Unicef responds to the fire

Yesterday Unicef issued a statement on children in care in Guatemala that included these lines: “[S]ending children to institutions should always be the last option, a temporary measure and always for the shortest possible time. Children have the right to grow up in a family and to have the support of the State so that families can fulfill their responsibilities. The confinement of children and adolescents for their “protection” is inadmissible.”

A few thoughts:

“The right to grow up in a family.” That’s what we in the adoption community have said for the past nine years, since Guatemala was found to be non-compliant with the Hague and inter-country adoption shut down in December 2007.

“Sending children to institutions should be the last option.” But for children without support or in dangerous situations in Guatemala, life in an institution is the first and only option. There is no other option.

The belief was held that when adoptions to the US shut down, families in Guatemala would step forward to adopt Guatemalan children. This has not happened and numbers prove this has not happened.

Finally, “Children have the right…to have the support of the State so that families can fulfill their responsibilities.” There is no government safety net in Guatemala. There is no WIC, no Medicare, no Social Security, no Section 8 housing. Parents don’t send their children to school because they can’t afford shoes or books. Gangs recruit boys and girls at a tender age. Where is the leadership in Guatemala? Where is the compassion for its most vulnerable citizens? Government support for families in Guatemala is non-existent.

Unicef, I agree 100% that inter-country adoption in Guatemala needed to be reformed. But you helped summarily end a program with no Plan B in place. And now we witness the tragic aftermath.

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