Child Trafficking Concerns Highlighted in Recent Case of Adopted Guatemalan Girl

15/08/2011 - More needs to be done to prosecute trafficking networks that mean children end up in commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, and in international adoption rings.

Loyda Rodriguez Morales witnessed the abduction of her 2-year-old daughter Anyeli from right outside of her home nearly five years ago. 

She spent the next five years searching, and now holds what’s believed to be an unprecedented Guatemalan court order declaring the child stolen and ordering the U.S. couple who eventually adopted her to give her back.

Expects state that if U.S. authorities intervene to return the child, now 6, as the Guatemalan court has asked, it would be a first for any international adoption case.

The U.S. government is obligated under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within five years. The timeline of the girl’s abduction, according to court records, occurred within that margin of time.

There are no allegations against the U.S. couple that they knew the girl they adopted had been kidnapped. It seems clear that the girl was snatched by a child trafficking ring and put up for adoption with a new name.

Guatemala’s quick adoptions once made this Central American nation of 13 million people a top source of children for the U.S. But the Guatemalan government suspended adoptions in late 2007 after widespread cases of fraud — though they still allowed many already in process.

The court ruling signed by Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez canceled the girl’s passport and ordered her returned in two months, asking the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala for help in locating the child. The court says it will file an order with the international police agency, Interpol, if she is not returned.

Rodriguez and her husband reported their daughter missing to various local and federal law enforcement, including authorities in charge of human rights violations and missing children, according to documents of the U.N.-backed corruption commission.

Rodriguez said she searched for more than a year on her own and was repeatedly refused court permission to search foster homes where kids awaited adoption.

She staged a short hunger strike when she was still denied access to government adoption records. Once she was given access, it still took nearly a year to find the child’s photo at the National Adoptions Council.

Rodriguez submitted to a DNA test that established her as the mother, the corruption commission says. But the girl was already in the United States.

Anyeli’s identity had been changed in early 2007 by a woman claiming to be her mother, who changed the child’s name to Karen Abigail and offered her for adoption, according to the court order. The woman left the girl with an adoption agency, the Spring Association, several months later after she failed a DNA test, according to the corruption commission. The adoption agency had the girl declared abandoned and put her up for adoption in 2008.

The ease of the girl’s adoption was surprising, as the office of Guatemala’s solicitor general approved the adoption in July of that year, despite the fact that it had already received a missing person’s report on the girl with photographs as early as February 2008, according to the corruption commission.

In December of that year, the girl left the country with her adopted parents, under her new name and listed as being born in 2005.

The experience of Rodriguez demonstrates how easy it can be to traffic children in countries which do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
It has been reported that Guatemala is one of the world’s top sender countries for children adopted in the United States, and that it has a $100 million adoption industry.

Adoption has become a big business worldwide, where it was once a process by which the community took responsibility for orphans.

Increased access to birth control pills and legal abortion, and a lessening of the stigma of single parenting, coupled with an increase in infertility resulted in a demand for babies that outstrips the “supply.”