Monday, December 10, 2012

Adoptive mother responds to NYT Guatemala adoption story

An adoptive parent of two children from Guatemala, Jessica O'Dwyer, defends the participation of adoptive parents in the broken Guatemalan adoption system on the Parenting blog of the NYT. She writes in response to Rachel Swarns' weekend NYT story on Guatemala.
During the adoption of my daughter in 2002-3, I had ventured far beyond the hotel lobbies that circumscribed the experiences of most adoptive parents. I lived in Antigua, learned Spanish, and had gotten behind the closed doors of bureaucratic offices. The business of adoption was something I felt confident I knew — so well that I wrote a memoir about it, “Mamalita.” But after absorbing the onslaught of evidence in “The Embassy Cables,” I realized what I witnessed represented only the tiniest tip of a colossal iceberg. I had underestimated the scope and scale of dishonesty, its depth and breadth, its absolute magnitude.
For years, I have blamed myself for participating in a corrupt system. “If I hadn’t been willing to adopt from Guatemala, corruption never could have happened.” As I revealed in “Mamalita,” my daughter’s adoption was riddled with problems from beginning to end. After our agency cashed our check and abandoned us, I quit my job and moved to Antigua to finish the case myself. Soon after, my husband and I were urged to pay a bribe. Inquiries to our agency were answered with threats to put our daughter in an orphanage, forever. Seeking help from the United States Embassy, we were told: “This is a Guatemalan problem. We can’t interfere.”
After reading “The Embassy Cables,” I understand that deceit was endemic to the system, and allowed to prevail. It was much more powerful than any one individual. By permitting adoptions from Guatemala, our government reassured me, and thousands of other adoptive parents. While we participated in a corrupt system, we didn’t cause the corruption. This is a distinction that matters.
If you knew anything about the history of Guatemala or the role of the US in that history, you would know to double-check what you hear from the Embassy. But should you blame US citizens for believing what the US government tells them?


  1. The question of whether to blame US citizens for having credulity in the US government strikes me as strange coming from somebody whose opinion pieces are regularly featured on Al Jazeera. My answer to your question is "yes."

  2. No one said credulity. The woman in the story looks to have followed all the laws. She asked many of the right questions. She also checked with the US government. Some people might too readily believe what US officials say, but this woman doesn't seem to be one of them.

    I enjoy writing for Al Jazeera's opinion section. They have a pretty good range of perspectives represented on the website even if the commenters tend to be one-sided.