Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Guatemalan adoption: A troubling tale
CNN Correspondent Harris Whitbeck interviews Guatemalan women who claim their babies were stolen from them.
ANTIGUA, Guatemala -- I was eleven years old when a devastating earthquake decimated much of Guatemala in 1976. My family and I lived in Guatemala City and were fortunate that our recently built house was not damaged.

My parents immediately involved themselves in relief and reconstruction efforts, and one night my mother came home with two babies in her arms. Maria and Francisca were only months old. They had been living in an orphanage that was so badly damaged it had to be evacuated. A call went out to the community for people to take in the children while the home was rebuilt, and my mom responded.

When the two babies arrived at our house, their little heads were infested with lice. They were severely traumatized -- one of them, Francisca, would spend hours rocking back and forth in her crib, refusing anyone's attention. They were terrified of the bathtub my mother used to bathe them.

But Maria and Francisca became the center of attention.

My siblings and I played with them constantly as they became temporary members of the family, and we marveled at how these terrified little creatures came out of their shells and began to laugh and play with us.

More than 30 years later, Maria and Francisca were often in my thoughts as I reported on the current adoption situation in Guatemala. (Read: Guatemala seeks to slow exodus of babies to U.S.)

The story of the Casa Quivira adoption center, the wrenching tales of adoptive parents waiting for their children, birth mothers haltingly explaining why they give their children up is one of the most difficult ones I've ever reported.

As a Guatemalan reporting on my country's adoption industry for a major U.S. news outlet, at times I was ashamed, angered, outraged and saddened.

I was ashamed that my country offers so little hope and opportunity that its young are seen as commodities. I was ashamed that Guatemala is becoming one big baby market -- that adoption in Guatemala has turned, to quote a high-level diplomat in Guatemala City, into such a "nasty business." I was outraged that some who promote the adoption business in the United States use the poverty and misery of millions of Guatemalans as a marketing tool.

I was saddened for the Guatemalan mothers who either have had babies stolen, have been manipulated into selling or giving children up, or forced into doing so because of their dire socio-economic conditions, and saddened too for the potential adoptive families who -- only for wanting to bring a child into their lives and for their altruism -- have in some cases become embroiled in sordid and shady dealings.

There are no easy answers in this story and there are many, many layers to it. When I set out to report it, I did so to attempt to find the truth in what happened at Casa Quivira and the truth behind thousands of Guatemalan babies who have been exported to the United States. (Watch: Guatemalan adoption controversy)

We interviewed everybody who could possibly be involved in the adoptions -- waiting adoptive parents, government officials, state prosecutors, investigators, adoption lawyers, birth mothers, foster parents, midwives, even one of Casa Quivira's owners. The only ones we could not interview, who are, in the end, the most affected by all this, were the babies themselves.

And maybe the ultimate truth in this story lies in the tales they cannot tell now and in the tales they someday will be able to tell of their new lives. Adoption is, after all, more about the future than about the past. And in the end, it is those babies' futures that matter most.

While I do not know what became of babies Maria and Francisca my mom rescued, I do know they were lucky to have survived that earthquake 31 years ago and to have fallen in with good and honorable people who, albeit temporarily, ensured their well-being during desperate times.

I hope those babies currently waiting for adoption in today's Guatemala will also eventually fall in with good and honorable adoptive parents. But it is the process through which some of them might find those parents that troubles me so.

-- By Harris Whitbeck, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 2:41 PM ET
  39 Comments
Harris,
I must say this story really saddens me at what seems to be going on over there in Guatemala. It is really terrible if these woman are being forced to give up their babies or they are being stolen just to appease people here in the states who go through shady deals to adopt, if you want to call it that, a baby. Children should be looked at as a blessing not a way to make money!

But really does it suprise you...money talks in any nation or tongue! I hope the government there can get a handle on it.

I am really looking forward to this report!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Cindy : 3:23 PM ET
It seems like shady adoptions are the norm in an awful lot of places in this world.
It's become a big business.
Unfortunately, children, their birth families and adoptive parents aren't a business or a faceless transaction. They are real humans with real feelings.
You're right, that in the end it's about a better life for the children. However, the process should not destroy the lives of the people left in that wake.
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 3:34 PM ET
I agree that there are many sides to the story of adoptions from Guatemala, some troubling yet others wonderful. Recent assertions made by the Berger administration indicate that Guatemala will attempt to halt adoptions to the US in January, which is particularly troubling since no alternative plan has been made for children who have already been matched with adoptive families. I hope that CNN will take up the cause of these children and urge the Berger administration to make a decision in the best interest of the children at risk.
Posted By Sarah, Alexandria, Virginia : 3:41 PM ET
Harris, what a heartbreaking story! When babies and mothers are treated this way, where is the respect for human life? I've always seen adoption as the ultimate manifestation of selflessness and generosity, but to turn it into a business is just outrageous. I hope the shady dealings are put to a stop right away. There should be laws and regulations for adoptions and punishments meted out to those who violate them. I look forward to your reports tonight.

Lilibeth
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, Washington : 3:51 PM ET
I agree with many of the comments in this article. It pains me deeply that in the Guatemalan Aodption Process, there are those who would use unethical practices. But, I also realize that, as in most all other situations in life, there are those who are following the letter of the law, abiding by high moral standards and are working to benefit the children, birth parents and adoptive families.
As the parent of a beautiful four year old girl adopted from Guatemala, it gives me peace to know that the US and Guatemala require DNA testing to prove that the woman placing the child for adoption is the biological mother of the child. The birth mother also has legal obligations to be present and sign various documents throughout the process.
I realize that if a person is without morals, there is no end to to amount of bribery, extortion and falsification that could be used to coerce a birth mother to place her child for adoption. I certainly do not condone that type of action. But, isn't that the same thing that is done here in our country? Don't social workers and adoption agency representatives try to convince a birth mother that the "best" thing for her child is to be placed in a loving and stable home? I guess my point is that the adoption practices here in the US are not perfect either. Therefore to paint the picture that these things are going on in Guatemala because it is a "underdeveloped" or "underprivledged" country is not acurate. The problem is that humans are involved and we all know that means that some are going to take advantage of the situation. But as in most instances, that type of behavior is not the norm.
Posted By Anonymous : 4:05 PM ET
Thanks for sharing us the story. My heart goes out to these babies, I hope that all babies needing homes find good ones - and loving adopting parents.

