A Deeper Look at International Adoption

I met Erin Siegel a few years back when she was first laying the foundation for her debut book Finding Fernanda.  Erin is an award-winning investigative journalist and Oakland resident (cue my pride surge). She explained the heartbreaking subject of international adoption corruption and how she would examine it in this book. After our discussion, I realized I hadn’t finished my food because I was listening so attentively to everything Erin was saying.

Well the day has arrived- Erin’s book has finally hit the shelves and she shared these insights into her important book project with Ella’s Voice. Check it out and then buy the book. ~abel


By Erin Siegal

In my debut, Finding Fernanda, I hope to reveal the pervasive corruption in international adoption, an ongoing issue that deserves urgent attention. Finding Fernanda is the heart-wrenching story of how, against all odds, one Guatemalan woman, Mildred Alvarado, ultimately reunites with her kidnapped daughters against staggering odds—with the help of an American housewife, Betsy Emanuel, who had unknowingly tried to adopt one of Alvarado's children.

The complex investigation that is front and center in the book involves $30,000 U.S. dollars, four Guatemalan “orphans,” one nonprofit evangelical Christian adoption agency, a family-run child-trafficking ring, one infant cut from her unconscious mother’s womb, two tiny missing sisters, and a nine-member Tennessee family who believed wholeheartedly in Christian love and faith—until the dark side of international adoption shattered their trust.

The book sheds light on the highly politicized landscape of Guatemala’s adoption industry, a multi-million dollar trade that was both highly profitable and barely regulated. Children have been stolen, sold, and placed as orphans in corrupt international adoptions to well-intentioned Western parents ever since the industry began in the 1980s, yet the governments of Guatemala and the United States repeatedly proved unwilling and incapable of regulating the baby trade.

From 2003-2008, 20 percent of the 100,000 children adopted by United States families came from Guatemala—widely considered to have had the worst international adoption improprieties over the longest period of time. More than one source has referred to the business of adoption between Guatemala and the United States as “the perfect crime.” Until now, no one has provided a full picture of how it takes place.

With help of documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, leaked emails, and key sources inside both the Guatemalan and U.S. governments, Erin Siegal traces this provocative, compelling case from start to finish. Along the way, she exposes the roles of baby-finders, caretakers, judges, government officials, and more. The cadena perpetua, or perpetual chain, of corruption involves everyone from Guatemalan judges to U.S. embassy officials.

Finding Fernanda brings readers to the frontlines of the pressing issue of international adoption fraud, and tackles the pervasive human rights violations that still occur today.

Link where you can buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Fernanda-Mothers-Cross-Border-Search/dp/0983884501
For more information/ project website: http://findingfernanda.com
More about Erin: http://www.brandeis.edu/investigate/about/fellows/siegal.html

Checkout pictures below of Erin's travels.