Guatemala: International Adoption and Child Protection Policies

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Updated: Mar 16, 2021
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The selection of the country in the Global South that will be the focus of this research paper is Guatemala. Guatemala is a country that has been independent since 1821 (Dolor, L, 2008). Over the past few centuries, this country has endured many hardships. In 2008, A major policy was implemented throughout the country that impacted many. This Policy is on Guatemala’s International Adoptions and the laws of child protection throughout the country (Dolor, L, 2008). The implementation of this law affected many children in the past and present who had the opportunity be with their biological families if it was in the best interest of the c?hild. In addition, this law prevented potential parents from continuing to help children in need and also stopped international adoptions that were in process when the law became implemented.

Interestingly enough, Guatemala has one of the highest birth rates in all of Central America and is also a country suffering from immense poverty (Dolor, L, 2008) . One might wonder why thegovernment of this already economically starved country would put a law into effect that is supposed to help its own children, but in reality is doing them much more harm than good.

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Perhaps not brought to light by many, feminism plays a major role in Guatemalan adoption policy measures. It is important to closely look at the steps taken with Guatemala intercountry adoption practices at the Hague convention and what has occured as a result of it, viewing feminism as an ideological theme that brings new light to the debate. This research paper will look more into how Guatemala’s adoption policy relates to the political ideology of feminism touched upon in this course.

Adoptions in this small central American country were not always restricted to only domestic adoptions, but internal too. ?Before examining why and how Guatemala’s international adoptions and child protection laws have been changed, one must first look at the Hague convention (Dolor, L, 2008). The Hague convention is an international agreement comprised on a law created in regards to intercountry adoptions (Dolor, L, 2008). The preface of this agreement makes it clear that all “?children should be raised in a loving family environment…every nation should make it a priority to place adoptable children with families in their country of origin.” However, at the end of the preface, the agreement concludes by “advocating for intercountry adoption if a suitable family within the child’s country of origin is not available.”

Most countries are members of the convention. However, Guatemala is one of twenty countries throughout the world that was not apart of the convention when it first started. Despite the Guatemalan government joining the convention, and obtaining the same entity, Guatemalan ASPs to perform intercountry adoptions under the Hague Convention have not been approved.

(Dolor, L, 2008)?. The number of children adopted from Guatemala to the US is so high in number. The reason being is so economically stable families from the USA and other countries can help alleviate children who are living in unhealthy situations. Sadly, about half “?rural homes are without electricity or running water, and in 2006, per capita income was a mere $2,400, one of the lowest in the Americas.” (Garigan, M.2007).? ?However, despite these shocking statistics, controversy has taken place as well as the issue of adopted children potentially being victims of child theft and corruption. (Judith L. Gibbons, 2015). On the contrary, though corruption is likely present to some extent, it still alleviates the circumstances under which these children were living in. Still the argument has been more or less defeated as many of the children adopted from Guatemala live under extreme circumstances, adoptive parents feel a need to rescue these children. (Judith L. Gibbons, 2015). Although, the question of why the system is currently this way has become clear. Intercountry adoptions are prohibited in present day Guatemala, and has caused an uproar to many natives of the country and those abroad. In support of this policy, here are a vast majority of people who would like intercountry adoptions to remain illegal. By keeping children confined within the country, infants and children are commodities to the Guatemalan economy. ?(Dolor, L, 2008)?.

Feminism has been an essential factor in the promotion of the child adoption and child protection laws in Guatemala as well as other countries. For example, in Brazil movements such as the Movement of the Mothers of the Courthouse Square is a cry for families to have a more clear review of their family and their unique situation before their children are shipped off to a new home (Briggs, L. 2012). In Brazil there were over 200 adoptions and only one single judge and one single prosecutor in charge of overseeing these adoptions before they took place (Briggs, L. 2012). The families of these children who are adopted are typically of lower socioeconomic status (Briggs, L. 2012). This movement is crying out for help and for a chance for extended family such as aunts, uncle, etc. to care for the children rather than adoption being the only viable option and choice for the safety and wellbeing of the child (Briggs, L. 2012). These feminist mothers choose to band together in this social movement to support not only their own children, but children being adopted in unsafe and unfair conditions world wide.

