February 19, 2009

JCICS: Guatemala: One Year Later

About two weeks ago, Joint Council released a position paper entitled "Guatemala: One Year Later". You can find it here: http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala.pdf.

I apologize it took so long to post it. But now that I have had the chance to digest it, you click on more to get my perspective, for whatever it is worth.

Upfront. I like and agree with JCICS on this one. The calls for action from those who so favored the law are well called for.

It was quite clear that a train wreck was on its way when this was passed. In many ways, I am actually surprised things are not worse. Everyone knew that proper social services were not in place. And everyone knew it was unrealistic for the Guatemalan government to go it alone.

So where are we now?

I’m not sure JCICS is correct in saying that not a single case has been initiated or completed under the Hague. To some extent, it depends on which country you ask if something was a Hague adoption. But really this is irrelevant because basically Guatemala is closed for adoption.

In order for adoptions to proceed, the US must recognize the Guatemalan system as Hague compliant. I’m really curious where we stand on that. From what I know, I think the Guatemalan side is 99% of the way there. But what does DOS think?

Please don’t take that as me saying Guatemala will be back anytime soon. There are still huge issues in taking the system and making it functional. Nonetheless, it needs to start with the US at least making adoptions possible.

For Guatemala to have a functioning system under this new law, something needs to be done to address providing care for the child. There’s no money for it and the hogares can’t manage it as they currently exist. I understand the need to keep profiteering out and ensure all children are well accounted for. But somehow that seems like something that can be handled through fees paid by adoptive parents.

By functioning I mean a system where children who need families can find them. A system where women can make an adoption plan and know their children’s best interests are served. It is possible under this law.

I suppose I do believe JCICS’s use of “alleged” repeatedly was a bit skewed. There was real corruption! But since few cases have ever been prosecuted, they’re probably technically correct in their use.

So in short, I agree with JCICS. Adoptions end and Casa Alianza shuts down?! Where are Kelly and Manuel from Unicef? Donde esta Hogar Berger? John Lowell, a guy I came to like, he’s not in Guatemala anymore. Seems like everyone who made this come to be has left town. Step up to the plate folks.

Sadly, even I have drifted off. But when you least expect it…

Lastly, for the sake of the children in limbo, do find a resolution. Be sure there is no birthmother searching for her child – no doubt about that. But let’s not penalize children who may have been born out of some form of corruption or are unfairly caught in the middle of this. They deserve better!

Peace!

Posted by Kevin at 09:49 PM

January 28, 2009

Official announcement from the CNA

Link: http://cna.gob.gt/

CNA asked courts to protect a few thousand children

The National Council for Adoptions (CNA) yesterday asked a court on Children and Adolescents, protective measures for 200 children who were not presented in the verification process of adoption records, held at the Attorney General's Office (PGN). In 832 days were similar requirements.

Elizabeth de Larios, president of CNA, said the institution's concern is the safety of children, so they went to several courts.

In total there are 1032 children who were not submitted by notaries to authorities in 2008 when it required the presence of children and the biological mother to check the familiarity and the desire of women to give up to their adoption child.

CNA assesses the other 122 cases still required before the placement of minors. Among other things to check if there is duplication of records in these files.

The judges received the addresses provided by notaries to locate children who might be at risk.

The Attorney General's Office, Florencia De Leon reported that the records of his unit reported that 43 children were identified that were not submitted to verification, of which 27 cases were opened in court records.

Said that these children are placed in private homes or with caregivers.

Presented are in the process of verifying data to establish why there is so much difference with the cases of CNA.

Yesterday, in the part of Attorney General received about 30 cases of adoption that must be evaluated for approval are all claims prior to 2008.

Nidia Aguilar, an advocate for children, this year is expected to accelerate adoption, to be realized in greater numbers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Click on more for the Spanish...

SPANISH VERSION:

CNA solicitó a juzgados proteger a unos mil niños

El Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA) solicitó ayer a juzgados de la Niñez y Adolescencia medidas de protección para 200 niños que no fueron presentados en el proceso de verificación de expedientes de adopción, efectuado en la Procuraduría General de la Nación (PGN). En días anteriores se hicieron 832 requerimientos similares.

Elizabeth de Larios, presidenta del CNA, comentó que la preocupación de la institución es la seguridad de los niños, por lo que acudieron a varios juzgados.

En total son mil 32 niños los que no fueron presentados por los notarios a las autoridades en el 2008, cuando se requería la presencia del menor y de la madre biológica, para comprobar la familiaridad y el deseo de la mujer de dar en adopción a su hijo.

El CNA aún evalúa otros 122 casos antes requerir la ubicación de los menores. Entre otras cosas deben verificar si existe duplicidad de registros en esos expedientes.

Los jueces recibieron las direcciones aportadas por los notarios para ubicar a los niños, quienes podrían estar en riesgo.

La subprocuradora general de la Nación, Florencia de De León, informó que los registros de su unidad refieren que se identificó a 43 niños que no fueron presentados a verificación, de los cuales en 27 casos se abrió expediente judicial.

Aseguró que esos menores están ubicados en hogares particulares o con cuidadoras.

Expuso que están en proceso de depuración de datos para establecer por qué existe tanta diferencia con los casos del CNA.

Ayer, en la sección de Procuraduría se recibieron unos 30 expedientes de adopción que deben ser evaluados para su aprobación; todos corresponden a solicitudes anteriores al 2008.

Nidia Aguilar, defensora de la Niñez, espera que este año se agilicen las adopciones, para que se concreten en mayor número.

Miercoles, Enero 28, 2009

Posted by Marie at 06:38 PM

November 02, 2008

USCIS FAQ on Grandfathered I600As

CIS has issued a FAQ for PAPs with US Hague Grandfathered I600As. This is not a Guatemala specific thing, as it has to do with everyone in the ICA pipeline when the Hague took effect in the US.

As I read it, this is basically good news in that as long as you had an I600A approved before the Hague went into effect, you can be grandfathered as a non-Hague case for a few years.

It can be found here: CIS FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions: Grandfathered Form I-600A Processing for Prospective Adoptive Parents
Q: Why is USCIS issuing this announcement now?

A: USCIS is issuing this announcement now as a precaution to prospective adoptive parents with approved Forms I-600A so they understand what options are available to them if their approvals are due to expire, and they have not yet filed a Form I-600. This guidance is important for prospective adoptive parents who are pursuing an adoption from another Hague Convention country.


Q: My Form I-600A was filed before April 1, 2008 (Implementation of Hague Convention). Is it possible to extend the Form I-600A approval?

A: Yes. An approved Form I-600A is valid for 18 months. If no Form I-600 has been filed, a prospective adoptive parent may request a one-time, no-charge extension of an approved Form I-600A. To request this extension, submit a written request for an extension of your approved I-600A to the USCIS office that approved your Form I-600A. There is no specific form to fill out. An updated home study needs to be submitted with the written request for a one-time, no-charge extension of your valid, approved Form I-600A. Submit the request no earlier than 90 days before the expiration of the I-600A, but before the approval expires. If your request for an extension is approved, the validity of the Form I-600A will be extended 18 months from the expiration date of the original approved Form I-600A.


Q: I have already received a one-time, no-charge extension of my Form I-600A for an adoption from a Hague Convention country. My extension is due to expire and I have not filed a Form I-600 (because I’m waiting to be matched with a child). Is my Form I-600A considered “grandfathered” and can I re-file Form I-600A or am I now required to file Form I-800A?

A: DHS regulations allow only one “extension” of the approval of a Form I-600A. If that extension is also scheduled to expire, the only alternative is to file a new Form I-600A, with a new filing fee. Generally, a Form I-600A may not be filed after April 1, 2008, for the adoption of a child from a Hague Convention country. Under 8 CFR 204.300(b), however, a case may continue as an orphan case if a Form I-600A was filed before April 1, 2008. USCIS interprets this provision as permitting prospective adoptive parents whose Form I-600A approval is still in effect, but is about to expire, to file a new Form I-600A, as long as they file the new Form I-600A before the current approval expires.


A new Form I-600A that is filed after April 1, 2008, will be considered “grandfathered” only if:
(a) the new Form I-600A is filed before expiration of a previous Form I-600A AND
(b) the previous Form I-600A that is about to expire was itself filed before April 1, 2008; AND
(c) no Form I-600 has been filed on the basis of the previous Form I-600A.


Q: I have an approved Form I-600A, filed prior to April 1, 2008, indicating that I intend to adopt from a Hague Convention country, but the approval has expired and I did not obtain an extension. May I file a new Form I-600A?

A: No.


As previously stated, a new Form I-600A that is filed after April 1, 2008, will be considered “grandfathered” only if:

(a) the new Form I-600A is filed before expiration of a previous Form I-600A AND
(b) the previous Form I-600A that is about to expire was itself filed before April 1, 2008; AND
(c) no Form I-600 has been filed on the basis of the previous Form I-600A.

For any Form I-600A approval that was due to expire after April 1, 2008, the prospective adoptive parents had the right under DHS regulations to obtain one extension of the approval. If they did not choose to do so, and the Form I-600A that was filed before April 1, 2008, has expired, there is no longer any valid Form I-600A that could form the basis of “grandfathering” a new Form I-600A.

