Friday, January 8, 2010

Guatemala Adoptions Update

There has been a lot of activity and buzz on intercountry adoption in Guatemala over the past month. Virtually all of it was related to the announcement by the Guatemalan government of a pilot program for intercountry adoption. Much was written, blogged, tweeted and Facebooked about what is yet an ill-defined program with no transparent process and just as important, no timeline for implementation.

The Guatemalan government's announcement invited other governments to submit a letter of interest in participating in the pilot program. The U.S. Department of State, along with other Western governments, submitted a letter by the deadline in December. Many families, with hopes of providing a permanent home for a Guatemalan orphan, flooded Joint Council and other advocates seeking information and hoping for a positive reply.

For these families and more importantly, for those children living in Guatemalan orphanages, there is little hope.

Guatemala, having implemented the Hague Convention two years ago and having received considerable financial and technical assistance, remains out of compliance with the Hague Convention. As a result, the U.S. government, while hoping to participate in the pilot program, cannot approve any new Guatemalan adoptions nor issue a visa. If the pilot program was to begin tomorrow, no children would be adopted by a U.S. family.

For those children whose intercountry adoption was started over two years ago, before the 2008 Guatemalan Adoption Law took effect, most have found a permanent family. But many have not. They have been referred to a family, they have adoptive parents waiting and committed, but after two years of investigations, reviews and more investigations and reviews, they remain living outside of permanent parental care. They remain in foster care or in an institution. And they remain without a transparent process to finalize their adoption and to live in a family.

It is our understanding that despite universal claims of adoption corruption, the Guatemalan government, with one of the highest impunity rates and highest corruption rankings in the world, has yet to convict a single person of child trafficking. In 2007, UNICEF claimed that up to 80% of intercountry adoptions were corrupt. If true, that computes to over 3,200 claims of abuse, yet in 24 months not one adult is serving time in jail.

The disparities between the hundreds of children waiting over 26 months to finalize their adoption, the lack of child trafficking convictions, the non-compliance with the Hague Convention, the lack of progress in national adoption and family preservation and an announced intercountry adoption pilot program, calls into question how the best interest of children and families is being served.

The Guatemalan government's solution has not been to convict the guilty or to preserve families, but to subject innocent children to the proven detrimental affects of life outside a permanent family. With only seven government run orphanages, the vast majority of children live in private orphanages - many with depleting resources. The termination, rather than true reform, of intercountry adoption may have ended corruption and made for good PR, but it was not a solution in 2007 and it remains a travesty for thousands of children in 2010.

Despite the challenges, the lack of transparency and the suffering of children and families, many individuals, families, churches, organizations and governments remain committed to the children and families of Guatemala. Their efforts, along with Joint Council, continue to serve children and families in an ethical and legal fashion. We hope that the next Guatemala Update includes the fruits of those efforts...children living in families.
Source: Joint Council

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