Monday, August 31, 2009

The Economy and Adoption: Bethany Sings the Blues

Economy impacts adoption numbers


With job losses and pay cuts looming, many prospective parents are struggling to come up with the money to adopt.

Some have decided to put off growing a family through adoption. Others are seeking creative ways to raise the $25,000 typically needed.

Still, adoption advocates say this is the perfect time to consider adopting foster children--a process that is usually free for adoptive parents.

A June FindLaw study reported that 6 percent of Americans have delayed adoption because of the recession.

Locally, adoption workers rely on more anecdotal evidence. At the Children's Home Society of Virginia, interested parents-to-be have backed out of adoptions recently, said director Nadine Marsh-Carter.

And the first question at orientation meetings now is, "How much will this cost?"

The agency charges based on income, so the answer varies.

At the Fredericksburg office of Bethany Christian Services, adoption workers have not seen fewer people wanting to adopt. But national Bethany offices have noticed a downturn, said Fredericksburg director Mary Beth Bova.

Locally, the Bethany office has seen more women giving children up for adoption--especially women who already have a child. The birth mothers have cited financial concerns.

Raising a child costs quite a bit--the average parents spend $200,000 per child from birth through high school.

"'Unfortunate' doesn't even begin to describe it," said Adam Pertman, director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in Boston. "It's heartbreaking to think that people could be placing their children because they lost jobs."

Pertman said no studies confirm a drop in adoptions, though anecdotal evidence suggests fewer parents are signing up to adopt during the recession.

"I don't see how it could not have an impact on all sorts of family decisions," he said. "People who are wondering how to feed the mouths at the table are probably less likely to add mouths."

Even as fewer people sign up to adopt, it seems unlikely that American infants will have to wait for homes. Prospective parents hoping to adopt domestically still outnumber babies placed for adoption.

And while $25,000 seems like a lot when people are worried about keeping their jobs, there are still plenty of families who have the money.

And some are willing to try to find it.

"People are more cautious about moving forward, but they're also getting a little more creative," Bova said.

Parents coming to Bethany have tried yard sales, low-interest adoption loans and family fundraisers.

"The gift of family is too significant to miss just because of these uncertain times, because things will get better," said Marsh-Carter, the adoptive mom of two children.

Pertman also adopted two children, and said adoption is pricey but worthwhile.

"In five or 10 years, you're not going to think of the costs," Pertman said. "You're just going to look at your kid and be grateful that you have her."


$$ OK, so then following this are tips for how PAPS can rase funds to adopt!

$$ What about using the same or similar tips to help parents keep their kids??!!

$$ Wouldn't that make more ethical, moral and common sense than helping people raise money to take kids THEY obviously can't afford either?

Romania probes Israeli adoption agency link in organ trafficking

Romanian authorities are looking into possible links between Israeli adoption agencies and an illegal global conspiracy to sell organs for transplants.

The Romanian Embassy in Israel has asked for, and received from the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, a list of all children born in Romania who have been brought to Israel for adoption in recent years. The Romanian officials are trying to ascertain if all such children arrived in Israel with all organs in their bodies.

In its request to the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, the Romanians did not offer evidence in support of suspicions of a link between adoption and organ trafficking. The inquiry is part of a broader investigation involving Romanian children sent to Italy and the United States.

As Ha'aretz has reported in the past, some Israeli physicians were involved in illegal kidney transplants and the sale of human eggs in Turkey, Romania, and other countries in East Europe.

In parallel with the organ investigation, officials from Romania's central adoption agency and from Israel's Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and police, are also examining possible criminal activity of two groups dealing with the adoption of Romanian children by Israeli parents.

Among other suspicions, officials are checking whether one Romanian group, headed by an Israeli, has forged adoption papers, and whether children have been offered to Israeli parents without proper, legal process.

Responding to complaints and rumors, Romanian authorities have taken the highly unusual step in the past year of withholding authorization for the adoption of 16 Romanian babies destined for Israeli parents. This delay has been enforced although the Israeli couples have paid $20,000 each to adopt the infants, and have already become acquainted with the babies in the foster homes and institutions where they are being held. Romanian authorities insist they will not give the go ahead for the adoptions until inquiries about possible wrong-doing are completed.

To help finalize the adoptions, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry turned to President Moshe Katsav and asked him to raise the issue with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase when he visited Israel last July. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres also raised it with Romanian officials during his recent visit there.

Parents affiliated with the "Future of the Children" group, based in Rehovot, have also appealed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to help finalize the adoptions of the Romanian children

Being Gay in America - Being Adopted in America

I have posted to two blog posts (the first one back in March) about the fight of gays for acceptance and equality in regard to marriage rights particularly, and the fight of adoptees for the right to their own original birth certificate. One of my posts on the subject focused on Harvey Milk

Here is an interesting excerpt of a blog post by a gay adoptee who is seeing the same connection, after all - discrimination is discrimination whether it is about skin color or any other thing that makes one "other" or different and denies one the same equality those not of his "class" take for granted:

I am adopted and I have spent a little time trying to find out who my biological parents are. It is illegal for me to find out the their names in the state in which I was born. One of the adoption advocates I have contacted said something interesting to me that was liberating. In a conversation I asked for her thoughts on the idea that if adopted children were allowed to know their biological parents it would reduce the number of people willing to give kids up for adoption. Her answer was "So what?!" She didn't believe that were true, but even if it were, all people have a right to know who they are and where they come matter what. It may not seem like it when you read it, but that was a powerful idea. For me it is the same with gay rights issues. There may be arguments against certain gay rights. "If gays serve openly in the military, it may hurt troop cohesion" or "If we recognize Civil Unions for homosexuals it will degrade the sanctity of marriage" (heterosexuals have screwed this up so bad I would think homosexuals could only improve it). I don't believe either of those statements nor would likely agree with the hundreds of other fearful scenarios connected to providing equal rights for homosexuals. I don't think the real answer is to argue each case. I think the most adequate answer is "So What?!" All human beings deserve the right to be true to themselves, regardless of what others think or an imagined outcome. The people I view as patriots do not just support rights for the people who live their lives like their own....that is easy. They support freedom and justice FOR ALL!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Legacy

The country has said its goodbyes to the last of the Kennedy men. Eulogies regaled his legacies:

  • The Immigration Act,
  • His efforts to deregulating the airline industry,
  • Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, in order to focus on the issues relating to jobs, education, and health care,
  • His support of a minimum wage increase and also the Welfare-to-Jobs Incentives,
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act,
  • The 1991 Civil Rights Act,
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act,
  • He sponsored the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which guarantees the continuation of health insurance coverage for Americans who change jobs or lose their jobs,
  • The Work Incentives Improvement Act, which increased job training opportunities for unemployed and at risk,
  • In 2007 Senator Kennedy again led efforts to pass the first increase in the federal minimum wage in more than 10 years,
  • And his pet project, championing the health provisions to expand access to unemployment insurance and to help those who lose their jobs to keep their health insurance, and investments to improve the quality of health.
He did much to help American families in addition to being father.

