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Guatemalan officials rescue 46 children found at alleged illegal adoption agency


Guatemalan officials rescue 46 children found at alleged illegal adoption agency

August 12, 2007

The Associated Press

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala: Authorities searched an adoption home run by an American man and his Guatemalan wife and rescued 46 children they believe may have been stolen or coerced from their parents, police said Sunday.

Guatemalan National Police spokesman Carlos Calju said the children, ranging in age from a few days to 3 years old, were found Saturday at the Casa Quivira children's home in Antigua, a colonial city popular among foreign tourists near Guatemala City.

Calju said Casa Quivira is run by Clifford Phillips of Deland, Florida, and his Guatemalan wife and attorney, Sandra Gonzalez. The couple could not be reached for comment Sunday, and calls to the Casa Quivira Children's Fund in Deland went unanswered. No one responded to an e-mail sent to the children's home in Antigua seeking comment.

"We searched the house after we got a tip from neighbors telling us that every day they would see foreigners pick up children there," Calju said.

Authorities said they also arrested two lawyers who apparently processed the adoptions. Officials from the attorney general's office were taking care of the children at the home while police investigate, Calju said.

Attorney General Mario Gordillo said his office was trying to determine whether the children were stolen or obtained from their mothers under coercion. Most lacked the proper documents to be in the custody of someone other than their parents.

According to its Web site, the Casa Quivira is a private, licensed adoption home that opened in 1996 and offers its services only to people whose household is inspected by "a licensed adoption agency or social worker and (who) meet the immigration requirements of their country."

It said 40 employees work to give the children "loving, private foster care ... as well as excellent daily medical attention."

The U.S. State Department said in March it no longer recommends that Americans adopt children from Guatemala, saying women are frequently pressured to sell their babies and adoptive parents are often targeted by extortionists.

Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala started requiring two DNA tests before granting adopted infants a visa in order to ensure that the women giving the children up for adoption are the birth mothers.

Under Guatemalan law, unregulated notaries act as baby brokers who recruit birth mothers, handle all the paperwork and complete adoptions in less than half the time it can take in other countries. Casa Quivira says on its Web site it can complete adoptions six to eight months after a referral of a child is accepted.

U.S. parents adopted more than 4,000 babies from Guatemala last year, second only to China.

2007 Aug 12