Impact of international adoption corruption on adoptees

At its peak in 2006, the tiny country of Guatemala was the second largest placing country for international adoption to the US, placing more than 4,000 children annually. Stop just a moment and let those numbers sink in. About 1 of every 100 babies born in Guatemala was adopted by American families in 2006 and 2007. The cost for a Guatemalan adoption was approximately $30,000, most of which was paid to Guatemalan lawyers to arrange the adoption.

International adoptions from Guatemala closed in 2008 based on evidence of corruption.

According to a recent well-researched AP article: “​Roughly half of all the adoptions [from Guatemala] by Americans entailed some type of impropriety — from outright abduction of infants by Guatemalan racketeers to baby-selling to various types of coercion and deception that induced mothers to relinquish their children, according to Carmen Monico of Elon University. The professor of human service studies has conducted extensive research on adoption in Guatemala.”

How Does Corruption Affect Adoptive Families & Kids

This article explore the impact of the suspicion or evidence of corruption on the children adopted, many of whom are now older teens or young adults.

As you might expect, the effect is mixed.

Adoption and the possibility of corruption weigh heavy on some adoptees.

“Guatemala was all I could think about. I was just a mess. …The questions, the wondering, the pain, the desire to heal and to figure it out.” ~ Gemma Givens, 25

Other adoptees have made peace with it, and some are grateful that they have the opportunities now that they would not have had if they had not been adopted.

“I probably would be working in a cornfield somewhere making almost nothing … living in a one-room shack with no electricity or running water. My life would be completely different….I don’t want to take a risk and find out something that I don’t want to know. I just want to go on thinking good things about my birthmother, like her giving me a better home and life, and nothing more.” ~ Jake Niergarth, 16

Worries about Corruption

Some adoptees and adoptive parents worry about the possibility of corruption in their adoption. They worry that there is a birth mother back in Guatemala that had her child “stolen” and who has been desperately searching ever since.

“After we brought our son home, I became more and more concerned,” said Laura Hernon of Seattle, who with her husband adopted a boy from Guatemala in 2008, just before the shutdown. She wondered, “Is there a mom who was duped out of her baby?”

The couple investigated, and determined anew that the adoption was legitimate.

“What would we have done if otherwise? I have no idea,” Hernon said.

“The thought of who’s my birth family — it’s always been with me,” said Joseph, and he has a photo of his birth mother and a birth certificate with her name. Still, he’s not yet sure he’s “emotionally ready” to launch a vigorous search. ~Adam Joseph, 27

This article did not report on any families or adoptees that found corruption in their adoption, but I have no doubt that we will see articles in the future as Guatemalan adoptees come of age that do report the devastation of a corrupted adoption.

Adoptees Coming Together

Gemma Givens, the 25-year-old Guatemalan adoptee quoted at the beginning of this article, started a Facebook page, Next Generation Guatemala, as a place for Guatemalan adoptees to connect. She believes that the possibility of corruption weighs heavy on many Guatemalan adoptees.

If you are an adoptive parent through international adoption or an adoptee, do you worry that your adoption was corrupt? How heavy does that fear weigh on you?

Image credit: The News Tribune article “For many US adoptees from Guatemala, a complicated legacy” (Great article–well worth the read)