Friday, October 8, 2010


The recent announcement that the U.S. will not participate in the Guatemalan Pilot Program is just another nail in the coffin of Intercountry Adoption. The incredible HYPOCRISY that governs this decision is - while not surprising - still totally infuriating. The U.S. DOS promoted the passage of the current adoption law in Guatemala, despite vigorous opposition by adoption advocates with knowledge of Guatemalan politics and realities. Prior to the U.S. intervention in promoting this law, the law was - in various incarnations - voted down over a period of 6 years. It was promoted intensely by UNICEF. The Hague Treaty was passed "illegally" in Guatemala in 2003 and its passage was OVERTURNED by the Constitutional Court in Guatemala in Sept.2003. In 2006, the State Department announced that "they" were considering Guatemala to still be party to the Hague, despite earlier acknowledgements that Guatemala's Constitutional Court had ruled that Guatemala's constitution did not allow them to participate in a Treaty when they had not participated in the Conventions leading to the Treaty (as Guatemala had not been party to the Conventions leading to the Hague Treaty). Once the Department of State convinced the Guatemalan Congress, in a series of "smoke and mirrors" arguments to reinstate the Hague Treaty, they also convinced them to pass the adoption law, which eliminated the Notarial Law. All new adoptions from Guatemala ceased on Dec.31, 2007. Though the new law has a "grandfather clause" covering all adoptions initiated under the Notarial process before December 31, 2007, the Guatemalan authorities have not honored the Grandfather clause in many ways, with thousands of adoptions in process being delayed over the last 3 years, and still hundreds are being obstructed, many without legal basis. The U.S. Department of State has been noticeably inactive in its lack of advocacy for these adoptions initiated by U.S. citizens prior to the law changing.

In my opinion, the Hague Treaty governing intercountry adoption has been a tool used by first world governments to limit or eliminate adoptions of children from developing countries. There seems to be a collusion between the governments, Unicef, and the officials at the Hague to promote the Treaty as being in the best interests of children, while nothing is done to actually assure for the alternative care of those children who are not being adopted, nor are adoptions in any serious numbers being promoted.

In Guatemala, an alternative law was presented to the Congress in 2007, which would have regulated the adoption services in accordance with the mandates of the Hague Treaty, while developing a public-private partnership and still maintaining the social services; but this law was not acceptable. Now, in Guatemala, there is minimal public support for children, and private support - which in the past has accounted for 90% of support for children - is dwindling each day, as much of it was dependent on adoptions.

The first world governments, like the U.S., who have insisted on the Hague Treaty in these countries, have an obligation to help the impoverished governments, like Guatemala, develop acceptable and child centric systems. When the Department of State was trying to get U.S. adoption organizations to support the Hague Treaty, they committed to helping developing countries comply with the Treaty. What happened to those promises? More important, what is actually happening to the children who cannot be adopted?

Hannah Wallace,
Focus On Adoption