilitate foster mother training with our foster mothers. What I would like to share with you is what I learned from the foster mothers regarding the types of packages that adoptive families send to their children during the process. If you would like to know more about the Foster Mother training in general you can follow this link: www.ftia.org/guatemala/foster.html.

First of all I learned that we have a wonderful group of women caring for our children. The thoughtfulness that they shared was overwhelming. They truly have the best interest of the children at heart. I also learned that these women have a great sense of humor. I certainly enjoyed my time with them. They shared their joys, their concerns, and their tears. They referred to each child as "my baby" and cherish any bit of information they can obtain about how they are doing with their forever family.

The foster mothers freely offered their concerns, obstacles and advice. They shared some things that I think will be of interest to adoptive families. As I mentioned earlier, they are truly dedicated to the children. They shared that they just hate it when they have to go for a month or two between foster children. They feel as if a part of them is missing. They also shared some of their hopes and concerns regarding contact with adoptive families. They do love to hear from the families during the adoption process. When they receive a package from the family for the baby there are few things that seem to be most helpful for the babies. The ideal package would include:

*Some sleepers and undershirts of various sizes so the baby can grow into them

*Pictures of the adoptive family (4x6 close up of each person with their name and relation written on the back)

*A micro-cassette recorder with the adoptive parent(s) reading and singing to the baby.

*A small blanket or stuffed toy that the parent(s) have slept with for a week or so (and not washed)

*A couple of disposable cameras so the child will have photos to cherish as he or she grows.

They stated that if a family can send nothing else, they should send these items. The reason they like to receive the clothing is because many foster mothers wash clothes by hand, which causes them to wear out quickly. They assured me that when families send pictures, they do show them to the babies. They also assured me that they do play the tapes each night for the children.

Each of the women on the panel has cared for children for 4 years or more. They stated that they have noticed that children who have heard their parent's voices on tape, have seen their parent's faces in photos, and have smelled their parents scent (via a blanket or stuffed animal) seem to have a better adjustment to the families when they meet them for the first time. I must say I was extremely impressed upon hearing these ideas from them. The fact that they brought these issues up with me (and I did not make these suggestions) certainly left me feeling very confident in their ability, their commitment, and their desire to help the children have a smooth transition.

They also shared that when you send clothing for the child and ask that it be returned when you come to receive the baby, they are not likely to actually put the clothing on the baby. The reason is that they do not want to return worn or damaged items and the process of washing by hand is very rough on clothing.

I hope you have found this helpful. I did get to spend some time with 45 foster mothers over a period of three days. I found the foster mothers to be very competent and intelligent. I also found them to have a great sense of humor and a big heart. The Foster Mothers may disagree with the big heart part. Many of them made the comment that their heart gets smaller each time they say goodbye to a foster child because that child takes a piece of their heart with them.

Thanks for letting me share,

Salome LaMarche
Guatemala Coordinator
Families Thru International Adoption

Posted by Kevin at 12:02 PM

October 11, 2004

Should You Care about ICARE?

It has been a little while since I have posted about the pending ICARE legislation so Im putting it back up again.

This legislation creates a new national Office of Intercountry Adoption, headed by an Ambassador At Large who would be appointed by the President and report to the Secretary of State. This office and Ambassador would have extreme control over U.S. policy regarding intercountry adoption.

The bill(s) also grant citizenship rights to children adopted abroad that are equal to those of biological children of U.S. citizens that are born abroad. And no, our kids still couldnt become President (that requires a change to the Constitution).

ICARE stands to dramatically change the intercountry adoption landscape and EVERYONE with an interest in intercountry adoption owes it to themselves to learn more about it.

With the objective, non-opinionated stuff said, I want to state that personally, this bill scares the living you-know-what out of me. IMHO, ICARE leaves too many questions unanswered that could lead to detrimental policies. It opens the door to politicizing intercountry adoption at a time when partisanship is at an all-time high. Its implementation schedule is not realistic and would most likely wreak havoc on the families and children in-process if it came to fruition.

While the changes in citizenship rules are impressive, they do not require a new piece of legislation (I was told this by a US Representative). So while these are being heralded by some as an adoptive parents dream, they are not reason enough to support this bill.

But dont take my word for it, read up on it for yourselves. Focus on Adoption has an excellent page on its site that gives commentary on ICARE as well as links to the actual bills (they dont take long to read and the House and Senate versions are exactly the same) as well as the members of Congress who have it on their desks. You can find this info at http://www.focusonadoption.com/educate1.shtml.

So learn about the bill, formulate your own opinion, and contact your Senators and Representative to let them know what you think. Whatever your opinion may be, this is an extremely important piece of legislation. The voice of the adoption community needs to be heard and represented.

