News/Guatemal: U.N. studies international adoptions in Guatemala

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Subject: News/Guatemal: U.N. studies international adoptions in Guatemala
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Wed Jul 21 1999 - 10:56:10 EDT

U.N. studies international adoptions in Guatemala
By Laura Wides
July 19, 1999

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- A U.N. investigator began examining the
international adoption business in Guatemala on Monday, focusing on high
agency fees and allegations that women are pressured to give up their babies.

Poverty, lax regulation and the country's 36-year civil war have made
Guatemala the fourth-largest foreign supplier of children to U.S. adoptive
parents. Only Russia, China and South Korea send more children to the
United States.

U.N. special investigator Ofelia Calcetas-Santos came to Guatemala at the
government's request to study allegations that children are being sold to
adoptive parents. She met Monday with government representatives and
children's advocates.

In recent years, local child advocacy groups have complained of lawyers who
force or trick mothers into giving up their children, and of large amounts
of money paid by adoptive parents.

Most of the groups support international adoptions but say the government
should better regulate the process.

Under Guatemalan law, as long as a lawyer and the birth mother authorize
the adoption, there is no requirement that the government become involved.
There is no way for authorities to know whether a mother was pressured or
even blackmailed to give up her baby.

``Often intermediaries look for poor women or prostitutes, telling them
that they will help pay for prenatal care and recuperation costs after the
baby is delivered,'' said Hector Dimicio, director of the local office for
the child advocacy group Casa Alianza.

Birth mothers receive about $100 in assistance, while foreign adoption
agencies often pay between $3,000 and $30,000 for the children, Dimicio said.

U.S. immigration officials have records of more than 1,000 approved
adoptions of Guatemalan children in 1997. Local advocacy groups say more
than 2,300 Guatemalan children were adopted that year, with 80 percent
heading to the United States.

In the past year, Casa Alianza has helped four mothers recover children
they were forced to give up; more cases are pending in the courts.

Calcetas-Santos also will investigate the sale of children for use in
prostitution and pornography. On Tuesday, she meets with people who were
arrested two years ago for involvement in a prostitution ring involving

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