Posts Tagged ‘closing adoption from Guatemala’

Guatemala 900

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

The end of the year is nigh, which means I think in a focused way about the waiting families of the Guatemala 900. As you know, the 900 represents the transition cases caught in the pipeline when adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed on December 31, 2007. (Since I started this blog in 2010, I’ve written thirty-eight posts on the subject.)

Perspective: If your adoption was in process when the door slammed shut, you and your child have been waiting for resolution and closure for 9 years. Nine. The loyalty, the dedication, the love in that number! Humbling.

Curious about the exact number of transition cases still pending, today I went on the US State Department website and was surprised and happy to see an “Update on Status of Inter-country Adoptions from Guatemala.

Now, if I’m reading this right–I might not be and please correct me if I’m wrong–it seems as though only 4 transition cases remain. Four is still 4 too many, but it’s getting closer to zero.


Guatemala 900 at Eight Years

Friday, January 1st, 2016

I’ve been trying to find out how many families of the original Guatemala 900 remain waiting, eight years later. If you’re reading this, you know that  adoptions between the US and Guatemala ended in December 2007, with hundreds of cases stalled in the pipeline. One by one, the cases trickled out, until, to my knowledge, only a small group remains.

Each of those cases represents a child, and a family waiting for that child. And eight years of days, equaling 2,920 days.

My hope as a mother and as a writer is that someday one of those children grows up to write the story of what that experience feels like. How it feels to visit in a hotel with American parents and then be returned to the orphanage, or to appear in court and listen to adults discuss reasons why you can’t or won’t be reunited with your biological family, while knowing you won’t be allowed to leave with your American parents, either.

Eight years is a long time in anyone’s life. The photos below show my children in 2007, and in December 2015, eight years later.

To the remaining members of the Guatemala 900: You are amazing. ~



Why I wrote Mamalita

Monday, July 11th, 2011

During public readings from Mamalita, I’ve met many people who harbor strong opinions on the subject of adoption, pro and con. Now, before I read from the book, I talk about why I was compelled to write it. I’d like to share those thoughts here.

Eight years ago, I was living in Antigua, Guatemala with my then-fifteen-month old daughter, Olivia, whom my husband and I were trying to adopt. We had been enmeshed in the process for more than a year, ever since I first saw a photo of Olivia on an adoption website and had fallen in love.

I wasn’t the only American would-be mother living in Guatemala who was trying to sort out a stalled adoption. We were a group of eight, with nothing in common except our overwhelming desire to become mothers and the belief that our bureaucratic nightmares should not be allowed to happen to anyone else. That year, more than 3,000 Americans adopted children from Guatemala. Each one of those families had a story, no two the same.

Soon after I returned home with Olivia in January 2004, international adoption became headline news, none of it good. The private adoption system in Guatemala was singled out as particularly corrupt. Front-page stories described payments made to birth mothers, coercion of women to become pregnant, and the trawling of countrysides by “finders” to trick young girls into relinquishing their newborns. Adoptive parents like me were depicted as privileged Americans who swooped in to snatch kidnapped infants. Even UNICEF pronounced that it was better for a child to remain in his country of origin than it was to be adopted by foreign parents. The news got so bad it was impossible not to feel under attack.

But that was only a part of the story. The story I experienced was that of adoptive parents who felt great love for their children, pushing back against a system that seemed designed to manipulate emotions at every turn.

When I lived in Antigua, the others mothers used to say, “Somebody needs to write a book about this.” My entire life I’d been searching for the one story I had to tell. Even as I was living the experience, I knew Olivia’s adoption saga was it.


Conference call on Guatemalan adoption, 3/31/11

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

I just hung up the phone from the U.S. State Department conference call on the status of Guatemalan adoption and I’m in awe of the composure of the other people who were on the line. Not the State Department employees, who are doing their best and are trained to remain composed. But the parents who have been waiting for their children for more than three years–the group known as the Guatemala900. How did those mothers and fathers not shriek with outraged fury–My child is growing up in an orphanage without me! My kid needs a loving family! Does anyone care about the fate of our children?