Posted by Kevin at 03:36 PM

September 10, 2004

Guatemala Drought Relief

As many of you know, rural areas of Guatemala have been hit with a devastating drought. A story on it can be found on Reuters.

After receiving e-mails from members of the Guatemala Adoption Community wanting to know how to directly help I did some asking around. Gregory of Hands of Hope put me in touch with a couple called the Flames of Fire Ministry that is doing excellent work helping those in need. According to Gregory They feed hundreds of children in several centers. These are kids so poor that they wouldnt be able to eat without these feeding centers. Some walk a long way barefoot just to get a hot meal...They are 100% trustworthy and its just the two of them with some local helpers no overhead type of thing.

The website for the ministry is http://www.guatemalamission.org/ and there you can find information on the organization and its feeding centers.

To donate (tax deductible), you can send a check to:

Grace Christian Fellowship Church
405 Rayford Rd.
Spring,Texas 77386

Your check should also be noted for where you want the money to go. If you wish to support the Ministrys overall mission, the check should be noted Larry Johnson. If you prefer your donation to be used only for the feeding centers and not for their missionary work, it should be noted Guatemala Feeding Centers.

Lets all see what we can do collectively to relieve the suffering.

Posted by Kevin at 01:17 PM

July 13, 2004

The Big Picture

Some readers have privately and publicly expressed concerns about Guatadopt posting stories that may not directly and immediately involve adoptions from Guatemala. So with that in mind, here is some perspective.

First of all Id like to address the general idea of what the content of the site should be. While we try to keep it directly associated with adoptions from Guatemala, the fact is that we can often go long periods of time without there being anything newsworthy happening. So in order to fill in the time gaps, we will often turn to items related to Guatemala or adoption in general. This way it keeps the site vibrant, with there always being something new to read about. It is hard to keep opinions out of this because that would mean we would do little than provide links to stories appearing elsewhere in the press. But dissenting views and debate are always encouraged and appreciated, so long as they are constructive and not personal attacks. In addition, as I have posted before, it is important that the community of people involved with Guatemalan adoptions learn about the country and its current events as this is a responsibility that goes hand in hand with adopting a Guatemaltco.

Secondly, I do not believe that we can separate current day adoptions from Guatemalas not-so-distant history. The fact is that the purpose of adoption is to provide families and permanence to children who need it. The overall goal of all of us needs to be that there are no children living without families that have the ability and desire to provide a safe, healthy, and loving environment. In that vain, one of the main reasons why there is such a need for adoptive families in Guatemala is precisely because the impact of the Civil War is still being experienced today. Guatemala has far from recovered from what the war did to its majority indigenous population. Most of the children being adopted come from an indigenous bloodline. These things are related. While I wish to adopt again from Guatemala, I yearn for the day when the country no longer has the need for foreign adoptive families because that means the objective is being met. I guess the point is that matters related to human rights in Guatemala are adoption related. If you read the works of Rigoberta Menchu, Beatriz Manz, and others, you will be able to understand what I mean about this.

Finally, our children are members of the Guatemalan-American community (no disrespect intended to our non-American readers). So things that impact that community by default impact our children. My main comment about the problems with the Weller-Rios wedding were because of the symbol it sends to the Guatemalan community in the United States. I did not say that they should not get married. I did not wish them ill harm. But I did state that I believe it is inappropriate for a member of the United States House of Representatives to marry the daughter of a genocidal tyrant, especially since she has not repudiated his actions, she has defended and/or denied them. Who her father is ultimately is not relevant, but her support of him is. Maybe the Bin Laden example went a little too far. Ill make another one having come from a Jewish family. How do you think the Jewish population in the United States would react if a U.S. Representative married the daughter of a Hamas leader and was politically connected with her father and high up in his organization?

While I agree that adoption news and information are the main objectives of the site, we cannot be shortsighted as to what that really means. When there are items of interest directly related to adoption, they will certainly take precedence. But when there are lulls, turning to the bigger picture is a way to keep our community tied together, strong, and informed. As I mentioned earlier, debate and disagreement are encouraged. We all have an equal voice in the comments.

Suggestions for new adoption related topics are always appreciated as well!

Posted by Kevin at 02:32 PM

June 30, 2004

How well do you remember July 1, 2003?

A few reminders Yes, it was Canadian Flag Day. But that is true of every first of July. And like every other first of July for the prior 33 years, it was also my birthday. Most importantly, for those of us who were in the process of adopting from Guatemala, it was what seemed to be a very important day.