If the Form I-600A approval is no longer valid, the prospective adoptive parents will have to file a Form I-800A with a home study which meets all of the requirements for a Hague Adoption Convention home study. Once a Form I-800A is approved, the Form I-800 may be filed on behalf of the prospective adoptive child.


Q: Can I extend or “grandfather” my Form I-600A approval if I have already filed the corresponding Form I-600?

A: No. The Form I-600A approval is valid only for the number of adoptions for which you were approved before April 1, 2008. If, before April 1, 2008, you were approved for two adoptions, then you can only file two Forms I-600 based on the extended or grandfathered Form I-600A. Once the total number of Forms I-600 have been filed, no further extensions or grandfathering of the Form I-600A are permitted.


Q: Does “grandfathering” my Form I-600A mean that I will definitely be able to complete an adoption under the pre-Hague orphan process, rather than the Hague Adoption Convention process?

A: Not necessarily. Grandfathering a Form I-600A means that you will be permitted to use the orphan process, provided the child’s home country agrees. However, the child’s home country may have its own rules for determining whether the Hague Adoption Convention process must be followed.


Q: Does this policy affect the rules of other countries?

A: No. This guidance pertains only to the U.S. transition case rules. It does not address what the country of the prospective adoptive child’s origin may consider to be an appropriate application for its own intercountry adoption processes. Prospective adoptive parents remain subject to the requirements of the child’s country of origin to successfully complete an intercountry adoption under the Hague Adoption Convention.


Q: Can you give some examples of how the “grandfathering” interpretation works:

A: Yes, please see below.

EXAMPLE: Form I-600A was approved, with the approval expiring on August 1, 2008. The applicant requested and obtained a one-time extension, with the new approval period expiring February 1, 2010. In January 2010, they still have not filed a Form I-600. On February 1, 2010, they file a new Form I-600A. The “grandfathering” of the original Form I-600A will be extended to the new Form I-600A, since it was filed before the approval of the original Form I-600A expired.

EXAMPLE: Form I-600A was approved, with the approval expiring on August 1, 2008. The applicant requested and obtained a one-time extension, with the new approval period expiring February 1, 2010. In January 2010, they still have not filed a Form I-600. On February 1, 2010, they file a new Form I-600A. The “grandfathering” of the original Form I-600A will be extended to include the new Form I-600A, since it was filed before the approval of the original Form I-600A expired. The new Form I-600A is approved, with the approval (after one extension) expiring March 10, 2013. On March 10, 2013, the applicant files yet another Form I-600A. This third Form I-600A is not grandfathered, since, although the expiring Form I-600A was grandfathered because the first Form I-600A was grandfathered, the expiring Form I-600A was actually filed after April 1, 2008.

EXAMPLE: Form I-600A was approved, with the approval expiring on August 1, 2008. The applicant requested and obtained a one-time extension, with the new approval period expiring February 1, 2010. In January 2010, they still have not filed a Form I-600. However, they do not file a new Form I-600A until February 2, 2010. The “grandfathering” of the original Form I-600A does not extend to the new Form I-600A, since it was filed after the approval of the original Form I-600A expired.

EXAMPLE: Form I-600A was approved, with the approval expiring on August 1, 2008. The applicant did not seek an extension. On September 1, 2008, the applicant files a new Form I-600A. This new Form I-600A is not grandfathered, since it was filed after April 1, 2008, and after the approval of the original Form I-600A expired.

EXAMPLE: Form I-600A was approved for one child, with the approval expiring on August 1, 2008. One Form I-600 was filed on July 31, 2008. Since the Form I-600 was filed, no further extension of the Form I-600A approval is permitted. Also, since the Form I-600 was filed, a new Form I-600A for an additional child, or a reopening and re-approval for more than one child, would not be “grandfathered.”

EXAMPLE: Form I-600A was approved for two children, with the approval expiring on August 1, 2008. One Form I-600 was filed before August 1, 2008, and the applicant requested and obtained an extension of the approval. The extension expires February 1, 2010. The applicant then files a Form I-600 for an additional child. The Form I-600 is “grandfathered,” since it is based on a “grandfathered” Form I-600A for more than one child. No additional children may be adopted from a Hague Adoption Convention country based on the Form I-600A, however. To adopt a third or subsequent child, the Hague Adoption Convention process will apply.

Posted by Kevin at 09:14 PM

August 30, 2008

Aug 31st - FAST AND HARD DEADLINE!

Tomorrow is the DEADLINE for presenting Birthmothers and children for interviews at PGN. The deadline also applies to ABANDONMENTS so the children must be taken in person to PGN.

I want to make something perfectly clear: NO EXTENSIONS HAVE BEEN GRANTED. We've checked. If you have been told this, EEEHHHH (sound of obnoxious buzzer!).

Start the bugging process ASAP if you have been told this!

ALSO, remember that we desperately need votes!!!!
Here is a link to the project:
http://www.membersproject.com/project/view/NVRAXK

PLEASE LET YOUR FRIENDS KNOW and SPREAD THE WORD!!! Announce it on your FaceBook, your MySpace, send it out by email.

Posted by Kelly at 08:41 AM

March 06, 2008

ADA Update - Legal Challenges to Law of Adoptions

The ADA has issued a new statement focusing on the consitutional challenges being brought against aspects of the new law of adoptions. You can read it here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/

Posted by Kevin at 07:41 AM

February 13, 2008

Deadline Passed - What Now?

Yesterday, we held our breath to see if all the cases would be registered in time. Surprisingly, it was a quiet day for us. Several reports said that while it was slow, the cases were being registered. I guess we will see the aftermath today. A Prensa Libre this morning reports that the CNA registered 3000 (I'll assume that meant approximately 3000) by 11PM. 20 Volunteers assisted the Council with the registration. Sonia Hernandez de Larios, one of the members, expressed concern over attorneys who registered 50 to 200 cases...saying that she suspected that it was part of the corruption in the past. The article (in Spanish) is located at:
http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/febrero/13/220075.html

I will respond to Sonia's statement and say that since the process has been severely stalled for thousands of children, it is not surprising to me at all. Furthermore, I can easily identify 200+ children RIGHT now in Guatemala who need homes but are not in process (placed by the courts)...and that is without stepping foot in Guatemala. The point is that a number is not a redflag of corruption, it is a redflag of a chid crisis (ie: there are OTHER more obvious red flags such as documentation, agency/attorney contradictions, strange stories, etc. Point being: concentrate on the real red flags and accountability when corruption is found!)

Hopefully, all pending cases were registered. If not, please let us know via our case support form.

Click here for an ADA post on the registration: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/


Posted by Kelly at 06:49 AM

February 12, 2008

No News, Good News?

Here's what I'm hearing rigtht now - nothing. A scan of various forums seems to indicate lots of folks got registered, some waiting to hear, but no reports of cases not getting the chance. I'm cautiously optimistic that a miracle was pulled off and somehow the CNA and attorneys combined got it done.

I know you've heard it a million times but for everyone waiting for registration confirmation, hang in there...

Posted by Kevin at 09:48 PM

February 09, 2008

Troubles at CNA...

The ADA has issued an update and analysis of the debacle going on in trying to register cases. Long lines, slow-to-no progress, and in short not enough time left at the pace we're going...

You can find the ADA statement here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/

As all too often is the case, this is obviously a situation where someone needs to interject some pragmatic thought into the process. Since we know this site is read by members of both governments as well as many of the relevant influence groups, here goes my shot at it with my idea for the CNA on how to get all the cases registered.

First of all is that we obviously need to speed up the process for the 2400+ cases that had already been presented. I do entirely understand why there could be a need to assign them a new number.

So why not do this?

Since the CNA has the previously presented forms, they should just have the lawyer re-present it. In excel file write the old registration # in one column, the new one in another column, stamp the attorney’s copy so that it shows both the old and the new proof of registration and let it go.

On the 1000 or so cases that had not been previously presented, not too much difference. Get the forms, supply proof of registration, enter the registration #, date of Registration, and names into a computer and send them on their way. We’re looking at only two minutes of time per case this way.

How to handle improperly filled out forms? Okay folks, you’re going to have to put on your thinking hats and not just give a cursory read here.

From what I understand, though could be wrong, PGN will still require a constancia and those will not be handed out until after the deadline ends. PAPs, I am calling on you for patience that seems impossible. Right now, the number one priority for us cumulatively as a community needs to make sure that all cases are given the chance to be registered and thus grandfathered. In a couple days, start worrying about getting constancias and back into PGN.

So…. Get all the forms in, even if they are incomplete. Then after they are all in, the CNA issues either a constancia or a previo for an incomplete form. This way ultimately the case still gets grandfathered and the CNA gets the information it requires.

Is what I suggest perfect, of course not. Will it cause delays, absolutely. But it would succeed in getting the cases grandfathered in accordance with law with all the information the CNA wants.

I do understand why the CNA feels strongly about needing the pictures, footprints, names, etc. On this I do differ from others in the adoption community. Given the very real instances of corruption that Guatadopt currently finds itself trying to lend a helping hand in solving, I do hope that something is done to ensure that no kids leave the country who shouldn’t. I do see how this info could be beneficial in helping some of the groups working with victimized women. But we also need to make sure this does not ultimately lead to children not reaching permanency.

