Adopting Daniel: One family's struggle navigating Guatemala's adoption system
It wasn't until that night, when they were in bed, that he told his wife.
"I think I met our son," Bubba said.
At 28, Jess was five years older than her husband and the more practical partner. She listened quietly as he told her about his day with the boy, who wasn't just cute, he said, but his name was Daniel, just like Bubba's uncle who had just died. She was skeptical.
"Uh oh," she thought, "what has Bubba gotten us into?" But the next day, when she pulled the child into her arms, it felt like he was hers.
The couple had always wanted to adopt; Daniel just sped up their plans. They immediately told the orphanage director and started the paperwork.
Two months later, Guatemala's thriving adoption industry fell apart.
The country's quick-stop adoptions had made the nation of 14 million people the world's second-largest source of babies to the US after China. But the vibrant business came to a halt after an August 2007 raid on what was considered the country's most reputable adoption agency, used by many Americans.
An investigation exposed a system of fake birth certificates and DNA samples, of mothers coerced into giving up children. Some claimed their children were kidnapped for sale. Adoptive parents paid up to $30,000 for a child in a country where the average person earns $5,000 a year.
Guatemalan birth parents poured into government- run centers looking for their missing children and ran ads in local papers.
Guatemalan doctors, lawyers, mothers and civil registrars were arrested and prosecuted, with some convictions for human trafficking and adoption fraud. The Solicitor General's office was put under investigation by a U.N.-backed commission against impunity.