Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala adoption’

Adoption Today: “Inside Guatemalan Orphanages” by Leceta Chisholm Guibault

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

When I was asked to get a back-cover endorsement for Mamalita from someone prominent in the adoption field, I didn’t think twice before approaching Leceta Chisholm Guibault. Leceta is a person admired and respected by me and many others in the Guatemalan adoption community and beyond: the adoptive mother to two teens born in Central America, a former board member of the Adoption Council of Canada, an Adoption Activist award- winner, and a staff member of the TIES program (Adoptive Families Homeland Journeys).  During the years I’ve been involved in adoption myself, I have read and benefited from Leceta’s magazine articles and postings in which she shares her experiences and insights.

Leceta is currently a Canadian regional partner for Orphan Resources International, an American nonprofit organization that supports some 55 orphanages in Guatemala. During the past two years, she has led more than 150 Canadian volunteers on six separate service trips. In  an article titled “A View from the Trenches: Inside Guatemalan Orphanages,” in the December issue of Adoption Today, Leceta shares her impressions of what she has seen and felt. Or as she says in the article’s introduction, “what keeps me awake at night and why I continue to provide aid to children in Guatemala.” As usual, she tells her story with compassion, honesty, and bravery.  

Adoption Today is published online only. The $12 subscription fee is money well-spent for anyone interested in the current state of international and transracial adoption. Leceta writes:

Most homes share the same issues– overcrowding. Many are filled with abandoned infants, as well as children in care due to severe abuse and neglect. Infants were arriving if not daily, weekly. At Fundaninos orphanage, the infants we met in 2009 are now toddlers. Another home we volunteer for is a baby home with 50-60 children, the majority being infants and young toddlers. Every time I visit, bassinets are full with newborn to 5-month-olds…

In May, I walked into one of the three overcrowded nurseries and fell to my knees… I sobbed. There were babies everywhere being fed by propped bottles. Don’t get me wrong — it was a beautiful, clean and loving home. The home receives a lot of clothing donations… The problem is, it’s overcrowded. There are not enough caregivers — during one visit there were 37 infants with two nannies. It was an assembly line of diaper changes and bottle propping… The children were craving attention and happy just to be held. I brought 23 volunteers and even holding two children each there were little ones waiting for their turn. These children need parents… (more…)


Excerpt from the U.N.’s State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples report from Mayan Families

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

This information about the status of indigenous peoples in Guatemala is posted on the Mayan Families website.  Sobering statistics. I find it unbelievable that at the same time UNICEF was reporting a 50% chronic malnutrition rate among indigenous children in Guatemala, it was lobbying hard to shut down international adoptions.  UNICEF has now stepped away from working with Guatemala to improve the proposed system. How does that make sense?

Read excerpts from the Mayan Families website below:

[Earlier this year], the United Nations released its State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples report. Throughout the report, the UN reiterates the fundamental importance of providing greater educational opportunities to indigenous children.

“Indigenous peoples… face huge disparities in terms of access to and quality of education and health. In Guatemala, for example, 53.5 per cent of indigenous young people aged 15-19 have not completed primary education, as compared to 32.2 per cent of non-indigenous youth. Although infant and child mortality has been steadily decreasing throughout Latin America over the last four decades, child mortality is still 70 per cent higher among indigenous children. Furthermore, malnutrition is twice as frequent among indigenous children in the region.”

“Indigenous peoples also suffer from discrimination in terms of employment and income….[I]ndigenous workers in Latin America make on average about half of what non-indigenous workers earn.” Approximately 25-50 per cent of this income gap is “due to discrimination and non-observable characteristics, such as quality of schooling.”

“…[I]n Guatemala, indigenous peoples’ poverty rates are 2.8 times higher than the rest of the population.”

“In Guatemala, only 54 per cent of indigenous girls are in school, compared with 71 per cent of indigenous boys. By age 16, only a quarter of indigenous girls are enrolled, compared with 45 per cent of boys.”

The World Bank has reported that “the rate of stunting [height/age] for Guatemala overall is 44 percent, but for indigenous children the rate is 58 percent, higher than either Yemen or Bangladesh, and almost twice the rate for non-indigenous children.”

Finally, this from UNICEF, “Guatemala has one of the worst nutritional conditions in the region. Nearly 23% of children over three months and under five years of age suffered from general malnutrition, while almost one-half suffered from chronic malnutrition in 2006.”


Kirkus Reviews: Mamalita

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

My publicist at Seal Press, Eva Zimmerman, forwarded me this advance review of Mamalita  from Kirkus Reviews. The Mamalita publication date is November 1, 2010. To order your advance copy, click on the “Book” tab on the Mamalita site.

From Kirkus Reviews:

“‘I’ve never given birth,’ writes O’Dwyer, ‘but I know the exact moment when I became a mother: 10:00A.M., September 6, 2002′—the moment she and her husband sat in a hotel lobby, awaiting the infant girl they hoped to adopt. Yet this celebratory moment was soon overshadowed by the corrupt Guatemalan adoption system. The author recounts her initial naiveté, how she and her husband shelled out vast amounts of money to adoption facilitators and notarios in order to assist them in wading through the red tape of a foreign adoption. Yet nearly two years and thousands of dollars later, O’Dwyer and her husband remained no closer to their goal. Rather than continue her transcontinental flights, the author quit her job and moved to Antigua to focus on her daughter’s adoption full time. This decision led her into the dark side of adoption, a seedy terrain in which she was forced to weave through the barbs of a system set up to exploit the most money and resources from potential parents. Armed only with her elementary-level Spanish, she was forced to rely on a small band of trustworthy Guatemalan officials and potential American mothers struggling through the same experience. Her obsessive quest was constantly hampered by paperwork, signatures, DNA tests and countless other bureaucratic pitfalls. But despite the tragic circumstances, the optimistic author tells a hopeful tale in which she viewed every procedural misstep as a step leading her closer to her daughter.”

“A scathing critique on a foreign adoption system and the harrowing account of one woman’s attempt to fight it.”

Kirkus Reviews


NY Times: “Ranchers and Drug Barons Threaten Rain Forest”

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The Sunday, July 18 edition of the New York Times ran an article on page A6 that begins, “Great sweeps of Guatemalan rain forest, once the cradle of one of the world’s great civilizations, are being razed to clear land for cattle-ranching drug barons.” 

The article goes on to state, “Other parts of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Central America’s largest protected area, have been burned down by small cities of squatters.” The article describes the squatters as “mainly peasants who come in search of farmland.” However, “willingly or not, they often become the pawns of the drug lords.”  (more…)


Mark your calendar

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

If you’re like me, you plan your schedule months in advance. That’s the plan anyway. 

With that in mind, I’m letting you know that the book launch for Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir will take place at my favorite indie bookstore, Book Passage in Corte Madera, California. The date is Saturday, November 13, 2010, at 7 p.m.

 Hope you can be there!

 By the way, if you live in a community with adoptive families who might be interested in a book reading, please let me know. I’d be honored to arrange one in your area.

P.S.: The photo is of me reading a piece I wrote about Mateo’s wonderful preschool at his graduation. My sister, Deanna, took the photo. (Thanks, De!)

Book Passage: 51 Tamal Vista Boulevard, Corte Madera, California 94925 / (415) 927-0960 or (800) 999-7909


One Doctor

Monday, July 12th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, my sister, Patrice, who works in the drama and dance department at Stanford University, sent me a series of articles about Stanford physician Paul Wise, who has been going to rural Guatemala for the past thirty years to deliver healthcare to families in dire need, ever since he first visited in 1970 and “fell in love with the place and its people.” On his most recent trip this summer, Dr. Wise was accompanied by a team of Stanford medical students and undergraduates. The articles were written by Adam Gorlick, a Stanford News Service writer.

The group’s work was centered in the area surrounding San Lucas Tolimán, on the southeastern shore of Lake Atitlán. (Tolimán is the name of the volcano that sits on the edge of town.) Gorlick began the series by describing the havoc wreaked on San Lucas by torrential rainfall, including Tropical Storm Agatha in late May. The description rings all-too-familiar to anyone who has traveled in-country during rainy season, when flood waters create landslides, destroy homes, and render roads nearly impassable. Gorlick went on to note the poverty endemic in a country “wracked by decades of civil war, political corruption and the violence of a growing drug trade.” The majority of  residents in San Lucas are farm workers who earn less than $1,000 U.S. per year. (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…)