South Jordan family prays, fights for daughter caught in red tape of international adoption

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 5:46 p.m. MDT

Jeff DenBleyker gives his wife, Jenna, a kiss before heading out to work at their home in South Jordan on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SOUTH JORDAN — When people ask Jenna DenBleyker how many children she has, she's never quite sure what to say.

"It's a hard answer for me," she said. "Usually I'll say five and one on the way. People will be like, 'Are you pregnant?' Not exactly. It's a very long gestation."

Close to five years, in fact.

At least that's how long it's been since DenBleyker, her husband, Jeff, and their children have been waiting to bring their would-be daughter home from Guatemala.

"In 2007, we got a picture of a beautiful little girl named Jazmin and she caught our heart and we decided to start the process to adopt her," Jeff DenBleyker said. "That was about a month after we started the adoption process on our other daughter, Chloe. … In April 2008, we brought Chloe home."

But the process stalled when it came to the other little girl, whom they planned to call Lauren Jazmin. The girl who has grown up in an orphanage as Jazmin will turn 5 on Saturday.

"She's been called Jazmin her whole life, so we'll let her choose whether she wants to be called Jazmin or Lauren Jazmin," Jenna DenBleyker said. "For her every birthday we've done a birthday party with a cake, present, balloons. We sing. We get it on video so if she comes home next year, she'll know we've always celebrated."

But the DenBleykers have become accustomed to the persistent unknown, the irrepressible "if" — if the birth mother is found and can undergo an interview; if the numerous court hearings aren't postponed; if their Guatemala-based "angel" Miriam can get the ear of the right government official.

"The government has told us there's no problem with our case, it's an easy case," Jeff DenBleyker said. "There's no problem with our paperwork. However, they do not move our case forward."

"The DenBleykers are the perfect example of people caught in the red tape of international adoption," said Suzanne Stott, who has worked with the family as the executive director of Families for Children.

Stott has been working in international adoptions for upwards of 33 years and said what happened to the DenBleykers could have as much to do with the Netherlands as it does with Guatemala. Back in 1993, the Hague Adoption Convention was held in an effort to establish "international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions," according to the U.S. Department of State's Intercountry Adoption website. The United States signed the convention in 2004 and it went into effect for the nation in 2008.

Guatemala's new adoption law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008. The DenBleykers were told that any cases initiated under the old law would be grandfathered in and completed under the prior process. They began the adoption process with both Chloe and Jazmin before Dec. 31, 2007.

"In 2008, the government required a final interview of the birth mother that had not been required previously," Jeff DenBleyker said. "We were initially supposed to be  following the old law of Guatemala for adoptions … the government was supposed to follow the old law's requirements and we were meeting all of those requirements."

Chareyl Moyes, a program manager for Wasatch International Adoptions, said the country was not in compliance with the regulations set forth under the Hague Convention. Because the United States is a Hague country, it can't process adoptions with a Hague country that is not in compliance, she said.

Moyes does not know the DenBleykers, but she was handling a number of Guatemala-based cases when she realized the country's adoptions would soon close and she struggled to get them completed before it was too late. She was able to complete the adoptions she was handling, but 900 families weren't so lucky.

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