Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why I am Going to Guatemala

As followers of this blog know, I will be joining a human rights delegation to Guatemala in August.

To understand why, please set aside a few minutes to watch this powerful video featuring mothers whose babies were stolen and Norma Cruz (who I will be meeting with) who organized their hunger strike. Find out about the lack of our government cooperation in locating these children trafficked and living in the US and why their mothers are planning yet another hunger strike.

Until last year, Guatemala had the highest adoption rate in the world. Between 2002 and 2007, some 22,000 of its children were adopted by foreigners, more than 90 per cent of them came from the US.

But the practice was marked by lax adoption procedures and plagued by criminals targeting poor mothers.

A government investigation into some 3,000 cases in the adoption pipeline found fraudulent paperwork in more than 1,000 of them. There is strong evidence that in many cases babies had been stolen before being traded for adoption.

Guatemalan mothers whose babies were snatched in this way are convinced that their children are in the US and now they want them back.

Source: "Power & People" June 24, 2009,

It is inconceivable to me why these are simply called "irregular" adoptions and not illegal adoption, which they clearly are, or more fitting yet: kidnappings. There is no doubt whatsoever that if the same happened within the confines of this country - a child taken by gunpoint or after drugging a mother - it would be a kidnapping....and when a kidnapped child is located - NO MATTER HOW LONG AFTER THEY WERE TAKEN - they are returned to their rightful parents! Why is it that when the middlemen in such horrific acts identify themselves as adoption practitioners, it all changes and it is even debated as to the proper disposition?

Ironically, the same day this video was released, there is a story on my local TV news about a woman who lost her 6 figure diamond wedding band while shopping at WalMart. A Walmart employee found the ring and erroneously returned it to the wrong customer. The report stated that although the woman who has possession of the ring did not steal it, she is at risk of being prosecuted for not returning it!

While laws vary state to state, there is no recognition of the childhood "finder keepers" for property unless no rightful owner is located. The general rule attaching to the three types of property may be summarized as: A finder of property acquires no rights in mislaid property, is entitled to possession of lost property against everyone except the true owner, and is entitled to keep abandoned property.

Indeed are not all recipients of stolen goods must return them and are liable?

For more, and how you can help, please see: Three Mothers / Three Daughters


Bernadette said...

What a telling video! Thank you for representing mothers in this very important Delegation!

AdoptAuthor said...

Thanks. I have just confirmed that I WILL be staying an extra day and meeting some of the children in limbo waiting to find out if they've been kidnapped!!

As I just commented on my FAQs post - I think it s very important that we widen our lens and see adoption issues globally - because that makes us have to confront it for what it is: human trafficking!

Pedophiles obtaining children here in the uS for the purpose of having sex slaves is another wake up call to recognize it all for what it is. It is sad and it is despicable and it has to STOP!

Anonymous said...

as a mom of 2 adopted daughters from Guatemala I find it odd no mention was made of the babies who are now dying in the street because their mothers can't take care of them. Our adoptions cost between 25,000 and 30,000 dollars-I'm not sure why anyone would "buy a baby" for 50,00$!!!

AdoptAuthor said...

Anon - good for you! You got a DEAL!

But, I am sure you would agree that baby buying at any price is unacceptable. I doubt you would knowingly be a party of it. Unfortunately, too many who adopt believing they are rescuing children are in fact recipients of stolen children, albeit unknowingly.

I urge you to read my May 8 post containing many resources about international trafficking for adoption and parents who adopted with the best intentions only to find out they had adopted children who were stolen or kidnapped.

Th truth in fact is that there, as well as here, older children in need of homes are passed over while a demand for younger babies is filled - mostly corruptly.

Guatemala is country in poverty and crime and humane moral solutions need to be found to help them help themselves to improve conditions without exploiting the poverty and crime to fill the needs of westerners seeking babies for adoption.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Mirah. See you in Guate? Jennifer Hemsley

AdoptAuthor said...

I hope so. I'm going 1-9. How about you?

Julio Molina said...

I am glad to see an international tv report on this issue. As a Guatemanal documentary film maker I have been wanting to do something on this topic for a long time. Thank you for sharing the video.
Julio Molina

AdoptAuthor said...

I could put you in touch with people for a documentary, if you are serious.

Anonymous said...

As a mother of a adopted Guatemalan, and as woman who has lived there, I find it insulting. I do believe it exists, but so do legal adoptions as well. I feel insulted as a mother of a wonderful boy, who I fear, will have this hang over his shoulder. When I can promise that it was all done legally as I lived in Guatemala at the time I adopted him. As a woman who visited orphanages. I do feel for those mothers who this may have happened too, but that doesn't mean that is was happened in most cases.

AdoptAuthor said...


Yes, it is sad that your son and many - if not all - children adopted from Guatemala (and elsewhere) and their adoptive parents will have these stories "hanging over their head" among other problems inherent with being internationally adopted.

