Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Guess who went running along the Potomac river? (& UPDATE)

Uh...that would be Whitney and me. We had a great time in D.C with Whitney's aunt. We left yesterday and had a brunch with a friend who is now attending Liberty University. We're in Tennessee this morning and saw this on JCICS' website. There are a lot of people out there making statements and they are by far the most reliable. Bottom line: Things are still in flux but Berger, UNICEF, and the Guatemala government seem to be backing down. Keep contacting your representatives!

JCICS' statement:

Monday, October 22, 2007
This past week saw much activity including continued direct dialogue with UNICEF and the Office of President Oscar Berger. We once again thank the adoptive parent community, our friends and our professional colleagues for everyone’s continued support.

United States Congress
Joint Council is very pleased to report that as of Friday October 19, 2007, 70 Members of the United States House of Representatives and 28 Members of the United States Senate have agreed to sign the letters to President Oscar Berger, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, and UNICEF Guatemala Executive Director Manuel Manrique. With three days remaining until the deadline for signing the letters, we expect to have the support of well over 100 Congressional offices. As we reported last week…your voice is being heard! The deadline for Members of Congress to register their support is Wednesday, October 24th. We anticipate the letters to be sent to President Berger, Executive Director Veneman, and UNICEF Guatemala Executive Director Manuel Manrique on or around October 29th.

Given the ongoing nature of our initiative, we do not yet know the names of those Representatives and Senators that have agreed to sign the letters. We ask that you contact your three members of Congress no later than Wednesday, October 24th and, ask if they have agreed to support the Guatemala 5000 Initiative by signing all three letters. If they have, simply thank them for their support. If not, ask that they support the Guatemala 5000 Initiative by agreeing to sign onto the letters.

For those Congressional offices needing additional information, please refer Members of the House of Representatives to Mr. Chip Gardiner in Congressman Oberstar’s office or Tad Bardenwerper in Congresswoman Brown-Waite’s office and Members of the Senate to Ms. Lauren Bocanegra in Senator Landrieu’s office or Andy Burmeister in Senator Coleman’s office. They can also contact Ms. Nicole Vitale at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

President Oscar Berger
As you may know, statements by President Oscar Berger and Guatemalan Congressman Roberto Morales were reported in the Guatemalan press this past week. Some have interpreted these statements to be the official support of the Guatemalan government for the completion of all in-process adoptions under the current law and procedures. Joint Council has chosen to withhold its assessment until a transparent and expeditious process for completing the in-process adoptions has been published by the Berger administration.

To date the terms by which an adoption would be considered “in-process” and the process/timeline by which the children’s adoptions will be completed have not been published. Given the volatile nature of Guatemalan adoptions and the current political environment within Guatemala, Joint Council does not consider it prudent to rely on vague and conflicting statements by various officials. Until such time that President Berger publishes clear definitions and a transparent process for legally and expeditiously completing the adoptions for all children having been referred to a family, we will continue to advocate on behalf of the children we serve.

On October 15th, Joint Council participated in a panel discussion with UNICEF Guatemala Director Manuel Manrique, UNICEF Consultant Kelley Bunkers and adoptive parent and journalist Elizabeth Larsen during the Adoption Ethics and Accountability conference in Washington DC. In continuing our ongoing dialogue with UNICEF, Joint Council has been invited to meet with UNICEF officials beginning next month at UNICEF headquarters in New York.

A point of clarification for adoptive parents:
It was indicated by UNICEF representative Manuel Manrique both at the conference and
subsequent interview with National Public Radio, that the announcement attributed to President Berger (noted in Joint Council’s Guatemala 5000 initiative) did not actually occur and the initiative itself unnecessary. Joint Council firmly stands by our statement and ongoing support of Guatemalan children via the Guatemala 5000 Initiative.

As reported by the United States Department of State, the Guatemalan government informed the U.S. Department of State of its intent. As the head of the Guatemalan government, we believe that President Berger is responsible for the information his government relays to the United States government and should be held accountable.

