Three and a half years before my book, Between Light and Shadow, was published, I wrote a story for In These Times magazine titled Banana Republic to Baby Republic which revealed the role of Casa Quivira at the heart of the story told in my book. Casa Quivira was raided by Guatemalan government authorities on Aug. 11, 2007, in a prelude to the government shutting down international adoption a year later. Here’s an excerpt from that story:
Casa Quivira was run by Clifford Phillips, an American who now lives in Florida, and his wife Sandra Gonzalez, a Guatemalan adoption attorney. They were among the first to capitalize when Guatemalan adoption became a booming business in the ’90s. …
In 2006, I helped reunite a teenage adoptee named Ellie with her biological mother in Guatemala—seven years after her relinquishment. During the emotional reunion, Ellie’s adoptive mother, Judy, learned from the biological mother, Antonia, that Casa Quivira’s Gonzalez had offered to pay for Ellie, then refused to pay once the girl was in the home’s custody. Antonia had a change of heart and returned to Antigua three months later to try and reclaim Ellie but was ridiculed and refused access to her daughter. In the adoption dossier, Sandra Gonzalez wrote, “Mother of child presents a troublesome and conflicted personality that makes her interpersonal relationships difficult.”
Fast forward to now. Investigative journalist Erin Siegal, whose forthcoming book Finding Fernanda also deals with corruption in Guatemalan adoption (I’ve pre-ordered, and can’t wait to read it!), published on her blog a record she received through the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. This particular document on Casa Quivira and Clifford Phillips reveals that, 14 years before Casa Quivira met its demise in Guatemala, Embassy personnel weren’t “totally convinced that the current problems only reflect naivete.” Siegal provides the full document here.
I should add that, since writing Between Light and Shadow, I’ve encountered numerous adoptive parents of Guatemalan children who shared unsavory stories of their interactions with Phillips, and suspected foul play on his end.