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

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