John Stossel

I happened to be in Guatemala City last month visiting the Americas' most free-market university, Universidad Francisco Marroquin. UFM's president took me to visit Ines Ayau, a nun who runs an orphanage that was formerly in the hands of the government. The children are well cared for now, but before her church took over, Ayau said, the government staff had forced some children into prostitution. The orphanage itself was rat-infested and without electricity, and the government used the facility to funnel money to cronies. "Thirty-six persons were working, (but) 105 were on the payroll,"

Yet U.S. officials want adoption back in the hands of government?!

There's little reason to expect the current government to do much better. Guatemala is one of the more corrupt nations in the world, 111th out of 179 countries, says Transparency International.

Even if the new bureaucracy isn't corrupt, there's little chance it will process adoptions as quickly as the brokers did because without profit, it has no incentive to move the kids through the cumbersome adoption process. When other countries have put adoption in government hands, adoptions slowed or stopped. Paraguay went from sending more than 400 kids to the U.S. in 1996 to sending zero in 2006.

That's a tragedy.

It may make some people uncomfortable that a middleman charges $5,000 to arrange an adoption, but profit isn't evil.

Someone has to be compensated for arranging the DNA tests and leading hopeful parents past the government's obstacles. The orphanages need funds. If some Americans are willing to pay even $50,000 to adopt, that's not a bad thing. NGOs, politicians and bureaucrats may call it disgusting "human trafficking," but I call it finding love for children who desperately need it.

Guatemala has followed America's lead, and now thousands of abandoned Guatemalan kids face spending their childhood in orphanages. Many could have found a home in the U.S. if only government -- American and Guatemalan -- had stayed out of the way.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate