Archive for July, 2010

About a father who lost his son

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

This past February, I had the privilege of meeting Tom Heaton in Panajachel, Guatemala, where he lives and works as a United Methodist Pastor from the Indiana conference. I had known about Tom and his work for a few years through my membership in online adoption groups.

Tom is the adoptive father to two sons, Jose and Manuel, both born in Guatemala. Several years ago, Tom started “Mayan Traditions,”  featuring fair-trade crafts to benefit orphanages and child-related ministries in Guatemala. In 2008, he was appointed business administrator of Project Salud y Paz, a United Methodist-related ministry that operates clinics and a preschool in the Guatemalan highlands. Last year, Tom formed Mission Guatemala, a nonprofit organization founded to improve the quality of life for the country’s indigenous population. For the past decade, Tom has dedicated himself to Guatemala and its people. (more…)


One Doctor

Monday, July 12th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, my sister, Patrice, who works in the drama and dance department at Stanford University, sent me a series of articles about Stanford physician Paul Wise, who has been going to rural Guatemala for the past thirty years to deliver healthcare to families in dire need, ever since he first visited in 1970 and “fell in love with the place and its people.” On his most recent trip this summer, Dr. Wise was accompanied by a team of Stanford medical students and undergraduates. The articles were written by Adam Gorlick, a Stanford News Service writer.

The group’s work was centered in the area surrounding San Lucas Tolimán, on the southeastern shore of Lake Atitlán. (Tolimán is the name of the volcano that sits on the edge of town.) Gorlick began the series by describing the havoc wreaked on San Lucas by torrential rainfall, including Tropical Storm Agatha in late May. The description rings all-too-familiar to anyone who has traveled in-country during rainy season, when flood waters create landslides, destroy homes, and render roads nearly impassable. Gorlick went on to note the poverty endemic in a country “wracked by decades of civil war, political corruption and the violence of a growing drug trade.” The majority of  residents in San Lucas are farm workers who earn less than $1,000 U.S. per year. (more…)


Language and belonging

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Recently, I was telling another mom at Mateo’s preschool about some of the valuable lessons we learned at Heritage Camp, especially about incorporating elements of our children’s Guatemalan culture into our daily lives. One of the most important ways my husband and I can do this is by helping our children to learn Spanish and to learn Spanish ourselves. When I fostered Olivia in Antigua in 2003, I studied Spanish. This fall I’ve enrolled in a class to refresh what I learned. Olivia herself will begin Spanish in the upcoming school year. We’re lucky because in our California district, children take Spanish from Grade 3.

The mom at Mateo’s preschool, “Ms. G,” agreed that speaking the language is an important way to stay connected to a culture, but, she quickly added, speaking the language doesn’t mean you necessarily “belong” to the culture. She used her own life story to illustrate. (more…)


Thoughts on international adoption

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Last week I posted about E.J. Graff’s article, “The Baby Business,” in which Graff described some countries’ practice of international adoption as “all but free of meaningful law, regulation, or oversight.” Since then, adoption professionals have been responding to the article, including a response by Dr. Jane Aronson. For anyone not familiar with Dr. Aronson, she is CEO and founder of the international organization, Worldwide Orphans Foundation. She is also a pediatrician, known in the adoption world as the “Orphan Doctor.”

In her response to “The Baby Business,” Dr. Aronson states that governments would best serve their children by focusing efforts on addressing what Aronson calls the “international orphan crisis,” a crisis whose magnitude is far more devastating than any earthquake or volcano. Instead of creating more punitive and bureaucratic regulations around international adoption, Aronson says governments should address the underlying reasons why parents relinquish their children for adoption in the first place. Funds should be committed to creating infrastructures designed to keep families intact. Such infrastructures include, but are not limited to, social services, medical care, and free education.

Otherwise, says Dr. Aronson, “…we are effectually ensuring that families will be torn apart by poverty, illness, ignorance and fear, and that children will be abandoned to orphanages or a life on the streets or in brothels. This would be the case even if there were no…international adoption.” (more…)



Sunday, July 4th, 2010

I can’t imagine a parade with more spirit of Americana than the one in Coronado, California on Fourth of July. My sister, Adrienne, arrives before dawn to reserve a prime viewing spot. The rest of us sisters, nieces, and nephews arrive later, decked out in red, white, and blue. Because San Diego County contains military bases for the Navy and the Marines, representatives from both branches march. Other participants range from the Pearl Harbor Survivors to Miss Rodeo California, and the Canine Companions for Independence to the Cameron Highlanders Pipe Band. 

The first year Olivia came home, 2004, a local TV crew filmed the parade, and a reporter pulled us out of the crowd for an interview. Somewhere at home, I have a VHS tape of me holding a two-year-old Olivia as the reporter refers to my daughter as “America’s newest citizen.”

The theme of this year’s parade was “Salute to America’s Heroes.” On the Fourth of July, we remember them with thanks.


International adoptions decline

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Contrary to public perception, the number of intercountry adoptions by U.S. citizens has declined dramatically since 2005, it was reported today by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. The article contains an interview between the Joint Council of International Children’s Services and E.J. Graff, associate director and senior researcher at the Schuster Institute and author of the recent article, “The Baby Business.”

According to projections by the Joint Council, intercountry adoptions will drop from a high of 23,000 in 2005, to fewer than 8,000 children by 2012.

The interview contains an exchange between the Joint Council and E.J. Graff which asks the question posed by many parents who adopted from Guatemala: Instead of reforming adoption in Guatemala, why did authorities close down the program completely? (more…)