I’m afraid that’s what I might have done.

The first thing we were told was that the call was “off-the-record” for journalists. I doubt anyone considers my blog “journalism,” but in case they do, I’ll respect that caveat. Besides, there is little new to report since the 12/21/10 conference call. Guatemalan working groups continue to review cases. The universe of cases seems to remain around 385. The ones in PGN are staying in PGN; the ones in CNA aren’t moving from there, either. The pace is still slow. Excruciatingly so. Six cases per week, on average. At that rate, we’re looking at another year and a half to two years, minimum, for large-scale resolution.

I understand how important it is to remain positive. But the more I read articles, books, and other blogs about international adoption, the more I realize that emotion, and not reason, often seems to drive the decision-making process.  Take adoption from Ethiopia. Recently, the government there announced that due to “irregularities”–real or perceived–only five cases a day would be processed. A spate of blog posts followed, pro and con, including an excellent overview at Creating a Family. In the Comments section, “abiye” wrote this: 

“Most Ethiopians are not happy in what’s going on in the Adoption dram[a]. Ethiopians, particularly in Addis Ababa, get angry seeing white people coming into their country and leave with a child – as if that child is a pet. This is/was a talk of the town for last few years & the government knows it that at any time the anger can reach a boiling point.”

I posted in response: 

“As an adoptive mother to two children from Guatemala, I admit there are problems in the system that must be fixed. However… From my observation, some of the controversy around international adoption stems from th[e] anger [abiye describes]. If that’s the case, perhaps no level of reform will ever be perceived as satisfactory.” 

In a February 17  blog post, I wrote about the Kyrgyzstan 65, a group of adoptive parents in the U.S. whose pending adoptions have been hung up for years.  Yesterday, March 30, an article titled Bishkek Lawmakers Reluctant to Lift International Adoption Freeze appeared on  

In 2008, responding to local rumors that foreigners were adopting babies to harvest their organs, the Kyrgyz government imposed a moratorium on international adoptions. Since then, American families… have been waiting to bring home 65 children whose adoptions were in progress when the freeze was announced. According to the Ministry of Social Protection, 30 of the 65 orphans have special health conditions and need regular treatment that is difficult to find in Kyrgyzstan. Two have died. Families in Kyrgyzstan have adopted only four.

Could it be that, around the world, unreasonable delays are happening because, bottom line, some people really don’t want these adoptions to be resolved? That, for reasons of their own, a nation would prefer their children live in orphanages than go to the United States? Recently, I was asked to participate on a panel about adoption from Guatemala. In preparation, the question arose about domestic adoption in Guatemala–that is, Guatemalan families adopting children who are not blood relations. How many such adoptions have occurred, now that adoptions are closed to outsiders? If an answer exists, none of us could find it, including a Guatemalan national with close ties to adoption. “Domestic adoption first” is held up as a solution, the better way to provide permanent families for children who need them. Wonderful. But in the three years since the December 2007 shutdown, few, if any, families in Guatemala have stepped up to adopt orphans.

Meanwhile, the families on the phone line today continue to wait.


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

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

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.”… (more…)


International adoptions decline

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Contrary to public perception, the number of intercountry adoptions by U.S. citizens has declined dramatically since 2005, it was reported today by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. The article contains an interview between the Joint Council of International Children’s Services and E.J. Graff, associate director and senior researcher at the Schuster Institute and author of the recent article, “The Baby Business.”

According to projections by the Joint Council, intercountry adoptions will drop from a high of 23,000 in 2005, to fewer than 8,000 children by 2012.

The interview contains an exchange between the Joint Council and E.J. Graff which asks the question posed by many parents who adopted from Guatemala: Instead of reforming adoption in Guatemala, why did authorities close down the program completely? (more…)