October 21, 2007

Susana and PGN

I'm sorry it has taken so long to get this onto the site, though it has been on our forums for some time adn you can read there what one poster got directly from Susana..

Because we are having so many new threads starting all the time, I am trying to keep them short on the home page and posting most stuff in the extended entry that you get when you click on more. That keeps the homepage much cleaner and easier to get into what you are looking for.

As has been reported in Prensa Libre, Susana Luarca got into a spat at PGN. At the bottom of this thread you can find a translation of the story that was posted in our comments (thanks Steve).

First off, Susana did sustain some serious injuries in this incident and from what we hear she is recovering well. We of course wish her all the best and a speedy recovery.

Susana has for a long time been an incredibly strong force for Guatemalan adoptions. As I have written before, all of us who were caught in the Hague in 2003 owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Susana is a fighter with amazing courage and perseverance. It looks like this time that passion didn't turn out as well.

From what we have heard, a minor birthmom was being questioned privately by PGN. Out of that interrogation, she stated that she wanted the child back. Of course, no one has a tape recording to see if the questioning was fair or if the birthmother was pushed. Her parents were adament that the adoption must move forward as neither they nor their daughter can provide for the child. The child was taken away from the foster mother when Susana was called. She arrived and, believing the birthmom had been harrassed, attempted to leave with her. Susana was then locked in a room and kicked the door, which was made of glass and cut some serious veins in her foot.

I am sure Susana will post herself once she is able and I have not spoken to her personally. So I apologize if anything is incorrect.

It is so sad to see things coming to all of this in such a sacred institution. I personally find it impossible to fathom that this would have occured if Susana believed this birthmom did not wish for the adoption to proceed. But if Susana believed the birthmother was pressured, I can see how things got out of hand. Bad things can happen when adult tensions rise and I am sure this is a case of that.

Prensa Libre Story

During an audience in the headquarters of the attorney general's office of the Nation (PGN), this institution denounced the lawyer Susana Luarca Saracho, of having tried to subtract in an illegal way a girl of 11 months.

The complaint was presented yesterday in the Public Department (MP), to investigate the crime of “subtraction” of children and to have caused damages in a public building, reported Mario Gordillo (PGN).

This past Thursday, Luarca arrived at the PGN in the company of Telma Aracely Rabanic, who would deliver in adoption her daughter, Ana María, of 11 months.

Before signing the documents, Rabanic expressed that her parents were obliging her to relinquish her baby, because they had received money from the lawyer Luarca.

When she saw that Rabanic would not deliver her daughter, Luarca lost control and attacked verbally and physically the personnel of that institution; and even broke a glass door, injuring her right foot.

The parents of Rabanic, immediately took the arm of their daughter and fled, while the baby remained in the care of the social workers of that institution.

Hours later, Rabanic communicated with authorities of the PGN, and requested protection for her and her daughter, saying that her parents had abandoned her. The two were sent to Casa Alianza.

Gordillo commented that it is not the first incident in which Luarca was a protagonist in that institution.

Durante una audiencia en la sede de la Procuraduría General de la Nación (PGN), esta institución denunció a la abogada Susana Luarca Saracho, por haber intentado sustraer de manera ilegal a una niña de 11 meses.

La queja fue planteada ayer en el Ministerio Público (MP), para que investigue a esa abogada por el delito de sustracción de menores y por haber causado daños en un edificio público, informó el procurador Mario Gordillo.

El jueves recién pasado, Luarca llegó a la PGN en compañía de Telma Aracely Rabanic, quien entregaría en adopción a su hija Ana María, de 11 meses.

Antes de firmar los documentos, Rabanic expresó que sus padres la estaban obligando a entregar a su bebé, porque ellos habían recibido dinero de parte de la abogada Luarca.

Al observar que Rabanic no entregaría a su hija, Luarca perdió el control y agredió verbal y físicamente al personal de esa institución; incluso, quebró una puerta de vidrio, lo cual le causó una herida en el pie derecho.

Los padres de Rabanic, inmediatamente, tomaron del brazo a su hija y huyeron, mientras que la bebé quedó al cuidado de las trabajadoras sociales de aquella institución.

Horas más tarde, Rabanic se comunicó con autoridades de la PGN, y les solicitó protección para ella y su hija, pues dijo que sus padres la habían abandonado. Las dos fueron enviadas a un hogar de Casa Alianza.

