12/19/2007

Adoption Snapshots

The BBC has a number of reports on Guatemalan adoptions.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7144610.stm

There are a total of 6 stories, and the others are listed on the right side of the page. One is pictures of a beautiful home where the children stay as they wait to finish the adoption process. We have met the women in the stories and a couple have been to our house looking for their babies. These stories are their own words, and pretty insightful. It is not a cut and dry situation, and the anecdotes do not mean that the majority of adoptions in Guatemala involved rape attacks and stolen babies.

The woman who is positive about her birth mother experience is so typical: it has been said that 60% of the children in Guatemala are living without their father. And I was touched by her comment that she does not live with a man, just her children. That also is too common: In a culture where Machismo is axiomatic, a woman must choose between her children and a new man...who would most likely reject the idea of supporting another man's children. But of all the birth mothers who might have provided a positive experience, why did they use her? She works facilitating adoptions. I keep saying that no one in Guatemala feel good about adoptions except those who make money from them. I wish the BBC had been able to prove me wrong...I wonder if they tried, and reverted to her, or if they just asked a lawyer to provide a birth mother with a positive story, and the lawyer went with someone they could be sure of. If they had asked us, we could have provided a few women who have the same sad sense but know they did the right thing in giving a child for adoption. But these women gave up their child in a setting that did not involve the lawyer who seems to have been this story's contact.


These stories put human faces and words on the statistics. The story of the 16 year old girl has an all too common element. If the birth mothers have doubts and express a desire to keep their baby, we have heard again and again that they were told they or the father would go to jail, because they would have to pay back the care they received.

This young girl’s story is actually related to the story that has the pictures of the beautiful “home” Primavera. It is the owner of that home that this girl accuses of the coercive threats. The juxtaposition of the beautiful setting of the children waiting adoptions, and the sad story of coercion from the birth mother’s point of view is a very good snapshot of the dichotomy.

The pictures of the Casa Primavera are really nice, and there is no doubt these children are well cared for. As is stated in the side bar, the prospective adoptive American couples are paying approximately $600 a month per child for the care there. The inference is that once the adoptions for profit stop, there will be no homes as adequate to care for children.

I beg to differ. The installations are very similar to our home, and we are planning a new facility to begin building next year. ALL with charitable donations. I believe Americans are gracious enough to help us care for the children as well as they are cared for in the Adoption homes. I also believe that a coalition of American and Guatemalan churches and civic groups like the Rotary will help to alleviate many of the underlying social problems that cause children to be at risk. That is something I have not heard of the adoption homes doing.

The dire predictions of the anti regulation crowd are in part correct: there will be children at risk needing immediate intervention here in Guatemala.

That is why we are here.

12/17/2007

Guest ramble by Don Francisco

I actually have been writing a number of blog entries, but none are finished yet. In the meantime, as I looked to try to get some inspiring songs from Brennan's favorite songster, I came across his thoughts...gotta put them here to share with my friends.

After you enjoy his ramblings here you might want to check out some incredible timeless music:
http://www.rockymountainministries.org/

The Seat of Blindness

Jesus said that when the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into a ditch. But what is religious blindness? If you are blind, how can you know you are blind and get your sight back??Well, I am going to take a guess at what the seat of blindness is.

I believe it is placing hatred of sin so high that it includes hatred of sinners. There is so much hatred in "Christianity" today that it is a disaster. Many Christians hate or fear those of other religions, those of other Christian religions, and those who are lost with no God at all.

In order to hate a "sinner", several stages of bad thinking must happen.

First, a Christian must forget the grace that led them to Jesus in the first place.

Second, a Christian has to totally miss the point of the Cross and the Atonement.

Third, a Christian must believe that their level of self righteousness is sufficient to earn or maintain salvation, and they are proud of it.

Fourth, a Christian must be deceived into thinking that God loves only people "who do not sin". (Those words are in quotes because there is no such thing.)

Fifth and lastly, a Christian must be decieved into believing that sinners are not worth the effort to share the Good News with them.Now we have a dangerous religion that is an exclusive club. Note the word, "exclusive". This is a set up for hatred, for a religious party to try to seize control through politics or war.

Do you know why God hates sin? It is because all sin hurts people and God loves people. God does not hate sinners, He loves them. It wasn't "sinners" who killed Jesus, it was hard hearted religious leaders...who of course were so deep in sin they couldn't see it. They were blind.

It is sobering that people who carry hatred of sin over into hatred of sinners not only want to see sinners dead, they also want to kill those who love sinners and have a heart for the redemption of all mankind.

This is an age of rampant religious blindness. But there are still many who have eyes to see. A "hot" Christian is one who reflects God's love and wins the lost around them. A lukewarm Christian is one who has taken on the straightjacket of "Christian" legalism. This person does not win souls or bear fruit for the Kingdom. "They stand in the doorway, nether entering in, nor permitting anyone else to enter." This person stands in judgement of sinners, is lukewarm, and blind.

The worst kind of blindness is that of dead religion, in fact the book of Jude calls it "doubly dead". BUT many people who are lost in dead religion suddenly see the truth and turn their lives around. Sometimes this happens because dead religion finally fails them and there is loss and crisis...after which, they see that God is still with them and realize His grace! But sometimes it just happens because a person is ernestly seeking the truth and does not mind if there is personal cost.

Pray this prayer.. "God, I don't care what it costs me...I want to see your truth, to know you, and to hear your voice in my heart. Show me any dead religion in my heart and remove it no matter what. Ignite your life, love, and wisdom in me. Thank you Jesus for dying for me that I might live in your abundance. Thank you for the honor of loving, forgiving, and healing people in your name to expand your Kingdom. Amen."

12/13/2007

Legalese and legacies

The Adoption law passed amid a little hoopla and a lot of uncertainty. It certainly has the wording indicating a continuance of certain kinds of adoptions. We are interested in seeing what will happen…a newspaper analyst said that adoptions will now take 1 -2 years to complete. That will be quick compared to many of the cases we are aware of where the child is declared abandoned. Please pray with us for a righteous implementation of the new laws. This will be contingent largely on the newly designated adoption authority…so pray that good people will be put in place. The new law strengthens the position of the children’s courts, and so that will be interesting to watch. The judges so far have shown themselves very hesitant to look like they are involved with adoptions, and so have sought any excuse to NOT authorize an adoption over the last few years. But if the climate now changes, they may be more open to doing it. The judge with whom we have issues will be one of the judges who will make these determinations.

On a local note, I had one of “those moments” yesterday. We need those moments to help us keep going when the Some people may wonder what lasting impact people who visit children’s homes have. To explain, let me introduce Agustin, who has come to work for us this year. His official title is “Steve’s right arm”, which means he gets stuck doing whatever needs to be done, from office work, to teams hosting, to gardening, and construction and everything in between. That included painting yesterday, and I was setting him up, and said to be careful with spills, and he responded with what I am getting at. He said, “ I was taught how to paint by Mr. Jack (Mars) and he said there is no reason to get it all over…just go carefully and surely, and you will be proud of the results”


“Mr. Jack” taught Agustin that lesson probably more than 10 years ago. Jack Mars came to Guatemala, and was helping around orphanages long before we came here, and has encouraged many more people to visit, and help out. Jack made an impression on many people, as he chose to dedicate himself to helping do some very simple things with children in an orphanage. But the legacy of simple things done well might be the most powerful part of what Jack taught Agustin, and many other boys. Agustin is a successful young man, who is in training to become an engineer. People like Jack are why.

12/10/2007

If I were king of the forest...

Tomorrow there is supposed to be the final reading and vote on a new law for adoptions in Guatemala. The session is a special one, outside of the normal Dates for the Congress to work. But there is a lot of pressure for this law to be approved before the end of this Congress.

Some want adoptions to continue as they have been, and therefore are afraid of the passage of this law. Other people want adoptions to be severely restricted and so are hoping this law will do that. Both for altruistic motives, claiming what is best for the child. I think most people are in the grey middle, recognizing problems in the present system, and saying they want to keep adoptions available. But it really comes down to the age old “Private Sector” Versus “Government Control” … Conservative vs. Liberal philosophical battle.