Guatemalan adoption policies are strongly in favor of the adopting white parents, regardless of the wishes of the biological mother (s). International adoptions is seen “in the space of international inequalities of access to resources and profoundly different economies of age and reproduction” (Briggs, L. 2012). The rights of women come to light more, but even more specifically, their ethnic background. Hence, when international adoptions take place, specifically with White American families being main contributors to the Guatemala adoption industry. This statistic shows that “I?nternational adoption receives far greater attention in the media, especially made popular by celebrities; it is seen as more exciting than domestic adoption” (Shome, R. 2011). Also, it is important to mention, that a child’s figure does not necessarily exhibit any form of endangerment “to our sense of self in the (white) West…the child enables an easy dehistoricization and a re-historicization that is non-threatening to the white national self” (Shome, R. 2011).

In another scholarly article, there was valuable research regarding the fact that in the United States birth control is widely used and accepted. However in other countries, such as Guatemala, healthcare is more sparse and expensive (?Garigan, M. (2007).? Since women in Guatemala do not have easy access to simple things like birth Control pills and prenatal vitamins like those in the United States do, problems arise. In Guatemala, the number of children being born without healthy environments to live in, continues to rise amidst the lack of resources for women.

Children are often forced into slave work or sold by their parents as they cannot afford to take of their childrens most basic needs like food and clothing, Some authors would argue by saying that a large population of children has already been adopted to families in America. Since these international adoptions have taken place Guatemala claims to have more clean water and food available to those who stay in Guatemala reliving some issues associated with scarce resources such as dehydration and malnutrition (?Garigan, M. (2007).? This is a controversial statement because some would argue growing up with one’s biological mother is a very important factor in their life. Others may argue the health and wellbeing of the child is the most important factor.

In examining these sources, one can conclude that the ideology of feminism has strongly influenced, and continues to influence, Guatemalan adoption policies. Within feminist ideology, women have human rights, including but not limited to the right to parenthood. However, Guatemalan adoption policies have limited biological mother’s right to motherhood, which has ramifications well beyond that of Guatemala’s borders. If Guatemala continues on their negligently patriarchal path, their society will not be able to support its own familial social system. Guatemala’s government must support its native mothers to support itself.


  1. Briggs, L. (2012). Feminism and transnational adoption: Poverty, precarity, and the politics of raising (other people’s) children? Feminist Theory. (31)1, 81-100.
  2. Daly, L. B. (2007). To Regulate Or Not To Regulate: The Need For Compliance With International Norms By Guatemala And Cooperation By The United States In Order To Maintain Intercountry Adoptions. Family Court Review, 45(4), 620-637.
  3. McCreery Bunkers, K. (2009). International Adoption and Child Protection in Guatemala: a case of the tail wagging dog?. International Social Work.? (52)5, 5-10.
  4. Garigan, M. (2007). Guatemalan adoption industry. ?SAIS review of international affairs. ?(27)2, 1-2.
  5. Millán, M. (2015). The traveling of ‘gender’ and its accompanying baggage: Thoughts on the translation of feminism(s), the globalization of discourses, and representational divides.
  6. European Journal of Womens Studies, 23(1), 6-27. 
  7. Rotabi, K. S., Pennell, J., Roby, J. L., & Bunkers, K. M. (2012). Family group conferencing as a culturally adaptable intervention: Reforming intercountry adoption in Guatemala. International Social Work, 55(3), 402-416. 
  8. Shome, R. (2011). “Global Motherhood”: The Transnational Intimacies of White Femininity.
  9. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 28(5), 388-406.
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