Guatemalan women demand justice for children stolen for adoption

I have been given permission to post an email I was sent via Marie from Stephen Osborn, who along with his wife Shyrel have been working in Guatemala with their organization, Love the Child/Amor del Niño. For more information, check out Stephen's blog.

As long as adoptive parents turn a blind eye to this, then they are condoning these practices.

consider sharing this wherever you can.  The good name of
adoptions is being ruined because the "Christian" adoptions agencies
and fearful adoptive parents will not distance themselves from those
who would perpetrate and profit from serious crimes.   While
the U.S. Adoptions community debates the rights of the adoptive parents
to privacy, the rest of the world lumps all Americans together, and
believes we condone stealing babies from their mothers.

I just left my wife, Shyrel, in
the middle of Guatemala city, and drove away with more than a lump in my throat,
past prostitutes and pimps, and drunks, and all sorts of night people..  She is sleeping in a small tent in front of
the Supreme Court of Guatemala.   She and
a small number of women have engaged in what the press is calling a hunger
strike.  The participants say it is
fasting and praying.   They are seeking
justice.  They are so vulnerable there in
that tent tonight.   The “Palace of
Justice” towering above them is locked tight, with a high tech security
system.  They look so helpless during the
day too.  Among the hustle and bustle of
the high court litigants and supplicants, they maintain a humble stance, and a
broken hearted vigil.  In other words, she
is practicing true religion.  But it is
out of step with the Christian world in Guatemala.    There are no Pastors here, no church
leaders.   Just my wife and these other
women.  Three of them are mothers whose
children were stolen.   They have not eaten since Tuesday, and will
not until the judges respond to their request for a review of the cases of
their stolen children.


Shyrel’s determination to do this
has moved our theological discussions from theory to reality.  Once again, I find myself trying to wrap my
head around her motives.  Frustration at
a failed system?  Yes.  Sympathy for the completely helpless
women?  Yes.  But I think in the end, she knows it is what
Jesus would have her do.   Love your neighbor
as yourself.  What does love look like
when your neighbor’s child was stolen? 
Maybe it looks like empathy.  
Jesus put himself in our shoes, didn’t he?

What would you do if someone stole your child?   What would you do if you knew where your stolen
child was?   As a Red Blooded American
male who believes in truth, justice, and the American way, I would take up my
constitutionally assured arms, and go resolve the issue.  If that might not be the best tactic, then I
would go to my police, the FBI, or Interpol if needed, and they would for sure
hear my case, or my congressman and Senator would be all over them.  I would have my child back.   When something bad happens to us who are privileged,
we have resources.   We will get justice.

Now, try to imagine you are a poor Kachikel woman in Guatemala.   The last thing you remember is that you were
offered a cool drink on a hot day by a woman who offered to help you walk from
your bus stop to the bus stop that would take you to a relative’s house.  Seeing your Bible, she had remarked that she
too was a Christian.   Now you realize she
drugged you, and stole your child.   When
you went to the police station, they laughed at you.  The Justice Ministry suspected you were one
of those women who sold your baby, and now want to complain when the lawyers
tricked you out of what was promised.  
Spanish is not your first language, so your attempts to explain your
predicament are difficult.  You are
humiliated rather than helped by the authorities.  Then you learn that your child was sold to
people in another country.  You identify
her from a series of pictures presented to you. 
But still.  No one will do
anything.   Justice is a word that has no meaning in your

Now; imagine you are a follower of Jesus. 
You have promised, that in exchange for salvation of your soul, you will
obey Him, and live by His rules.   You
hear that there might be a number of poor women who have been robbed of their
children.  You hear the testimony of this
mother.  You wince as you fear that their
children may have been put into the frenzied market that is the Guatemalan
adoption world.   But you know people who
have adopted from Guatemala.  And isn’t
adoption a good thing?  You heard for
years that there were rumors of “corruption”. 
You relegated those rumors, if true, to be simply that of government
officials accepting bribes.  You didn’t
ask why there would be a need for bribes if everything was above board.   Let it lie, you say.  Focus on the good.  Ignore the bad.

There are way too many Christians in the United States, that pre-eminent
country, who heard rumors about Guatemalan adoptions, but went ahead, and got
that baby.  Now, with at least 3 cases
proven of stolen children having been processed for adoption, these helpless,
hopeless, vulnerable women make them feel very uncomfortable.   This may be only the tip of a sordid ice
berg.  So they do not want justice.  They want it all to go away.

In Matthew 25, Jesus relegates to outer darkness those who ignored the needs
of the least of thes.  He doesn’t say
they actively engaged in anything wrong. 
I think He would approve of the saying that for evil to prevail, all
that is required is that good men do nothing. 
I don’t think, as I read Jesus, that He would approve of Good Men who do
nothing.  I don’t think He would buy the
excuse that it would be dangerous to do something.  I also don’t think He will accept our excuse
that the situation was too universal, or too complex, or too distant.  Or too inconvenient.

As we think about the incarnation of the Word of God, and the fact that
Jesus bids us follow him in ministering to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives,
those who are bound, and mourn, what do we really think He is asking us to
do?   Praise harder? Sing louder?   Protect ourselves with more alarm systems in
our church buildings and wish this world wasn’t so desperately evil, but so
glad we will one day be out of here in the hereafter.   According to Amos, God thinks otherwise.

Amos 5:21-24 (Contemporary English Version)

21I, the LORD, hate and despise your religious celebrations
and your times of worship. 22I won't accept your offerings or animal
sacrifices–not even your very best. 23No more of your noisy songs!
I won't listen when you play your harps. 24But let justice
and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry.

Enfants de Boches

What I find interesting is how familiar this seems. From the New York Times: Tracing Roots Fostered by War, Severed by Shame

The so-called enfants de Boches
— r
oughly, children of the Huns — born during the war to French women
and German soldiers, are seeking to fill a hole in their lives, hunting
for long-lost German fathers they never knew and speaking openly of the
maltreatment they suffered from their French neighbors. It is estimated
that 200,000 children were born of these wartime love affairs.

of the time depict young women, their heads shorn in shame, being
hounded through villages, clutching the children of German fathers. About 20,000 women had their heads shaved. Many rejected the children, gave them up for adoption or placed them in orphanages.

now these children, in their late 60s, are struggling to put their
lives in order while there is still time. They have formed an
association and sought the help of the German and French governments to
try to identify their fathers, in many cases already dead, or families
that their fathers founded in Germany after the war.


Children fathered by the soldiers of occupying armies are by no
means unique to France. But the enmity between the French and Germans
after two bitter wars often turned these children’s lives into hell.

her mother’s death, Mrs. Nivoix-Sevestre was placed with foster
parents, then in an orphanage. When she was 13, she learned from a
girlfriend — she said it seemed that everyone in her village knew about
it but her — that her father was named Werner (no known last name), was
probably Austrian and was most likely killed near Smolensk, Russia, in
1942 or 1943.

You can read the rest here.

What would you do if you found out your adopted child had been sold into adoption?

From Mother Jones

Meet the Parents: The Dark Side of Overseas Adoption

Midwestern kid's family believes his birth parents put him up for
adoption. An Indian couple claim he was kidnapped from them and sold.
Who's right?

—By Scott Carney

After hours hunched behind the wheel
of a rented Kia, flying past cornfields and small-town churches, I'm
parked on a Midwestern street, trying not to look conspicuous. Across
the way, a preteen boy dressed in silver athletic shorts and a football
T-shirt plays with a stick in his front yard. My heart thumps
painfully. I wonder if I'm ready to change his life forever.

