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  • Guatemala adoption process

    Does anybody have any first-hand, further information on this Times article below or the process?


    Guatemala System Is Scrutinized as Americans Rush in to Adopt
    By MARC LACEY
    GUATEMALA CITY — There are business hotels and tourist hotels, and
    then there is the Guatemala City Marriott. Catering to American
    couples seeking to adopt, it is a baby hotel of sorts, as the crush of
    strollers, the cry of infants and the emotional scenes that play out
    regularly in the lobby testify.

    "Oh! Oh! Oh!" shouted a woman from Kansas the other day as she scooped
    a little girl she hoped to adopt from the arms of her foster mother
    and held her up toward the chandelier. "You're just the cutest little
    thing."

    Not far away, a woman from Texas was beaming at another soon-to-be
    adopted girl near the reception desk and comparing notes with an
    Illinois couple, who had just picked up their new chubby-cheeked,
    black-haired son.

    Guatemala, where nearly one in every 100 children is adopted by an
    American family, ranks third behind much larger nations, China and
    Russia, when it comes to providing babies to American couples.

    The pace of adoptions and the fact that mothers here, unlike in other
    places, are sometimes paid for their babies have brought increasing
    concern and the prospect of new regulation that may significantly
    reduce the number of Guatemalan babies bound for the United States
    next year, or end it altogether.

    Critics of the adoption system here — privately run and uniquely
    streamlined — say it has turned this country of 12 million people into
    a virtual baby farm that supplies infants as if they were a commodity.
    The United States is the No. 1 destination.

    While the overall demand for international adoptions has increased
    over the last decade, adoption from Guatemala has outpaced many other
    nations. From 1995 to 2005, American families adopted 18,298
    Guatemalan babies, with the figure rising nearly every year. Though
    most families are undoubtedly unaware of the practices here, foreign
    governments and international watchdogs, like Unicef, have long been
    scrutinizing Guatemala's adoption system.

    In other countries, adoptive parents are sought out for abandoned
    children. In Guatemala, children are frequently sought out for foreign
    parents seeking to adopt and given up by their birth mothers to baby
    brokers who may pay from a few hundred dollars to $2,000 for a baby,
    according to interviews with mothers and experts.

    Most babies that find their way to America are conceived in the
    countryside. Some of the birth mothers have brought shame on the
    family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Others are married but had
    affairs after their husbands emigrated to the United States.
    Inevitably, the pregnancies were not planned.

    Poverty is a way of life in these villages, and infant mortality, at
    36 per 1,000 births in 2002, is among the highest in the hemisphere.

    Those children who survive have a rough start, with almost half of
    them chronically malnourished. Guatemala's adoption system is run not
    by judges, courts and bureaucrats — as in most other nations — but by
    some 500 private lawyers and notaries, who hire baby brokers and
    maintain networks of pediatricians and foster mothers to tend children
    awaiting adoption. They form a powerful and well-heeled lobby.

    "We're rescuing these children from death," said Susana Luarca
    Saracho, one of the country's busiest adoption lawyers, who has fought
    for years to keep the current system in place.

    "Here, we don't live — we survive," she said. "Which would a child
    prefer, to grow up in misery or to go to the United States, where
    there is everything?"

    To adopt any foreign child, Americans must clear numerous bureaucratic
    hurdles in the United States, including approval by the Department of
    Homeland Security. Often, in the baby's home country, the adoptive
    parents must make several court appearances.

    In Guatemala, the required paperwork can often be handled in one
    visit, with newly constituted families sometimes spending less than a
    week in a Guatemala City hotel before leaving for the United States.
    So many adoptive parents pass through the Marriott — hundreds per
    year, employees say — that diapers, wet wipes and formula are
    available in the gift shop, next to the postcards and Guatemalan
    curios.

    "Everyone who goes to a hotel here sees the scene: North Americans
    meeting with Guatemalan children," said Manuel Manrique, Unicef's
    representative in Guatemala. "Most people think, 'How great that those
    children are going to have a better life.' But they don't know how the
    system is working. This has become a business instead of a social
    service."

    The adoptive parents are often so emotionally involved in the process
    that they do not adequately investigate the inner workings of this
    country's system, adoption advocates acknowledge. The American couples
    at the Marriott were reluctant to talk or give their names.

    "There is sometimes a great deal of naivete on the part of adoptive
    parents," said Susan Soon-keum Cox, a vice president at Holt
    International Children's Services, an American nonprofit agency that
    works in Guatemala and elsewhere, and who was herself adopted from
    Korea by Americans in 1956. "It's don't ask, don't tell."

    The system is not without controversy in Guatemala. Josefina Arellano
    Andrino is in charge of the government department that signs off on
    all adoptions but, for now, is permitted to halt only those involving
    false paperwork or outright fraud. She relishes the prospect of
    additional oversight.

    "Babies are being sold, and we have to stop it," she said. "What's
    happening to our culture that we don't take care of our children?"

    Alarmed to see so many foreign adoptions in Guatemala, members of the
    Council of Central American Human Rights Attorneys, who were meeting
    at the Marriott in August, issued a statement questioning whether the
    country's system "converts the child into an object, like a piece of
    merchandise."

    Key to that business are jaladoras, as the baby brokers are called
    locally. They ply the Guatemalan countryside looking for pregnant
    women and girls in a fix. Adoption is presented as the perfect answer,
    one that will leave the child with a wealthy family and the mother
    better off as well, by paying for her medical bills and providing some
    direct money surreptitiously.

    Although most countries forbid paying mothers who put up their
    children for adoption, it occurs regularly here, an open secret that
    mothers are told to deny if anyone asks.

    "They gave me some money," a 12-year-old mother acknowledged on
    condition of anonymity in an interview in October at a government
    office when asked if she had been compensated for giving up her baby.
    "I don't know how much. They gave my father some money, too."

    Her father, interviewed separately, denied he had received anything.
    The payments strike many in the adoption world here as a form of
    benevolence. Some American couples say that if they are going to pay
    $25,000 to $30,000 for an adopted child — which they routinely do in
    the fees that go to American adoption agencies, Guatemalan lawyers and
    others involved in the system — shouldn't the birth mother get
    something?

    The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions has an answer.
    Guatemala's president, Oscar Berger, signed the treaty in 2002, and
    after years of legal challenges the nation's Constitutional Court
    ruled definitively this year that the country must abide by it.

    The treaty states that international adoptions should come only after
    a loving home, preferably with the child's relatives, is sought in
    country. It also aims "to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or
    traffic in children" and limits payments to "only costs and expenses,
    including reasonable professional fees."

    Several signing countries, including Canada, Germany and Britain,
    already restrict Guatemalan adoptions because of apparent breaches.
    The United States has said it plans to join the convention next year.
    At that point, officials say, Washington intends to stop approving
    adoptions from countries that do not meet the treaty's standards.

    "Guatemala is the principal concern that we have," said Catherine
    Barry, a deputy assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.

    Baby brokers tread carefully as they seek pregnant women in the
    countryside, where many villagers believe what is apparently a rural
    myth that there is an active market overseas for children as organ
    donors.

    A few months back, in a village outside the provincial town of
    Nahuala, two women and a man went house to house selling baby slings,
    pieces of cloth used to carry infants across the back. It was a ruse,
    neighbors recounted, to find out who would give birth soon.

    The traveling salespeople talked one young woman in the hillside
    village of Xolnahuola into giving up her baby. She was single and
    despondent and they offered her about $750, the villagers said.

    When the three returned as the pregnant woman's term neared its end,
    her parents, who opposed giving up the child, alerted neighbors, who
    gathered angrily at the scene. The two women's hair was forcibly cut
    off, a traditional form of Mayan justice meant to shame offenders. The
    baby brokers were taken away by the authorities and later released.

    In early October, villagers in Ixtahuacan killed one person with
    machetes, captured another 12 and set fire to five cars when fear
    spread that a gang of child snatchers was in the area. The police said
    it remained unclear whether the outsiders had actually been looking
    for children.

