Adoption and corruption: human trafficking busts in Guatemala

Discuss

50 Responses to “Adoption and corruption: human trafficking busts in Guatemala”

  1. beagley says:

    Despite all the new science and rules in place to prevent “human trafficking”, it is still feared. Guatemala is terrified of it, which is really why all Guatemalan adoption is frozen right now.

    As someone who really, really wants to be a daddy, this is kind of heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking to know that there are orphans living in Guatemala who long for a family, but because of fear and red tape, I will never adopt them.

    If you take a good hard look at the rules and regulations in place to prevent the horror story described above, you’ll know that it is the exception, not the rule.

    The Hague and other international standards are helping, and eventually it will become possible again.

    In the meantime, children and childless parents wait on opposite sides of the barrier.

  2. Antinous says:

    Babies are snatched in the street. One woman who went right to the police when her baby was stolen found her later when her DNA matched a baby that had been adopted in the US. I think that it was a Casa Quivira adoption. It’s not just baby-selling and fudged paperwork, it’s kidnapping.

  3. diaz says:

    The interesting thing is that Guatemala has, for at least 8-10 years, had a DNA test requirement. The mother and child’s DNA are matched to prove that the person surrendering a child is their biological mother. The DNA test is done by a lab in the US. So from that perspective, I don’t understand how a baby can be “…snatched in the street” and then still pass the required DNA test.

    I know that the lawyers in Guatemala are making out like bandits: lawyer’s fees for the Guatemalan portion alone can run $8,000 or more. That’s a lot of money considering the cost of living.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some mothers are paid to surrender their children (which is illegal). I’m also not surprised that some mothers are provided with false identities, given the social stigma of surrendering a child.

  4. Xeni Jardin says:

    Antinuous is correct. I’ve interviewed women in Guatemala City who gathered at a human rights organization to present similar claims, and seek the help their own government has denied them. Their stories were unbelievably sad; in each case the alleged kidnapping was recent. These women were so panicked, traumatized — it’s hard to imagine what that must feel like.

    There are many other well-documented manifestations of corruption and crime in this system. We’re not just talking about abstract ethical arguments over whether it’s okay for birth mothers to receive compensation.

  5. marymary says:

    This is sloppy journalism at best!!!! As an adoptive parent of a child from Guatemala, this article only looks at one side of the story and is “sensationalised” journalism. The author states that they “are familier with first-person testimonies from a number of sides of this story” however neglects to tell the whole story. Frankly “being familiar” with different sides of a story does not make one an expert.

    In the comments section in comment number 2 about the child being stolen and they think that it was CQ baby is incorrect. I would suggest before stirring the rumor mill that one verifys the information before calling it fact. And that the author would agree with this post just the attempt to malign a Hogar that is one of the best ran facilities in Guatemala.

    There is no adoptive parent that would want to be a part of a child that was stolen or kidnapped from their birthmother but this article fails miserably in looking at all sides of the issue. Guatemala has essentially thrown the baby out with the bath water and the real possibility of forever closing the door to adoptions in that country is happening right before your very eyes. Not saying that corruption needs to be eliminated but to simply shut the system down harms everyone mostly the children who are really in need of a permamnent forever family.

    I am extremly dissappointed in this attempt at reporting-I wrote a better article in my elementary reading and writing class.

  6. EncarnacionFlor says:

    Mott_NY:
    Your account has saddened me; that someone would do that is horrible, and like everyone else here, I hope for it to stop. Thank you for sharing your story, and also for educating us on the process of adoption. If you would like, I can translate to English the Prensa Libre article you linked to for all here to read.

    To everyone:
    Please do not stereotype all Christians or their adoption agencies by the actions of this one. I am in the process of devoting the rest of my life to this kind of work, even my handle states this, so this is very personal. It seems only obvious that any organization bearing the name of Christ would want to behave in a way that honors Him and His people, but this, if this is true, is nothing but an embarrasment. The one I plan on working with works is more of a group foster home than an adoption agency, and the government places and removes the children, which hurts if the workers had bonded with the kids. Any barriers put up are for the safety of the kids and the property, and family are welcome, so long as the visit is beneficial to the child. Hiding the identity of a child or his/her parents is never appropriate, though some children come in without so much as a name, so a culturally appropriate one is given, usually by the government, not the organization. This is how I wish all of these would function. So please, do not judge all of them by the actions of a few.