Neither I - nor do I believe the AlJazeera report - ever said or implied that MOST Guatemalan adoptions involved kidnapping. Clearly, in fact, the estimate - 1,000 or 3,000 - is 1/3 at most.

More importantly: What is your suggested solution? That we not speak out on behalf of these possible kidnap victims? That we sit back and silently allow a cover-up of the most serous of crimes?

As awkward a situation this may present for you and your family - I dare say you are not the real victims here - nor the prime concern.

I strongly suggest to you that the best offense is a defense. Let your son grow up knowing that as much as you went out of way to ascertain his adoption was above board - that you also fought tenaciously for other children adopted from his native land. Join us in fighting for the truth - for only the truth will set us all free.

Adoption is not a one-time event. It is a lifelong part of the lives of all touched by it. Continue the commendable efforts you started in your efforts to do the right thing at the time you adopted. I encourage you to join the adoptive parent organization aPEAR - Adoptive Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform. Become pro-active and on the side of the rights of all those touched by adoption.

Since we cannot erase what has happened, and will not - and should not - be silenced about it...THAT is the legacy you want for your son.

AdoptAuthor said...

PS The situation in Guatemala is so filled with deceit and deception, unless you witnessed DNA testing of the woman claiming to be your con's original mother and your son - she may ing-fact not have been. Even double DNA testing has been faked.

AdoptAuthor said...

A Guatemalan woman is celebrating a remarkable and emotional reunion with her abducted daughter who was about to be adopted by an unsuspecting American couple.

By Philip Sherwell in New York
Last Updated: 1:06PM BST 26 Jul 2008

AP Ana Escobar had clutched her only picture of her missing child when she tearfully described to The Sunday Telegraph last year how six-month-old Esther was stolen from her by a gunman in March 2007.

Anonymous said...

I never said that I would not fight, nor that I am not concerned with what has happened as far as kidnapped children has gone. Considering I take my son to Guatemala on a regular basis, I believe he will have no problem knowing the problems that Guatemala has had in the past, and will have in the future. Do not imply that my adoption was fake because I didn't witness the DNA testing, personally, I did witness it. As he was with me the entire time, and I had to take him to all the appointments. So again my point, is even though I do know 100 percent that my adoption was legal, there are still those who don't believe me. As you have already proved. I believe that the children who were kidnapped should be returned, and I never said any different. I believe the children need a voice as well, and there are MANY things wrong with Guatemala, that I believe America is to blame for. Look at the Masacres in the 1980's where thousands of Mayans were killed by Guatemalan soldiers, trained by the U.S.. I am just merely making my case as a adoptive mother that I feel for my son who will have this burden. Guatemala is among many of countries, including the U.S., where adoptions are happening illegally. I just pray that this situation can find a resolution so that the thousands of children who don't have a family, are abandoned on the streets, or starving in orphanages can find a home. We also need to continue fighting for those children.

AdoptAuthor said...


Again: Good for you and your son! I am sorry if you taken personally my blg or any other reprots on the horrible sitution in Guatemala and child trafficking for adoption in gneral.

The bottom line very sad truth is that it is demand that creates the problem.

If well-intentioned people would stop believing myths of child rescuing and read the information at the link provided:

And if our gvt would stop PROMOTING adoption with tax benefits etc - or limit such benefits to the children in US foster care who COULD be adopted...things would be a great deal better for all children in the world and their families.

We need to stop our ethnocentric belief that taking kids from their culture - away from their families - and bringing them to the US (or Western Europe,or AU) and giving them lost more THINGS they could have otherwise had, is best for them.

We need to just stop the insanity!

I say that with full understanding that we cannot undo the pats and it is NOT meant as a condemnation of anyone - such as yourself - who adopted truly believing they were doing a wonderful thing. it is the present and future I am concerned with since - as I said - we cannot undo the past.

I am sorry we got off on the "wrong foot" but quite frankly, your first post here that began by stating the "price" quoted was a bit higher than what you paid...was very disturbing indeed and seemed to me that you had missed the point entirely.

Anonymous said...

You can be sure that my plans to take my child to Guatemala so that he can experience his birth country are off the table. There is no way he is leaving the U.S. and the legal protections being here affords him until his 18.

We see "Mother of Stolen Baby" as the caption, but do we know this? Do we know she isn't changing her mind after the fact? Is this the story she uses as a cover to explain why she no longer has the baby?

There are enough factual errors in this (50K for a baby) that bring this all into question, why do we believe them? There are enough advocates against international adoption on principle that it isn't out of the question that they are simply sensationalizing a very small fraction of cases to support their philisophical point of view.