    Ms. Luarca, the adoption lawyer, said such episodes have nothing to do
    with the children she handles, who come from poor mothers who cannot
    afford to raise them and who give them up willingly without payment.

    "We're not a criminal organization," she said of Guatemala's adoption
    lawyers. "What we are doing is a good thing. At this moment in time it
    is the only way out for these children. I look forward to the time
    when they can grow up well here."

    In her opinion, though, that time has not arrived. New regulations
    will "create a bureaucratic labyrinth," she says, and she continues to
    lobby lawmakers to preserve the current system.

    Around the corner from her office, Ms. Luarca runs an adoption home,
    clean, orderly and with attentive nannies roaming among the rooms.

    With the prospect of tighter rules, business is surging. Seventy
    children are there, the older ones in miniature bunks and the many
    babies wrapped in blankets in cribs.

    They came from mothers not unlike a teenager who was encountered at a
    government office, signing away her baby to a Pennsylvania couple, and
    a bit melancholy to be doing so. She and her baby, like all birth
    mothers and their children, must have their DNA tested for the
    American Embassy to approve the adoption.

    "I hope she has a nice family and lives a happy life," said the
    17-year-old mother, who would not give her name. Fidgeting as she
    spoke, she said she hoped that her daughter, Antonietta, would return
    one day to visit her and that the adoptive parents would keep the
    newborn's name.

    Both prospects, those involved in the process say, are unlikely.

  • #2
    Re: Guatemala adoption process

    December 15, 2006


    The Hague Adoption Convention

    The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Convention) is a multilateral agreement that strengthens protections for all parties involved in adoption, including birthparents, prospective adoptive parent(s), and especially children. The Convention encourages and regulates intercountry adoption by setting out internationally agreed-upon rules and procedures for adoptions between countries that have a treaty relationship. The Convention is unique in that it offers a framework for member-countries to work together to ensure that adoptions are based on what is best for the child and to prevent the abduction, sale of, or trafficking in children. Each member country establishes a Central Authority to provide an authoritative point of contact for prospective adoptive parents to receive reliable and accurate information on the adoption process. The Central Authority is also responsible for addressing complaints involving violations of Convention standards. For these reasons, the U.S. government strongly supports the principles of the Convention. To learn more about the Convention, consult the Hague Permanent Bureau at http://hcch.e-vision.nl/index_en.php....status&cid=69

    Guatemala, the Convention and the United States

    More than 70 countries have already joined the Convention, including major countries of origin for adoptive children like China and India, because they firmly believe that the principles of the Hague Convention offer the best hope for the ethical and transparent adoption process and that every child deserves a permanent family. Many other countries have indicated their intention to join the Convention, as well.

    Guatemala ratified the Hague Adoption Convention in 2003 and is recognized as a party to the Convention under international law. However, Guatemala has not yet created the infrastructure and systems necessary to implement the Convention and its current adoption procedures do not provide the protections for children, birth parents, and adoptive parents required under the Hague principles.

    The United States is nearing completion of its preparations to ratify the Convention and our goal is to do so in 2007. Three months after the United States deposits its instrument of ratification with the Hague Permanent Bureau, the Convention enters into force for the United States. At that point, if Guatemala has not taken the necessary steps to comply with the Convention, then the United States will not be able to approve adoptions from that country. It is important to note that U.S. law provides for a transition period and that the U.S. government will not apply the new rules under the Hague Convention to orphan petitions (I-600A) filed with the Department of Homeland Security before the United States ratifies the treaty.

    The Way Forward

    We continue to be hopeful that Guatemala can become compliant with the Hague Convention before the United States ratifies the Convention. U.S. and Guatemalan officials are engaged in a dialogue at the highest levels on the need for the Guatemalan government to move forward immediately to become compliant with the Hague Convention and to establish an intercountry adoption system that will be in the best interests of the Guatemalan children.

    We are pleased that the government of Guatemala has stated that adoption reform legislation will be a priority. In order to avoid a situation where the United States can no longer process adoptions from Guatemala, a Hague-compliant process must be in place when the Convention enters into force for the United States.