Jennifer - Anderson, South Carolina.
Posted By bluediamond (Jennifer) : 4:08 PM ET
I will be watching your piece this evening.
I hope that you will have included the following FACTS:
1) The birth mother is required to sign off on the adoption no less than FOUR times during the process. She has until the very end (longer than birth mothers in the U.S.) to change her mind.
2) The birth mother must be interviewed by a social worker in the family court system in Guatemala. If a child has been stolen or the mother has been coerced, the truth will come out there. The social workers are randomly assigned to each case.
3) The birth mother must submit to a DNA test to be administered by a physician approved by the U.S. Embassy. If the DNA of the woman does not match that of the child, the adoption will not continue.
4) To make sure that a child was not switched after the DNA test, the child will be given another DNA test after the adoption has been approved, to make sure it is the same child that took the original test. If this is negative, the adoption will not be completed.

There are many other safeguards in the process. I truly hope that you will remember to include the facts in your story. Guatemalan adoptive parents have had to deal with enough sensationalism.
Posted By Kristen, Bristol, Rhode Island : 4:40 PM ET
My wife and I live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I work as a program analyst and my wife is a school teacher. We are in our early 40's and can not have children of our own. We chose to adopt our baby from Guatemala. It has been a long process and one of great pride.
This week we have learned that President Berger has decided to close all adoptions and disallow adoptions in-process if not complete by January 1, 2008. Our baby is scheduled to complete the process and come home in late May 2008. As you can only imagine, this news has been devastating to us. We received our referral on July 16th. Our agency is extremely reputable. The moment we saw his picture we fell in love with him. Through the thoughtfulness of his birth Mother, we were gifted this opportunity to realize our dream of becoming parents. DNA testing is in place to ensure the Mother has relinquished her rights and the baby is hers. Since receiving our referral our thoughts and prayers have been with our baby, his birth Mother and his foster Mother. Each day the thought of our son fills us with life, with hope. We pray that President Berger find it in his heart to allow all in-process legal adoptions to complete. We pray that anyone with a voice can join our cry. We pray that somehow the ear of the President will hear the love and honor of our pledge to these children. CNN is the largest news agency in the world and if possible, we ask for their strenghth and voice to assist us in our plea. All we can do is look at his pictures...hope and prayer is all we can trust. Thank You. Michael & Heidi B, Oklahoma
Posted By Michael & Heidi, Oklahoma : 4:42 PM ET
I am so glad that someone 'Anonymous' wrote from the perspective of one who has been there. I get angered when someone points a finger and calls people kidnappers or baby sellers and others jump on the band wagon before they know the full story. I am adopted from Columbia and in 2005 I adopted my daughter from Guatemala and am in the process of adopting my 2nd daughter now. The process for the parents to be in long, expensive, emotional and frustrating. It is not the journey of someone out to put down cash and get a baby - that doesn't happen. As Anonymous stated there are 2 DNA test that prove that the Birth Mother and the Child are indeed related and at the end of the adoption proceedings another DNA test on the child to prove that the child on the paper is the child that is being adopted and that the baby wasn't switched.

I tried to adopt in the US but was warned that the birth mom could come back 2 years (or more) late and reclaim the child. Why would anyone want to go through the pain of the adoption process and then worry that the child could be taken away?

We in the US cannot judge others by our rules. Having been in Guatemala and lived there for a short time, I saw the differences first hand. The people there are in a survival mode. I met a woman with 11 children! She just could not afford to feed her children and when she became pregnant again the father told her that they could not keep the baby. That is common. She did not feel sad to give up her last child. She said it was a relief to know the baby would be taken care of and that her family would not suffer any more either. Why is it wrong for that baby to become part of a family that can feed and clothe him? There are tons of people wanting to be parents. If they are willing to go through home studies, FBI back ground checks, scrutiney of tax records, personal relationships, etc.why can't they become parents without having people throw stones?

I don't believe many babies are stolen or mothers are forced to give up their children. I think there are a few and those make the headlines and sell newspapers. There are full orphanges all over Central and South America. The babies need homes, love and support. If we can give that to these children then I think that is what we should do. I am so thankful that someone decided to adopt me. Harrison says that he can't ask the ones that have been adopted. I promise you sir, I am happier to have been adopted and given opportunities. I know that if I had stayed in that orphanage or even that country I would have had little chance of education, opportunities, or happiness. I know my life expectancy would have been cut in half and my earning potential would have been meager at best. I thank God and my parents for every day that I have had in the US.

Dee, Dallas, TX
Posted By Anonymous : 4:47 PM ET
Harris:
I too had to suffer the effects of the earthquake and saw how the corrupt government stole all the help that other countries sent to the victims. It's no different now.
I wasn't so fortunate as you were and my house was destroyed and we had to live in a tent for more than a year.
Probably your mother took care of those 2 babies because probably wanted to take care of them, like today, nothing has changed if somebody sees a baby in the streets in Guatemala nobody will care, but if that baby is in adoption process everybody will care, everybody will be watching and condemning the adoption.

