Why we won’t be trick-or-treating for UNICEF this year

Like a lot of people, I used to regard UNICEF as an organization founded to protect and advocate for children. Not anymore. Not after everything I’ve learned about UNICEF’s role in shutting down adoptions in countries such as Guatemala. That’s why I’m sharing  this article by attorney Candace O’Brien, posted by friends on Facebook, and encouraging you to do the same.

In this post, I’ve included only the parts specific to Guatemala; to read the entire article, click on the link here

“UNICEF has been waging war against international adoption for many years contrary to popular understanding… UNICEF’s premise that parents in underdeveloped countries should be provided the means to keep their children is not arguable.  Neither is UNICEF’s stance that international adoption should only be a last resort.”…

“Let’s take the example of Guatemala.  After intense pressure from UNICEF, Guatemala finally closed its doors to international adoption on December 31, 200[7].  Prior to that time, foreign nationals adopted approximately 5,000 Guatemalan children per year.   Oscar Avila, ‘Guatemala Seeks Domestic Fix to Troubled Overseas Adoptions,’ Chicago Tribune, October 26, 2008 indicated that ‘Guatemala has launched an ambitious campaign to recruit foster parents and even adoptive parents at home.’  So far, the program is failing miserably.  Avila reports, ‘Only about 45 families in a nation of 13 million currently have taken in foster children since the program began this year.’”

“The approach that Guatemala is taking by attempting to gain domestic attention to the problem is certainly meritorious; however, this approach could and should have been implemented concomitant with an international program which would ensure that thousands of children will find homes rather than waste away in institutions that are often underfunded, understaffed and unable to provide for the needs of these children.”…

“One of the main criticisms of the Guatemalan adoption program prior to its closure was that it was in the hands of private attorneys who depended on sometimes unscrupulous middlemen to procure birthmothers wanting to give up their children and perhaps those not wanting to give up their children.  Of course this depiction glosses over the nature of how this practice developed in remote villages in Guatemala, far from the lawyers in Guatemala City who could arrange adoptions by foreign nationals.  It was a practical way to connect birthmothers, who were seeking adoption as an option to their usually dire circumstances, to attorneys who could then take the children into custody through the use of foster homes and then place the children with families abroad through adoption proceedings.  It is interesting to note that neither UNICEF nor the Guatemalan government could see that there could be a middle ground to solving the problem of unscrupulous middlemen who were supposedly forcing these women to give up their children, paying the women as an inducement, or even, as many reports claimed, kidnapping these children for adoption.  Many of these reports glossed over the fact that birth mothers had to relinquish their child to an attorney advising her of her rights, undergo an interview with the Family Court, DNA testing of the birth mother and child, review by the Guatemalan Solicitor General’s office, and once again, the birth mother’s consent to the adoption after the Solicitor General’s approval.  The Embassies regularly interviewed birth mothers and conducted investigations at random or of cases that appeared questionable.   During the last year of adoptions in Guatemala, a 2nd DNA test was required at the end of the process based on accusations of child switching with unimpressive findings to back up these wanton allegations.” 

“Avila’s report indicates that the Guatemalan Department of Social Welfare has now created satellite offices all over the country in an attempt to increase its pool of families interested in fostering or adopting these children.  Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of reform that many adoption attorneys called for which would remove involvement by middlemen but allow attorneys to work with the Department of Social Welfare in concert with its ongoing program to promote foster care and adoption domestically.  UNICEF would not come to the table nor would the Guatemalan government which was eager to completely shut the door on international adoption in response to UNICEF’s strong and effective lobbying efforts.”…

“Of course, most would agree that international adoption should not be the sole answer to poverty faced by nations around the world.  No rational person would think so.  International adoption should be seen as a stopgap emergency measure taken while the United Nations, human rights groups, humanitarian organizations and the governments of these underdeveloped countries seek answers to the abject poverty, high birth rates, AIDS epidemic, malnutrition, lack of education, lack of women’s rights, and massive unemployment which lead to parents making these hard decisions about the future of their offspring.  International adoption is one temporary cog in the wheel.  UNICEF and other detractors and critics of international adoption have continually failed to recognize the vital emergency role of international adoption and how compromise and middle ground solutions could serve the orphaned and abandoned children.”



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7 Responses to “Why we won’t be trick-or-treating for UNICEF this year”

  1. Very comprehensive and important article.
    Thank you.

  2. Jessica says:

    Thanks for reading.

  3. [...] I think Marie started it… or maybe it was Lotte, but anyhow it is a powerful article/blog. Why we won’t be trick-or-treating for UNICEF this year Mamalita – an adoption blog by Je… __________________ Lucky wife to Tim, Mommy to 2 Guatemalan blessings A, Home 3/02M, Home 1/04, [...]

  4. Anne says:

    It was so very painful to watch this happening. We spent more than a year in Guatemala adopting our two youngest children. There were many who knew and saw this and we got so much heat for trying get that word out.
    The UN is not a club of like-minded do gooders and it is not America although the headquarters are in NYC. There is a lot of good intention there but we must think things through for ourselves. Always. There is no short cut to doing the right thing. Participating in something like UNICEF would seem straight forward and yet…
    Thank you for posting this!!

  5. Jessica says:

    I’m so sorry to hear you had to go through an ordeal to adopt your two youngest children from Guatemala. There seemed to be unnecessary sensationalism generated around all adoptions, even those that were straightforward relinquishments with DNA and signatures in order. Especially for those of us who lived there and saw behind the scenes, it was awful to realize children were the ones who suffered the harshest consequences.
    Thanks for reading and writing, Anne.

  6. Barbara says:

    Glad that you wrote this article. Our daughter has worked in several orphanages around the world. From what she has learned, there is a critical need to create an improvement in international adoption process that both help the families faced with the most of heartbreaking of situations – that the greatest act of love they could place their children in a loving, stable home in the USA, and protecting both the children being placed and the families waiting to welcome them into their family.

  7. Jessica says:

    Your daughter is so right, Barbara. The solutions to the international adoption crisis must include helping families who relinquish their children, by improving their economic, educational, and social situations. In the meantime, and until that happens, real children need homes. Multiple studies by pediatricians and psychologists have proven that the healthiest environment for a child is with a stable, loving family.
    Thanks for commenting.

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