In the world of International Adoption, Guatemala is one of the most popular and least regulated Countries. Last year there were estimated to have been 1,500 Guatemalan Children and Babies who have started fresh lives abroad, but the spectre of Illegal Adoptions have haunted Guatemala for years. Stories have emerged of mothers being forced to give up their new born children and of a booming private adoption business that has now grown almost into a multi million pound industry. One of the key questions to look into is, are illegal adoptions taking place and if so how widespread is the practice? Finally, what is in the best interests of the Children of Guatemala? Whilst organisations, such as UNICEF, do not claim that all of the overseas adoptions coming out of Guatemala are illegal or abusive, a new report issued from the organisation does highlight the increasing problem of child trafficking. Overseas adoption arose directly out of Guatemalas harrowing history. Overseas Adoptions and International adoption arose directly out of Guatemalas harrowing history.
The 36 year civil war, which ended officially only four years ago left nearly a quarter of a million dead or disappeared and one million homeless, half of them children. Elizabeth Gibbons is the director of UNICEF, and a leading critic of adoption as practised in Guatemala: Many, many orphaned children were taken into adoption by military officers, sent into international adoption. Originally a humanitarian activity, but it became obvious that it had the potential for being a lucrative business. And the higher demand in the West, the more birth control, more access to abortion, so you have the problem of a huge demand, therefore a supply must be created. In recent years there has been a tightening up of controls in many of the major embassies and the UK, US and Canadian embassies now carry out DNA tests of both the birth mother and the baby to check out that the woman giving the baby up for adoption is the real birth mother. The existence of DNA does not in any way tell you whether the mother is willingly giving up the child or whether she is being coerced.
The second concern is that the children who pass the DNA test are not the same ones who go with the adopting parents on the plane, they could be switched. And thirdly, that the child who is rejected for having a negative DNA result by one of three embassies that offer this test, can then be offered to another embassy with parents of a another nationality. No one respects the law or the state; everybody just does their own thing. And it is the same with adoptions. So with all of this abuse of the system going on, why has not the government of Guatemala done anything to stop it.
The general consensus is that Guatemala is in chaos with the country, now a fledgling democracy, only just emerging from under the shadows of years of Military rule Guatemala is a difficult place from which to operate from and it is very hard to know who is in charge of what. There does not appear to be a Minister in charge of Social Affairs and Adoption is very much bottom rung on the ladder. The Chair of the Commission on the Child and the Family in the Guatemalan Parliament is Nineth Montenegro who is a vigorous critic of her own system and is campaigning to pass the The Childrens Code to protect the rights of the Child in Guatemala explains: We have been working on it for three years now and parliament still has not passed it. They say, if we try to regulate adoption in this way we will deny children better opportunities in wealthier countries. There has been terrible resistance to the new law. You know Guatemala is a democracy only in name, not a real democracy.
No one respects the law or the state; everybody just does their own thing. And it is the same with adoptions.
Stephen is a freelance journalist who contributes material to Adoption USA and International Adoption Information