I've been preparing for this moment for months in the South Indian
metropolis of Chennai, talking to khaki-clad officers in dusty police
stations and combing through endless stacks of court documents. The
amassed evidence tells a heartrending tale of children kidnapped from Indian slums
sold to orphanages, and funneled into the global adoption stream. I've
zeroed in on one case in particular, in which police insist they've
tracked a specific stolen child in India to a specific address in the United States. Two days ago, the boy's
parents asked me to deliver a message to the American family via their
lawyer, seeking friendship and communication. But after traveling
across 10 time zones to get here, I'm at a loss for how to proceed.

Read the rest of this article here.

Re/Defining Orphans

Two very important statements about the definition of orphans. One of the main points – that within the the US and other economically developed nations, "orphan" is a term to describe a child who has lost both parents to death (as in, children in these nations are considered orphans if they’ve lost both parents to death*). However, as UNICEF and other NGOs define the term, in the 1990s, "Orphan" was used to describe a child who had lost one or more parents. This is no small consideration as it changes the scope of justification in terms of how children in need are deemed appropriate for different kinds of services both in country and abroad.

[* Edited to add: As Rich brought to my attention, the U.S. State Department’s definition of who counts as an orphan is here. This definition defined by the INA is not what I was referring to above; as I should have worded better. I meant that when people in the U.S. consider children living in this country "orphans" they mean those with two parents deceased.For the purposes of international adoption, orphan is defined by the State Department similarly as UNICEF and the Hague Convention.]

Unicef’s definition of orphans
Ethica: Majority of Global "Orphans" have families

This paragraph from Ethica sums up how I feel about the over-justification of saving "orphans" from foreign countries.

13 million orphans is still a vast sea of needy children, and a number
which far exceeds the number of children adopted each year. But of
special note is UNICEF’s comment that 95% of all orphans are age 5 and
This contrasts sharply with the demographics of adoptions to the
U.S. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 2006
statistic on orphan visas granted to American families adopting
children from abroad, only 3,337 of the total 20,705 children adopted
that year were age 5 and older.
Ethica recognizes that the majority of
younger children who have been internationally adopted legally
qualified as orphans under U.S. immigration law, and were recognized as
orphans by their birth countries. However, these statistics indicate
that babies orphaned through parental relinquishment do not constitute
the majority of the orphan population.
While it is true that many
children who have a surviving parent may still require placement in
adoptive families, these statistics also challenge the adoption
community to look carefully at assumptions that current practices are
based upon.

UNICEF has been demonized among some groups of adoption agencies and adoptive parents for what they believe is an anti-adoption philosophy; however I fully support UNICEF’s hierarchy of placement decisions which follow the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect to International Adoption:

  • Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development
    of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in
    an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,

  • Recalling that each State should take, as a matter of priority,
    appropriate measures to enable the child to remain in the care of his
    or her family of origin,

  • Recognizing that intercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a
    permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found
    in his or her State of origin,

  • Convinced of the necessity to take measures to ensure that
    intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of the child and
    with respect for his or her fundamental rights, and to prevent the
    abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children

It is NOT that UNICEF is completely anti-adoption; what they ARE is an organization justly concerned with ETHICAL practices.

For children who cannot be raised by their own families, an appropriate
alternative family environment should be sought in preference to
institutional care, which should be used only as a last resort and as a
temporary measure. Inter-country adoption is one of a range of care
options which may be open to children, and for individual children who
cannot be placed in a permanent family setting in their countries of
origin, it may indeed be the best solution. 

…At the same time, lack of regulation and oversight, particularly in the
countries of origin, coupled with the potential for financial gain, has
spurred the growth of an industry around adoption, where profit, rather
than the best interests of children, takes centre stage.  Abuses
include the sale and abduction of children, coercion of parents, and
bribery, as well as trafficking to individuals whose intentions are to
exploit rather than care for children.

How one can be opposed to that, I don’t comprehend.

Russia bans 3 adoption agencies following baby’s death in U.S.

From Russian News & Information Agency

MOSCOW, July 11 (RIA Novosti) – Three international adoption
agencies, including one that failed to inform Russia of the death of a
baby in the U.S. this week, have been banned from operating in Russia,
the country’s adoption authorities said on Friday.

