Archive for July, 2012

Guatemalan sailor to carry flag at London Olympics

Friday, July 27th, 2012

 

 

Juan Maegli, a Guatemalan athlete who attends the College of Charleston in South Carolina, will carry the Guatemalan flag in the opening ceremonies today at the London Olympics. Juan’s sport is sailing; he has represented Guatemala in competition since he was eight years old. Sailing is in Maegli’s blood: His father, Juan Estuardo Maegli, participated in the Summer Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976, Moscow in 1980, and Los Angeles in 1984.

Juan Maegli won the bronze medal at the 2003 Pan-American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in the Hobie 16 catamaran class; and the gold medal at the 2007 Pan-Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2008, he competed in his first Olympics in Beijing, China, where he placed 33rd in the laser class. In London, Maegli’s dream is to bring home the first medal for Guatemala.

But simply to participate in an Olympics is the ultimate honor for any athlete. Look for Juan Maegli carrying the Guatemalan flag during the opening ceremony, broadcast this evening in the US on NBC.

Good luck!

 

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Attorney in Missouri adoption case releases details of ruling

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

From an article by John Hacker in Southwest Missouri’s daily newspaper, The Carthage Press:

Joe Hensley, a Joplin attorney representing Seth and Melinda Moser, Carthage in an adoption case that has garnered nation-wide attention, made the unusual move last week of releasing Wednesday’s 62-page ruling by Greene County Circuit Judge David C. Jones terminating the parental rights of the biological mother, Encarnacion Maria Bail Romero, a Guatemalan native.

Hensley said he released the ruling to show that the judge’s ruling in the case, severing the parental rights of Romero to five-year-old Carlos Jamison Moser, was not simply because Romero was an illegal immigrant.

“The biological mother’s attorneys are saying the decision was because she was an illegal alien,” Hensley said. “The judge specifically said his finding was not because she was an illegal alien, but he also said she can’t use being an illegal alien as a shield.”

Joplin attorney Bill Fleischaker, one of four attorneys representing Romero at no cost, said he was surprised that Hensley had released the ruling, which was made in a family court hearing in Springfield, which was closed to the public.

***

In the first eight pages of his ruling, Judge Jones acknowledged the difficulty of the decision he faced and made his decision as to what he thought was in the best interests of the child.

“The Court is extremely sensitive to the fact that the issues before it and the decision it will issue will have a lifetime impact on the minor child, Ms. Romero and the Mosers,” the judge wrote. “For that reason, the court has attempted to give ample opportunity to each of the parties to develop their portion of the case.

***

The judge first decided that “Romero’s consent was not required for the adoption of the minor child by the Mosers since she both abandoned and neglected the minor child during the applicable periods preceeding the filing of the adoption petition and that such abandonment and neglect was established by clear, cogent and convincing evidence.”

The judge also decided the Mosers proved that grounds were present to terminate Romero’s parental rights and that the termination would be “in the best interests of the minor child.”

“Finally the court finds that the adoption of the minor child by the Mosers would be in his best interests under the applicable standard as well as by the higher standard of clear, cogent and convincing evidence,” Judge Jones wrote.

In the next 45 pages of the ruling, Judge Jones detailed the evidence on both sides. The details showed that Jones felt Romero and her relatives were lying in many of their claims about how Carlos was cared for in the first year of his life before he came to live with the Mosers.

“Suffice it to say that for the vast majority of the minor child’s life, the mother has expressed little interest or caring for him,” the judge wrote. “This is consistent with the way she has treated her other children. Although she has two young children in Guatemala, including one with severe psychological issues, she has made it clear that she has no desire to return to Guatemala to visit them, much less return there to permanently be a mother to them.”

Fleischaker, representing Romero, said the judge’s ruling was harsh and it ignored the mother’s fear of being sent to prison if she sought help and the cultural and language barriers of someone who could not read the papers sent to her about the proceedings…

“It’s difficult, you have to put yourself in the circumstances she was in. Unfortunately you have to have some understanding of what these families who are undocumented go through in terms of dealing with authorities, dealing with the Caucasians. They feel like the white Americans have all the power and all the control and they can do anything to them that they want to do.”

In California where I live, tens of thousands of Guatemalan men and women work to send money home to support the children and family they left behind. I wonder if Judge Jones has an opinion regarding their fitness as parents.

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Pictures for my mother and father

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

 

 

Dear Mom and Dad:

Here are the pictures you asked me to take of Olivia and Mateo wearing their new sneakers.