To those in the press or casual observers reading this, please realize that over the last year or so the inevitable end of the system brought a stream of corrupt opportunists into it. That should NOT represent what had traditionally been the case and you should not believe that adoption advocates like myself have any tolerance or ability to look the other way at corruption or judger our families by it.

Lastly, two call outs. To the CNA: If you can’t get everything registered by Tuesday, extend the deadline!!! To the adoption community: be pragmatic and try to understand that what may not be fair to you as an individual may be necessary for the greater good.

Let’s all be adults and find a way to not fight and just get on with the registrations!


Posted by Kevin at 11:21 AM

February 08, 2008

CNA NEWS

The following announcement was in today's Prensa's Libre:( thanks to the ADA for the translation that can be found here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/):

The National Council of Adoptions informs:

To the notaries who have submitted their files of petition of adoptions before December 31st. 2007, they must register them at the offices of the National Council of Adoptions, temporarily located at the Secretaria de Bienestar Social de la Presidencia, on 32 street 9-34 zone 11, Colonia Las Charcas until Tuesday February 12th., 2008, inclusive. Will be open during the weekend in an schedule from 9 in the morning to 16 hours.

To the notaries who submitted their files to the members of the former Council, they must present their copy at the offices of the Secretaria de Bienstar social during the before mentioned schedule so they can get assigned a registration number.

Attentively,

National Council of Adoptions, Guatemala, February 8th., 2008.

The DOS has an annoucement to this effect: http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_3948.html

In addition, the amparo questioning the four page form was rejected. SO... Form is set. CNA location is set. CNA members are set. Not much time left so get them cases registered!

Posted by Kevin at 01:10 PM

February 07, 2008

CNA Update

News for the day (but please don't expect something every day unless you want me to start lying)...

Coming from a pretty darn good source...Two CNA BOD members sworn in today. Things look positive that they will recognize the forms that have been submitted (assume that means the updated longer form). So keep your fingers and toes crossed.

I once again want to call upon on everyone (attorneys, agencies, PAPs, governments) with any say in the matter to ensure that all cases can be and are registered before the deadline. Children's futures are at stake. And to those adoption service providers who are not communicating progress on this to their clients, tell them what is up. You're causing them alot of stress and that's not right.

Posted by Kevin at 12:19 AM

February 06, 2008

Who should register and a story to read...

There is of course some confusion over which cases will need to register and obviously something official from the Guatemalan authorities would be wonderful. Absent that, here is my advice. EVERYONE should register their case unless they already have a birth certificate and the case is about to go to the US Embassy fort 2nd DNA approval and pink. Why take chances if there is any possibility that, for example, a civil registry may request it?

Granted, registration is not moving smoothly. Nonetheless, it seems like an unecessary risk to the child's future to take any chances and not just register all cases.

On a separate note. Here's a story all should read from Joh Stossel of 20/20 fame: http://www.townhall.com/Columnists/JohnStossel/2008/02/06/usa_makes_adoption_harder

Posted by Kevin at 07:22 AM

February 04, 2008

Consejo Nacional de Adopciones Update

The ever developing saga of the Central Authority continues...

The news for the day:
1.) The Good News: The CA is accepting registrations again. Attorneys do receive a stamped document showing the date the case was submitted. The Bad News: To my knowledge, no contrasenas were released.
2.) The courts denied the amparo of Anabella Morfin. This means that the three CA appointees are all official for the time being.

The ADA has posted a great FAQ on the CNA that you can find here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/

Click on more for some perspective, analysis, rant, or whatever it is you call what we do...

Right now is a time to realize that for everything that isn’t happening, there is also a lot that is. Despite some predictable bumps in the road and some unforeseen political woes, there is a Central Authority created before the deadline and cases can be submitted for registration. Despite the fact that the adoption law was approved by Congress less than 60 days ago, during which time the Christmas Holidays passed and a new president was inaugurated, they got to where your cases SHOULD be safe so long as they have been submitted. The law says they must be registered and it would seem that happens when they are submitted, even if the proof of registration, ie the contrasena, is received later. I think the important thing is that ALL cases get submitted to the CA using the form they developed.

It really sucks that cases can’t get back into PGN and that everyone is being delayed. Any unnecessary days a child spends away from permanency are a shame, don’t get me wrong. But somehow from my vantage point, things so far as in-process cases could be a lot worse all things considered.

Since when have I ever been the “cup half full” kind of guy?

I know that it is really hard to follow all that is going on with all the lawsuits. With an amparo here, an ampao there. Here an amaparo. There an amaparo. Everywhere an amparo amparo. These poor kids just need a home, ee ii ee ii oooh  In all seriousness, try to follow this.

The CA is led by appointees from three Guatemalan government entities. One is from the judicial branch (Supreme Court) and two are from the executive branch (SOSEP and Foreign Ministry). There has been a legal battle underway to determine whether President Colom had the right to replace the two Berger-appointed members from parts of the executive branch. Remember, these were people who were sworn in just a weekend before Pres. Colom took office.

Admittedly, I like Colom’s overall philosophy having nothing to do with adoption so maybe I’m a little easy on him. Considering the importance of this issue, the fact that the CA was starting from scratch and the Berger appointees hadn’t even worked a day before Colom took office, makes me wonder how you can blame the guy for wanting to appoint his own people to represent the executive branch?

Today the courts overturned the previously granted amparo of the last Berger appointee, basically clearing the way for the Colom appointees to get running. The two replaced members will appeal, but for the time being there is no legal controversy over who heads the CA. To my knowledge, there are not two Central Authorities and it should be clear who has the authority to sign on behalf of the CA.

This court battle seems to have impacted the release of funds allocated for operating the Central Authority. Hopefully, with the courts ruling in favor of the President, those funds will now be able to be released. And if the CA needs volunteers, I think we’ve got about 3,000 of them willing to help with the administrative work.

It is wrong for children to ever be caught in the middle of politics. But they often are in the real world. I’m in no way taking sides in all of this or trying to say everything is peachy keen. It isn’t. I suppose I am just a little bit sympathetic with the predicament officials in Guatemala found themselves with. And despite all these bumps, the courts got this political mess cleared up pretty quickly, pending appeal. The reason why I downplay the appeal is that the fact that both were refused makes it so that until some time when they possibly win an appeal, the courts have said who the members of the CA BOD are.

I firmly support the idea of extending the deadline due to the delays. I do not know if that could be done by President Colom, the CA, the Guatemalan Congress, or any of the above. But it should be done to ensure what everyone agrees with and is in congruence with the law – that the in-process cases be completed.

I have huge concerns over what this law means for some Guatemalan children in the years to come. That should be the focus of energies. That has nothing to do with the fact that I personally still hold my belief that the grandfather-able cases will be completed. Getting caught in the middle of these messes is horrible. I am a 2003 Hague survivor after all. But when I compare then with now, this doesn’t seem as bad where in-process cases are concerned.

In 2003, we existed with NO legal system to complete an adoption. Today, you know your case needs to be registered and there is an office to do that. In 2003 your attorney was supposed to turn the file over to a black hole called the CA. Today, your attorney is only being asked to submit a form. Of course there is one huge piece still missing today and that is the release of the contrasenas. It understandably may take a while for them to get through them all, nonetheless it would be really nice to see them starting. So please Consejo Nacional de Adopciones, don’t make a liar out of me and start printing those puppies!

We have received a number of requests regarding campaigns to address the current situation. As always, Guatadopt is a grassroots clearinghouse free from the restrictions of most other adoption e-venues and if you build it we will post it (some restrictions apply of course). I respectfully request everyone to seriously think about what it is you are asking for given all I have written above.

Posted by Kevin at 11:20 PM

February 01, 2008

What's up at CA?

The short answer is that we don't know... We know that Ethica maintains there are two unique CA's "operating" with separate offices. We know that JCICS (see: http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala.htm) says that "the" CA stopped accepting registrations today. Needless to say, we're trying to get answers to what is going on.

Assuming JCICS is correct, I wonder whether not taking cases as of today is because:
(a) the law said 30 days to register. JCICS and the US gov have been saying that meant 30 business days. But here we are on Feb 1 and no new cases going in. Were they incorrect about it being BUSINESS days?
(b) The JCICS annoucement, and Ethica's, are tied to the numerous legal battles and amparos - both from members of the CA and attorneys. Please click on more to read my take on the political battles.

UPDATED SAT FEB 2 - click on more and scroll down.

Pres. Colom was inaugurated on Jan 14th. On the Friday evening before that, outgoing Pres. Berger had members of the CA sworn in. According to the Coloms, this broke an agreement the two had that Berger would allow Colom to pick the people since ultimtately the adoption law needs to be enacted under Colom's watch.

The Coloms attempted to remove two of the three "Berger era" appointees. Those two people filed amapros, stating that the Coloms could not fire them since the CA is autonomous and they had been duly appointed and sworn in.

One of those amaparos was accepted by the courts and will be ruled on. For the time being, that person keeps her job. The other amaparo was not accepted by the court. That decision was appealed and I think the courts yesterday once again sided with the Coloms. I think the guy can and will try to go to one more to a higher court.

There is a ton of confusion that should have been anticipated, albeit not exactly what would happen. A huge new law was passed with no time for preparation. It coincidentally occured as Guatemala put in a new President from a vastly different ideology than the previous one. Every day the Guatemalan papers are filled with more stuff the old administration covered up.

My opinion based on some "inside" info is that the new administration has every intention of ensuring the in-proess cases get completed. They have NEVER spewed out crap like the Bergers did. But they also know that the future of the system rides on who heads up the CA. If they have responsibility for what happens, they at least want to have had some say in who gets to set it up. So now these legal battles have to take place and yes, you all are unfortunately caught in the middle of it. It is always a shame when children get caught up in political battles. But it is unavoidable in our sick world.

I have heard RUMOR that Congress and/or the executive branch may find a way to extend the registration deadline because of what all is happening. But for the time being, that is pure speculation. And everything I've written is predicated on the fact that as I wrote in my introduction, I don't know right now exactly what the scoop is, why they stopped accepting cases, or chihc CA did this if there are in fact two of them.

My head is spinning....

UPDATE SAT FEB 2

I've learned where the 30 "business" days comes from and it makes sense to me. The adoption law does not specifically state business days. However, the “Ley del Organismo Judicial” (Law of the Judicial Organism) establishes basic legal procedures for stuff like this. Clause 45 d of this law establishes that in established these dates, "non working" dates are not counted. So that means weekends, holidays, etc would not factor into the calculation of 30 days. Thanks to Marco from ASG for that explanation.

In addition, the ADA has a new post with its take on what is going on. It can be found here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/

Posted by Kevin at 05:19 PM

January 29, 2008

Some Clarity - DOS Announcement

DOS has a new announcement. And it gives some details on dates, registration, who must register, etc. Lots of good info in this one.

To read it: http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_3908.html
Or click on more...

From the US DOS website:

Guatemala: Registering In-Process Cases with the National Adoption Council

January 2008

The adoption law passed by Guatemala’s Congress on December 11, 2007, permits notarial adoption cases initiated before its effective date of December 31, 2007, to be completed under the old notarial process, provided those cases are registered with the National Adoption Council (CNA), Guatemala’s Hague Convention Central Authority for adoptions, within 30 business days after the effective date of the law. Unless a case has already received a favorable opinion from the Guatemalan Solicitor General’s office (PGN), it still needs to be registered with the CNA to be eligible for processing under the old law. The Embassy, therefore, recommends that prospective adoptive parents confirm with their Guatemalan legal representatives that this registration "Aviso" has been filed with the CNA for their adoption case.

Following receipt of the “Aviso” by the CNA, they will issue a confirmation of registration (“Constancia”). Cases are considered registered and pending only if a “Constancia” has been issued. Filing the “Aviso” with the CNA before February 12, 2008, should be sufficient to register the case, even if there is a delay in issuing the “Constancia.”

Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that the Government of Guatemala is engaged in establishing the CNA and that the definition of “registered case” is still subject to change. Prospective adoptive parents should remain in direct contact with their adoption service providers to ensure that any requirements set forth by the Government of Guatemala are being met.

Posted by Kevin at 10:20 PM

USCIS to PAPs - "Don't Bug Us"

The USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) has issued a new press release. Really it says nothing new other than to make it perfectly clear that Guatemala's grandfathering of cases is not their problem.

Here it is: Download file

Posted by Kevin at 01:10 PM

New CA Forms

We have the new CA forms. Your attorney should be handling registration, but we'll put this up on the site just in case someone needs it. Supposedly, Wednesday the CA will start confirming registrations.

Folks, I realize that its very hard to be patient....but I do not think that there is a way that this can be "sped" up. This organization was literally thrown together with no time and little budget. Hang in there, folks.

Download CA Forms

Posted by Kelly at 10:34 AM

January 28, 2008

Latest CA Form

Below is a copy of the latest CA registration form. There are only a few changes from the last version we posted. The CA is saying they will begin to release registrations Wednesday. Don't hold your breath, but keep your fingers crossed.

CA Registration Form: Download file

Posted by Kevin at 10:49 PM

January 27, 2008

Central Authority still in a state of ?

13 days after Colom took office, the CA is still in a state of flux. Its hard to even filter out any solid position or state of affairs at this point. But before I go on, I will simply say that trying to figure out what this means is like predicting who will win the Daytona 24 Hours at hour 3!

Update Mon 1/28 - the ADA has a new update on registration. To read it, click here.

First issue is still who has the right to be on the Council. The Supreme Court confirmed Anabella Morfin (appointed during Berger's regime). Then there is Marvin Rabanales who was appointment was overturned (and the courts agreed). The Executive Branch has withheld funds for the time being, so very little is being done to get the CA functioning. Registration has meant filling out a piece of paper...and that for now, is the saving grace. The CA will not be processing these cases but PGN seems to be "waiting" for things to settle out before proceeding. The CA says they will corroborate these cases with PGN, but Gordillo (AG) is saying that there is no need because that is the job of the attorneys!!! In summary, no agreement on procedures or what the role of CA is to current cases (what does registration mean?)

PAPs shouldn't panic. While this is certainly causing delays....the problems are no surprise for a CA that was forced to get up in running with no plan and a new administration. As of yet, we have no reason to think that there will be problems determining the state of registration. The only RED FLAG that we are seeing is the number of questions regarding post 12/30/07 referrals THINKING that they can be grandfathered if they register their cases before the deadline. If you have been told that....it is WRONG!!! There is STILL NO PROCESS in place for adoptions going forward. I can only speculate that ANY AGENCY and ANY ATTORNEY who is taking application fees or country fees is conducting a SCAM.

The Big Picture:
"You can't run a country if there is no justice" Colom stated at his swearing in. That holds true for adoptions. You can change the laws, appoint a Central Authority...but until those who hurt children are brought to justice, you are not serving the best interest of the child. With thousands of murders in Guatemala going unsolved, it is no wonder that the new administration is struggling to get a foothold. Fighting for justice for the population is an uphill battle. Somehow justice needs to be funded and where that money is coming from is anyone's guess!

Latin Business Chronicle: Colom & Guatemala: New Optimism

Posted by Kelly at 08:11 AM

January 18, 2008

CA Registration Form

The Central Authority has released the form to register in-process cases.

You can download the form here: Download file


Posted by Kevin at 02:33 PM

January 17, 2008

Registration News Tomorrow?

You've probably already read it, but not the word on the street is that tomorrow is the day that the registration process will be announced. The word is that a form will be distributed tomorrow (Fri) which need to be filled out.

That's all we know for now.

Buenas noches y paz!

Posted by Kevin at 10:36 PM

Central Authority Appointees Replaced

Within days of the first appointments (Berger's administration) to the new Central Authority, Colom has replaced several of these appointees from Bienestar and Relaciones Exteriores. Many of our contacts are not sure of political leanings of the new appointments. However, we are being told that the reasoning was to create a more neutral council where the members did not appear to have an agenda and to ensure that the rights of the child and biological family were considered first.

OUT:
Anabella Morfín
Marvin Rabanales
Byron Alvarado

IN:
Concha Marilys Barrientos, and Aura Azucena Bolaños (alternate)
Elizabeth Hernandez
Norma Robles

{Statements below are loose translations and not direct quotes}
The old CA members are NOT happy. Anabella Morfín claims that there is a "violation of the autonomy of the Council with these new appointments". "The law does not provide for replacement and removal proceedings, as well as the body had already been formed," explained Marvin Rabanales, one of the trustees who was replaced.

Click on more to read on. In addition, Kevin has added a commentary relating to this in his writer's corner. Click here to go it.

The controversy is concerning as this is bound to delay getting the Council for adoption procedures in place. However, we are always encouraged to hear that a concern for neutrality and of focusing on the needs of the biological family and the children first.

My litlte commentary: I had to snicker a bit about the comment of there being a violation of autonomy. Well, gee....we've thrown out a lot of "mandatory" processes (PGN), consitutionality (the law itself) and such without an objection. So, "you can't touch this" arguments really don't hold much water.

Let me stress to new readers, Guatadopt.com DOES believe that we need some changes and some strict accountability here in the US and certainly, for whatever system is in place. But we need to remember that the needs of the child should come FIRST. So, I am encouraged that the administration verbally recognizes this and has acted on this belief, as well.

The article in Prensa Libre: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/GN3/2008/enero/17/214849.html

Posted by Kelly at 07:52 AM

January 14, 2008

NEW JCICS & DOS Statement

JCICS and DOS have both issued new statements. Basically they affirm what we have been posting. I do applaud them for the strong statements urging PAPs not to accept referrals or give agencies deposits right now. Shame on any agency trying to claim that they will be doing future adoptions in Guatemala. At this point, no one knows if that will be possible.

You can click on more to read them or here are the links:
JCICS
DOS

JCICS Statement:
January 14, 2008

As part of our ongoing Guatemala 5000 Initiative, Joint Council has maintained dialogue with the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and met with them most recently on January 7 and again on January 10, 2008. Meetings were also held with UNICEF on December 18, 2007 and on January 9, 2008. Similar dialogue was held with Guatemalan Congressional representatives and government officials along with members of the U.S. Congress over the past three weeks.

Based on these meetings and in consultation with the Guatemala Caucus Co-chairs, the following represents Joint Council’s understandings and advocacy efforts:

Processing of Transition Cases

On January 1, 2008, PGN stopped the processing of all pending adoption cases including the acceptance of new cases, acceptance of cases with previos and the review of cases previously submitted. PGN has however continued to release those cases in which reviews/approvals had been completed as of December 31, 2007. The processing of pending adoptions will begin with the registration of those cases with the Central Authority no later than 30 business days after January 1, 2008 (approximately February 11, 2008).

Both USDOS and USCIS continue to process adoption cases, including the issuance of visas, released by PGN.

Formation of the Central Authority

As required by the new adoption law (Decree 77-2007), the Guatemalan Supreme Court, Bienestar and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have appointed Rudy Soto Ovalle, Marvin Rabanels and Anabela Morfin respectively as their representatives to the Central Authority. The installation of these representatives occurred on Friday, January 11, 208. It should be noted that while the law calls for the appointment of the representatives within 14 business days (approximately January 18), Joint Council is encouraged that the appointments have occurred sooner than required.

It is expected that within days, these newly appointed representatives will meet as the Central Authority and establish (1) procedures by which pending cases can be registered and (2) definitions of ‘cases in process’

Registering of Cases

All cases which are in process, as defined by the Central Authority, must be registered within 30 business days of January 1, 2008 (approximately February 11, 2008). Through considerable discussion with all stakeholders, the representatives to the Central Authority have acknowledged the importance of establishing definitions and procedures by which the pending cases can be registered. Given the early formation of the Central Authority and expected release of the definition and registry procedure Joint Council and others remain confident that the registry of pending adoption cases will be completed within the requirements of the law (by approximately February 11, 2008).

New Referrals

Joint Council issued a recommendation that no new referrals be issued after October 1, 2007. To date Joint Council has not amended that recommendation and continues to urge all adoption service providers and potential adoptive parents to refrain from issuing or accepting referrals.

Some adoption service providers continued to issue referrals as recently as the week of December 24. Given the law’s requirements, the lack of a clear definition of ‘cases in process’ and other uncertainties, the ability of the these cases to be registered and ultimately completed under the Notorial process is in serious question.

Applying for a Guatemalan adoption

Recently some have suggested that the passage of the new adoption law will allow potential adoptive parents to apply with the Guatemalan government for an adoption under the new system. While the new law does allow such applications, no procedures currently exist that would allow such an application. In short, applying with the Guatemalan government for an adoption is currently not possible.

Applying with a U.S. Adoption Service Provider

Given the following circumstances, Joint Council urges all adoption service providers and potential adoptive families to refrain from submitting/accepting applications for a Guatemalan adoption at this time.

* No established regulations, procedures or process currently exists for the submission of an application with the Guatemalan government.
* Currently Guatemala has limited capacity for the provision of social services such as intercountry adoption.
* A time-line for the implementation of intercountry adoption related social services has been announced.
* The new law requires adoption services providers to be accredited under The Hague in the United States and also seek and obtain accreditation from the Guatemalan government prior to participating in adoption services in Guatemala.
o The Hague Convention and subsequent accreditation of U.S. based adoption service providers will not be in force in the U.S. until April 1, 2008.
o The process of accrediting adoption service providers by the Guatemalan government has not been announced.

Advocacy

As part of the Guatemala 5000 Initiative, Joint Council continues to advocate for the following definitions and regulations related to the finalization of all transition adoption cases. While Joint Council’s advocacy on this issue is widely known by the U.S. and Guatemalan governments, a letter to the newly appointed members of the Guatemalan Central Authority detailing our specific recommendations (see below) will be received on Wednesday, January 16, 2008.

In addition to our ongoing engagement with the USDOS, USCIS and UNICEF, Joint Council has also requested a February meeting with the government of President Alvaro Colom.

Joint Council Recommendations

1. A case would be eligible for the grandfather status provided that by December 31, 2007 the case had:
1. a Power of Attorney (POA),
2. the POA was registered with the Supreme Court,
3. the Acta de Requerimiento had been issued
2. The case would be officially grandfathered upon its registration with the Central Authority during a 30 day period beginning December 31, 2007. The 30 day period represents 30 business days.
1. Cases already “in” PGN (cases where an Aviso has been issued) would be considered to be automatically registered with the Central Authority thereby negating the need for a separate and additional act of registration.
3. Recognizing that PGN is registered with The Hague as a competent authority, all eligible cases would be registered with the Central Authority via the PGN.

DOS Statement:

January 9, 2008


The Department of State advises potential adoptive parents and adoption service providers not to initiate new adoptions from Guatemala because of the great uncertainties surrounding implementation of Guatemala’s new adoption law.

We do not know when the Government of Guatemala will be prepared to process cases under the new system set forth in the new Guatemalan adoption law that went into force on December 31, 2007. The Government of Guatemala is now working to put into place the infrastructure necessary to implement the provisions and obligations of the new law. We understand that a Central Authority may be in place very soon and is expected to quickly ratify and publicize the registration procedure required for adoptions initiated prior to the law’s effective date. But the full process must be in place and functioning before an adoption can be completed under the new law. There is no process in place at this time.

In addition, the new Guatemalan law appears to prohibit new adoption cases with non-Hague countries. Article 39 states that "in international adoptions, the persons who wish to adopt a child must initiate the process through the Central Authority of their country of residence, which will forward the request and appropriate certifications to the Guatemalan Central Authority." Since the U.S. Central Authority will not begin processing Hague adoptions until April 1, the new Guatemalan law does not appear to contemplate U.S. adoptions until after April 1.

Finally, we cannot guarantee that adoptions will continue between the United States and Guatemala after April 1, 2008, when the Convention goes into force for the United States. The Convention prohibits all members from processing adoptions from member countries that do not have Hague compliant adoption processes. As a consequence, the United States and other Hague Convention countries will have to determine whether the new process in Guatemala meets Convention requirements. If a fully Hague compliant process is not in place in Guatemala by April 1, 2008, the United States government will not be able to process new cases with Guatemala. While we will assist the Guatemalan government as much as possible to ensure that the new processes are sufficient, we cannot at this time predict whether or when we will be able to process adoptions from Guatemala after the Convention goes into force in the United States.

With regard to currently pending adoptions (those initiated in Guatemala before 12/31/2007), the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala remains committed to processing adoptions according to previous rules. The Embassy is working closely with the government of Guatemala to help complete those cases as soon as possible.


Posted by Kevin at 01:42 PM

January 12, 2008

Central Authority/NCA Sworn In

The BOD of the new National Council on Adoptions (aka the Central Authority) were sworn in last night. We are hearing that next week, the registration process will be annnouced and possibly begin. In the newspaper story below, they are acknowledging the need to get this done for in process cases.

http://www.elperiodico.com.gt/es/20080112/pais/47432/

Here is a translation of the story.

Members of the National Council for Adoptions Sworn In

This body should recognize 2 thousand records.

By: Oscar F. Herrera

Last night was sworn in the National Council for Adoptions (CNA), the central authority for adoptions in the country, which seek to provide transparency and streamline the way administrative records and then move it to a judge to issue the final decision and the statement of adoptability of minors. "It's very important to give credibility to the process and comply with the noble purpose of adoption, as well as help prevent the lucrativeness with it," relates the representative of the Foreign Ministry, Anabella Morfín.

In addition to the staff member, the Council is composed of a representative of the Supreme Court, Nery Soto Ovalle, as owner, and Hilda Morales Trujillo as an alternate. The Social Welfare Department of the Presidency will be represented by Mynor Rabanales and Byron Alvarado, owner and alternate. Morfín indicated that lawyers will have no involvement in the processes of adoption, which is dictated by the law of the trade, with the exception that an adult is taken or that, in any case, the lawyer is the person of the adoptive family .

Already 2 thousand cases that await in the desks of the Council, to say that De Soto Ovalle, still does not have its own headquarters and at the moment will run in the 8th. Avenue and 13 Street in Zone 1, in the former facilities of Casa Alianza.

"We ought to be working because we have 30 days to expedite the files ahead and we ran 15 days. Other files are 800 to complete the Procurator-General's Office with the previous mode, "said the official.

The high commissioner of the Organization of the United Nations in Guatemala, Anders Kompass, welcomed the formation of the ANC therefore ensures that is a step they expected for several years.


Posted by Kevin at 02:04 PM

January 09, 2008

Central Authority Announced!

Today, PGN published information about the new Central Authority.

It is located at
32nd street
9-34 zone 11
Colonia Las Charcas, Guatemala City.

This is one of SOSEP's branches. We do not yet have details on the registration process, but we will post when we do.

Posted by Kelly at 01:09 PM

January 02, 2008

POAs still being signed?

It appears that there are families that are JUST NOW signing POAs for new adoption cases *OR* they signed their POA within the last few weeks of 2007. Cases that were not REGISTERED in Guatemala by Dec. 31st DO NOT fall under the old adoption process. Without getting caught up in legal technicalities, I would question whether attorneys (not to mention the agencies) have the authority to make a referral at this point (as the child could be referred to another family under the new system). The idea raises a number of red flags....and certainly, I believe that a number of these cases are scams.

To be fair, there are legitimate circumstances where this may occur and I do not want to rule them out. However, we would appreciate it if those who have VERY recently signed a POA, voluntarily fill out a ProblemCase form

All information is confidential but will flag us to agencies/agencies who are still giving referrals as well as legitimate situations.

Some Clarifications:

The POAs must be registered prior to Dec. 31st in order to be CONSIDERED "in process". Those cases must then be registered with the new Central Authority before Jan 30th to be officially grandfathered.

If you have a late referral, you might want to check that it was REALLY registered (don't just take your agency's word for it). Do this BEFORE you pay half or all the attorney fees. In addition, if something strange disrupts the case...you might make the extra effort to check and make sure you actually HAD a case (getting a third party to check whether it was really registered).

Posted by Kelly at 02:27 PM

December 14, 2007

Update on 'In Process" designation

Guatadopt has been told that a meeting between PGN, the Guatemalan Supreme Court, Bienestar, Foreign Affairs, Unicef, and the US Embassy is taking place today in hopes of officially clarifying what "in process" will be defined as. If we learn about anything, we'll post it.

The ADA has a new update on their website on the same topic: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/.

Here is the DOS statement about the law passing: http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_3903.html

Please read on for some other statements from US Consul General John Lowell...

The ADA's post has some great commentary. But it does appear as though there has been some confusion about the US DOS's position on in-process following prior JCICS statements that may have been misconstrued.

Guatadopt has personally been assured by the DOS that their position is and always has been to have in-process defined as early in the process as possible. This does not seem to be something that anyone is fighting. So my message to you is that anyone not yet in PGN should not be freaking out. Exactly what that will mean we shall see. But I am guessing that having a registered POA may end up being the cut off.

Here is what John Lowell told me about the DOS position:

Our argument has always been that the Guatemalan government should define the earliest possible point in the adoption procedure as the starting point for an 'in-process' case, and I have made that argument regualrly and with anybody I can think of who might be involved in that decision. PGN tells me there is a legal basis for that early point and that is exactly what we are recommending. We were, at one point, worried that the decision might be made only to protect cases that had already entered PGN, but I am relieved that there now seems to be legal precedent for a much earlier point.

On Tuesday,, when the law was passed I e-mailed John Lowell about its passage with the subject lie of "Congrats". Here is what I wrote: "Well, looks like the law was passed. Congrats are half sarcasm, half sincerity. This law scares me for children, though I know why it happened. And please, if there is any way we can help to help Guatemala make this thing workable and clean, let me know. I hate what the world of adoptions has come to. No matter where one lies on the issue the sad truth is that it is a shame children are caught in these types of things."

It took me a few days to get an okay to post his reply but I now have that. While I have to say that it is not my natural tendency to trust anyone in government, I think our readers will appreictae this and I do take Lowell on his word that this is where his head is, though I ma not optimistic a workable system can be achieved under this law. So here was his reply:

No, the approval of the law is something that was a long time coming (by at least one count, 18 years), and is indeed a critical step forward. That certainly doesn't mean that the problems are now all resolved, rather that the focus changes significantly. We'll be working now to secure the simplest possible registration process for "in-process" adoption cases, with the earliest possible starting point, and then to support the development of a new adoption process that works efficiently and in the interests of the children who need permanent families.

On a last note, I have to say that I do believe a system for registering cases will be worked out. I believe that all interested parties are aware of the challenges and that the fact that you do have so many groups talking to one another will make it happen (plus they know the media, Guatadopt, and PAPs will be all over it if they don't). This is not me defending this new law, which I will not do. This is not me defending any of the parties mentioned above. This is me merely saying once again that the goal of DOS,, UNICEF, Bienestar, etc has been to stop new cases from starting and to allow those started to be completed. Outside of humanitarian concerns, there is a ton money and legal precendent, possibly even under CAFTA, to consider here and it is in nobody's personal self interest to stop in-process cases.

Posted by Kevin at 01:32 PM

December 11, 2007

Ortega Passed

Today Guatemala passed a new adoption law, Decreto 77-2007. So far as I know, only one amendment of interest was added to what we have already posted about this law. It DOES allow singles, of both genders, to adopt. You can read that in the first story below.

Boston.com Story

Associated Press Report

A pro-adoption editorial that appeared in Prensa Libre today (needs translation)

I (The "I" in ths is Kevin) have to be honest that there is a side of me that is relieved. For the past four years or so I have been slowly watching this train wreck happening. The more that time went on, the more it seemed inevitable. It’s been painful to watch the ups and downs and know what the families involved are experiencing. There once was a time when we were really able to help people get their kids home, but that has become more and more difficult as the train came closer to this point.

Anger and sadness accompany this relief. Anger and sadness that it came to this. Anger and sadness at what I imagine will be another good or bad law depending on your perspective. Because ultimately no one has proven that you can have a functioning adoption system absent of corruption. And I promise to do all I can to prove myself wrong in the case of Guatemala. Anger and sadness that families are still not at peace. Anger and sadness that at this moment there are children caught in the middle of political battles, children with loving families yearning to bring them home.

Okay, for those who just want the info… The law goes into effect Dec. 31, 2007. As was predicted, this law does not specify what defines in process or how to register with the Central Authority. The organizations that make it up apparently have two weeks to appoint their members to lead it and 60 days to get it up and running. Yes, that paints a scary picture when cases must be registered by Jan 30, 2008. All I can say is that you will have to once again wait and see. The process of registering a case should be easy technically. But someone has to make it happen. Though I don’t see how this says that they can’t start figuring this out before the people are appointed. Obviously, we all hope that sanity prevails. That’s all I can tell you about other then that singles are apparently allowed to adopt under the new law.

Those of you in-process, please do expect some bumps in the road. I am very confident that you will get your kids home. But there is likely to be confusion and hassles. So please just be prepared for it.

A message that you will inevitably be bombarded with from me as long as you read this site is the fact that we must not turn our backs on the children of Guatemala. While I too have anger, it is not the fault of the children. We must continue to do all we can to help them. I’ll give you an example. In our Do Good feeding program, there are hogars being aided whose philosophies and ideologies I do not agree with. But they feed children in need. It would be wrong to not support those kids even if I don’t agree with the hogar.

This law does not to my knowledge offer a funding stream to provide care for children. It does not provide pre or post natal care. I could go on and on. That will leave a vacuum to no fault of the victims. Hopefully all the people who pushed Guatemala into this law will step up to the plate and offer their aid. But we can too.

It is a rough day and after being stuck at an airport in a snowstorm all day, I’m not really able to digest this all. Is this an end to Guatemalan adoption? The institution is far more to me than how my wife and I grew our family. It has become a strong piece of who I am. It’s hard to imagine that becoming a thing of the past. What will I talk about at cocktail parties? (joke)

There will likely be constitutional challenges to this law. We’ll of course update as we learn more.

One last thought… Or plea… To all of those in power in both the US and Guatemala, please realize the battle is over and clear up the cases that have been caught in the middle of the political mess. If the adoptions were illegal, then end them and prosecute the guilty parties. If there is no evidence that they are illegal, don’t victimize the children. They need to go home!

PEACE!

Posted by Kelly at 03:16 PM

December 10, 2007

Vote Scheduled for Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Tuesday Dec. 11, 2007, may be a historic one in the history of adoptions from Guatemala. In a scheduled special session of Congress, the plan is to pass the latest and greatest version of the Ortega Law. If this happens, only the future shall tell whether the day will prove to be one that protects children or merely, as Robert Heinlein would put it, "the day they hung the lawyers." Many questions remain and so I'll attempt to answer them.

My Ortega Vote FAQs
Will the law be approved?
Congress is technically done for the year. Of particular importance is the fact that many members of this congress are ending their tenure as legislators. Come January, they will not be in congress. A requisite number of attending votes, or a quorum, is necessary for a law to be approved. So the question remains if enough members of Congress will attend a special session to reach the quorum requirement. Then of course they must vote in favor of the law.

What about amendments?
The Guatemalan legislative process calls for three readings of a bill. If approved three times, it then goes on for a process of amendments. It is not known at this time what amendments to the bill will be offered or by whom. The Guatemalan press has reported the possibility that the amendment phase may be the controversial one. Among the possibilities for amendments is an implementation date after Jan. 1, 2008.

The bill as it stands has had two readings.

Grandfathering?
The bill contains a grandfathering clause which requires all adoptions started prior to its implementation to be registered with the Central Authority within 30 days. It does not give any other specifics defining “in process” or anything else.

The Central Authority would be a new governmental office. Some fear that there is no way that this office will be functioning in 30 days, thus how will cases be registered. Although from a pure data perspective, it would not be a huge challenge to manage registration.

What about the US?

Guatadopt has received assurances that the US will continue to process adoptions in accordance with whatever Guatemalan law is, at least until the US implements the Hague in April.

When will we know?
Guatadopt will do its best to inform you of whatever we find out as fast as humanly possible. Do not expect answers to question that for example specify how a case will be registered for some time. Those questions will not be answered by Congress.

Posted by Kevin at 10:31 PM

December 07, 2007

Updates

We received notice that the UK has suspended new adoptions from Guatemala. Information on that can be found here: http://www.dfes.gov.uk/intercountryadoption/#061207. I suspect that it is to wait out the New Adoption Law which will be voted on Dec. 11th in a special session (assuming that there are enough congressmen to vote).

JCICS has also posted another anouncement: http://jcics.org/Guatemala.htm calling for clarification on the process.

In other news....CALENDARS ARE SHIPPING EITHER TODAY OR MONDAY on schedule. The printer is packaging them today. UPS is pretty good about fast delivery (even ground) so once they are out the door, you should have them in 3 to 4 days.

Posted by Kelly at 09:41 AM

December 02, 2007

ADA Analysis of New Law Proposal

The ADA has posted an analysis and some commentary on it's website about the "updated" Ortega Law. It can be found here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/. Or I have posted it below and you can read it by clicking "more".

From the ADA:

BILL 3735 - THE ORTEGA LAW REVAMPED

In view of the many amendments done to Bill 3217, the anti adoption forces came up with the idea of passing another bill, to include the suggestions of The Hague Permanent Bureau and the US DOS, reinforced by the threats of the US Embassy to cancel the US visas of those congressmen who did not vote for it.

The result is a much more restrictive law, with the same problems that Bill 3217 has, and it also has the same constitutional violations that make it vulnerable to challenges, that most certainly, ADA and other pro adoption organizations will file. The Guatemalan Constitution protects the rights of the parents to decide who can adopt their child, which is denied by Bill 3735. It also protects the notarial process, which has been eliminated, for no other reason than because it works well and allows children to be adopted.

Until now, in Guatemala only the adoption lawyers and the hogar directors care for the needy children, giving them a home to be cared for while they wait until their adoption are finalized and their adoptive families come to take them to their permanent homes. For the Guatemalan government, those children don't even exist. They deny their existence by claiming that they are being bred to satisfy the demand of children by Americans who want a child because they cannot have their own. The evil rumor that children are adopted to be used for organ transplant is also in Bill 3735, where it sates that there is a prohibition for the adoptive parents to use the organs of the children for illegal purposes.

The government refuses to take responsibility for the lack of social services for the children who are not wanted or whose families cannot support them. Nobody and nothing stopped ever Bienestar Social to open orphanages to care for those children and to do adoptions free of cost, more efficiently and faster than the lawyers. But in order to do so, they would have had to spend money and put in a lot of work, and they were not willing to do so. Why bother, if the lawyers were already doing it? Regarding the orphanages, it is a little known fact that the State of Guatemala does not support orphanages and does not intend to do so. If adoptions become no longer possible, the children will not languish in state orphanages. They will either be left abandoned in public places, where they will most likely die or will be rescued by whoever finds them, to be used as they want, or will be aborted or killed by their own relatives. That is what we are trying to avoid. Because we know that the government is totally reluctant to support the children and that neither UNICEF, nor Casa Alianza, and the other so-called human rights activists, are willing to undertake the burden of housing, feeding and educating them, much less to work in finding loving permanent families for the children.

Bill 3735 does have a grandfather clause, but the catch is that it states that the adoptions already started must be recorded with the Central Authority within 30 days after the law takes effect, which according to Bill 2735 sill be on December 31st. 2007. The Central Authority would take some months to be duly organized. A private entity would do it in a month, but the wheels of the public administration turn very slowly, so it is expected that it would take them a lot more to find a building and get the furniture, equipment and staff to start working properly. By the time the Central Authority opens its doors, the thirty days given to record the in process adoptions, will be a distant memory. It is necessary that the law takes effect, as stated in the more reasonable Bill 3635, in two parts: one date for the organization of the Central Authority and another date for the actual effect of the law.

Bill 3735 states that the domestic adoptions are free of charge, but the Central Authority would charge for international adoptions. After all the criticism that the lawyers have received for doing the same, it seems that it is not so bad to charge the foreigners after all. The proceeds will finance the Central Authority, which is right, but also will provide funds to support the courts of the childhood and adolescence and the family courts, which is not right because they are supported by the Judiciary, which has its own means of support. There is no allocation of funds to support the children while they are being adopted. The Central Authority would oversee that the private orphanages comply with every disposition they choose to mandate, without giving them any financial assistance or allowing them to charge for the care of the children. The logic consequence of such dispositions is that the private orphanages will close their doors and the children will be deprived of the good care that they receive there. The foster homes and foster mothers are not even mentioned in such proposal, thus eliminating one of the best features of the Guatemalan adoptions.

Guatemala has the opportunity to pass a law that at the same time that complies with The Hague Convention, establishes a system that allows the children to be adopted safely, protecting their rights as well as those of the birth parents an their adoptive parents.. It is a pity that the pressure being used to stop adoptions, is making the Guatemalan Congress to waste that opportunity, by giving in to the threats of US visas being cancelled. We expect everything from UNICEF and Casa Alianza. All along -hey have proved over and over that there is nothing beneath them. But we certainly expected a fair treatment from the United States. After all, we have been their allies all the time and if they can allow adoptions from Russia and China, who have been their enemies for a long time, it is not too much to ask that they allow our children to have a better lives in their country. Bill 3735 does not allow adoptions, and its grandfather clause would not work, unless the Central Authority is in place and ready to efficiently register the adoptions in process, by the time the thirty days that the law establishes, start running. As it is stated in the proposal, there would not be a way to register the process within the month after the law becomes effective.

All the countries who are bound by The Hague Convention should admit that it has not improved the conditions of the lives of the needy children of their countries. It is undeniable that the results of the Hague Convention are more negative than positive, and therefore, that the convention should be eliminated, because no matter what abuses it may eliminate, it is not worth it if the cost of doing so is to deprive the children who need families, of a way to get them. The right to be raised by a family should be above any international treaty, especially one like the Hague Convention, whose implementation has affected negatively the lives of many children in those sending countries whose children have to live and die without the love of a family.

In order to pass Bill 3735, Congress needs 105 votes, because that is the amount of votes needed to approve the creation of the Central Authority, which is an autonomous entity. In normal circumstances it is difficult to get that amount of votes. Now that the normal term of session is over and that 90 of the Congressmen were not reelected, it is more unlikely that they will attend the extraordinary sessions scheduled for the first two weeks of December.

If the law is not approved, we still have to deal with the Hague Convention. According to the Hague Convention itself, the way to become bound by such treaty is through ratification or accession. Since Guatemala never signed the Hague Convention it cannot be ratified, only acceded. The Constitutional Court already ruled that the President of Gautmala does not have the power to accede any treaty, but that small detail did not stop the Congress from approving again the same convention. The problem is how to actually become bound by the Hague Convention on Intercountry adoptions. Those who want it to be effective on December 31st, have stated that the former accession, the same that was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in 2003, can be resuscitated and therefore, there is no need to send an instrument of accession and to wait three months as the convention states.

The US DOS in its website supports this travesty by saying: The Guatemalan Government has said it will assume its obligations as a Hague Convention member on December 31, 2007, a decision we support, because Guatemala's children -- indeed all parties to an international adoption -- deserve the protections afforded by the Convention as soon as possible.

The statement of the US DOS does not make sense at all, because the Hague Convention does not apply when one of the countries is not a Hague Country, as it is the case of the United States. Therefore, why is the rush in making Guatemala to become bound by the Hague when it is not yet prepared to implement it and that it will not be applied to the ninety eight percent of the Guatemalan adoptions? The warnings against starting new adoptions at the same time that a second DNA is required, do not make sense either. Adoption laws in Guatemala remain the same and if Congress stops being pressured into passing a bad law, a proper grandfather clause will be included in any adoption law that is approved. Any case started before the adoption law changes, will be grandfathered, it is irrelevant if the case started fourteen months before or the day before. To discourage people from adopting children of Guatemala, does not benefit the children and does not help the parents who want to adopt. To add a second DNA is to insure that the child adopted is the same child that was relinquished. The allegations that the Guatemalan system is unregulated are proven wrong by the description of the process posted by the Joint Council for International Children's Services at
http://www.jcics.org/CIS%20Guat_Adop_Chart.pdf and by the US DOS, at http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_389.html Contrary to what has been said by the yellow press, the process of adoption is regulated, has state supervision and the US embassy plays an important role in making sure that the adoptions to the US are above board. But it is cheap to talk and organizations like Casa Alianza, who has no accomplishments to speak of, promotes its image by maligning a process that proves beyond any doubt that the children who are adopted were actually relinquished by their mothers and that the requirements established by the Guatemalan law and by the US embassy, were met.

The Hague Convention does not come into effect for Guatemala on December 31st. 2007, because it is just the date when the approval by Congress becomes effective. The date when the instrument of accession is received by the Secretary of The Hague Conference will set the starting point when the three months that the convention states, begin to run. To reinforce the wrong belief that the Hague Convention becomes effective at the end of the year, President Berger appointed as Central Authority the Secretaria de Bienestar Social de la Presidencia. It is interesting to point out, that he has no legislative powers to do so, which makes such appointment null and void.

In order to limit the number of children being adopted by American families, the US embassy reduced the number of initial documents being submitted by each lawyer, to only one a day, from Monday to Thursday. In order to submit a case, the lawyer or his/her employee, has to stand in line since five in the afternoon of the day before, spend the night on the sidewalk of the embassy and be there the next morning, when only forty numbers are given. Out of the forty cases presented, very few are admitted. The others are rejected for whatever reason the person at the window can come up with. The pictures of mother and child are a fertile ground for rejections. The background is not white enough, the ears are not showing, the picture was not taken at a studio, but with a digital camera, the child does not have the eyes open enough, etc. The list is endless. It seems to be a superior order to reject as many applications as possible, which is totally against the best interest of the children who need permanent and loving families.