But none of that is why I am calling attention to this statesmen here. It is for the blemish in his career that he did not let defeat him. Not a biographical tale is told of him without the mention of his poor judgment in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign worker for the assassinated U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York when he, a young man of 37, he
drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick, off Cape Cod.

He made a mistake. he did something bad. He made poor decisions.

But he didn't let that flaw ruin his life and went on to great things.

THAT makes him an excellent role model for all of us with dark clouds and skeletons in out closets. We CAN overcome diversity and shame.

We once sang "We Shall Overcome" -- Today we shout: We CAN Overcome!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adoption Give-Backs

In adoption abuse extends beyond physical and sexual and transcends all other types of emotional abuse non-adoptees could ever experience. High on the list of discpiciable things done in the name of adoption by those who dare call themselves "forever families" is terminate, "disrupt" or end their if divorcing a spouse.

Some simply return to the source, or dump into the foster care system.not so, however for the majority of these cases which involve kids from outside the U.S. These kids wind up in residential treatment centers or passed on - recycled? - to another set of "desperate" parents; parents by choice, not chance.

I am always rendered heart sick by such tales of utter rejection and abandonment and the permanent scaring on the soul of the children...the lack of preparation and false expectations on the part of adopters...

And yet, the only small comfort in this is that the child is spared living in such a home with people who could that, or being abused.

Case in point: The New York Times MotherLode Blog, 8/26/09. Note that many commenters praise her for her honesty! (Was that why she posted it and exposed herself to criticism? Being called brave, honest, courageous -- ptied and agreed with by others who committed similar shameful acts?) I find that like praising a man who cheats on his wife for then being "honest" about his deceitful behavior! Especially when he reveals it only after being caught, and expects forgiveness.

In criminal law, admitting a crime doesn't get you off scott free, and certainly doesn't win you accolades...why should it in the world of morality?

One of my fav adoptive moms expresses similar revulsion and does so very well. I highly recommend you read...ThirdMom's reponse.

As I commented on the Times site, why post this if she has no tips to help others avoid her failure, and hardship for herself as well as her child and other children?

Bottom line:

  • Why is it that adoptive parents openly ask for and receive far more pity for their physical short-coming (no pun intended, or is there) than the blind or amputees ever would?
  • Why is their loss of procreative ability a loss the world needs to share and mourn with them, while ours are ignored?
  • Why has adoption become a public event with blog after blog about every step of "their" painful "journey"?
  • While do they get pity even when they give away a kid they promised to care for, but we get NONE? (Not that I want pity, thank you very much...just a little compassion).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Must Read (and share) Scathing Report on Pregnancy Crisis Centers and Bethany Christian!

Kathryn Joyce tore the covers off the Christian rights' tie in with the National Council for Adoption as the key marketing arm of the domestic adoption industry in:

Shotgun Adoption, which appears in the September 14, 2009 edition of The Nation.

"It's logical that antiabortion organizations seeking to prevent abortions and promote traditional family structures would aggressively promote adoption, but this connection is often overlooked in the bipartisan support that adoption promotion enjoys as part of a common-ground truce in the abortion wars....

"Christian adoption agencies court pregnant women through often unenforceable promises of open adoption and the option to choose the adoptive parents. California's Lifetime Adoption Foundation even offers birth mothers college scholarships. Additionally, maternity homes have made a comeback in recent years, with one network of 1,100 CPCs and homes, Heartbeat International, identifying at least 300 homes in the United States. Some advertise almost luxurious living facilities...

"Such enthusiasm for Christians to adopt en masse begins to seem like a demand in need of greater supply, and this is how critics of current practices describe it: as an industry that coercively separates willing biological parents from their offspring, artificially producing "orphans" for Christian parents to adopt, rather than helping birth parents care for wanted children....

"There were nineteen lawsuits against CPCs between 1983 and 1996, but coercive practices persist. ...

Kudos to Joyce and The Nation for this courageous expose that includes case history horror stories . Pass the link around widely!

This should be required reading for every woman considering adoption.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Civil Rights Teachings of Harvey Milk

In a blog post back in April, I noted:

"You cannot compromise equality! Ask the Gay Rights Movement. They know this and they are very successful - they have just gotten the third state to give full equality since just 2003.

They understand that Civil union is not marriage. Domestic partnership is not marriage. These compromises deny same sex couples benefits such as marriage tax credit

Equal is equal. It cannot be compromised. Separate but equal is not equal. Brown vs Bd of Ed proved that."

Tonight - late to the party - I saw the film MILK, staring Sean Penn.

I highly recommend this film to all, for it's acting and directing and also as a piece of American civil rights history in depicting the challenges faced by homosexuals who were classified as "deviants" and were being fired from teaching positions for fear of child molestation. States were enacting and repealing laws to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Harvey Milk was killed in 1978 after becoming the first openly gay elected to public office.

Thirty years later, states are now enacting (and in one case repealing) same sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in six of the 50 states.

What does any of this have to with family preservation or adoption? Well, let's compare success rates:

FOUR states have achieved total equality in 56 years of seeking openness and equality. Four others have partial access with caveats, conditions, restrictions and compromises.

What Can We Learn From Harvey Milk?

Harvey galvanized the gay community in San Francisco. After being himself closeted for forty years, Harvey encouraged the gay community to come out to their mothers, their fathers, their friends, and co-workers ...because...everyone needed to know that "gay" rights were not about "others" but were about their sons, their daughters, their sisters and brothers...

Just three years after Milk's death, the same was said about mother who lost children to adoption:

'There is a need for us in society to learn to know the women who have come to call themselves 'birth-mothers.' They are women who know that a child is part of his mother forever. They are women who know that separation can never sever the bond between them. They know what it means to love a child and to place the child's welfare above all else in life. They know the pain of wanting what is best for the child they love, while society tells them that what is best is that they never see that child again. They know the ultimate act of love. They know the ultimate sacrifice. They know the never ending grief of being continually denied what every por¬tion of their souls demands: the knowledge that their children are well.

"We, as a society, have perpetrated the crudest deception. What we have believed to be altruistic has been, in reality, destructive. We have sought to create without any understanding of how much we destroy in the process.