As you can see, I got Mateo’s, but somehow missed including Olivia’s. Their beautiful smiles, though—those I managed to capture.

This has been our best summer in San Diego ever. We cherish every single minute we spent with you.

With love, always. ~

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Oxygen Network to air series on adoption

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Beginning Monday, July 23 at 11 PM ET/PT, The Oxygen Network will present a six-part docu-series titled I’m Having Their Baby, which the network bills as “an unprecedented look at adoption in America.” Check your local listings for details.

Here’s a partial description from Oxygen’s announcement:

Adoption may be something that nearly everyone is familiar with, but fewer may know what the process involves and just how difficult it can be for those involved. Oxygen Media is now attempting to fill that void with a new six-part docu-series entitled “I’m Having Their Baby,” which offers an inside look at the world of adopting a child, including the story of the birth mother and her experience in letting go and making such an important decision.

Each hour-long episode of “I’m Having Their Baby,” documents the journey of two pregnant women who have decided to give their baby up for adoption, capturing the emotional struggles and reasons why they have chosen that path. And while each scenario is vastly different, each birth mother shares the commonality of wanting a better life for their child and for themselves. However, the biggest challenge was winning the trust of the subjects involved.

***

“Any time you approach someone in that time in lives it is hard, it took a long time to gain their trust, for them to trust us to tell their story,” Rourke continued. “But once they jump in, they really let us inside. They all wanted to put a face on birth moms and show adoption as a great choice. It was a great privilege to be allowed to tell these stories.”

Rourke hopes the series not only teaches audiences a thing or two about the process, but leaves them inspired by the heart-wrenching, deeply personal stories.

We don’t have cable TV or DISH in our house, but I plan to impose on other family members to watch. This series looks that interesting. ~

 

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Missouri judge rules in favor of adoptive parents in Encarnacion Bail Romero case

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Regarding the case of Encarnacion Bail Romero, which I posted about here, here, and here. From the St. Louis, Missouri Post-Dispatch website, StLtoday.com:

A Greene County juvenile court has ruled in favor of a Missouri couple seeking to adopt a child of a Guatemalan woman after she had been arrested and detained for working in the country illegally.

The move culminates a lengthy international custody dispute over the child which put American immigration policies under scrutiny and drew outrage from a Guatemalan diplomat and others fighting for immigrant rights.

Judge David Jones ruled this morning in a closed Springfield courtroom that the 5-year-old boys’ birth mother, Encarnacion Romero, abandoned the child. The ruling, which terminated the birth mother’s parental rights, paves the way for Seth and Melinda Moser of Carthage to formally adopt the child.

The couple has raised the boy since he was an infant. Carlos Jamison Moser, who goes by the name Jamison, just completed preschool, said the family’s attorney Joe Hensley.

“The Mosers are very happy,” he said this afternoon. “This is something that’s been hanging over their heads for years. They’re ready to close that chapter of their lives and move on.”

Romero, who has been allowed to remain in the country awaiting the outcome of the dispute, was present in the courtroom today and left the courthouse in tears. Neither she or her attorney could be reached for comment.

Those working for immigration rights who had been watching the case closely said they were disappointed with the decision.

And from ABC News: (more…)

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Book review: “The U.S. Embassy Cables: Adoption Fraud in Guatemala 1987-2010″ by Erin Siegal

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

 As an adoptive mother to two children born in Guatemala, as well as the author of a memoir about Guatemalan adoption, I read every book, article, and blog post I can find on the subject. No single piece of writing has fascinated me more than The U.S. Embassy Cables: Adoption Fraud in Guatemala 1987-2010, by investigative reporter Erin Siegal. The publication isn’t a book in the traditional sense, but a 717-page compilation of “cables” (pre-internet communications), memos, and emails, generated by officials in the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City and the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Siegal obtained the material from DOS after filing 30 Freedom of Information Act requests between November 2008 and 2010.

The book’s unconventional format takes some getting used to, but that’s precisely what makes it so compelling: the reader feels he is privy to something secret and private, a communication never intended to be revealed. Those readers who stick with the challenge are rewarded with a deeper understanding of one particular aspect of adoption between Guatemala and the United States—fraud–as it was reported via the keyboards of U.S. government officials.

Adoption between Guatemala and the United States was shut down in December 2007, due to allegations of corruption. The thousands of Embassy cables regarding corruption—what it entailed, how much there was, and who knew about it and when—both enlighten and disturb.

Concerns about falsified documents are stated as early as August 1987, as demonstrated by this memo generated by officials in the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City: “[T]he ability of persons involved in child trafficking to proceed as if the adoption were completely legal is facilitated by the ease with which Guatemalan documents can be falsified.” (13) And from July 1993: “Just because the civil documents and identity cards presented are genuine, does not mean that the information contained in them is correct. Guatemalan civil documents, particularly birth certificates, containing false information are easily obtainable for a small fee.” (126)

A memo from 1989 sounded this alarm: “Attorneys who do adoptions in Guatemala receive fees that are astronomical by local standards. One adoption attorney regularly charges the adoptive parents 12,000 dollars, plus 150 dollars per month for childcare… (Most heads of family in Guatemala make less than 150 dollars per month… Judges of the family courts make about 500 dollars per month, and social workers make about 200 dollars.) The incentives for fraud are very strong…(34).”

Indeed, for some unscrupulous attorneys, the incentives were irresistible, as demonstrated by this 1991 memo: “Since we began routine interviewing of birth mothers one year ago, we have detected cases of baby selling (for very modest sums), imposter mothers, presentation of false birth certificates, children not meeting the legal definition of orphan and deception of birth mothers as to the legal consequences of adoption by local attorneys. We detect this type of obvious irregularity in about 5 percent of the cases presented.” (93)

No follow-up memo is published to interpret this data, so readers are left to wonder if “obvious irregularity in about 5 percent of the cases” is expected and normal, or considered off-the-charts. Nor do we learn if this number remains constant or changes over time. In any case, a quick mathematical calculation determines that this note was written 21 years ago, 16 years before any concerted efforts were made to reform the system.

With memo after memo detailing questionable paperwork coupled with more and more money, readers may dread turning the page, fearing the situation will turn violent. And then it does. This communication dates from September 1998: “Post was contacted by Guatemalan national, [blank], who claimed that his daughter was given up for adoption to an American couple without his knowledge and consent… Mr. [blank] was murdered shortly after he was interviewed by a consular officer regarding the case.” (377)

Even DNA tests, which the Embassy instituted on a wide scale in 1998 after repeated requests to DOS, were not failsafe. Memos state that a DNA match between relinquishing mother and her child did not discount coercion of the mother. Moreover, adoption attorneys, facilitators, and other interested parties were often present when doctors took DNA samples, nullifying the sample’s integrity.

The adoption story told by The Embassy Cables cannot be regarded as complete or balanced because the subject is too complex to be summarized by 717 pages of memos that lack interpretation, reflection, or context. Nevertheless, as a historical record of the U.S. government’s statements and actions regarding adoption as it was practiced between 1987 and 2010, The Embassy Cables makes a singular contribution.

The Embassy Cables: Adoption Fraud in Guatemala 1987-2010 is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores. Some readers report that the downloaded version requires a magnifying glass to read. For more information, visit Erin Siegal’s website, erinsiegal.com.

This review was cross-posted at Adoption Under One Roof.

Image Credit: Cathexis Press

 

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Ballerina adopted from Sierra Leone, with a birth family reunion sub-theme

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

As the daughter of a former Rockette who owned a dance studio—my mother—I must post a link to this Associated Press article about an amazing 17-year-old ballerina, Michaela DePrince, who was adopted as a child to a family in the U.S. from an orphanage in Sierra Leone, and is set to debut in her first full-length professional ballet. The primary focus of the article is compelling enough, but if you read through to the last paragraphs, you’ll discover another reason why I’m posting about it now.

Michaela DePrince was little more than a toddler when she saw her first ballerina — an image in a magazine page blown against the gate of the orphanage where she ended up during Sierra Leone’s civil war. It showed an American ballet dancer posed on tip toe.

“All I remember is she looked really, really happy,” Michaela told The Associated Press this week. She wished “to become this exact person.”

From the misery of the orphanage “I saw hope in it. And I ripped the page out and I stuck it in my underwear because I didn’t have any place to put it.”

Now Michaela’s the one inspiring young Africans: She escaped war and suffers a skin pigmentation disorder that had her labeled “the devil’s child” at the orphanage. She’s an African dancer in the world of ballet that sees few leading black females. She was adopted and raised to become a ballerina in the U.S. — a country where she believed everyone walked around on tippy toes.

***

“I lost both my parents, so I was there (the orphanage) for about a year and I wasn’t treated very well because I had vitiligo,” [Michaela] said Monday. “We were ranked as numbers and number 27 was the least favorite and that was my number, so I got the least amount of food, the least amount of clothes and what not.”

***

Michaela said the war and her time in the orphanage affected her for years.

