Posts Tagged ‘international adoption’

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.

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Excerpt from Mamalita

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

I’m honored (and surprised!) that Adoptive Families magazine recently posted this excerpt from Mamalita–the final chapter. (Thank you!) As you know, eight years after adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed, some 6 to 8 families still wait for resolution of their cases. As I remember our story, I think of them. ~

Here are the first few excerpted paragraphs:

Because of Olivia, everything else in my life finally made sense. My failed first marriage. My early menopause. The sequence of boyfriends who had rejected me because of my infertility. Meeting Tim. All of it had had a single purpose: to lead me to her.

My parents welcomed Olivia with open arms. Family and friends clamored to meet her. She was the undisputed star of every social gathering. I felt more settled and happy than I ever remembered.

But as the years passed, scrutiny of Guatemalan adoption increased. One night, Tim came home to find me on the family room sofa surrounded by a pile of used tissues. I was watching a television newsmagazine about adoption practices in Guatemala. Much of the show was shot with hidden cameras in the shadowy hallways of a “baby hotel,” which I recognized as the Camino Real. The report focused on one particular “broker,” a nefarious character who kidnapped babies from their Guatemalan mothers and sold them to unsuspecting, infertile couples in the United States. Although the “broker” had been banned from facilitating adoptions by the U.S. Embassy, unscrupulous agencies continued to use him.

Tim stared at the TV screen in disbelief. “That’s our facilitator,” he said. In most international adoptions, contact with birth mothers was impossible because little information was known. In Guatemalan adoption, however, most families had access to a birth mother’s name and cédula number — a national identity card — at a minimum. We possessed that information about Olivia’s birth mother, Ana. It would be possible to hire someone to find her.

Read the rest here.

 

 

 

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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. ~

 

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Birth family visit 2015

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

I’ve written a few times about Olivia’s ongoing visits with her birth family. To recap: Olivia reunited with her birth mother “Ana”–a middle-aged widow–when she was seven years old. A year later, at age 8, Olivia met her birth grandmother, Abuela, and her siblings “Dulce” and “Santiago.” Over the next several years, we continued to visit the family, always in a neutral place, not Ana’s small village, because I worried about drawing unwanted attention to Ana and her family. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In Guatemala, we stand out.

I knew our visit this year would be extra special because in 2015 our family experienced three important milestones. Olivia turned 13 and became a “senorita.” Dulce married her sweetheart and gave birth to her first baby. And Santiago moved away. Big changes, all.

On a Tuesday last June, Ana arrived by chicken bus at the appointed spot at the appointed time, as usual. But instead of clambering down the steps with Dulce and Abuela, she climbed out the back door alone. In my limited Spanish, I asked “Where is everybody?” and Ana answered that this year, we were coming to her house because the baby was too young to travel and the trip wasn’t easy for Abuela, either.

My attitude toward chicken buses is “Don’t ride them,” but what could I do? Nothing except run back to the hotel for our suitcase of gifts. Olivia and I hopped with Ana onto the next chicken bus for the return journey.

One chicken bus, one microbus, one taxi ride, and one uphill hike later, we stood in the lane at the gate in front of Ana’s adobe house, where Olivia’s family has lived for generations–possibly before the arrival of the conquistadors. A sumptuous lunch of fried chicken and squash and rice was served. The blue corn tortillas were handmade that morning from Ana’s own crop, the best we’ve ever eaten. Thirteen felt like the perfect age for Olivia to transition to a new setting. Abuela gave her a rosary necklace and Dulce’s new baby was beautiful.

As we finished lunch, Ana jumped up without notice and disappeared, and Dulce shrugged when I asked her why. A minute later, from the lane in front of the gate, a hundred firecrackers ignited and lit the sky, the snapping racket loud enough for every person in town to hear.

Ana’s daughter Olivia had come home.

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Washington Post essay on adoption

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

For anyone who has waited for a child, fought for a child, loved a child, this Washington Post essay is for you. There are no simple answers. Only complexity.

Is She Happy? Is She Loved? Remembering the Girl Who Was Almost My Daughter by Sharon Van Epps

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Potluck

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

On Sunday, Olivia and I attended our annual potluck for adoptive families with children born in Guatemala. Mateo wasn’t feeling well, so Tim stayed home with him while Olivia and I drove over the Richmond Bridge to the East Bay to join the group.

What Olivia probably would tell you about the day is that it solidified her belief that I must get an iPhone or GPS, because we wasted our usual half hour driving in circles, lost, with me freaking out. The reason we got lost is that I, yet again, relied on unreliable directions downloaded from the Internet. And a paper map. We only got there, finally, because I flagged down a truck driver in a gas station and asked for directions.

