Along with the growth of international adoption came publicized scandal and consequently a chillier new adoption climate, with stricter government controls. It has caused the number of international adoptions to plummet, and left behind – if also protected – many orphans around the globe.
Silvia is one of them, prevented from joining a new family in what is considered the most adoptable period – the infant to toddler years. In the final days of 2007, with the system beset by allegations of baby theft and coercion of birth mothers, Guatemalan lawmakers placed a moratorium on international adoptions. It put in place a new system that
followed the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which is an international standard – and it implemented UNICEF-inspired policy dictating that a family within the country, preferably a relative, should be sought before international families.
Today when asked who her mother is, Silvia points to an orphanage caretaker, and says, beaming, “Mama Nico.” A slight, pretty girl, Silvia flashes four stubby fingers when asked her age: “Cuatro.”
And, says Alejandra Diaz, the director of the orphanage, “Hannah’s Hope,” Silvia is probably going to spend many more birthdays in the orphanage: “It is hard to say it, because I knew her when she was a baby, but she’s going to be here for years.” Ms. Diaz says her facility, which used to process 90 adoptions a year, now has 31 seemingly permanent orphan residents, and cannot afford to take in more of the estimated 4,000 Guatemalan children now backed up in state and private orphanages.