What began as Erin Siegal s 2009 Master's project as a Fellow at the Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism evolved into a complex investigation of $30,000 U.S. dollars, four Guatemalan orphans, one nonprofit evangelical Christian adoption agency, an accused family-run child-trafficking ring, one infant cut from her unconscious mother's womb, two 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. Siegal reveals the heart wrenching story of how one poor Guatemalan woman, Mildred Alvarado, ultimately reunited with her kidnapped daughters against all odds and how the American housewife slated to adopt one of those children, Elizabeth Emanuel, accidentally became a reformer dedicated to an ethical adoption system.
FINDING FERNANDA 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.
With help of documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, leaked emails, and key sources inside both the Guatemalan and U.S. governments, Siegal research traces one compelling case of corruption in detail from start to finish. Along the way, the mechanisms surrounding orphan laundering are illuminated, including the roles of baby-finders, caretakers, judges, government officials, and more. This cadena perpetua, or perpetual chain, involves everyone from Guatemalan judges to U.S. embassy officials.
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Brave, thorough, complex, important. Strongly recommended as a starting place for any hopeful adoptive parent. So grateful for Erin to shine this light in such an important issue.