Corruption in international adoptions

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Guatemala: Resources
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 Click to follow link United States Department of State
 Click to follow link Embassy of the United States
 Click to follow link JCICS's Guatemala webpage
 Click to follow link Ethica's Guatemala webpage
 Click to follow link CIA Fact book for Guatemala
 Click to follow link CICIG report on the players
in the illegal adoption process
in Guatemala since adoption law
 Click to follow link Hague Conference report on
international adoption in Guatemala
 Click to follow link Report on institutionalized children
in shelters in Guatemala
 Click to follow link Adoptions in Guatemala:
protection or business?
 Click to follow link Adoption and the rights of
the child in Guatemala
 Click to follow link Report on the sale of children,
child prostitution, and child
 Click to follow link Child laundering: how 
intercountry adoption system legitimizes child trafficking

United States Department of State: Intercountry Adoption>Country Information>Guatemala

Embassy of the United States, Guatemala: Adopting a Child in Guatemala

The Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS)’s Guatemala page  

JCICS’ mission is to advocate on behalf of children in need of permanent, safe and loving families. The Council promotes ethical child welfare practices, strengthens professional standards and educates adoptive families, social service professionals and government representatives throughout the world. This page includes updates about Guatemalan adoptions.

Ethica, Inc.’s Guatemala page

Ethica, Inc—An independent voice for ethical adoption.
Ethica is a nonprofit corporation that seeks to be an impartial voice for ethical adoption practices worldwide, and provides education, assistance, and advocacy to the adoption and foster care communities. This page includes important updates about Guatemalan adoptions.

CIA Fact Book, Guatemala, updated August 7, 2008 

The CIA Fact Book provides general information about Guatemala’s history and population.

"Report on Players Involved in the Illegal Adoption Process in Guatemala since the Entry into Force of the Adoption Law," International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), December 2010.

“Report of a fact-finding mission to Guatemala in relation to intercountry adoption,” Hague Conference on Private International Law, May 2007

Guatemala’s Congress approved the Hague Convention in May 2007. This report states that implementation of the Hague has been a “cause for concern” for the Hague Conference and its members. In preparation for implementation in Guatemala, the Conference conducted a fact finding mission to characterize the state of international adoptions from Guatemala. The report includes a plan for implementing the Hague Convention in Guatemala as well as suggestions for necessary next steps.
“Situation Faced by Institutionalized Children and Adolescents in Shelters in Guatemala,” conducted by the President’s Office for Social Welfare, Guatemala, with the support of Holt International Services and UNICEF, June 2008.
This study, conducted by the President’s Office for Social Welfare together with the support of Holt International Services and UNICEF, analyzes the situation faced by institutionalized children and adolescents in shelters in Guatemala. 
Findings include:
5,600 children and adolescents live in Guatemalan institutions. Fewer than half were legally available for adoption. More than 4,600 of these children were age 4 or older. Fewer than 400 were under a year old.

"Adoptions in Guatemala: Protection or Business?” by Casa Alianza Foundation and Myrna Mack Survivors Foundation, with the support of the Social Movement for the Rights of Children and Adolescents; Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala (ODHAG); and Social Welfare Secretariat (SBS), November 2007. 

In-depth report on irregularities within the Guatemalan adoption system. Includes in-depth analysis of government statistics, analysis of medical personnel repeatedly involved in childbirths for international adoption, and news and police reports of child kidnappings for adoption.
The report begins, “The Guatemalan State has been unable to ensure the legality of adoption procedures, thus turning this noble institution into a profitable business.  In this business, the children who are given up for adoption are not those who need it most, but those conceived for that purpose.  Babies, both boys and girls, are traded…. In Guatemala there are networks of “child traffickers” who offer and negotiate babies, and not only those given up voluntarily for adoption, but also as a consequence of coercion and deceit, theft and kidnapping.  These two extremes have resulted in a market where Guatemalan girls and boys are bought and sold as if they were simple merchandise.”

For UNICEF’s English translation, follow these links:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

“Adoption and the rights of the child in Guatemala,” Latin American Institute for Education and Communication (ILPEC) Guatemala for UNICEF, 2000. 

In 2000, UNICEF commissioned the Latin American Institute for Education and Communication (ILPEC) to conduct a study of Guatemala’s current child adoption process and to analyze the level of compliance or noncompliance with respect to child rights. The ILPEC report concluded that these direct and private adoptions were what they called a “labor market” conducted for financial gain, not for the child’s best interests. 

“Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: Report on the mission to Guatemala,” Ofelia Calcetas-Santos, UN Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, January 23, 2000.

After an investigation, Ms. Ofelia Calcetas-Santos issued this report documenting widespread child buying, coercion, and kidnapping of children for adoption. Her report included allegations that some hospital staff members were defrauding new mothers out of their babies, and that other “child finders” were contracting with women to bear a series of children specifically to be sold for adoption in other countries.
“Child Laundering: How the Intercountry Adoption System Legitimizes and Incentivizes the Practices of Buying, Trafficking, Kidnapping, and Stealing Children,” David Smolin, Wayne Law Review 52.1, 2006: 113-200.

Abstract: This article documents and analyzes a substantial incidence of “child laundering” within the intercountry adoption system. Child laundering occurs when children are taken illegally from birth families through child buying or kidnapping, and then "laundered" through the adoption system as "orphans" and then "adoptees." The article then proposes reforms to the intercountry adoption system that could substantially reduce the incidence of child laundering. NOTE: For Guatemala-specific information, see page 163.

NOTE: This page from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism website offers documentation of and background about serious irregularities in international adoption. For the systemic analysis of corruption in international adoption, please read “The Lie We Love,” Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008, and visit our webpages dedicated to international adoption. For ideas about fairer policy solutions, please read “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010.

© 2008-2014 Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, 02454. All rights reserved.

Last page update: March 8, 2012