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The children and families of pending adoptions in Guatemala have been waiting anywhere from 3 to 8 years for the process to complete.
Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu recently traveled to Guatemala to meet with President Alvaro Colom as well as the heads of the various entities that govern Guatemalan adoption in an effort to break the gridlock that these children's cases have encountered.
For this amazing devotion, the Guatemala900 offers this letter of thanks to Senator Landrieu.
This Mother’s Day will be, at minimum, the third to pass for many families still awaiting the homecoming of their adopted children.
January 1, 2008 marked the dissolution of the former Guatemalan notarial adoption system. This action, along with the ratification of the Hague Adoption Convention and initiation of a new adoption law, was strongly endorsed by the U.S. Department of State and UNICEF. In good faith, American families continued to initiate new adoptions through December 31, 2007, guaranteed the protections and practices of the former notarial system under Article 56 of the Ortega Law (Articulo 56 of the Ley de Adopciones (Decreto 77-2007).
Article 56. "Adoptions in process. All the notarial and judicial processes of adoption that are still being processed at the moment when the present law becomes effective, must be registered at the Central Authority, in a term no longer than thirty days, for the effects of the registration of the case, these will continue its process in conformity with the law in effect at the time of its initiation. The cases that are not registration within the term stated will be resolved according to the procedures stated in this law”.
Today, hundreds of Guatemalan children continue to languish in institutions awaited by U.S. families while their “grandfathered” adoptions tarry in political gridlock. The rights ensured in Article 56 have been violated as these cases are scrutinized without transparency outside the practices and protections of the law. Months to years have been added to wait times as families are required to jump through bureaucratic hoops, meet deadlines (some undisclosed), endure mutiple birth mother interviews, and undergo investigations by outside authorities; all beyond the required grandfathered procedures and protections.
As awaiting families, our concerns turn to panic as attempts increase to illegally delay and terminate in-process adoptions. Since the law changed over two years ago, authorities have waged a war on adoption in which families and children have become collateral damage. When we entered into these adoptions as a humanistic endeavor to love and embrace these children as our own, we were unprepared for the violations that lay ahead: illegal raids on children's homes, wrongful seizure of children with their whereabouts undisclosed to their adoptive families, prevention of visitation rights for adoptive families, harassment and bribery of birth mothers, violations of Guatemalan women’s rights to privacy and to choose an adoption plan for their children, and enforced placement of children with extended birth family members who are unwilling and/or unable to care for them are just some of the injustices we have witnessed and endured. Today, the forward motion of all in-process adoptions has virtually ceased as a cycle of fear and retribution has taken hold. Immediate senior level government intervention is needed to end this cycle and allow righteous and fair procedures to prevail.
If these adoptions are allowed to come to their completion, they certainly will not have occurred in an expeditious manner as Article 35 of the Hague Adoption Convention urges. The cornerstone of the convention is the cooperation between states (Article 7). We need the U.S. and Guatemalan governments to work together to determine an immediate and expeditious path to process our adoptions.
The efforts to serve and protect the innocent are failing them as they lose their childhood one day, month, and now, year at a time. Long-term emotional and physical consequences are inevitable as these children languish in under funded institutions and foster care. It grows increasingly difficult for children to be placed successfully within loving families as their spirit and salvation wither outside permanent parenting. Developmental delays, psychological damage, and severe struggles to bond are just some of the many challenges families must prepare for. With every day that passes, innocence wanes for the children who have stopped believing anyone wants them. As families fight desperately to adopt these children they endure sleepless nights and anxiety filled days not knowing if they will ever be able to bring them home. With financial hardship and constant worry resulting in hopelessness, we ask, “Who will finally put an end to this needless suffering and unite our families?”
The dissolution of the former adoption system, along with allegations of fraud in specific cases, has lead to a standstill that is violating children’s rights to a family and families’ rights to a fair and legal adoption.
All those associated with Guatemala 900 believe strongly in the sanctity of family. We value and celebrate legitimate, legal adoption practice and abhor any type of unethical action that may deny a birth family of their basic human rights. We advocate for adoption reform and applaud the Guatemalan government’s efforts to end corruption and prevent the abuse of children and birth families.
We must work together to uphold the law and ensure that the actions of corrupt individuals in specific cases does not lead to additional bureaucratic delay for the families and children who are innocent. We must prevent further harm to hundreds of awaiting families and thousands of orphaned and abandoned children whose cases are legitimate and legal.
HCCH. Convention On Protection Of Children And Co-Operation In Respect Of Intercountry Adoption. 29 MAY 1993. p. 8. http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.pdf&cid=69
HCCH. Guide To Good Practice Under The Hague Convention Of 29 May 1993 On Protection Of Children And Co-Operation In Respect Of Intercountry Adoption. APRIL 2008. p. 95. http://www.hcch.net/upload/00037643.doc