  7. hazmat says:

    I have recently gone through a US adoption which started as a foster (we adopted our 15 year old son in October 2007). My wife and I chose to adopt in the US because there are so many children in the United States that need homes, we felt it was ridiculous to bring in a child from another country because it was “easier” or “cheaper.” Face it, raising a child is going to be both “hard” and “expensive,” no matter how you start the process.

    There was a comment on how a US based adoption was way too expensive- maybe so, in private adoptions. We went through the state child protective services and all of our expenses could be re-imbursed, but I had legal coverage from my employer, so that covered the legal expenses (probably about $5000). If you go through a foster, you actually get a check each month until the child is adopted. This leads to many families running foster homes like businesses to support their households, it is true- but mostly the state needs this because there just aren’t enough people willing to open their home to a child.

    Most states give big incentives to adopt out of the child protective services pool, such as stipends and college tuition, but no doubt, it is hard and you have to keep working on it. There are classes you must take in parenting, medications, CPR, and first aid- which are all great skills to have- it is a shame that biological parents don’t have to go through this training- I’m sure that there would be a lot fewer children in the care of child protective services if that were the case.

    A foreign adoption has a lot of money trading hands for a child. That looks to me like buying a child, though you may call it something else.

    Yes, if you want a healthy white newborn domestic adoption through the state, you’re going to wait a very long time. You can shorten the time if you’re willing to adopt a newborn with a different shade of skin, but you’re still going to have to wait. There are a huge number of adoptable older children with no legal risk (their birth parents have had their parental rights permanently terminated by the court).

  8. Susan Oliver says:

    Go easy, Takuan. if CQParent is indeed that little boy’s mom or dad, their emotions are justifiably heightened, regardless of the legalities involved.

    CQParent, Teresa’s points are well-spoken. She needs to take the proper steps on her end to make sure the photo is being used appropriately by BoingBoing. I can see BB’s point, though, that if you have already given permission for your child’s photograph to be used for publicity purposes it seems likely that reprint for use in commentary is going to be fair use. Yes, it may suck, but that’s the way it is.

    Finally, gotta say that your kid’s a cutie! Congratulations.

  9. demidan says:

    Call me knee jerk, but why not throw the operators of QC into a prison, later to be castrated with stone tools?

  10. Takuan says:

    puts another light on that story about the American tourist woman nearly beaten to death by a mob over a rumour.

  11. Susan Oliver says:

    I too would love to know the name of the church. I’m a member of Sunset Presbyterian in PDX, and they have an international adoption agency operating out of the church (I think it’s completely separate, but pretty much everybody who works there belongs to Sunset). I would be appalled if it was us and would take it up immediately with the church leadership.

    Can you talk a little more about why you named the adoption agency but not the church?

  12. ellewilson says:

    It may be hard to judge how widespread the adoption abuse actually is in Guatemala, and whether or not any of it can be defined as kidnapping. (I have no doubt some of it is).

    However, the main point is that foreign adoption, particularly from third world, underdeveloped countries, is always deeply problematic.

    Not long ago, the conservative Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote an op ed piece complaining of how difficult it was for parents in the U.S. to adopt domestically. He argued that the system was too regulated, and that adoptive parents, once they got the baby, had to live in fear of birth mothers actually exercising their legal rights and reclaiming the babies. On the basis of this fear, he and his wife decided to adopt from overseas, and I believe it was from Guatemala or El Salvador. It brought them peace of mind, he said.

    Something seems very wrong with this–as it’s okay to skirt regulations by going overseas to get what you want–from places that don’t have laws, and where people don’t have rights. It’s a little bit analogous to US corporations going overseas for thier labor–because over there, one doesn’t have to deal with silly things like minimum wage laws.

    Except the “outsourcing” of babies is a lot more insidious. Same concept, really: women in the US who give up their babies actually have some rights. In going to a third world country to get your baby, you’re counting on, indeed your family happiness depends on the fact that women in those countries would never have the rights or the resources to do anything about it–no matter what the circumstances were when they gave up the babies.