    The United States maintains ongoing high-level discussions with the government of Guatemala about the importance of ensuring a smooth transition to a Hague-consistent adoption process. We believe that any sudden halt to adoption processing would be problematic and hurt both the children and adoptive parents because children would be caught in the process with no system through which they could be placed internationally with a permanent family. However, prospective adoptive parents should be aware that changes in the adoption process could be instituted by Guatemala with little or no advance notice and the possibility exists that adoptions could be disrupted.

    Prospective Adoptive Parents Must Stay Aware and Informed

    The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala has occasionally received reports of Guatemalan police in and around some of the major hotels in Guatemala City attempting to extort money from adopting parents by threatening to take the birth mother or foster mother and the prospective or adopted child into custody. There is no basis under local Guatemalan law for such actions and we encourage all U.S. citizens who encounter similar experiences to report them immediately to their local lawyer and the American Citizens Services section at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City at 502-2326-4405.

    In addition, prospective adoptive parents may hear unsubstantiated rumors during this time when the situation is in flux. Some of these rumors may be generated by individuals or organizations opposed to the very important reforms that Guatemala needs to undertake, and designed to confuse prospective adoptive families. We encourage parents to contact the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala and to consult our website for the latest information. Prospective adoptive parents should not rely on word of mouth, which is often incorrect. This holds true particularly if someone is encouraging or insisting that you pay additional fees or threatening you in any way.

    This information will be updated as the situation changes. Please check this page for updates. Additional information on U.S. implementation of the Hague Adoption Convention, and on intercountry adoption from Guatemala, can be found on the Consular Affairs

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Guatemala adoption process

      Additional information on U.S. implementation of the Hague Adoption Convention, and on intercountry adoption from Guatemala, can be found on the Consular Affairs website at: www.travel.state.gov or by calling 202-647-9090 or 1-888-407-4747 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST). Further information on the Hague Adoption Convention is available from the Hague Permanent Bureau.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Guatemala adoption process

        This announcement above was just posted by the US Gov!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Guatemala adoption process

          GUATEMALA
          September 2007


          WARNING: The U.S. Department of State urges American citizens not to commence an adoption process from Guatemala at this time. Fundamental changes in Guatemalan and U.S. adoption law will take effect over the next six months. These changes are likely to inject considerable uncertainty into the adoption process.

          Guatemala has stated that it will become a Hague Convention country on January 1, 2008. Guatemalan officials have informed us that Guatemala plans to require cases pending or filed after December 31, 2007 to meet Hague standards, even if the adoption procedures commenced before that date. They have also informed us they will not process adoptions for non-Hague member countries after December 31. We understand this to mean that Guatemala will stop processing adoptions to the United States beginning January 1, 2008, until U.S. accession to the Hague Convention takes effect. Given the average time frame for completing an adoption in Guatemala, cases started now cannot be completed before January 1, 2008.

          When the Convention is in force for the United States, projected to occur in the spring of 2008, there may be a period of time during which we will not be able to approve adoptions from Guatemala, until Guatemala’s adoption process provides the protections for children and families required by the Hague Adoption Convention.

          The Government of Guatemala has confirmed its commitment to the Hague Adoption Convention, and is already working to amend its adoption law to conform to Hague requirements. However, the current adoption process in Guatemala is not consistent with the Convention. Designing and instituting new procedures will take time. The U.S. Government is working closely with the Hague Permanent Bureau and other interested governments to support Guatemala’s transition to meeting its obligations under the Hague Convention.

          American citizens pursuing adoptions in Guatemala are already encountering some delays in the process. As recently as August 2007, several dozen children who were to be adopted by U.S. citizens were taken into custody by Guatemalan authorities because of alleged irregularities in the adoption process and concerns about the care of the children. A court-ordered investigation is now underway.

          Several adoption service providers are under investigation in the United States, and at least one U.S. adoption facilitator faces prosecution in the United States. Under these circumstances, prospective adoptive parents face the real possibility that current, pending cases may be disrupted by legal investigations.

          The Department of State strongly recommends that prospective adoptive parents defer plans to begin an adoption in Guatemala until the legal and procedural issues described above have been resolved.

          Comment

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