Last year on July 1st, PGN, acting as the Central Authority, released what it thought would be the countrys new Hague compliant system of adoptions. This new system entirely ended foster care and the private notarial system.

For many people like myself who were in the post March 5 category, it appeared to be a blessing as PGN announced that it would allow us to complete our adoptions if they were handed over to the Central Authority. For people who had just accepted a referral or were waiting for one, it was nightmare because there was really no system in place to receive an official referral.

There had been a rumor that July 1 would be the day and I remember waking up in the morning and immediately checking Guatadopt, Ethica, and the Big List to see if there was any news. As I read the announcement on Ethica and saw that post 3/5 cases were safe, I shouted out in joy, waking up and scaring the heck out of my wife. I recall enjoying the traffic filled commute to work, smiling and laughing as I listened to the Grateful Dead song Sugar Magnolia which begins Sugar Magnolia, blossoms blooming, heads all empty and I dont care. It is a song of unquestioned joyful exuberance, and that was how I felt at that moment.

As I arrived in the office, I ignored the Happy Birthday wishes from my peers and quickly got onto e-mail to send friends and relatives the great adoption news. The subject line of the e-mail, My Best B-Day Ever!!! At the time, we didnt know what the announcement meant, so my joy was not a selfish one that ignored the future of the children of Guatemala. And at the time, I also knew much less about adoptions than I do today.

It turned out that this announcement, had the Hague not been overturned, would have been a nightmare for me as well. It soon became clear that PGN had not developed a new functioning system. It had created a bureaucratic scenario with more holes than a Packer-backers cheesehead hat. For the few months that followed, we were back at square one, not knowing if or how we would ever get our daughter home.

That all seems so long ago now. The stress and pain of the period does not enter my head as I walk through the door to my house each evening eager to give my Isabel a kiss and see her face light up because daddy is home.

In the end, we were all very lucky that everything ended up okay. My family and so many others (werent there about 1,500 in-process cases at the time?) will be forever grateful and beholden to Susana Luarca, the Guatemalan Bar Association and the Association in Defense of Adoption for their hard work. Because in reality, we adoptive parents waited too long with our congressional lobbying, petitions, and organizing. We got caught trying to undo what had been done rather than taking a proactive approach.

I believe this is an important lesson for us all in life because we cant count on luck and the hard work of others to make things come out okay. We have to be vigilant, proactive, and willing to take risks in order to defend the values we believe. This is a lesson not only for adoption but for life in general (okay, Im getting too philosophical).

Another valuable lesson is that we have to be thorough and not jump to conclusions on things. I was wrong when I sent out that e-mail about it being my best birthday ever. That e-mail was based solely on me reading the magic words that PGN said my adoption would be completed. But the fine print between those magic words really showed something entirely different.

This second lesson will be one where I can promise adoption advocates will be calling on your help in the future. There are potential, maybe probable, changes to the Guatemalan side of the equation. But Guatemala is a sovereign nation and we really dont have much control over their system outside of aiding the experts. More under our control is the myriad of potential changes to the American side of intercountry adoption.

In the weeks and months to come you will be hearing much more from Guatadopt about these changes domestically, primary of which is the ICARE Bill currently in the hands of both the House and the Senate. This bill, like the PGN announcement a year ago, seems on the surface to be a dream come true. But in practical application, it too is full of holes and raises as many questions as answers. For more information on ICARE, please visit http://www.focusonadoption.com/educate.shtml.

So as I wrote earlier in a post called In a time calm, please keep visiting and please stay active.

On a separate note, as Kelly announced, I will now be taking over the primary responsible for this site. If you have any suggestions or ideas on how we can better serve the adoption community, please do let me know. And I also want to send my best wishes to Kelly and Becky in their new endeavor.

Posted by Kevin at 07:50 PM

June 28, 2004

Stepping Down

As most of you know, this site has never been associated with any agency and while some funding has come from sales, most has come directly from me. Starting this week, I am excited to say that Becky Holmes (host of the Guatemala Forum on adoptions.com) and I will be acting as coordinators for Children of the World, Inc. (MO) . We will be working directly with Rudy Riveras agency in helping families adopt from Guatemala. For this reason, I feel it is necessary to take a secondary role on this site, otherwise, it may be construed as a conflict of interest. Since it is personally important to me that this site continues to exist (and it remains somewhat neutral), I am handing over the reins to the Guatadopt.com site to Kevin (an advocate, parent and excellent writer). I will continue to maintain and support the site as well as write occasional pieces. You may still reach me at my Guatadopt email.

Sincerely,

Kelly Caldwell
Guatemala Coordinator,
Atlanta, Georgia
Children of the World, Inc.

