Guatemala reopening international adoptions

AP News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2009 1:58 PM

Guatemalan officials on Friday announced the resumption of international adoptions after a nearly two-year suspension prompted by the discovery that some babies were being sold.

Legal reforms established during the suspension will prevent problems in the future, according to the National Adoption Council, which said in a statement on its Web page that it will start a pilot program involving four countries.

The Council did not say when the program would start or which countries would be involved.

Prior to the shutdown, Guatemala was the world's second-largest source of babies to the U.S. after China due to its routinely quick adoption process.

But the door to adoptions slammed shut in 2007 when authorities discovered evidence of fraud that has since been revealed to include false paperwork, fake birth certificates, women coerced into giving up their children and even baby theft. At least 25 cases resulted in criminal charges against doctors, lawyers, mothers and civil registrars.

As a result, thousands of adoptive parents, most from the U.S., were forced to put their adoptions of Guatemalan children on hold _ many after paying thousands of dollars.

Last year, the National Adoptions Council began requiring birth mothers to personally verify they still wanted to give up their children.

Nearly 1,000 of 3,032 cases were dismissed, however, because no birth mother showed up.

Prosecutors suspect many of the babies in those cases never existed _ that Guatemalan baby brokers registered false identities with the council in hopes of matching them later to babies obtained through fraud.