June 28, 2006

When to wonder...

Typically, we try to give very generic information about what is going on in Guatemala in the hopes that adoptive parents will feel a little better informed and can make educated decisions when dealing with their agency...along with a number of other reasons. Unfortunately, agencies, attorneys and parental personalities are NOT created equal. There is a complicated recipe to determine what is absolutely necessary and what can be plain interference. This all stems back to the agency and how you chose them and since many of our readers are IN PROCESS, its no use beating a dead horse.

So are we wondering about our agency??

Lets back up....last year, I was a bit frustrated to see a number of agencies open up a Guatemalan program without having a clue as to the necessary involvement. Sorry folks, this isn't China nor Russia! Its my personal belief that a DECENT Guatemala program requires SIGNIFICANTLY more knowledge and involvement that some other programs. That is not to say that it is necessarily harder or more complex than other country programs. But so many agencies new to Guatemala get a false sense of security as soon as they find an attorney to work with. So, in the fashion of David Letterman's top 10...we'll do the top ten "When to wonder"....before we get serious...

10 - The Guatemala Program Coordinator has never been to Guatemala and doesn't own a passport
9 - Nobody in the Agency has ever adopted a child
8 - They ask you whats next in the process
7 - The agency doesn't KNOW the email address or phone number of your attorney
6 - When you talk about fostering in Antigua, they think you are talking about the island
5 - Nobody at the agency can speak Spanish and your attorney doesn't speak English
4 - You can't reach them because the entire office is on a month long cruise 3 days after receiving your referral check.
3 - Guatemala is spelled incorrectly on their webpage
2 - They describe adoption finalization as when they receive the final payment

and finally.....

1 - The door on their office reads "Joe's Adoption Agency and Crisis Management"

NOW LETS GET SERIOUS.... I can't even count how many parents have said they "thought" they researched their agency thoroughly, only to find that they were not at all what they expected.

* Your agency has a brand new Guatemala program.
OK, so that is not necessarily bad....but it is a reoccurring theme to several agencies who had no idea what they were getting into and picked the first attorney they met.

* They don't routinely travel to Guatemala
In my opinion, this is a big red flag! How can an agency keep tabs on the process without visiting their attorneys? Granted some experienced agencies have established a set of TRUSTED attorneys whom need no micro-management. But still, having your finger on the pulse of Guatemala really means visiting!

* They don't have a clear explanation of the process available to you
If they can't explain the process, then how can you feel comfortable that THEY understand the process?

* Their knowledge of Guatemala and the culture seems to be lacking
Again, I can't seem to muster much confidence in people that are trying to run a Guatemala program, but are culturally ignorant.

* They are NOT licensed in their state
Keep in mind that there are some states like TEXAS that do not license international adoption programs. So, THAT is a notable exception. Otherwise, why are they not licensed??

* Their information CLEARLY contradicts what we are posting...
Reality check: Not all opinions are the same and there are CERTAINLY some agencies that know much more than I do about events in Guatemala. But if things consistently don't jive...its time to wonder.

I'm leaving out a number of redflags, but I think you get the point. Now remember, that all along we have been reporting legitimate hangups at the Embassy and now, PGN and this affects the very efficient/good agencies as well. If you are confident with your agency (and remember that none of them could have predicted these slowdowns)...then micro-managing is probably not going to help you or your case.

BUT if there are OTHER redflags OUTSIDE the PGN have been in PGN for more than say...4 months, you probably should ask more questions, request receipts and research outside assistance. Visiting often gives you a clearer picture of what is going on...but stay humble and listen. I'll even go as far to say that a visit sometimes sparks a little action:-)

Reality Check: It's really not easy for me to post blanket statements when all cases and situations are unique. So when talking about your own experiences, please remember that not all parents have the same situation....and always take advice with a grain of salt....

FYI: If you would like to add David Letterman style "when to wonder..." feel free. But please keep it light, non-agency specific, and non-offensive. If I'm not comfortable posting it....I won't ;-) THANKS!

Posted by Kelly at June 28, 2006 10:44 AM

Very well said! In these tough times a little humor can help put aside one's worries. Your list of redflags is a very good one.
Thanks as always for all you do!

Posted by: Cathy at June 28, 2006 02:29 PM

Thank you for posting this as a great reminder. I only recently (in the last month) began looking at your website. Thank you for sharing your time and insight.

