Guatemala Courts Rule Against Children

The following is an update from Guatemala900, which advocates for the remaining children of the Guatemalan adoptions that were begun before 2008.


A Humanitarian Crisis Takes A Dire Turn When Guatemalan Courts Rule Against Indigenous Children And The Repeated Wishes Of Their Biological Mothers.  U.S. Powerless To Stop The Violent Separation Of Child And The Only Family He Has Ever Known.

GUATEMALA (August 12, 2012) – It is the tipping point. Recent actions in Guatemala where government institutions have threatened and coerced birthmothers to change previous testimony and has forced the return of children to families of origin who are either uninterested or unable to care for them has pushed the 5 year humanitarian crisis to a tipping point.  Close to 200 remaining U.S. adoptive families have worked tirelessly over the past 5 years to complete these legal adoptions.  The children they accepted referral of and have bonded with have been kept in limbo due to political game playing.

These actions put the country’s most vulnerable children at additional risk of physical and psychological harm for no logical reason.  Anti-adoption political sentiments continue to block legal adoptions that would provide loving homes to hundreds of abandoned children.

Last week Guatemalan Minors Court Judges and Procuraduría General de la Nación (PGN) personnel decided upon the fate of several children who have been in the process of being adopted by U.S. families since 2007. The courts of minors denied access to American families and their legal representation who are legal parties to the proceedings.  All of the children have been subject to repeated moves, institutionalized, and in some cases physically abuse.  While the children have endured serious human rights violations in Guatemala, the U.S. government has stood back and watched as the legal rights of U.S. Citizens [in process to adopt them] have been denied or violated.

The Sarkees family has been pursuing the legal adoption of “Child A” for 5 years.  They have been the only family this child has known since his adoption began at birth 5 years ago.  The child’s biological mother has testified 12 times in court and in extra-judicial interrogations steadfastly confirming her wish to place the child for adoption.  Nevertheless, she was coerced to change her position last month by a representative of a Guatemalan institution.  On Aug 30, after 5 years of active disinterest in the child, she agreed to take back custody of “Child A”, per a court resolution.  Guatemalan Court psychologists and child welfare representatives disagreed with the unconditional and unsupervised return of this child to the previously unwilling mother.  All were devastated by the court’s action.  The child was inconsolable. (Photo available per press contact CAPTION: 5 year old boy ripped from the only family he has ever known as his adoptive mother cries “We will never give up. We love you forever.”)

Another family has been in the process of adopting their now 13 year old daughter for over 5 years.  The girl, “Child B” was removed from the home of her abusive biological parents in 2006 via court order and resides in an orphanage.  “Child B” knows and loves her adopting family.  They visit and support her and have tirelessly fought to bring her home.  Suddenly last week she was ushered into a social work interview, which lasted five hours, and sitting in the room were her abusive biological parents.  She was shocked when asked if she wanted to live with them. She said “No” and that she has a loving family waiting for her.  The PGN social worker tried to make “Child B” go back with the biological parents despite a  court order stating that the child was removed from her biological family due to grave abuses.  The child has NEVER been visited by biological family in the 6 years she has been living at the orphanage.  “Child B” has legal documentation that she was abused and is abandoned, which legally severs biological family rights.  For the time being “Child B” was able to refuse the PGNs request that she go back to her abusive biological family at the interview.  She and her adoptive family are living in fear that at any time the PGN could force her to live with her abusers.

In the four plus years of political game playing, hundreds of children just like the two above remain in institutions and living outside parental care.  Each has a long history of heartbreak, but at the core all the U.S. families have given every effort and resource to preserve the bond and to never give up on their adoptive child. The adoptive families are proud of the country of their children’s origin and want the people of Guatemala to know and understand their commitment to these children.

U.S. families entered into a bilateral legal international adoption process in good faith, according to U.S. and Guatemalan law. In Guatemala, the Ortega Law (New Adoption Law) went into effect January 1, 2008.  The Guatemalan Congress passed the Ortega Law with Article 56, a “grandfather clause” which states that adoptions in process at the time the law changed are to complete under the law in effect when they began.

The Department of State has mandates to protect American citizens’ rights abroad and promote the rule of law in other countries.  DOS is supposed to protect Americans under the laws within the foreign country.  In the four plus years that adoptions have been in limbo in Guatemala, case after case involving American families have experienced gross violations of the local law against their legal grandfathered adoptions.  Families have worked tirelessly to request that the DOS and the U.S. Congress follow the mandate, and protect their rights abroad and protect the innocent children who will become U.S. citizens themselves upon completion of the adoption.

Both the Guatemalan and U.S. governments have expressed a commitment to ensuring that the pre-Hague transition adoption cases continue to process.  However, since the law changed in Guatemala on January 1st, 2008 there are still an estimated 200 children whose adoptions remain in limbo, most of these children live in institutions and all of these children have loving families waiting to bring them home.

Please see for further details and updates