On GuatAdopt’s “On Susana, CICIG, and the Senator”

By Erin Segal

May 19, 2011 / Finding Fernanda

Last Wednesday, a post entitled ”On Susana, CICIG, and the Senator” by site moderator Kevin Kreutner, Susana Loarca’s arrest and the Karen Abigail case went up on GuatAdopt, the popular “Guatemala Adoption Information and News” site. It caused lots of buzz– as of this morning, a grand total of 41 comments.

At the very top of the post rests a blunt statement. “Upfront, I’m not expert on either of these stories,” Kevin wrote. “So if I get something factually incorrect, post it to the comments.”He went on to talk a bit about Susana Loarca (also known as Luarca), saying that he felt she “would never be knowingly complicit in a kidnapping” and questioning why Guatemalan authorities have recently decided she isa flight risk. (Read more about Loarca here) Later on, he referred to a “war of words” between Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). CICIG has publicly asked the Senator to clarify a statement she made a few weeks ago to the Guatemalan press, saying that she didn’t agree with some their 2010 report on transition adoption cases. (Click here to read the report, and here for ten questions with a CICIG investigator)

After trying to add a comment to GuatAdopt twice on Friday afternoon, I sent Kevin a quick email with the text of my comment. (I’ve known him for a while, having called and emailed him sporadically over the last two years of reporting.) As a general rule, the GuatAdopt site screens all comments– things historically have gotten pretty heated in the comment threads. Kevin explained to me that whoever writes a GuatAdopt post is the one responsible for approving or rejecting comments on it. He said he wasn’t sure why my post hadn’t gone through. As of today, it’s still not up. And so, here it is. I was trying to shed a little light on a rhetorical question Kevin posed by supplying a little more factual information.

He wrote, “If it was common practice to move a case to Mixco where there was an “adoption friendly” judge, is that or should that be criminal?”

The judge involved in the “Karen Abigail” case, Mario Fernando Peralta Castañeda, Juez de la Niñez y de Adolescencia y Adolescentes en Conflicto con La Ley Penal in Escuintla (Mixco), is in fact under investigation. People have commented about it before here on GuatAdopt: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000991.html

Judge Peralta has been stripped of his judicial immunity (in Guatemala, judges are protected from being charged with crimes, now, since his immunity is stripped, authorities are able to file charges against him).

A clip from El Periodico about it is here: http://www.elperiodico.com.gt/es/20090714/pais/106846/

The Ministerio Público suspects that the judge was part of an adoption network, and an investigator there told me that they believe he was paid per child declared abandoned/ adoptable. According to El Periódico, the charges against the judge are human trafficking, abuse of authority, malfeasance and dereliction of duty.

I spoke to Judge Peralta in person this past August, during one of my reporting trips to Guatemala. He said he was innocent, and that adoption lawyers frequently tried to push him around. He was still presiding over his court, despite the pending investigation. Judge Peralta was also involved in the case I write about in my book, the dual stories of Mildred Alvarado’s quest to find her missing daughters and Betsy Emanuel’s simultaneous search for answers after her family was offered one of the girls, Fernanda, as an adoptable orphan whose referral was “lost.” This was also a Celebrate Children referral, via the same facilitator, Marvin Bran, that was involved in the Karen Abigail case. After Betsy lost the referral for Mildred’s daughter, another adoption facilitator, Carla Girón, brought the Alvarado children before Judge Peralta for an abandonment hearing.

The full, complicated story is in my book, coming out this fall.

If GuatAdopt truly is dedicated to what their tagline says– “Promoting Informed & Ethical Adoption from Guatemala through Education”– it might be wise to hold off on predictions regarding what Susana Loarca/Luarca may or may not know about the origins of the child known as “Karen Abigail” until more facts of the case are made public.

Personally, I’ve read through leaked emails from the American adoptive parents who agonized through this little girl’s convoluted, fraud-riddled adoption, as well as hundreds of pages of Guatemalan court documents that act to outline what transpired. The case was extremely complicated, and for now, I’ll leave it at that.