I am in the final stages of adopting my son from Guatemala. My documents have been in the PGN for 3 weeks now and thankfully I receive weekly updates from my agency representative here (I have no false expectations as to when I can expect to have them returned). I have met with and exchanged emails with the Guatemala facilitator and have met the attorney she is working with. I feel fortunate that I was very comfortable after meeting the foster mom, so when we had to return our son after our first visit, I felt he was going into good hands. I give all of this credit to the agency, as they are the ones who have managed this part of the process for me.

I have nothing but great things to say about my agency and the process, however, I did do my research and had personal referrals. Additionally, my agency (which has over 20 years of experience) has a very well developed program in Guatemala, and the representative I work with has travelled extensively, not just to Guatemala, but all through Central America (as well as around the world).

Your points are very well taken, and a good reminder to prospective adoptive parents. This is both a joyous and stressful time, and we need to do what we can to increase the joy and minimize the stress. Making smart choices and doing the research definitely helped us.

Posted by: joannie at June 28, 2006 04:06 PM

Great post. Thanks!

Posted by: Angel at June 28, 2006 04:54 PM

Kelly, I LOVE your top 10!!!!! Our agency is family run with the WHOLE family working together as a unit! The family grew up in Guatemala, founded the hogar and started the office's here in the States. They all speak Spanish and are completely knowledgeable about the whole process. When questions are asked, they answer, but give realistic answers. I truly believe God guided us in the right direction!

Posted by: Jenny at June 28, 2006 05:18 PM


Thanks for the reassurance, After reading your post, it just verified all my concerns about the PGN timelines, I was wondering if it was agency involved, and I truly believe that it is. My agency coodinators all take turns going to guatemala and there is someone there, 2-3 times a month checking on things, as a matter of fact during this mess with PGN they are taking turns going for 2 weeks at a time, One of them just came back this weekend for their 2 week stay and another is leaving this weekend for a 2 week stay. I feel confident in saying that on your top 10 list I can honestly say that it does not apply to my agency not even one of them. As a matter of fact, the attorney affiliated with our agencys constantly (daily) is checking on the status of our cases. Unfortunitly I am not in PGN yet but i feel in my heart that I wont have a major concern when I finally do get to that stage. the last 8 cases that came out of PGN in the last 2 weeks was only in PGN for 6-8 weeks, and when last year this was a terrible timeline theese days is GREAT!!!

Thanks again

Posted by: Brandee at June 28, 2006 05:47 PM

This is a great site. I wish I had discovered it before I hired my agency. After a very rocky road so far, I've been in PGN for 5 weeks. Although nothing really takes the place of speedy process, I believe if my agency was updating me regularly on the well-being of my son like the ones mentioned here, that my anxiety would be much less. I've learned many lessons & before I adopt again, I'll be using many of the tips you recommend here.

Posted by: Cheryl at June 28, 2006 07:29 PM

Hi Kelly, first I have to say - WE ARE OUT OF PGN! YAHOOO! We entered PGN on March 18, 2006. We are adopting two little boys, brothers, from a Hogar. It has been a long haul, not only with the Embassy and PGN, but for us, also in the Guatemalan Family Court. But I wanted to share the news that cases are trickling out.

Second, I wanted to say thank you for your website. It has been a source of comfort for me, and I often check it several times a day to see if you have posted anything new.

Please keep up the good work.


Posted by: Jennifer at June 28, 2006 08:53 PM

Very well said! We've been pleased with our agency, but getting KO'ed from PGN the second time still really frosts my cookie!!

Posted by: Julie at June 29, 2006 10:58 AM

I know your posted your top ten with humor, but some of it rang true for our agency - scary!

We started in Agency X's Russia program, but switched to Guatemala when Russia adoptions slowed to nearly a halt last year. We had researched the Agency thoroughly and had adopted from Russia with them previously, so we had a great deal of confidence in them. We didn't even consider switching agencies when we switched countries. I'd like to warn people against falling into that trap. If you switch countries you should research your agency again! A good Russia or China program does NOT translate into a good Guatemala program. The Agency X employees that traveled with us to Guatemala didn't speak Spanish (#5)! Agency X may have known the phone number and email address of our attorney but not only would they NOT share it with us, they got angry when we dared to ask for it (#7)! We had to pay the entire fee when we accepted the referral, instead of half upon referral and half upon completion. (BIG Red Flag folks, PLEASE stay away from any agency that does this...) I guess they did consider adoption finalization the receipt of final payment (#2)...once they received that check they turned from Dr. Jekyl to Mr. Hyde. It was truly a miserable experience; one I hope that this site can help others avoid.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 29, 2006 10:59 AM


I wish I had known about this site before I started the adoption process.
I have been in PGN since Dec with no updates or information from my agency until June 1st when I was told I received my 1st previo and now they are telling me that I probably won't get her before Sept when she will be turning 1 years old. The agency states they do not speak spanish and my attorney does not speak english therefore they can speak directly with him and have to go thru the coordinator. The coordinator is now allowed to answer emails therefore I can't email him directly. I have paid all my monies up front and once I accepted the referral, it seems the agency forgot about it and doesn't care. I don't know what to do anymore. I feel I have been left with nothing, no child, no money and no chance of my dream of becoming a parent to turn into reality.