Gordillo comentó que no es el primer incidente que Luarca protagoniza en esa institución.

Posted by Kevin at October 21, 2007 04:52 PM

I am very sorry to hear what happened. I do wish her a speedy recovery.

But hearing this me makes me concerned, I must admit. I was hopeful that having Susana as an attorney would provide an extra layer of ethical insulation, if you will. I pray she did not pressure this young girl to give up her baby. Because if she did, I will always wonder if she did the same to my daughter's birth mother.

I truly hope the truth comes out about this - not so much for the good of adoptions or anything altruistic like that, but for my own reasons.

Posted by: Susana Client at October 21, 2007 09:18 PM

I am truly shocked and have no idea what to think. This is beyond disturbing and to think of the possible implications for all of us in the process of adoption with Susana is frightening. I thought I had enough to worry about with the impending Hague and the new Ortega Law that has passed. This could actually be a far greater concern than either of those since I suspect her cases will all be red flagged and after the incident at PGN and possible charges our file will probably be put at the bottom of the pile or worse yet taken out of the pile.

I really cannot believe they are allowed to do these interviews with birth mothers without video or audio recordings and the attorneys are not present at any point. Unbelievable!

It seems like they continue to make gains and win. I mean this is the woman so many of us have looked up to, trusted and held in the highest esteem. She is also such an amazing adovcate for these children and adoption, not to mention being the main voice and one who speaks on behalf of ADA. My gosh...what on earth does that say? I am almost certain she would be the main target and one they would love to bring down. If she is charged with crimes related to adoption or for the destruction of public property, will they next raid her hogar and take the close to 100 children? Will all her cases go to investigation? I think it could even hurt all adoptions. I just cannot believe this.

Please forgive my venting, but I am so very, very concerned and stressed right now. I still cannot believe this really happened. If anyone else is currently adopting through Susana and would like to connect with others in the same boat, please email me at . I have friends in process but none with Primavera so I would appreciate connecting with any others out there, especially as things start to evolve.

Lastly, I feel so bad that they got the best of Susana emotionally. I can only begin to imagine the frustration and heartache she has been forced to endure. I think it could make the best of us loose it with all the present insanity. I sure hope she is on the mend and will have a speedy recovery.


Posted by: Em at October 21, 2007 11:13 PM

I can't help but wonder how this awful incident will affect the upcoming vote for the grandfather amendment. It seems like it could potentially be used to sway the opinion and encourage a no vote for the grandfather clause. I mean if Susana's cases involve corruption, pressuring or payments, we are really headed for trouble.


Posted by: Stephen at October 21, 2007 11:17 PM

I can't help but wonder how this awful incident will affect the upcoming vote for the grandfather amendment. It seems like it could potentially be used to sway the opinion and encourage a no vote for the grandfather clause. I mean if Susana's cases involve corruption, pressuring or payments, we are really headed for trouble.


Posted by: Stephen at October 21, 2007 11:17 PM

According to my information about this case, the baby has been in foster care for 11 months, since her birth to a 15 year old girl. The grandparents, foster parents, and the minor birthmother were meeting with the PGN in order to fulfill the PGN's self instituted (not legislated) requirement that minor birthmothers be interviewed. Supposedly, the birthmother was taken into a separate room for 2 hours and interviewed without coming back. The fostermother got worried and called Susana, who came and instructed the PGN in the law and tried to take everyone out of the PgN, when they locked them in... the mother and her mother ran out without the baby. Now the Prensa Libre is saying that the birhtmother is at Casa Alianza with the baby... there should be a search of the archives to explain the long anti adoption propaganda promoted by the former Casa Alianza director, Bruce Harris, who was sued for defamation of character by.... none other than Susana Luarca. Supposedly, Harris and Casa Alianza had many birthparents who made such complaints against Susana Luarca and others, but ALL of those who supposedly upheld the case against Luarca recanted their testimony. It is also noteworthy that the former Casa Alianza Director who was in collusion with Unicef, the Guatemalan Government, and had the entire Human Rights community behind him, was a few years ago found to be paying an adolescent male prostitute in Honduras for sex -- an adolescent who had been a former recipient of Casa Alianza's services and stated that he'd been systematically sexually abused by Casa Alianza staff since he was 12 years old. Harris was subsequently fired by Covenant House, the parent company for Casa Alianza, a program for street children. However, it doesn't seem to matter if anti ICA accusations come from pedophiles, hypocrites and liars.