Who will do a better Job? I think the proper answer to that question is another question: “What Job?” The arguing rhetorics have not specifically stated, but have inplied that there are two portions to the needs of children; the “Negative” and the “Positive”. There must be negative actions against abuse and illegal activities, and there must be positive actions for the care of said children. But is seems like the main accusations simply claim the opposing entities cannot do what they probably shouldn’t be doing. Governments should be not be caring for children, but rather, doing the “Negative” part: enforcing laws, and bringing wrongdoers to Justice. Charitable organizations should not be Policemen, but focused on the “Positive” part; providing food and shelter and the higher needs of the children. You might say that’s obvious. But Governments keep trying to positively affect things, and the “Private Sector”, at least as far as adoptions are concerned, say they can police themselves. Both, according to their critics, have failed miserably

So, if I were King of Guatemala, I would "encourage" the Government functionaries to ramp up their ability to enforce the laws, and weed out the corrupt portion of their own backyard. That might even mean (sacrilege for a social service provider to say!) shifting resources from “help” centers to enforcement. Put it all in an anti corruption unit, like the Untouchables. Charitable think tanks throughout the world are saying that Corruption is the Number One problem in improving the standard of living in developing nations. Then I would make an effective accord for the regulation of NGO’s that would demand only one thing of them: Financial Transparency. Auditing books, and on site verification would go a long way to weed out wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing, and even point out problem areas when the resources do not match the desire of the poorer NGO’s. I hate to say it, but a lot of time and effort of regulating institutions could be saved if they would just “Follow the Money”.

This King Steve Rule doesn’t address the area of private adoptions that are driven by the desire of the receiving parents. I believe that their good, and honest and honorable desire to have a family through adoption would be best served by first cleaning up the uncertainties. Even as they are being told children will die if they do not pay large sums to unaccountable “Charitable Organizations”, the incident of forced procurement of babies for adoption is becoming epidemic. Once things are clarified, as to the true nature of children in dire need, then we might look at the ethics and value of a REGULATED “for profit” business that would hire birth moms to proide these children. But it should be completely apart from the child focused charitable efforts…as combining them has only made the situation for Children in Guatemala worse.

We were interviewed again last week, as a part of a series on adoption, and the writer almost got the gist ( pretty much what we say here) but had a definite bent, and so shaped and paraphrased into something other than what we think.

Here is the link http://www.lahora.com.gt/v1/main.php

It is the 5th or 6th story down. Side note…even if you are not Spanish literate, the first title is rather chilling: “Guatemala explorará un acuerdo petrolero con Chávez”… but seems to be a little sensationalist, and more the tendency of the newspaper than the actual words of President elect Colom.

12/09/2007

Perks of the job


In the midst of a very tense series of weeks, it’s nice to spend a day rather normally.

Today I cleaned and organized ( almost) the storeroom, and Shyrel put the finishing touches on our Christmas lists for the kids. She was wise in suggesting that, leveraging her knowledge that I am a Grinch, and will do anything to stay away from the gifts and decorations side of the season.

Then we took a puppy break, and a good time was had by all









12/08/2007

Shyrel’s day in Court

Different court, but same old fight!


The paper showed today that there are over 9,000 orders for “Arraigo” which means one cannot leave the country. I had never heard that term, even in English, until we received received an order for our capture and arraigo. Maybe it’s the phenomenon that you don’t see red sports cars until you decide to think about getting one, but I never even considered that a judicial option. I always thought it was a matter of the charges being filed, then a race for the border. I mean, you are already under a warrant, and it seems that just notifying the gatekeepers would be sufficient.
Most of those 9000 folks are credit card debtors, and the companies, after enticing them to “Not wait for that special purchase” you never knew you needed, are now using the full extent of the law to force people who should have never had a card pay off their debt. It’s legal, after all.

Our order for arraigo was for disobedience and rebellion for not bringing children to an audience that had already been resolved, and also (due to time delays in process) was under appeal. It was revoked by the judge who issued it the very next working day. ( but kept from us for another week) And it was a completely illegal piece of judicial craftsmanship, as indicated in the revoking document. And we have appealed that decision and denounced that action. IF anything comes of our request to basically protect us from judicial abuse as we focus on the business of protecting Guatemala’s children at risk, it won’t be till sometime next year.

Yet, another charge against us was issued by the same judge ( but this time through proper channels and with no threat of capture), and miraculously, we had a court date on Friday of this week. Well, Shyrel did. The new criminal charge of disobedience was only against Shyrel, and is based on her interaction with the owner of Casa Quivira at our gate. Shyrel said she did not want to receive a piece of paper from this woman until she had spoken with her legal counsel. As Shyrel tried to speak wiht Lawyers ( This was not a planned appointment, but a total surprise at our gate) the woman left. Apparently this woman then stated to the judge that Shyrel had unequivocally refused the court order. Thus the present charge. No mention of what the original arrest warrant had been for. I don’t think the judge wants that brought up any more. So this new charge, based on a conversation at our front gate. Yes, it is as weak as it sounds!

HMMMM

A few weeks ago, in a previous posting, I mentioned the odd behavior of that woman’s husband in a similar incident at our front gate. He kept saying loudly “So, you refuse to do this?!” and then I noticed a camera recording it all. A replay of the previous interaction, but on tape this time would make for a stronger case than “She said, She said”. A paranoid conspiracy theory type person might think the people were trying to gather evidence. But not me. I trust in the Guatemalan Judicial system.



So, back to this incredibly efficient system of justice that called for our hearing. Our Lawyer entered a plea of not guilty, and explained that there were about 4 ways in which it had no merit, and asked that it be dismissed as he could explain why right away. One of which is that the charges apply to the legal rep, which is me, not Shyrel. But the judge wants the file on the children referred to in the document in question, and so we will meet again in 10 days. Although we would rather have had an end to it, that makes sense, and we were impressed with the judge’s intelligent handling of this hearing. BUT that was the basic issue that started this whole thing, wasn’t it? We asked that due process, and prudent evaluation be allowed to happen. But the original hearing for the children ( Which is called “ Hearing for Review of Facts” ) was morphed in an incredibly unusual way into a final decision, and we objected. Incredibly efficient system, sometimes.

People have asked us why we can’t just get along with the owners of this other home, and why we are in collaboration with Casa Alianza. Casa Alianza helps ANYONE in our situation, who is facing legal issues based on being a child in need, or helping a child in need. Free of charge. That, as I explained before, is a charitable activity. We would be ruined by these actions if we incurred legal fees to protect ourselves. We already have spent money and wasted a lot of time that could have been used elsewhere. But it will be worth it if good comes out of it. On the other hand, the owners of that other home have consistently attacked us since the children were transferred to our care. Rather obvious choice of alignment, I would think.

11/28/2007

More News

Well, we have been in the news here for a week straight, and each day we hope it is the last. Today we were surprised with the biggest space yet. Here is the link.

http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2007/noviembre/28/189013.html

You can get a rough translation in a number of ways, but what I do is cut and paste to

http://www.freetranslation.com/

and find the little box for Spanish to English. It is VERY rough, but if you don’t have Spanish speaking friends who can help you, it will give you a rough idea.

The last paragraph is a comment by the President of the Supreme Court, who pretty much is doing all he can to wash his hands of the action…even saying his role as president is really more administrative, than judicial. He was on TV last night, and when asked about our complaint of the judge having threatened us, said “ Where is the complaint? There must be a formal complaint!” That seems to be the reason for this article, which reviews all of our actions, but then clearly, the reporter has spoken to the Human Rights commission, and have listed the points of Shyrel’s being threatened by this judge in their file.

The Press has really taken to the chase regarding the investigations into problematic adoptions also. It is sad in one way, but so often the case, that the Government institutions are not doing much, but private groups are helping the mothers, for instance, who have claimed to have been robbed of their children.

Do you remember the story when a young woman, Ana Escobar came to our house ( on Shyrel’s birthday) because she was pretty sure one of the Casa Quivira children was her stolen child? She visited us yesterday, because the Ministerio Publico keeps denying her a hearing, and she asked for pictures from us to prove her search efforts. (She should have been able to get something from the JP who accompanied her that night, but he seems to lose a lot of papers…like our arrest warrant) The child who was in CQ may or may not be her child, BUT she had with her evidence of forged paperwork for the supposed mother and that child that was in our home. There is also a rumor that the Physician who signed many of the documents of the children for CQ among other hogares has fled the country. I am not completely ready to say the owners of Casa Quivira manipulated and did bad things, but bad things happened in these cases. I know that the homes and agencies sometimes are at the mercy of the buscadores and behind the scenes "translators" etc. BUT again...who wants to have adopted a baby that might have been stolen or forced from it's mother?

I think the Press activity, and an imminent landslide of uncovering specific examples of illegal activity surrounding notarial adoptions is forcing congress’s vote today on a new adoption law. It is a shame that this law is the most restrictive of the (at least) 3 versions of reform we have heard about. But those who supposedly have defended adoptions in Guatemala have wasted their time and credibility defending a broken system, often saying “There is no proof of any wrong doing”. As the proof is at long last coming out, in spite of the corruption that has protected it so long, they are strangely silent on that point, and are now spending their time slandering anyone connected with reform efforts.

11/27/2007

In defense of Amor del Niño

A number of our friends here have warned us to not get too involved, not listen to the advise of Casa Alianza types. One of the chief accusations, as I said before, is a hunger for press coverage. I am afraid that we may soon be subject to the same accusations. As I watched myself stumble though yet another interview on Guatemala television last night, I cringed. Not only at the age and fatness of my true image on screen, (which has only a fleeting resemblance to my unreal internal image…they say the camera adds 10 pounds, and there were 5 cameras there)… but also because it may really look like we are seeking out the cameras, as we have been on TV a lot this last week.

Our nannies asked me this morning if everything is clear, and alright now. That also makes me cringe, as our staff, and even more so, our children here, are dependent on us.

So why are we doing what will undoubtedly be seen by some as attention grabbing, and by others as lawless, and maybe by others as sticking our noses where it doesn’t belong. Our bottom line is that we try to do, moment by moment, what we think is right before God, and let Him handle the results. We really are not smart or experienced enough to calculate with any hope of “winning” an argument, much less a court fight.


Let me give a timeline outline to help our friends who wonder:

August: we received the children form the raid on Casa Quivira

August – October…noticed anomalies, and awaited the audience to present

October: Audience came, the resolution was streamlined in an extremely irregular way, without our participation.

We challenged that, as was our right and responsibility in the system, with appeals and requests for clarifications

November:

This challenge was responded to eventually in a warrant for our arrests. The facts and paperwork both before and after that point are still sketchy. But we are putting together the pieces, and the actual documents do not make sense ( to our admittedly incapable brains).

We have contracted an attorney to represent us in a request (simplified) that the Courts declare the action of the judge to have been wrong.

The judge responded to this by first badgering Shyrel, and then calling and threatening that all the judges in the Children’s court system would side with her in an attempt to shut us down.

Then the press called us to confirm a rumor that we have made a deal with the judge to rescind the request for clarification in the high court.

So we met with reporters again, and said pretty much what is written above.


We are grateful, because the articles and reports have been pretty accurate. Hopefully, our small role will not be a distraction to the major theme confronting Guatemala right now, which is the issue of open and honest adoptions continuing as a way for children who need a family to find one.

We are motivated first and foremost by wanting to Obey our Lord, who deserves our obedience unto death, much less inconveniences like jail sentences. But we are helped to be motivated by the children we are seeing…who were being adopted until an irregularity was discovered. As there has been more pressure on the authorities here to really investigate, there continue to be daily occurrences of falsified papers, and deceived birth mothers. Children at risk are why we are in Guatemala. And As Wendy Berger said: “ the problem with children at risk in Guatemala is more basically the issue of women at risk in Guatemala”. As we hear story after story of poor women caught in a morass that maybe started when they considered accepting money for their child, that rings too truly. But others are just plain deceived.

One example. A girl who came to us because her paperwork was thought to be fraudulent at the PGN review ( It had her age, for instance, as 6 months…she is 5). Her parents explained that they were promised an accelerated opportunity for her, with all sorts of health and educational benefits ( sort of true, I guess) so they went, and had testing done ( including what sounds like a DNA swabbing) of the whole family. The she would go for further testing…and they never saw her or the people who promised these things again. They searched for months, even paying policemen who said they could help.

11/25/2007

Thought for the Day, and for Eternity

Just wanted to share what I heard just now in church...It blessed me, and I want to share.

Jesus preached and healed and changed lives for 3 years, all over Isreal. He often was opposed, and even mocked for his actions.

But the worst abuse and mocking he received was at the very moment that he was doing the most important action ever done in the history of the world. People who have not received the redemption His death on the cross provided can reasonably call Christians crazy for the liturgies that week after week remind ourselves of the Crucifiction of this man. It literally makes no sense, for a King to reclaim his kingdom in this fashion. And that was the major mocking point: "If you really are INRI..." BUT one of the names he so richly deserves is "King of Peace" The creative conqueror... Until Christians understand the confounding, unreasonable nature of His Kingdom, we miss our mission. We avoid actions that bring rebuke and suffering on ourselves...buying momentary popularity by denying our eternal heritage, and our Lord who purchased it....



Rev 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
Rev 5:2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?"
Rev 5:4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.
Rev 5:5 And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
Rev 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, ......
Rev 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
Rev 5:10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."
Rev 5:13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

11/24/2007

In Defense of Casa Alianza

A number of folks have questioned our getting involved with Casa Alianza, and frankly, I was one of them. Their reputation among the evangelical community here is

1) That they are not so much interested in the children, as interested in sensationalism.
2) That their founder turned out to be a pedophile.
3) That there is a sense that they are leftist, Godless Che Guevera wannabe’s

AS we began to meet with them, my thinking was it was a mission field, sharing our motives of following Jesus, and ministering to the least of these in Jesus’ name. I have always enjoyed encouraging Secular Social Workers in the states to re-examine Jesus in light of their work. But as we have spent time with them, I realized we were with really good people. They are not motivated by lucre, and are humble, work well as a team, and are genuinely interested in us as people, and touched by our mutual love for the children. These are not the senses we get from others who are in the arena of Children and adoptions here. I wish we could keep a video running to let our friends, and those who wonder what the heck we are doing see the different interactions. It is obvious moment by moment, but hard to codify after the fact.

But what about those pesky accusations? Here are my thoughts, not having asked them:

1) Ever since the press was first used to Keep their staff alive as they proved that the Police in Guatemala and Rio De Janeiro were systematically killing street children, they have used the press as a tool to
a. Shed light on shady dealings
b. Defend themselves against false accusations
c. Stay alive, as their death after naming a perpetrator would be investigated

2) That is true. I have dealt with three (not including this very disturbed, very bad man) pedophiles who were working with evangelical organizations since arriving in Guatemala….YES, they were the leaders of their respective organizations. No Excuse….but not a reason for Alianza to close up shop and stop defending children. They did fire him, and are vigilant even more to protect children in their care.

3) That is the classic line of the third world wealthy and those who abuse the rights of the least of these. Che was wrong in what the alternative should have been, but it does not mean those who he opposed ( e.g. the CIA in Guatemala in 1954) were right. I wish Che could have met Jesus, like I got to. As for the Godless part of the accusation, here is their Mission Statement:


Covenant House ( and Alianza) Mission Statement

We who recognize God's providence and fidelity to His people are dedicated to living out His covenant among ourselves and those children we serve, with absolute respect and unconditional love. That commitment calls us to serve suffering children of the street, and to protect and safeguard all children. Just as Christ in His humanity is the visible sign of God's presence among His people, so our efforts together in the covenant community are a visible sign that effects the presence of God, working through the Holy Spirit among ourselves and our kids.

Wish I'd said that!

11/23/2007

Press conferences and forensics




Well, we had a press conference yesterday…our Lawyers asked us to put the appeal into the Supreme Court, and to announce it publicly as a defensive measure. It ran in a number of News programs. As each step is in the name of the children, we brought 6 to be a part of the “panel” and included children who had been abandoned, who had been rescued from exploitation, and who had been stolen from parents. We also had our own staff photographer ( Gerson) who did a great job, and a lot of fun interacting with his colleagues


Later that day, as we were trying to catch up with “normal business” in the office, the owner of Casa Quivira showed up with an order for the transference of the last of the 15 children left from CQ at our home. Shyrel answered the gate, and then came back to the office with the order saying this guy was there, and being pushy, and asking “are you going to give him to me or not”, when she asked for the paperwork. I went down to just talk him down while she made copies, and filled out our “egresso” documents, but also got a strange conversation. He asked me why I was doing this. The “this” was not clear, but then he started a little speech recapping odds and ends of the recent events….and as he stepped aside, I realized we were being filmed. Looking back on it, I think he wanted to get a rise out of us. But then Shyrel showed up and I am sure she was worried that he would get a rise out of me. ( OK, I have a tendency to be more boisterous than her) She asked me to move away and let our social worker process the paperwork with the Lawyer. But the guy outside said “ Since you are not going to give me the child, I am leaving.” It seemed that the lawyer who was with him disagreed, not initially moving, and looking in our direction, but he swept her along. It all seemed a little dramatic on his part. It did afford us the opportunity to take our little charge to the medical forensics clinic of the Ministerio Publico prior to bringing him into the court where we handed him over to the official in charge…to have an unbiased evaluation of his actual medical condition. Funny…no lice, fungus, or anything…just a little guy in perfect health.

Since we had just had a press conference, I guess we shouldn’t throw stones at someone wanting to have a recorded record of an event. But even though there are similar activities involved in a press conference, and in recording an encounter, there is a BIG difference. A matter of control. Orchestration. A press conference is ostensibly managed by the press. This man wanted a confrontation and was ready for a nice bit of video. Even the time of day suggests that maybe he was waiting for the sun angle to be just right, for the light to be on our faces as we looked out of our gate. He then left so quickly, it was obvious he had not come to take charge of the child. WHO WE WERE PERFECTLY WILLING TO HAND OVER RIGHT THEN AND THERE, BUT WITH THE PROPER PROCESING OF PAPERWORK! (Which would have taken all of 10 minutes) So we were left with the paperwork, but still had the child, whereas last time, we were not left with any paperwork, and yet 14 children left our home.

This has been and continues to be the main point of issue between us and CQ. It is understandable in many ways that they would want to hurry. Waiting Parents, bad publicity, the state of Limbo in which their program remained. But it just seems to have made matters worse. This pushing to speed up a process that by necessity must involve review and investigation makes one leery.

This brings to mind a number of comments by people who have said that Amor del Niño and Casa Quivira are basically the same. That is just not true. The more we interact, the more the difference is evident. Even though you could classify us both as “Children’s Homes”, and we both offer care recognized as superior by visitors and other institutions, we have profoundly different objectives.
Especially in the area of adoptions, there is confusion between businesses and charities.
If a service or commodity provided is given freely, with no requirement for remuneration, that is charity.
If a service or commodity is given based on a contract for an exchange of money or goods, that is business.
It is not a moral difference. BUT it is different.
Amor del Niño cares for children, and receives no remuneration in exchange for services or commodities from anyone.
Casa Quivira, from what I understand, cares for children, but enters into a contract with prospective parents, and provides care and tramite, for which they receive a substantial remuneration.

11/21/2007

I Promise cute pictures soon!

It has been a while! I promise soon to return to our beautiful children, and share what is happening in their lives. Including cute pictures! But the madness continues!



It has been a crazy week! We finally heard definitely yesterday that the arrest warrant was rescinded. Apparently some time last week. It is very frustrating to have been aware first of the arrest warrant, then of its revocation, but have no official notification of either. ( Well, if official notification of an arrest warrant includes arrest, I guess i am not that frustrated!) Interestingly, last week there was an article in the Prensa Libre indicating that in Guatemala, there were 14,000 + arrest warrants in existence, and not being acted on. ( Yes, it did make us breathe easier!)

During the week, I went to the Justice of the Peace to ask for a copy of the order he acted on, and he said he did not have anything. This is the guy who chased Shyrel all the way into her bathroom (Where she asked him to wait while she threw up from fright, and then she would be glad to attend to the transfer of the children) He said he sent all the paperwork back to the Judge who issued it. Not one single copy left in his office to substantiate his actions. Our Lawyers advised not to make a scene by going to the court who issued the order. I still do feel sympathy for her, as she is in a bad position...when the system is corrupt, the people in the process constantly face "Sophie's choices"

But, again, conspiracy theorists would have a field day…threats of arrest, then documents disappear. No answers.

What we do know:

The advice of the Casa Alianza lawyers was correct: this judge has no power to arrest us.

The Appeals process we were involved in was legal, and proper.

We were indeed the recipients of an act of abuse of power.

Lamentably, we must pursue a counter decision form the Supreme court. There is no way we can continue caring for children in an environment where this kind of actions occur without response. So we are starting a process of appeal all the way to the Supreme court. Well, Guatemala is a small country, so "all the way from the 1st court to the Supreme court is a 2 step process, and the appeals court already proved their desire to remain out of the loop.



One more note:



A number of people asked why we defied a court order. WE appreciate the genuine concern that many parents of the CQ babies have expressed, and we in turn feel bad that they are caught in this kind of drama. ( I do want to write soon how we and CQ are NOT at all alike)



It is a bit complicated, and we did dispute the judge’s original decision ( not the substance, but the process) BUT we never meant to “defy” the law, or stand on a principle while being arrested. We really respect people like Rosa Parks, but were not trying to emulate her. Here is the chain of events…actually leaving out much, but trying to leave the pertinent points.

1) Original date for audience for the 5 children in our care was October 19.
2) Rescheduled for Nov 9.
3) BUT in the meantime, the judge indicated she would suspend the remaining audiences, and after the first one ( in which we arrived with the 10 children in our care, but were denied participation) said she would write a resolution to cover all of the remaining children.
4) The Judge’s resolution was written on the 18th, then some more were written (redundantly?) on 29 October, indicating the disposition of the children individually.
5) We had appealed the resolution which the judge had indicated was the basis for the resolution covering the disposition of the children scheduled for the audience Nov. 9. Two points:
a. Appeal in process...meaning…no action until appeal is resolved
b. She had already written a resolution.
6) We had asked that the appeals court notify us if we were to proceed to the hearing. No word from them.
7) We did not show up.
a. Two other homes who had QC children did not show up on the dates indicated.
8) Ostensibly, based on our “no-show”, the arrest order was issued.
9) But as we said earlier, the U.S. Embassy had notified QC “parents” the previous Wednesday of our imminent arrest. That is worth another Blog in itself, and once we catch our breath, we will ask the Embassy about their policies, and get to the bottom of this. then we will let you know!





For those of you who hung in there, I want to present you with one of the cutest children you will ever meet. She is with us now, because there was an adoption inprocess, and something went wrong. There is a hearing scheduled. At this poiint, all we know is she was taken from her parents. She wants to live with them. They have visited us numerous times, saying they hope she can return, and that she was stolen. But the hearing date is still 6 months away. We love her already. BUT we want her to be where she should be. In her name, we want to see EVERY adoption process be clear, and proper, and well investigated.

11/15/2007

Mario, the Shoeshine Man.

Joshua and Gabby have safely arrived, and invaded Skye and Fe. Pray for Skye, who now has two 13 year olds, and a 5 year old and a 2 year old…and a “T minus 6 month old” in her tummy... to govern and care for.

But let me share an insight from the airport yesterday. After leaving Josh and Gabby in the hands of the attendant who went with them all the way to the plane, I waited in the Airport central area to make sure their plane took off OK ( and that they were on it!)

As I waited, the shoeshine man introduced himself, and we spoke a while. A really precious brother, who has a project helping the street children in one of the worst neighborhoods in Guatemala City. He is clearly not afraid of the street crime rampaging in that area.

As we spoke, it came out that I was putting my children on the plane, because we were in a situation where we were not certain if we might be arrested. “Why?” was the obvious question ( I seemed like such a nice guy, he seemed to say) When I explained that we were trying to get a due process to occur in a case involving adoptions, he had a lot of advice to offer. He pretty much lumped adoptions in with the more nefarious forms of child trafficking, and I tried to tell him there was a difference. But he trumped me by asking how much money was involved per child.

Guatemalans are very gracious, but very shrewd when it comes to financial matters…and again, a poor Guatemalan man, with a good heart, and honest intentions in his life, could not for the life of him, accept that high cost adoptions were of clean motives. One might ask: “When all the people here seem to think that adoptions are dirty, why is there not more of an out cry?” Well, two answers: the first is that there is outcry…Lynchings in rural areas have been an expression of the frustration felt regarding the movement of children. But this man’s answer was different.