  13. bardfinn says:

    Xeni:

    I presume that the story leaves out the name of the evangelical mega-church, and its’ offshoot, to protect the identity of the child and/or your sources. If there is ever a way to publish the name of that evangelical mega-church, then there are /numerous/ watchdog organisations who would very much like to know that info.

    I’m a member of the dark_christian community on LiveJournal, and I’m posting a story referring to this article, asking the community members for their best informed guesses – reverse engineering the identity of the organisation, as it were.

  14. Takuan says:

    quite right you are Susan, I intend no attack. Yet.
    If circumstances are as presented, please accept my humble apologies. I do not wish to trespass on anyone’s rights any more than I wish to see that happen to the innocent.

    I am also intensely curious about the “mega-church”

  15. ellewilson says:

    Reading parts of this thread, I was reminded of the recent film ‘Gone Baby Gone,” a first feature by Ben Affleck, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. The reason I liked the film so much was how it posed the provocative moral and ethical question of whether it’s okay to “steal” a child, to save her from a potentially miserable future–extralegally, that is. Check out the movie!

  16. Jamie Sue says:

    @6

    Very true. Many parents do seek to adopt in foreign countries because the likelihood that the adoption will later be overturned in favor of the birth mother’s rights are very slim. But, another, substantial, group of parents adopt abroad because the legal fees associated with adopting in the US are cost prohibitive. I know a family who spent 20,000 in thier attempt to adopt a child in the US. 6 months later the birth mother recanted and the child was given back to her. With limited resources the family adopted abroad at the cost of about 8,000 (plus flight.)

    There will be a market for foreign adoption as long as the law favors genetics (which I oppose since blood relationship should NOT be the most important circumstance in deciding child wellfare– another conversation for another day) and the cost of adoption prohibits otherwise wonderful families from adopting.

    It is my personal belief that legal fees for adopting a child should not ever exceed 1000$ thus opening the door for more middle class adoptions.

  17. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    CQParent (21): First: I’m sorry, but I’ll have to see whether that’s covered under fair use.

    Second: Do you have some way of identifying yourself and your child, and establishing that that photo is in fact a picture of your child?

    Third: Can you tell me anything about the legal status of the photograph in the screenshot? Is the site using it with permission, and do you know the name of the photographer? Had your child been adopted at the time the photograph was taken?

    Fourth: Don’t you think this interaction would be calmer and more constructive if it weren’t conducted on an adversarial basis?

  18. bardfinn says:

    #21:

    I am not a lawyer. I suggest, however, that

    IF that is actually your child pictured on the CQ website,

    THEN you should contact an attorney and have them contact Happy Mutants LLC’s retained attorney with documented proof that you are the parent, and cite relevant and jurisdictional child safety / protection laws and precedents that demonstrate that your interest in preventing your child’s picture from being re-published as part of news reporting, over-rides Xeni’s fair use rights to re-publish it as part of topical news coverage of an organisation that is using the image themselves, without Xeni having included any personally identifying information herself regarding the child.

    In short: While I cannot say with any authority that the comments are not the correct venue for your concern, I will suggest that your satisfaction will be best served in another manner.

  19. MsAnon says:

    There will also be a “supply” for foreign adoption as long as populations are too poor to take in relatives’ children and provide for basic needs. There have been recent African scandals where “adoptable orphans” have been revealed to have living parents who were simply too poor to feed them–some were knowingly relinquished and some parents were pressured to “temporarily place” their children in orphanages so that the children could get two meals a day.

    I don’t necessarily think that the law should “favor genetics”, but consider if someone in your family died or was too poor to care for an infant–would you think it the best case for your infant niece, nephew, cousin, or grandchild to be adopted overseas where you would never hear of them again, or would you think that it would be all right for you, given the resources, to raise them?

    People spend so much time and money adopting one destitute child from third-world nations, when that same amount of money could enable several children to grow up and be cared for in their native land, giving them a better life there and a better future for their country. Does a child brought over to the US enjoy material advantages well beyond those of their unadopted siblings? Certainly; they also deal with unique challenges. But I think there’s something sick that incentivizes (however slightly) keeping countries poor, and a source of adoptable children.