Posted by: Sandy Markelonis at June 29, 2006 12:18 PM

I know how you feel,you would think of all people you should trust your adoption agency!! And someone tell me, what in the***** are we paying our attorney $22,000 for??? THANKS, ALLEY

Posted by: Alley S at June 29, 2006 05:44 PM


Posted by: DEE at June 29, 2006 06:49 PM

For ANONYMOUS posted 6/29- I truly believe we are using the same agency!!! We have had it with C of
H! We got caught in the same trap- My cousin used them for a Russian Adoption and we have a daughter 9 mos. old no where near coming home (newborn at referral!!!) I have had it with them as well as their attitude!
Goood Luck!

Posted by: Jo at June 29, 2006 08:20 PM

Dee & Hubby,

Congratulations on your PGN approval!!!

I am so exited for both of you, and for your precious little girl!!

Prayers be with all of you,
Cheri F

Posted by: Cheri Fulford at June 29, 2006 09:20 PM

I am devastated. I have been in PGN for 16 weeks today. Today is also my birthday and I find out from my agency that I've been kicked out of PGN once again. I have to follow steps for an Aciento Extemporanio, whatever the hell that is. I was given my referral when she was only 2.5 weeks old. She is now over 11 months old. I have just been told that this process that I have to go through could possibly take an additional 3-4 months. Who in the hell is looking out for these babies? How can this Director of PGN be allowed to do this? They've talked about criminal charges yet he can continue to do this to people. What about filing a civil suit against him? Does anyone have information on attorney in Guatemala who can do that? This is the most painful, discouraging and and exhausting thing I have ever been through. Also, shouldn't your agency have to give you your Guatemala attorney's telephone number or email address? Mine refuses to do so. I'm paying them $22,000 yet I can't speak to him. If anyone has any information please let me know. Thanks. Good luck to the rest of you in PGN hell.

Posted by: Pamella at June 30, 2006 07:52 PM

Thanks so much for answering my questions so fast!! yOUR WEBSITE IS TRUELY A GOD SEND!!!!!! MY agency has kept me in the dark. When I ask The coordinator questions about my case she basically told me she did not have the time to answer all my questions. She had too many families and she didn't have time too answer my questions. she told me to ask my local people at my agency where I did my dossier. What a laugh, They barely got me through my dossier.( they specialize more in China adoptions). I wish I had known about this website before I picked my agency. I'm starting to get scared! I don't know if my coordinator speaks Spanish and if my lawyer speaks English. But thank you so much for helping me understand the process better. God bless you!!If anybody has any information on how long it took them to get a social worker report let me know!Thanks, Lisa B.(still hanging on)

Posted by: Lisa at June 30, 2006 08:51 PM

Referal 02/06,in pgn 06/08,small previo 06/20,know is the time to pray and wait,there is nothing else you can do .Also I feel sorry for all this people that did hours of research before buying a new car and almost no research about the agency that was going to manage your adoption.My attorney in Guatemala stays in touch with us on a weekly basis and I do have his telephone and I had visited him on my visit to Guatemala.

Posted by: Gustavo at June 30, 2006 11:35 PM

Thank you so much for being here. This web paeg is what gets me through. I have been in PGN for 9 weeks and still NO word. I expected my agency to email me once a week just to keep my hopes up. Instead I email them once evry other week. I've asked for the attorneys/facilitators email or phone number and my agency acted like they were appauled that I would ask for such info. I don't feel very comfortable. I researched agencies and when one has never done this before you don't know all the things you should be looking for. I was told everyone gets kicked out of PGN 1-3 times. I haven't been kicked out. This makes me feel my paper work has either fallen through the cracks or left on a desk collecting dust. NOT GOOD! Thank you again for being here. Do the agencies have to provide one with attorneys/facilitators emails or phone numbers. Sincerely, Rochelle

Posted by: Rochelle at July 1, 2006 01:18 PM

The top 10 list was meant in fun...but it apparently sparked some other concerns...

Email/Phone: If I had my own agency, I would NOT give out emails and phone numbers of my attorneys to my clients. I can hear the gasps, but let me explain. Agencies are MEANT to be a buffer....whether they communicate well or whether they abuse the priviledge. I know several attorneys and they are running from dawn to sometimes late at night. I WANT them to have the time to do their job! Unfortunately, the very good ones have set standards (like the short timeframes we saw before) and the industry has set their standards, too optimistically, to those attorneys.

Now, lets go back to the two days when I (having no knowledge of anyone's individual case) received 40 + emails. It took me a couple of hours just to go through questions I COULD answer!!!! For the average case, the question you must ask yourself is would you rather have your attorney answering phone calls or emails.....OR would you rather have him/her working on your case? I can see the wheels spinning here...everyone thinking: but I wouldn't contact him/her but maybe once a week or once every two weeks and that coulnd't take much of their time. Well, I can tell you from experience that anxious parents (and all of us are understandably anxious) tend to act based on our anxiety NOT on reason.

The problem cases that some of you are having really have nothing to do with whether YOU received the attorney's email from your agency....It really has more to do whether THEY have followed through on the information they have been provided. And for problem cases, it is doubley frustrating that you have no way to "step in" and do the job that you have contracted them to do!

Saying that, what can you do?

Have you visited? Not only do you have the benefit of seeing your little one, but possibly the opportunity to find out the whole story from your attorney's office! If nothing else, you have the chance to see your child in person which is PRICELESS.

Posted by: Kelly ( at July 2, 2006 09:57 AM

I have been in PGN for 4 mos now. Draining. What happens if I171H expires will you are still in PGN or during pick up trip?

Posted by: maria at July 4, 2006 05:08 PM

That really stinks. I have been in PGN since 3/24 I agree with you this is ridiclous we are in the process of making plans to visit our son again! I thought we would have been there and back with him already. Have you visited your daugther yet? If you have not think about doing so it really was a great experience.

Posted by: Rita at July 5, 2006 07:56 AM

I haven't visited here lately, but this post sparked my interest. Our case went to PGN the week of Thanksgiving, 2005. No updates until January, 2006, when we found out our case had been kicked out (due to documents needed from the orphanage, not anything we needed to send.) No news again ... until we were finally approved in early April. I had truly given up hope by then. But we traveled to Guatemala on April 30 and picked up our 9-month old baby girl on May 1. I still have no idea why our case took so long to be processed. Our agency, while not the best in the world, did try to answer all our questions when we asked them. But the one thing they could never answer is why our case took so long. I guess we'll never know. But looking back, I would hazard a guess that it all depends on which case worker gets your file in PGN. I wish you all the best of luck!

Posted by: Sophia40 at July 5, 2006 09:00 PM

Has anyone written to Angelina Jolie? I'm feeling so helpless and desperate, I'm considering it.

Posted by: Anon at July 7, 2006 12:35 PM

I often wonder about contacting A. Jolie myself. I bet she did not have all of these setbacks. She would be a great Crusader to straighten out all of these unnecessary delays/discrepancies that are definitely not helping the children. Let us know if u contact her!!*Great Idea!*
Sometimes I feel like telling PGN: 'either you approve me or not, but don't torture us like this, think of the emotional harm it causes the children when they have to break a bond for a 2nd time.'Do they really care??? My son is 10 mos old & is calling someone else 'mama'& 'Papa'

Posted by: maria at July 9, 2006 10:25 PM

Pamela, we totally relate to you. We got our referral when our baby was only 2 weeks too and she's 8 1/2 months now. We're still waiting to get DNA authorization. After hounding the agency and hounding them month after month and they kept telling me it was the Embassy that was stalling us, I finally did my own research. Found out Friday, the 7th that it's not the Embassy but the attorney who hasn't even submitted our documents. Talk about seeing RED. We are so frustrated. Now we're being told that the embassy keeps changing their requirements and so our attorney is doing what needs to be done to comply with the Embassy and that within two weeks we should be able to have it submitted and get DNA testing done. Well, I was told by someone in the know, that it should only take 2 or 3 days, at most, to fix that. I totally agree with you that this is the most exhausting, painful and discouraging thing to go through. These babies are growing more and more attached to the foster families they are with and noone seems to care how long it takes to get them in their permanent homes. The effects of broken attachment can last a lifetime.

Posted by: Arvella at July 12, 2006 11:09 AM