And yes you should be ashamed because there is no reason for the Guatemalans to live in such poverty because of the corruption of our governments, we that allow them to robe the country, to robe its resources going away without been punished, just look at the declarations of our President to the UN, like one journalist says "what country is he talking about?" is he dreaming, why is he lying?.
At least we at Casa Quivira can say that we contribute to save many children that probably most of them could be death by now. Adoption is not the solution is just an alternative for few children, the rest will stay and live in poverty and misery, if they can live long enough.
There is no shady dealings for Casa Quivira adoptions, we always been in the light and open, nobody is forcing the birth mothers to give up their children for adoption, there is no need to do that I tell you this because after 17 years of working in adoption and seen the misery that I have seen, I think I have authority to say so.
And as you say, there are no easy answers, nobody has answers, even the government of Guatemala has no answers for the children of Guatemala, they don't have a plan for January 01 2008 when Guatemala forced by the European community will "implement" the hague convention, but we know what is going to happen all the children that are in adoption process will be in legal limbo because nobody has the will to solve their situation, because nobody is really interested in the children, some politicians only want to be part of the show and others don't know anything about children and adoption. Nobody cares.
And it is sad that you use the word exported, you should interview some of the children that are old enough to tell you how happy they are to have the life they have and maybe one day they will be the ones that will respond to some of the needs of others Guatemalans and be proud to be part of such a beautiful country. You missed them, because yes there are children and young people that can tell you the difference that adoption have made in their lives.

And don't worry to much for the children that are left behind in Guatemala, because sure enough UNICEF, the Hague Convention and the Government of Guatemala are going to take care of them because there will be enough resources to do it and then we will not be in the middle and they will have wonderful adoption laws and everything will be solve for the children, we wish them luck.

Sandra Gonzalez
Casa Quivira.
Posted By Anonymous : 4:55 PM ET
How sad that even adoption becomes a way to make money. Children are precious gifts and should be cared for and loved. How cruel to separate them from their Moms at such a young age. I do understand that some people are unable to care for their young, but to steal from women and encourage others to have children for profit is unacceptable. It probably doesn't help that celebrities are adopting from other countries and showing off their children like new accessories. I do believe that adoption should be a wonderful way to love and care for a child needing a family. I hope those in charge will crack down on the situation so that children who need to be adopted can go to loving homes. What a hard story to cover.
Posted By Kathy Chicago,Il : 5:21 PM ET
What I find troubling is how the Guatemalan adoption situation has been sensationalized and manipulated by those with ulterior motives in the Guatemalan government and UNICEF - to the point where it is difficult to know the truth. For example, it's virtually impossible for an American nowadays to adopt a "stolen" baby, due to DNA matching requirements that have been in place for several years, along with other safeguards. The Casa Quivera babies were allegedly "stolen", yet with all this attention given to the situation, NOT ONE case of actual kidnapping has come to light.
People need to understand that many of those who speak out so viciously against Guatemala adoptions have shady motivations of their own - such as big payoffs to government officials for ending adoptions. And, it's not like those in power in Guatemala are dedicated to helping poor women and children - racism against the indigenous population is alive and well. No one should assume that if/when adoptions end, the benevolent Guatemalan government is going to step in and help all those mothers and children left behind. Currently, international adoption is one small but effective solution to the major problems facing Guatemala.
We're talking about a population in which 50% of those under age 5 are malnourished to the point of growth stunting, and we're indignant about some trumped-up and baseless "kidnapping" allegations?? Why? Because it makes us feel more noble?
Posted By Julie, St. Louis MO : 5:34 PM ET
I am the mother of a child adopted from Guatemala. However, she came to us thru a disrupted adoption as we adopted her in the U.S. While there are many who speak of the safeguards in place so as to assure the PAPs that the child they are adopting is not stolen or coerced from the birthmother, our daughter was not only sold into prostitution but also into the adoption industry by the birthmother. As far as the DNA testing and the photo that identifies the mother, our BM photo is of a man and our daughter has no idea who that man is. When PAPs speak of the glories of the foster parents and the wonderful care that is afforded their adopted children, our daughter was treated to an alcoholic foster father and daily abuse including the viewing of pornographic videos. No system is 100% good or bad. Blame cannot be placed on any particular government official - be it U.S. or Guatemalan; UNICEF, or for that matter - particular adoption agency. However, when greed sets in, there will be corruption. When a population desires infants over older children, and then a specific sex (females) over another (males) - then we are creating the monster overselves. If we could not put in our "order" for the age, sex, and color, - then do we really think that Guatemala would have had the problems that it now has? Maybe instead of blaming everyone else, we should look at ourselves and see what our involvement is in the ultimate shut-down of Guatemala.
Posted By Elizabeth : 5:36 PM ET
Please do not forget the children who will be left behind if Guatemala does indeed end all adoptions as of January 1, 2008. Almost 5000 children have been placed for adoption by their birth mothers, and there is no social service system in place in Guatemala to care for these children if their adoptions are not allowed to proceed. What will happen to the children?

As I sit and look at my precious daughter, who is from Guatemala, my heart breaks for the children who will be denied loving homes.

Adoption has become such a political issue. Too many have lost sight of that which is most important: the fate of the children themselves.

Priscilla
Boston, MA
Posted By Priscilla Gilbert France, Boston, MA : 5:41 PM ET
To truly understand why a Guatemalan woman places her child for adoption, you would have to understand more then the economic issues that surround her, but also the social issues. A woman in Guatemala is a second-class citizen. A poor Guatemalan woman, and even more, a poor Mayan Indian woman is pretty much the bottom of the social hierarchy. Many people think her of as sub-human in her country. She isn’t educated, she has few rights, she may be kidnapped and murdered without so much as a raised eyebrow from the authorities. Birth control isn’t acceptable or available in most communities, but these women often depend on relationships with men in order to survive because men are paid much more then women and are much more employable.

It is a great stigma in Guatemala to give birth to a child outside of marriage. In some Mayan communities it is essentially a crime. She may be thrown out of her home or village, or worse. Many Guatemalan women place their children secretly, so to avoid the stigma and punishment that goes along with it. She risks her life because, as bad as it is to give birth before marriage, it is worse to give your child up for adoption. Many Guatemalans believe the children are being adopted to harvest organs or to be raised as slaved (after all, why would a white American want a baby from the bottom rung of the social ladder? They think). She gives her child up out of love for that child and a strong desire for the child to live and be loved and accepted. It is the greatest sacrifice.

What happens when you take that right away? When she can’t place her child, and if she does, the powers that be will hunt down her family and expose her (in order to ask if any of them want the baby)? Children will be abandoned at alarming rates. Back-alley abortions will cause the death of many women. And the truly desperate will give their child over to God.

This is a recipe for infanticide and death.
Posted By Carrie : 6:57 PM ET
Hello my wife and i are in the process of adopting from Guatemala We have been there twice to visit and have seen the country.Ou r daughter is in an orphange. The people of guatemal seem very cordial towards us as we walked with her in Antigua even asking her name and saying that thet were grateful that she was going to America where she had a chance for a future. Children in guatemal have to pay to go to school, There is no government help for childcare nor social security if you can not pay for medical costs then you do not receive care. At a coffe plantation there were 4 year old children picking coffe beans with their mother.There are problems that have surfaced in adoptions from Guatemala but you can not group all adoptions from the horor stories that are presented in the news. The birthmother of our child was fired from her job because her boss impregnated her. She was fired when she had her baby but her boss had no consequences.
Most who are adopting from Guatemal are honest loving people who are sharing their hearts with a child who will love and care for this child Most agencies are honest also.
With all that is going on now in Guatemal i hope that this report shows all sides to the situatuion

thank you
dave poller
Posted By david poller : 7:18 PM ET
As a person adopting from Guatemala please consider the following:
** No adoptive family I ever met, including myself, has any interest in adopting a baby that emerges from "shady dealings." Most of us carefully choose, scrutinize and want nothing other than to deal with ethical agencies who facilitate these adoptions.
** Not ALL adoptions emerge from "shady dealings." Further, you want to talk about CORRUPTION? How about doing a story on CAUCASION babies!!!!! No one wants to talk about that because it's not politically correct. Go investigate that because there you'll find plenty to report about.
** Most adoptive families simply have their hearts in the right place and want to offer a needy child a good home.
** This is a complex issue. Why does the corruption of a few ruin the experience/goodness of the many. Weed out the corrupt people and be DONE with it already!
** Let's hope you interviewed hundreds of people to ensure this is a balanced report that does not rely on the sensationalism of a few to get a point across.
Bottomline - many of these babies come from adverse backgrounds and dire poverty. If by adopting them that makes me a bad person then guilty as charged!!!!! That said, I would not ever want any part of any "shady dealings" and the birth mothers have MULTIPLE opportunities to change their minds and many do! As for me, I intend to provide the best home possible for my adoptive Guatemalan babies and my heart and head were in the right place. I suspect the same is true for most others who are on the adoptive family side of this fence.
Posted By Anonymous : 7:34 PM ET
To use an innocent child solely as the means to make money is appalling. I do hope these children all wind up in good homes with wonderful loving parents and are not scarred by the process in which they got there.

I have supported several children from Guatemala through Christian Children's Fund so these children could have a better present and future and yet remain with their parents. Wish more would do the same.
Posted By Suzanne Pratt, Knoxville TN : 7:35 PM ET
Here's a novel concept. Why don't you report on the issues facing childless people trying to adopt in America? It's a nightmare that is enough to make someone want to run to a third world country and buy a kid illegally. If you want to keep someone honest, try talking to OCS workers and judges all too willing to give a kid back to his addict parents instead of offering him a permanent home with stable, loving parents. I think before we worry about kids in other countries we should take a hard look at the atrocities done in our legal and social services systems to our own.
Posted By Anonymous : 7:39 PM ET
Harris

I'm a parent in process with Casa Quivira and wanted to get that perspective out on the blog. When I decided to adopt it was a tough decision on where to go for the adoption - domestic or international. Both had pros and cons. In the end, I decided on international and Guatemala in particular. Two of the reasons I chose Guatemala was the poverty and a chance to provide a good life to a child who might otherwise die on the streets, and secondly the fantastic care provided by Casa Quivira. I would equate them with any US style clinic. I can't speak to all the reasons a child may have ended up in their care, but once there they received A+ care the entire time. The nanny to baby ratio was about 3 to 1, maybe even better at times, there were nurses on staff, a doctor visited each day, and they used US formulas and products.

I believe the raid on Casa Quivira was politically motivated based on the upcoming Hague Convention and was set as a "dry run" for what may happen country-wide in January. The head of PGN even stated to CQ attorneys that they would have liked to have raided more homes now but it would have put too many babies in limbo.

I became the legal guardian of my son on 13 July and am still in limbo. My story is unique in that I should have already completed the process and brought the baby home, except that the mayor of my son's home town has been "busy" for the last 2 1/2 months and has not signed the birth certificate, the only document I need to complete the process. I only state this to illustrate another aspect of this, that I hope your story covers tonight, the corruption or just plain incompetence of the various parts of the Guatemalan government in regards to adoption.

I hope your story tonight will be a fair and accurate representation of all sides of the story. For Casa Quivira, there are 40+ babies in limbo and just as many families hoping to adopt these children. The alternative may be a life on the streets or death. I have visited Guatemala twice and have had so many 7-8yr old tour guides and had my shoes shined by 5yr olds. It breaks my heart.

Jay Richey
Atlanta, GA
Posted By Anonymous : 7:53 PM ET
I would hope that your comments tonight are fair and present both sides of the story.

Guatemala is one of the only if not the only country to require DNA matches ( not one but two matches )

I really do hope that you cover the story fairly - but I am not expecting that to happen.
Posted By Anonymous : 8:30 PM ET
I am an adoptive father of two Guatemalan children -- four years old and less than a year old.

