Opinion

Letters

Guatemalan Adoptions

Re: Baby Hotel: The Gateway to Guatemalan Adoption

To the Editor:

I have been to Guatemala six times and Honduras twice. I am the mother of two children adopted from Guatemala. This article was full of inaccurate information. There are many attorneys who will process adoptions for free for Guatemalans; parents who want to adopt don't have to pay $25,000.

This article should have included the following information: wealthy Guatemalans prefer to adopt children from Eastern Europe because they consider the orphans in Guatemala to be "low class," and it is "prestigious" to adopt from Eastern Europe. President Berger has a grandaughter adopted from Eastern Europe. There are white kids in Guatemala who are orphans. I even saw a child in an orphanage with blond hair.

Linda Kingston
Farmington Hills, Mich.

To the Editor:

I just read your piece on Guatemalan adoption. Wow. I would invite you to contact and consider the experiences of a wider range of families who have adopted from Guatemala rather than simply those who jet in for three days and hole up at the Marriott. Some of us speak fluent spanish ?and many have a real and on-going connection to our children's birth country and culture, many are not rich, some (like myself) would not willingly set foot in the Marriott or any such hotel for any reason, a number of us actively support changes that would make Guatemalan adoptions more "transparent"... Many take the time to see more of the country and "culture" than the craft market in GC, and many "give back" to their children's birthplace through charity work and sponsorships. In short most of us are not the stereotypical caricatures you portrayed in your article, which by the way I found somewhat one-dimensional.

If, as you mention, you are writing a book about Guatemalan adoptions, I sincerely hope you make the effort to show adoption in a realistic, and unbiased fashion and explore its complexity from a personal, cultural, legal, pragmatic, and humanitarian perspective.

On a humanitarian level, I suspect that we would all vastly prefer that the social, educational, and economic conditions in Guatemala were better for women and children so that birth rates were lower, nutrition and education were sufficient and effective, and women and children were valued ?and so that abandonments and adoptions would be much less common.

On a legal level, the situation with the Hague and Guatemala is much more complex than you have portrayed it, and most of the legislation that purports to make Guatemala "Hague Compliant" is unlikely to be effective at anything except making it less likely that any children will be adopted ?by anyone ?and reach their full potential as Guatemalans and human beings. The issue of Guatemala "exporting" its future in the guise of these children is nothing but empty and inflammatory rhetoric. Guatemala, as well as many other "developing" countries, apparently places very little value on individual children and handicaps any future they might have had through lack of support for families, lack of decent education and nutrition, rampant governmental corruption, discrimination, etc.

Guatemalan adoptions as they are today are not very transparent, and the potential for abuse is very real, but barring a huge conspiracy involving all players ?from the buscadoras to the US embassy to DNA laboratories ?some of the alleged abuses that are discussed over and over, perpetuated mainly by such entities as Casa Alianza and UNICE, are as unlikely as the supposed adoption of Guatemalan children for body parts.

It is a multifaceted and complex issue and deserves a broader treatment than what I saw in your article. For an analysis of UNICEF's policy toward Guatemala's children and adoption see the report on the website for Families Without Borders - http://www.geocities.com/familieswithoutborders/index.htm.

Ellen Daley
Fairbanks, Alaska

To the Editor:

I'm writing in response to Jacob Wheeler's article, "Baby Hotel, the Gateway to Guatemalan Adoption." I was bothered by the sarcastic tone of this article. I too, am in the process of adopting from Guatemala, yet my experience has been the complete opposite of the story described in the article. I won't spend the time going into it now, but would be happy to talk with one of your journalists at any time to discuss the details of my case.

Also, the author failed to mention the tremendous financial sacrifice families make when doing an international adoption. Few of the families have the money "sitting in the bank" and go to great lengths to raise the money to save a child. Furthermore, what about those of us who are so deeply affected by the poverty we see when traveling to Guatemala, 1) that we take extra suitcases of school supplies, clothing and toys to give to the Guatemalan people whenever we do travel down there, 2) that we spend the rest of our lives supporting the birth mother & siblings of our adoptive children, and 3) that we return to Guatemala time and time again to do mission work in clinics, schools and orphanages to try to bring a little relief and a little hope to those we leave behind.

Clearly, a follow-up article is needed to give a more accurate portrayal of Guatemalan adoptions.

Kristin Russell
Knoxville, Tenn.

To the Editor:

From the very start of your Oct. 9 story "Baby Hotel: The Gateway to Guatemalan Adoption," writer Jacob Wheeler makes it all too clear that he is not interested in journalism so much as in editorializing. Unfortunately, he seems to lack facts to back his opinions, so he resorts to rumor, innuendo and his own personal beliefs. I hope that he does a bit more research before publishing his book.