I am sure child stealing and buying happens; I am sure it happens domestically as well, be it under the ruse of paying for medical bills or a mother's well being or an outright sale. You could make the same documentary here in the US about people with foster kids who do it just for the money or who use private lawyers and side payments to purchase babies. You'd have the same dramatic moments of people not wanting to talk on camera. But that doesn't make them guilty.

Yes, investigate if this happened and take the people who did the illegal activity and lock them up forever. But to imply that 1/3 of Guatemallan adoptions were illegal really requires a lot more support than simply stating it over and over.

And if our government stopped supporting adoption with tax incentives then there would be thousands of children left without families. That doesn't sound like a great plan to me. Let's not give women options or trust that they can judge what is best for their children; instead let them know that we know better and that they must keep their kids regardless. Let's sensationalize a few cases and use sketchy facts to destroy a system that helped thousands. And let them live in orphanages in the hopes that destitute relitives who have expressed no interest in raising these children will somehow miraculously step up.

AdoptAuthor said...


It pains me that this or any story of child trafficking for adoption would cause your child suffer never seeing his homeland. It is a very sad for a child to suffer an additional loss.

You re correct that coercive adoption practices occur worldwide including within the US, although my research indicates that domestically it is less overt - not actual kidnapping.

Is the report accurate in the exact amount of money paid? Does that really matter?

***Is it accurate in the number of children this effects? We will only know if and when the US aids in allowing the children in doubt to be DNA tested.***

I URGE you to read as many of the resources as you can at:

Many people have uwittingly adoption with all goof intent, children wthey disocvered were stolen or kidnapped.

Also, please, please read EJ Garff's article at the above link if you read nothing else. If we crack down on abuses in adoption it will not leave children in need anymore than are currently left behind by the supply and demand profiteering in adoption which seeks out infants and babies while leaving true orphans and children in need behind in orphanages and foster care all over including here at home.

Anonymous said...

I adopted 2 babies from Guatemala and in the DNA test results their photos were taken with the birth mother. Both girls look a LOT like their birth mothers. One looks considerably like her birth mother. So that one little detail alone helps me believe my adoptive daughters were legitimately relinquished by their legitmate birth mothers. And the photos taken at the time of the DNA test match the babies that arrived here after the adoptions.

Let's assume some unfortunate victims were kidnapped to be put up for adoption. It would seem that if the crooks sent fake birth mothers with their own bio children to the test it would show their blood matched. If that happened, what I don't understand is how photos would be taken at the time of the DNA test and sent to the adoptive families along with the test results and them not recognizing that a baby they got at home did not match the picture of the baby in the DNA test photo. In other words, for the crime to work as stated in the story, a baby arriving home after a completed adoption would not match the baby in the photos from the lab test which theoretically would have been taken of a phony birth mother with her own bio child just to show blood matched. But the baby being sent away for adoption was never tested in the scheme but the photos would not match up.Not sure how they would get around that one.

I do believe corruption exists. How much corruption should be quantifiable and people should not toss about facts and figures without a verifiable, concrete basis.

My heart goes out to anyone on either side of the fence who was hurt by an illegal adoption or a baby stolen or sold. No one wants that on their shoulders. I hope the perpetrators are brought to justice and that the babies stolen will be returned to their victimized biological parents. I can say the United States would not stand for THEIR babies (in a volume of numbers) to be stolen and have no hope of return from a foreign country. There would be a mass uproar yet the Guatemalan victims seem powerless and it isn't fair. What a mess.

AdoptAuthor said...

When did your two adoptions take place?

For more, and how you can help, please see:

Amy said...

There are two issues getting mixed up in this discussion: adoption and kidnapping. Let's just be kind to the people who decided to adopt a baby from a developing nation rather than having a biological child or adopting an older US child from foster care. I understand and commend you for educating people about the torture these Guatemalan women find themselves living with daily, and despite some of the comments, I believe you have the support of the majority of the adoption community. Of course there are always new stories to hear as more comes to light, but we are an educated group. In large groups the adoptive community has been working for years to put more power into the hands of families in Guatemala, organizing aid (legal support, food, clothing, medical supplies, vented stoves, etc.), bringing children to the US for surgeries, etc., both to give back to the country of our children's origins and support families so that fewer children need to be relinquished. But let's be realistic. The fact that corruption took place does not change the other fact that there was and is a legitimate need in Guatemala to find homes for children who desperately need them. Adopting a child who needs a home, from anywhere, is a wonderful way to build a family. To flippantly suggest these amazing families should have instead adopted from the US foster care system is ignorant. The challenges of parenting an older child suffering from multiple placements, abuse, neglect and attachment disorders are enormous. I know... this is my oldest-child's story, and parenting a special-needs child isn't something everyone can do. Additionally, although our foster care system is suffering, most children do receive basic medical care, food and clothing. Our other son (both boys are from Guatemala) has FAS and needed care that his country could not give him.

