Posted by: ourwildride | December 21, 2007

The other quote

Before the things started falling apart in the house last week (microwave, garage door opener, bathroom sink) and before the power outage(s) and before the strep throat, I wanted to say my piece about the other quote popping up in AP articles about Guatemala adoptions. Now I’m way late but it is still on my mind. The quote is the following, “Notaries charge an average of $30,000 for children delivered in about nine months — record time for international adoptions. The process is so quick that one in every 100 Guatemalan children now grow up as an adopted American; Guatemala sent 4,135 children to the U.S. last year.”

Is that loaded, or what?

First off, the $30K number seems to be everywhere in the press. And frankly, I’m not sure where it is coming from – no source is ever mentioned. If you want to know what our country fees were for this adoption you are welcome to go check Bethany’s website – all the country fees are posted. It is nowhere near $30K. I will admit Guatemala is the highest country fee of all of Bethany’s programs but it isn’t much higher than some of the Eastern European country fees (like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan).

When we were looking at the financial component of this adoption (which seems like ages ago) we looked at the total cost. That included home study fees (the same for every domestic/international adoption), country fees (vary by country), and travel requirements & expenses (very by country). While the Guatemala country fees were on the higher end of the scale, travel expenses are on the lower end of the scale. Think 5 days for Guatemala vs. 2 weeks for China vs. 45 days (or 2 trips) for Kazakhstan.

Ultimately, our decision was made based on where we felt our hearts being drawn and where we thought we would best be able to maintain ties to the child’s culture of origin. There is a large Latino community where we live. We speak more Spanish than any other foreign language. Trips to Guatemala seem far more accessible than many other places. In some ways this thinking is/was naive. We aren’t particularly plugged into the Latino community nor are we fluent Spanish speakers. That was our thinking. But I digress…

Next comes the phrase ‘delivered in about nine months’. This implies that you plunk down some cash and in nine months you are home with a baby. It is not that simple. Nor should it be. That would be child trafficking. That is illegal. It is very disturbing to have the media imply that every Guatemalan adoption is a form of child trafficking.

Finally comes the assertion that 1% of children born in Guatemala are ultimately adopted abroad. I believe this estimation comes from UNICEF’s statistics on the number of annual births (roughly 437,000 annually) and the number of international adoptions (roughly 4,100 annually). To me it is a sad statistic that reflects a difficult situation for far too many women. Unfortunately, there are many more sad statistics that aren’t being reported by the US press.

For example, according to UNICEF, the annual number of under 5 deaths in Guatemala is 19,000. So while 4,100 children lose their country of origin, 19,000 die. And what about the children who live? Again according to UNICEF statistics, 49% of children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition that results in ‘stunting’. 49%!! Of those, 2% of children suffer from malnutrition so severe it results in ‘wasting’. And lets not forget about the 20% of the population that live outside of access to the health care system.

The vast majority of the children adopted internationally are indigenous Mayans and are generally from rural areas. UNICEF notes that the indigenous populations in more rural areas have higher percentages of infant mortality and chronic malnutrition. For example, “Infant mortality for the country is 40 per 1,000 live births, but for indigenous children it reaches 46 per 1,000 live births and doubles in isolated rural indigenous areas.” That means there are areas of the country where infant mortality is nearly 10%. As a mother, I simply cannot fathom what it must be like to live with those realities.

This is not to say that adoption is a long term solution to the complicated issues facing Guatemala. It is not. Nor is it as simple as some people (on either side) paint it to be. And it doesn’t fit nicely into a 5 paragraph press release or a 30 second sound byte for our short American attention spans.

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Responses

  1. OMG…that was so well put I have goosebumps! Thank you for writing it. You have such a way of putting things in perspective without also being condescending and I so respect and appreciate that!


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