My wife and I adopted our daughter, Mariana, from Guatemala 3 years ago. We will be returning with Mariana to Guatemala in a few months to pick up her sister, Sylvia Maribel. While there, we'll be stopping in to see the foster mother who raised our daughter until she was 6 months old ?we've sent her a calendar at Christmas every year so she could watch Mariana grow up.

Why did we adopt from Guatemala? Certainly, for some of the reasons Wheeler suggests: it's close, it's relatively easy and we have the "illusion" of maintaining our daughters' cultural roots. But unlike some who adopt from Guatemala, I can assure you we and others we know are turning that "illusion" into a reality. While Wheeler likes to think he knows all adopting families ?having met the gringo Reynoso family ?it is dangerous to extrapolate.

My wife and I live near Washington, D.C., an urban area that is home to a large number of Central Americans, most from El Salvador. Our school district has two grade schools that operate Spanish immersion programs. There are several groups in the area that coordinate Latino cultural activities for parents who have adopted Guatemalan children. We attend Latin festivities regularly.

In the school where I teach, Hispanic children make up about 27 percent of the student body. Many of their parents entered the country illegally, and can speak almost no English. Luckily, I can speak rough Spanish, enough to let parents know how their children are doing in school and answer their questions. How did I learn to speak Spanish? I spent three months in Guatemala studying with private tutors years before I ever considered having kids, before I ever knew that Guatemala had such a large adoption rate. I fell in love with the country.

Do some unscrupulous players try to run a blackmarket for babies in Guatemala, as Wheeler suggests? Yes. In a poor country, that is sadly to be expected. But the adoption business is not totally lawless, as Wheeler portrays it. There is a government agency that controls the process. DNA tests are required of both baby and mother, to assure that the mother who is giving up the baby is actually the mother of the baby. Affadavits must be signed. The amount of paperwork that adopting parents must submit (and have translated into Spanish for Guatemalan government officials) is voluminous. We must have a home study by a social worker, who documents that we are fit parents. All documents must be notarized and certified ?Guatemalan officials are quick to bounce files for the smallest infractions.

I was particularly outraged that Mr. Wheeler sees the "peculiar sight of undersized brown-skinned children with deep, chocolate eyes walking through the food court with their Caucasian parents" as a sad sign. I love my daughter, all 27 energy-packed pounds of her. If my wife and I are together, people obviously know she is adopted. Some have approached us to say that she is beautiful. They don't have to tell us ?we already know.

As for Guatemalans and others from Central America, we've experienced no animosity. We recently ate at a nearby Guatemalan restaurant that had received rave reviews. The packed restaurant quieted down as we entered, followed by two other couples who have also adopted Guatemalan children. We were the only gringos in the place. One of our friends struck up a conversation in Spanish with a gentleman at the table next to us. Before long, we were sharing stories of Guatemala and laughing together.

Wheeler likes to project racist views on Guatemalans, suggesting they must see adoption as "draining Guatemala of its pure natural resources." In fact, Wheeler himself appears to be the only racist here.

William Reuter
Virginia

To the Editor:

I am an adoptive parent of three children from Guatemala and do not now, nor have I ever worked for an agency. I know that there are occasional cases of adoptive children being abused, in fact have seen it for myself, but for the most part the people of Guatemala are very loving and nurture these children while they are in their care, waiting to come home to their adoptive parents. I think it is unfair to portray Guatemalan foster mothers in general as abusive, uncaring individuals. Also, some of the terms used in this article are deplorable, such as "selling babies to Americans," and "real mother." You know, we are paying the cost of the care of our children, not unlike domestic adoption and we are paying the attorneys to provide a services, exactly like we do here for domestic adoptions. These children have three "real" mothers, the birthmom, the foster mom and the adoptive mom, respectively. We are all very real and we all love these children with everything in us, with very few exceptions to this rule.

We are not using the Marriott hotel as a gateway to a baby, but merely a safe place to reside while we complete the legal part required by our own government to bring our children home. I am amazed that ANYONE could look at UNICEF's pathetic attemts to convince Americans and Guatemalans that these children would be better off in their own country. You said yourself, in this very article, that these children have virtually NO chance for a successful future and in fact their very existance is at stake if they are not adopted by these, supposedly "rich" Americans. In addition, we are not bringing these children here to keep them from their roots and the majority of us do everything we can to help our children plant their roots both here as our children and in Guatemala, the country of their birth.

