Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fruad and extortion discourage Guatemalan adoptions

Guatemalan adoptions frowned upon
State Dept. says system 'rampant with fraud'
Crary, David. Lexington Herald-Leader, March 17, 2007, pg. A3.

NEW YORK -- Citing rampant problems of fraud and extortion, the State Department says it no longer recommends that Americans adopt children from Guatemala -- the No. 2 source of orphans coming to the United States.

Some adoption officials are outraged, calling the move a de facto suspension and an overreaction that will cause more harm than good, leaving hundreds of children stranded in Guatemalan foster homes.

"It's inflammatory, it's insensitive to people's feelings," Thomas Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption, said yesterday. "People all across the country in the process of adopting from Guatemala are frightened right now."

Adoptions from Guatemala are popular because of relatively swift procedures and have increased steadily in recent years, reaching 4,315 in 2006 -- second only to China. Yet U.S. officials have pressed Guatemala for anti-corruption reforms, saying there were frequent cases of birth mothers pressured to sell their babies and adoptive American parents targeted by extortionists.

This week the State Department issued a detailed advisory saying, "We cannot recommend adoption from Guatemala at this time. ... There are serious problems with the adoption process in Guatemala, which does not protect all children, birth mothers, or prospective adoptive parents."

The advisory stopped short of imposing a ban on adoptions from Guatemala, but said cases would be scrutinized more closely than before and reviews would take longer.

"Adopting a child in a system that is based on a conflict of interests, that is rampant with fraud, and that unduly enriches facilitators is a very uncertain proposition with potential serious lifelong consequences," the advisory said. "When you decide whether to move forward with adoption in Guatemala, you should consider factors beyond timing."

Atwood said the advisory amounted to a "de facto suspension."

"What parent now is going to enter an adoption program for Guatemala?" he asked. "What's going to happen to 2,000 kids waiting in foster care there?"

Atwood said his council, one of the nation's largest adoption advocacy groups, shared the State Department's concerns about Guatemala, but wanted to continue adoptions to the United States while encouraging in-the-works reforms.

Pending proposals would create a central authority in Guatemala to tighten regulation of an adoption industry long dominated by notaries who function as baby brokers.


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