For many years Guatemalans were unable to adopt children because adoption had become an irregular process in which each child was sold for up to US$30,000. Close to 5,000 girls and boys were given up for international adoption each year without a transparent process that would protect them, verify their origins or follow them up in their new life.
Guatemala was the second country in the world, in quantitative terms, after China, and the first in proportional terms in the trafficking of girls and boys, mainly abroad. This “business” gave rise to pregnancies especially for the purpose of the sale, kidnapping and abduction of children through deceit. The laudable practice of adoption had become a dark process for uncertain purposes, including the sale of organs.
All of this changed when Guatemala enacted the Adoption Law in 2007 and ratified the Hague Convention on Adoptions, which ensures transparent processes and the best interests of boys and girls. In the past, families looked for a child, Now a suitable family are found for each child, prioritizing national adoption since it is better for adopted children to grow in the cultural and linguistic environment of their birth.
Such is the case of the brothers María and Oscar, four and three years old. Their case is considered “exceptionally difficult” as priority is given to ensuring that siblings who are declared adoptable stay together, and it is not easy to find a family that is willing or capable of adopting more than one child. However, the National Adoption Council (CNA), which is the entity in charge of processing each adoption for free, legally and transparent, found the perfect parents for Maria and Oscar so they could stay together. Among the “cases in exceptionally difficult circumstances” there are also children with disabilities, HIV or diseases that require constant treatment and that it is more difficult to find a family for.
Margarita Quixtan, 38, and Alberto del Valle, 33, were the exception. They are a couple in the municipality of Chicamán in the department of Quiché. Both are elementary school teachers and they share a home they have built little by little. They lead a quiet life without luxuries but they have everything they need.
Like most married couples, they wanted to have children, but after living together for seven years, Margarita did not get pregnant. Worried, they saw a doctor, who gave them the bad news that it would be next to impossible for them to have a child. Although there was no risk to their health, they were saddened by the news. However, the desire to become parents, raise a family and give children love led them to reflect and decided to adopt.
Margarita says, “Adopting a child is not like going to the store and picking out what you like. It is not the adoptive parents who choose the child; it is the child who chooses the parents”.
Margarita also says that from the moment they met the children, they considered them their own. The fact that they were other people’s birth children was never an obstacle.
The work done by UNICEF and its partners is crucial to make the adoption process in the country more efficient and transparent. UNICEF promoted the Adoption Law in 2007 in keeping with international treaties and principles. Since then, more than 1,000 girls and boys have been adopted by Guatemalan families. The spirit of the Adoption Law and the National Adoption Council is to look for the best family for each boy and girl, transparently and free of charge, ensuring the best interests of the girl or boy.
UNICEF continues supporting the registration and certification of foster homes to improve the comprehensive care of children and strengthen adoption programs for girls and boys in special circumstances. It also supports the program for mothers and fathers in conflict with paternity.
María and Oscar have adapted perfectly to their new family. After living for six months with their adoptive parents, Margarita and Alberto’s expectations have been fully met and they are happy with the decision they made.
Alberto and Margarita note that couples who cannot have biological children and are capable of adopting should consider that possibility, since a child will grow happier and better protected in a family than in an institution.
The children’s ethnic background was not important for the couple. They themselves belong to different racial groups. Margarita is Quiché and Alberto is of mixed ancestry.
The parents note that their lives changed completely, like those of every couple, with the children’s arrival. They now sleep less soundly and get up at night to check on their children. When they come home from work the house is no longer silent and they don’t have as much leisure time as they had before, but now everything is much more interesting and full of meaning for them.
Margarita and Alberto sum up their experience as follows: Margarita: “From the moment we saw them, we said they were our children and they called us mom and dad”. Alberto: “A parent is not the one who brings a child into the world, but the one who raises and educates the child”.