All I'm asking is that you be fair to those of us who adopted children, infant or older, from Guatemala instead of the US foster care. As adoptive parents, we get enough criticism already--criticism I never hear my friends with biological children having to endure. Thank you for posting the video and for you work. Knowledge IS power, but let's not turn these horrible tragedies into an excuse to criticize the wonderful families who lovingly choose to give a child who needed one a home.

AdoptAuthor said...

There will be forthcoming shortly much more evidence of how DNA tests have been systematically fraudulent - and the photos as well. I am not at liberty to share it all at this time, but I have seen the evidence first hand.

Adoptive parents have been quick to find this blog and to share their defensiveness and feelings of being insulted. Yet I MUST SAY that I find it highly offensive to suggest:

"We see "Mother of Stolen Baby" as the caption, but do we know this? Do we know she isn't changing her mind after the fact? Is this the story she uses as a cover to explain why she no longer has the baby?"

This is as insulting as a rapist's defense that "she asked for it" and then changed her mind. Or abusive men who say their woman "asked for it.

Choosing a child who needs a home would be commendable! Unfortunately, too many adoptions are a matter of supply and demand that leave the neediest of children behind both here and abroad.

It is true that not everyone can or wants to handle special needs of older and disabled children....though many accept whatever child nature (or God?) brings or doesn't bring into their lives naturally.

No one is forced to adopt any child! If finding a home for a child who needs one is not your cup of tea, then don't! But let's all start with one truth: that the purpose of adoption is to find homes for children who need them. If you are not willing to provide that home, that's OK. Adoption is NOT about finding a child to fill the arms of all who seek one.

Now let's add a second truth: There are no children languishing in orphanages in Guatemala except the ones with special needs. I've been there, seen that!

Whether you bring your adopted son to Guatemala or not, he will know what happened there over the past seven years. Wouldn't it be better for him to know that you were one of many adoptive parents who have joined in the battle to end the corruption in Guatemalan and other inter-country adoptions after discovering the truth?

The truth will continue to be revealed. As I said, we have documentation of **widespread** fraudulent DNA tests and photos. Even being present when a swab was taken from your son in no way confirms that the alleged matching sample was taken from his mother. You will not be able to hide him in a box without TV, newspapers or Internet. Facing it head on, and working to help end it, might be the better approach to consider.

andrea said...

I appreciate your blog here about this issue. I especially like the UN quote that you have on the side bar--that adoption has become less about providing a needy child with a home than about a child for a needy parent. I am an American citizen who lived in Guatemala from 2006 to 2008. I should add also that I am fluent in Spanish, educated about Guatemalan history and have a good handle on the current political situation. I wish that all adoptive parents had the same knowledge!! I spoke with and saw many adopting parents (more than 20) at the U.S. Embassy (I was there to renew a passport) and on numerous flights between the U.S. and Guatemala and NOT ONE was fluent in Spanish, NOT ONE understood how corrupt the adoption system is, NOT ONE understood how easy it was to "buy" a matching DNA test, NOT ONE understood the structures of poverty and oppression that strip women of the power to make a "choice" about giving up a child for adoption or how impunity in Guatemala permits kidnappings. Instead, ALL were angry about the legal implementation of the Hague Convention which is designed to make sure that safeguards are in place so that child trafficking does not occur, ALL critiqued the poverty in Guatemala without understanding the repercussions of poverty on the "choices" of everyone involved in the adoption, and when pressed, defended their right to "buy a baby" (maybe not in those words) because that's what happens in the U.S.--rich couples buy babies to adopt nationally and middle class folks adopt internationally. Because of my conversations with those adoptive parents--and others since I've moved back to the U.S.--it's hard for me to reconcile their "good intentions" with their willful denial of the fact that widespread corruption did exist and babies were stolen, their anger at organizations like UNICEF and the UN, and their self-centered interest in the child/ren they were to adopt. If I had adopted naively (without speaking the language, without understanding the power differential or the politics, relying solely on an adoption agency and lawyers who benefit financially from my relationship with them to translate for me and explain the situation to me) the first thing I would do now is educate myself. And I don't mean learning about all the cultural traditions of Guatemala and insulting Maya peoples by buying a traditional outfit and donning it. Instead I would partner with Guatemalan organizations like Fundacion Sobrevivientes (if you can't read Spanish try and instead of putting in angry calls to organizations like UNICEF for halting adoption (in order to stop illegal ones from occurring) I'd start calling the U.S. Embassy and ask them why they permitted so many in the first place (it's interesting that other countries halted Guatemalan adoptions much earlier, because of suspected illegality). I wouldn't put my head in the sand just because the truth is hard to hear. I'd take responsibility for my part (my ignorance, my acceptance that paying money for a baby entitles me to it) and I'd set out to reform the system--the structures that make folks so poor they can't care for themselves and their families.

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