“It took a long time to get it out of my memory. But my mom helped me a lot and I wrote a lot of stuff down so I could recover from it,” she said. “Dance helped me a lot. I had a lot of nightmares.”

[Adoptive mom Elaine] DePrince and her husband Charles have adopted nine children, and had two biological sons. Two of Michaela’s brothers died before she was born, and a third died when she was young. Their deaths were a result of HIV contracted from a manufactured plasma product that was used to treat the hemorrhages associated with hemophilia.

[Elaine] DePrince said the family has worked hard to develop all their children’s dreams.

Now for the part I mentioned in the first paragraph:

“She says she would have not had this dream come true if she had not become Michaela DePrince” by adoption, [Elaine] DePrince said, adding that none of the three girls adopted from Sierra Leone have expressed interest in finding their biological family.

The last half of the last sentence–”none of the three girls adopted from Sierra Leone have expressed interest in finding their biological family”–speaks to recent discussions that have ensued at the other blog where I write, Adoption Under One Roof, about connecting with birth family. Micheala DePrince is an example of a person adopted from an orphanage who currently expresses no interest in reconnecting with her biological family. Is she truly not interested? Or is she afraid to express her interest, fearful she may hurt her adoptive mother?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

But once again, I’m reminded how important it is to avoid generalizing about the subject of reunion, to treat each situation as unique, and to consider all points of view.

You can read the entire article here.

(I cross-posted this blog at Adoption Under One Roof.)

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Over at “Adoption Under One Roof”

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

 

 

Over at the Adoption Under One Roof blog, an interesting exchange followed the book review I cross-posted for Aminta Arrington’s new book, Home is a Roof Over a Pig. “John”–a retired airline pilot and single adoptive father of six sons, five who joined his family from foster care–questioned why I would want to go to Guatemala in the first place, much less establish contact with my daughter’s birth mother. In a comment titled “posterior backwards,” John wrote:

Guatemala? I used to have layovers there as an airline pilot. Street kids were seen as non-persons. No one cared about them, and it was acceptable to shoot them if they dared to steal anything. Every shop had an armed security person with a big gun and a bad attitude. Almost all folks carried a gun. Poor people were in about the same category.

Did your daughters come from a wealthy family? If not, returning them to their wonderful roots means that they accept that they are nothing, and no-one cares about them. It also means accepting that they will have no future. How is this wonderful? Guatemala is not a wonderful place for a child to grow up in, neither are parts of china.

Lets do reality, not goodie two shoes. A strange book with a strange premise, Mom and Dad work hard to become indistinct and not to be themselves and provide the unique views and opportunities that only they can provide. 

To which I responded:

I may not have stated this clearly, but as I read it, Aminta Arrington’s intention is to allow her daughter to feel comfortable and familiar with the Chinese side of her heritage.

When my family visits Guatemala, our intention is the same. For us, this makes sense. Our children were born in Guatemala; Guatemala is in their DNA. Re: your statement that our kids must “accept that they are nothing, and no-one cares about them”: That hasn’t been our experience.

My fellow blogger, Lisa S, then addressed a blog post to John’s comment, in which she wrote:

Reading John’s comment touched on a sensitive subject that I roll over in my mind everyday. Through an intermediary, we have had regular contact with my daughter Ella’s birthmother. I send her photos about once a year and she gets updates frequently through our intermediary.

The birth mother is very eager to meet Ella and frequently asks when am I going to bring Ella to meet her. I have put off this trip because I am conflicted on the subject. I have discussed my conundrum with many people, some professionals, and with experienced people such as our new blogger/owner Jessica, who has experience in this area. That being said, I am still highly reticent about a reunion between my daughter and her birthmother and here is why: …

***

Lisa enumerates her reasons why she hesitates to go back, to which I post my response.

The entire discussion reminds me that visiting Guatemala, searching for birth family, and choosing whether or not to maintain contact are important issues for many adoptive families. The discussion also confirms that joining Adoption Under One Roof was the right decision for me. The best horizons are ones that are expanded.

 

 

 

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Russian parliament ratifies adoption law

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

As reported by the Associated Press, in an article by Nataliya Vasilyeva titled Russian Parliament Passes Russia-US Adoption Law:

Russia’s parliament on Tuesday ratified a long-awaited agreement with the United States regulating the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

The ratification by a 244-96-2 vote in the State Duma came a year after the two countries worked out the pact.

Key questions and answers about the agreement:

HOW DID THE AGREEMENT COME ABOUT?

