More Guatemalan Adoption Scandal
Thanks to the AFAAD Listserv for this article.
1 in 100 Guatemalan babies every year is raised in the US. It’s a staggering number for such a small country. Since 1990 there have been over 29,400 adoptions from Guatemala making it only second to China as a sending country.
Casa Quivira, which has been considered one of the most legitimate adoption agencies in Guatemala is facing a large investigation into child trafficking.
The trafficking continues in Guatemala, and it’s hard to see an easy solution when both agencies, notaries, and the birth parents do not have an institutionalized adoption process nor watchdog government agencies to oversee these transactions.
It’s unfair to all parties involved, and instead of slowing the adoption numbers they continue at the same clip. Both birth families and adoptive families are being torn apart by a fractured system that likely will not see complete reform for a number of years.
And yet amidst it all I am still provoked by the insinuation that adoptive parents are angered by the amount of money they paid for a “hassle-free adoption,” and are experiencing either delays or re-starts to their paperwork. Regardless of whether this is their intention, there really is no such thing as a hassle free adoption. I’m fascinated that there are these ideological fallacies of what adoption really is. One family was torn apart to start another-regardless of whether the birth family was conned or if they were economically unable to care for their child. There is nothing hassle free about that.
It’s a hard truth to swallow, and yet I understand why a-parents want this so-called “hassle free” adoption. Yet something doesn’t sit right for me in this statement…maybe it’s the fact that this alleged “hassle free” transaction is the same slogan for my Capital One credit card…
Fraud Leaves Guatemalan Babies in Limbo
By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
March 10, 2008 6:49 PM EDT
GUATEMALA CITY – Luciany Ball’s adoption file says she was born 14
months ago by Caesarean section to a single mother who gave her up so
she could be raised by a loving family in a six-bedroom Indiana
But now some of the documents appear to be fraudulent, part of a slew
of irregularities at the agency handling Luciany’s adoption that have
left dozens of babies in danger of being seized from their anguished
American adoptive parents. The probe also casts a cloud of
uncertainty over some 2,900 pending U.S. adoptions.
Prosecutors describe their probe of Casa Quivira – considered
Guatemala’s best adoption agency – as their first serious attempt to
investigate a $100 million industry that has made tiny Guatemala the
largest source of American babies after China.
The system has delivered 29,400 Guatemalan children into U.S. homes
since 1990 – so many that one in every 100 Guatemalan babies born
each year was growing up in an American home.
But after a monthslong investigation that began with the seizure of
46 babies from Casa Quivira last August, prosecutors say they found
fraud cloaking the true identities of at least nine children and that
half their birth mothers couldn’t be found at all.
The fraud points to much deeper problems with the flawed adoption
system that Guatemala replaced in January, and casts a cloud of
uncertainty over the backgrounds of thousands of children now growing
up in America, The Associated Press has learned.
After intense lobbying by U.S. parents, most of the 2,900 pending
U.S. adoptions will likely go forward, partly because Guatemala lacks
the resources to fully investigate them. Parents of the Casa Quivira
babies, however, are stuck in the very nightmare they tried to avoid
by spending at least $30,000 per child for hassle-free adoptions.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to give Luciany back,” said Mary Ball, the
child’s adoptive mother, her eyes welling up. “She’s our family.
She’s our daughter.”
Prosecutors say the problems at Casa Quivira include illegal payments
to at least one birth mother, stolen identities – including that of a
child stillborn 22 years ago – and a mentally ill birth mother who
was incapable of giving consent.
A Guatemalan judge was to decide Monday whether to pursue a trial
against Casa Quivira’s attorney and notary. Prosecutors also have
obtained an arrest warrant against the American owner, and they want
fresh DNA tests for all the babies, even those whose paperwork is
apparently in order.
“Their rights to an identity are violated because if their mothers
have no identity, neither do they,” prosecutor Jaime Tecu told the
Luciany’s story reveals some of the complexities of adoptions in the
Luciany was born on Jan. 4, 2007. Her birth mother shows up twice in
her village’s civil registry, with the same picture and fingerprints
but different names. One says she is Maria Natividad Hernandez, a
married woman. The other – created in her village the same day she
gave birth to Luciany in a hospital hours away – identifies her as
Orbelina Davila Paz, a single woman.
Prosecutors suspect she got a false I.D. so she and her husband could
give the baby up without going before a judge. They believe many of
the birth mothers with false identity documents were trying to get
around laws that require husbands and grandparents to renounce their
rights in court.