We chose to adopt from Guatemala because the Guatemalan adoption system provides more safeguards than those in place in the United States, or any other foreign country which we reviewed. Adoptions in many other countries required "gifts" to be given to officials and intermediaries. Such practice is illegal in Guatemala. Many adoption processes do not include DNA testing. In Guatemala, the birth mothers are required to give several interviews, and the US Embassy oversees the DNA testing process. Adoption is a right in Guatemala. Children are not kept in "orphanages" but are cared for in foster homes. The health of children awaiting adoption in Guatemala is much better than the health of many other children awaiting adoption elsewhere in the world -- fetal alcoholism, AIDS, crack addiction, neglect, etc. are extremely rare.

Our first son's birth mother was 12 years old. She lives in a one room hut in Guatemala city, and begs for food. That is her occupation. Our second son's birth mother had 6 children. Her eldest children (Aged 13 through age 8) do not go to school anymore. They must help their mother make tortillas to support their family and their two room apartment. We received substantial histories on both birth mothers, DNA results and confirmations, pictures, and the results of several interviews with government court officials. We received much, much more information that we would have been entitled to had we adopted in the United States.

Every adoption -- whether in the United States or elsewhere -- is borne from a tragedy and loss. In a profoundly poor country like Guatemala, it requires a determined and willful mother to give up her child for adoption, rather than abandon the child outright or practice infanticide.

Is there corruption? Of course there is. There is corruption in the United States, and in every other country. Are there good people, good agencies, doing good things for children who otherwise would have no right to education or health care and who would likely end up begging for food and suffering the miseries of abject poverty? Yes, there are many, many such good people.

I am in love with Guatemala. It is a beautiful country, the seat of ancient power in Central America, and its people are generous, kind and full of grace. I am honored and blessed to be a parent to children whose heritage is one of ancient Maya -- a cultural legacy that is unsurpassed on the continent among living cultures. And I am so profoundly sad and filled with bittersweet emotion, each time I see any young boy, young man or elderly senior on the Guatemalan streets, enduring lifelong poverty, hunger, and deprivation. Because that could have been the future for my two children. But today, they are Americans, and they enjoy the opportunity to reach their full potential and contribute to all humanity absent the bonds of poverty.

For those who decry international adoption, I suggest to you that you give up SUVs, cable TV, and the other many luxuries you afford and instead donate generously to the plight of those around the world that suffer poverty so intently that they cannot care for their children. And I suggest you come to know some of the children who are the newest Americans, who have been blessed with loving families and futures of opportunity.

For those who are considering adoption -- in the United States or in another country -- you bear a great responsibility to find an agency, and a country, that is honest, with visibility and strong legal process.

And for those who wonder about the "truth" of Guatemalan adoptions, I suggest you research yourself the current government issues, the pending Presidential election, and the politics of adoption which have yielded uncertain futures for THOUSANDS of children who are the poorest of the poor.

We adopted from Casa Quivira -- twice. Casa Quivira was and remains one of the most highly praised adoption agencies in Guatemala and the United States. Our sons had access to the finest medical care in the country, and were afforded strong legal protections to ensure that they were not "sold", or prostituted, or victims of trafficking. Our adoptions were approved by both the US and the Guatemalan governments, and we have pages upon pages of documentation, DNA testing, birth mother testimony, etc. We chose Casa Quivira SOLELY because they were reputable and provided some of the best care possible for abandoned children. We chose Guatemala because the children of that land are in great need of loving families, and the process of adoption there is cumbersome, difficult and involves many lawyers and courts -- it is designed to protect both child, birth parent and adoptive parent.

"Crisis", "Corruption", "Exportation of Babies".. it all sells papers and garners ratings. But such extremism does not help one child. If anyone out there fancies themselves an advocate for children, at the very least -- sit down right now and write a check to some agency, I don't care who, that cares for those children without families. You might help the poverty stricken birth siblings of my two boys -- who likely have not eaten much tonight, who are going to bed cold in the mountains of Guatemala, who will awaken to work in the farms or beg for food, and who will toil all their lives in abject poverty.. if they are lucky enough to survive past the age of six.
Posted By Kevin, Madison, WI : 8:35 PM ET
Having viewed the story as it aired, it is obvious that this was NOT a balanced story. The reality of extensive documentation, the reviews by family court and PGN, 2 DNA tests and at least 4 interviews with the birth mother was not sensational enough, I guess. The phrase "little oversight" is grossly inaccurate. That the US is 'so dubious that it now requires a second DNA test' is simply wrong. The test was added at the insistence of the guatemalan government. That the interviewed birth mother didn't recognize the photo of her child should not surprise anyone, since she has probably seen the child only once since birth, when the first DNA test blood is drawn.

You could have found hundreds, even thousands of birth mothers that would verify that they have made the difficult decision of their own free will. But you didn't bother to put them on camera. Or, you could have interviewed someone like the foster mother that presently cares for our to-be-adoptive daughter. this woman has 4 biological children at home, but 3 years ago gave up a 5th because they simply did not have the resources to raise another. She is now fostering two babies in the process of adoption to help their finances.

And there was no attempt to explain the social and cultural realities that lead the mothers to make these difficult decisions.