Russian officials had long complained about the abuse and even killings of children by their adoptive parents — saying at least 19 Russian adoptive children have died at their American parents’ hands.

The issue came to a head in April 2010 when an American adoptive mother sent her 7-year-old boy back to Russia on a one-way ticket, saying he had behavioral problems.

In the wake of that case, some Russian officials called for adoptions by Americans to be halted altogether. That never happened, but some adoption agencies working in Russia said their applications were frozen for several months.

Russian and U.S. officials signed an agreement aimed at ending the dispute in 2011, but the Russian parliament waited nearly a year to ratify it due to technicalities.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AMERICANS WHO WANT TO ADOPT RUSSIAN CHILDREN

Ratification should end the strife and allow adoptions to resume efficiently.

All adoptions would have to be processed through adoption agencies registered in Russia. The agreement requires the agencies to monitor the child’s upbringing, schedule visits by a social worker and send reports to Russian authorities.

The deal makes sure that prospective American parents would have better information about the social and medical histories of Russian children.

HOW WILL IT IMPACT RUSSIA?

By providing monitoring, the agreement is likely to reassure a public angered by the abuse and deaths. It also could undercut complaints by nationalists that Russian children are being “sold.”

The poorly controlled flow of Russian adoptions highlighted sensitivity over the loss of children as Russia faces a demographic crisis due to low birth rates.

Full resumption of adoptions will mean increased opportunity for Russian orphans to leave underfunded and crowded orphanages. There are more than 740,000 children without parental custody in Russia, according to UNICEF. Russians historically have been less inclined to adopt children than in many other cultures.

 

The speed with which an agreement was reached—one year—is impressive, especially in light of the four+ years of waiting endured by the families with cases pending in Guatemala.

Read the entire Associated Press article here.

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On being the parent of a picky eater

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

 

You know you’re the parent of a picky eater when you peel a hard-boiled egg, extract the ball of yolk, and rub the two half-spheres of white with a napkin, lest—horror of horrors—a clinging molecule of yellow remains. If you’ve never met a picky eater, feel free to groan and mutter, “Oh, that Jessica. She’s just another overindulgent parent, catering to her child’s every whim.”

I used to react the same way. That is, until I became the mother of a picky eater. As I have written in a previous essay, Olivia will reject parmesan cheese insufficiently aged, and possesses taste buds so discerning she can distinguish among brands of balsamic vinegar. A trip to an ice cream parlor engenders thirty minutes of debate (see above). A buffet is unthinkable.

Nothing I cook is good enough for my daughter. Not my scrambled eggs, not my chicken fingers, not my grilled cheese sandwiches. I’m sure that in a blind taste test, she could pick out a bowl of cereal that I poured and label it “too sweet,” “soggy” or “bland.” Even my microwaving is sub-standard, according to her.

“I don’t like your bacon,” Olivia says, turning up her nose at breakfast with a sniff. “It’s too clear.” Her dad’s bacon, on the other hand, she deems superb. She proclaims it “restaurant quality.” 

That’s why I appreciated this article by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic, Parents of Picky Eaters, It’s Not Your Fault, in the New York Times Motherlode blog.

Apparently, it’s not enough for parents to worry that their 2-year-old doesn’t like green vegetables, or that their 8-year-old despises the texture of hamburgers. They also have to worry that their child’s pickiness makes them bad parents. This judgment isn’t being handed down by pediatricians or scientists or, you know, the people who actually have the facts to back up their opinions. It’s being leveled at the parents of the picky by the parents of the non-picky.

“She’s picky because you give her choices.” “I just wouldn’t allow [my child] to be picky.” “You should just let her go hungry if she won’t eat [insert disliked food here].” That’s just a taste of what has been said to a friend about her daughter, and it makes her feel like a lousy parent. She’s not. I was a picky eater, and I know: getting a picky eater is no more a determinant of parental fitness than is getting a kid with brown eyes. I am living, eating proof.

For nearly three decades, I ate very few vegetables and hardly any grains, and I lived to write about it. My food issues had nothing to do with my parents’ collective parenting prowess. I don’t know why I was a picky eater, and I’ve tried to figure it out. Scientists and medical practitioners I interviewed on this topic over the last two years have theories, hypotheses and studies, but even they can’t conclusively tell me why I was a picky eater for 27 years. If they can’t pinpoint the causes of picky eating, what makes Mommy McJudgerson down the block think she can?

If you, like me, are the parent of a picky eater, treat yourself and read the article. You’ll feel much better.

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