Posted by Kelly at 02:41 PM

April 30, 2004

Mother's Day Dedications

On May 9th, we will be posting a very special Mother's Day dedication to our beloved birth moms and foster moms. If you would like to contribute, please fill out the dedication form HERE.

Posted by Kelly at 09:19 PM

April 04, 2004

New Store Items

I just added some new products to the Guatadopt store.

We now have some really nice pink T-shirts (and some bright yellow t-shirts) HERE.

There is also a cute little bunny added to plush toys and a whole Welcome Home line.

Posted by Kelly at 05:37 PM

February 05, 2004

She's not the Birthmom....

The most common anti-adoption claim I have heard is that our children are "stolen" from the real birthmom and then given up for adoption (sometimes using a fake birthmom). Less often, has the true story about DNA testing been told in our media. A DNA test is recognized as having an accuracy/reliability greater then 99%. In a relinquishment, it is a stiff requirement of the US Embassy (US adoptions make up the largest percentage of international adoptions). During the DNA sampling, a picture is taken of the birthmother with the child being placed for adoption and the sample is sent to a lab in the US for evaluation. In the course of an adoption, the birthmother is also required to sign her consent for the adoption to take place.

So, what happens if the DNA is not a match?

She's Not the Birthmom-Our Case of DNA Nonmatch
(posted with permission from Kathi Thomas)

Much has been said about the DNA tests that have been required by the United States in adoptions from Guatemala since 1998. (The UK and Canada also have required DNA tests for the past several years.)

Bruce Harris of Casa Alianza would have you believe that DNA fraud is rampant. He actually told me that what could happen is a mother bringing in her bio-child for the DNA test (and photo) and then substitute a stolen child for the actual adoption. When I reminded him of the DNA photo taken at the time of the birth mother with the child on her lap, and, in our case, that fact that the same doctor saw our child each month and sent us photos, he said that parents are so desperate to get a child that they wouldnt say anything, even if they realized the baby was switched. Frankly, that sounds racist to me- even if they realized it was switched- does he think THEY all look alike? I assured him that we would have questioned had our child suddenly started looking like a different child. And, of course, the US Embassy would have to be complicit, since they get the photo of the child and birth mother. Would they also not notice the difference? I doubt it!

Anyway, here is an actual experience with DNA failure- not some of Bruces imaginings, or could be's," but an actual first-hand experience.

We received the referral of an infant girl in March of 2001. She was about 6 weeks old at the time. We asked a few preliminary questions and accepted the referral. Our doctor, Dr. Francisco Montiel, sent us photos and a medical report each month, so we had photos of the child all the way through. Finally, late in the 4th month of our referral, the DNA test was done. Devastatingly enough, it came back a total non-match- the woman wasnt even a relative of this child. The birth mother insisted shed given birth to the child. She had hospital records, showing that shed given birth to a baby girl of the right age to be this child. Unfortunately, they didnt do hand or footprints of the babies there, so it couldnt be proven that this was the baby to which she gave birth. As it turns out, during the first 6 weeks of the babys life, shed left her with whoever would keep her for a few days to a week or so. The birth mother couldnt even swear that this was the child with whom shed left the hospital, but she thought it was. One person with whom shed left the child was a friend of hers who had a baby of the same age; it was thought that perhaps that friend had switched the babies. Our baby had two faint but pretty visible birth marks, and one thought was that her friend switched her baby for a perfect one. We requested that our agency have a DNA test with that woman, and they did. Again, no match. We asked what would happen to the baby, because we had visited and loved this child, and wanted her taken care of. Jessie Garcia, then the Chief INS officer, advised us that the adoption had been terminated and the information turned over to the Guatemalan authorities. We were also told that the Division of Minors had taken little Flor from her private foster home and taken her into their custody. We asked where she was, wanting to be sure she was in a good place, and willing to pay for her moving to a better one if not. At that point, we were advised that we had no legal right to knowledge of the child.

We asked what would happen to her. We hoped that a real attempt would be made to find her birth mother. The woman who relinquished Flor said 3 other children were born in the hospital the same day as hers, so it was possible that she had somehow been switched there, we hoped that the authorities would check out that lead. We were advised that was unlikely to happen. When we were told that she would be put into an orphanage that might or might not do adoptions, we asked about an abandonment decree. At that point, we were advised that, considering the circumstances, it might take 3-5 years or longer to get an abandonment for her. We then asked the Embassy if, considering that no real hunt for her birth parents would be done and shed just be put in an orphanage, would it be possible to get a DNA waiver so we could adopt her anyway. We were told categorically NO by Jessie. She said in the case of a DNA failure, there could be no waiver, no adoption; the case was closed, period.

At that point, with our hearts truly broken, we had to go on. We now have a wonderful daughter whom we love dearly, but there will always be a space in our hearts for little Flor, whom we held and loved for those four special days in Guatemala City in May of 2001.

So, when Bruce starts his rhetoric about how DNA doesnt catch stolen or bought babies, I know he is wrong. I know, as surely has if little Flor was wrenched out of our waiting arms. My heart aches for her birth parents- was it an accidental or even intentional switch in the hospital? Was the birth mother completely lying? Was this baby stolen or bought? I dont know. I do know that the woman went through a lot to prove this was her baby, and, according to our agency, was fighting to prove she was Flors bio mother. Well never know the truth, but only this- while there may still be some children stolen or bought, they wont be coming into the US via a relinquishment adoption. The DNA test DOES catch the nonmatches, and, trust me, there is no way around that, unless you are able, financially and emotionally to continue for possibly years, to try to get an abandonment, the adoption will cease when there is a DNA nonmatch.

Kathi Thomas
Austin TX.

Posted by Kelly at 07:02 PM

January 24, 2004

Growth Report Form

A while back ago, I started creating some forms for lifebooks and/or scrapbooks. I finally successfully got the file converted to a PDF file. NEW NOTE: I updated the form so I *think* you should be able to fill out the form.

Here is the first in the series....Tropical Growth Report

You may use them freely as long as you do not print for resale purposes.

Posted by Kelly at 06:25 PM

December 28, 2003

Preparing for the new year

Hmmm....there are plenty of things to talk about, but where-oh-where do we begin.

First off, I want to share a little about our first family Christmas and our first year with our daughter (one of the reasons that I have NOT updated the site in a while...family comes first!) I am aware that for some, this might be a bad time. For others, I hope that it gives you a little extra *staying* power (as it did for me two years ago).

On Christmas Eve, my parents came over to spend the night and share in Dani's first Christmas. I admit I was more excited about this Christmas than I have been since middle school. My husband and I were quickly inducted into the *some assembly required* mode meaning that you should give yourself 2-3 hours to assemble parts and accept that the manufacturers will always throw in extra spare parts to make you feel stupid. Luckily, our daughter slept deliciously late which gave us some time to pull ourselves together.

The big gift was her play-kitchen. She *loved* it. I was really amused watching a 15 month old child stirring imaginary soup, feeding her new baby doll, cooking various American dishes in the microwave and Guatemalan dishes in the oven. There is nothing more endearing than seeing a child with a huge grin on her (or his) face looking at you with those big brown eyes. This Christmas, she learned how to open presents....and how amazing it is to see her turn to her daddy to open and assemble her new toy. I felt an overwhelming joy at having this child in my life....suddenly, the recent sicknesses, sleep issues, job stresses and TIME stresses just didn't make a dent in our happiness. Yes, this is what we waited for.... And then, the icing on the cake: pointing to the Christmas tree and turning to her granddaddy and saying "Christ-tree".

Most of all, it is the hugs, the kisses and the laughing and the shrieks of joy that keep us smiling...

I hope everyone had a nice holiday....I hope that this new year will bring many more of our children home to cherish and enjoy!

Best of wishes to all.....

Posted by Kelly at 08:28 PM

November 14, 2003

Site Update

I am constantly updating the site to *hopefully* make it a little more user friendly. So, I have reorganized some sections and created some more general forums. These forums are not meant to replace the wonderful forums that are already out there, but to expand on issues that we discuss on this site.

We have a section for posting gatherings, meetings, seminars, etc; a section for starting ACTION committees; a section to advertise services and products; and a Parents Corner.

If you would like to see a specific section added, please use the contact form on the right and request it.

CLICK HERE to go to the forums.

Posted by Kelly at 01:05 PM

November 04, 2003

Calendar Delays

The bad news is that the calendar is NOT ready yet. The good news is that there were so many wonderful pictures, we will have two calendars. I am re-aiming my goal to November 10th. At that time, I will post a list of first names and which calendar they are featured. You will also be able to preview EACH page.

To AOL users - I have been having problems responding to questions. We recently changed IP addresses and I believe it was previously used for spamming and therefore, blocked by AOL. Guatadopt.com does NOT spam. I have informed my hosting company and hopefully they will resolve the issue with AOL.

