U.S. adoptive parents are worried about babies taken from Guatemalan adoption home

Date: 2007-08-24
Source: iht.com

U.S. adoptive parents are worried about babies taken from Guatemalan adoption home

August 24, 2007
The Associated Press

GUATEMALA CITY: Would-be adoptive U.S. parents were worried Friday about the well-being of 44 children that were moved to secret locations by a judge's order while their adoption home is under investigation.

"We have no assurance about who, how or where they are being taken care of," said Katherine O'Meara, a resident of Novi, Michigan, who is waiting to adopt two of the children, on Friday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from her home.

Authorities allege that the Casa Quivira adoption home lacks the proper paperwork for the children and are investigating to determine if any were stolen or forced away from their biological parents.

The U.S. has pushed for a crackdown on adoptions in Guatemala, a largely unregulated, multimillion-dollar (-euro) industry in which some brokers steal babies. More than 25,000 Guatemalan children have been placed in U.S. homes since 1990 — so many that every 100th baby born in the Central American country grows up as an adopted American.

The home's owners, Clifford Phillips of Delan, Florida, and his Guatemalan wife, Sandra Gonzalez, a lawyer, say the hundreds of adoptions they have handled since Casa Quivira opened in 1996 were done properly. Outside experts familiar with the situation say that Casa Quivira has a spotless record.

"The state is being very secretive about the legal status of the 'children's homes' and orphanages that they have transferred the children from Casa Quivira to," Phillips wrote in an e-mail sent to the AP on Friday.

"We would like to know just how these institutions are allowed to care for children and Casa Quivira is not?"

At the time of the Aug. 11 raid, 46 children were staying at the home. Since then, nine of them have been hospitalized with respiratory problems but are expected to be released within the next couple of days. Two have been released to a U.S. adoptive couple. Phillips said the government also has not told him to which hospitals the nine children were taken.

Late Thursday night, Judge Roxana Mena ordered officials to transfer the 35 remaining babies out of Casa Quivira to several undisclosed locations. They did so under a heavy rain.

Mena would not release any other details "because the law forbids me to do so," she said. "The only thing I can say is that all the judges that deal with minors work with very competent private nurseries."

That was not much consolation for would-be adoptive parents like Chicago resident Dave Roth, who with his wife, Ann, is hoping to adopt a boy and a girl through Casa Quivira.

"Everyone is going nuts here," Roth said in a telephone interview with the AP. "We have gotten no help from the U.S. Embassy or any U.S. official. I don't know if anybody cares."

No one at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City could be reached for comment Friday afternoon. In a previous statement, the embassy told the AP that its role is limited to assisting U.S. citizens and ensuring their rights are respected, not dealing with domestic legal problems in Guatemala.

Also surprised by the late-night removal of the babies was Josefina Arellano, an official with the federal government agency that oversees adoptions in Guatemala. "It is our opinion that they should have stayed in the same place," she said.

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