Coming Clean #3: Rinse Cycle

This topic hits a little closer to home. It may seem insensitive to just throw this out onto the internet, but this little “event” was so thoroughly publicized here in Guyana, that it doesn’t make a difference that I talk it out online. The story ended up on the front cover of the local newspapers.

Time to Come Clean: Someone Tried to Steal a Boy From the Orphanage

There is a young boy at the orphanage (I’ll refer to him as “John” in this writing) who was raised by his mother and was placed into “the system” when she was unable to care for him for a brief amount of time. She had every intention of getting back on her feet as quickly as possible and then reuniting with her son. The past few years, she has tried multiple times to take her son back into her custody, but she has been met continuously with roadblocks, things she has to do in order to get him back. Based on what I’ve heard through the grapevine, the things she has to do in order to be deemed “fit to parent” are ridiculous.

This little boy of hers, John, happens to be particularly cute. He’s got a great personality, is always smiling, and is often up for handing out a hug. I’ve always enjoyed having him around. Unfortunately, these qualities have left him vulnerable to adoptive parents. I mean—how can I put this more accurately? —People want to adopt him because he’s cute. When a child is put into the system in Guyana, and they move into an orphanage, the parent or guardian has a right to say whether or not the child is legally allowed to be adopted. Some parents sign their child away, assuming that if their child won the lottery and someone wanted to adopt them, the kid would have a better life. In this particular boys case, he was put into the orphanage with strict instructions that he was not to be adopted.

In the year that I’ve spent at the orphanage, John’s mom has come to visit him more frequently than any other family member of any other boy that I’ve seen. Most boys don’t have anyone that ever stops by to see them. A few of them have family members that show up sporadically. One or two have people that visit them weekly. But John’s mother comes by a lot. She stops by to play, to talk, to bond. So, this is why I was surprised to hear that someone was trying to adopt him. One of the first things I learned was that people had actually tried to adopt him before (remember, he’s particularly cute. Apparently this is a major factor is deciding which child to make part of your life), they just opted out of the adoption once they realized that his mother was still very much a part of his life and that their bond was “so strong.” To me, it makes sense that a human being wouldn’t want to break up a family.

In this new case, the one that surfaced this year, another family wanted to adopt John. You would think hearing the words “he has a mother who wants him” would be enough to turn any expectant parent away since they probably wouldn’t want their child snatched away from them and moved to another country, but it wasn’t enough in this case. The people still wanted him. In their defense, the situation was really messed up, but that doesn’t fix everything that was happening.

At the beginning of the year, a couple from America showed up in Guyana to begin the long, drawn out process of adopting a boy from Guyana. They were well aware that they would have to spend weeks (if not months) in country while they waited for everything to “clear.” What they didn’t know was that the boy they’d been promised (their new son) already had a parent who loved him. They were unaware of this fact because the government or the ministry or God knows who, had deliberately told the couple that this boy was available for adoption. They’d gone right ahead and ignored the fact that he was specifically marked not to be adopted. So, unbeknownst to the couple, there was no boy available to be adopted, but they’d traveled all the way down to South America for John.

When they arrived, they were introduced to John and were given permission by the government to take him out of the orphanage for visits. All of a sudden, John just wasn’t in school anymore. He missed four days in a row—this made me wonder what kind of people these potential parents were. Why were they taking their child out of school?

Of course, I butted completely into the situation because, as I slowly became aware of what was happening, I couldn’t stand to just be a bystander. I found myself waiting around the orphanage well after school hours to catch a glimpse of this couple who was depriving their supposed son of his education. What I learned next was that a designated person from the government had been picking John up and dropping him off. The two American parents were making sure to make no contact with the orphanage at all. Is that not shady? The director of the orphanage and the Sisters of Mercy were stuck, their hands were tried. They really couldn’t intervene in any way.

One night, when John got dropped off after a visit with this couple, I snagged him for a quick conversation. He’s little, so it isn’t exactly easy to get information out of him, but I got what I needed. He let me know that the people who had been taking him were nice to him and were giving him food and toys to play with, but only when he isn’t at the orphanage. He wasn’t allowed to bring any of the fun things home with him. He also told me that, while the white people are nice, he doesn’t like to go with them. I informs me that he and his mom have a diabolical plan. Before she left him at the orphanage, she told him to always misbehave and act wild around any white people, just in case they were trying to adopt him. This would make them reconsider wanting him. I, being a white person, dodged becoming victim to this plan because I was literally at the orphanage when the car pulled up and dropped this boy off at the orphanage. As far as he’s concerned, I’m just one of the staff and always have been. I’m not white; I’m just the light-skinned dude who teaches some of the older boys.

As the days continued on, the plot thickened. The headmistress of the school I teach at forced herself to get involved too. I gave her all of the information that I knew about the situation, just so she would know as much as possible before moving forward. At this point, we had become aware of the fact that this couple, who had initially come down to the country unaware that they were being lied to, was now aware of the fact that they would be adopting a child that already had a family. The headmistress was so upset about this that she called the local newspaper. The next day, the front page had an article about how a foreign couple was trying to adopt “a dying woman’s son” out from under her. In so many cases, newspapers in Guyana are just filled with gossip, but in this case, it worked to our advantage.

Over the next few days and weeks, John returned to school as his mother was made aware of the frustrating situation and the two “families” found themselves battling one another in Guyanese court. The story has no climactic ending. The court case petered out and the couple (I assume) eventually went home. I will say this—I feel for them. They thought they were coming to Guyana to bring home a new member of their family. And, because so many lies get passed around and this country is so corrupt, I can understand how there may have been some confusion in the process. They probably panicked and thought they were doing the right thing by “fighting” for their kid. But, I just wish they had backed off when they realized they had been duped.

In all honesty, I don’t know why this situation happened. Perhaps someone in Guyana was hoping to make a quick buck. Maybe there was money to be made when the case went to court. But, at the end of the day, the human heart is a strong thing. When the story hit the papers, there was no way the general public would have been okay with seeing the story end any other way than allowing John to remain in this country with his mother. My best wishes go out to the couple who walked away from this ordeal without a child and who were probably emotionally battered after the whole experience ended.

John finished out the school year at the Academy along with the rest of his class. He’s been promoted to the next grade level and he’ll continue to live at the orphanage until his mother is ready to take him back into her custody. She still stops by frequently.


Reason this entry didn’t see the light of day until now: It was better to let a little time pass, for things to simmer down, before this became a part of my Guyanese story.

2 thoughts on “Coming Clean #3: Rinse Cycle

  1. Thank you for your strength and humanity in fighting for this boy and his mother. I am appalled. I guess I shouldn’t be this naive. That this happens is so very wrong on so many levels. Thank goodness you were there.

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