    Consider, too, that adoptive-available children have historically come from “shame” and poverty. The major reason that there are so few “adoptable” children in America today (even aside from questions of birthparents’ rights) is because:

    1. Single mothers, who were historically shamed and browbeaten into relinquishing their infants, are now almost overwhelmingly choosing to raise their children themselves and

    2. AFDC and welfare are giving families who could not otherwise afford to feed their children financial help, and social work *may* offer single parents other child-raising help. Ask around about Depression-era parents who sent their children into orphanages because they could not feed them, or because one parent had died and the survivor could simply not raise them alone.

    @7, the recent “Indian surrogate mothers” articles in the blogosphere and print world touched, again, on the concept of American surrogates having too many rights and too much power for the liking of those buying their services.

    I’m not ragging on adoptive parents; but I think there are so many problems, on so many levels, with adoption as currently practiced.

  20. Mott_NY says:

    For those of you (and I count a couple among the posters here) who appear willing to condone or turn a blind eye to human trafficking in the name of some “higher good,” allow me to share a story which, in a sense, may put the proverbial shoe on the other foot. For this could have happened to you.

    It is a story that my wife and I have told practically no one. At first, in the wake of the incident, because it was too horrible and unsettling to talk about, and, much later, because the horror had thankfully receded into the distant past. But it definitely happened, and it definitely colors my views today on Guatemalan adoptions.

    I am an American. Back in the 1980s I worked for several years in Guatemala as a development worker with a well-known NGO with projects all over the country, though I was based in the capital city. In 1984 my Guatemalan wife and I were blessed with a beautiful baby girl (biological offspring).

    Like many people in my line of work we had a paid housekeeper. One day when our little girl was maybe seven months old our housekeeper had to walk down the street about five short blocks to get some small sundry, like milk or something, at a little store there. She asked my wife for permission to take the baby with her, and my wife said of course. (You must understand that we trusted our wonderful indigenous housekeeper implicitly, and besides, Zone 10 of the city was far more tranquil back then, notwithstanding the war in the countryside.) As for me, I was at work 15 blocks away in the office.

    Scarcely a block from the little store, the housekeeper carrying our daughter swaddled in a colorful peraje was accosted by a microbus which sped up to her from behind and cut her off. Inside (I am told) was a male driver and 4-5 “well-dressed women.” (Bear in mind, this is our housekeeper’s account.) Through an open window of the microbus a woman deftly squirted the contents of what looked like a large syringe into our baby daughter’s face. Not injected, but squirted through the air. And indeed, it appeared this would have been an abduction, had not something miraculous and ironic happened in that instant. An army jeep with 3-4 soldiers came around another nearby corner and stopped in front of the tienda! They did nothing, really, except that one or two of them went into the tienda to buy something — but the mere sight of them on this very tranquil street must have spooked the people in the microbus, for they suddenly sped off as quickly as they had approached.

    Our housekeeper came back home in a panic with our baby. Police were called, and about three of them showed up very quickly in a patrol car, including one female officer who took down our report. I had just arrived home from work, and was quickly apprised of the situation. Our baby, swaddled and deeply asleep in the same peraje, smelled vaguely of rotten eggs, and both the housekeeper and the police officer said that was from the liquid they had squirted in her face – evidently some sort of chemical with a tranquilizing effect. The police had evidently seen or heard of this before; in fact, they seemed unsurprised by any of the details recounted to them.

    Well, the moment passed, and we eventually all returned to normalcy. We’ve been back in the States for many years now (except for the housekeeper, of course). Our little girl is fully grown, graduated from college, and on her own now working at a wonderful job in DC. But we might well have lost her forever, and there is not a shadow of doubt that our daughter might have become one more statistic in the horrible saga of human trafficking and illegal adoptions.

    Folks, there is NO PRINCIPLED MORAL DISTINCTION that can be made between kidnapping for adoption or selling a child for adoption. It is human trafficking, and it is wrong. If a child is sold, it doesn’t matter if you are the seller or the buyer, and if the latter, it matters not a whit whether you paid the cash yourself or paid someone else to pay the cash.

    Moreover, I agree wholeheartedly with the poster here who noted that those who adopt because they want to “save” a child should really consider how many more children they could save by devoting the same resources to vitally needed community development efforts in the country where the children live.

  21. Xopher says:

    CQParent, your initial comment was

    That is my child’s picture on your screenshot of CQ’s website. Please remove it immediately, I have not given you permission to use it.

    …which sounds like a legal demand, which you don’t have standing to make (as far as I, a non-lawyer, can tell). Had you instead opened with

    Please, I’m the parent of the child shown on CQ’s website. Could you please blur his picture, or remove it altogether? I’ve asked them to take it down as well. My son doesn’t deserve to be associated with this mess.

    …my reaction would have been far different, and I suspect I’m not unique in that regard.

  22. informedadopter says:

    Xeni is oversimplifying. Guatemala is a strict Catholic country, and as a result, divorces are almost impossible to obtain (lowest divorce rate in the world). Married women must get the approval of their husband and father-in-law in order to give up their children for adoption; both males must go into court and renounce their heir. Lacking that, the child cannot be given for adoption.

    So suppose we have a woman who has been separated from her legal husband for ten years. Hasn’t laid eyes on him, doesn’t even know where he lives. He’s not going to go to court for her and renounce the child. And suppose the biological father was a one-night stand, he’s gone too. The only way for her to give the child up for adoption is to do so under false pretenses, as a single woman. Although this is legally wrong under Guatemala’s laws, it may be morally right, in that everyone who is truly concerned about the child (the mother only) is in favor of the adoption.

    Obviously there is also corruption in the system. But the problem at hand – the one the AP stories are written about – is this, married women posing as single women to give up their children. The AP story is not about buying/selling/kidnapping children.

  23. CQparent says:

    First of all, I don’t believe Im being adversarial in the least. You have posted a picture on your website of my child and I would like it removed. You had no right to do that. Im just stating facts and not putting emotion into any of my words. I had contacted the author and also the owner of boingboing and nothing has been done. I had really no other way of contacting anyone except posting it as a comment. I honestly dont understand why you would blur the top picture and not blur my son’s?

    I can email you privately if you want and discuss the detail of this photo. franklinguy44@yahoo.com

  24. UnkleRem says:

    For all that don’t know how is the situation in Guatemala, go there, stay just 3 or 4 days (is enough) and you’ll see by yourself. Go for example just one morning to the lobby of the Marriot Hotel and see how the deal is made and tell me how you feel after seeing what happens there (you’ll probably wonder how it’s possible that happens in XXI century).
    Money and power can do almost anything…

  25. Xopher says:

    IANAL, but it seems unlikely to me that permission would be required – again – to show the photo in the context for which permission was originally given. If you gave permission for photos of your son to be used on signs in a public demonstration, would you be able to assert that every newspaper that photographed the demonstration needed your permission to publish the photos?

    I am not a lawyer, but I think not. Otherwise you could just have a copyrighted photo printed on a t-shirt, and then no one could photograph you (granted, they need permission for that under some circumstances, but not by virtue of your having a photo on your chest).

    This is all assuming you’re not just someone working for CQ trying to keep pictures of their website from being shown in a negative light. All due respect to the concerned parent you may be, all disrespect to the scammer you may also be.

  26. Takuan says:

    ah, the church, doing good where ever it goes…

  27. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    I’ve referred the matter to the editors.

  28. fgrad says:

    Adoption was supposed to be about finding families for children who need them. Now it’s become a multi billion dollar industry for couples who want babies.

    Adoption is big money all around.

    From our tax dollars that go to NCFA to promote adoption, to the cost of babies, to the untested and dangerous therapies for adoptees who are diagnosed as RAD, to the monies adoption agencies and courts charge adult adoptees for their own identities, adoption becomes a lifelong money maker.

    With money like that at stake, these abuses will continue.

  29. CQparent says:

    First of all, Thank you susan, my son is my life and i dont want any harm to come his way because of my actions. Secondly, if we could take the legalities out of this situation. I dont see what my son’s picture adds to the story, so what is the problem removing or blurring the picture. Keep the link, I dont care. Having my son in anyway associated with the current situation with CQ is not my desire. And yes I have asked them to take the picure down too.

  30. CQparent says:

    May I have the editors email address?

