Adoption Fraud in Guatemala

Last week, I discussed some of the fraud and corruption that haunt international adoption. If you're interested, you should know about Erin Siegal, author of the forthcoming Finding Fernanda, which explores kidnapping, fraud, and endemic corruption in adoptions from Guatemala. For years, that country was one of the top "sending" countries in international adoption -- and the one most widely considered to be riddled with fraud. As I wrote here at the website of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism:

Guatemala is widely considered to have had the worst international adoption improprieties over the longest period of time. In 2006 and 2007, Guatemala sent almost as many children to the United States for adoption as China, despite a hundred-fold difference in size: In 2007, China sent 5,453 out of its population of 1.3 billion. In the same year, Guatemala sent 4,728 out of its 13 million. In that year, and several years before, an astonishing one out of every 110 Guatemalan children born was adopted in the United States.

But it was also one of the most opaque. Since the problems were so widely documented (see more at the link above), why did the U.S. Embassy continue to issue "orphan visas" for children that they suspected were not orphans at all, but bought, coerced, or frankly kidnapped from their families? To answer that question, Erin Siegal has been pursuing Freedom of Information Act requests to find out what the Embassy was thinking.

Finally they've arrived. Here's some of what the embassy was writing to the State Department:

According to US immigration law, a child whose mother refused to voluntarily consent to an adoption clearly would not qualify as an "orphan." As such, when a birth mother changes her mind and refuses to sign a relinquishment for the Embassy it generally means that the case has reached the end.

Yet, for the mother herself, her refusal to relinquish the child often means her problems are just beginning. While some Guatemalan attorneys will willingly return the child to its mother, other make the process extremely difficult, if not impossible, by pressuring, threatening, and even petitioning the court for an abandonment order. ...

There's more. (Follow her @erinsiegal.) I suspect that what she releases will be heartbreaking -- for adoptive parents, birth families, and everyone who cares about justice.

Comments

For more about Guatemalan adoption, and both its beauty and controversial underbelly, please check out my book, “Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl’s Journey through Adoption” (http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Between-Light-and-Shadow,674763.aspx):

In Between Light and Shadow veteran journalist Jacob Wheeler puts a human face on the Guatemalan adoption industry, which has exploited, embraced, and sincerely sought to improve the lives of the Central American nation’s poorest children. Fourteen-year-old Ellie, abandoned at age seven and adopted by a middle-class family from Michigan, is at the center of this story. Wheeler re-creates the painful circumstances of Ellie’s abandonment, her adoption and Americanization, her search for her birth mother, and her joyous and haunting return to Guatemala, where she finds her teenage brothers—unleashing a bond that transcends language and national borders.

Following Ellie’s journey, Wheeler peels back the layers of an adoption economy that some view as an unscrupulous baby-selling industry that manipulates impoverished indigenous Guatemalan women, and others herald as the only chance for poor children to have a better life. Through Ellie, Wheeler allows us to see what all this means in personal and practical terms—and to understand how well-intentioned and sometimes humanitarian first-world wealth can collide with the extreme poverty, despair, misogyny, racism, and violent history of Guatemala.

You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)

Connect
, after login or registration your account will be connected.
Advertisement