Archive for October, 2010

Massachusetts woman stuck in Nepal, trying to adopt

Friday, October 8th, 2010

My sister Deanna, who lives in Boston, directed me to this story about a 45-year-old, single, Massachusetts woman named Dee Dee Martin who is trying to adopt a 4-year-old girl from Nepal. The story was reported on October 8 by WBUR-FM, an NPR affiliate. It’s the kind of situation I dreaded as an adoptive parent: midway through the process, the laws change, and suddenly you’re trapped at square one.  Sadly, the scenario is one painfully familiar to the Guatemala900, families waiting since for their children since Guatemala closed adoptions in December 2007.

Read the entire article here. Excerpts are below.

A woman from Revere is caught in an international adoption nightmare. Dee Dee Martin has been in Kathmandu, Nepal for more than two months, unable to bring her newly adopted daughter back to Massachusetts with her. The U.S. closed adoptions from Nepal because they fear some of the children are being stolen and sold.

…They can’t come back here because the U.S. won’t recognize the adoption.

Around the time Martin arrived in early August, the U.S. closed all new adoptions from Nepal. But Martin had Nepalese government approval and had taken custody of a 4-year-old girl named Bina. Martin thought families in the middle of adoptions would still be processed, but that hasn’t happened. She says the U.S. Embassy won’t give her specific information about her case and what’s taking so long.

“They just say that you are deemed as ‘inconclusive,’ and then the Embassy, because you are inconclusive, their hands are tied to issue a visa at this time,” Martin said….

Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown co-signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month, saying Martin and other families are “enduring extreme emotional and financial burdens while their childrens’ cases are investigated further.”

The letter urges the U.S. government to resolve the cases quickly. In Martin’s case, she’s on unpaid leave from her job selling skin care products to salons. Her company extended her leave, but she fears she’ll be fired if she doesn’t return by Oct. 25. Despite this, Martin says she’s not leaving Nepal without Bina.

“It is absolutely not an option to leave my child in this country. I could not put her in any kind of boarding school or pay to board her back in an orphanage,” Martin said.

“My daughter is 4-years-old. She is very aware of who I am. The orphanage when we first met let her know that ‘this is your mummy’ — it would destroy her psychologically if I ever did that.”

Martin says she has police reports showing Bina was abandoned at 6-months-old, starving and with a cleft palate.

Police posted ads but nobody claimed her. She has been in the same orphanage for more than three years. Martin says these circumstances prove to her Bina is in fact an orphan and deserves to come to Revere with her new mother.


U.S. withdraws its letter of interest in Guatemalan adoption program

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

By now most of you who are interested in adoption from Guatemala have probably heard the news that on Tuesday, October 5, 2010, the United States withdrew its letter of interest in participating in Guatemala’s pilot program of a new adoption system.

This is a sad day for the thousands of children currently living in orphanages in Guatemala. To my knowledge, since adoptions closed in December 2007, the number of relinquishments and abandonments of children has not decreased. In addition, the number of domestic adoptions of Guatemalan babies by Guatemalan families remains small. Please correct me and point me to your source if I’m wrong.

Nevertheless, as the announcement states, the United States “believes that more safeguards for children should be in place before the CNA (Consejo Nacional de Adopciones) could start processing new intercountry adoptions.  In addition, the Guatemalan Government has not yet provided specific details for how adoption cases under the pilot program would be processed under Guatemala’s new adoption law.”

In my opinion, the best short-term outcome of the U.S. decision is found in this sentence: “It is our hope that the U.S. withdrawal from consideration for the pilot adoption program will allow CNA to focus its attention on resolving all pending transition cases. ”

This seems to indicate a desire for the resolution of the pending cases known as the Guatemala900. Perhaps now, finally, those children can begin to live their lives in homes more settled and permanent than their current orphanages. 

Read the full statement here:

October 5, 2010

On October 5, 2010, the United States withdrew its letter of interest in participating in a pilot program to resume processing of intercountry adoption placements for a limited number of older children, groups of siblings, and children with special needs.  The letter of interest had been previously submitted to the Guatemalan Central Authority for Adoptions,  Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA), in response to its November 2009 announcement of this limited pilot program.  

The U.S. decision to withdraw its letter of interest is based on concerns that adoptions under the pilot program would not meet the requirements of the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention.  Specifically, the United States believes that more safeguards for children should be in place before the CNA could start processing new intercountry adoptions.  In addition, the Guatemalan Government has not yet provided specific details for how adoption cases under the pilot program would be processed under Guatemala’s new adoption law.

The United States remains open to resumption of intercountry adoption placements from Guatemala, but will consider such a resumption only when it is confident that a Hague-compliant system is in place, including strong safeguards against abuses and resolution of the issues that led to corrupt and fraudulent practices prior to the 2007 halt in new adoptions.

It is our hope that the U.S. withdrawal from consideration for the pilot adoption program will allow CNA to focus its attention on resolving all pending transition cases.


Publishers Weekly calls MAMALITA “harrowing,” “moving,” and “deftly handled”

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

This morning, my agent, Jenni Ferrari-Adler of Brick House Literary, and my publicist at Seal Press, Eva Zimmerman, sent me the fabulous news that Publishers Weekly reviewed Mamalita in its current issue, and called it “harrowing,” “moving,” and “deftly handled.” Thank you for sharing, Jenni and Eva. You made my day!

For information on how to order your own copy of Mamalita, click on the “BOOK” tab above. Publication date remains November 1, although some suppliers are delivering early.

You can read the full Publishers Weekly review here:

Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir
Jessica O’Dwyer, Seal, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-58005-334-1
O’Dwyer’s harrowing and moving journey to adopt a Guatemalan baby offers a look into one person’s experience in the frustratingly convoluted process of adopting from unscrupulous “facilitators.” O’Dwyer had gone through an early divorce and menopause at age 32 before marrying Tim, a divorced dermatologist over 50. They put together an adoption dossier and found an L.A. agency that promised a quick adoption while cutting the bureaucratic red tape. Intent on adopting a certain “Stefany Mishell” (they fell in love with from her online photo), the desperate couple soon discovered that the agency’s methods were dilatory and sloppy, neglecting the important legal paperwork, such as filing the requisite DNA test, and using shady notarios (private attorneys), so that in the end the promised six-month adoption extended over a year. Moreover, O’Dwyer’s occasional visits to Guatemala, where she met Stefany’s foster family and spent a weekend with the baby at the Camino Real hotel in Guatemala City, turned into a permanent residency, as she moved to a city north of the capital, Antiqua, to live with Stefany (now Olivia) until family court finalized the adoption. Dealing with the greedy foster family, managing the baby’s early separation anxiety, navigating the middlemen and interminable waiting are all deftly handled in O’Dwyer’s somber tale. (Nov.)


Two readings, in Albuquerque and San Diego, thanks to “the girls”

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I met Bethany and Penny in San Diego, when I moved there from Los Angeles after a divorce, the Northridge earthquake, and, oh yes, the news from my doctor that I would never have children.  The three of us worked in the art world: Me as the P.R. officer at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Bethany as the art school director at the La Jolla Athenaeum, and Penny as the grant-writer for the photography museum in Balboa Park. Our friendship was immediate and turned out to be lasting. We’ve referred to one another since the beginning as “the girls.” 

When my friends heard my book, MAMALITA: AN ADOPTION MEMOIR, was finally being published—believe me, they’ve endured every arduous phase—the girls came through. Penny, now a librarian in the San Diego County system, set up a reading for me at her branch library in Santee, in eastern San Diego. Bethany, now a designer living in New Mexico, arranged one at her favorite local indie bookstore, Bookworks, in Albuquerque.

Hope to see you at one of the readings! I can guarantee that when the girls are involved, it’s always a good time. :-)

Friday, December 3, 2010 at 10 a.m.
Santee Branch Library
9225 Carlton Hills Boulevard
Santee, CA 92071

Tuesday, January 11, 2011, at 7 p.m.
4022 Rio Grande Boulevard NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107


NY Times article about unethical medical experiment by U.S. in Guatemala in 1940s

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

This front-page story titled “U.S. Infected Guatemalans With Syphilis in ‘40s” ran in the Saturday, October 2, 2010 edition of  The New York Times. The author is Donald G. McNeil Jr. Excerpts from the first few paragraphs read:

“From 1946 to 1948, American public health doctors deliberately infected nearly 700 Guatemalans — prison inmates, mental patients and soldiers — with venereal diseases in what was meant as an effort to test the effectiveness of penicillin.”

“American tax dollars, through the National Institutes of Health, even paid for syphilis-infected prostitutes to sleep with prisoners, since Guatemalan prisons allowed such visits. … If the subjects contracted the disease, they were given antibiotics.”

“’However, whether everyone was then cured is not clear’,” said Susan M. Reverby, the professor at Wellesley College who brought the experiments to light in a research paper that prompted American health officials to investigate.”

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius called the experiments “clearly unethical” in an apology to the Guatemalan government and the survivors and descendants of those infected. Clinton phoned Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom on Thursday night to “express her personal outrage, deep regret,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On Friday, the Chronicle reported, President Obama also called Colom to apologize. President Colom called the experiments a “crime against humanity.”

Read the entire New York Times article by clicking on this link: