People First - Ángel found a new family thanks to new legislation

Photo: Ylva Sahlstrand


Adoption law reduces child trafficking

Updated: 25 June 2014

Guatemala has, for at least two decades, been harshly criticised for illegal adoption. During the worst times, 5,000 children disappeared annually to trafficking. Investigations have revealed that between 1997 and 2007, 26,203 children from Guatemala were abducted for illegal adoption in the USA. Networks including different professionals – doctors, midwifes, orphanage staff and lawyers – earned up to 50,000 US dollars per child.

Local organisations, often initiated by women who had themselves lost children, have after years of demonstrations and strategic work achieved in bringing this crime to light and seeing it reduced. With the help of support from Sweden, who for several years has also directly opposed the Guatemalan government, as well as Unicef, they can today refer to the new national law on adoption. The law was pushed through in 2008 by Congress and a national adoption agency was opened. The families throughout Guatemala now have somewhere to turn, without paying for the services. The resounding perspective is "in the best interests of the child".

Sida has supported Unicef in Guatemala for over twenty years. The current programme is called "Developing a Child Protection System for Guatemalan Children and Adolescents". The programme involves supporting institutions for children and young people, providing space for civil society, increasing the technical capacity and working with preventative measures. This also involves making the Adoption Act common knowledge and getting people to utilise it.

The programme covers 20 municipalities in eight regions. The family of Antonio Martínez live in one of the prioritised municipalities, Soloma, and they have been able to adopt safely and legally without cost.


Sweden cooperates with Unicef and CICIG, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.

How much?

For the period 2009-2012, Sweden is contributing support to Unicef through Sida to the amount of SEK 60 million.


  • Sweden and Unicef have been pushing efforts to get the Adoption Act passed and it was finally adopted by the Guatemalan Congress in 2008. The new Adoption Act means that adoptions are free and that they are amenable to judicial review and follow-ups.
  • Thanks to this law, trafficking of children and young people has been significantly reduced. Prior to 2008, 5,000 children a year disappeared, often to illegal adoptions – not least to the USA.
  • According to Unicef, the latest figure for cases within illegal adoption reported to the Ministry of the Interior is 11. This figure is from the middle of 2012 and highlights the extent of the reduction.
  • Through collaboration between Unicef, Sida and CICIG, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, extensive child trafficking through networks has been revealed.
  • A growing number of civil society organisations have made themselves heard on children's rights.
  • Fundación Sobrevivientes is one of the largest organisations that cooperates with the police in tracking down missing children and young people, which has contributed to a decrease in trafficking.
  • The Kenneth Alba Act came into force in 2010 to immediately search for children and young people who have disappeared and to provide protection for those who were abducted. Prior to this, relatives had to wait 72 hours.
  • A recent study shows that illegal trade still takes place despite the decrease. Because of this, all international adoptions have been stopped indefinitely.
  • Since 2008, the country has strengthened its various systems for following-up adoptions and providing children with the right protection.

Page owner: Communication Unit

  • tip a friend
  • share
Tip a Friend heading