Archive for April, 2011

“Both Ends Burning” and baking cakes

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

For months I have been vaguely aware of the pro-international adoption organization, Both Ends Burning, whose subheading is “a global initiative to transform the process of international adoption.” The movement’s founder, Craig Juntunen, and his wife, Kathi, are adoptive parents to three children from Haiti. Juntunen has published a book, Both Ends Burning: My Story of Adopting Three Children from Haiti (Outskirts Press, 2009), and is producing a film, Wrongfully Detained, scheduled for release in September 2011.

I haven’t read the book and know little about the organization beyond the information on its website. But today I came across this interview with Craig Juntunen, Valley group aims to make international adoption easier, and was able to listen to and watch Juntunen discuss the subject himself. The clip contains footage from what appears to be orphanages around the world, as well as a delightful singing performance by Juntunen’s son. Many of Juntunen’s views on international adoption mirror my own, including his belief that children everywhere deserve a nurturing, permanent home. However, I believe that government bureaucracy and shutdowns–current or threatened–and not expense or length of time, are the prime deterrents to international adoption. (Expense and length of time are folded into the bureaucracy, in fact.) More people might consider adopting internationally if they weren’t so afraid of the process.  And that, of course, requires careful collaboration and negotiation between countries to create a system that is transparent and fair to all, which is another extremely complicated subject.

But anything that raises awareness of international adoption deserves to be shared. Please watch and see what you think.

On a different and related subject: To cover the costs of adopting her then-14-month-old daughter, born in China with a cleft lip and palate, Kateri Lambrose baked cakes. Hundreds of them.  I’m posting the link to Cakes create a miracle not only because it includes the recipe for “Kateri’s Chocolate Candy Bar Cake,” but also because I was so moved by Kateri’s story. I’ll end with her words:

 ”You go into this thinking you’re going to bless this child, and give them a family they deserve. In reality, it’s the opposite. She has blessed our family so much… I cannot imagine our lives without her. It’s incomprehensible.”

I know what she means.


Update on Emily Ruiz, 4-year-old US citizen deported to Guatemala

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Remember my March 22, 2011 blog post about Emily Ruiz? She is the four-year-old girl born in the United States to parents from Guatemala who are undocumented. Emily visited Guatemala with her grandfather, who possessed a valid temporary visa. When they tried to re-enter the U.S., the grandfather was found to have an immigration violation dating from the mid-1990s. After a series of events, officials from Customs and Border Protection put Emily on an airplane and returned her to Guatemala.

I’m happy to report that Emily is back in the United States. As a U.S. citizen, that is her right. 

Read the complete story and its outcome in the New York Times, in 4-Year-Old Citizen Who Was Deported Comes Back, by Tim Stelloh, and the most recent developments in an article written by the Ruiz family’s attorney, David Sperling, For Little Emily, the Story Has Not Yet Ended, on the Huffington Post. The comments in the Huffington Post article reveal readers’ strong opinions on the subject of immigration.

I wonder how decision-makers living in Guatemala feel about this incident?


Whose story is it? AP article on adopting HIV-positive children

Monday, April 4th, 2011

During the five years I wrote Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, I grappled daily with the question of how much of the story I was entitled to tell. After all, the book’s subject is the adoption of my daughter, Olivia, from Guatemala. Ultimately, I decided the story belonged to me, too, at least partially. As long as I kept the narrative from my point of view, I believed her privacy would be maintained. Foremost in my mind was the question, “When my daughter’s in high school, will she be okay reading this?” I can say with confidence that I believe she will.

That said, I also wanted to write the truth of intercountry adoption as I experienced it. A baby strapped in a stroller in front of a television set or kicking me away because I was her fourth mother-figure aren’t the ideal visuals to communicate, but that was what happened. Change can never be made if no one talks about reality, including the impact on children of prolonged foster or institutional care, or multiple caregiver placements.

I was reminded of the struggle between privacy and truth-telling as I read this Associated Press article by David Crary, More families adopting HIV-positive children. One of the children discussed was born in Guatemala. Do parents have the right to reveal their minor children’s HIV-positive status via an Associated Press article? Although there is absolutely nothing shameful about the disease, it might not be information a person necessarily wishes to share with the world at large.

I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that, like me, the parents in question hoped to normalize their family’s situation by being honest about it. Time will tell if our children feel the same.


