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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 20:14 GMT 21:14 UK
US mother defends Guatemala adoption
Katherine and her husband Brien, from the US state of Michigan, are in the process of adopting seven-month-old twin boys from a Guatemalan orphanage currently under investigation by the authorities.

She talked to the BBC about her own experience of the home and the Guatemalan adoption process.

I don't want to be naive in thinking that everything is exactly how it should be with adoptions. But my husband and I did go visit in May and I can say for a fact it is an extremely clean, well-run orphanage.

A Guatemalan mother and baby (file picture)
Poverty is one reason why mothers in Guatemala give up their babies
It is well staffed - there's a nurse on hand 24 hours a day and a doctor visits every day. They are known for taking very, very good care of babies - and they take care of babies who are sicker than many orphanages can manage.

Everything we have known would show that [the owners] run their home in support of Guatemala and not to take advantage of Guatemalans.

Obviously they are not perfect, nobody is... but what we have been reading on the internet is very frustrating to us because most of what we hear goes against what we have known or seen ourselves.

It is very difficult, the uncertainty and not knowing what is going to happen next to the children - our kids.

This weekend for us and the other [adoptive] parents has been one of just anxiety, nervousness, for to some extent you become very attached to these children. Legally they are not our children but in our hearts these boys are part of our family.

How things work out has an effect not only on us as a family but also their health and their future.

'Not the norm'

Adopting is something my husband and I talked about for 10 years. We had two biological children and wanted to add to our family and decided this was the best route.

One of the reasons we picked Guatemala specifically is that the country has no social welfare system... there is no other place for these babies to go
We investigated countries and agencies very well - we wanted to do something as ethical as possible, not take advantage of anyone involved. We did a lot of leg-work and picked this orphanage - and I still think we made the right decision.

As with any adoption process, in the US or Russia or China or anywhere, there are always going to be cases of fraud or illegal activity. It's not just Guatemala that has problems - and they do have problems - but I do not believe that is the norm.

I have talked to too many people who have had good or great experiences in Guatemala to think that that is the norm.

It's frustrating that Guatemalan adoptions get painted in such a negative fashion - and that parents who go to Guatemala for adoption are often painted as unscrupulous people who want children in the cheapest and quickest way - because that is not the case.

One of the reasons we picked Guatemala specifically is that the country has no social welfare system, there are no public orphanages, there is no other place for these babies to go.

Poverty factor

[Not knowing the motivation of the birth mother] is always a concern because there will come a day when these babies will become adolescents and they will want to know why. Every parent has to think about what they are going to say and I'm not going to lie to my children.

At this home, you never meet the birth mother. We have a picture of her. Typically when you complete the adoption you get the paperwork that gives information about where she lives, what she does, was she a minor.

I don't know the specifics, but I think most mothers relinquish their children because of the extreme poverty and the lack of access to and cultural unacceptability of contraception.

Given the choice of having another child when you cannot afford to feed the ones you have already at home and the choice to give it up for adoption... poverty plays a big role.

Obviously lawyers get paid and in Guatemala that is the big issue, the amount of money that goes to them.

I'm sure there are exceptions but I truly believe in most cases [the mothers] are not doing it to make a profit.

Guatemala launches adoption probe
13 Aug 07 |  Americas
Potential pitfalls of adopting abroad
18 Oct 06 |  Special Reports
Guatemala's baby business
01 Sep 00 |  Crossing Continents
Country profile: Guatemala
11 May 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Guatemala
19 Jul 07 |  Country profiles

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