October 12, 2003

More on the PGN Cases

(Posted with permission from Caroline Tiffin, Focus On Adoption).

I spent Thursday afternoon with Hannah in Guatemala City, and I returned home Friday night. Hannah will write more when she can, but just to expand a bit on what she posted:

I went with Hannah on Thursday to meet with Roy Hernandez and Paul
Mitchell of CIS (formerly INS, formerly BCIS). Paul Mitchell is the
first PERMANENT adoptions officer in Guatemala for at least 2 years.
Mr. Hernandez stated that he and Mr. Mitchell are in daily communication
and that they are committed to continuing to process cases and to
assisting U.S. families. We are hopeful that having an experienced,
permanent adoptions officer in Guatemala will be a positive change.

CIS has been told by PGN that only about 250 cases have been submitted
since the constitutional court's decision was published. The receipts
that Hannah presented to Mr. Hernandez do represent those from only
about 12 attorneys, and it is on this that Hannah based her very
conservative estimate that there must be at least 600 cases that have
been submitted to PGN since that date. I believe someone responded to
Hannah's post (as forwarded by Kelly) asking if the names of the lawyers
whose PGN receipts were presented, could be posted to the list. Since
Hannah obtained them I won't speak for her but I do not think it would
necessarily be in the best interest of those attorneys and their
adoptive family clients, to have their names published to this listserv.

Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Mitchell stated that the problems of the past few
weeks of attorneys having cases rejected at the window at CIS, when they
try to file to get DNA authorization, have been largely dealt with. Mr.
Hernandez explained that part of this is attributed to the fact that the
personnel working at the changes on a monthly basis, and when the hiatus
of CIS accepting new cases ended, there were apparently persons working
the window who didn't understand what was and was not acceptable. This
is a regrettable casualty of lack of funding for a permanent position.

Regarding the age of the Guatemalan documents necessary to file a case
with CIS, that had been extended from 30 to 60 days several months ago,
and then further extended (temporarily) to 120, after the constitutional
court's ruling was published and CIS again began accepting cases. As of
Thursday afternoon when Hannah and I were there, CIS was continuing to
accept those documents up to 120 days old, and Mr. Hernandez and Mr.
Mitchell pledged to notify attorneys and agencies (assuming the agency
is on their mailing list for updates) of a date on which they will cease
accepting documents over 60 days old.

I also want to comment on Ethica's suggestion that families ask their
agencies for dates of submission to PGN and the receipt number. The
date is certainly relevant, but the receipt number is generally not as
it proves nothing and gives no indication of when a case might come out
of PGN. Certainly the case number makes it possible for one to inquire
of PGN about the status of their case, but in most cases this is sure to
do nothing but raise red flags about ones case and/or cause an already
very slow PGN response time on submitted dossiers, to become longer. If
PGN is taking calls from adoptive families about where there cases are,
it would be one more reason/excuse for cases to not be released in a
timely fashion.

I think this was touched on in another post, but just in case:
attorneys who had filed cases with the Central Authority had to get them
back from the CA and then re-file them, in PGN. This process alone
often took weeks. Most of our lawyers did not submit those cases to PGN
until after the court's decision was published. Here's why - when the
PGN attorney assigned to a case issues either an approval or a previo,
he/she signs off on it and dates it. It then goes to the director for
his signature, where it can (and in general should be assumed to have
been if submitted any time after Lecsan Merida took the position at PGN)
and does sit for many weeks, probably no less than three. In the time
period between the court's ruling and the publication of same, PGN
attorneys continued to reject cases based on non-compliance with the
Hague. If for example, a case was reviewed and the order written 2
weeks before the publication, by the time it was signed off on by the
director and retrieved by the lawyer from PGN (more likely than not with
a previo and not an approval as we have seen) it could easily have been
weeks AFTER the publication. I'm pointing all this out so that families
whose cases were not submitted until after the publication, will not
automatically assume that their attorney was sitting on the case (or at
least, not doing so without good reason).

Regarding authentication of DNA results. One of our attorneys was told
several weeks ago that this was going to be required, so we immediately
started doing authentication of all of our families' existing results
and are continuing to do that with new results as they are received. It
may be overkill, and it may prove to be a waste of the families' money
since it *appears* that perhaps no more than 20% of the cases that have
come out with previos, include one on this basis. However, we chose to
err on the side of caution and have that taken care of as soon as
possible so as to be pro-active about it or be able to immediately
respond to such a previo.

Another previo that seems to be issued on about 20% or so of the cases,
is to have the birth mother state she has tried to but has not been able
to place her child with a family within Guatemala. Different lawyers
are probably handling this differently, but I want to point out that
this requirement infringes on the constitutional right of the birth
mother to choose whether to, and with whom, to place her child for

Some cases with single parents, where the home study does not state that
the adoptive parent lives alone, are also being rejected, with a request
for a clarification of this.

One of our cases came out yesterday with a previo asking if the adoptive
parents spoke, wrote and understood the Spanish language.

As in the past, some previos are asking for documents that are already
in the dossier and were already submitted to PGN.

On the issue of accepting a referral now - Lisa's sage advice about one
assessing how much risk one can personally accept, is well taken.
However, as Hannah's post explained, it appears unlikely that the
Congress in Guatemala is going to pass the adoption law now pending, in
part because it is so close to the November 9 election. If passed, it
would not be retroactive and there would be some sort of "grace period"
(for lack of a better description) between passage and publication,
whereupon it would become effective. And if passed, it will certainly
be challenged on constitutional grounds for ending the notarial process
and taking from birth parents the right to choose a particular adoption
plan for their child.

Caroline Tiffin
Attorney at Law
Palmetto Hope International Adoption

Focus on Adoption

Posted by Kelly at October 12, 2003 09:10 AM


I am a news reporter with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and have been writing about International Adoption Resource, Inc. of Coral Springs, Florida and its director, Rebecca Thurmond.

I am writing to ask whether anyone who has adopted a child through this agency would be willing to talk to me about their experience.

If so, I can be reached at 1-800-945-5182, ext 4518 or at

Thank you,

Megan O'Matz
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
200 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 356-4518
(954) 356-4559 fax

Posted by: megan at December 29, 2003 04:50 PM