IF the PGN was following the rules, the minor birthmother and her baby would be referred to a court of minors who would send them both to a home and have a hearing to determine the fate of both. Without the cooperation of her parents, the baby would not be returned to the birthmother. A court would either terminate parental rights or assign mother and baby to an Hogar until the mother reached 18, if things were done in accordance with the law... which is what Susana was stating.

This baby was in the adoption process for 10 months and the birthmother cooperated with the DNA and Court Social Worker interviews, came to the meeting with the PGN and was kept by them for 2 hours with no witnesses. Susana would not force a minor birthmother to place her child in adoption, nor would she allow a baby to be given to a minor who has no way to support her.

The PGN in the Prensa Libre article makes it sound as if Susana was destroying public property in a tantrum. In fact, she and the foster parents and grandparents were locked into the foyer of the PGN offices (illegally) and after about a half hour, she kicked the door and it broke.

This is part of a systematic attempt on the part of the Guatemalan government to delay, obstruct, and create impediments (legal or otherwise) to adoptions... it is one of numerous unpublicized abuses of power... of the same type which was made public in the cases of Casa Quivera. There are actually countless children whose "rights" have been violated while the government tries to use them for political ends. Sadly, too few are paying the price for defending the many. It is time for everyone to pitch in and contribute to a Legal Defense fund ... not for Susana, but for all the fights that she and the ADA have been waging on behalf of the children. Now more than ever, it is important to assure that the most powerful voice for the children of Guatemala is not compromised. Contributions to a Legal Defense fund can be sent (by check) to Focus On Adoption
( Note that your contribution is for the ADA. Every cent received for this purpose will be sent on.

Hannah Wallace, President, Focus On Adoption: An Intercountry Adoption Advocacy Organization

Posted by: Hannah wallace at October 22, 2007 01:49 AM

Some important points that were brought up:

PGN is not the "police" and I don't see how they would assume being prosecutor, judge and jury. They have no right to hold any individual against their will no matter what they "suspect".

My Opinion: I've known Susana for years and while we have not always agreed on every point, this story just doesn't fit her persona. There have been several cases that I know about where the birthmother reclaimed her child. There have also been times when she refused cases where the birthmother seemed to be unsure about the situation.

With the comment by President Berger that there will be birthmother interviews, I do worry that these women will be denied unbiased representation. Coercion is not limited to attorneys. Parents, family, community, society and government officials can put a lot of pressure on a birth mother's decision. It is AS BAD or WORSE if PGN officials use intimidation on these young women. I hope this will not be their standard practice in the months to come....

Posted by: Kelly (webmaster) at October 22, 2007 07:56 AM

Thank you, Hannah, for your thoughtful insight!

It is just amazing to me to read and listen to comments of those working in adoption and those who are in the adoption process. Susana stands for the right of every child to a loving family . . . Susana stands for the right of every birth mother, who cannot care for her child, to be allowed to relinquish her child, so that she and her child can live a better life.

Susana has been almost single handedly advocating for the children, their birth mothers and the families who wish to adopt them. When there is a threat to Guatemalan adoptions, people hang on every word that Susana says, yet when Susana is in need of our support, comments like this appear:

"I was hopeful that having Susana as an attorney would provide an extra layer of ethical insulation, if you will. I pray she did not pressure this young girl to give up her baby. Because if she did, I will always wonder if she did the same to my daughter's birth mother."

The PGN has NO RIGHT to interrogate anyone for 2 hours without representation! The PGN has NO RIGHT to detain an attorney behind locked doors! PGN has been the bain of adoptions in Guatemala for some time and all of us know it well!!

How could anyone even think that Susana was doing anything more than advocating for the birth mother and child?

Shame on all of you that use her up when she is advocating for you, and are "skeptical" when she is persecuted by a government entity who stands to benefit from discrediting her!!


Posted by: Deidre at October 22, 2007 10:34 AM

Intimidation on either side of the board against the birth mother's is appalling. I believe that Susana would not take a child from a birthmom who had not fully made a commitment to an adoption plan. For the PGN to "interview" and ultimately intimidate a very young birthmom, really just a child herself, forcing her to keep a child she can't feed is unthinkable.