Kudos to Clifford Phillips for providing some balance.
Posted By Jay Wilkerson : 11:22 PM ET
As a potential adoptive parent, I was hoping to learn something of value from the report on Guatemala. While the research may have been in depth, what was presented was not and was quite one sided. Specifically:
* No mention of the fact that there is no government system in place to care of the 5,000 children who are currently in foster care. And if potential adoptive parents stop sending the dollars to pay for their care, who will?
* Only 1 of 46 adopted mothers was sought out as reported. None of 6 babies who were brought home were followed up on or mentioned.
* Only 1 adoption agency was focused on. What about the others?
* No mention was made of the fact that it often costs $40K+ to adopt in the U.S.
* No mention was made of the fact that often adoptive parents meet the birth mother and/or family in Guatemala.
* No mention made of trips to the homeland where adoptive children are brought back by families to see the country and to sometimes meet with birth families.
* No mention of the Hague treaty situation.
While it is great that this issue is being brought to the public's eyes, the report that was done last night was sensationalist and in my view did nothing to help the children and potential adoptive parents caught in the middle of this situation.
Posted By Deborah Christian : 9:02 AM ET
I am in the process of adopting my son from Guatemala. He is now 19 months old, and was supposed to be home by now. However, I'm still waiting. I have visited him two times - he is my son. With Pres. Berger's impending January 1st deadline, I'm scared to death. I want to bring my son home. I've been to my son's foster mother's home - she is taking very good care of him and I'm thankful that he has her. His birthmother's DNA matched with his. She is 30 and he is an only child. She couldn't afford to keep him....there is a stigma of being single and pregnant. Was she raped? I don't know. All I know is that she loves her son and wants him to have a chance...I am so thankful for that.

I'm sure there are corruptions in the Guatemalan system, but there are corruptions everywhere. Those who are doing illegal actions should be prosecuted, but we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater!! How will Guatemala take care of 5000 orphans if all adoptions stop? Adoption isn't government funded right now...so, obviously, the child's best interest isn't the most important thing to them. The government of Guatemala seems to only be motivated by money, and now they want to act like they care about the children. That can't be the truth...if it were, they would've been taking care of them all along.

I just pray that I, along with the other parents, are able to bring our children home....soon!

April
Posted By April : 9:03 AM ET
If anyone is interested in what the LEGAL procedures are for US citizens to adopt a Guatemalan child, please go to the state department website:
http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_389.html.

As an adoptive mother to a beautiful Guatemalan child, I can tell you, that it's not as easy as a payment to a lawyer/birthmother and poof- there is your child. There are so many hoops adoptive parents have to jump through to adopt from Guatemala.

And with the obvious legal fees; USCIS form/fingerprint fees; homestudy fees; criminal record check fees; notary fees; medical care, food, clothes, foster care; the thousands of dollars spent on a Guatemalan adoption is not one lump sum to be passed over for an easy process. The usual quote of $30,000 plus is in general (and in my case) a combination of all of those fees together.

And what about Accountability? The PGN in Guatemala is responsible for finalizing adoptions. Have they come forward and said they are doing anything illegal? Why even bother with the PGN process if they are not verifying information, etc. The same with the Guatemalan family courts. What about the unbias DNA companies? Wouldn't they have to be involved as well? There's so many hands involved in this process- it's sad that the children have to suffer.

As my son and I pray everynight, "God bless all the children, mommies, and daddies waiting for their forever families. Amen"

Kristy
Adoptive Mother
Manassas, Virginia
Posted By Kristy : 9:52 AM ET
I hope the story replays, because I missed it. I was putting my daughter to bed, whom we adopted from Guatemala at the age of five. She has been with us nearly three years. Did your story include anything on the children like our daughter who was taken to a playground in Guatemala and left by her birthmother at the age of 4.5? It was prearranged that the hogar (orphanage) people would take her in. Our daughter was likely relinquished due to a very rare medical condition which caused her to urinate without control. It was a duplicated, ectopic, ureter system. We did not know about it, and it took us many months with a specialist for the diagnosis. It was very frustrating to have a 5 year old urinate constantly and without control. She tells us she was spanked for this in Guatemala. She has had surgery which has completely resolved the problem, which would almost certainly never have happened had she stayed in Guatemala. The pigmentation on her upper thighs appears scarred due to the likely frequent urinary tract infections and acid from the constant urine in her pants. Her front teeth were also rotted and would likely never have been taken care of because her birthmother had no money for dental care. While it is likely there are some dishonest adoptions in Guatemala, does anyone really believe our daughter's relinquishment was anything but the loving act of a mother who could not afford to care for this child after four and a half years? Her birthmother was illiterate. Our daughter is now attending a Catholic school, relearning Spanish and has finally learned to read with fluency. She no longer smells of urine, and she has had much needed dental care. She has beautiful adult teeth finally emerging. The world and a future filled with hope are hers now that she has been given this opportunity in america with a family that loves her dearly. Although it has been nearly three years, she still thanks God, often daily, that he brought her to this family. She remembers life without a family. I hope your report included adoptions such as this.
Posted By Jill Steele : 9:54 AM ET
In any type of adoption process, whether it be international or domestic, there are issues that come about that are either unethical or illegal. However, the media has sensationalized Guatemalan adoption to the point where it makes the general public think that anyone who has the money can fly to Guatemala and immediately get a baby. My husband and I should be getting our baby in Guatemala within the next few weeks. For those who think it was an easy process, you've either never gone through it yourself or you haven't known someone who has. This has been the most intensive legal and emotional experience we have ever known, and even though we were referred to her at the age of 2 weeks, she is now 11 months old. The amount of paperwork and scrutiny has been unbelievable as it should be for something as important as a child's life. A DNA test is done to prove the maternity of the child, and the birthmother has to sign off four different times that she agrees to the adoption. In our case, the birthmother is only 14, so her parents had to sign off each time.

Yes, Guatemalan adoption is expensive. But our fees have been very cut and dry. I have heard otherwise from people who have adopted in places like Russia where all of a sudden they have to pay more money once they are there. Adoption in the U.S. is also very expensive, and no one seems to think it unethical that prospective adoptive parents pay living and/or medical expenses for the birthmother.

Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard law professor, has researched and written extensively on international adoption. http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/bartholet/5-27-07%20BHRLR%20Article.pdf For those who think international adoption is only corrupt and hurts children, you might want to read what she has to say. From her findings, it seems that when people get in an uproar about international adoption, it is more for political reasons than for the well-being of children.

