Page last updated at 21:45 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 22:45 UK

Reunion 'hard' on Guatemala baby

Ana Escobar
Ana Escobar has urged couples not to accept babies thought to be stolen

A Guatemalan woman whose daughter was taken from her and handed over for adoption has spoken of the challenges at being reunited with her child.

Ana Escobar said spending more than a year apart had badly affected both mother and baby.

DNA tests in Guatemala have proved that Esther Sulamita is Ms Escobar's child, the first proven case of baby theft for adoption in Guatemala.

The pair are now back together and adoptions remain banned in Guatemala.

The Guatemalan congress tightened laws on adoption in December to try to prevent abuse of the system.

In May the authorities suspended the adoption of some 2,300 children by foreigners and are reviewing each case to check if the babies were genuinely being offered for adoption by their birth mothers.

Difficult reunion

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Escobar said she still felt the pain of being separated from Esther, now aged one year 10 months.

There are lots of Westerners who know that their children are stolen and yet it does not hurt them
Ana Escobar

"The truth is it still hurts. Sometimes I close my eyes and I see the faces of the people who took my baby," she said.

Ms Escobar said her daughter became ill when they were reunited in May, and that her behaviour was erratic in their first weeks together.

"She was very aggressive, she bit me, she hit me, she threw things at me and didn't want me to touch her. It has been tough to adapt, but now I'm trying mentally and I've managed to calm her down."

Being reunited with Esther - who she had seen once with a US woman who was adopting her - was both joyous and traumatic, Ms Escobar said.

"After six months without seeing her, she was bigger, and that was a shock," she said. "It was a traumatic moment, and it was stirring - more than that."

Western warning

Ana Escobar is just one of many Guatemalan women who suspect their children have been illegally taken for adoption, often in the US.

Last year, more than 4,700 Guatemalan children were adopted by Americans.

Documents showing the finger and foot prints of a baby up for adoption on a desk at the Attorney General's office in Guatemala City
Officials are reviewing all pending adoptions to confirm there is no fraud
Dozens of Guatemalan mothers have reported stolen babies, and Ms Escobar accused Guatemalan authorities of foot-dragging in their efforts to crack down on baby-snatching.

She also urged Western couples interested in adopting a Guatemalan child to do adequate research before making a decision.

"First I would say to them check exactly whether the boy or girl is licensed for adoption, to make sure they have not been snatched, or taken from a mother who is suffering.

"It is a matter of conscience: if you know the child is stolen you must say so, otherwise it goes on and on, it gets worse and worse.

"There are lots of Westerners who know that their children are stolen and yet it does not hurt them and they continue to adopt the children."

Ms Escobar reported her daughter stolen last year and during her search saw the baby with a US woman who was adopting her.

The baby had a false birth certificate but DNA tests proved the parentage and Esther is now back with Ms Escobar.

An adoption official confirmed it was the first time a baby proved to have been taken from its mother without her consent, and said the lawyers who handled the adoption, the doctor who signed earlier, falsified DNA tests and anyone else associated with the process would be investigated.

Country profile: Guatemala
07 Nov 07 |  Country profiles

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