  31. CQparent says:

    XOPHER, please understand..No legalities, just compassion..This is an innocent child who doesnt deserve to be associated with this article.

  32. Takuan says:

    Dear Xeni

    What is the name of the “mega church”?

  33. Anonymous says:

    What you are saying about horrible adoptions may be true, but mentioning barbed wire on walls is not a good example. I’ve personally seen barbed wire on walls in Guatemale at a school where it was to keep trouble out. In many “third world” countries barbed wire, broken glass, nailes, or other sharp objects on walls is more about freedom in your own home through security than trapping people in your home. We Americans don’t understand what a gift it is that many of us can keep our door unlocked at night. Mentioning the barbed wire in your article doesn’t help us to cross a cultural divide, but instead lies by saying that their culture fits in our worldview. It makes you the writer look ignorant. How do I know that you understand what you’re saying about adoption in Guatemale if you don’t understand their culture? An ignorant media is easily turned by whatever wind blows, much like the “this person played video games and killed so he is a video game killer”. If you’re doing it intentionally it’s even worse!

  34. Xeni Jardin says:

    @CQparent, I’ve modified the screengrab (with heavy pixellation) so that the identify of the child featured on the Casa Quivira website cannot be determined.

  35. Takuan says:

    Dear Xeni

    I request you please delete my comment #30 above

  36. Takuan says:

    I guess this image is OK though eh? Huh?

    http://www.casaquivira.com/

  37. mark_at_flickeringpictures says:

    I can understand how mothers in desperate situations would feel that both they and their children might have better lives if their babies are adopted by rich first-world types. The fact that some corporation makes money from the process – so long as it’s not stooping to kidnapping, pressuring or misleading parents, etc. – seems besides the point.

    If I were unable to have kids with my partner, I might seriously consider looking outside my country’s borders to adopt a child whose life might otherwise be miserable. Likewise, I can understand how a desperately poor parent might opt to give his/her child a chance in another country rather than allow the child to suffer through hunger/disease/violence/etcetera at home.

  38. mikesum32 says:

    Took ‘em long enough.

  39. CQparent says:

    Yes, they have my permission to use this photo.

  40. gandalf23 says:

    I just found out a few weeks ago that a friend of mine’s father is a Guatemalan adoptee. Only he was an American who was adopted by a Guatemalan couple. I didn’t even know that was an option. It’s quite sad, his biological mother was raped and she for religious reasons would not terminate the child, so she gave him up for adoption and, because of the rape, wanted him out of the country. So he ended up in Guatemala.

  41. madre says:

    Thank you MaryMary for your comments. I am also an adoptive parent and this type journalism does more to harm our families and the children in Guatemala who need homes. If the author had bothered to do an ounce of research she would know that international adoption has been shut down in Guatemala and the system is being overhauled. Also as another person stated all children who are placed for adoption are subjected to two DNA tests, so the idea that babies are being snatched off the street is ridiculous.

    The scenario that was described by Moot_Ny is petrifying and I am so sorry that you and your family went through that, but it is not a common occurrence and certainly not a way a child is placed for adoption.

    Our adoption was completely transparent, we have contact information for her biological mother and have full disclosure of her circumstances that led to her relinquishment of her child. So we didn’t adopt so we could snatch a child out of the country and not care if her biological mother wanted her back. Also our adoption took 6months (which was the average time for adoptions, when they were allowed). During that time her biological mother had three opportunities to change her mind.

    Certainly the system in Guatemala needed improvements and that is what is currently happening. It’s irresponsible and plain ignorant writing like this one that could cause Guatemala to cease international adoption all together and in that case only the children with out permanent families will suffer. Which I doubt anyone would really want.

  42. Mott_NY says:

    I do not wish to enter the fray about the child’s picture in the CQ screengrab. While I do have my own views about ‘fair use’ and the Internet’s reinvention of privacy rules, I’ll leave that discussion for others.

    But I did want to follow up on three posts which appear to be at least partly in response to my Post #15. To begin with, while I did not say, as Anonymous #20 appears to attribute to me, that “people shouldn’t be bought and sold like animals”, nevertheless in my P#15 conclusion I did express an idea to the same effect. I do not think I am retarded, but I do think a crucial distinction needs to be made here between “paying an adoption fee” and “buying a baby.”