Some of the comments on the GuatAdopt thread focused on the fact that no DNA test has been done to see whether the child who was adopted into the US under the name  ”Karen Abigail.” There’s no way to tell until the DNA test is done. I photographed this page of PGN pictures of “Karen Abigail” while I was in Guatemala. Redactions are my own.

And here is a photo of Anyeli, the middle daughter of Loyda Elizabeth Rodríguez and Dayner Orlando Hernández, who were both twenty-four years old when Anyeli was kidnapped on November 3, 2006. The couple, who have three children together, reported the crime the same day. Loyda showed me this photo in August 2010. She’s in the middle, and her kids are around her. Anyeli is on the right.

In his closing on GuatAdopt, Kevin Kreutner gracefully wrote, “As things stand today, the problems move on to the next country when one closes down. Little is done to address the systemic reasons for the adoptions and the corruption in the first place. Those of wealth and power are rarely held to account for their actions and the victims are almost always those most vulnerable. And this is a shame!”

One word: exactly.

Related Material:  Erin's soon to be released book, "Finding Fernanda" is a dramatic true story and a carefully reported work of investigative nonfiction. It's the story of two mothers, spunky Tennessee housewife Betsy Emanuel and quiet, shy Mildred Alvarado in Guatemala, whose lives miraculously collide in search of the same little girl. Each woman finds herself, unwittingly, in dual roles central to what was one of Guatemala's most profitable underground industries: the buying and selling children for international adoption. 


Too many shames to count

Once again, we see an example of the cloak of secrecy, and how the adoptive community enables others to do what they do in terms of "unethical" adoption. 

Kidnapping, and selling as an orphan is not just unethical.  It's criminal.  AP's, must not pretend they are not accessories to this crime.  I for one do not understand the level of denial functioning in the mind of an adoptive parent, however, maybe that's how "love" works.  I don't know....

I had brief contact with Erin about these cases/this situation, and she repeats what many of us critics of ICA have been writing and saying:

Various people have referred to the business of adoption fraud as “the perfect crime.” The child involved is too young to bear witness to what happens. Defrauded birthmothers, typically impoverished and uneducated, are ignored when trying to file missing child reports since many children are in fact sold for adoption. American adoptive parents rarely want to know unsettling facts about the child they love and regard as their own.  

Child trafficking for international adoption is a multi-jurisdictional crime, one that's proven extremely difficult for governments to investigate and prosecute. Since the laws of one country don’t apply to the other, taking action against illegal adoption activity can be almost impossible. No reporter, prosecutor, or other investigator has, to my knowledge, thoroughly broken apart a specific chain of adoption corruption from start to finish.

Enter the role of a website owner/moderator, who censors critical information.

If the internet is Adoptionland's wild "Wild West", (as Pertman claims it is), then we have met the bad-guys who need to be reformed. 

How many can see the signs written all over their PC PAL language and their "ethical" behavior?  How many are willing to point-out the players who need a lesson in reform?

The worst part is, I bet these players feel no shame... and have no trouble sleeping at night. 

<depressed sigh> 

Why censor?

I don't get it. Why censor the people looking for a kidnapped child? That doesn't make sense. It is insane.
Is the AP community that nuts that they censor people who are looking for a kidnapped child who is adopted wrongly?

re: Censorship, Kidnapped kids and AP sites

Anonymous- Your question:
"Is the AP community that nuts that they censor people who are looking for a kidnapped child who is adopted wrongly?"

Answer: Yes.

Just look at the facts:
For...FIVE years the mothers have been searching and pleading with the people who have their kidnapped children.
For...FIVE years the attorney representing the mothers of the kidnapped children has pleaded with the US for a DNA test.
For...FIVE years the attorney representing the mothers of the kidnapped children has pleaded for the return of the children.
For...FIVE years anyone who talks of this on an AP-owned site for ICA APs...is insulted, banned or the information is twisted.