Joint Council believes that using diversionary and misleading tactics do not advance the best interest of Guatemalan children. We again call on all parties to refrain from such strategies and focus our energies on ensuring that all children referred to families are permitted to complete their adoptions in a legal and timely manner.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AP Story Update

We're in Washington D.C. tonight, but just saw this AP report....

Guatemalan president says he's not trying to stop U.S. families from adopting babies

The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
GUATEMALA CITY: Guatemalan President Oscar Berger said Tuesday that his government is simply working to make adoptions more secure and not trying to interfere with U.S. families already in the process of adopting some 3,700 children from the Central American nation.

Guatemalan lawmakers are debating how to fulfill their promise to comply by Jan. 1, 2008, with the Hague Convention, the international standard for legal adoptions. A key requirement is the creation of a centralized adoption-monitoring agency.

Would-be parents — many of whom spend US$30,000 (€21,000) or more to adopt Guatemalan babies — are on edge, worrying that adoptions already in process will be blocked by the impending legislation. But Berger denied that.

"I have never said that I want to stop the adoptions," Berger told The Associated Press. "All my government wants is for the adoptions law that is about to pass to be respected and for Guatemala to comply with the Hague Convention."

U.S. families adopted 4,135 Guatemalan children last year, making the Central American nation second only to China as a source of babies for American couples. One in every 100 Guatemalan babies born annually is adopted by U.S. families, thanks to a speedy private adoption system in which notaries handle the entire process, from scouting for pregnant women to filing all the paperwork.

The Hague Convention requires that a government agency control the process, not independent notaries.

It remains unclear exactly what parents who are already adopting Guatemalan babies will have to do to comply with the new rules. But Rep. Rolando Morales, one of the main backers of the adoption bill in Congress, also said adoptions under way won't be blocked.

"All we ask for is an investigation to make sure that the woman giving the baby up is the biological mother and that the infant was not obtained under coercion or, worse, stolen," Morales said.

"We don't believe an adoption should cost more than US$7,000 (€5,000)," he added. "The difference is the profit the lawyer makes."

UNICEF's Guatemala office also wants cases already in process to be re-examined to ensure that babies were not stolen or obtained under duress. And the U.S. State Department has warned U.S. families not to adopt from Guatemala until the U.S. Embassy can examine each case more thoroughly. The embassy recently began requiring DNA tests at the beginning and the end of each adoption to verify the child's identity.

In response, a notaries' lobbying group has run radio ads praising adoption as a way to get children out of orphanages and help those living on the street. Meanwhile, adoptive parents have deluged U.S. government offices with calls and e-mails calling for Guatemalan adoptions to continue.

Guatemalan lawmakers are determined to pass the bill before the nation's presidential elections on Nov. 4.

President Berger's Statement

The following was taken from JCIS's website. It apparently is Berger's statement that they were reluctant to publish. I think they should have left it unpublished....

PLEASE NOTE: The text below is a statement from President Berger’s
administration, as it was sent to the Joint Council on International
Children’s Services via email.

1. El Presidente de la República de Guatemala, Oscar Berger Perdomo, NO ha
emitido declaración alguna en cuanto a que se suspenderán en Guatemala
todas las adopciones internacionales.
1. The President of Guatemala, Oscar Berger Perdomo, has NOT issued a
statement about the suspension of all intercountry adoptions.

2. El Presidente Berger apoya una nueva ley de adopciones (Iniciativa 3217),
que regula los procesos de adopción, otorga más certeza jurídica a una
institución social noble como lo es la adopción y es acorde a los estándares de
la Convención de la Haya.
2. President Berger supports a new adoption’s law (Initiative 3217), which
regulates the adoption processes, will give more judicial certainty to a social
noble institution, as the adoption, and which will be in accordance to the Hague

3. Los niños guatemaltecos que están en proceso de adopción, son menores
bajo protección y amparo de la Constitución, y por lo tanto, el Estado de
Guatemala tiene el derecho y la obligación de velar por el interés superior de
ellos. Por esto, se promueve una ley en armonía con el Convenio de la Haya y
que procure adopciones dignas, seguras y sobre todo, con certeza jurídica.
3. Guatemalan children, who are going through an adoption process, are minors
under the protection and shelter of the Guatemalan Constitution, hence, the
State of Guatemala has the right and obligation to assure their best interest.
Therefore, the Government supports a new adoptions law, in harmony with the
Hague Convention, that will foster secure and dignified adoptions and above all
adoptions with judicial certainty.

4. A partir del 31 de diciembre de 2007, es intención manifiesta del Estado de
Guatemala que el Convenio de la Haya en materia de Adopción Internacional,
sea aplicado en Guatemala, tal y como lo refleja el decreto Legislativo No. 31-
2007. A partir de esta fecha, TODAS LAS ADOPCIONES desde Guatemala
deberán cumplir con los estándares de la Convención de la Haya.
4. As from December 31st 2007, it is the will of the Goverment of Guatemala,
that the Hague Convention on International Adoptions, enters in force, as
reflected on the Legislative Decree No.31-2007. From this date, ALL
ADOPTIONS from Guatemala must meet the Hague Convention standards.

5. El Congreso de la República de Guatemala está por aprobar la Ley de
Adopciones (Iniciativa 3217, con enmiendas). SI se aprueba esta ley, esta
regulará la forma como serán resueltos los casos de adopción pendientes o
que ya están en proceso.
5. The Congress of the Republic of Guatemala will soon pass the Adoptions
Law (Initiative 3217, with amendments). IF this law is approved, this will
regulate the procedure for the pending adoption cases or adoption cases which
are already in-process.

6. El Gobierno de Guatemala ha nominado a la Secretaría de Bienestar Social
como la Autoridad Central para las adopciones (Acuerdo Gubernativo 260-
2007). La Autoridad Central emitirá un comunicado respecto a los procesos de
adopciones en los próximos días, el cual será dado a conocer a las autoridades
internacionales por los canales oficiales.
6. The Government of Guatemala has nominated the Social Welfare Secretariat
(Secretaria de Bienestar Social) as the Central Authority for adoptions
(Government Accord 260-2007). The Central Authority will issue an official
statement regarding adoption processes in the next few days, which will be sent
and notified to international authorities, through official channels.

7. El Gobierno de Guatemala reitera que está a favor de las adopciones con
todos los países y familias que GARANTICEN una vida segura y digna para los
niños guatemaltecos. El Gobierno de Guatemala no tolerará procesos de
adopciones fuera de la ley.
7. The Government of Guatemala reaffirms that it is in favor of adoptions with
all countries and families that will GUARANTEE a secure and dignified life for
the Guatemala children, but it will not tolerate adoption processes outside the

Monday, October 15, 2007

Andy Popping into Frame

Guatemala Adoptions Update

The phone calls have been effective...but there seems to be a long way to go still. Here's the most recent update from JCIS:

Since Joint Council's call to action on September 27th, thousands of adoptive parents along with Joint Council Member Organizations, our colleagues at the National Council for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Adoptive Families magazine and the public at large have lent their support to the Guatemala 5000 initiative. We are pleased to provide you with the attached summary update including our most recent direct communications with the Office of Guatemalan President Oscar Berger. On behalf of the children we serve, our heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed to the collective effort.

Please know that Joint Council will continue to update you on our ongoing efforts and all pertinent developments. As events unfold, we may be calling upon the entire community for support and action. Lastly, please know that Joint Council will continue the Guatemala 5000 initiative until all children referred with adoptive parents have joined their forever family.
There is a more detailed update here: http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala_5000_Update.pdf

It sounds like President Berger is still the real hold up. Pray for a softening of his heart or for the congress to go against him. There may be a new president by the time the amendment is voted on, and I have no idea how that affects things?!?!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Romney's Real Record

Wow...the Log Cabin Republicans and I may not have much in common, but I guess we both dodn't like Mitt Romney for wildly different reasons.

This is a strange ad...it seems to be directed to people like me, using statements Romney made when he agreed with people like them.

Update, Musings, and Thanks

Pictured above is Ronald McDonald (left) and the president of Guatemala Oscar Berger (right). Berger is persona non grata among adoption families right now. I can understand some of UNICEF's oppossition to adoption (this could get me in trouble with some guatemamas) because it is at least based on some decent principles. From my limited understanding of Guatemalan politics, this guy is just a creep. His exploitation of the poor in his country is pathetic and tragic. His--and his wife's--opposition to adoption doesn't make sense until you follow the dollar signs.

There were some great comments on the blog that ran this picture, http://guatemala.adoptionblogs.com/:

"Clowns are SO scary!!!!And that geek with the red hair is a bit upsetting, too."

"I do however find it odd that these two are together since their agendas for children are so different...one wants make sure kids eat garbage and the other wants to make sure they don't eat at all."

I don't really check out the adoption blogs, usually, because I find it suprisingly hard to identify with these people. We seem to be passionate about the same things (children) but for really different reasons. The aforementioned blog had some great lines, however. This blogger, LisaS., is a great writer. Here's her concluding paragraph to her latest post:

When the Bergers retire from office in January 2008, they will leave behind a legacy of social apathy. They will also have secured a notorious spot in the
adoption history of Guatemala because instead of implementing changes built on a
system that had many outstanding features, such as foster parents, they will
completely wipe it out only to replace it with adysfunctional substitute.

A few thoughts:

First, thank you so much for all of you who took the time to contact your representatives. I've never been a petition guy, but there is reason to believe that our state department and elected officials are putting some much needed pressure on the Guatemalan government.

Second, there's a lot of hatred out there for UNICEF among adopting parents. I may not understand the enitre situation, but I don't feel quite the same level of antipathy for them. Here's my two cents:

a) I agree with many of UNICEF's stated goals. We should be uneasy when a wealthy country begins to seemingly plunder children from a poor country. It's not enough to take children out of that situation...we need to rectify the underlying problems that have put children in such a terrible situation.

b) The problem is UNICEF's methodology and perhaps motives are not as pure as might be assumed. They are bribing elected officials in Guatemala to stop adoptions.

c) UNICEF seems blissfully unconcerned with the havoc stopping adoptions will have on the Guatemalan social structure, specifically the children. Do they really think that a country that allows its adoption system to be so corrupt will have the infrastructure to care for the children caught in the middle? It's preposterous.

Anyway, just some thoughts and updates. The sabbatical is going well. Here's just a brief recap:

1. I finished my DMin classwork last week for my current class.

2. This week, I have read about six or seven books on vision casting and the church.

3. I did several other things I will write more about when I come back from sabbatical.

4. I taught the kids how to play chess. This has been pretty crazy, but the kids have been playing chess a couple hours a day the past few days. They can't get enough of it. Now, they're very unorthodox players For example, Austin went on a tear with his king where he brought it down to Hannah's back row and went to town capturing pieces...you don't see that everyday. They really are starting to get the basics down. Hannah is getting very good at seeing several moves ahead. On the downside, this makes her overly cautious. She won't move a piece if there is a possibility you could capture it in 3 moves. Austin, on the other hand, will sacrifice an infinite number of pieces to capture even your pawn. He is also really good at making sound effects. This makes it very interesting to watch them play each other.

5. Whitney and I have been preparing for our half-marathon. I did my 13 miler on Thursday. I tried to just take it easy and go at a steady pace. I'm not going to break any records...my average mile time was 7:35. Whitney did her long run today and is pretty exhausted.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I called my senators again and spoke with their staff. The people I spoke with were much more pleasant today. I think they must be realizing this is important to a lot of people. Durbin's office said that he hadn't made a decision on signing the coalition's letter but that they "think" he sent a letter himself to Guatemala's president urging him to grandfather in families who are in process of adopting. Obama's office said he still hadn't made a decision, but that they had been receiving lots of calls. They also claimed that he would post a statement on his website eventually: http://obama.senate.gov. Personally, with Hillary dominating the polls like she is, I think his time would be better spent working on the Guatemala thing than the presidential thing.

Today is the day to contact your elected representative....

Unless you also live in Illinois, your phone calls can't be as bad as mine. My senators are Dick Durbin and Barak Obama! Their offices were far from friendly...but they had already been receiving phone calls, so that's good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Please contact your elected representatives (seriously)


As many of you know, Guatemala has been cracking down on corrupt adoption agencies. This is a real problem and does need to be addressed.

However, there are also many reputable foster homes and adoption agencies (such as our own) that are working to provide homes for children in need. Unfortunately, the president of Guatemala recently declared that all adoptions to countries that were non-Hauge compliant (such as US America) would stop January 1, 2008. He claimed that this would include cases in progress which is a dramatic change from previous communication from the Guatemalan government. This is obviously a great concern to us as Ellie may still be in the system come January 1!

I'd like to ask a favor of you...would you please contact your congressmen or senator today or tomorrow and ask them to sign the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) sponsored letter to President Oscar Berger? You can find out more about this letter and Guatemala 5000 initiative here: http://jcics.org/index.htm.

In the last few days, it seems there has been some good news. Our state department, thanks to the efforts of many of you, has encouraged the Guatemala Children's committee to include a grandfather ammendment into some pending legislation. You can find out the detail on the aforementioned website, but the bottom line is that the pressure American citizens are putting on their government is being effective. The next 24 hours are critical to keeping up the pressure!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Guess who met John Piper?

Uh...that would be me.

This past weekend, we went to Minneapolis to visit Bethlehem (Piper's church) and Wooddale Church (Leith Anderson's church...he's the new president of the National Association of Evangelicals).

We went to the Saturday evening service at Bethlehem and were able to say hi to Pastor John after the service. I tried to just shake his hand and not take up too much of his time, but he was very gracious and asked about what brought us to Minneapolis, etc. He enjoyed hearing about Bethany Baptist and mentioned that he quotes Pastor Ritch frequently in his sermons, too.

The first week of sabbatical was very productive. I wrote about one hundred fifty pages combined for papers on my DMin class and finished going through a seminar called "The Nehemiah Strategy." The seminar is designed to help with long-term strategic planning.

I'm looking forward to week two!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Watch this second...

...and skip to about two minutes in.

Feist - 1 2 3 4

This is the song on the new ipod commercials. It reminds me of the "Here We Go Again" video in that the entire thing is a single take...even the end...right?

Sabbatical: Day One

My seven week sabbatical (plus some vacation time) began a little bit before six this morning. I went to the Central pool and swam a mile and a half then came back and had breakfast with the kids. After breakfast, we did a little cleaning and in a little while I'll begin working on some of my DMin papers. My goal is to finish at least a rough draft of my last paper today and begin editing.

A lot of people have asked what we're planning on doing on the sabatical so I thought I'd sketch at least a broad overview of our objectives:

Church Plant: Working on the church plant is the primary purpose of the sabbatical. I will be
doing so by visiting churches, vision casting, studying leadership development, laying out a four-year plan, and spending time daily just to brainstorm.

Personal Growth: I will be finishing some DMin work during this period as well. I'm going to try to knock this out within the first week. There are also quite a few books I'd like to read.

Family: I'm going to try to spend quite a bit of time with the family in the evenings especially. It will be nice to be able to not have a lot of things competing with our schedules. When we're in Texas, we plan on visiting lots of churches but also spending time with extended family. Whitney and I will take a vacation together and then run the White Rock Half Marathon in Dallas.

I'm not really a person who enjoys "relaxing," but I'll also try to decompress at least a little bit.