In full sincerity, he said we were wrong to oppose any perceived improprieties by our actions…that we should only pray that God resolve and change hearts. I said, “well, I do that” But then he said the Bible said that just people should keep away from bad people. His point was that was how to avoid danger. Remember, Mario works in a tough neighborhood with street kids. He is not a chicken. But when it came to injustice in the system, he clearly wanted to back off. I don’t think we Americans realize what it means in a less open country to defy the big boys. So he has incorporated a way to not respond to systematic injustice to his Theology with the biblical invective to keep away from wrong doers. There is an inference to that in descriptions of just people, like in the Psalms, but I had never heard it applied that way.

HMMM Is that trusting God, or avoiding action? Hmm…are we, on the other hand, Not trusting God, or are we obeying as we trust? Tough call.

Well, for prudent people it might be. But Shyrel and I both made separate decisions before we met each other that we would do what Jesus commanded us to, and have tried to do that, and have been living the consequences ever since. It’s not that we want to provoke anger in people, it’s that we can’t sit by and see the mechanisms established to protect children ignored, and manipulated. We do not want to stop adoptions. On the contrary, I feel sometimes, we are the only people in Guatemala who would like adoptions to continue if there was a law stating that no money could be made. ( of course, enforcing that law could be as useful as the present enforcement of the present statutes!)

11/14/2007

Please Permit some Parental Pride


It is a sad, yet really, really proud moment. I just said goodbye to Joshua and Gabby at the airport. It cost way too much, but we sent them to Texas just to get them out of any altercations. The order for our arrest remains in effect as far as we know. You can understand the sad part, I am sure. But why proud?
Let me tell you.
As he and I checked their tickets, and vouchers and customs forms, I thought: “I don’t know many 20 year olds who could handle all this with the cool and patience, and grace that Joshua is helping and handling” Joshua is only 13, but he is one of the most gracious people I know. He is aware, and sometimes cautious, but not afraid of anything. Did I mention smart, and better at airport procedures and paperwork than his dad? I wouldn’t let any other 13 year old I know travel alone either, much less chaperone my granddaughter. But Joshua really is a person apart. Those who have spent even short periods of time with him know what I mean. We are truly blessed to have this young man living, and working with us. We are blessed and not worthy of this young man calling us mom and dad. Little Gabby…so cute and bouncing all around the airport, and drawing everyone’s attention as she shouts her various observations, and dances on the luggage scales, is also already a seasoned traveler, and really does go with the flow to a level that astounds me. I guess that’s a little of what it means to be an MK. All we do affects these two maybe more than us older guys.

I am sad, and proud, and well, angry, that the circumstances make this trip necessary.
Risk harm to one’s self and one’s family, or cow tow to corruption and “the way things are”.

Hell of a choice.

Literally.
Addition to post...
I need to add a little here: Just as we sent Joshua and Gabby to the states, there was an article in the Prensa Libre that indicated 4,177 children have been sent forcibly in the other direction this year. 4,177 Guatemalan childen have been deprted from Mexico and the U.S. since January. The article explained that these children were trying to get to the states to join parents or to seek work for themselves. The article said that many return to Guatemala with stories of abuse and exploitation. Our children were at some risk, but nothing compared to the children in this story. And, from our relationship with the detention centers in the article and with families here, that number is only a percentage of the children at risk. We need to pray for these children. And to consider what a humane ( Dare I say Godly?) Immigration Policy might look like. Justice is a universal, and a necessity, and often is in conflict with laws and diplomatic decisions.

11/11/2007

Is it the bad old days?

Hope for an advance of freedoms and new transparency in the society here in Guatemala, as spearheaded these last few years by President and Mrs. Berger are tempered by the realities of crime, and violence, and impunity still troubling this little country. To be really honest, a student of history must recognise the interference here from folks just to the north, who have for over a hundred years manipulated and corrupted Guatemalan's leaders and laws to get what they wanted, be it bananas, or land or cheap labor. To avoid complete cynicism, one learns to hope, and to try to do right, but to watch one’s back. Case in point…

First, before you read the rest of this, please pray for Shyrel, as I was told by U.S. Embassy staff, as well as the lawyers of the “adoption consortium” as well as parents waiting for children, that she will be arrested by a vindictive, and oddly behaving judge. She refuses to listen to the advice from all quarters to go into hiding. That’s what I love about her, and that’s what drives me crazy about her.

I am writing this as she is talking to the representative of the Human Rights Commission.

Indulge me as I try to relate the incidences experienced this week…that at first I thought were so NOT connected…but now am feeling like either God is in control, or I feel like the conspiracy theory has a lot of validity.

The first thing is reflected in my earlier post. The precious focus of the whirlwind surrounding us had been on my mind (the CQ children, in case you forgot) I also had thought “ I really need to touch base with folks after a week in Quiche virtually without internet”** (OK, so I had a little internet…can’t live without it!) So you got the picture of ( always picture perfect) Jose, and then a little thought about what Mary had said. Our wonderful pediatrician friend, Mary, is mapping the effects of feeding centers and health promoters who teach hygiene in a few really poor areas of Quiche, and it was my privilege this week to be a little help in a wonderful work, by bouncing back and forth between the city and the (incredibly interesting, and very appreciative, and so very different than me) Quiche Indians.. As I said, I got an earful from Mary about the best thing for the CQ kids. Weird how I just then posted it.

But right after I wrote that post, a friend called, saying that we might be about to be arrested.

Huh?

I found out that Shyrel had refused to go to an audience this morning involving 5 of the CQ kids. Her reasons had been two fold: She had checked in last night with the appeals court regarding her petition that the presiding judge excuse herself from the case involving these 5 children. She was told it was pending, and no action would be taken on the case. No action: as in no return to the audience schedule. This judge had informally told the homes housing CQ kids that there would be no more audiences, as she had resolved the issue once and for all. And, yes, that was the resolution that Shyrel appealed. The second reason was my late arrival from Quiche, due to road work. [Good analogy there: it is horrible right now to travel west from Guatemala City…because next year at this time there will be a four lane Highway. Yes it is a mess now, and short sighted people will belly ache to no end. But it had to get worse to get better.] I feel like right now, foresighted people who want children to be adopted understand that things are “bumpy” and slow but they must be like this for a while, so that in the future, they will get better. But there are those who want what they want when they want it, and so solid gains are sacrificed to temporary advances. When I got here, I suggested that we take the kids in…but that was disrupted by “the phone call”.

The strange thing was the phone call echoed an e-mail I got from a supposed CQ adoptive parent. ** I had gone to an Internet Café Thursday evening to try to send a design to a man that…well…never mind my reasons…but I GOT a load of e-mails from the CQ parental type folks who ranged from asking in a sincere way what was up with their children…to pretty caustic e-mails telling me I was not right to keep the CQ kids. I really do empathize with these people even though it becomes clearer and clearer that they have entered into agreements with less that credible people. So I ended up spending some time responding to the e-mails. One, though, was odd, and not representative of the majority. This person said, on THURSDAY, that I was going to jail. Then, an order is written on FRIDAY for our arrest, ostensibly due to Shyrel’s action Friday morning. HMMM. Foreknowledge. Either this person was a biblical prophet, or this person had been in contact with someone who felt that they could pull the strings of the justice system in Guatemala.

This reminds me that we had spoken to the other homes who had received the children from CQ and we all had attended an initial meeting regarding the odd behavior at the first audience. This last week, it became apparent that we were going to be alone in crying “foul”. The leaders of the other homes decided the risk of offence outweighed the potential for reform, and asked the judge to remove the children from their homes.

Needless to say, the phone call telling us about the rumored arrests generated more phone calls on our part. I am really gratified in the number of Guatemalan officials at all levels who have said they appreciate our stand against corruption, and appreciate our trying to allow enough time for a thorough investigation. They indicated ( understandably in a system rife with vindictive, corrupt people ) that they cannot say anything officially, but that they would do everything in their power to help us. This gives me hope for Guatemala, as their hearts are right, even as their fear for their livelihood impedes them. I do not judge them, and really do have hope for Guatemala, even though I read an article this week from an economic journal in the US that said that all reform here was window dressing. I wanted to argue against that, but their statistics were overwhelming. I will try to get the link…worth reading to see what we are fighting…and I believe it is WE, including many Guatemalans, and not just Shyrel.