I agree that if there are things going on in any kind of adoption that are illegal and unethical, then they need to be addressed and fixed. However, the media has created the assumption that Guatemalan adoption is never ethical and never legal. I am also saddened at many of the comments I have read on this blog. Many comments came across as people seeming to think that every adoption is somehow tainted.
Posted By Anonymous : 11:24 AM ET
I did research on foster care children in the U.S. There are 500,000 children in foster care in America each year. About 20,000 leave foster care at the age of 18 without ever being adopted and having any kind of support system. They change several foster care families while in foster care, as a result - they develop no long-lasting connections with adults as our children do. Would you cut off your child at the age of 18? Our U.S. children are being cut off. Instead, Americans go to foreign countries to buy children. Where is our patriotism? I am from Russia and I know that almost all the Russian children were already transffered to U.S.. When I lived in Russia, I thought that Americans didn't have foster children. It happened to be the opposite. In my opinion, we have to talk about those numbers in press more often. Not many Americans are aware of them. On CNN, the adoption attorney said that there are some foster care children in the U.S., but I bet he didn't know how many. This is a shame for the U.S. citizens.
Elena.
Posted By Elena Pankova-Visser : 12:03 PM ET
Harris,
I have read the transcript and responses to your report on Guatemalan adoptions. In particular, the crisis at Casa Quivera.

I read what I expected. I realize that like the rest of the news industry, CNN is out for top ratings and sensational headlines.
This is unfortunate but typical.

I am Mami to a son born in Guatemala in 2004 and home forever in 2005. Currently, my husband, son and I are in the process of adopting our newest family member -a baby girl born in Guatemala in March.

Our adoption experiences have been well handled and without major incident. Why is it that you have never interviewed me or the thousands of other Moms and Dads who have had successful adoption experiences in Guatemala?

Why is it that sensational stories and tragedy make all the headlines?
Where is the good news about international and domestic adoption? Must one be a celebrity like Madonna or Angelina Jolie to get the word out?

I am more than frustrated with the negative press about my children's birth country. Guatemala is a beautiful country as are her people.

One last word, my son's birth mother met with us before we left Guatemala at the end of his adoption. She said to us, "Please tell him I made this choice not because I don't love him, but because I love him so much."

Adoption = love

Let's start celebrating all the good that happens in Guatemala - all the thousands of children who have been welcomed home and those who are currently waiting to get there.
Posted By Marybeth Hay : 12:17 PM ET
My wife and I adopted our daughter from Guatemala five years ago. The process was through and worth the effort. She is a vibrant and beautiful child who we love very much. The CNN story will undeservedly cast more scrutiny on our family and others who chose Guatemala for adoption.

I am happy to see positive comments here to counter the negative. CNN owes families like ours an apology and a segment follow up covering reputable agencies who strive to avoid corrupt practices that were presented as the norm.
Posted By Anonymous : 12:29 PM ET
As a family that is awaiting the adoption of a Guatemalan son, we are distressed that your coverage of Guatemalan adoptions highlighted an immoral, illegal and alarming fringe, and ignored the fact that there are many, many safeguards in place to ensure that the majority of adoptions are legal and compassionate.

We chose Guatemala because we knew that our child would be in a safe and caring foster home before he came to us, not a crowded and chaotic orphanage. We understood that would involve a higher cost than most other countries that have adoption programs. But, it was important to us.

We submitted to piles and piles of paperwork, including criminal background checks and physical and mental health checks. All of this paperwork is scrutinized carefully by the Guatemalan courts before approval. But, that too was important to us.

The process of adopting a child in Guatemala is arduous, even painful. It is just not a callous process of exchanging money for babies.

The more urgent concern is the fact that the Guatemalan government has announced that it will halt adoptions as of January 1. The result is that the lives and safety of 5000 babies who are currently awaiting adoption are in danger.

That’s what deserves the national spotlight.
Posted By Kim New York NY : 12:41 PM ET
The Guatemalan government knows these children are legal, and they have the proper paperwork. Why is the Guatemalan government taking action now? Their government is broke, and in January of 2008 Guatemala-USA adoptions will stop. (See Hague Treaty** note at bottom). They are holding these legitimate children hostage to gain the USA's attention, and use this fabrication to create a government run industry, by saying to the USA, "...we have gotten rid of the evil-greedy private sectors and now future adoptions will be administered by the impartial-frugal and prudent government agencies. If the Guatemalan government was truly concerned about the children, all they would have to do is wait and the system would shut down in a few months. Rather, they are concerned about their own agencies and the decline of government income. I have adopted two children from Guatemala and my extended family has adopted six children from overseas. The Guatelmalan adoptions through CQ were exceptionally well done, with follow ups to the biological mothers, DNA testing, and court appearances. Many of the biolical mothers give up several children to CQ, because they have lived through poverty, infant mortality, and they do not want their children to experience that horror. The average income for a single mother in Guatemala is $50/week. Often times the Guatemalan mothers have four or more babies to feed. When a newborn arrives in the family and has treatable diarrhea or ear infections, the mothers have to decide between buying medicine for one baby or feading the entire family. So the mothers decide to "...leave it up to God...". Guatemala has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and the birth mothers know this. They want to give their children a better life with a future. Will you do a follow up documentary if all of these CQ adoptions are legitimate? Probably not, because legitimacy is boring and that would mean your investigation was grossly incomplete. Who would benefit from this? The answer is simple: The Guatemalan government. Who suffers the most? The children and the adoptive parents. Mark Skynar
Hague Conference on Private International Law in 1976, 23 nations agreed to draft a treaty to deter international child abduction
Posted By Mark Skynar : 1:08 PM ET
Having adopted a son from Cambodia before it was closed to adoptions for the same reason, I agree with many of the posters that Americans do not know the reality and depth of poverty in these countries.
Now that Cambodia adoptions have ceased, these children are winding up in the lucrative sex trade industry or begging on the street or working long hours in factories.
Maybe some children in these countries were "sold." But the same children are now being sold to be used as sexual subjects in country.
Which is better? Living in the US or having a life of poverty and degredation and abuse?
Surrogate parents in the US get compensated so there is a double standard here.
Posted By Anonymous : 1:50 PM ET
First, I am disheartened by such a story but I know a couple who adopted from this agency previously, and are currently in the process of adopting their child's sibling. I hate to sound overly suspicious but I have read numerous, positive testimonials about Casa Quivira, and I can't help but wonder if malicious politics on both sides are involved for less than altruistic purposes. The couple I know are a deeply spiritual and loving couple. I have worked with the Dad and he is by far one of the most decent human beings I have ever met. To say the least, his family has been devastated by the recent raid on Casa Quivira and the abduction of these children by the authorities. Let us all hope and pray that the system can be fixed without destroying the hopes of both the birth mothers and the adoptive parents who love these children.
Posted By Wednesday's Child : 2:35 PM ET
One aspect of this story that is not being reported is the political angle. Just last year, the US State Department was hinting that they would stop approving adoptions from Guatemala because Guatemala had not implemented the provisions of the Hague convention on international adoption. The State Department stated that once the US Congress approved the US signature to this treaty that they would stop all adoptions from non-Hague countries. My wife and I were very anxious about this as we were adopting our daughter from Guatemala last year. However, as is all too often the case, Congress got sidetracked and never approved the US signature.

