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Unaccompanied Children: Why are they here?

Posted by Brenda Higgins on July 18, 2014

“The breakdown of social structures and services accompaying a major crises means that communities and states themselves may not be in a position to provide the necessary protection and care for children without families. it is therefore imperative that humanitarian organizations ensure that the most vulnerable children are protected.”  

(Interagency Guiding Principles on Unaccompanied Children, 2004 report of Displaced Children.

 

So.  How are we doing with that?

 

In 1993 the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption was concluded.  It was ratified by Guatemala in 2002.   Countries whom are signatories to this convention were required to have a dedicated government agency to handle all international adoptions.  One of the principles underlying this Hague Convention was the theory that it is in the best interests of children to be raised within the culture of their birth.  the problem arises in the blind manner in which that goal is pursued.  UNICEF has been actively involved in and monitoring the progress and implementation of this Hague Convention in countries like Guatemala.

 

In 2007, after pressure from UNICEF, the Guatemalan National Adoptions Board (CNA is the abbreviation of the spanish title)stopped all international adoptions in order to cease the outflow of Guatemalan children to the U.S..  Private adoptions were outlawed, and a moratorium was imposed on international adoptions that remains to this date.  The private intermediaries, lawyers, who arranged and negotiated private international adoptions, were characterized as a large part of the “problem” and were prevented from doing any further adoptions.  All adoptions had to be approved and handled through the governmental agency.  

 

As of an April 2013 report, there are at least 5,800 Guatemalan children whom have been abandoned by their parents and left in institutions, orphanages.  Because of the moratorium, that is where they stay, indefinitely.

 

In Guatemala, re-unificaiton is compulsory.  That means, they search for and find the mother, force her to submit to DNA testing to prove maternity, and compel her to take the child back.  The wishes, or the financial means, of the mother are largely disregarded.  The mothers in the program report being coerced and threatened to take their unwanted children.  The government agency continues the illogical process of compulsory reunification because it crunches their adoption numbers down to satisfy the constant UNICEF monitoring.  The goal of UNICEF is the preserve the children in their home country and culture.   It seem little thought is given the whether that is a culture of abject poverty, starvation, disease, violence and in general marginallization of the health and safety of the children. 

 

Up to the imposition of the  moratorium on international adoptions, it is estimated that 5,000 Guatemalan children were adopted outside the country each year.  With that estimate, and several years now since the imposition of the moratorium, it is hard to believe that the estimate of 5,800 in orphanages now. Still a staggering and heart breaking number. 

 

To serve a goal of cultural preservation, children are being permanently institutionalized, or replaced with parents who did not want them.  Although another stated goal was to eliminate the possibility of sex and slave trade and other abuse of internationally adopted children, it hardly seems this wholesale warehousing of them is the most efficient means to have accomplished the childrens best interests.

 

All of this illuminates the current circumstance and plight of the thousands of unaccompanied children whom have recently flooded across the gossamer southern border of the U.S..

Children who were not available to be adopted by loving families in the U.S., were either warehoused in Central America or returned to parents who did not want or could not care for them, and are now being warehoused here.  Arguably in nicer warehouses, but still herded like cattle, having faced a long uncertain and treacherous journey, all because they or their parents heard and beleived something about a “Dream Act” or a better life north of the border, and because UNICEF and the Hague didn’t want them to miss out on their own culture.

 

The moratorium on International Adoptions has to be stopped.  It is another twist of the chicken or the egg debate, the “secure the border first” or start with “immigration reform”.  The flood will likely continue or surge again.  Why, in the face of the utter failure of the cultural maintenance policy, can UNICEF and the governments not see the obvious answer.  Do something at the source. Lift the moratorium is such a simple and immediate remedy.   Still we must address the situation we are sitting on north of our border now, but we can no longer allow the overwhelming presence of these unaccomplained children to cloud the significant policy flaw, and adopton moratorium that has contributed significantly to the problem.  

2 Responses to “Unaccompanied Children: Why are they here?”

  1. Francisco "Paco" Barragan said

    thank you for this informative post!

  2. Reblogged this on the127 activist.

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