SO…there were other foreshadowing’s making this week feel like an episode from “The Days of our Lives”, but let me cut to the chase:

The same JP who had invaded us on Shyrel’s birthday last month arrived wiht the CQ Lawyers in tow... or vice versa. Banging the door. Threatening jail for all who resisted. Reminiscent of the raid in August on the CQ Home. But the difference was only this: this is our home. Shyrel and I live here with our precious charges. Shyrel called our local police, who arrived quite quickly. There are rules about one’s home in Guatemala, and obviously, the rights of a home owner were clear to the accompanying policemen, who left it to the JP to rant and rave, and push on our doors, and then the private lawyer representing CQ to slam Shyrel’s head with the door. We believe the policemen had in their possession our arrest warrant. They did not act on it, and the JP only served the Judge’s VERY STRANGE release of the children to the CQ representatives. All in all, a strange evening…with nothing really resolved:

We are not arrested, but there is an outstanding warrant for our arrest. CQ “Parent” rant not withstanding. The threatened search and seizure we were warned about did not occur. BUT sadly, the worst thing that could have again happened to the children (according to our pediatrician) … happened. They were again broken from their heart attachments. Our caretakers are heartbroken. We are heartbroken. BUT that is maybe only a dim reflection of what these little ones are feeling right now. We are not heartbroken as if we expected them to stay with us forever, We know our privilege is to care for children at risk for key periods of thier lives, not forever. But I don’t think little Gustavo, and Roberto, and maybe especially Elisabeth, because she is SO aware of the little things, are aware that what has happened is not once again monumental. I guess I would feel better if I felt the lawyer who supervised the judges, or the directors of the home really cared about these children. I hope the children get to their forever families quickly. It makes me wonder if maybe we could have all talked together at the beginning as adults to see if there was a way to best serve the children. But maybe that is my dreamer side. From the outset, we only heard vilifications from the other adults involved… at least those who were here in Guatemala. But maybe we should have turned the other cheek, and sought middle ground. I am sorry it turned out like this, with one more trauma for the innocents…and even as I tried to sympathize with the directors of CQ, we now find out we were being plotted against…not approached ever. The judge’s silly resolution stated that we as a home for children have no voice in what happens to them, but Guatemalan civil code is clear that our responsibility is to provide care and protection, and that we are their legal representatives from the moment their enter our care. Before God, we have done our best.

So who has won? Will someone claim victory? The judge may well lose her post. We might spend time in jail. The JP? He was a bully before, then like a cat on a hot tin roof when the Casa Alianza folks showed up. But saddest: the children have suffered again and again. And the process? NO ONE can say that this was an investigative success with a straight face.

The doubts will continue.

The stigma of adoptions from Guatemala was increased by this unfortunate series of events.

What will it take to say enough is enough, and see that the people who have controlled adoptions in Guatemala have not done a service to Guatemalan children in need?

11/09/2007

too cute for words


It’s been a while since I last posted…so to make amends, will share the cutest picture I have seen lately.

Rocky and Adrian had four cute pups, and Jose, who is Adrian’s favorite person anyway, has been hanging with the little cuties.

We have been dealing with the best possible scenarios for difficult situations lately, and especially with the special visitors we have in our care. SO many people have been challenging us to consider in all we do what is best for the children in our care. We have thought that was our priority, but wanted to make sure, and so engaged our friend and prominent Pediatrician for advice. She was appalled at the nighttime movement of the children who came to us in August, but said the worst thing for them now, is to move again. Her assessment was that these children will be better prepared to integrate into their American Families by staying, and not be broken from the new bonds in our home. Interesting point. I am hoping we all can indeed work together, and get these children where they belong as soon as possible…and that it happens in a way that will warrant better things for the children in the future adoptions. It truly is horrible for the legitimate and loving parents waiting for these children. Please join with us and pray for these children and the ones who have so much invested in them.

10/23/2007

That salesman was so nice

My cynical side reacts to that phrase with less than agreement. Sure he was nice, but how deep did it go? How long will it last? We are hardwired to respond nicely to nice people. And we should be nice, especially to other nice people ( Can I get a DUH people?) Maybe spending a lot of time in Southern California fed that cynicism. But I am. I feel like it lessens something in me, but not being that way might be worse. I don't know.



to expand this ambivalence to cultures:

Guatemala is the most gracious society in this hemisphere. There is a way of presenting issues here that simply blows Americans away. I have not ever heard an American come back from a trip and say anything but they were treated so warmly and kindly. I see that in business relations too. A deal is made where 3 or 4 times the actual value for something is paid, whether a souvenir, or an article of clothing, or something more expensive and precious, and the American goes on and on about how nice the person was.



The cultures really don’t understand each other as well as it seems on the surface.


So Americans are willing to think that that person with whom they have dealt could not possibly have led them down a primrose path, and could not possibly be involved in anything wrong.


So Guatemalans are willing to think there are nefarious reasons that people will pay so much money for a baby all the way to the body parts harvesting rumors. Neither, I believe, are correct in their beliefs.




This is Cesia. She came to us directly from the Embassy, where a visa was sought for her to “visit with her mother “ in the U.S. She is extremely quiet, but said there is a place where many children are waiting to be taken to the U.S. There is definitely more to this story. Pray wiht us for Cesia and the kids like her!

Also, here was advice I found regarding niceness...a better way:

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Be patient in hope, joyful in affliction and faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it is dependent on you, live at peace with everyone."

10/20/2007

Rambling answers are us

A new friend who really cares for children in need wrote asking a very good question. I ended up writing a long answer, then thought, well, this blog is well named, and so it maybe will be best placed here.

Her Question:
Do you think the children of Guatemala will benefit in the long run from the closing of International Adoption by UNICEF? My volunteer visits in orphanages led me to think adoption was a good thing...and it breaks my heart to think of the thousands of more kids that will be without forever families. I would like to believe that some good will emerge.

My response:
Good Question! I wish I had the answers that it deserves.

I really do not think that the social fabric of Guatemala will be much affected by the halt to relinquishment adoptions. I think we who have children’s homes will get more children initially. We are already getting children the lawyers do not think they can place before the end of the year. But over all, not much will change. Guatemalan society is recuperating from the civil war, and is much better now that it was 5 or 10 years ago. Yet, there are more children in children’s homes now that 5 or 10 years ago. This is in spite of the thousands of adoptions, which, had they been an answer, would have some affect. I think, as I said in a previous blog, this is because the children given by relinquishment are not in that same set. People have said it is because the children were allowed to die, etc. But there is no statistically relevant evidence of that. We are pretty involved with the women and children at risk, and do not see it that way, and so say the extreme is not the norm. The statistics are inching towrd better, but only inching. We are seeing better nutrition, and better education, and better health care available to more people. I get frustrated with outrageously paid spokespeople for international adoptions, who make outrageous unverifiable claims regarding the horror of Guatemalan society, and the only hope is adoption. Then when I have spoken regarding the corruption in the process, these same people say “there is no proof”.

The really sad part of Unicef’s influence is that adoptions must be a part of the solution of children at risk in ANY society. So stopping it is only a negative. It won’t stop the illegal movement of children and adults for evil purposes. It may increase that sector. Their offer of $28,000,000 was a positive, but has been trumpeted to be a pay-off to the president for pushing through their agenda. Having watched the Berger’s for 10 years (He was mayor of Guatemala City when we came here), I truly do not believe this, and feel that the people who started that line are greed motivated slanderers. But Guatemala’s Presidents and the UN have no defense, historically, against those accusations. Unfortunately, the money will arrive after the Berger’s leave, and so we will not have the benefit of their oversight. They really did a lot of good things these last four years, in small communities throughout the country, in restructuring the government to make it less corruption friendly, and in an unprecedented fashion of managing relief efforts when the hurricanes and mudslides created huge problems. But these efforts did not gain friends in the special interest sectors, and made a number of enemies, as reform will in this atmosphere. We pray that the next president continue these programs.

We have and are speaking with UNICEF, and the Secretaria de Bienestar Social (who will most likely oversee adoption activities in the future) and everyone says that adoptions of abandoned children will continue. And we have heard that Adoption lawyers are positioning themselves to control these cases in the future. ( The HUGE problem with continuing with "abandonment" adoptions while not having dealt with corruption, is that there will not even be the protection of the DNA verification, and so a) charges of baby stealing will be everywhere, therefore b) the process will be even slower than the current excruciating pace.) The continuance of adoptions has not been the case in other countries that have adopted the Hague conventions. We will be working to keep adoptions open, with the drumbeat of the international RIGHTS OF THE CHILD that state the RIGHT TO A FAMILY, but will really be angry if the corrupt system just changes clothes.

