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Treaty likely to slow Guatemala adoptions


Graphic charts the number of babies adopted from Russia, China and
Guatemala from 1996 to 2005. (AP Graphic)
GUATEMALA CITY -- Every 100th baby born in Guatemala grows up as an
adopted American, making the Central American country the richest source
of adoptees in the Western Hemisphere. But U.S. ratification of an
international adoption treaty is likely to choke off the supply next

Critics say Guatemala has become a baby farm where adoptions are too
easy and prone to corruption. Defenders say it offers the children a
better future, and that legal corners are cut only to spare Guatemalan
women the stigma of unwed motherhood or relieve them of another mouth to

For now, willing parents can get Guatemalan babies by paying thousands
of dollars to notaries who act as baby brokers, recruiting birth
mothers, handling all the paperwork and completing the job in less than
half the time it takes elsewhere. The process is so streamlined that
Guatemala outpaces all other countries in the percentage of its children
put up for adoption in the United States....

....It is lucrative: Notaries charge a "country fee" of up to $19,000. With
U.S. paperwork and plane trips, the typical Guatemalan adoption costs as
much as $30,000, adoption agencies say.

But in the last six months alone, the government has brought 30 criminal
cases against notaries for falsifying paperwork, allegedly providing
false birth certificates and even creating false identities to avoid
having to involve the birth father or the parents of underage birth

Applications are surging as parents rush to take advantage of the
current process, which will apply to any request filed before the treaty
takes effect in mid-2007. Of the 4,100 cases pending in Arellano's
office, more than 3,000 were filed this year....

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