Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala 900’

My essay in the NY Times Motherlode

Monday, December 10th, 2012

On Monday, the New York Times Motherlode blog published my essay, An Adoptive Parent Won’t Take the Blame. As a former Jersey girl who grew up reading the Times, I am honored.  As an adoptive parent who feels her voice often gets muffled by the screaming that surrounds the subject of adoption, I also am thrilled, big time.

The comments following the article are enlightening. As I expected, not everyone shares my point of view, and they’re forthright about their reasons why. But if that’s the price I must pay for speaking honestly and rationally, so be it. No complaints here. 

Here are the first few paragraphs:

I’m the adoptive mother to a daughter and a son, ages 10 and 8, both born in Guatemala. Three years after my daughter came home, in November 2006, The New York Times ran an article blasting Guatemala’s adoption system, calling the country a “virtual baby farm.”

Two years later, in January 2008, Dateline NBC showed hidden camera footage of my adoption facilitator plying his trade in the lobby of a Guatemala City hotel, in a segment titled, “The Baby Broker.” In Northern California where I live, a man from Central America recently asked me, “How much did you pay for your kids?”

More recently, a front-page article in The Times told the story of a Reno, Nev., family whose adoption case stalled when allegations of corruption shut down the system. Many of the comments left by readers made me feel like a guilty criminal, simply because I’m an adoptive parent.

The question for me is, “How do I make sense of something that is both the best thing that has ever happened to me — becoming a mother through adoption to my two beautiful children — and the most troubling — becoming that mother by accessing a system that is now known to be so corrupt that it was, in fact, closed in December 2007?”

 

Click on the link and read the rest to see if you agree with my conclusion.

 

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The NY Times addresses the endless wait

Monday, December 10th, 2012

When the adoption system in Guatemala closed in December 2007, no exit strategy was in place. Now, we witness the aftermath.  Families in the US wait for children they feel are theirs, who have lingered in orphanages or foster care for the past five years.

On Sunday, December 9, the New York Times published a front-page article by Rachel L. Swarns, about a Reno, Nevada couple, Amy and Robb Carr, and their struggle to adopt their hoped-for son, Geovany. A Family, for a Few Days a Year recounts the Carr’s commitment to Geovany as they navigate their way through the labyrinth that is the Guatemala adoption system.

Maybe now that the New York Times has published a story about the five-year process endured by the Carrs and other waiting families known as the Guatemala 900—on the front page, above the fold, with a big four-color photo—change or movement will occur and the cases stuck in limbo finally will be resolved. Please, let it be so.

GUATEMALA CITY — The little boy flies like an airplane through the hotel, his arms outstretched. Then he leaps like a superhero, beaming as the red lights on his new sneakers flash and flicker, while the American couple he is with dissolve in laughter.

He calls them Mamá and Papi. They call him Hijo — Son. He corrects their fledgling Spanish. They teach him English. “Awe-some,” he repeats carefully, eyeing his new shoes.

To outsiders, they look like a family. But Geovany Archilla Rodas, an impish 6-year-old boy with spiky black hair, lives in an orphanage on the outskirts of this capital city. The Americans — Amy and Rob Carr of Reno, Nev. — live a world away. They are the only parents he has ever known.

They have been visiting him every year, usually twice a year, since he was a toddler, flying into this Central American city for a few days at a time to buy him clothes and to read him stories, to wipe his tears and to tickle him until he collapses in giggles at their hotel or in the orphanage.

Yet half a decade after agreeing to adopt him, the Carrs still have no idea when — or if — they will ever take Geovany home.

“There’s this hope in you that doesn’t want to die,” said Mrs. Carr, who arrived here last month with her husband, more determined than ever to cut through the bureaucracy. “In my heart, he’s my son.”

The Carrs are among the 4,000 Americans who found themselves stuck in limbo when Guatemala shut down its international adoption program in January 2008 amid mounting evidence of corruption and child trafficking. Officials here and in Washington promised at the time to process the remaining cases expeditiously.

 

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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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Guatemala 900, still waiting

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Since I began blogging, I’ve logged many posts on the group known as the Guatemala 900, American families waiting to finalize the adoptions of the Guatemalan children to whom they’ve been matched. Now numbering around 300, the Guatemala 900 cases have been stalled since the shutdown of adoptions between Guatemala and the U.S. in December 2007, nearly four-and-a-half years ago. Since then, the waiting children have remained in care in Guatemala, while their adoptive families support them from afar in the U.S.

On May 10, 2012, Senator Mary Landrieu hosted a public conference call, in which the Senator relayed information about her most recent trip to meet with Guatemalan officials to discuss the pending adoptions, and her plans to advocate for families in the future. On May 14, the State Department issued its official statement on the conference call and the current situation; you can read about it here.

In the meantime, I’ve posted two photos of my children, one taken in November 2007, and the other taken a few days ago, to demonstrate how long four-and-a-half years means in the life of a child.

After hearing Senator Landrieu deliver the news of how little progress has been made in the last four-plus years, the temptation for me would have been to run sobbing from the room, giving up all hope of resolution. Yet the families of the Guatemala 900 soldier on, believing that one day soon their cases will be finalized.

I just want to say, again, how much I admire the Guatemala 900, for their loyalty to the children they understandably consider their own, and for holding fast to their dreams of providing those children with permanent, loving families.

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Open Letter from Dr. Jane Aronson to President Bill Clinton

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

 I saw Dr. Jane Aronson’s open letter to President Clinton on another blog, Whatever Things Are True. Dr. Aronson is founder and CEO of Worldwide Orphans Foundation, and writes with the authority of a physician involved in international adoption for some twenty years. Her message is so passionate I’m also printing it here, in the hopes of adding to the letter’s readership. Dr. Aronson’s subject is the recent news about adoption from Ethiopia, and her interpretation of its meaning.

March 13, 2011

An Open Letter to President Clinton 

Once again, tragedy strikes orphans  – children who might have been adopted into a permanent home have had their hopes and dreams demolished.  This time it’s  Ethiopia, where international adoption has been growing rapidly over the last six years, beginning with a handful of older children in the 1980’s and 90’s.  By last year 2,500 children – sweet babies and toddlers – were adopted by American families.

Now, the Ethiopian government has announced that it is reducing the number of visas approved for adoption from 50 per work day to five. The outcry from those waiting to become parents, from adoption agencies and from not for profit organizations advocating for children, is predictable and equally predictable, the world at large appears to be indifferent to the anguish this ruling is causing.  And so, the numbers of children adopted from Ethiopia will decrease, the time it takes to adopt will increase, and international adoption in general, and the children in particular, are the losers. (more…)

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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…)

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How a California garden is like adoption

Friday, September 17th, 2010

In September, all the work we’ve put into the garden during the past year finally pays off. Tomatoes, strawberries, Meyer lemons, basil. In sauces and gazpacho, smoothies and pies. Sliced onto cereal, on ice cream, broiled with parmesan cheese. Meyer lemons, Meyer lemonade. And Pesto! Pesto by the quart. On pasta and bread. Pesto for lunch and for dinner. Buckets of pesto. 

Summer comes to Northern California not in July or August, but in September. The days are warm enough, at last, to turn our tomatoes red, our lemons yellow. Before breakfast, Tim goes out with a basket, and by the time I wake up the kids, a bowl on the table is filled. 

Because I am who I am and my husband is married to me, we see parallels between our garden and adoption. Tim noticed it first. In Texas, where he once lived, there are four seasons. Everyone, he says, plants tomatoes the same week; gardeners can predict their harvest to the day. But here in California, we plant in February, March, April, or May. Our tomatoes come in, variably: maybe in August, or else in September. Some years, we eat tomatoes off the vine at Thanksgiving. 

How is a California garden like adoption? As Tim pointed out, a normal pregnancy takes nine months. With a pretty good degree of accuracy, expectant parents know when their baby will arrive. There is no such calendar with adoption. Maybe it will take six months, unless it takes two years. For the families still waiting for their children in Guatemala–whose cases have been stalled since adoptions closed in January 2008–it must feel as if it will take forever. 

Guatemala 900, we’re thinking of you as another season passes.

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International adoption statistics

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Being in Guatemala made me wonder about the statistics for international adoption. Adoptions are closed here, of course, although several hundred cases are still pending. I found this blog post by Angela W on an adoption website, Adoption Under One Roof. In it, Angela W analyzes the 2009 statistics—the most recent available— in a way that even I found easy to understand.

Adoptions from Asia continue to make up the largest percentage of international adoptions, at 47%, while adoptions from Africa are the fastest-growing: 21% in 2009, up from 9% in 2007 and 13% in 2008.  (more…)

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The Guatemala 900 Campaign

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Adoptions from Guatemala closed on January 1, 2008. At that time, some 900 cases started by U.S. citizens hoping to adopt children from Guatemala were still pending. As of this writing, about 400 cases remain unresolved. That means that 400 children have spent, at a minimum, the past two and a half years in orphanages, waiting to join their new families.

Guatemala 900 is a grass-roots campaign initiated by the original 900 adoptive families to call attention to this situation. Thanks to their efforts, a letter co-authored by Senators Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Barbara Boxer (CA), and Russ Feingold (WI) garnered 73 Congressional signatures and will be sent to top-level government officials in Guatemala who play instrumental roles in the adoption process. According to Guatemala 900′s website, the letter “respectfully requests the Guatemalan government take steps to institute a transparent and predictable process for all pending adoption cases.”

I’ve posted here a photo of my children, taken in late 2007. To see how much they’ve changed since then is to realize what two and a half years means in the life of a child. To the waiting parents of those 400 children, I offer my solidarity. To learn more, visit the Guatemala 900 website:

http://guatemala900.org/wp/

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