Hannah, thank you for the information about Casa Alianza director, Bruce Harris, his being a convicted pedophile makes me ill, even if that was not the actual conviction, its what he is. It makes my head spin all the wrong that is done to these children and all the wrong people becoming victims.

I think this just shows a snippet of what is to come, if all adoptions must go through a very corrupt central authority.

I wish Susana a speedy recovery and we should all do what we can to support her. I don't think she is a perfect human being, nor am I, but I do think her heart and soul are in it to protect the children.

Let's pray this situation does not have a bad impact on her in-process adoptions or those of any of the ADA members.

Peace and patience to all in process.

Posted by: ~Melissa at October 22, 2007 11:01 AM

This is a very concerning story. It seems fairly clear that Susana lost her temper and did something (kicking out a door) that cast her in a bad light. Even if she and the grandparents were locked into a foyer (were all other PGN visitors then locked out for all that time) weren't there other ways to cope, such as waiting the situation out, or using a cell phone to call another lawyer?

Anyway, this event is obviously not something anyone needed right now, least of all the young mother and her baby.

I am curious about the idea that it's somehow "worse" if PGN were to interview a relinquishing mother alone for two hours and put pressure on her than if a lawyer and that lawyer's staff has unrestricted access to the same young mother for months.

I don't think it's OK for ANYONE to put pressure on relinquishing mothers. Period. And having worked with teen mothers for a very long time, I have a great respect for the reality that their thoughts and wishes can and do change, and that they are often so afraid of disappointing adults that it can be hard for them to speak up for what they truly want.


Posted by: Tesi at October 22, 2007 11:08 AM

TESI -agreed its not ok to put pressure on anyone to give up thier child but no one knows that she put pressure on this minor. and know the facts two things - you and I were not at PGN and really dont know what happened and it is ILLEGAL for PGN to lock anyone and hold anyone against thier will (even the police cannot do so without just cause) also keep in mind the minors parents are in charge of her so the parents can make her give up this child if they have no means to support this child. Could you as a teenager make those kinds of decisions? Could you as a teenager have supported a child, let alone a teenager in one of the poorest countries in the world. I know I could not.

Posted by: holding on at October 22, 2007 12:47 PM

PGN interviewed our potential child's birthmom in the same sort of way. She cannot communicate w/out her mother to intrepret, and they made her mother leave the room. Our case fell apart in those moments of confusion and, we believe, intimidation. That was over a year ago and we are STILL trying to get past what PGN believed was waivering on the part of the birthmother to relinquish her child.

PGN may be supposed to follow certain laws and procedures, but it has been clear for a long time that they do what they want. This is the most corrupt government in Central America after all. It is really too bad that the door broke. I would have been as angry as Susana was and maybe even kicked something in frustration. The negative press she is getting now will not help the fate of so many children. I hope she heals quickly and does not ever give up or give in. And next time I hope she kicks a chair or the wall instead.

Lisen, in process 21 months now

Posted by: Lisen at October 22, 2007 01:09 PM

My child is in Susana's hogar, and I am very worried and saddened by the events. It very upsetting to think of anybody (Let alone your own lawyer) having to break a door down to get out. What type of desperation must have happened? Of course, my first and selfish reaction is "what will this to my own case"
We don't have any answers of today and we are worried. If anyone has any news please post. But I would like to echo Deidre
's comments, of people ready to pounce on Susana, after all the good She has done. How many times, has she posted to calm people's nerves down (i.e.. go look at the Guatadopt archives for the months of February and March with the Manual of Good Practices) and all these people saying how grateful they were for her . She and the rest of us (her families in process need all the support we can get)

Posted by: shawn c at October 22, 2007 01:35 PM

Thank you Hannah for your informative post. Thanks for reminding us of the history of Bruce Harris and Casa Alianza, too.

Posted by: eb at October 22, 2007 01:39 PM

Kelly, your concern that the birthmother might be denied unbiased representation or counsel in a PGN interview is well-founded. But we might disagree as to how that would be accomplished... I think if the desire is to have unbiased representation or counsel present to advise the birthmother as to her rights, then the birthmother should be provided with an attorney who is not also representing the adoptive family in the adoption (i.e. in this case, it would not have been Susana). The attorney who represents the adoptive family is NOT unbiased; s/he has a financial interest in completing the adoption, and as a result could be viewed as "double-ending" the deal, such that in any other circumstance (i.e. not adoption) the advice would likely be perceived as inherently biased... In my opinion, it would certainly remove a lot of doubt if some organization were to provide birthmothers with independent counsel to advise them of their rights and the process - someone separate from the adoption attorney who represents the adoptive family...

