This website focuses on Patrick Atkinson and The God's Child Project in Guatemala in order to appeal to advocates for children everywhere to include the children of Latin America in your mission.
In 2002, Guatemala and Brazil were the only two Latin American countries cited by the United Nations for trafficking in children. Since then, responding to the U.N. designation and led by courageous legislators, Brazil has passed laws improving the ability of advocates to protect the children in Brazil.
The same is unfortunately not true in Guatemala.
The government of Guatemala is not strong enough to call to account the perpetrators of mass murders during the lengthy civil war there, and is certainly incapable, or lacks the political will, to pass laws to investigate or regulate the many private programs in the country that serve the children.
Like far too many countries, the poverty, along with the death and destruction resulting from the violence of drawn-out internal conflict have left many citizens in need of everything from food, shelter, and clothing to education and training.
Over 50 non-governmental organizations, run by locals and by international organizations, provide invaluable services. The vast majority of local organizations do what they can with few resources, and nearly all of those sponsored by international organizations are supervised and accountable. But not all.
The influx of organizations providing aid has also brought opportunists, unsupervised and unregulated programs, and others whose motives or operations are controversial.
I have become aware of one such program, Asociacion de nuestros ahijados, or The God's Child Project, run by Patrick Atkinson in Antigua, Guatemala. After speaking with many people currently or formerly associated with the program, in my opinion, this program is accountable neither to the families it purports to serve nor to its donors, who are largely well-intended citizens in and around Bismarck, North Dakota, Mr. Atkinson's home base.
With a budget of over $900,000, he has wielded inordinate power over the families in his program and the town of Antigua. Based in Guatemala, his program is never audited by his funding organization in Bismarck. No one can even vouch for the number of families served, since no independent auditor has ever matched the paper work, in person, to the families. While claims of 2500 families served have been made in Bismarck, a program participant in Antigua expressed concern to me that Pat Atkinson had claimed to serve 100 families but actually only served 50. No one knows.
Though GCP's 2003-2004 IRS filing shows reduced funding to $275,000, the program continues to claim services to 2500 children, with expansion into health services and into Malawi in Africa.
John H. Wetterer
John H. Wetterer (Tio Juan) operates the Asociacion Amigos de Los Niños Hogar Mi Casa, orphanages for boys in Guatemala City. On February 19, 1989, he was exposed as a pedophile on the TV news program, "Sixty Minutes", and in 1994 on "Inside Edition". The U.S. Government cannot prosecute Wetterer for sexual abuse in Guatemala, but a Federal investigation did lead to indictments by a Federal grand jury on 24 counts of felony fraud. Wetterer ignored the arrest warrant and remains a fugitive. He was forced to surrender his U.S. passport and cannot return to the U.S. without facing arrest. When his New York board of directors began to investigate him, he disbanded the board and formed another in Texas.
In Guatemala, however, he enjoys the support of the Guatemalan government. According to an article in "The New York Times", Wetterer "is considered a one-man social service agency". The government has refused to extradite him. (Deborah Sontag, "Long Distance Justice in Sexual Abuse Case", The New York Times, Saturday, April 12, 1997).
The U.S. Government has found Wetterer guilty of mail fraud because his fund-raising solicitations are "false and fraudulent insofar as Wetterer represents that Mi Casa provides a healthy and stable environment for its residents, when, in fact, he molests and sexually abuses the boys who reside there".
You can view the 69-page decision online here.
To obtain your own printed copy, send 50 cents/page or $34.50 and request for CV91-0234 to:
Clerk of Court
U.S. District Court
2 Uniondale Avenue
Uniondale, N.Y. 11553
A copy of the ruling has been sent to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City by the prosecuting attorneys. The decision should create pressure on the Guatemalan government to remove Wetterer from his position as executive director of homes for boys where Wetterer has been sexually and physically abusing boys for years. Perhaps the Guatemalan government will now permit the extradition of Wetterer to the U.S. where he is a fugitive. The decision is public and anyone may send copies to the media in Guatemala and elsewhere.
The 1994 Crime Bill has given U.S. authorities another weapon to combat American child molesters. The bill provides for the prosecution of U.S. citizens who travel abroad with the intent to have sex with a minor. North Americans who volunteer with child sponsorship programs outside the United States to gain access to children for sexual purposes can now be prosecuted in the U.S.
North Americans, like John Wetterer, who run child sponsorship programs in developing countries can readily gain access to poor children for sexual exploitation because of the money, clothes, food, and education they offer. As long as the offical attitude in these countries is that kids are better off with a Tio Juan than if they were on the streets, North American child molestors will continue to operate with impunity. Perhaps it is time to apply to U.S.- based child sponsorship programs operating in Third World countries the same strict criteria that are used for screening child care workers in the U.S.
Some Questions About the God's Child Project Worth Asking
Children and Sponsors
How many of the children that Patrick claims are in the program are actually enrolled in school?
Which teen-aged boys are in the program and not going to school, but are somehow employed by Patrick?
Why does Patrick's adopted son, Ernesto, have two godparents or sponsors, including a North American sponsor and Yolanda Cofiño, the McDonalds franchise holder in Guatemala? According to the September 1998 monthly newsletter of the GOD'S CHILD Project, there are hundreds of boys and girls who do not have a sponsor.
How many children not attending school have U.S. sponsors? Are the sponsors informed when a child drops out of school?
Why does Patrick get so angry whenever anyone asks him about numbers of children in the program?
Performance in School
Patrick has claimed in a letter, dated October 1, 1997, to a sponsor that 4% of the children in the program were school valedictorians and an additional 45% would qualify as honors students. Who are these children?
How many children failed the school year in 1997? How many children failed the 1998 school year? Why did these children fail if they are enrolled in a program whose motto is to break the chains of poverty through education? Are sponsors informed when their godchild fails the year?
How many children receiving financial assistance from the program's sponsors simply cannot read?
Some children enrolled in the program drop out of school because they can't afford textbooks. Does it make sense for the program to pay the tuition fees, provide school supplies, and uniform money but not provide money for textbooks that the children cannot afford? Isn't it a large waste of sponsor's money to pay for children to start school but then not give them all the tools they need to continue?
Patrick writes that health care is provided for 3100 family members of children in the program. What health care is actually provided?
Which children in the program are malnourished? What is being done to address this problem?
How many of the children in the program are actually at the appropriate weight and height for their age?
How many of the children in the program have received the appropriate childhood vaccinations?
If 50% of the boys and 90% of the girls in the program have been sexually abused, as Patrick insists, why has he not acted to hire a trained counselor to provide some therapy for these children?
What does Patrick mean when he refers to community development in his solicitations for funds?
Treatment of Volunteers
Does the board of directors of the God's Child Project have a list of the volunteers who have been dismissed by Patrick?
Why have a number of volunteers been dismissed?
Why have so many volunteers left the project early? Patrick has driven good people from the project because of his dishonesty and totalitarian manner. Patrick has no tolerance for ideas from other people and is clearly not open to differences of opinion.
Is the board of directors planning to warn new volunteer applicants about Patrick's abusive behavior?
Why was a volunteer with fund-raising experience fired by Patrick when the volunteer was unable to account for 25% of the money donated to the God's Child Project?
Will volunteers from the United States be informed that they will be volunteering with La Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados (sponsored by the God's Child Project)? Will volunteers be made to understand that if they have any grievance with Patrick or his project, the volunteers will not have access to the U.S. board members of the God's Child Project for resolution of the problem?
Father Thomas Kramer Building
Why did Patrick tolerate the operation of a gay nightclub in the Father Thomas Kramer Building constructed with donor funds and volunteer labor?
Why did Patrick allow the people running this gay nightclub to get behind in the rent by many months leading to a loss of over $20,000?
Allegedly, it took a petition signed by 400 neighbors in the neighborhood around the Father Thomas Kramer Building to get the nightclub shut down?
Do the board members know that the building was jokingly refered to in Antigua by the publisher of a newsletter for ex-patriates as, "Patrick's Disco"?
Protection of the Children
What rules and regulations must child care agencies follow in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin with regards to the prevention and detection of sexual abuse of children in their care?
Are these rules and regulations being followed by the God's Child Project which receives donations and volunteers from the United States?
Are regular workshops on the prevention, detection, and reporting of sexual abuse of children given to the staff and volunteers?
Have board members read the book by F.B.I. Special Agent, Kenneth V. Lanning, Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis, available from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children?
Why doesn't the project provide psychological counseling for those children in need of it?
Casa Alianza Days
Have all the board members read the Kroll report? Have any of the board members asked Patrick about the $29,000 of Covenant House contributions that the director of one of the subsidiaries of Covenant House used to purchase a home for two young male prostitutes?
Have all the board members read Charles Sennott's, Broken Covenant?
Have any board members followed up on the stories about photos of nude boys taken at Casa Alianza in Antigua supposedly to document malnutrition?
Oversight Responsibility of the Board of Directors
Has the board insisted that staff members of the God's Child Project/Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados, including the founder and executive director, undergo a psychological evaluation in order to assess their fitness to work with children?
Why are the children in some clearly economically stable families still being sponsored by the program?
Have the board members read the newspaper articles regarding the accusation filed against Patrick for sexually abusing a deaf-mute boy in the program?
Have the board members of the God's Child Project actually investigated this accusation or have they simply accepted Patrick's explanation?
Are board members aware of the $119 million settlement against the Diocese of Dallas because the diocese knowingly failed to control a pedophile priest?
Are board members aware of the multi-million dollar settlements being paid by the B.S.A. to Boy Scouts who have been sexually abused by their scout leaders?
John Wetterer was recently found guilty of mail fraud because he was representing his project for boys in Guatemala City as a healthy and stable environment when, in fact, he was physically and sexually abusing the boys in his care. Will that decision change any of the fund-raising approaches of the God's Child Project?
Board of Directors of the God's Child Project
Father Thomas Kramer
Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Parish
519. N. Raymond St.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58502
Rev. Lisa Ahlness, President
Lord of Life Lutheran Church
Bismarck, North Dakota
3548 Rio Grande, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87107
Leland D. Nagel
4809 Edgewater Beach Rd.
Green Bay, Wisconsin 54311-9799
905 Aspen Way
Petaluma, California 94954
Robert and Matilda Rupp
1747 N. Rivercrest Rd.
Lakeland, Minnesota 55043-9715
104 Seminole Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58501
Anna Christina Rodas
Peter L. Miller
1416 J Ave.
Plano, Texas 75074
Yolanda de Cofiño
Industria de Hamburgesas
12 Avenida, 1-93, Zona 2
Mixco, Guatemala City
Proyecto Linguistico Francisco Marroquin
7a. Calle Poniente, No. 31
Ana Victoria Alvarez
4a. Calle Oriente No.2
03001 Antigua, Guatemala
Lic. Luis Enriquez Gonzalez Villatoro