Adoption Snapshots

The BBC has a number of reports on Guatemalan adoptions.


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.


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:

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."


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.


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.


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


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!


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.