A 21-month-old baby adopted from Russia three months ago died in the
U.S. state of Virginia on Tuesday after being left by his foster father
for several hours in the back of a car, in searing heat.

The Russian Education and Science Ministry’s adoption commission said
in a statement: "The agencies to be banned from working on the
territory of the Russian Federation include a representative office
that violated the requirements of Russian law on swiftly informing us
of the death of an adopted child."

You can read the entire article here.

Adoptee sues parents for kidnapping

Read the whole article here

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Feb. 19) – A 30-year-old woman is suing her adoptive parents for kidnapping in a case that opened in an Argentine court Tuesday, becoming the first child of disappeared political prisoners to press such charges.

Maria Eugenia Sampallo Barragan accused her adoptive parents Osvaldo Rivas and Maria Cristina Gomez Pinto of falsifying adoption documents to hide her identity. She made no comments on leaving court Tuesday.

Thousands of leftists and dissidents vanished after being abducted by security forces during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military regime, and human rights groups say more than 200 of their children were taken and given to military or politically connected families to raise.

Ad campaign

I was sent this ad by a fellow Korean adoptee from the Netherlands, and found it quite disturbing. It’s part of a series of ads by the Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption and Child Welfare (for more about this campaign, click here).

Perhaps the most viscerally disturbing part of this series is the way it completely uses a child to fulfill the needs of adults. To me, it re-emphasizes the idea that children are vehicles for adult self-esteem and identity and is completely opposite of my own personal stance on adoption which is about the child first and foremost.

This ad campaign won several prestigious awards, and to the casual observer perhaps it doesn’t seem like much to fuss about. However, there are too many of us adoptees who have lived with the reality of being this child, emotionally catering to the selfish needs of adoptive parents who adopted us because they wanted someone to love them unconditionally. Sorry, but it’s the other way around; parents love their children unconditionally. Children, as any parent knows, totally love their parents on a conditional basis. Anyone who has parented a toddler or a teenager will know this first hand.

I’m all for promoting same-country adoption, which this ad appears to be aimed towards. However, it doesn’t mitigate the disturbing nature of the way adoption is portrayed. The fictional or archetype child featured in these ad campaigns have already experienced the insufficiency of their love to hold on to their first parents; why would it make any sense that their love would be sufficient enough to hold on to another family? And furthermore, why is it the child’s responsibility to do so?


Continue reading

Wish it would happen in the U.S. too

Australia apology to Aborigines
The Australian government has made a formal apology for the past wrongs caused by successive governments on the indigenous Aboriginal population.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised in parliament to all Aborigines for laws and policies that "inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss".

He singled out the "Stolen Generations" of thousands of children forcibly removed from their families.

The apology, beamed live around the country on TV, was met with cheers.

But some Aborigines say it should have been accompanied with compensation for their suffering.

‘Indignity and degradation’

In a motion passed unanimously by Australian MPs on Wednesday morning, Mr Rudd acknowledged the "past mistreatment" of all of his country’s Aboriginal population.

"We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians," the motion said.

Mr Rudd said he apologised "especially" to the Stolen Generations of young Aboriginal children who were taken from their parents in a policy of assimilation which lasted from the 19th Century to the late 1960s.

"For the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry."

Read the rest of the article here.

Australia to apologize to Aborigines

From the Associated Press

Australia has had a decade-long debate about how best to acknowledge
Aborigines who were affected by a string of 20th century policies that
separated mixed-blood Aboriginal children from their families — the
cohort frequently referred to as Australia’s stolen generation.

From 1910 until the 1970s, around 100,000 mostly mixed-blood
Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and
federal laws based on a premise that Aborigines were a doomed race and
saving the children was a humane alternative.

A national inquiry in 1997 found that many children taken from their
families suffered long-term psychological effects stemming from the
loss of family and culture.

You can read the entire article here.