Now, Guatemala is simply turning the tables on the US. For the last year, Guatemala has been slowly working to implement the provisions of the Hague. As others have mentioned, this includes elements of governmental oversight as well as opportunities for the birth mother to reconsider her decision. As of 1 Jan 08, they will be compliant with the Hague convention and are simply telling the US the same thing the US was telling them last year. The pending cessation of adoptions from Guatemala is not because of problems in Guatemala, but because Congress is too concerned about campaigning for the next election than they are about approving the Hague Convention treaty. If they would just do that, there would be no halt to adoptions from Guatemala.
Posted By Dave, Colorado Springs, CO : 2:37 PM ET
Guatemalan adoption is a touchy subject. My brother was adopted from Guatemala several years back, my dad got many glares as it was obvious he was there to pick up an adopted child. However, he also sat next to a former Vice-President who thanked my father, and commented how important adoption was for Guatemala's future.

He was 100% right. You think these children are taken away and forget about where they came from? Of course not, whether these children someday return to Guatemala or not the majority of them will be serving their birthplace in some capacity. Even my 12 year old brother does his part, every school project is on Guatemala- raising awarness about a country that is rarely thought of by Americans.

Sure any problems with the system need to be fixed, but fix them fast, and continue adoption while you fix it.
Posted By Vladimir Radcliffe : 3:14 PM ET
Ok I don't have much time because I have to go get my daughter from school. But I wanted to comment quickly. I did not watch your show and in fact didn't even know it was airing. But I am on a grop and it was mentioned so I came to read the story. And I will say the story was well written but not a complete picture. And from what I have read in your comments and on my group the aired show was much worse. So let me tell you this... My husband and I adopted our daughter from Guatemala. She is the light of our lives. We went through all the hoops we were asked to and it was a relatively short process of "only" 8 months.

Here are some things you should know. Our daughter's birthmom did not want to give up her daughter, she loved her dearly and THAT is why she did. She has two brothers, 16 and 14 yrs old. Her moom loved her dearly but she also knew that my daughter would not have any kind of life in Guatemala. You see she is legally blind. In Guatemala she could only dream of getting the education she needs and deserves. Now she has been home for almost a year. She is walking with a "seeing" cane she is being introduced to Braille, she is thriving. Her bio mom only made $80.00 US a MONTH!!! Could you live on that with 3 children??? Could you say that she would of gotten the same education and have the same experiences that she will now that she is in the US??? No you can't because it isn't so. Until the Guatemalan Gov't starts caring about it's people and it's children instead of lining it's own pockets it just isn't going to happen. Now I am aware that cases happen where the children are stolen and then turned ito abandonment cases. I am sure it happens where women are paid for their children. But you also have to realize this happens in the US TOO!!!! I don't know I am just saddened by how many media outlets are choosing to "beat" on Guatemalan adoptions. There are more of us "Good truly loving" adoptive parents out there than the ones that just want to "buy" a baby.

Now that you have done this stor, maybe you should consider doing a story with GOOD adoptions in it. Do a story showing LOVING CARING adoptive parents in process and out. Do a story showing the changes that these children have made in the short time they have been home. All youhave to do is go to my blog, which I am getting bac about updating, start at the beginning and see how much my daughter has grown in the last year. Then tell me that Guatemalan Adoptions should be stopped. Then tell me that it was not in her best interest to come to the US. Once you can do that then I may be able to follow along with your thinking. Until then I am going to say that I love my daughter, my family loves my daughter, her friends and her school love her. Her biological mom loves her as well as her foster mom, whom we are still in contact with. One thing my daughter is not lacking is love. So please just remember that, because one day these children are going to search stories about Guatemalan adoption and they are going to start thinking their AP's "bought" them. please remember that although this is right now, it is also going to be the past in not too long of a time and our children do not need to have that added fear in their hearts and minds.

Nichole
Wichita KS
proud Mommy to Mia, home forever Sept 2006...
Posted By nichole : 4:37 PM ET
Adoption in the US has caused families to go outside of the country because birthmothers change their minds all the time, breaking adopting family's hearts. Now, families that want to bring children into their families from Guatemala are suddenly being urged not to adopt in Guatemala. Sounds like it is time for the US to get its act together so that adoptive families are protected here in the states since they are so worried about regulations and safety.
Posted By Anonymous : 5:21 PM ET
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