"Birthparents now know that separating a mother and her child is not in the best interests of either of them. Their enormous sacrifice was based on society's misconceptions. The adoptees' sense of rejection is the most painful irony of all: what was done out of love is mistaken for a lack of it.

"For us to truly learn what a birthparent is, is to learn that we, as a society, are hypocritical. We urge surrender, then later rebuke it. We make laws that we purport to be for the welfare of our children, then ignore or suppress their pleas to satisfy the most fundamental and compelling need they have: to know their mothers.

"What we must understand is that we have held im¬prisoned an important part of these women. They must be made whole again, this task will not be difficult when we understand who they are.

"They are our mothers.

"They are our sisters.

"They are our daughters."
Harold Cassidy, attorney for MaryBath Whitehead who got surrogacy outlawed in New Jersey, at a public hearing before the Assembly Institutions, Health and Welfare Committee on adoption held December 9, 1981 in Trenton, New Jersey.
Quoted in The Dark Side of Aoption, 1988)

The personal is political and the everything political is personal. By "coming out" to those we know, one-on-one -- adoptees, as well as parents who have lost children to adoption -- we put a face on those of us who are ostracized, marginalized, invisible and denied rights. We make "an issue" human.

There is a part in the film where Milk speaks of it not being an issue but life and death because of the many gays who commit suicide. There is likewise a higher rate of suicide among adoptees and birthparents. Life and death. Being denied access to one's family history, including being able to ask about the family medical history. Life and death.

When each of us "comes out" about our true feelings regarding adoption issues we increase support for our cause. If we tell our mothers, who in many cases encouraged us to lose our children, the pain it has caused us...if we share with our adoptive parents a need to know our roots...we risk being hurt. But we also have a chance of obtaining supporters.

In 2009 mothers still need encouragement to come out of the closet:

Jun 21, 2009

DEAR ABBY: I became an unwed mother many years ago, when there was a stigma attached to having an illegitimate child. Unable to care for my son, I placed him for adoption. He has now found me.
I have a family, and my husband does not want me to tell our adult children or contact the young man and his family.
Do I go against the wishes of my husband, whom I love very much, or should I tell our children and perhaps risk my husband leaving me? – CONFLICTED IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR CONFLICTED: From the tone of your letter your husband is the dominant partner in your marriage. If that’s the case, and you really think he would leave you after all these years because you leveled with your children about the fact that they have a half-brother, then keep the secret.
However, if your relationship with your husband is anything approaching a partnership, then stand up for yourself and make it clear that you are the sum total of all your experiences – both the joyful and the painful – and you need to see your son, thank his family for the love and care they have given him, and let your adult children make up their own minds about whether they want to be contacted.
This is the 21st century, and we are far beyond the attitudes of the 1950s in which a human being who is born out of wedlock is a shameful secret forever to be buried. In addition, secrets have a way of always coming out eventually.

It is the 21st century, but the shame and guilt of the past still haunts many as it does this woman. Our coming out can also help such mothers. We must never cease speaking out!

And until we can stand as proud a sour gay brothers and sisters and march in the streets by the thousands, we will remain shrouded by shame. "They" risked so very much - they risked losing their employment. Yet ...

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anaïs Nin

"Speak your mind even if your voice shakes." Maggie Kuhn

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Philippine Adoption Pact to Stop Trafficking

The Inter-Country Adoption Board (Icab) has signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with seven government agencies to stop child trafficking.

Among the signatories are representatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Justice, Department of Foreign Affairs, Bureau of Immigration, National Statistics Office, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Association of Child Caring Agencies of the Philippines.

Aside from institutionalizing working relationships among these agencies, the memorandum also enables the adoption board to investigate and file cases against “child trafficking syndicates and perpetrators of child abuse.”

Under the memorandum, the signatories shall establish a system for verifying documents and actual adoption, for communicating

with and about trafficked children, and for identifying problem areas to close gaps that allow the commission of the crime.

The signing happened during the 10th Global Consultation on Child Welfare Services hosted by the Philippines at Dusit Hotel in Makati City.

In a related development, Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., who was keynote speaker in the summit, said the signing of Republic Act 9523 has shortened the adoption process by about three weeks.

President Arroyo signed this piece of legislation last March 12, 2009.

“The new law does complete our desire to facilitate the adoption process,” he said. “The route towards declaring an abandoned child legally available for adoption is no longer a court function. It is now delegated by this law to the Secretary of DSWD.”

According to Pimentel, within seven days from the date of the recommendation of the DSWD regional director, the necessary certification may now be issued by the secretary that a child is legally available for adoption.

“The new law is, therefore, a step towards our goal to fully simplify the adoption system,” he said.

Rafael Tinio, board member of Icab, acknowledged that some “adoptive parents conspire with unscrupulous social workers” to speed up the process of adoption.

These social workers, he said, resort to producing fake documents. “That’s why there’s an increasing number of child trafficking because of these people.”

Children who are “victims” of international traffickers end up as either prostitutes or domestic workers, said lawyer Bernadette Abejo, executive director of Icab. “Worst-case scenario is that they are subjected to organ extraction,” she said.

Abejo thus stressed that in the Philippines, only Icab is allowed to process international adoptions.

What Do YOU Think?

The Minneapolis St. Paul StarTribune thought it an interesting - if not heartwarming - human interest story. A couple who wants to adopt a child.

Well...not just ANY child. They want an infant, born of an American mother, who they can teach to speak French!

And...they are not pursuing it in any ordinary way. They are advertising on tee shirts, business cards, signs in their front yard and brochures!

If that's not enough, they are not the typical prospective adopters either. Kathy Ollivier, despite her youthful looks, is FIFTY-ONE!

Please red the comments. Many people are actually "getting" the fact that adoption is supposed to be intended to help kids who have no family to care for them adequately find homes...NOT to help those who waited too long to decide to be parents find a mother in crisis to exploit.

What do YOU think?

Family Fighting Fosterers!

Samantha Wagoner is five.

Despite having a mom and dad too ravaged by drugs to care for her properly, she does have the love and support of her aunt Gladys and Uncle Larry Tighe of Montana. She's lived with them for a month - after experiencing abuse in foster homes - and they have applied to adopt her and make it permanent.

Montana'sNewsStation reports: "The adoption has turned into a legal tug-of-war between Oregon and Montana, and all the red tape means that Samantha will be sent back to Oregon foster care, for at least two months while the Tighes attend an adoption training course, subjecting the child to more disruptions, rejection and possible abuse."

If you live in oregon, contact your Governor and congressmen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Babies and Organs for Sale

Cash, connections can buy you a kidney in NYC (and a baby anywhere you live)

Paying for organs [and babies] is illegal in U.S., but brokers find ways to skirt law

"I have met many, many people who have told me in confidence that they have bought a kidney. Prominent New Yorkers. And it happens right here in America," said Robert Berman, founder and director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society.

Nick Rosen, a man who lives in Israel and made a video about donating a kidney to a Long Island man in 2005 for $20,000.

"I've met some brokers, and they are not evil people," says Rosen...the same thing many adopters would sau about their facilitators and agency workers.

In 2003, a group of Israeli organ brokers were charged with recruiting as many as 100 impoverished Brazilians to donate kidneys for prices ranging from $3,000 to $20,000. The transplants were performed at a hospital in South Africa.

In the summer of 2007, police charged nine people with paying Israeli donors $30,000 each to give up a kidney. The operations allegedly took place in Ukraine. Investigators in Israel said they began probing the ring when one of the donors complained that she hadn't been paid.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


More and more often the media "reports" a story that is filled with more questions than answers.

The following is such a case:

Amanda Zblewski, 27, of Wisconsin, gave birth to a girl who she subsequently claims she sought adoption for through Lutheran Social Services.

Zblewski is now testifying at a preliminary hearing for Bobbi Jo Dolski, 32, who faces charges of abduction of another’s child.

Zblewski said Dolski went with her to her final appointment in the adoption process with Lutheran Social Services.

The child is now 16 months old.

Zblewski said Jason Dolski, 30, who is Bobbi Jo’s husband, was present at the birth of the child. Dolski put his name on the child’s birth certificate, and Zblewski believed that was the legal way to adopt a child, she said.

The couple is charged with abduction of another's child, unauthorized placement of adoption, false statement on a birth certificate and neglecting a child. Zblewski faces a charge of false statement on a birth certificate.


More details as available. A strange story indeed. No mention of any money changing, perhaps the mother wanted her child adopted nd had this specific couple in mind. What's so wrong with that?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Aborted Adoptions

Heather Cannon-Winkelman writes in the Liberian Journal a poignant tale of personal experience with those in failed adoptions as background for the question “What happens to the child when adoptions fails?”

She focuses on Liberia, a nation that is "part of a long list of developing war-torn and impoverished nations that have been vulnerable to proven abusive adoption practices causing too many children to suffer in this often unregulated multi-billion dollar industry."

Cannon-Winkleman uses a true story to illustrate how an already traumatized Liberian child was harmed from his aborted adoption: a preteen boy who was adopted from Liberia in 2007 to a U.S. family and how his adoption was disrupted within six months of bringing him home to the U.S. ...a child about whom an adoptive father proclaimed: “God placed it in my heart to adopt and help this child.”

In the U.S. there have been over 200 reported cases of children adopted domestically or internationally that were abused or killed by their adoptive parents. The children who survived this violence have suffered from physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and deprivation. Also, from these recorded cases, several of the children were homeschooled and this helped hide the abuse from the authorities ...most startling is that many of these disruptions occur under the radar. Currently, there is no universal tracking or monitoring system to determine how many children have experienced failed adoptions and where they are placed.

The issue of children being sent back because of failed intercountry adoptions is documented in The Stork Market.

Cannon-Winkleman goes onto discuss RAD and its misdagnosis.

Fighting to Keep Babies Flowing...

While the U.S. is the biggest importer of babes, it's not the only one who greedily demands that plug in the pipeline be quickly unclogged.

The Irish Times reports that the office of the Minister for Children has invited officials from Vietnam to Ireland in September in an effort to move talks forward on the resumption of an adoption agreement between the two countries.

The State’s five-year bilateral agreement with Vietnam on adoption expired on May 1st this year, leaving more than 200 couples, who had applied to adopt from the country, in limbo until a new agreement is signed. Twenty of those couples, already approved, have been allowed to proceed with their adoptions.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Guatemala Journey: Part V - Adoption

I discussed some Guatemalan adoption issues that arose during the course of the 8 day delegation in Part III:

  • Claudia Maria Hernandez of The Survivors' Foundation saying: "We are against the business of taking children for profit and exporting them....Children need a mother not to be sold for dollars."
  • A representative of the Myrna Mack Foundation speaking of women being "raped to produce children for trafficking in adoption."
  • Carolina Alvarado telling us that women "are victims of trickery. They tell her someone will care for her child while she is working and steal her child."
  • Maria Bartes of New Horizons telling us it is "very common for abusive husbands to force women to accept payments by baby brokers. Many such women come seeking help, even if they are not being abused. Very common."
And, the video that exposes the systematic and widespread abductions.

A Day of Adoption Issues

I had arranged my trip to Guatemala to include an extra day planned by Karen Rotabi.

First we visited Amor del Nino: Love the Child, a home for children, many disabled, all of whom are were court ordered into care - similar to being placed in foster care by children's services.

Amor del Nino is run by (self-proclaimed "Jesus freak") Stephen and Shyrel Osborn who were called to work with the needy children of Guatemala.

The home, which currently houses 48 children, is very light, sunny, bright and cheerful and the children happy, well cared for and very attached to Steve and Shyrel.
Steve informs: "a number of children who were abandoned at birth, and are available [for adoption]. I think the number is close to 20 at present, who are or will be declared adoptable... the CNA then attempts to match the child with a family. There had been a small flurry of Guatemalans adopting, and 8 of our children whose families were not known, were adopted in the last 10 months. But it seems to have receded. One reason I have heard from Guatemalans is their distrust of the government is strong enough that they do not want to fill in the required applications. Yet another casualty of a culture with zero trust."

Below, left is Steve and Hanah, a very bright little girl who has taught herself English,
and who took
the wonderful
of her friend to the right with my camera.

Steve blogs at Steve's Ramblings, where he commented recently:

"My heart breaks for these [prospective adoptive] parents, even as I wish they hadn't started the process. The State Department, and honest people in the adoption community had warned against initiating adoptions from Guatemala as early as 2006. But the potential parents were hearing different stories. The Adoption agencies as late as the fall of 2007 were still saying these children would die if not adopted. When your heart is inclined to adopt, choosing which of the conflicting reports to believe is a no brainer. Hmmm. Unintended pun there. It is a heart issue, not a brain issue. The only problem is that the conflicting reports on one side were conscientious attempts to protect these hearts. The other, a shameless attempt to profit from the desire of these hearts. And a lie."

Proof of Fraud

Following our visit to the children's home, Steve and Shyrel joined us as we met with Jennifer Hemsley who had been in Guatemala briefly trying to untangle the bizarre web of lies and fraudulent DNA test and photos she found herself in when trying to adopt her second daughter, Hazel.