The question "anonymous" and others, that needs to be asked is....why is a large portion of the ICA AP community wanting to whitewash these cases and why would they instead of supporting mothers of kidnapped children, come out in the defense of corrupted attorneys and adoption agencies? WHY do ICA APs immediately state that THEIR case is ethical (without proof of that)? Why has the State Department not been proactive in the return of these kidnapped children?

Now that is the nutty part in all of this.

Insane, or in denial?

Way-back-when.... my Adad refused to discuss details that went behind my adoption, and my Amom refused to see a more optimistic version to her tragic "I and only I could have saved you from a wretched future" story.

Way-back-when, I would have said both Aparents of mine are/were insane.

Now I would say both Aparents of mine have the sort of pathology that keeps each in a state of denial.

Why are so many AP's like this?

I suppose they don't want ANYONE messing with their carefully-created belief-system. To do so would, perhaps, make them question all they thought and did, and in-turn drive them mad or insane (? I don't know....).

Quite frankly, I will never fully understand APs like mine... but that's a different issue, entirely.


I read a comment written by an AP written in one of my private emails.  I think it represents the way in which the vast majority of AP's want to see others in and out of Adoptionland.

Why is everyone wanting to almost search for something to be wrong!!

Such a question forces me to ask, why do so many want to refuse to see all that is wrong?  

If it's unhealthy for an adoptee to deny the good, isn't it equally unhealthy for an AP to deny there is bad?  


Yep. That exactly is the question ....
Logic serves some well, as long as it serves their belief system. If it doesn't - well, who needs logic, anyways .


Denial and denying...

It is not only denial of their own case, but those of others and of the history of Guatemala. Many children were removed from small villages due to war and sold for adoption, even though their family members searched for them. Are they denying that as well?

Denial's role is disruption and dissolution

I was lucky enough to spend this past weekend with some students (journalists), and the question came up:  what's the difference between "disruption" and "dissolution"?

Niels had a formal response.

My response, of course, was more personal.

I explained, disruption is like the engagement/wedding that gets called-off.  The dissolution is like the divorce, after the legal papers have been finalized.  Both situations are difficult for the adult.  Imagine how difficult these situations are for the child.

The fascinating aspect of this analogy is, in a marital situation, (hopefully) both spouses are adults.  Sure, one partner may be more mature, while the other is more child-like, but no matter the maturity-level of both consenting parties, both participants agreeing to a marriage-plan are legal adults,making adult decisions that WILL affect the rest of their lives..

How does this play-out in the adoption agreement?

If the "unsettled" AP is in denial and refuses to acknowledge his/her own role in the break-down of a growing relationship, who most often gets blamed for the demise of a "love-story" that is supposed to have a happy-forever-after ending? 

<crickets chirping>

Often times, the "unsettled" "difficult" (not willing to bond) child is not in a state of denial as much as a state of anger, confusion, and trauma.  (Hell, some adoption "authorities" will even insist these children are suffering a form of autism!   If this is what the AP is being taught, compliments their chosen adoption agency... well, there is yet another level of denial in-play, isn't there?

The adult partner (AP) in this less than idyllic situation must take these factors into account... before calling it quits on the child who wants to know how/were he/she fits in this world.

Denial in Adoptionland is epidemic..... and as long as private problems are kept quiet... well, the dark secrets behind an ill-prepared adoption will remain secret, until the next group of victims come along. 

Not enough time....

Kerry you hit an important point here:

"the "unsettled" "difficult" (not willing to bond) child is not in a state of denial as much as a state of anger, confusion, and trauma. (Hell, some adoption "authorities" will even insist these children are suffering a form of autism! If this is what the AP is being taught, compliments their chosen adoption agency... well, there is yet another level of denial in-play, isn't there?"

Many times...not enough time is given for the parent to bond to the child. Not enough time is given to the child to get use to a new situation. Not enough time is given to the child to be able to breathe.

Couple this with many parents really not prepared for a toddler or an older child. There are not prepared for what traumas that child has lived through. They are not just not prepared.

