International Adoption or Child Trafficking? (Book review of Finding Fernanda)
From The American Prospect:
Between 1998 and 2008, nearly 30,000 Guatemalan-born children (mostly infants and toddlers) were adopted by U.S. parents. In some years, that meant that an astonishing 1 out of 100 children born in Guatemala was adopted by an American family. For most of that time, everyone but the prospective adoptive parents knew—or in some cases actively chose to “unknow”—that the country’s international adoption system was a cesspool of corruption and crime, and motivated by money. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and news organizations reported in detail, repeatedly, that the country’s babies were systematically being bought, coerced, or even kidnapped away from families that wanted to raise them. But because healthy babies and toddlers kept on coming at a regular pace that kept up with demand in America, and because powerful Guatemalans were getting enormously rich off the baby trade, the system did not shut down until January 1, 2008.
Finding Fernanda is a true-crime page-turner about two mothers—Betsy Emanuel, an American, and Mildred Alvarado, a Guatemalan—accidentally united by a horrible adoption kidnapping. First-time author Erin Siegal uses the moving story to deliver investigative reportage at its finest, examining in tremendous detail exactly what happened to Betsy, to Mildred, and to the daughter that both of them lost. In doing so, Siegal writes the definitive book on the Guatemalan international adoption system’s endemic difficulties. In documenting exactly how Mildred Alvarado’s two youngest children were stolen, and by tracing Alvarado’s desperate search to regain them, Siegal exposes how Guatemalan crime rings and official corruption enabled children to cross borders and change identities without their families’ permission. And by showing how hard it was for Betsy Emanuel to find out what went wrong when she adopted Alvarado’s children, and how impossible it was for Florida to shut down Emanuel’s U.S. adoption agency, Celebrating Children—notorious for its involvement in suspect adoptions, and which Siegal definitively links to the Alvarado kidnapping—Siegal reveals the tremendous gaps in U.S. laws and regulations on international adoption.
Access the full article here.