A psychologist and researcher who wishes not to be named as a safety precaution was also present, and we were joined via teleconference by David Smolin.

We were able to actually see, first hand, the DNA test reports and photos that are used for the Guatemalan inter-country adoptions. The U.S. issues visas based on such obviously fraudulent paperwork. The form requires all fields are completed, yet on all the ones we viewed - about half a dozen - had the field for mother's ID blank. yet everyone in Guatemala carries an official ID card called a Cedula. No one leaves home without it, yet none of the forms had ID numbers on them.

As if that's not enough, proof positive existed at this meeting in the flesh. Present at this meeting was Ana Escobar, whose baby was kidnapped when she was six months old. In Ana's fight to get the government to intervene and track down her baby's abductors, she spotted her daughter at a trip to a government office. The child had not yet been sent for adoption out of the country and Ana recognized her by a bent pinky finger while being allowed to view baby's "in the pipeline" still at the Solicitor Generals' office.

It took another 2 years, but Ana got her daughter, Esther, back and here they re picture together!

Ana's case - and the other 7 recovered babies - are proof positive of the fraud (and answers a question raised by a comment on a previous blog post about fraudulent DNA tests). The mother and child photo attached to the DNA test of Ana's daughter was Esther - but the mother in the photo was not Esther's mother, Ana. It was some anonymous stand-in in the photo.

How many children were allocated visas and adopted into this country and other countries base on these obvious fraudulent papers and photos? Perhaps as many as a thousand. Seven such babies have been recovered.

And who - or what department of the U.S. government - will look into thee so-called "abnormal" or "irregular" or even illegal adoptions - that are, or may very well involve a n inter-country felony abduction.

Even Interpol doesn't cover such inter-country adoptions in their definitions of human trafficking. A very sad state of affairs...for all of the Ana's (and all the little Esthers) who are far less lucky and did not happen to see their child before she left the country and be able to positively identify her.

A Most Poignant Question

Seeing Esther is the arms of her mother, Ana, where she so obviously belongs - where she was always wanted - is an image I will not soon forget.

Yet more poignant still was a question Ana posed that still echoes hauntingly in my ears.

"Why" asked Ana in true bewilderment, "Do Americans want our Guatemalan babies so much?"

Why indeed?
  • Because they cannot have their own but do not want the thousands on American children they could adopt?
  • Because they CAN?
  • Because they believe the myths put forth by baby brokers that they are rescuing children?
  • Or, all of the above?

We need to work to change the percption of orpahns in need worldwide tot he reality of chidlren being stolen. kidnapped and trafficked to meet a demand. We need to always look at the source of the orphans-needing-rescue tales and the source is ALWAYS those who are profiting, those who represent them, market or lobby for them, or those who have cone to believe their lies and/or justify their own participation - albeit unknowingly - in this seamy process.

Facing the truths of the past seven years is not a condemnation of any who have unwittingly been recipients of Guatemalan children. But they and their chidlren will forever be haunted by this ugly chapter in US history, and the truth will set them ll free.

I was very saddened by a blogger who recently said that now, because all of this is coming out in the open, she would never take her child back to Guatemala. How sad that she would cause additional harm to a child she chose to care for by cutting him off totally from his heritage because of her own fears.

These children will grow up with great doubts about their need to have been adopted. Were they in fact kidnapped - grabbed out of the arms of loving mothers who had no intention whatsoever of letting them go. Were they sold by other family members? Were their mothers lied to and told they were going to be schooled and returned?

One step is to acquire a possible answer is to have another DNA test done to see if it matches that of the one done originally. Another is to join in the fight for truth for all Guatemalan adoptions in the past and any possible future ones.

Join the efforts to bring attention to three cases in particular at THREE DAYS/THREE DAUGHTERS

Watch this blog for more actions, and if you missed any part my series on my trip to Guatemala, here are the links:

Part IV: Aug 13 Visiting a Mam community

Part III: Aug. 12 Organization swe Visisted

Part II: Aug 12 Guatemala countryside and Zunil

Part I: Aug 11 Violence Against Women

Buenos Dias de Guatemala

My Stay in Guatemala

Guatemala: Getting Ready

Three Mothers/Three Daughters

September Solidarity for Guatemalan Mothers

Why I am Going to Guatemala: Video

Friday, August 14, 2009

Adoption & Fraud in the News & Blogosphere

First, important legislative news regarding inter-country adoptions:

I join with PEAR and all concerned about ethical adoption practices in opposing
Senate Bill 1359/ A3110, known as the FACE Act. I urge all interested parties to read a very thorough and detailed analysis of this and another bill in question by PEAR, with many links. 1359/3110 is intended to simplify the adoption process by conferring U.S. citizenship retroactive to birth.

73Adoptee writes:
"Adoptive families would apply for a Consular Report Of Birth which, like an amended birth certificate, makes it appear "as if" the adoptee was born to the adoptive parents. Proponents of the bill say this will help adoptive families by eliminating some of the paperwork and expense, and help adoptees by offering them the same inalienable rights as a U.S.-born citizen. There are plenty of concerns about this proposed legislation which have been remarked upon by bloggers in the adoption community. From where I'm sitting, it looks very much like erasing adoptees' identities."

I share PEAR's, Ethica's and others concern for the status of children who lawfully enter the United States for the purposes of adoption but, through no fault of their own, have "parents" who fail to finalize the adoption. I likewise share their thoughtful concern about backdating citizenship documents to the date of birth, thus obliterating a person's life before entry into their newly 'adopted' nation.

I likewise share
grave concern about placing the power of the “competent authority” in the hands of the sending country.

I disagree, however, that such power would be better in the hands of the receiving country, especially the U.S.

As I will be posting elsewhere, I have met with Ana Escobar whose case proves conclusively how DNA reports - with photos attached - are systematically being falsified...AND the U.S. government is issuing VISAS for such children with obviously fraudulent paperwork.

Interpol, which oversees international crime including human trafficking and smuggling, does not include such practices for the purpose of adoption. This is an oversight that clearly needs to be addressed by all concerned with these deceptions. Interpol explains the difference between trafficking and smuggling, and the trafficking definition could easily include adoption, but currently does not.

But clearly, we cannot leave this important final watchdog position in the hands of the country whose demand is creating the situation, and a nation based on the capitalistic support of adoption as an enterprise and the ethnocentric rescue myths of adoption.

This bill is being considered in two committees in the House of Representatives and one committee in the U.S. Senate:

In the House:

House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
Phone: (202) 225-5021
Members on the Committee who are also available to hear your opinions:

House Judiciary Committee:
Phone: 202-225-3951
Find members of the committee who would be happy to hear your opinions:

In the Senate:

Senate Judiciary Committee:
Phone: 202-224-7703 (Democrats) or 202-224-5225 (Republicans)
To find members of the committee who would be happy to hear your opinion:

Please consider joining this Facebook group formed in opposition to the FACE Act, which I am pleased to report has more than 300 members!

This brings me to the first of three blogs I'd like to call your attention to today:

- Stephen Osborn, who together with his wife Shyrel run a group home for Guatemalan children, many disabled. God has given this couple their calling and likewise bestowed upon Steve a way off articulating the heart of the situation:
[H]onest people in the adoption community had warned against initiating adoptions from Guatemala as early as 2006. But the potential parents were hearing different stories. The Adoption agencies as late as the fall of 2007 were still saying these children would die if not adopted. When your heart is inclined to adopt, choosing which of the conflicting reports to believe is a no brainer. Hmmm. Unintended pun there. It is a heart issue, not a brain issue. The only problem is that the conflicting reports on one side were conscientious attempts to protect these hearts. The other, a shameless attempt to profit from the desire of these hearts. And a lie."
- A friend, follower and regular commenter of this blog, OSoloMama has written a heartfelt (as always) exploration of her feelings surrounding helping her adopted daughter search for her roots from initially "her parents were not so much feared as invisible" to a realization that "it’s better to talk about the question mark than to stay silent."

- Meanwhile, back here at home,
- Utah is at it again: yet other contested adoption being fought by a father whose rights are being - as usual - ignored and abrogated. As is typical of all such cases it involves deceit and deception that crosses state lines. Those who support this father, Cody Mitchell O’Dea, have set up a blog post and a petition and donation for legal fees request.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guatemala Journey: Part IV

What was most evident to me in Guatemala, besides the lush fertility of the land, was the close knit families. Everywhere we went mothers and fathers held their children in their arms or by the hand if they could walk. They may be poor, but they are not lacking in love or pride!

Even in a fireman's parade, many participants brought their kids dressed in miniature uniforms (photo, right)

Nowhere was this more obvious than in the rural indigenous Mayan community we had the honor to visit in Espunuja.

We arrived atop a long winding road that was barely navigable by our van and most of our group had to hike up to reduce the weight of the van.
A collective of women and children who had come together to greet us and share with us taco making and their weaving. They prayed with us and for us and we played games together - the Mayan and English versions of Simple Simon.

This very unique visit had been specially arranged for our delegation ny Karen Rotabi of VCU and and Hilda of the Highland Support Project which is helping these women sell their weavings.

The Mayan women are literally and figuratively marginalized in their remote mountain village with no running water or electricity. They wash their hand woven clothes in communal water troughs.

They made us hot chocolate and gave us gifts of lilies wrapped in placemat size weavings that likly took them a month or more to make.

Women of such diverse cultures, without even speaking to one another (some of them and some of us spoke Spanish, but the majority of them did not)...

but we shared laughter and they looked with intense interest on pictures we had brought of our families.

More photos:

Brave and Strong?

Do you feel brave or strong for having lost your child to adoption?

How do feel about being described that way? This blog sees it as appropriate to do so.

How do you feel when others say they could never "do it"?

How universal are the reasons for, and feelings about, the loss of a child to adoption?

CNN’s Robyn Curnow sit down with two mothers in South Africa who gave their babies up for adoption is on video and the reaction of one of the mothers is simply heartbreaking.

What is brave about desperation and having no other choice?

These two women do not have any idea as of yet how they will truly feel once it is done, since as of now, it is only an idea...both the baby and the surrender.

CNN, IMHO, should be criticized for how this was handled by Robyn Curnow and the very - albeit unknowingly - insensitive, judgmental and cruel thing she said to make one of the women leave in tears.

International Adoption and the Fight for Human Rights

I write today to share with you an article in Conducive Magazine by Hilbrand W.S. Westra, Chairman, United Adoptees International

Amongst other things, this article reveals:

"But, lest we forget the role of the Church in paving the way for child trafficking, initially within Western countries and later in their colonies, Carine Hutsebaut, criminologist and founder of ICMAC (International Center for Molested and Abducted Children), wrote a very important book (Kleine zondaars – Kerk en kinderhandel [Little sinners – The Church and Child Trafficking]), explaining how the Catholic church had a hand in trafficking children to childless parishioners in different cities and countries.

The fortress that religious groups, adoptive parents, agencies and politicians have built to protect their monied interests and feelings of entitlement to other people’s children appears to be almost impregnable. However, the first cracks in their bastion are slowly becoming visible. The question we must ask ourselves, though, is who else is willing to push for necessary changes? Until now, the group fighting for children’s rights and family preservation programs is small, but committed."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guatemala Journey: Part III

The Human Rights delegation focused on Violence Against Women, which is endemic in the machismo Guatemalan culture and includes forcible, coerced adoption or kidnapping of children for child trafficking.

The issue was raised by many we visited: NGOs, those working in the field with victims of domestic violence and midwives, and those who worked with sexoservadios (sex workers ) - at times without even being asked. (But when it wasn't, Karen Rotabi, Prof at VCU asked!)

At our visit to Norma Cruz' Foundacion Sobrevivientes we did not get to meet Ms. Cruz herself, but instead we were met by her articulate daughter, Claudia Maria Hernandez, who told us that the violence is worsening. Others we met had noted this trend, stating that during the was you knew who your enemy was. I gave Claudia a shirt that reads: Hermandad y Solidaridad (Sisterhood & Solidarity).
Shirts are available at CafePress.

Last year six thousand Guatemalans were violently murdered, more than 700 just for being female - of all ages - and this year there already 300 more murders than last year at this time. Some were pregnant women. Women are attacked in their homes and on the streets. 55% of the femicide is committed by someone known to, or hired by some known to, the victim.

Regarding adoption Claudia told us that "the foundation is not against adoption. We are against the business of taking children for profit and exporting them....Children need a mother not to be sold for dollars."

She also informed us of two layers from the inspector general's office in charge of orphans have been selling the orphans, and a judge is being investigated for "abnormal adoptions."

At the Myrna Mack Foundation - a well known and respected human rights NGO which issued a recent report on violence against woman, we sit in a large conference room and view professionally made power point presentations, as we had at the Survivors Foundation.

We are reminded that the U.S. is the number one country adopting from Guatemala and that it is a $250 million dollar a year industry there with many babies being stolen.

We are told of women being "raped to produce children for trafficking in adoption."

