Guatemala Intercountry Adoption Advocacy sign now

As international adoptive families, adoption service providers, and supporters, we want to encourage the continued consideration of the best interests of children within the debate over intercountry adoption. Although we strongly applaud and support the goals of keeping biological families intact and ensuring that all of the worlds children can remain and thrive within their birth family or birth country, we recognize that such goals cannot be attained in a short period of time, and in fact are an ongoing process in every country including our own. In reality, every day a significant number of children are born whose parents do not have the resources to raise them as they feel they should. We believe that each of these children deserves a permanent loving home, adequate nutrition, shelter, and education, and the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. We believe that legal and ethical intercountry adoption provides a legitimate, necessary and current solution for these children, and that it is in the best interests of the individual child to be placed with a permanent family with a minimum of delay. Based on our experience, and with the goal of child protection as our primary emphasis, we offer the following positions:

1. We support efforts where the ultimate goal is to build a social and economic infrastructure that will allow families to remain intact and will reduce international adoption as a method of caring for children. Such infrastructure development is a long-term process that requires significant capital investment and a change in societal attitudes. As we see it, these changes must include eliminating gender discrimination and bias against children born out of wedlock; providing prenatal and postpartum health care to all mothers and children; educating about family planning and alternatives to adoption; preventing family violence; emphasizing responsible paternity; educating women in marketable skills so that they might earn sufficient wages to support a larger family; establishing social programs to provide food, housing, medicine and clothing for children whose family cannot afford these items; and establishing a womans right to legally relinquish a child. Abandonment should not be the only means of privately relinquishing a child.

2. However, until such time as it is possible to adequately, compassionately, and humanely care for abandoned or relinquished children in the country of their birth, it is critical that provisions are made for the children who need permanent homes now. Guatemala lacks available social welfare systems to support indigent birthmothers* to raise their children. Efforts to interest Guatemalan nationals in formally adopting relinquished or abandoned children have been largely unsuccessful. These factors, combined with a lack of other alternatives to adoption, mean that intercountry adoption is the best hope in the short-term to provide permanent, loving homes to individual Guatemalan children whose birthmothers do not feel capable of raising them due to social and economic circumstances.

3. We believe that every adult mother has the right to evaluate her family situation and determine whether family placement is a viable alternative to intercountry adoption. In the case of a minor birthmother, her parents or another responsible party should also be involved in her decision. A system in which every adult birth mother is required to notify her extended family of her decision to relinquish a child, and possibly have the child placed with a family member against her wishes, will undermine the mothers rights, will likely increase the number of child abandonments, and unnecessarily delay placement of many children into permanent homes.

4. We believe that a secure, monitored system of DNA testing conducted by licensed laboratories, such as is currently required for adoptions from Guatemala, provides irrefutable evidence of the childs maternity and eliminates the possibility that the child could be abducted from her biological mother and relinquished illegally for adoption. This safeguard has been established to prevent child abduction and child trafficking for profit.

5. Every effort should be made to avoid long-term institutionalization of children. We commend the system of private foster care and small private childrens homes (hogares) in Guatemala and have experienced, firsthand, the benefits of such care on the physical, emotional, and social well-being of children.

6. We believe that each birthmother should have the opportunity to review her decision over a sufficient period of time, and to change her mind without fear of negative consequences. The current system in Guatemala requires that the birthmother, on four separate occasions over a period of several months, sign statements that confirm her intent to relinquish her parental rights to the child. Her cooperation in this both demonstrates her commitment to the adoption and provides her several opportunities to change her mind without reprisal.

7. We believe that proper screening should be conducted on potential adoptive parents. The current process includes local, state, and federal police clearances, FBI checks, state child abuse clearances, as well as a comprehensive homestudy by a licensed professional social worker. We assert that this process provides sufficient evidence that adoptive parents are willing, capable, and eager to adopt and raise the child in a wholesome, loving environment.

8. We believe that adopted children deserve to have access to information about their biological heritage and parentage. The current system of direct relinquishments, which requires positive identification and interviews with the birthmother and the caregiver (foster mother or hogar director,) provides basic accessible information to adopted children.

9. We believe that the current system of private adoptions in Guatemala protects the welfare of the child and respects the rights of the birthmother, while providing relinquished children with permanent families within a reasonable period of time. This system currently works well and provides a small number of needy children with permanent homes while Guatemala effects changes in its sociopolitical infrastructure that will allow future children to remain with their families in Guatemala. In countries such as El Salvador, Romania, Paraguay, Peru, Honduras, Mexico, Bolivia and Ecuador, to name a few, that have tried to implement a central authority for adoptions without sufficient economic or infrastructure support, the effect on the welfare of waiting children has been devastating. We strongly believe that the current legal system of direct relinquishments and private adoption in Guatemala can best serve the current needs of the adoptable children of Guatemala, and that a centralized bureaucratic system that is not backed by the necessary social, political, and economic infrastructure currently cannot.

* Note: the term birthmother includes only those women who have made an adoption plan and relinquished their children. It does not include all women who are mothers.

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Jonathan KempBy:
Justice, rights and public orderIn:
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