international adoption, baby trade, Guatemala adoption
Rodrigo Abd/AP
U.S. citizens play with the babies they plan to adopt at a hotel in Guatemala City. (AP)

Guatemalan Baby Trade Means Trouble for Adoptions

July 29, 2008 09:23 AM
by Shannon Firth
Several countries are stepping up security to curb a growing baby trade—good news for everyone except for those who want to adopt internationally.

30-Second Summary

In Guatemala, recent DNA tests confirmed what’s long been suspected: babies are being stolen and put up for adoption by corrupt state agencies.

Gunmen stole Ana Escobar’s six-month-old daughter, Esther, from her in March 2007. Escobar was eventually reunited with her daughter, but similar stories and complaints caused the Guatemalan government to review all current adoption cases in May.

The country’s problems with stolen babies draw attention to adoption problems worldwide. The popularity and relative ease of international adoptions have given rise to an illegal global baby trade that host countries like Guatemala are battling to control.

In 2007, Tom deFilipo, chief executive of the Council on International Children’s Services, noted his concerns but added, “In the past 20 years, half a million children have found loving homes and safe homes through intercountry adoption.”

In 2006, China and Russia, the most popular choices for adoptive parents seeking children, enforced more stringent adoption policies and began encouraging domestic adoptions. Such crackdowns have prevented many illegal adoptions but have also made it more difficult for couples to adopt internationally. That same year, the Associated Press reported that, after “having tripled for fifteen years,” international adoption rates fell.

Meanwhile celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Madonna have brought great attention to international adoption but have also faced criticism for receiving preferential treatment and for ignoring American children in need of homes. A Howard Univesity editorial asked, “what about that little black child in an American ghetto that your private jet flew right over on the way to another continent?”

Headline Links: Proof of stolen Guatemalan babies

Video: The downside to international adoption; recent changes in adoption law

Background: Scandals and tighter standards prompt decline in international adoption

Opinions & Analysis: One mother’s concern over her Guatemalan adoption

Related Link: Controversy over celebrity adoptions

Reference: Hague Convention on Adoption, international adoption guide


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines