Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
There are many reasons Americans pursue foreign adoptions, but the main benefit is the finality. They don’t face the legal issues that can arise when the birth mother changes her mind. Children’s Hope International’s Outreach director, Cory Barron said regarding foreign adoptions, “Families know with certainty when they bring their new child home after finalizing the adoption in the country, it is done. Their new baby is secure in their arms.” But varying regulations and lax enforcement can lead to exploitation of birth mothers. That may be changing this year.
If the Congress ratifies The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions, then adoptions from countries not complying with the terms of the convention would be banned. One country this would affect is Guatemala. Americans adopted one percent of all children born in Guatemala last year. Ninety eight percent of the four thousand, four hundred and ninety six adoptions of Guatemalan infants were international, going overwhelmingly to Americans. American couples pay between 25,000 and 30,000 dollars for the adoption process; this includes the trip, the paperwork and a local lawyer. The process is under the notary, and not judicial system; it is a far less complicated process than adoptions in other countries.
The attorneys and notary publics work with the jaladoras—baby brokers. Hector Augusto Dionisio is the coordinator of the legal programme for the child advocacy organization, Casa Alianza. He said, “The jaladoras start out by offering to pay the expectant mothers’ medical bills and to provide them economic support, and in some cases they eventually deceive the pregnant woman into signing a blank paper, who thus unknowingly authorize the adoption of their child.” Once the child is born it is placed in the care of paid foster parent until the completion of the adoption. But the UNICEF Guatemalan representative, Manuel Manrique, describes a situation where the young girls are more complicit. He says, “Young girls are paid to be pregnant, and nine months later they give the child away and they receive money for that.” According to government figures, fifty percent of the 12.7 million residents of Guatemala live below the poverty line, but non-governmental organizations put it closer to eighty percent.
The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect to Intercountry Adoption was approved on may 29,1993; and was approved by the Hague Conference on private International Law and went into effect in 1995. The Hague Convention, while placing a priority on local adoptions, sets standards and procedures for intercountry adoptions. It governs and set minimum standards for adoption between ratifying countries, including the abduction, sale or trafficking in children. Seventy-five countries have acceded to the convention, including Guatemala. However, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court declared Guatemala’s accession to the convention unconstitutional; so the standards and procedures of the convention are not carried out in Guatemalan adoption law. As a result, five countries, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, have restricted adoptions from Guatemala because they do not comply with the convention. Josefina Arellano, who heads the adoption department of the Attorney general’s Office said, “Guatemala is like a baby factory, because so many children are born here just to be placed in adoption.” According to the State department, U.S. immigration officials have begun denying visas for adoption because of “wrong and ethical practices.” Other countries, including China and Russia have been for several years increasing regulation and restrictions on foreign adoptions. If Congress accedes to the terms of the Hague Conventions, Americans may find foreign adoptions no longer easier and cheaper than domestic adoptions.
Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the Democratic Party Editor for BellaOnline.com and the IraqSlogger.com.