Early childhood trauma and neglect mimics learning delays, often times early institutionalization (aka living in an orphanage regardless of how pleasant it looks like to an AP) mimics autism.

So when you have APs that are not prepared and have a fantasy of a child, that that particular child is not meeting, there is no surprise that many times that relationship will be dissolved. The adult makes that choice, the child doesn't. So not being prepared and being in denial is a fatal combination.

Bonding ...

Something  I read a while ago, I don't remember where, opened my eyes in this respect:

In almost all situations, a child refusing to bond with a total stranger is considered to be behaving absolutely normal - why on earth should he or she bond with new parents, before even having had a chance to get to know them?

I am not a parent, but from my point of view, wrong expectations and hurt emotions on the part of the adults are far more of a problem than any behavior of children post trauma could ever be.

We generally expect adults to behave responsibly towards children.
Problem is, if the quality of the parent education is low enough to let them cling to their personal  fantasies until there is trouble in the house with a not-so-fantastic kid.

Or, if they were not informed on  health risks and diseases of their child.

To me, it would be of great interest to see how many lessons of parent education you have to participate in before you are allowed to adopt.

Any figures, anybody?


10 hours of what?

For Hague adoptions (less than 40% of all inter-country adoptions), 10 hours of adoptive parent education is required. More important than the actual number of hours (10 hours is already not that much), the question is, what is being done in those 10 hours? Does it really improve adoptive parents' ability to cope with adopted children when attending a two hour course teaching the "attachment cycle". Two hours may be enough to memorize a couple of graphs and some definitions, but how does that translate to an ability to deal with real attachment issues.

As with so much in adoption, there is no evidence adoptive parent eduction actually improves parenting skills. Adoption agencies and specialized adoptive parent eduction businesses set up courses mostly based on a gut feeling the material will make adoptive parents more prepared for the road ahead once children are placed in their house, but there is really no proof these courses are effective.


Still needs to be collected, studied, and published

To me, it would be of great interest to see how many lessons of parent education you have to participate in before you are allowed to adopt.

Any figures, anybody?

Personally, I would love to see more AP's come forward and discuss what IS being taught in their agency-required class-hours. I would like to see how universal certain themes are being "taught", and how these lessions-sessions benefit the parent/child in every-day adapting to adopted-life.  I would also like to know how much an AP is charged (expected to pay the agency/speaker) for required education.

Any figures... anybody?

Parents' Education

This is what one fellow adoptive mother wrote about her class in Adoption Education:

"The first time I heard the phrase "adoption is built on pain and loss," I literally lost my breath.
I was horrified. HORRIFIED. I was sitting in a training session at a lovely Baptist adoption agency, meeting requirements so my husband and I could adopt a child. I had heard so many sermons over the years comparing adoption to God adopting us into His family. ..."Adoption is built on pain and loss."
It was my first exposure to the underlying current of adoption ... the truth that my children and their first families would experience pain and process that pain throughout their lives." (From Welcome to my brain.net)

She must be an exception. Our agency left out this side of the story. It was all about saving poor orphans. They received around $700 for basically nothing.

"Adoption is built on pain and loss"

I agree... adoption is built on pain and loss!  The loss and consequential pain can be seen in a variety of common situations:

  • War/catastrophe, when one or both parents are killed
  • Abandonment, where the man abandons the pregnant woman; the grand- parents abandon the pregnant/expectant child; the birth- mother abandons the infant/child
  • Reckless behavior, (substance abuse or irresponsible behavior), makes proper parenting the lowest of all priorities.   
  • Rape, where the victim is denied the abortion option
  • Poor care systems -- so poor, so horrible, so insufficient, the only option a parent/child has to ever receive decent care is if the child is farmed-out, under the guise of a private adoption scheme 

The only un-preventable situation behind an adoption story is "natural catastrophe".  This is tragic.

However, it's really something to see the religious-twist given to "pain and loss" and how it is used to justify those who wish to provide better "orphan"-care save the poor sad "orphaned" baby.