A big cultural dysfunction here is the attitude of average Guatemalans, who expect corruption, and don’t demand better from their elected officials. This contributes to the problems. Poverty in places like Guatemala is not a result of lazy workers, or of poor resources. It is a result of centuries ( millennia) of the powerful not simply not helping the poor, but actively keeping the poor from helping themselves. Another huge dysfunction is that Americans feel they can solve any situation in any country with money. This has caused in many countries over many years, a confusion between a semblance of control and real solutions. The combination of those two cultural weaknesses creates the nuclear fusion of corruption, that in this case, permeates adoptions in Guatemala. So you add UNICEF. It is my impression that there is no problem so bad anywhere in the world, that adding UNICEF’s influence cannot make it worse.

I can’t get too angry at the people of Guatemala or the states. The acceptance of corruption is, I think, a vestige of those centuries of control by tyrants and despots. Perhaps the justice gene has been filtered from the gene pool, as those who evidenced it were “disappeared”. And the Americans in this case have the best of intentions, wanting to use their money to rescue children. I think things are changing, there is worldwide awareness and communication, and there is much more individual empowerment than even 10 years ago. But until the justice gene can make a comeback, American willingness to pay a lot of money will corrupt whatever system is in place.

This may seem really elementary, but it seems that people in the States refuse to accept it: The key element of corruption is MONEY.

Americans wonder why they are not appreciated more, when all they want to do is help, and to spend money in the country. But I think that there is no empathy here, first of all, towards “rich” people, then secondly for people who are perceived to be involved in corruption. Culturally, in Guatemala, a person who does not manage his money carefully does not deserve to keep it. The extreme of this is the “rule” that if you do not have your possessions locked, and under armed guard, it’s not really stealing if someone “finds” it. So Americans throwing money around is not seen as a good characteristic, even though it will be received.

But Guatemalans have responded to true charitable acts, and honor people who are not either buyers or sellers. Shyrel benefits from this reputation. I saw it again last week. A neighbor asked how a recent court situation went, and when I explained it, he was quick, and resigned to expect the outcome had been corrupted and money motivated. I related an anecdote apart from the main issues, how an official had thought to punish Shyrel for disagreeing with a previous decision by blocking a potential income for our home. This income process had been pretty standard, but in this case, the “punishment” was blunted, because Shyrel had always refused to accept that funding when offered previously, and so was not affected by this move. It was interesting to see his heartfelt response, of maybe glee in the confounding of an official, but also hope in blunting corruption. He said: “Guatemala needs more people who cannot be bought”.

10/16/2007

Beauty and the eye of the beholder ... I guess

Meet cute little Juanito. Well, I think he is cute. I enjoy talking to him, and seeing him search my face for a sense of…what is he looking for? It seems like a lot. Answers? Why is he here with us? He looks like a little old man in many ways. I am not sure of his thoughts, but his Identity is sure.

He went through 2 ( count them…two!) DNA tests to verify who he was. His mother submitted to at least 4 interviews, and then he was finger printed a number of times. He may even have gotten to the point here he was issued his U.S. visa. But then he was abandoned. The Lawyer forgot to tell the adopting parents that he was a funny looking kid. And, apparently, when they came to take him to the states, they opted to not. You see, he has a chronic illness called “William’s syndrome”. He has a distinctive face, with the likelihood of other problems. But listen to what one symptom is:

Individuals with Williams syndrome have a very endearing personality. They have a unique strength in their expressive language skills, and are extremely polite.

I can’t wait to see his personality develop. I think he is adorable, and the experts seem to agree that he will stay that way. But then I am not normal, and I did not pay a large amount of money to adopt him, and so it may not be fair to judge too harshly the couple who rejected him. It appears he suffered significant head trauma 60 days prior to coming to us…?
Dang, I was told that babies heading for adoption are the best cared for, and they do not suffer the same problems that the rest of the population of this “backwards little country” do.
We are awaiting the results of genetic testing by our friends at the genetic Studies Center.
Poor little guy…already experienced a lifetime of drama and hasn’t even reached one year old.

10/12/2007

Cockeyed Optimist

In the last few months we have been aware of the discussions on many U.S. websites regarding the imminent closing of adoptions from Guatemala. AS we look at the sites, and especially sites connected with adoption agencies, again and again, the alternative to being adopted is convincingly stated as: Death for the child. The implied and stated reason is that Guatemala is such a horrible country that cannot take care of it's own people.

We are quick to agree that Guatemala has had a troubled recent past, and have the same issues facing them that any big city in the United States has: Poverty, corruption, apathetic officials, gangs, violent crime. But it struck me that the portrayal of Guatemala by only these areas is not fair, nor balanced. So I wanted to point out some of the reasons I am encouraged, having lived here for almost 11 years now. We have seen change for the better.

There is a growing middle class. The old rich are dissipating a bit in some cases, and poorer people are gaining the middle ground afforded by education.

Everyone is aware that education is the key hope for their children’s future. As this generation grows, the statistics will steadily rise for the education index as these children move ahead…year by school year.

While many Guatemalans are fooled into thinking that going to the US “wet” will help their families rather than put them in incredible risk, a good percentage have returned with that nest egg, and done well with it by starting a small business.

And, charitable efforts by Guatemalans are everywhere*. e.g....

There is a telethon that supports the efforts of a network of therapy clinics all over the country.

Pollo Campero has a campaign yearly to fund the pediatric Oncology effort.

The Pediatric heart and genetics institute is well funded and well managed.

A world class Aids orphanage just opened near us, funded by Guatemalans.

Just the other day we all ate Big Macs, because ( I think) every centavo of that purchase on that day went to fund the Ronald McDonald house near the National Pediatric hospital, resolving one of the big barriers to poor families getting their children taken care of.

OK, some of this is a bit fluffy, and may seem out of place in a country where malnutrition remains epidemic…and it would be ironic if the Big Mac drive was for the heart foundation…but these things are some of the better reflections of the U.S. by the middle class here.

* OK, I didn’t state the whole truth. Those efforts are mainly in the big cities. There is not a lot of charity offered or received in the extremely rural, extremely Mayan, extremely poor areas.

There is still a lot of work to be done. But this statement is true all over the world. Sadly, there are no shortages of places for people interested in rescuing children at risk to work. I was struck by that fact when I saw a website recommended by fellow Latin American Missionaries, and a description about an incredible couple in India...one of the Highest high tech countries in the world, with tens of thousands of professionals. Yet, still there, the work of Murli and Usha Menon is needed.:

Quite a few years ago, Murli and Usha started rescuing little girls from infanticide in their immediate area of Tamil Nadu, a region well documented for its killing of baby girls. Murli and Usha simply took children into their own home to be raised as part of their family. They now have almost a dozen children’s homes and presently care for 362 children rescued from the streets and the grave. Their goal is to save 100,000 children, primarily in India, but also stretching into Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The Menons know that local indigenous churches are the only way to accomplish such an incredible feat.


What struck me in these hero’s story was that last line. That is the key in Guatemala too.

Here is the link to their story, and a good looking mission organization we were introduced to.

http://abandoned-orphaned.typepad.com/paulmyhill/


Please pray with us for the children at risk. Please consider what God might have you do. If you ask Him, I bet he will tell you.

Hints:

Matt 25:35ff
James 1:27

Many, Many more hints can be found throughout the Book.

10/08/2007

Pachas Playing and Picnic

Our “main house” has the babies and our “apartment” and it is a blessing and a blast to live in this house. We start pretty early each morning. It’s quite a process during feeding times, and a lot of tickles and giggles and a lot of bottles. Here is Rosa making the after breakfast bottles. About 25 of them with their various recipes. By 8, everyone is full of food, some still working on bottles, but mainly ready for the morning’s work of crawling, practicing rolling over, sitting up with , and all the various developmental processing. By about 10, ready for a nap and another bottle. A good time to check on the gang at house 2.

Our “second” house has the 2 ½ and uppers, who seem so old to us as we come over to see how they are doing. Although we have only had our small home for about 2 years, we can see the marked growth in these precious “big” little guys. I came upon them the other day in a group, talking together for all the world like a committee meeting. We may get a list of demands regarding more cookies and less bananas for morning snack time!

Yesterday was picnic day.

10/05/2007

Happy Birthday Indeed

Some people out of vanity do not look forward to birthdays, as we get on in years. Shyrel might start wincing as her birthdays approach, but not due to that.