Luciany’s birth mother gave her to a network of notaries and
attorneys supplying babies to Casa Quivira, a spotless home in the
picturesque colonial city of Antigua. A few weeks later, Mary and
Michael Ball started adoption proceedings for Luciany.
Mary Ball, 39, has an adopted sister, and has wanted to adopt a child
since she was a little girl herself. She felt so strongly about
adoption that she discussed her plan with Michael even before getting
She chose Casa Quivira because her best friend had adopted through
the same agency. The Balls did not want to adopt an American child
out of fear the birth mother would back out at the last minute.
“We didn’t want to grow attached to a child and have that child taken
away,” said Ball, who prosecutes sex crimes and child abuse in
They met Luciany when she was 4 months old and fell in love. She has
huge brown eyes and a ton of dark brown hair. Every month they
received new photos of her by e-mail. They spent more than $30,000 in
agency fees and travel costs.
The Balls were told that Luciany would be living in poverty if she
stayed in Guatemala. A visit by the AP to her birth mother’s home in
Santa Rosa de Lima confirmed the extended family lives in a tiny
one-room shack made of cinderblocks, with an open cooking area.
Barefoot children played on the dirt floor as sewage water ran past.
While waiting for Luciany, Mary Ball became pregnant herself with a
daughter, Isabella. She looked forward to the girls growing up
together, along with her 3-year-old son, Hadyn.
Then came the horrible day last August when Mary Ball received an
e-mail at work from Casa Quivira. Authorities had raided the agency,
seizing Luciany and 45 other babies.
Casa Quivira’s notary and attorney were arrested on charges of
illegally processing paperwork. Since then, prosecutors also have
built a case against the owner, Clifford Phillips of Deland, Fla.
Phillips, who owns the agency with his Guatemalan wife Sandra
Gonzalez, an attorney, has denied any responsibility for fraud. The
couple has handled hundreds of adoptions since it opened in 1996, and
outside adoption experts said their record was spotless.
Phillips told the AP he has been made the “whipping boy” for a system
in which corrupt officials have for years supplied and signed off on
“I have nothing to do with documents. I don’t touch documents,”
Phillips said. “They want me to be responsible for making sure the
process is not fraudulent? I’m not equipped to do that. I have faith
that the Guatemalan attorneys did all they could to check it out.”
Defense lawyers for Casa Quivira’s attorney and notary, in turn,
blamed birth mothers and others for fraud, telling the judge at the
Monday hearing that they can’t be responsible for confirming that the
documents they present are legitimate.
But Solicitor General Mario Gordillo told the AP that somebody had to
have walked the women through the process of falsifying documents,
and that Phillips and his lawyer and notary must be held to account.
“These biological mothers many times can’t read nor write, much less
falsify IDs or birth certificates,” Gordillo said.
Thirty-six of the babies seized in the August raid are still being
held at Casa Quivira.
Ten more, including Luciany, are now in the United States, with
families in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But their fate is uncertain.
Luciany finally arrived in Indiana in September, days before Mary
Ball gave birth to daughter Isabella. But their uncertainty continues.
If fraud is proven, whatever the reason, Guatemala would invalidate
the adoption and try to recover the child, even one that has already
become a U.S. citizen.
“We would have to do that, according to the law,” Gordillo said.
Custody disputes with Guatemala for babies already in the United
States would eventually land before a judge in the adoptive family’s
hometown, according to the U.S. Embassy. But if document fraud is
discovered for babies still in Guatemala, their cases will have to
start all over again. A false identity for whatever reason would be a
“strong indicator” that the child may not qualify for an immigrant
visa, said U.S. Consul John Lowell.
Guatemala, for its part, says it will give priority to U.S. parents
who have to restart their adoptions. But these cases will come under
the country’s new adoption law, which took effect Jan. 1, to comply
with an international treaty to prevent human trafficking. The law
puts adoptions before Guatemala’s notoriously sluggish courts and a
new National Adoptions Council, which still does not have an office,
a budget or a staff.
The result: U.S. parents could face a very long wait before they know
whether they will get their babies.
Mary Ball is ready to fight for Luciany, who has her own room in the
family’s home west of Indianapolis and a flood of toys from her two
“I couldn’t give up without a fight because I love Luciany,” she
said. “I feel she’s going to have a great life with us.”