This time last year I was in Guatemala researching what would happen to the children if international adoptions ceased. I spent two weeks in that beautiful, troubled country, and I concluded that things would be bad for kids, very bad, if international adoptions stopped. Upon my return, I preached to anyone who would listen that although we needed to reform the Guatemala international adoption system, we needed reforms that would focus on the best interest of kids, not the best interest of adults, be they adoption attorneys, politicians, birth families or adoptive families. Sadly, this is not happening in Guatemala, and Vietnam is right behind.
From what I’m hearing from the people I interviewed in Guatemala, orphanages and hogars are being asked to take more and more children of all ages. As international adoptions have become more politicized, the best interest of the children has receded into the distant background. Politicians and bureaucrats are pandering for votes and covering their butts. Guatemalan adoption attorneys and some US adoption agencies that have lost their substantial incomes are stirring the pot, while failing to acknowledge the role they played in getting us to this point. The Guatemalan, and some American, media are sensationalizing. All the while, the grinding poverty continues and the orphanages are filling.
The theory of the Guatemalan and American governments and UNICEF was that if the money from international adoptions went away, birth families would choose to parent their children rather than place them for adoption. True enough in some cases. Some mothers were being swayed by money to place their children for adoption. I don’t doubt that some woman were conceiving children to “sell”. There have even have been cases of children being kidnapped for adoption. But most information I was able to uncover showed this to be the exception–a nightmarish exception to be sure– but an exception nonetheless.
More common is the woman who may have received some money, but relinquished her child because she was already struggling to raise a couple of kids and knew she couldn’t possibility raise another. Or the children that were abandoned, thereby assuring that there was no payment. Or the large number of older children who were removed from their parents due to neglect or abuse. The international adoption reforms and the increased scrutiny have done nothing for these children. They continue to come into the under-funded and unregulated orphanages, and since adoptions have bogged down, that’s where they will likely stay until they age out. I wish Guatemalan and American politicians would focus more on finding families for these children in Guatemala and the US than on preventing all possibility of abuse in international adoptions. The latter is a pipe dream since any system involving people will be abused.
It is enough to make you cry –or scream.
Why I Stopped Practicing Law
A couple of years ago, someone asked me why I had left the practice of law to write about and advocate for children and families. It seemed to him an illogical choice. (He was certainly right about the logic part!) As I thought about his question later that night when I should have been sleeping, this prayer came to me. This is what I wish for all children, but especially right now for the children of Guatemala and Vietnam.
My Prayer for All Children
I pray that all children will be loved for who they are, for no reason other than that they are.
I pray that all children will be loved as first best, not second best; that they will be loved with an intensity that can move mountains, because life will present plenty of mountains that will need to be moved.
I pray that all children will have someone who will…
- seek them, and only them, out of the crowd on the stage;
- push them to reach for their goals and discover their unique gifts;
- hold them accountable for their actions with love and dignity;
- advocate for them through this maze called life;
- explain the unexplainable; and
- smile when they walk into the room, just because they did.
Mostly I pray that all children will have someone who knows them well enough and loves them deeply enough to see the divine spark that is unique in them.
I pray that this be the birthright of all children throughout the world. And since this birthright can only be fulfilled by parents, I pray that each child, regardless the circumstances of their birth, finds their parent and each parent finds their child.
Thanks God. Amen.
Image credit: World Bank Photo Collection