At Presbiterio Kaqchikel, in Chimaltenango, which offers medical testing and psychological counseling for sex workers -- approximately 250 in a city of 60,000 -- Carolina Alvarado tells us of an "improper adoption" and that women are coerced to have their babies taken into adoption; "they are victims of trickery. They tell her someone will care for her child while she is working and steal her child."

Here, in a more rural setting than the previous two foundations, we are told of one case in which the grandmother received 5 thousand quetzals for her daughter's baby: $607.79 U.S. The 17 year old gave birth and did not want to relinquish her child, but her mother insisted. The grandmother's husband, we are told, saw the baby as a source of income. Not what many perspective adopters are led to believe that the women themselves often sell their babies.

At Association Neuvos Horizontes (New Horizons), a rural refuge and holistic service center in Quetzaltenango for victims of violence provided services for 1800 women last year and estimate 2400 this year. They have 35 workers, 15 in the shelters. Women are given the opportunity to share their story in a safe, validating environment and then are referred for services such as legal, psychological or shelter - depending on their need. two layers work there and another two within the court system. Women are provided accompaniment to all court appearances and all services are provided at no cost.

Maria Batres, a social worker tells us that 99.9% of Guatemalan women experience domestic violence.

Women who immigrate to the U.S. are often losing their children to CPS because of lack of interpreters in the courts for Myans, many of whom do not speak Spanish.

Batres tell us that it is "very common for abusive husbands to force women to accept payments by baby brokers. Many such women come seeking help, even if they are not being abused. Very common."

We visit two different prodomos (midwife) facilities. At CODECOT in Xela (photo left) we learn that 80% of all birth are assisted by the midwives, outside of hospitals. This is not because of lack of ability to pay for the hospital services, but because of trust. We are served a bounty of delectable, fresh steamed vegetables for lunch.

At At ACAM Midwifery Project, Concepcion Chiquirichapa, Elena Ixcot speaks of the 36 midwives and 21-22 who are currently studying and 13 student midwives. Elena spent 25 years in exile in New England and there she met many U.S. adoptive families who are providing wonderful care for their children. Elana said "No children are given for adoption in this town." One of our delegates said it reminded her of colleges who say there are no rapes on their campuses.

Elena and many of her midwife companaros, as well as her husband speak of the need to revive the Myan ways especially in the face of TV and cell phones which have led to young people having less respect for their elders than in the days when story telling was the only activity.

Speaking of the the history of the oppression of the Myan people Elena's husband, Felipe reminds us how the workers were made to take the names of those they worked for - just one more way of destroying their culture which honors nature.

Guatemalan Journey: Part II

On day four of our delegation. We left Guatemala City and drove into the rural, lush agricultural areas.
Patchworks of fields of green and cabbage and corn filed; small plots on mountain side - some almost horizontal as the indigenous people did with what they had after multi national commercial banana, coffee, and sugar growers took their prized, prime land.

The road wound up and up...Temperatures drop. Stray dogs run along the highways. On our way to Chimaltengo we pass cement trucks hauling mined lime and the cinder blocks made from it.

In Zunil we visit a tiny chapel blocks from the larger church that adorns the tiny town center.

In the chapel candles of different colors are lit for different types of prayers: health, prosperity, love...and curses, offerings to Maximon – San Simon, a Mayan folk saint.

In the face of war, oppression, poverty and disappear these people - like so many other victims of genocide - never waiver in their incredible love and faith of God.

And around the corner is the school.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In The News...

Taking a brief break from Guatemalan reporting to bring you a summary of adoption news closer to home...

Madonna's Mercy adoption has been in an Edinburugh Festival musical performed by all Malawain children wearing "Adopt Me" tee shirts and a cross dressing 6ft tall Malawian man wearing a blonde wig, gold Gaultier bra and heels, giant star-shaped sunglasses and a silky pink nightie. It features song parodies such as: “People are dying in a Malawian world, and I am a Malawian girl”.


A Massachusetts couple's son's photo was placed on the notorious Craig's List being offered for adoption. Josh and Jenni Brennan however did not want to place their adorable little boy for adoption. The photo had been copied from their family blog! (Note: Keep family info and photos private!)

The Brennan's were tipped to the scam by an anonymous email. They cautiously wrote back and found put that an unidentfied woman had fallen for an adoption scam from a St. Theresa Conception Parish which asks for $300 to start the adoption process about a year ago. When she saw the same ad pop up again she posed as an interested adopter to see what the scammer would send back.

While Brennan sues for misuse of her son's photo, and filed complaints with the FBI and the Massachusetts Attorney General's office - the photo has now appeared in hundreds of new stories covering the incident.

So Craig's list takes the heat again while the Brennans learned a hard lesson about protecting their privacy.

As for adoption scams - they will continue as long as babies are allowed to be sold by anyone and money is allowed is a major part of the equation - can we say baby selling? - and the process is called "adoption." To protect against fraud, we need to remove the profiteering and police the entire industry with regulations. Gee sounds like that might may a good book...Until then, people in the market for a kid are as at risk as anyone trying to dope on a street corner.


But how can we ever stop the insanity unless we curb the source of it all: the demand, ethnocentricity, perpetuation and belief in rescue myths, and the intense feelings of -- can we say: ENTITLEMENT? -- that my favorite slanted news story today reeks of.

Adoptive parent organizations are reportedly "outraged" that immigration rules apply to them!

The case at hand involves a 2007 CDC guidelines for tuberculosis testing and treatment for immigrants older than 2. The ruling halted the adoption of a 4-year-ol girl from China by a Virginia couple.

"You know, she loved us, she bonded with us and she attached to us" the prospective father is quoted as saying in a news report that reads like a heart wrenching soap opera of a child begging to remain with "her father" - a man she met only 12 2days prior but allegedly calls "Pappa". Of course, she faced no such trauma being taken from her original family! Only the pain and angst of the adopters is captured for all the world's sympathy. Excuse me while I take a barf break....irony sticks in my throat, choking me.


Another bizarre case of an unhappy customer, with too few details:

Karen Sternberg, 37, of the bronx, NY is suing two adoption agencies: Pennsylvania-based NHS Human Services and Indiana-based Bond of Love, saying she was given an infant boy for about a month before he was taken because the study of her home was "defective."

Sternberg paid NHS $1,500 for the home study and Bond of Love $12,125 for adoption services, only to have authorities dismiss her adoption petition, according to her lawsuit.

Imagine that? You pay for a home study expecting that payment to assure you are approved, and yet you are not! How preposterous...there oughts be a law...I mean she PAID! Where are the guarantees.

And this poor woman waited three years to adopt. Where's the justice?