But what I’ll tell you is that some of the children in this group are now teenagers in high school, and their parents have been meeting since the kids were toddlers. What I’ll also tell you is that many of those kids consider one another “BFFs,” although they may meet just a few times a year. What I’ll also tell you is that the minute I met several members of the group, my gut told me: These folks are committed! To their children, to Guatemala, to the idea of learning all they can about adoption, at every stage and in every phase.

Finally, what I’ll tell you is that an “adoption group” is really about friendship. We listen and we talk. We laugh and we eat. Our annual potluck is not a big, special deal. Simply a bunch of adults sharing casseroles and stories at long tables in a recreation hall, delighted to watch our children run around or do crafts or hang out listening to the same iTune or YouTube video. We’re happy to be together.

I know I’m lucky to live in an area with an active adoption community. Believe me: It’s the main reason we can never move! If you’re reading this, and haven’t yet connected with a larger circle, I urge you to reach out. To do the research. To make the effort. To show up. To find your way there, somehow. ~

 

 

 

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Intercountry adoption now

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

EJ Graff, who writes often about inter-country adoption, authored a summary of its current state as seen through the lens of Ethiopia (mainly). The article is thorough and well-researched, although the title, to me, feels gratuitously offensive: They Steal Babies, Don’t They? (Is that the way to open a productive conversation? With an insult? Note to EJ Graff: You lost a big chunk of your potential audience right there.)

In any case, Graff’s main idea confirms that inter-country adoption, as it was practiced in the past (by some), is over.

“It’s been 14 years since the U.S. Senate ratified our nation’s entry into the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Slowly, the State Department and Congress have put into place the rules, regulations, and laws that make it possible to keep open international adoption agencies that do their work carefully and respectfully—while at the same time closing agencies that “find” children for adoption through bribery, deception, coercion, and kidnapping. With the right kind of oversight, international adoption may be able to shed some of its systemic problems. It will never be perfect, but it can return to its roots as a system that finds families for needy children, instead of looking for children to fill families.

“In 2004, the peak year for international adoptions, Americans adopted nearly 23,000 children from other countries, according to the U.S. State Department. For years, those numbers had increased every year, mostly infants and toddlers. By 2012, Americans adopted only 8,668, and a larger proportion were older and special needs—the children who most urgently do need new homes abroad, according to international child welfare experts. And as surprising as it may sound, that’s good news, for families and children around the world.”

My wish for 2015 is that folks who write and think about adoption could acknowledge this paradigm shift and move on to discuss the new challenges in front of us. Such as: The lives of our children who are here now and how they navigate two worlds and cultures; and the lives of present and future children conceived through assisted reproduction and embryo transfer, and their natural and inevitable questions around identity.

Yes, remember the past. Look at the past. Learn from the past. But move on and move forward.

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Thoughts on “Gotcha Day”

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

For National Adoption Month, the Huffington Post is running a series of articles on the subject, written by different members of the triad. Here’s a link to a very thoughtful piece by a young woman adopted from China, about the implications of the term “Gotcha Day.” (We don’t use this phrase in our family, just so you know.) The third paragraph is quite profound. Here’s an excerpt:

“Gotcha Day is one of those times when we think about our past and how little some of us actually know about it. We think about our biological parents and wish we knew them and could ask them why they didn’t keep us. We think about what our lives would be like, where would we be, what our futures would look like, had there been no Gotcha Day.”

Gotcha Day Isn’t a Cause for Celebration by Sophie Johnson

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A note from Mateo

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

One of the benefits of clearing out clutter is that stuff you forgot about resurfaces, including this letter my son Mateo wrote to me in January 2012. In it, he addresses a theme that remains ongoing: his pining for a dog. Reading Mateo’s letter helped me realize he’s wanted a dog for at least two years, a very long time in the life of a nine-year-old. Not that I’m planning to relent and get a dog. Just that Mateo’s desire is not new.

My son’s writing feels so energetic to me. His spelling and punctuation could use a copy-editor, but I love his voice.

Dear Mom,

I think Olivia an me shood get a DOG!!!!!!!!!!!

BECAUSE it will giv us xrsize.

If she didn’t want to do it I would do it for her.

Il give them a bath evry day.

If it’s a school day il do it after school.

If it’s a weekend il do it after brakefast in the morning.I’l take rely good car of the pupy.

“I promis promis promis”

Please Mommy i beg you.

yours Truly

Mateo

 

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Seven years

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Seven years and 27 trips to Guatemala later, the Kern family of Missouri finalizes the adoption of their son Hudson, born in Guatemala. Congratulations!!!!

Here’s the link to TV news coverage.

It’s hard for me to understand how living in an orphanage for years while a family waits for you benefits a child. Yet that was the reality for Hudson, and for all the children whose cases stalled after adoptions between Guatemala and the US closed in December 2007.

Reform, yes.  No doubt the adoption system was broken and needed to be fixed. Or shut down permanently. But to allow a small boy to spend seven years in an orphanage when he doesn’t really need to: Why?

Again, congratulations!~

 

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