Finally, I would like for you to know that most of us who adopt from Guatemala or any other country for that matter, take out second mortgages on our homes, borrow money from anyone and everyone willing to help us, become fundraising enthusiasts or even selling our homes and purchasing cheaper homes in order to afford to have the opportunity to parent these children. Regardless of whether there is one in every community or one in every neighborhood, we are the parents of these children, just as you are the parent of yours and your parents before you. Just because we have chosen to build our families through international adoption via the beautiful and precious children of Guatemala does not make them or us any less of a family. I hope that someday you will understand what you so obviously do not. I suppose when you ae simply writing a book, so YOU can make money, you must portray your subject in whatever light will sell the most books. It is just a shame that you have chosen to do that no matter what the cost to the children of Guatemala, or the now American children who originated from Guatemala.

Nancy Wood
Glade Valley, N.C.

To the Editor:

I just read Jacob Wheeler's article on Guatemala adoption, and I was disappointed to find the Mr. Wheeler chose to emphasize a couple of dramatic examples of Guatemalan adoptions gone wrong.

My wife and I are in the process of adopting a baby from Guatemala, and I noticed that Mr. Wheeler forgot to mention that most Guatemalan adoptions are facilitated by American adoption agencies that monitor the attorneys and try prevent problems such as that mentioned in the article.

Instead of hanging out in the hotel with Americans, perhaps Mr. Wheeler should have gone onto the streets of Guatemala City or into the rural villages where, as he mentions in his own article, conditions are not good for children.

Yes, there are likely some abuses going on with the Guatemalan adoption system. But the U.S. and Guatemalan governments both review the adoption case to try to determine any signs of fraud or baby trafficking. This includes a DNA test matching the birthmother to baby. The Guatemalan government also does an extensive review of the case before it can be finalized in family court. Mr. Wheeler overlooks these facts in his over of the Guatemalan adoption.

It was an interesting read, and I'm sorry for the situation that family mentioned in the article found itself in. But the article is neither objective or comprehensive in its analysis of a complex subject.

Frank Miller
Republic, Mo.

To the Editor:

I read this article while watching my 21-month old Guatemalan adopted son play with his Thomas the Train set quietly. Tears and pain in my heart errupted at the sight of "child" and "commodity" and "supply and demand" used within the same sentence. Do you look at all adopted and adoptive children as commodities to fill supply and demand? I'm not speaking about international adoptions only, I'm speaking about adoption in general for the whole world. How do you want me to explain this to my son when he's older and asks me why someone would compare him with a banana or coffee purchase price. Gross isn't it??? What I find even more insulting just as a human being is that your writer refers to humans as commodities like it's no big deal and not offensive to the entire HUMAN RACE.

Why don't you do a piece on how expensive having a child would be in the United States by birth if there were no health insurance and welfare programs to help parents out. $50K at least.

Having children in general is expensive. It doesn't matter how you go about it. A doctor charges 10 grand to help a woman give birth in a hospital, heck the anesthesiologists charges 2 grand for a epidural, but we do not call mothers commodities having children for supply and demand to the doctors wealth. They aren't having children to benefit the incomes of the hospital staff or for themselves. They are having children because they want a child to love, care and be a part of. It is the same with an adoptive parent. There is no difference in it.

There are plenty of American adoption agencies that advertise to American mothers who find themselves young, poor or raped or in a "bad situation" why it would be beneficial to your child and you to give up a child for adoption. They go out and recruit for their agencies. Yet this is so crazy the Guatemalan Buscadora (as she is called) goes out and finds the same kinds of women that maybe do not know their choices or how to make them?

I truly felt for the adoptive couples the writer portrayed. It is a hard experience and enduring it sometimes takes the life out of you. It's restored as the new life you are handed smiles or touches your finger in response.

It would be nice to see someone do an article who is an adoptive parent. Not someone who has no understanding of the process and only researches it half way to interest their readers. If your writer would have done the right research, they would have noted that it would be very difficult, VERY difficult to steal a baby and have it adopted as the United States protects adoptive parents from this by a REQUIRED DNA test from the birthmother and child and at any point during the adoption process, the birthmother has the total right to take back her child freely and without repercussions. And by the way, this does happen occasionally. She signs off four times during the process and a social worker visits her after relinquishment to make sure that her circumstances are what she says them to be (financially unstable and no one else in the family can care for the said child). Not every attorney working on behalf of Guatemalan adoptions are greedy and rich. Very few rich! They do not see half of the international fee your writer poses. Did he personally ask them or interview more than one or two???

Thank you and please try to take great care when writing about subjects such as children and parents in general. We are all children at one point but not all of us become parents.

Bridgette Klinchuch
Caldwell, Idaho

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