Finally, check out the comment on this blog post about breastfeeding adopted children:
"As an adoptee, if my adoptive mother had breastfed me, I would be disgusted. I breastfed all of my babies, and I was a lactation consultant, so I am fully aware of the benefits of nature. My adoptive Mother was NOT my natural mother."

More on my Guatemala report - continuing with previous post and lost more photos - coming, I promise!

Guatemala Journey: Part I

I have returned and am processing so very much.

It was a very intense and very unique opportunity and experience.

I begin at the beginning... The home we stayed in - our "home base" in Guatemala City -- like most homes and business in Guatemala, has steel entry doors to protect inhabitants from crime. No one opens their doors without knowing who is knocking.

Below is our room.

It can feel somewhat claustrophobic, or stifling at times living under such cautious scrutiny; so cloistered inside.

However, in the rear of the home is a patio which is just lovely and a way to enjoy the cool Guatemalan weather. We had several meetings on our patio.

A few of our meetings with survivors of violence against women were held here at home base, and also a meeting with women who organizing for work place rights - two of whom travelled 12 hours each way by bus! But the rest of our meetings got us out via van excursions.

Violence against women in Guatemala is so prevalent that the daily newspaper lists approximately two murders a day. While officials are still defining and redefining what exactly constitutes femicide...whether it must legally contain all five characteristics - it is clearly a result of cultural machismo , cultivated by years of war and training men in violence and killing, and often aggravated by alcohol consumption and rampant racism. All of these factors are then layered over by impunity and re-victimization of victims.

722 violent murders of women took place last year and already more than half that number so far this year. An AlJazeera video was produced on gang violence against Guatemalan women and released while we were there. This is a link to the VCU blog of our delegation.

A spokesperson from ASOCIACION NUEVOS HORIZONTES (New Horizons) an organization that provides help to victims of domestic and other types of violence said that 99.9% of Guatemalan women experience domestic violence, and many of the murders are the direct - or hired hit - result of such domestic disputes while much crime in general results from the narco trafficking. Most of the women killed are killed by their husbands, not gangs, as the government often portrays it. Many are found dead in the streets having been dragged there after the fact, and many of these crimes occur after women have filed complaints of abuse and/or have sought orders of protection.

Anna Glady's Ollas of the Human Rights Ombudsman's office told us that the police often pick up alleged perpetrators and drive them around the block so it appears if hey are veing apprehended, but in reality, just let them go.

What separates crimes against women specifically is the viciousness. Drug and gang killed are shooting. Women, however are raped, tortured, mutilated, dismembered, decapitated, wraped in barbed wire...body parts strewn in different locations as a message. These crimes are committed for one reason and one reason only: because they are women.

Impunity Reigns

The police are very corrupt and often do not know how to properly investigate a crime scene and protect evidence -- or simply do not care to. Ww were repeatedly told from all sources that any woman who wears nail polish, or has tattoo, or is wearing a short skits is labeled a prostitute or a "nobody' and o effort whatsoever is taken to find the perpetrator of her rape, kidnapping and/or murder.

The victims are re-victimized and their families given no justice.

An excellent source, is a 2007 BBC documentary entitled "Killer's Paradise" which is viewable in 15 parts on YouTube. It's a POWERFUL, MUST SEE!

The violence, victimization of the victim and lack of investigation, occurs regardless of the status of the women, as it has with Gladys Monterroso, attorney who was kidnapped, tortured, burned and raped and who came and spoke with us, as did Rosa Franco, a mother seeking justice for the murder of her 15-year old daughter Maria Isabel Franco.

Rosa was offered and refused reparations, including having a street named after her daughter as is done for other notable women who have been killed, such as Myrna Mack Chang.

Myrna was an anthropologist documenting the displacement of indigenous peoples. Her sister, Helen Mack, started the Myrna Mack Foundation, a major NGO fighting these crimes in her memory. They released a report entitled "Impunity, Stigma and Gender" and English summary of which is located at this link.

Hearing first hand victims reports was extremely triggering for me, being a survivor of acts of domestic and stranger violence myself. This visceral reaction was not expected.

Many of the delegates were social workers who had chosen that career path and chosen to come to Guatemala out of a great deal of human compassion. We all bring our life experiences and training with us to the table. And so, I sensed, at times, some were acting as observers there to analyze, theorize, and contextualize the stories we heard as source material, as studying and reporting on the social, political and economic struggles facing Guatemalan women will be of great value.

I, on the other hand, have been an advocate for the rights of marginalized, coerced, voiceless women - many suffering from PTSD - for more than 30 years. All of my activism has been in peer self-help support. I am thus unaccustomed to dealing with women's pain from the outside looking in or in a professional/client clinical or detached manner, but rather as an equal.

Perhaps the difference is best explained in this illustration:

Sympathy: I am sorry for your loss. What can I do to help you during this difficult time?

Empathy: I feel and understand your pain; my grandmother passed away last year as well.

Some delegates seemed to "admire the courage" of the women who had endured, and their "bravery" to share their testimony. And while I did as well, I also knew that they HAD to tell their stories and that they did not ask to be heroines. I knew of the importance of having their experiences validated; that these things did happen to them, or their daughters, though they were expected to remain silently in shame in fear.

I felt this subtle divide, and it was painful on many levels. It was at times for me a disturbing, albeit totally unintended, objectification of those being "interviewed" as "subjects" of a research project rather than sharing with them on a level as I was unable not to and which at the same time brought me great pain in reflecting on my very personal connecting experiences to their abuses, and re-victimization. I felt -- perhaps unwarranted -- the solicitousness of those who believe that we mothers who have lost our children to adoption are somehow noble or brave for "letting them go" while also expressing some sense of pity for our loss.

As I am trying to process all of these thoughts and feelings... I was also moderating comments that had been sent while I was away, when a comment dated July 15 on the post "Why I am Going to Guatemala" caught my eye in a way it had not previously. The anonymous poster suggested that some of the Guatemalan mothers whose children had been kidnapped are just making it up, having regret after voluntarily placing their children for adoption!

And so...I have a great deal to process as I share with my experiences...

A LOT more to come including a very special trip to a Mayan village and all that relates specifically to adoption and the kidnapping and trafficking of Guatemalan children. ...and how and why it is part and parcel of violence against women as reported to us by Norma Cruz' daughter, Caludia Maria Hernandez, on her behalf in the offices of her Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivor's Foundation).

I had a productive additional day's stay which included a visit to the privately run children's home and a meeting with Anna Escobar who miraculously reclaimed her kidnapped daughter before she had been sent out of Guatemala for adoption...along with photos of her and her daughter!

Stay tuned...

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

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Birthparents Never Forget