Advertisements/Affiliates - Since I have had a few people VERY kindly offer to donate to the maintenance of this page (which is independent of ANY agency or organization), I thought I should mention the few means I do employ to raise funds for this site. You might have noticed the advertisements on the bottom right of this page. Yes, Guatadopt.com does get a very small referral fee from when someone purchases through one of the links. I use the funds to pay the hosting fee and software....which to date have been soley paid by me, myself and I. Anytime you use a link or buy a Guatadopt Store item, you ARE donating to the site! Moreover, your notes of appreciation have kept this site alive....and for that, I am VERY grateful!!!!!

Here are some of my affiliates and shops:

GUATADOPT SHOP:
Baby Creepers, Bibs, Toddler Shirts, etc.
TShirts
Long Sleeved Ts and Sweatshirts
Mugs and Steel Travel Mugs
Daycare bags, clocks, hats, tileboxes, mousepads
Calendar, Cards, Stickers
bag2.jpgCreeper.jpgLongT.jpg

AFFILIATES:

One Step Ahead


BookBrowser

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Posted by Kelly at 05:19 PM

October 28, 2003

Halloween Flier

There have been some great ideas on how to get the word out this Halloween. I thought I would share my plan. I will be escorting my little girl during her first trick or treat. So, while she gathers treats...I will hand out a flyer at each door. Luckily, I had a little help creating the flyer. The flyer encourages the reader to visit our site under guatadopt.com/visitor which is a brief description of the situation. You can use this one, or create your own.

HALLOWEEN FLYER For best results, you may want to download it and print it using Power Point.

If you cannot view it in Power Point, here is an image. Again, you may have better luck saving this on your computer and using a tool other than a web browser to print it.

HALLOWEEN FLYER IMAGE

I am sure that I could have done a better job editing, but time is ticking....

Posted by Kelly at 10:46 PM

October 19, 2003

Calendar update

Since I would like to respond to everyone, but time is limited...I thought I would address some items about the calendar here.

1 - Yes, I will announce when they will go on sale which should be sometime in early November.

2 - If you submitted a picture but did NOT get a confirmation, I probably don't have it. You can try to send it directly to pictures@guatadopt.com with the answers to the questions in the form mail.

3 - If any picture you sent was less than 50kb, then I am asking you send a higher resolution picture...Questions? Contact me at the above email.

4 - If I don't email everyone about the status, then I will somehow display the calendar pages in full. I would rather be personal...but time may prevent me from contacting everyone.

Finally, thanks for all the wonderful pictures. This has been really fun seeing all the gorgeous, happy children!!!

UPDATE: I have not contacted parents about WHO is in the calendar yet. We have over 97 entries and I would like to use as many as possible....somehow. There will be 4 - 6 entries AT LEAST per month (as stated in the original post). This is my first attempt, so we are bound to hit a few kinks....soon, I promise!

Posted by Kelly at 09:41 PM

October 02, 2003

2004 Celebration of Guatemalan Adoptions Calendar

2004 Celebration of Guatemalan Adoptions Photo Contest

Update: I wanted to add a couple of things to this post...
1st - YES, you will be contacted about the picture you submitted and whether it will be included in the calendar. I will also be emailing you if there was something that we need to correct about the photo (too small, blurry, etc.) so you will have a chance to resubmit if there is a problem.
2nd - I will post when the calendars and everyone can order as many as they like.

Deadline for photo submittals is October 15th. There will be two calendars available November 1, 2003.

The 2004 Celebration of Guatemalan Adoptions Monthly Calendar will feature 4 - 6 children per month. It will cost $17
The 2004 Celebration of Guatemalan Adoptions Wall Calendar
will feature a collage of children. it will cost $5

If you would like your child to be featured in one of these Calendars, here's your chance. I'm sorry, but we must require that any children featured in the submitted photos are adopted from Guatemala and the adoption has been finalized. Winners will be featured in the calendar with their first name (or nickname)only, age, city, state and country.

Calendar proceeds will go to site maintenance and expansion. Here's how to enter:

1st - Find a special photo of your little darling fully clothed. Funny faces, Messy faces, Happy faces...whatever tugs those heart strings.
2nd - Make sure the photo is only of the featured child or children (if you have more than one child adopted from Guatemala).
3rd - Make sure the photo is clear and in color.
4th - Resample (if necessary) so the photo is under 150Kb.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Studio photos are usually copyrighted by the Studio. Please make sure that the picture you submit is not copyrighted (unless by you;-)

Click here to submit your photo. Posted by Kelly at 11:26 PM


September 25, 2003

Email Campaign - Telling it like it is!