    Clearly adoption fees will always be with us, due to the substantial legal, medical, not to mention interim child care expenses that are incurred during the adoption process. This much is obvious, and obviously someone has to cover those costs. Hence the adoption fee.
    But when any portion of those fees is used, with or without the knowledge of the prospective adopters, to persuade a birth mother to offer her child for cash or to purchase a child who was kidnapped, then the profundity of the moral question at stake here should be equally obvious. Both of these issues are at stake today in Guatemala, if not in the Casa Quivira case specifically then in others like it. And it is this question, the morality of BUYING A BABY, which I weighed in on in my Post #15 — not the question of adoption fees per se. Let’s try to keep these issues clearly distinct.

    Madre in Post #19 worries that the news articles and all this fuss we are making could simply cause international adoptions from Guatemala to cease altogether, and she opines that in that case “only the children without permanent families will suffer.” In the first place, I think that while Guatemalan adoptions should not necessarily cease, indeed there should perhaps be a moratorium on such adoptions while serious, thoughtful people earnestly try to work the moral and legal kinks out of the system. (And kinks there are, trust me.) Secondly, though, I really have trouble with this term of art, “permanent families.” I assume you mean the adoptive family, for most of these children already have “permanent families” in Guatemala. Those who do not are true orphans, and while it is true that everybody came from somebody, as far as I can see the desperately poor orphans wandering shiftlessly on the streets of Guatemala City without any identifiable mother or father are decidedly NOT the ones who end up in Casa Quivira, or any other adoption house. The rest HAVE families.

    Finally, Anonymous in Post #22 asserts that Guatemala “is rife with rumors and stories of kidnappings and events that may have happened in limited scope or in the past that have ballooned in to larger than life legends.” Rumors? Stories? Limited scope? Larger than life legends? If you can read Spanish, take a look at this article from Guatemala’s most prestigious newspaper:

    http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2007/junio/23/175173.html

    I am sorry I cannot quickly find a similar article in English, but the point is nonetheless clear: What almost happened to us in 1985 (which I related in Post #15) is still happening today. Let’s face the facts and deal with them. Adoption is good; human trafficking is evil.

  43. Anonymous says:

    I too am a parent of two kids who were adopted from Guatemala.

    A few comments on the above observations:

    It is the US Government who requires the DNA test. The birthmother and the child have their DNA swabbed by a US Embassy approved doctor. The test is sent to a US lab for match. I believe that there are two tests required now.

    Guatemala is an overwhelmingly Catholic country with little access to birthcontrol. When there is access, the male-dominated culture often doesn’t allow the use anyway.
    The fertility rate in Guatemala is: 3.7 children per woman*
    and the infant mortality rate is: almost 30/1000* (better than most of Africa but not great)
    (*2007 from CIA World Fact Book)

    One of the reasons people tend to choose international adoptions over US adoptions IS the reduced chance of a birthmother changing her mind and gaining custody (in some cases in the US, after 8 or 10 years), however, US adoptions are often based on a type of “Matchmaking” system that can take years if at all to complete. The birthmother chooses the couples based on her understanding of an ideal couple. Often, for a young birthmother, this is a couple with a house, and another biological child. This makes it difficult for infertile couples to become parents. International adoption offers some level of certainty, not spped, but certainty that after the expense and waiting a child will come.

    Guatemala is a country that has endured a lot of horrible things. Wars, murders, disappearings…I believe that the stories of child abductions or trafficking have occurred in the past and occasionally occur still, just like the tourist murders and kidnappings that still occur. For a US couple working through a reputable agency however, most likely the adoption is legitimate. There are bad attorneies in Guatemala however and the Guatemalan government is too poor to put much effort in to effective measures to address the problem.

    Having babies for money is bad. It is an understandable measure that a poor woman might take out of desperation.

    However, Guatemala, especially in the rural, indigenous communities, is rife with rumors and stories of kidnappings and events that may have happened in limited scope or in the past that have ballooned in to larger than life legends.

    We are fortunate to be in contact with both of our kid’s birthmothers. They have told us their hope is for a better life for their children, an education and healthcare. We hope that, someday, when the kids feel ready, we will visit and they can meet. Many of the families that we know that have adopted children return to Guatemala to visit foster parents and even birthmothers if they are fortunate enough to have contact. Many children learn Spanish as well.