 Adoptive moms assure me that adoption is rarely ever a man's idea. And it is almost always an idea born of a woman's pain. The sorrowful heart of a mother meets the sorrowful heart of a child and together they begin a new life. But how do they get to "together?" They become a family through the courageous actions of a man who sees the pain of his wife and listens to her as she tells him about the pain of the child. Rarely, do these women beg and plead. Rather, like Mary, they trust God. They pour out their hearts in prayer and God convicts their husbands. The program director for a Catholic adoption agency assures me that this is not the case of weak, badgered men who cave to whining women. Rather, they are tender, brave men who recognize a mutual need and hear a distinct call.

[From:  A story of adoption, 2005 ]

For those keeping score, Mary never was forced, coerced, or expected to relinquish her right to keep Jesus, her son.  But hey, details-shmetails.... what do such pesky little annoyances and nuances have to do with a great movement made by "all-knowing" religious folk claim to have communion with God?

Let us not forget, to adopt means to adapt.  No one has to adopt and change more than the child forced to accept a new life, (through adoption), simply because others could not/would not serve, and change their ways, as needed. 

Could not agree, more!

So when you have APs that are not prepared and have a fantasy of a child, that that particular child is not meeting, there is no surprise that many times that relationship will be dissolved. The adult makes that choice, the child doesn't. So not being prepared and being in denial is a fatal combination.

I blame the individual adoption agencies for this poor-preparation and final outcome.

From what I understand, according the Hague Convention requirements, an ICA-plan requires PAP's to receive 10 "contact" hours of instruction.... for the sake of the child/AP.

Gee.... "Life-book" making or in-depth discussion about the effects stress and trauma have on child (brain) development?

Which would have a better long-term effect?

Shall we do the math, together?

(My rhetorical question follows:  Whose "best-interest" is being served when PAP's are denied a quality fast-tracked education?)

BECAUSE many adoption agency directors are clueless, themselves, a number of over-whelmed APs find themselves facing a virtually impossible situation.  Here enters another level of secret/denial operating in Adoptionland --  underground networking, a la "private" foster-services, provided by unlicensed parents who consider themselves adopted child "specialists".  [See:  The ol' "Dump and Run" routine? and Underground network moves children from home to home ]

The Internet is the new underground railroad and Workshop fees

I would like to second that. In reading the above PPL link about the "Underground network moves children from home to home":
"there are hundreds of e-mail chat rooms in which people who adopted children are trying to find new homes for them outside the public system.

"They don't want to sell the kids. They just want to get rid of them," he says, explaining the children may have health problems the adoptive parents never expected. "It's not the merchandise they bought." He says many of these parents are looking for the cheapest and fastest placement."

This is so true. Many forums have threads where an adoptive parent is looking for a new family for their adopted child, without the help of an agency or children's services. I have seen the threads. The adoptive parent puts out the thread and people can pm them with their contact information. Sometimes an attorney is involved and it is a small fee for the name change and custody papers. It turns my stomach truthfully.

Kerry you asked about workshop fees, roughly...are five sessions done in one weekend and run $250. Each session runs about 2 hours. So in 2 hours you can learn about the triad issues, about bonding, medical issues that affect internationally adopted children, your family's feelings about adoption, how to become multicultural and a live adoptee under the age of 5 to see and talk to. (I am not kidding on that last one). So in one weekend, you too can learn all there is to learn about adoption.

Sounds like a bit much to assimilate in one weekend...but the agency meets their Hague hour requirements.

The photo of the child

The photo of the child held in a woman's hands sure looks like the photo in that file, especially the first one on top.

Can anyone answer why there is censoring on these AP sites. I went to read some of the sites and it seems that the information is very diluted on one and favors the attorney who is arrested? The other sites do not even mention the arrests nor the kidnappings. Why is that?

Thank you for your attention. I am an adoptive parent (not Guatemala) and I am very concerned that this has happened.

Pound Pup Legacy