Posted by: NAWtyet at October 22, 2007 01:44 PM


Perhaps it is worse when PGN does something like this because they did it to a fifteen year old who has already fulfilled all the legal requirements to relinquish her child. Why does PGN get to decide that that is not enough? Why does PGN have a right to question her for two hours? What does PGN want? Blood? She did a DNA test! Despite what the press reports there are requirements that must be met for relinquishment and being questioned by PGN for 2 hours is not one of them. If the adoption attorneys have unfair access to the birthmoms then reform the system. Pass a bill like 3635.

Really, what can a birthmother do to prove she wants to relinquish her child? Apparently nothing. PGN (and UNICEF) think if she wants to relinquish a child she is mistaken. My god, isn't there a genuine human rights organization that can step in here on behalf of the birthmothers and the children?

I don't think it is fairly clear that Susana had a temper tantrum. What human being would sit back and watch a child being taken away by people they believed were going to harm the baby? Should Susana have stopped and pondered how this was going to make her look? How the press would misrepresent her? Should she have called her lawyer while that baby disappeared like the babies of CQ? Or should she have done everything she could to stop them? I think Susanna is a hero. Susana if you are reading this, thank you for all that you do.

Jenn in PA

Posted by: Jennifer at October 22, 2007 02:43 PM

I, for one, am SO grateful that Susana is handling the case of our baby girl. She has went above and beyond in helping us with our adoption.

To me, this incendent shows how much she cares about ALL families involved.

Who wouldn't get upset at being locked in a room for hours? I sure would.

I think we should worry about why PGN is locking people up in rooms! It sounds like they are trying to scare these poor birthmothers.

Im with Diedre...Shame on all of you that think she is doing anything but helping protect you and the children of Guatemala.

Get well soon Susana. We need you back out there!

Posted by: Terri at October 22, 2007 03:24 PM

Thanks NAWtyet for pointing out the elephant in the room. The birthmom needs to have an independant advocate in this system. The attornys are working for the adoptive parents. Period. I don't know Susanna and I'm not against her. However I know that the birth mom and her child NEED to have independant advocate.
We may never know if this birthmom was coerced (the grandparents? attorneys? PGN?). With money going to someone only if the baby is relinquished, the chance for corruption and coersion are too great. What a sad story.

Posted by: kl at October 22, 2007 04:16 PM

It is so obvious that not all of the facts were given and/or the fact pattern was modified. To be really honest, I felt that the newspaper that printed this story insulted my intelligence to think that they could print this and I would fall for it. I feel quite certain that what actually occured is quite different than what the newspaper presented.

I would also say to any Guatemalan attorneys that may be reading this, please no matter how bad the situation gets, do not loose your tempers. They will use this against you.

Kindest Regards, Cheryl

Posted by: cheryl at October 22, 2007 05:03 PM

I find your description of Casa Alianza to be interesting and frankly distracting to bring up the unsavory details of Bruce Harris (gone from the org for several years now). The salient points are missed AND Casa Alianza in the years since Harris' dismissal has continued on in their work with people of integrity. They recently testified in a human rights session on the very issue of Guate adoptions--they are recognized international leaders in advocacy for street children and child welfare in general. Covenant House--the parent org-- is an organization with a strong history in children at risk, etc. In your lenghty history of Casa Alianza, you clearly did not point out that the organization has assisted at least one birth mom with the return of her child from Spain. They advocated for this young indigenous woman whose rights had obviously been violated--as was proven in a court of law. So, you may cast Casa Alianza any way you want, but I am not comfortable with putting down or degrading the work of human rights advocates in dangerous countries. They are doing the best they can under difficult work conditions, including threat of life and limb, threat of their children's lives, etc. Finally, for us to spin the story of Susana L's experience at the PGN and her reported behavior one way or another is really problematic. Only those present KNOW what happened and the Prensa Libre is sensationalistic and a rag. At the end of the day, this story is indicative that Susana L obviously has some significant enemies and they may well be putting barriers in her way, baiting her so that she may become fustrated/angry and loose her cool, etc. That would not surprise me--whatever it is, this is not a good sign for families working with her.