    So, there are bad things that happen and there are people who are corrupt, but to take one story and expand it to the general case is no more valid for this than it is for any other story.

  44. Antinous says:

    This thread smells funny. It seems amazing to me that so many people who have adopted from Guatemala coincidentally ran into this post. And that most of them are condemning the information, much of which has already appeared in major news media.

  45. Takuan says:

    yep, but when kids are involved I err heavily on the side of caution

    truth will emerge

  46. bardfinn says:

    #31:

    Again, you will probably wish to contact or retain an attorney, and seek that attorney’s advice.

    I’m not an attorney.

    My understanding is that under the freedoms that the Press enjoys in the United States of America, what Xeni and BoingBoing have done – publish a fair use excerpt of a publicly available web site – falls under the protections of free speech.

    While there are laws in various localities that to one extent or another restrict the media from publishing photos of children without the verified permission of their parents, those laws extend solely to children inside the United States.

    Neither Xeni nor BoingBoing have any indication that this photo was taken inside the United States, and would therefore fall under United States copyright / child-identification-in-the-press laws; nor that you are the author of that photo under United States copyright law, nor that you are the parent of the child in the photograph, nor that the child is verifiably a United States citizen at this time

    UNLESS

    You provide to them documentation /proving/ that you are the parent, and that the child is yours.

    The very best way to do so is to use the services of an attorney, as a trustable and secure channel, to communicate to Happy Mutants LLC your identity and the identity of your child.

    Until you do so, the editors have no way to distinguish you from someone who wishes to make vague legal threats on an online forum in an attempt to hamper their free speech rights.

    Even after you do contact them through an attorney, there are still – in my opinion – many questions of fact and law that are best left to professionals who deal with the law, as to whether the editors and Happy Mutants LLC have a legal obligation to censor or blur that particular photograph when /they/ use it, when it is freely available from other sources.

    I cannot speak for anyone employed by BoingBoing or Happy Mutants, LLC and I’m certainly not a lawyer. If I were acting in the place of Xeni, I, personally, would consider the wishes of a bona-fide parent to not have their child’s photo published. I have a step-son, and have all the parental concerns regarding my son’s image being misused on the Internet.

    The burden of proof to establish that you are the bona-fide parent, however, is on you.

  47. Anonymous says:

    I consider myself, the adopted and biological children in my family, and indeed all human beings to be animals. We certainly aren’t vegetables or minerals! People who say retarded things like “people shouldn’t be bought and sold like animals” are just playing on emotional memes and are not trying to have a reasonable discourse.

    Every adoptive parent pays some sort of fee, at least in the United States of America. The only exception I know of is in the case of very severely handicapped children, and even then there is a fee for the home study, it’s just refunded once the adoption goes through.

    In some states (Delaware for example) when a child is adopted the original birth certificate is destroyed and a new, back-dated certificate is created bearing the adoptive parents’ names. This prevents discrimination outside the area, for example in other states or countries that do not consider adoptive parents to be “real” parents.

    BTW, I’ve tried a few dozen times to create and use an account, but it never works. Apparently I need to allow scripts and cookies from half a dozen or more sites and I’m sorry, that’s not reasonable in the 21st century. Especially not for a technophile site. So, I shall remain semi-anonymous for now.

    –Charlie

  48. CQparent says:

    That is my child’s picture on your screenshot of CQ’s website. Please remove it immediately, I have not given you permission to use it.

  49. CQparent says:

    @ANTINOUS – Its called “Google Alert”, and we all are watching this story unfold, it is a major deal for Guatemalan adoptive parents.

  50. mitechka says:

    I am not entirely sure if I understand this. So, these law companies, pay expectant mothers in Guatemala to give up their babies, provide false identities for these mothers to cut through the proper legal adoption mechanism and provide these babies to american families looking to adopt for an “adoption fee” of some sort? Is this correct? If so, I can see where some of it is not exactly a very nice thing to do, but the mothers are poor and willing to give up their babies and people in US are willing to adopt, so all we have left are the fees charged by these companies. What is the big deal?

Leave a Reply