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January 31, 2007

Attorney General Auditing Reaching Arms International

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced today that her office is conducting a financial audit of Reaching Arms International, a non-profit adoption agency with a sizeable Guatemala program.

The audit stems from numerous clients who contacted Minnesota authorities regarding problems in their adoptions. Guatadopt has verified that complaints came from parents adopting through both their Guatemala and Russia programs.

We applaud the authorities in Minnesota for taking parental complaints seriously. Even moreso, we applaud the families' courage in not allowing themselves to be victimized, especially those who still have not brought home their children.

Links to coverage of the story (updated Feb 1, 2007):
WCCO TV
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
KARE 11 TV (contains video)
WKBT TV
KAAL TV
Pioneer Press

All adoption agencies have their fans and their detractors. Reaching Arms Interntional is no exception. I have often said that "the test of a good agency is not how they handle the easy cases, it's how they handle the tough ones that matters."

The manner in which we have grown our families is intensely personal and emotional, as well as being a point of pride. While I have personally tried to be a resource for many families unhappy with RAI, I am sure they have many happy former clients. As this investigation and story develops, there is the obviously the possibility for it to create rifts in the adoptive parent community. While spiritied debate is always encouraged, hopefully it can all be done in a constructive, respectful manner.

Comments will be left open on this thread, so here are some things for all to realize:

1.) So long as there are no personal attacks or comments deemed inappropriate, Guatadopt does not censor. Official disclaimer: Comments posted on Guatdopt.com are only the thoughts and opinions of the person who wrote them, they do not necessarily reflect the positions, opinions, or beliefs of Guatadopt.com.

2.) Some of the news coverage details responses from Nila Hilton, RAI's Director, which demonize some of the families who contacted MN authorities. I'm no lawyer but I have studied the part of the law that deals with libel and slander. In my opinion, some of the statements made by Ms. Hilton made do meet the legal standard of slander as I understand them (knowingly untrue and done with malicious intent). Guatadopt.com WILL NOT allow any comments that question whether the families involved were fit to be parents or delve into their personal lives. All of the famlilies involved had approved homestudies and I171H approval. In fact, many of the homestudies were conducted by RAI. So it seems irrational/hypoctritical to suggest that the parents were not fit to adopt.

3.) As I wrote above, let's also be respectful of all the families who completed successful adoption through RAI. In no way should this audit appear as though it questions the validity of their adoptions or their adoption experience.

Posted by Kevin at January 31, 2007 02:54 PM
Comments

Anyone know if those that are currently RAI clients should be worried about cases in progress? I'm assuming that since most of the work will be completely by the attorneys, the cases should progress ok. BUT, can we complete our adoptions if this investigation shuts RAI down?

Posted by: Linda at February 2, 2007 12:32 PM

Hi Linda,

Our family adopted a beautiful girl through RAI, who came home in November of 2006. Last summer our family learned that RAI's building was for sale and we became very concerned (like you probably are now) about what could happen to our adoption if RAI closed. I talked to other agencies and they indicated that they could potentially help us if this happened (particularly if we were already in the PGN). They told us we would need a copy of our file and told us what documents we should have. So you may very well be able to complete your adoption even if RAI shuts down.

Do have verification of where you are in the process? When the attorney submits the case to the PGN, they are given a document called a contrasena showing the case has been submitted. I believe some agencies give their clients a copy of this document.

I do want to point out that at this point, it would be mere speculation as to what the results of the Minnesota Attorney General audit will be, let alone whether the audit or complaints against RAI would result in a shutdown or any action. (However, I understand your need to consider what you would do in this event.)

Hopefully, an audit will reveal that everything is as it should be. If a RAI client believes RAI is running their business contrary to Minnesota law and licensing requirements, the Minnesota Attorney General's Office has made clear by this audit that they are at at least willing to listen to these concerns. I believe that Anne Blodhert in the Minnesota Attorney General's Office is handling any complaints along these limited lines. My thoughts and prayers are with you and any other current RAI client as I am sure that news like this only increases the stress of an already stressful process.

Good luck!

Posted by: Kathy at February 2, 2007 03:20 PM

I am relieved and thankful to hear that the Attorney General's office of MN is investigating RAI. We have extensive expierence with RAI as we adopted our youngest 2 children thru them in 2005. All I can say is thank goodness parents are speaking out. I know I personally filed my complaint with the state lic. board and many other parents did as well. I hope that agencies like this realize the great harm that they do to the children, adoptive families and the reputation of Guatemalan Adoptions. Thanks kevin for posting this info.
Regards,
Gloria Pickering
blessed mom to 5 Guatemalan children!

Posted by: gloria at February 4, 2007 06:55 PM

Hopefully everyone who is in process with RAI will be able to bring their children home no matter what happens. As to the documentation and verification of exactly whare you are in the process,this is information RAI will not provide to us.
I have read on many posts of families being extremely unhappy with their agencies. My hope is families will report any unethical, illegal and breach of contract issues to their State's Licensing Agency and State's Attorney General office. It's important for all adoptions to be ethical and the process transparent. I believe we have a responsibility to help out all families coming into the adoption process. To not "just forget about it" when we get our children home.

Posted by: tinia at February 6, 2007 09:36 AM

As adoptive parents of two great boys born in Guatemala, we frequently encountered other who faced difficulties with their adoption agency - including malnourished children in foster care, undisclosed illness and, worse of all, referral swapping. As family law attorneys, my wife and I invite anyone with a problem with RAI, or any other agency, to contact us if they feel they have been wronged. We have a deep appreciation for the adoption process and all the roller coaster of emotions it involves. 612.789.2100 or 763.323.6555. Let's put a stop to unethical adoption practices.
Respectfully,
Jason C. Brown
Father of 2 Guatemalan boys - ages 3 and 1.

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