Child Abduction for Adoption: Poverty and Privilege Clash as a Child’s Return to Guatemala is Blocked

Last year, a Guatemalan court ruled in favor of Loyda Rodriguez, who had asserted that her daughter had been kidnapped into child adoption, by ordering the that the child be returned to her biological family after five long years of searching. The excitement that followed included Loyda readying her home for the return of her daughter Anyeli, abducted at age two. The U.S. couple who Loyda believes ‘adopted’ her daughter remained silent.

However, it was quickly ascertained that they hired legal representation, including rumored consultation with the lawyer involved in the infamous Elian Gonzalez case. Even more telling was the employment of a public relations firm to manage case information favorably on their behalf. Then, in the fall of 2011, the U.S. couple made a public appearance on national news program and made their point loud and clear—they will not be sending Loyda’s daughter home and they believe they legally adopted the child in 2008. In fact, they questioned if Loyda was the mother even though they could quickly ascertain this with a DNA test. To date no DNA test has materialized.

Now, a year later, I wonder about Loyda and who will advocate for her rights in U.S. courts where this battle will likely continue to unfold. Yes, she has lawyers and a famous human rights defender in Guatemala working on her behalf, but if there ever was a David and Goliath story—this is it! And, being one of many stories of force, fraud, and coercion, Loyda’s case is particularly compelling because all of the steps in the legal system have been followed. Still, there has been no justice.

I am also left wondering about the child in question and how she will eventually reconcile her life story. Reunion between adoptees and their biological families is often complicated, especially when there is a great cultural and language divide. Added to the complications is a history of force, fraud, and coercion that casts such great sadness on this case—an abduction rather than an adoption according to Guatemalan courts. When such reunions have been facilitated, the need for psychological assistance is clear. The case history and trauma must be dealt with sensitively and the need for emotional support is unquestionable before, during, and after such reunions.

Clearly, Loyda and her family have been cast aside by the U.S. family in question, but also by U.S. authorities that refuse to intervene and enforce the court order. As for the adoption agency implicated in this abduction for adoption—they hide behind confidentiality!

When will there be truth and reconciliation for Loyda and the other Guatemalan women and families who were taken advantage of during the Guatemalan adoption boom? At least two more women are also fighting for their daughter’s return as children abducted into adoption. And they are doing what any mother—regardless of their citizenship, economic capacity, and privilege—would do: fight for their rights and the return of their children!

For more about Guatemalan adoption fraud see and also see Karen Smith Rotabi’s new book, co-edited with Judith Gibbons, entitled Intercountry Adoption: Policies, Practices, and Outcomes (Ashgate Press, 2012).  In this book, the chapter written by Mónico and Rotabi sheds light on the history of search and reunion of children abducted into adoption. It is entitled: Truth, Reconciliation, and Searching for the Disappeared Children of Civil War: El Salvador’s Search and Reunion Model Defined. Also, Rotabi’s chapter on adoption fraud explores child abduction for adoption and it is entitled: Fraud in Intercountry Adoption: Child Sales and Abduction in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Guatemala.

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  • cmarie

    If I understand correctly the adoption agency originally told the U.S. couple that the little girl was being voluntarily surrendered for adoption by her mother.  When DNA test were done it was evident that the child and the “mother” giving her up were in no way related.  At this point it should have been obvious that she had been taken from her family and put into the hands of criminals for profit.  Ideally, a search for her parents would have ensued, but instead this U.S. couple began to petition the courts to have the child declared “abandoned” (because the only reason any child is victimized is because he or she has been voluntarily abandoned by her family, right?)  They got the little girl declared to be an abandoned child and took off back to the U.S. with her.  The whole thing was so clearly unethical that (again my understanding) their former lawyer is now in jail back in Guatemala along with employees of the agency.  I am not an adoptive parent but if I was these stories would make me even more furious.  Why… why would anyone (especially an adoptive parent) want the lines between kidnapping and adoption blurred.  It seems to me that the only way to prevent this kind of thing (in any country) would be for the parents of stolen children to be able to submit a DNA sample  to be cross referenced against the DNA of any and all children being placed for adoption from that nation.  If we can do it for criminals why not for mothers of the disappeared?  I’m afraid a number of powerful U.S. adoption agencies and supporters would oppose any such law though. 

  • karen-smith-rotabi

    Yes, cmarie the “abandonment” cases during the Guatemalan adoption baby boom were very problematic. U.S. families were encouraged to take this route when there were issues with particular cases. Of course, some were legitimate. And, most U.S. adoptive families blindly followed the guidance of adoption agencies and Guatemalan lawyers. It has been said that the family who ‘adopted’ Loyda’s child had knowledge of wrong-doing, but I think that is likely an over-statement. I can’t imagine that they had any real idea of the grave wrong in this particular case. I give them that benefit of the doubt and I see them as no different than the thousands of others who proceeded with willful blindness as they adopted from Guatemala. It was a highly problematic country and had been pronounced as a country with grave human rights abuses for years. Why would anyone think that the human rights of birth families were safe guarded? There was a rush to ‘rescue’ without and understanding of the context and now denials continue. Sadly, the Guatemalan adoptees will have to unravel a complicated history. There will be hard moments and for some children it will be profound. Truth and reconciliation…