Many of us have been amazed at the articles written about Guatemalan Adoption. NONE of us want our friends or aquaintenances to think that we have adopted a kidnapped child. Yet time and time again, these stories taint our cherished adoption stories. In thinking how we could get the word out, Kevin came up with a good idea....lets start an email campaign. If all of us encourage our friends and relatives to pass on this information to 10 other friends and they pass it on to 10 more friends, we can easily get the word out about the realities of Guatemalan adoption. But PLEASE, PLEASE don't spam...

Here is the letter:
Guatemail.doc (Word format - download)
Guatemail.htm (HTML - copy & paste)

This e-mail campaign has been read by and received the endorsement of Hannah Wallace. So PLEASE, let's not just sit back and watch the public get exposed to a bunch of anti-adoption rhetoric. We can make a difference and it is as easy as cut, paste, and send. If you don't care for my wording or message, then please write your own version. If youd like to use portions of it but not the whole thing, you have the authors permission so long as nothing is presented out of context.

It doesn't do any good for all of us to get angry when we read these things unless we do something about it. If the anti-adoption crusaders want to use the mass media in order to spread their propaganda, let's beat them at their own game by spreading the truth!

PS: I (Kelly) cannot take credit for the email text...believe me, I am not THAT good of a writer;-)

Posted by Kelly at 12:50 PM

September 07, 2003

Spotlight on Orphan Resources International

As we continue to do everything in our power to bring our children home, we must also remember the negative impact that the Hague contraversy has had orphanages in Guatemala. With that in mind, I would like to bring attention to a very special organization. Orphan Resources International supplies much needed aid to the orphanages of Guatemala. The organization was founded by Rod and Sarah Martin who also adopted two children from Guatemala.

Below is an email I received from Rod with information about Orphan Resources International.

The main purpose of Orphan Resources International is to supply aid to the orphanages of Guatemala. We do this by collecting donations and redistribute them to the ones that most need those products at that time, purchase milk and formulas, organize workgroups to do repairs and new construction, and spend time with the kids. We have currently started a new project called Project REFUGE which will be the main vehicle through which the donations and distribution
network will operate. We hope to operate this on a large scale with warehousing in the US and Guatemala, with a network of distribution to a large number of orphanages. Currently this project is in operation but on small scale until we secure larger monetary funding for staff and warehouse personnel for the distribution network.

We are also developing an Adopt an Orphanage program which will be geared towards churches being paired up with one orphanage pledging a certain amount of money which will help send the children to school, upgrade the facilities, hire more staff, ect. Through this program we hope to raise the awareness for the need for adoption, and through this program have people from those churches adopt children from the orphanage if they are adoptable, including going on work groups to that orphanage to have one on one interaction with the kids.


1 - How has the proceedings affected them (whether they do adoptions or not)?
The answer to this question is very easy since four weeks ago I visited 22 orphanages, the answer to this specific question that I asked to all of them that did adoptions was this. We rely on adoption related monies to operate this orphanage if the adoptions continue on hold or to be stopped we will be forced to close the orphanage and return the children to the court system, there are no funds coming in and very little private support and the costs continue. 95% of the orphanages that do adoptions also have many children that are not adoptable now or never and this money also is needed for the ongoing support for these children. This is one reason we are starting some of the programs I mentioned to help with the day to day operation of an orphanage.

2 - Is there any government resources?
There are no government resources, and if there are no one has been receiving
any.

3 - Can volunteers visit them (with donations)?
There are some orphanages that will allow people to visit and spend time with the kids, including bringing donations. However others are very skeptical of leaving in people they do not know just to visit, for fear they may be there just to cause problems.

These are the 20 orphanages that we currently delivered donations to, I have a list of 80 and there 215 registered. They house around 20,000 children. Some of these we help on a limited basis others receive milk formulas and work groups.

Fundaninos
Small Miracles
APIF
Casa San Jose Aids
Santa Lucia
Un Mundo Nuevo
El Jardin
VIDA home for boys
Prince of Peace home for girls
ASAMI
Dawn of Love
Home of the Angles
San Jeronimo
Casa Bernabe
Ramar
Hogar Miguel Magone
Casa Shalom
Shadow of His Wings home for girls
Misionaros del Camino
Hands of Mercy

All donations get sent to:
Orphan Resources International
550 West Trout Run Rd.
Ephrata Pa. 17522

Monetary donations need to be earmarked for the specific project intended.

Posted by Kelly at 11:22 AM

August 06, 2003

Angels in Adoption

Nominations are currently underway for the Angels in Adoption Awards. You can read about the award on Ethica's site here. You can make suggestions by contacting your congressmen and telling them who YOUR angel in adoption is (from your home state).

Pennsylvania residents: You can nominate OUR Angel in Adoption, Hannah Wallace!!!!!!! (this was Kevin's idea and a FANTASTIC one at that). Please spread the word!!!

Posted by Kelly at 03:53 PM

Action Groups

Since there has been a lot of interest in Action Groups for specific states, I set up a forum for discussions. For example, you can start a topic called Michigan Action Group or California Action Group. You can find the Action Groups Forum under Groups (to the RIGHT). Also please note that there is a Group Annoucements forum which is intended for annoucing Get togethers/Gatherings.

I will request that these forums be strictly used for organizing information and that any socializing be taken offlist. My reason is simple....this site has limited space and I want to make sure that it is used wisely.

*THANKS*

Posted by Kelly at 12:44 AM

July 24, 2003

Constructive thoughts in chaos

During these times of uncertainty, I want to remind those that are waiting (and those that have completed their adoptions).....PRINT as many stories as you can about the riots, the Hague, emails, news from the day your child was born, etc. These scraps of information will one day be the puzzle pieces your children use to understand the circumstances surrounding their adoption....and therefore, a piece of their identity.

I feel strongly that my daughter's identity will be formed through her life experiences and not just where she was born. However, I think her understanding of the events surrounding her adoption will be extremely important to her.

Not long ago, I said that you need to cherish the struggles. I hope some of you will start to understand why I made that statement....

We do not wish for chaos....but when it is there, we will endeaver to understand its meaning.

Posted by Kelly at 11:53 PM

July 17, 2003

Amparo News

I am pleased to report that, on July 16, 2003, the First Court of Appeals granted a provisional amparo stating that PGN cannot apply the Hague Convention to a US case of adoption. The amparo was filed by attorneys working with HAPS (in NJ) for a case that was "kicked out" of PGN for not meeting the requirements of the Hague Convention.

The amparo stated that adoption cases filed on behalf of US Citizens do not need to meet the requirements of the Hague Convention until they become a full party to the treaty (expected in the next couple of years).

A Recurso de Amparo (aka amparo) is a legal action filed in the appeals courts of Guatemala. In the case of Guatemalan adoptions a (very) few attorneys have filed amparos - the first known to me on June 23, 2003. Amparos have been filed against various entities in PGN when they have refused to process adoption cases. The reasons that I know for amparos being filed are (1) post-March 5/pre-July 1 cases being issued previos (kicked out of PGN) for not meeting the requirements of the Hague Convention [has been successful]; (2) post-March 5/pre-July 1 cases not being accepted by PGN (instead referred to the Central Authority); (3) cases not being accepted to PGN appealed because it is prohibiting notarial attorneys in Guatemala from performing their work (which is constitutionally protected) [has been successful]; and (4) pre-March 5 cases that have been languishing in PGN for months without apparent action.

On July 16th, four amparos were granted in Guatemala City - each presented by a different attorney. Others may have been filed or granted outside of Guatemala City. I don't currently know the exact reason for each appeal, except that one involved scenario #1 above, and another involved scenario #3.

Although the decision by the First Court of Appeals in this case is very exciting, it does not mean that the battle is won. It is my understanding that the decision is only applicable to the particular case filed - so it provides precedence for other cases, but does not directly apply to them. And, PGN is likely to file an appeal, which they must do within 3 days of the decision.

What can you do? Well, if your case falls into one of the above categories, or others that I have not considered (like cases languishing in the Central Authority for 30 days without action, perhaps) talk to your agency or facilitator about the possibility of an amparo being filed on your behalf. So far there are only a few attorneys filing these documents, but early results indicate that they might be effective methods of getting through the PGN/CA roadblocks. However, it is only likely to work on a broad scale if many attorneys become involved. And, the best way for them to become involved is to hear from you that, as their client, you would like them to consider filing such an appeal on your behalf.

Update (7/20): As expected, PGN filed an appeal for the amparo granted on 7/16. Their initial appeal was rejected because it was not formatted correctly, however they have filed another appeal and the case will be heard by the Constitutional Court.

Posted by at 10:48 PM

May 14, 2003

Updated Shop

We are constantly updating our CAFEPRESS SHOP - GUATADOPT with new designs. CLICK HERE to check them out!
fromGuat.jpgflagssteelmug.jpgGuatgirl.jpg


Posted by Kelly at 05:07 PM

May 06, 2003

A Special Mother's Day

I found some wonderful ideas for Mother's Day....or even just a wonderful adoption gift for mom:
JewelryWeb.com Mom and Baby Cameo
JewelryWeb.com Mom and Baby Cameo 2
JewelryWeb.com Heart Locket
JewelryWeb.com Double Heart Ring

Also, check out our store for other gifts...GuatAdopt Store

Posted by Kelly at 06:44 PM