Guatemalan First Couple’s divorce on hold; judge receives death threat to her family

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

A Guatemalan court has stopped divorce proceedings by First Lady Sandra Torres from her her husband, President Alvaro Colom, the BBC News reported on April 2, 2011. The judge ruling in the case received an anonymous death threat against a family member if she granted the divorce. Especially in light of the New Yorker article about Rodrigo Rosenberg, this outcome seems, tragically, not impossible.

First Lady Sandra Torres said last week she was seeking to divorce President Alvaro Colom, so she could stand for election to succeed him.

Guatemala’s constitution bans close relatives of the president from running for the top office.

A group of students had petitioned the court to stop the divorce, which they said would bypass the constitution.

The students called the move by the first couple a farce.


The main opposition candidate for the presidential election in September, former general Otto Perez Molina, called it electoral fraud.

A spokesperson for the court said the couple’s divorce proceedings would be on hold until a final decision was reached on whether the petition brought by the students would be allowed to proceed.

On Friday, the judge hearing the first couple’s divorce case said she had received anonymous threats warning her not to grant the divorce.

Judge Mildred Roca said she had received a telephone call from a man who identified himself as belonging to a “group defending the constitution” and warning her that if she granted the divorce a member of her family would be executed.


New Yorker article on the death of Rodrigo Rosenberg

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

This week’s issue of The New Yorker (April 4, 2011) contains a riveting article about the death of Guatemalan attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg that should be read by anyone interested in the country or adoption. A Murder Foretold: Unravelling the Ultimate Political Conspiracy by David Grann begins this way:

Rodrigo Rosenberg knew that he was about to die. It wasn’t because he was approaching old age—he was only forty-eight. Nor had he been diagnosed with a fatal illness; an avid bike rider, he was in perfect health. Rather, Rosenberg, a highly respected corporate attorney in Guatemala, was certain that he was going to be assassinated.

Not only is Rosenberg’s death a tragedy, it occurred under circumstances so tangled and unbelievable, you must must read the entire article to appreciate its impact. The more people understand why a man would be driven to do what Rosenberg did, perhaps the more they will care about Guatemala, and the less Rosenberg’s death will have been in vain. For purposes of this blog, which deals with adoption, I will focus on a few early paragraphs, because they lay out the context in which adoption to the United States occurred:

Rosenberg had frequently expressed despair over the violence that consumed Guatemala. In 2007, a joint study by the United Nations and the World Bank ranked it as the third most murderous country. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of killings rose steadily, ultimately reaching sixty-four hundred. The murder rate was nearly four times higher than Mexico’s. In 2009, fewer civilians were reported killed in the war zone of Iraq than were shot, stabbed, or beaten to death in Guatemala.

The violence can be traced to a civil war between the state and leftist rebels, a three-decade struggle that, from 1960 to 1996, was the dirtiest of Latin America’s dirty wars. More than two hundred thousand people were killed or “disappeared.” According to a U.N.-sponsored commission, at least ninety per cent of the killings were carried out by the state’s military forces or by paramilitary death squads with names like Eye for an Eye.


In 1996, the government reached a peace accord with the rebels, and it was supposed to mark a new era of democracy and rule of law. But amnesty was granted for even the worst crimes, leaving no one accountable. 


After the peace accord, the state’s security apparatus—death squads, intelligence units, police officers, military counter-insurgency forces—did not disappear but, rather, mutated into criminal organizations. Amounting to a parallel state, these illicit networks engage in arms trafficking, money laundering, extortion, human smuggling, black-market adoptions, and kidnapping for ransom. The networks also control an exploding drug trade. Latin America’s cartels, squeezed by the governments of Colombia and Mexico, have found an ideal sanctuary in Guatemala, and most of the cocaine entering America now passes through the country. Criminal networks have infiltrated virtually every government and law-enforcement agency, and more than half the country is no longer believed to be under the control of any government at all. Citizens, deprived of justice, often form lynch mobs, or they resolve disputes, even trivial ones, by hiring assassins.

I personally would like to know what author David Grann means by “black-market adoptions.” Use of an alias on paperwork? Change of a birth date? The omission of the name of a husband when one existed? None of those things are “right,” but they are a far cry from baby-snatching, which is what “black-market adoptions” implies, at least to me.  Perhaps Grann simply is saying that adoption was handled in a manner he observed often in Guatemala. As my lawyer once told me during my daughter’s adoption, “Things are different here.”

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