Posted by: karenms1 at October 22, 2007 05:18 PM

Some of you people are absolutely unbelievable. I do not use Susana but I do know that she is one of the only voices down there that we AP's have. She is on the side of the babies. She has dedicated her life to helping these children have better homes. You don't think PGN done this on purpose. Jeez think about it people. Stop Susana and the ADA and they(PGN) think they are one up on us. I for one would not sit back in my chair while a child is forced to talk to authorities or whatever they want to call themselves and do nothing. Someone has got to protect these babies and that is what Susana does. If you want to jump on the bandwagon and think or say oh I bet she is doing something illegal and bribing or coercing these bmoms into giving up their children go right ahead. But not me I have her back. I will never believe she done anything wrong except try to help. I could go on and on but I have had a very bad day and it is just not worth it. Hang in there Susana and if you need any back up you call me I would love to go bust down some doors at PGN and wherever else my services may be needed.

Posted by: Nancy at October 22, 2007 05:59 PM

I, of course, do not know the facts of this case. I'm inclined to believe that what Susana told Hannah is likely the truth. In any case, my first reaction upon hearing this story was, "I wonder if Susana was set up?"

Beth in MN

Posted by: Beth Hentges at October 22, 2007 07:12 PM

My husband spoke with Susana on Sunday afternoon while she was in the hospital and her main focus is getting out and fighting injustice like this surrounding adoptions. She is ready to continue her work for her clients and for adoptions in Guatemala as a whole.

All of us have felt the frustration that seemed unbearable during our adoptions, yet she fights this injustice daily so that our children can come home. I pray for her recovery and for her safety. I pray that she will continue to work hard to get all of the children at La Primavera home to their forever families and that PGN stop operating illegally--for the benefit of everyone.

Posted by: amanda at October 22, 2007 07:51 PM

NAWtyet -

Representation should be who the birthmother requests. I don't believe I implied anything in my post except that this is certainly another crack in the system and its clearly on the PGN side. I do not believe there is some "nirvana" solution to this problem. I would like to see a separate representative like a social worker unassociated with the attorney. But even if there was a separate attorney or social worker....whose to say that these folks are not biased through a payoff, friendship or drive to push a point?

The only viable solution that I can think of (and not full-proof) is to allow the birthmother to CHOOSE her representation. In this case, her parents *MAY* have been viable representation (as they have supported her and care for her wellbeing much more than PGN). Furthermore, her parents have the trump card on what happens to their grandchild...under current law. I cannot say whether these folks would have been better representation, but legally they are considered so.

And yes, I believe it is WORSE than the problems of uncontrolled access to the birthmother by the attorney. Worse, systematically. Why? Because this is her last point of ethical intervention. It is their job to investigate ETHICALLY. These are the people that are supposed to regulate the system as the CENTRAL AUTHORITY?

Yes, its worse....just as it would be worse to have a corrupt police force or to have corrupt judges. My opinion....but I cannot see any law or process improving adoptions when those in charge are acting out of political retribution.


Posted by: Kelly (webmaster) at October 23, 2007 07:58 AM

It is one thing to be angry about being locked in a room for hours, and it is absolutely justifiable to be angry. And it may very well be illegal (in some states it would be kidnapping or false imprisonment), and perhaps the questioning of the minor birth mother was, in fact, illegal or contrary to Guatemalan law. However, as an attorney (as a semi-rational human being, for that matter) I can tell you it is NEVER appropriate to take physical action such as kicking in a door. Not only is it incredibly unprofessional, but in the context of the situation in Guatemala, it plays right into the media's hands and gives them the perfect opportunity to present adoption attorneys acting on behalf of American parents as boorish bullies who will do anything to get that baby into the hands of Americans. I appreciate everything Susana has done for all of us, and I have nothing but respect for her advocacy, but what she did was inappropriate and foolish, period. We all get frustrated, and trust me, there were times in our process when I was practically nuclear with anger, but it is NEVER appropriate to kick down a door, break government property, and put yourself (and ALL of your cases) in jeopardy.

Posted by: NAWtyet at October 23, 2007 09:51 AM

Kelly -
At the end of the day, all of the questions you have presented with respect to a "neutral" third party representative for the birth mother apply equally to both sides of the current equation (PGN/the government and the adoption attorney). I suppose in some sense, everyone is susceptible to corruption, and it seems to me that the current governmental regime is hell-bent on stopping adoptions (albeit a few months earlier than is already planned). As I see it, it can do no harm to the current system - even if the neutral representative does have an anti-adoption agenda - to put someone in between the adoptive parents' counsel and the birth mother, if only so that adoption advocates could say "she had a supposedly-neutral-yet-ragingly-anti-adoption representative, yet still chose to move forward with the adoption plan." I absolutely agree that the birth mother should have her choice of counsel, but the pressures - particularly when the mother is a minor - to select the adoption attorney or her parents as her representatives (both of whom are vested in completing the adoption) are enormous and cannot be overlooked. In my opinion, in all instances a minor should be provided (whether by PGN or some other court body) some form of independent counsel (i.e. not a PGN or court attorney, but one from a truly independent body - something akin to legal aid) separate from her parents and separate from the adoption attorney in order to protect what few rights she might have in keeping her child - JUST IN CASE she disagrees with her parents' decision to give the child up for adoption. Even if there is a risk of corruption (and there is always that risk), she at least stands a fighting chance then...

Of course, this is a moot point, since neutral representatives are neither provided nor considered as an option, and likey won't be given the current state of things...

Posted by: NAWtyet at October 23, 2007 11:58 AM

NAWtyet -

In response to your post, and specifically, the last sentence: "it is NEVER appropriate to kick down a door, break government property, and put yourself (and ALL of your cases) in jeopardy."
Never say never. You can look throughout history and find examples of protests in which doors were literally kicked down, government property was indeed broken, and people absolutely put themselves (and cases) in jeopardy -- and the actions were catalysts of great and necessary change. One example: The Boston Tea Party. (And here's the description of that from Wikipedia: an act of protest by the American colonists against Great Britain in which they destroyed many crates of tea bricks on ships in Boston Harbor. The incident, which took place on Thursday, December 16, 1773, has been seen as helping to spark the American Revolution.)
I'm not trying to compare what happened at PGN with Boston Tea Party, I'm just simply trying to make a point about your statement "it is NEVER appropriate to kick down a door, break government property, and put yourself (and ALL of your cases) in jeopardy."


Posted by: Beth Bacheldor at October 23, 2007 12:17 PM

and we're not talking Kansas, either.

Posted by: Kelly (webmaster) at October 23, 2007 12:32 PM

Who are you to say that it is NEVER appropriate to kick down a door? When one may have been coerced to come to a gov't institution and then held hostage in a locked room & unable to leave, even upon repeated requests, I believe that it may come to that very action. Especially when (as many of us experience even in the US) that our cell phones often don't work when in a building of that nature. Even more disturbing is the news that while Susana lay hemorrhaging and needed to tourniquet her own leg after severing achilles tendon & several blood vessels, PGN officials refused to assist or even call an ambulance. Finally, someone with her was able to get a call out to another assistant, who called an ambulance for her!! Unthinkable!!! Possible collusion & coercion, kidnapping of multiple persons, held hostage, without due representation, withholding necessary medical assistance...only a few of the charges that should be brought up against the officials & any related parties in PGN!!! And to think this is how gov't authorities are allowed to act in Guatemala - yet they are to be trusted to set up a "central authority" to halt the "corruption" by adoption advocates & attorneys....ha

Posted by: Cheryl at October 23, 2007 01:10 PM


You wrote in response to Hannah Wallace's post: "They advocated for this young indigenous woman whose rights had obviously been violated--as was proven in a court of law. So, you may cast Casa Alianza any way you want, but I am not comfortable with putting down or degrading the work of human rights advocates in dangerous countries. They are doing the best they can under difficult work conditions, including threat of life and limb, threat of their children's lives, etc."

The problem here is that you are using one case to laud Casa Alianza's work and call into question Guatemalan adoptions as a whole -- there are similar cases in our country of contested adoptions and yet no one suggests shutting down the system or insisting on unworkable "reforms".

I heard Casa Alianza at the Adoption Ethics Conference and they are quite open about wanting to limit international adoption as much as possible, even while the root causes of ICA continue to fester.

