Thursday, October 1, 2009

History of Adoptions in Guatemala

As most lawyers in Guatemala, I did not have anything to do with adoptions, until my life was touched by adoption, many years ago, when I was required by a couple of US friends to help them with the adoption of a little girl who is now married and has a baby of her own. Until an Adoptions Law changed the legal process in December 31st., 2007, the adoption process in Guatemala was handled privately, with the oversight of a Family Court and of the State Attorney. Both had to approve the adoption, before it could be authorized. During the time that it took to get the proper authorizations and to comply with the migration requirements if the adoptive parents resided abroad, the children lived at private orphanages or with foster mothers, which proved to be a good way to care for the children until their parents could take them home.

During many years, those who do not want children from Less Developed Countries to be adopted by families of the First World countries, fought very hard to close down adoptions worlwide, under the pretense of “protecting the children”. Since the unwanted children are invisible to most governments in Guatemala, the only ones who fought to keep adoptions open, were the lawyers, who were accused by the properly rewarded media, of unduly profiting with the lives of the children being adopted. Although Guatemala is in the second tier and in the watch list of the countries who do not properly attack traffic of people for slavery and sexual exploitation, that does not attract the media attention as much as the fact that in a country where everything is an uphill battle, we managed to do more adoptions t o the United States than most other countries, simply because the State intervention in Guatemala was limited to approve the cases and the bureaucrats did not handled the processes. After an aggressive campaign that included threats to the congressmen to cancel their US visas if they did not approve an Adoptions Law designed to make adoptions impossible and with the collaboration of a Constitutional Court whose magistrates rule as they are told, at the end of 2007, the Adoptions Law was approved by Congress and The Hague Convention was resurrected by the Constitutional Court, after being ruled unconstitutional in 2003.

The Hague Convention for international adoptions, as it is commonly referred, is a treaty sponsored by The Hague Conference of International Private Law, that in the surface appears to be a legal frame to adapt the adoptions laws of the countries who are members to that convention, to a set of rules that are meant to protect the children. What it actually does is to close down adoptions on both ends. For many years, the number of children who were adopted from Guatemala was reasonable, according to the US Department of State standards, thanks to the discredit that the adoption attorneys got for devoting themselves to “such activity”. The police raids of the foster homes and the constant harassment of the police and the media exposure, discouraged those who were faint of heart. Gradually, as other countries closed down, thanks to the Hague Convention gaining new territories, Guatemalan was chosen by more adoptive parents because it allowed the adoption of healthy babies, through a legal process that allowed the parents to take their child home within six to eight months, while the children could be visited by their adoptive parents and kept with them at their hotels or even fostered in Antigua, a beautiful colonial city not far from Guatemala City. After staying at out of the way little hotels for many years, the adopting parents started staying at the best hotels, where they did no effort to hide the love and joy that they felt for their Guatemalan children. The lobbies of the hotels started to look crowded with strollers, foster mothers delivering or picking up children, and lawyers talking with the parents and poring over legal documents. It was also due to the harassment of the police, who always looking for a way to extort money from the adopting parents, stalked them near the hotels, waiting for them to take a stroll with their babies, to show up asking for papers (as an adoptive father said: “papers with pictures of US presidents”). That forced them to stay inside of the hotels and since the smaller hotels usually do not have restaurants and swimming pool, the largest and better equipped hotels were chosen for their stay.

For those who believe that adoption is a silent migration, the increase in the number of adoptions became a way to circumvent the rigorous laws that prevent the undesirables to migrate to the United States and Western Europe. The children were being brought into their countries, not by the back door, to be raised devoid of any legal protection, but through the front door, with the responsibility of their governments to watch over them, or to risk the bad publicity that could bring that an adoptive parent did not take good care of their foreign adopted child.

UNICEF was created after the Second World War, as the greatest effort from mankind to help the children in the countries ravaged by the war. It grew until it became one of the largest entities of the United Nations Organization. Because it has a very respectable face, it is difficult to believe that UNICEF is being used to stop adoptions worldwide, in a dirty war that does nothing to help the needy children of the Third World countries, but does everything to stop any effort to give them a permanent loving home in another country. The Hague Convention was conceived in the dark womb of UNICEF and it has been very successful thus far to close down almost all the adoption agencies in the United States and of a decline of 97% of adoptions in Guatemala. November is when UNICEF does its greatest collection campaign. If your care a little for the children in Guatemala, who no longer are being adopted because of their bottomless back of dirty tricks, do not donate to UNICEF. Give it to any other charity, that even if that charity is self serving, at least it will not be used to exterminate children whose only sin was to be born in the wrong country.

Guatemala, October 1st., Day of the Child , 2009.

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