The story of American missionaries arrested in Haiti as they attempted to bring Haitian children to sanctuary outside of the quake-stricken country continues to be front page news in the US. El Salvador has also had difficult times when parents might feel compelled to give up their children to foreigners. A recent BBC story tells about adult children, given up for adoption during the civil war, now reunited with their birth parents:
Baptised Janet Ruiz, Martina was just 18 months old when [her mother] Graciela last saw her. It was 1982 and El Salvador was engulfed in a brutal civil war.
A year earlier, the family had been driven out of their village in the east of the country by left-wing guerrillas who had also killed Martina's father. Left alone to bring up four young children, her mother did not know where to turn for help.
Then a brother mentioned a lawyer he knew who arranged adoptions abroad for Salvadorean children. At first Graciela refused to listen, but later acquiesced.
"It was the fear and the uncertainty that convinced me, that and the bombs," she said quietly. In August of that same year, she travelled to the capital to meet the lawyer and one of the Italian families. In the lobby of an upmarket hotel, Graciela said farewell first to Silvia, then to Martina.
"The lawyer said they [the adoptive parents] would bring Martina and Silvia back every seven years and would send photos each year. After about a year, a year and a half, I heard nothing," she said.
Martina and Silvia, who has yet to travel back to El Salvador, are among several hundred young Salvadoreans located by the Asociacion Pro-Busqueda since it began work shortly after the civil war ended in 1992.
I have written before about efforts to bring back together parents and children split apart by the civil war. Some situations were adoptions from desperation like this one. Others were abductions by the armed forces, to terrorize/punish campesinos who supported the guerrilla forces. Such situations explain why Haiti, like El Salvador, has laws and red tape on adoptions to avoid adoptions compelled by coercive circumstances.