Last year, we had a horrible approach to October 5th. Shyrel practically lived in the Intensive care unit of the national pediatric hospital for 3 weeks, attending to little Gabriel. From the beginning, we called him the angel Gabriel who came to us 2 months old with a colostomy, and a hole in his heart. Gabriel went home to be with the Lord on October 4th, and Shyrel came home with Typhoid fever.

This year she has been healthy, and things have not been as critical as last year, but VERY happening. So tonight, Shyrel, Josh and I went out to celebrate and relax a bit with dinner and a movie.

It looked like a pretty good movie, but we won’t know, because during it, we got a call from Rosa at home saying a very angry Justice of the Peace was demanding entrance and threatening to place our staff in jail. Exit movie. Travel home ( complete with Policemen and Ministerio Publico personnel camped at our front door.) We have had many visits by Government officials over the years, ( and they ALWAYS seem to obey Murphy’s Law as far as timing) and so were not concerned that this would not be resolved…But it is a little disconcerting …hmm…”maybe our recent statements have angered the wrong people who have friends in high places” passes through one’s mind. Unlikely, maybe paranoid….OK, let’s subject every thought to the Lordship Of Jesus Christ and see what our visitors want.


Still, kind of spooky as we approached...


The justice was pretty intense. Rightfully so. If I need a Justice of the peace because I feel my rights have been threatened, I hope I get this sort of response, and diligence. He was there with a young woman whose baby had been stolen from her at gun point in February. The poor young woman had sought recourse, and at some point recently, had been told to see about the babies we had received. She ( convincingly to the justice and the MP rep in attendance) picked out one of the babies that had come to our home. The evening’s repast ended with a copy of all our paperwork concerning the child going with the Justice, ( identity withheld for obvious reasons) and a plan for DNA testing. We spent a little time talking with the young woman, and prayed with her. Then shed a tear out of her sight. I actually trembled when I heard the incident as she described being robbed of her baby at gunpoint. The young woman was so sad…it was a long term sadness, but she jumped up at any point that something was said regarding the child. There was a genuineness about her grief mixed with at long last hope. This child may or may not be her birth child. The Authorities with her were empathetic and sincere. We were all in accord. But this kind of incident, by no means a solitary one, wrenches us.

There are those who feel the PGN and the authorities are too slow in reaching decisions regarding children. There are campaigns going on to lobby U.S. and Guatemalan statesmen to intercede. Even as we are sad about the slowness of the Judicial adoptions with which we work here, seeing this young woman makes me feel much more patient with the efforts to make sure.

Just yesterday, Shyrel spent a few hours in a hearing regarding one of the children in our care. She came to us due to a dispute beteen the alleged birth mother and the Adoption facilitators. The story is like a bad soap opera of greed and deception. We have not shared it openly yet, as some very dear friends were getting set to adopt her…it is devastating for them, we are sure. Maybe after they have had a time to seek peace, we will share the story. Actually, we have more than 10 children who have come to us in the last two months as a result of a botched visa or adoption situations. We probably need ot stop taking them in, but as far as we know, we are one of only a couple of homes the government trusts and who also agree that the best for these children would be adoption. We hope to ride out the present uncertainties and get these children families.

Then there are all of the new children. Obviously, we have been careful about talking about them. They are the focus of a lot of attention. There are clearly two views regarding them, one filled with doubt, one filled with hope.

Speculating on the legalities and the philosophies is my addiction….
…In the meantime, Shyrel and our precious staff make sure that the children in our care are oblivious to all that…and just know that they are at this moment in the presence of a dozen nannies and our family who cherish them. Spending my special times with the children is my compensation for the work I am supposed to be doing on their behalf.

Oh yeah, Happy Birthday, Honey!

Like Fine Wine...


See those hands? They seem to get better with age!

There are so many things going on, and so little time to write. But for today, I want to share with you a celebration of life.

should I get all shmarmy and say something like "with martha's hands and Mary's heart"?

Can't resist:
Pro 31:15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
Pro 31:16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
Pro 31:17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
Pro 31:18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
Pro 31:19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
Pro 31:20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.




A photo essay of a day in the life...






















Happy Birthday Shyrel. We love you

10/04/2007

Naïve Set Theory

Many of you may have seen Shyrel and our precious Charges on CNN Last Night. The Segment was pretty sensational in that AC and staff used many words that cast many aspersions on the Guatemalan Adoption world. A quick scan of the Blogs populated by the Americans interested in Adopting children from Guatemala ( past, present and future) shows a defensive reaction, and even outrage at the CNN story.

I guess that’s a reflection of our society. As Joshua and I traveled in the states last month, we at first enjoyed listening to varying radio ideologues. But it does get tiring after a while. It seems like many issues are so polarized that there is not much talking WITH…only talking AT people with whom one disagrees. That rarely helps solve the problem that divides the opposing sides. This was epitomized yesterday in the Guatemalan Congress, when the opposing presidential candidates’ parties used the pending Adoption Reform law like a football to score political points. As neither side cared so much about the law, as wanting to make sure their opponents did not look good, no action was taken.

In the adoption debate, it seems the two sides can be classified by their understanding of the status of the children being adopted by Americans. One group ( seen on Adoption agency websites and the Guatemalan Attorney’s sites) says that these children were born by accident to poor mothers and will die if not adopted by American couples. The other group (see CNN segment) says that the children are a product, harvested from pressured mothers or even conceived to sell.

As always, the TRUTH is probably somewhere in the middle. That fact reminds me of learning about “sets” in school. Do you remember intersecting sets? Sometimes it was diagramed showing two circles {set A} and {set B}, with parts of both sharing the same ( usually shaded) space. I feel like we here at Amor del Niño live in that shaded area. I promise to post some cute pictures of children that are here, who are from both sets.

Often, you can only hold these strongly opposing views by being ignorant of the facts. One way to remain ignorant is to refuse to listen to the opposition. The U.S. State department counsels prospective adoptive parents to do their homework. The problem is that all of the “research” occurs on the sites that are financially motivated to show one side of the story. We here in Guatemala see a distinctly different world that that portrayed by these sites. It saddens us that the well intentioned potential parents in some cases ( NOT ALL!) become unwitting accomplices to an system of coercion and corruption motivated not by the welfare of the children, but by the lure of the almighty Dollar. When stories are heard evidencing corruption, it is again sad to see how they are not investigated or considered, but emotionally shouted down. It is an emotional subject.

7/06/2007

rleationships are the heart of our faith

a frind said that to me, and I have many times pondered if I even understand a little bit


Until i start writing again, I will post some connectijns to our friends who do blogs so much better.

melissa is helping to find homes for children who are otherwise forgotten...due to more reasons than I can list right now. Here is her blog

http://seekingtheforgotten-melissa.blogspot.com/

Thanks for the good word. Melissa...but to our other friends..please read her historical stuff!

5/02/2007

Per child costs and puppies

I just heard a pod cast of a nonprofit discussion group talking about costs and raising funds. Probably the quintessential labor of non profit people is to discuss how to raise funds, and then to try to explain to boards why they were unable to get what they needed. (I am so glad that Jehovah Jireh told me years ago that it was his deal to provide, and my deal to obey...it definitely takes the edge off)

I then read an article about the Dallas Public school district that pointed out that some schools receive $8000 per student per year, while others were as low as $4000 per student per year. In a 10 month school year that is $400 per child per month in the poorest schools in Dallas.

Why am I bringing this up? I am very insecure, and a miser, and have had a hard time with the idea that we are spending about $300 per child per month ( total organizational costs) to not just educate, but to feed and house, and provide medical care and all the special things that make the special children feel…special.

For instance, our latest guilty indulgence:

Labrador Puppies.



I hope they will grow to become good guardians of our children and our houses. But in the meantime, the people who sway me the most are happy to have them














Yes...I said "Puppies", as in 2




Jose likes to get on the ground and wrestle


























Hannah just plain loves them


Danny is not so sure


And Selvin is such a servant hearted little person that he makes sure the puppies are well fed.














We will keep working at being a good organization, and at being a place where the children who have no say over whether they would be here or not...would choose to be here if they had.

Thanks for your prayers that keep us going!




Please forgive the photo quality. I shot in low light with my available camera. I hope you agree with me that a fuzzy picture is better than no picture at all.