Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Abandoned in Guatemala: The Failure of Intercountry Adoption Practices

This month a documentary by reasontv has been released regarding the elimination of intercountry adoption in Guatemala.  The video shows a side of the elimination not often discussed in the media.  We encourage our colleagues and friends to view and distribute the video at your discretion.  The video can be found by clicking here.

Background and Joint Council’s position

On January 1, 2008, under significant scrutiny and amidst allegations of corruption, child trafficking and unethical practices, Guatemala implemented the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Guatemala’s participation in the Convention was applauded by the many governments and NGOs who had insisted on changes to the practices in Guatemala and vigorously supported Guatemala’s participation in the Hague Convention. Joint Council advocated for systematic reform, rather than elimination of services to children.  Joint Council’s President & CEO, Tom DiFilipo states, “Eliminating corruption was the goal.  Ensuring children live in families in a legal and ethical manner should have been.”

The implementation was seen by many as the answer to corruption and unethical practices.  Unfortunately the manner in which Guatemala implemented the Convention has not resulted in an ethical intercountry adoption system or a stable child welfare system; it has resulted in no intercountry adoption system and an almost non-existent child welfare system. The implementation of the Convention has indeed succeeded in adding protections. But it has also failed in its role to serve children.  Protecting children and families from harm is one of the primary roles of the Guatemalan government and their efforts must be recognized and supported. However, much like the scrutiny and attention by the international community exposed the corruption of the prior system, this same community must now refocus their attention to bring to light Guatemala’s ineffective implementation of the Convention and its subsequent impact on institutionalized children and Guatemalan families.

The formation of a spectrum of services including Family Preservation, Kinship Care, Domestic Adoption and Intercountry Adoption is desperately needed to ensure that children retain their right to a family and are protected from the detrimental effects of institutionalization, or even an unnecessary death. Joint Council calls on all stakeholders who previously asked for reforms to move with speed in order to provide these much needed services.  Again, Tom DiFilipo, “Adoption reform in Guatemala has not resulted in the prosecution of criminals, nor has it served the best interest of children.  What it has done is force thousands of children into orphanages, onto the streets, or even worse.”

As part of Joint Council’s ongoing Guatemala 5000 campaign and the passage of the Ortega Law, we have continually advocated for the ethical and legal finalization of all adoptions initiated prior to the closure of intercountry adoption in Guatemala. Joint Council in partnership with its member organizations and the Guatemala900 again call for a swift conclusion to all pending adoption cases and the immediate implementation of the much needed services which will provide more Guatemalan children with the ability to grow and thrived in a safe, permanent family.

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