Posted by: Lee at October 23, 2007 04:44 PM

Bruce Harris resigned from Casa Alianza in 09-16-2004. Which is just three years, not several years ago
I am one of Susana's families in process, and regardless of what happened, this is very upsetting time and we are desperate right now. If she was corrupt, then my child and others would have been home right now at 4.5 months old.

Posted by: shawn c at October 23, 2007 04:55 PM

Just by way of clarification: I have not said Susana is corrupt, nor have I intimated it. And when I say it is NEVER appropriate to kick down a door, I am speaking as an attorney, and referring to a situation where an attorney is in a governmental building in direct connection with a case (civil disobedience and the Boston tea party aside, which are of course very different situations). I'm sorry, but as a professional in that building on behalf of an adoptive family somewhere in the US (and by extension, myriad adoptive families in the US), Susana ought to have very seriously considered the ripple effect of her actions. I give her the benefit of the doubt with respect to her account (and I, too, have serious doubts with respect to the PGN's account as given in the PL article), and as an individual (i.e. not an attorney representing a client at the time), I cannot say I wouldn't have done the same thing. But as an attorney, I am inclined to fall back on the sort of professionalism we are all expected to demonstrate, whether in the US or Guatemala. (Believe it or not, I was actually locked (yes, LOCKED) in a secluded jury room once by a judge here in my county - along with opposing counsel and our clients - in order to "facilitate" a settlement. Can you imagine how quickly I would have been (1) arrested (2) fired by my client and (3) fired by my firm if I had kicked down the door or started breaking things, regardless of the fact that what the judge in that case did was not only illegal but civilly actionable?)

As an attorney, this type of behaviour should not be considered if only because of the harm to the attorney's credibility and the subsequent harm to cases handled by that attorney. If Susana wasn't already on PGN's %&@# list, then you have to imagine she is really on it now, along with any cases bearing her name. I am sorry if you disagree, and perhaps you may feel that I am not enough of a Guat-adoption cheerleader simply because I think her actions were unprofessional. Clearly, it appears I am the only one who thinks so. But rest assured I am pulling for her to recover quickly and get back to the business of handling adoptions and I wish everyone in the process nothing but the best.

Posted by: NAWtyet at October 24, 2007 02:00 PM


When you are dealing with criminals, your professionalism is irrelevant. You can have an idea of what happened that day by the video that the PGN put in You Tube ( It shows that the door was locked and my argument with the Attorney General, but does not show me attacking and beating wildly - as they say in the video - a policeman. The PGN is corrupt, abuses its powers and I would not put anything past them.
Susana Luarca

Posted by: Susana Luarca at October 24, 2007 05:43 PM


I totally support Susana's actions. We are talking Guatemala not the United States. Who knows what the PGN "officals" would have done to her if she hadn't escaped. Goodness, she states her dad was kidnapped and killed. They didn't even come to her aide when she was injured. I feel she acted on instinct and saving herself and the foster parents, along with the rest of us PAP's, babies and birthmoms she is directly involved with. I would have done the same. I'm sure you did not feel your life was threatened in your situation here in the USA. Fight on Susana!!

Posted by: KMK at October 24, 2007 06:05 PM

NAWtyet, do you honestly think being locked in a courtroom in the US is even close to the things that go on in a country with such corruption at high levels????

Posted by: ACS at October 24, 2007 08:58 PM

Comparing apples to oranges.

Posted by: eb at October 24, 2007 11:50 PM

I am simply stating my viewpoint, which is clearly not in lock-step with what everyone else feels I should express.

Susana, I wish you nothing but a speedy recovery. I respect your perspective, your work and your dedication to the cause. I've read your account and watched the video, and with all due respect, I would wager that (as with anything in life) the truth of what really happened that day lies somewhere between your account and the account in PL and on the news (which is listed as the poster of the video, not PGN) - I personally tend to believe the truth is more on your side than PL's, PGN's and Telediario's. Regardless, I have not walked that mile in your shoes to know what I would have done in that situation; I can only say what I think I would have done, and what I am sure my clients would have expected me to do (or not to do). I sincerely hope, for the sake of all of your adoptive parents, that the negative coverage this incident has generated and that your being on the PGN's you-know-what list will not delay your pending cases.

I have many other thoughts, but will reserve them for myself.... rest assured I will not chime in and spoil your discussion again.

Posted by: NAWtyet at October 26, 2007 12:42 AM
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