Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Adoption or child-trafficking?

One in every hundred Guatemalan children is being brought up as an American.

Adoption is BIG business here. Orphanages abound, agencies to smooth the path of would-be adoptive parents proliferate, hotels offer special packages for foreigners going through the adoptive process.

It's a business, and a profitable one.

One of the cruisers here, Kathleen from DejaVu, drew my attention to this article on Yahoo. It is a story that I have heard about any number of times since arriving in this country. Tales of child kidnappings abound, of baby-farming, of suspected motives. What is the truth?

These statistics published on the Travel.State.Gov US site show an increasing trend of numbers of infants leaving their homelands of Guatemala.

PATTERNS OF IMMIGRATION OF GUATEMALAN ORPHANS TO THE U.S.: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to Guatemalan orphans:

Fiscal Year Number of Immigrant Visas Issued
FY 2006 4135
FY 2005 3783
FY 2004 3262
FY 2003 2326
FY 2002 2419

Remember, that is just the number of children going to the United States. So assuming that the process costs in the region of $25,000, you quickly come to $100,000,000. Now that really is BIG business. That to me smells like a business in human life. What other way is there to look at it?

The organizations that run these services are, invariably, headed by a non-Guatemalan. Many are supported by religious organizations.

The nagging question that I am unable to find answers to is why, in a country that has a large extended family structure, are overseas interests funding the removal of children?

Surely money raised could be used to support the extended family structure to care for orphans and unwanted children. This is a country with a high mortality rate, historically accustomed to rearing the offspring of siblings and daughters and grandchildren. What has changed?

My daughter was in Cyprus at Christmas time. The woman in the house opposite had just collected two children from Guatemala. There was a rush to beat the new, stricter, adoption laws that were implemented in January 2008. She is a single woman, with serious health issues. probably unable to adopt through the official channels.

Does that matter? Maybe she can offer a good, loving, caring home. And maybe she will become sick one day and need to be taken care of herself. The question must be why so many of these children are being taken from their culture, is it just one more way the materialistic so-called Western civilizations can satisfy their demands for the latest accessory?

If you surf the web you will find countless sites of how to/how I adopted a Guatemalan infant. Full of justifications of offering a 'better' life, more opportunities and so forth. But in whose judgment is this a better life? A one room hut with a dirt-floor and no shoes does not necessarily equal unhappiness. Anymore than a five bedroomed home with designer clothes and a pool in the yard guarantees happiness.

When does adoption become child-trafficking?

This article appeared in The Guardian on Tuesday August 14 2007 on p16 of the International section.

Police in Guatemala have rescued 46 children from a suspected illegal adoption agency, renewing concerns about the trafficking of infants from the central American country. The children, aged from just a few days old to three years, were discovered at the weekend at a house in the city of Antigua, near the capital.

"We searched the house after we got a tip from neighbours telling us that every day they would see foreigners pick up children there," a police spokesman, Carlos Calju, told reporters.

Two lawyers at the house were arrested on suspicion of assisting with illegal adoptions. A police investigation will try to determine if the children were kidnapped or obtained from their mothers through coercion. Most of them lacked proper documentation for being in the custody of adults other than their parents.

Guatemala, in many places violent and lawless, has become notorious for illegal and unethical adoption networks which supply children to western couples.

Antigua is a popular city for such transactions. A world heritage site and tourist magnet, it has plenty of amenities for those who go there to negotiate for a baby.

Last year US couples adopted more than 4,135 babies from Guatemala, second only to China, under a legal but loosely regulated system. The number of illegal adoptions was not known.

September 2007. The Adoption Authority of Ireland has said that it will no longer permit applications for adoption from Guatemala to Ireland because of serious concerns about the corruption of the Guatemalan adoption process.

An interesting site, Fleas Biting, chronicles the experiences of one family caught up, innocently, in the results of child-trafficking in India. These people found out to their horror that their children had been stolen from their natural mothers. They have gone on to create an organisation that supports Ethical Adoption.

So be wary of helping at one of the many orphanages here in Guatemala, be wary of lending your support to an unethical and sometimes downright wicked business. Ignorance is no excuse. Do your own due diligence.

The point made by Fleas Biting is that many small voices add up to significant influence, so don't be embarrassed to ask questions, don't be afraid to talk about it. Fostering a healthy dialogue about these issues can only work in the best interest of both the children concerned and the genuine organisations

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