We trust that the Bill 3735 will not pass and that reason will prevail, allowing Guatemala to pass a law that will implement the Hague Convention not to stop adoptions as it has been done everywhere, but to improve the current system and to allow that more children find a family who loves them. A whole new system, that places adoptions in the hands of the bureaucrats without any regard for the care of the children, in terms of financing their stay in foster homes and in private orphanages is a recipe for disaster.

Posted by Kevin at 11:19 AM

November 21, 2007

Adoption Act Still Pending!?!

Prensa Libre is reporting a delay in the "Adoption Act". You can read the article in Spanish HERE

The Law has more than 60 ammendments and Congress has determined that it is too important that all these ammendments are read and discussed. Ruben Dario Morales, president of the Congress, said that its possible that a new initiative might be the answer. The article did not discuss all the ammendments but did mention that they included:
1 - Establishing the National Council for Adoptions, as the body responsible or these processes. It could be composed of the Attorney General's Office, the Social Welfare Department and the Supreme Court.
2 - Include an article to protect the transitional adoption cases that are pending when the law come into force. (Grandfathering).

Status from our perspective:

As Kevin mentioned in the comments, "Grandfathering" is not a promise that cases are processed exactly as they have in the past. But knowing what *could have been*, this is still hopeful for those currently in process. If they opted not to do this, then all referrals would be removed and processed through the new system from scratch (ie: losing referrals and disruption of the child's current living conditions). That is not to say that birthmother interviews will be conducted compassionately or without harrassment. But under the circumstances, PGN has already stalled cases and have thrown many cases into investigation on a whim.

AGENCIES: If you consider yourself a good, ethical agency, you need to take more time to:
1 - Explain the status to your clients/give weekly updates even if there is no movement on their case
2 - Stop promising unrealistic dates or even hinting at them.
3 - Request proof of every step from your attorneys and PROVIDE it to your clients.
4 - GET MEDICALS, NEW UPDATES AND PHOTOS
5 - Fly down to Guatemala if the stories you are getting seem a little strange.
6 - VERIFY ALL INFORMATION to the best of your ability

PARENTS:
If you think that your case qualifies as a problem case:
1 - Keep all correspondence. If you need to use the phone, consider recording the conversation and notify them that you are recording it.
2 - Create a spreadsheet with your date on one side and the "update" on the other. Organizing the information this way tends to help you uncover problems.
3 - Demand monthly - 6 week updates with photos. There is no excuse for your agency or attorney refusing to provide them if your case is still viable.
4 - If you get any documentation that looks odd like blacked out numbers, different name than your child, different birth dates, etc.....then, its possible that you have a bad case and need help.
5 - Don't be afraid of your agency. They can threaten you, but you have the power to prove illegal activities (when the occur) and put them out of business.
6 - BE PATIENT. If everything jives and its just delays....don't make it a habit to blow up at your agency. Use your friends and the forums to blow off steam.

PROBLEM CASES:
The number of parents contacting Guatadopt about problem cases has increased exponentially and some of the expectations are beyond what we can do. Some of these cases just involve wondering if a timeline is normal or asking about a particular process. So, let me just remind parents that while we are here to help advise or even just an ear to hear you....we are not attorneys and we are not privy to your cases. We cannot reverse rulings or NOIDS and we cannot make your case go faster. We can only give our opinions or suggest some additional actions that you can take. This week, I will be working on a new form to help us manage all the requests. Hopefully it will be up by Friday. If you have not received an answer from a recent email, we apologize.....please take the time to email us again.

Most importantly, I hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving and a day of peace.

Posted by Kelly at 06:47 AM

November 16, 2007

US Hague Date Set

Guatadopt has heard report s that President Bush today signed the Instrument of Deposit for the Hague Convention and the document will be deposited at The Hague on 12/12/07. The Convention will then go into effect for the United States on 4/1/08. However, I can't find it on the press relase for National Adoption Day or the White House website.

Coincidentally, in a conversation today with a member of the State Department, I was told that April 1 was the expected date. So I imagine the reports are true.

This means nothing for in-process cases.

Posted by Kevin at 05:19 PM

June 13, 2007

Earthquake, New DOS Notice and UN

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the pacific coast Guatemala today. We do not have any infop on the amount of damage, only that the epicenter was not near any major metropolitan areas like Guatemala City or Antigua. As we learn more, we will post it.

Also, the DOS issued yet another ominous warning today. It is posted below or you can click here.

Lastly, the United Nations called for Guatemala to suspend adoptions. Don't freak out, it doesn't mean anything. The DOS statement may be a reaction this. Mainly, we're posting it for everyone to get an idea of the political landscape right now. You can read a story on this here.

Guatemala Status of Intercountry Adoptions and the Hague Convention
June 13, 2007

The U.S. Department of State continues to caution American prospective adoptive parents contemplating adopting children from Guatemala that the U.S. Government cannot recommend adoption from Guatemala at this time because of the ongoing problems in Guatemala’s intercountry adoption process. Although U.S. consular officers currently continue to process adoption immigrant visa cases, each case is now subject to greater scrutiny than in the past and the process may be slower as a result.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) office in Guatemala is taking up to 60 days to review initial documents and up to four business days to review final adoption documents. Please see their notice to the public. The consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala will generally issue appointment letters the day after USCIS completes its review of the final adoption documents.

The U.S. Government’s ongoing concern with the adoption process in Guatemala results from the lack of government oversight necessary to protect children and families. The USCIS field office in Guatemala has denied orphan petitions due to unlawful practices in Guatemala. These include cases where an imposter purports to be the biological mother of the child and where the biological parent(s) have been deceived and there has been no true relinquishment of parental rights. Several adoption service providers are under investigation in the United States. The Department of State is aware that criminal charges have been brought against adoption facilitator Mary Bonn and the adoption agencies, Reaching Arms International and Waiting Angels.

Activity of this nature violates U.S. law and is also counter to the principles of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption which the United States intends to join this year. The Department of State applauds the May 22, 2007 act of the Congress of Guatemala in passing legislation approving the Hague Adoption Convention. The bill clarifies the legal status of the Convention within Guatemala, which had been questioned previously in Guatemalan courts.

This confirmation of Guatemala's commitment to the Convention and to protect children in the adoption process is an important step. However, Guatemala has much to do before its adoption process is fully consistent with the Convention. On March 1, 2007, the Vice President of Guatemala announced a “Manual of Good Practices” based on existing law and regulation concerning child welfare and adoption. The U.S. Government encourages the Government of Guatemala to continue such efforts to improve adoption processing and specifically put in place measures needed to implement the Hague Convention.

Upon the request of the Guatemalan Government, the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (Hague Permanent Bureau) and several Hague Adoption Convention countries, including the United States, are engaged in a cooperative effort to provide Guatemala with technical assistance on the Convention. The Hague Permanent Bureau has invited the United States to participate in this effort and the U.S. Government has accepted. The U.S. Government supports this multilateral process and its goal of working with the Government of Guatemala and its Congress to meet its obligations under the Hague Convention.

When the Convention enters into force for the United States in early 2008, the U.S. Government will not be able to approve adoptions from Guatemala if Guatemala’s adoption process does not provide the protections for children and families required by the Convention.

For a description of some of the steps that Guatemala must take in order to meet its obligations under the Convention, please see “U.S. Law, the Hague Adoption Convention, and Guatemala,” dated May 16, 2007.

The Department of State also encourages interested persons to read in detail the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

The Department will update our website travel.state.gov as new information becomes available. Our e-mail address is: AskCI@State.gov.

Posted by Kevin at 06:14 PM

May 22, 2007

Hague Passed in Guatemala

In a special session of Congress today, the Hague Convention was passed. New articles of accension must be deposited with the Hague and it will take effect three months after that. The treaty is scheduled to go into effect Dec. 31, 2007.

What this means is that Guatemala MUST pass Hague compliant legislation. In reality, this means little more than reaffirming the US's position that Guatemala is in the Hague and setting a domestic deadline for Guatemala to pass and implement new legislation.

This is no reason for concern for in-process families.

Posted by Kevin at 05:11 PM

May 16, 2007

No Hague

The Guatemalan Congress did NOT pass the Hague on the third reading yesterday nor did any new adoption law get passed. What does this mean? Not much to those of you in process. In reality, Guatemala is already considered part of the Hague by the international community. Re-affirming it was more ceremonial and of domestic interest. The future still hangs in limbo because if Guatemala does not pass Hague compliant legislation the US will stop issuing visas once we ratify the Hague. BUT, a reminder that the US has clearly stated that as long as you have an I600A in before the US ratifies, you will be allowed to adopt from Guatemala. Of couse, the US DOS FAQ should be taken seriously and no one is claiming it will be an easy, smooth process.

Here's a story from the NY Times.

The DOs has issued a statement of sorts on this. you can read it here: Download file


The roller coaster ride continues...

Posted by Kevin at 08:14 AM

May 10, 2007

1st Reading - Hague

The following article appeared in yesterday's (5/9/07) Prensa Libre:
http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2007/mayo/09/170339.html
Below is a brief translation. Marie, Guatadopt

Requirements in Adoptions
The Hague Convention over adoptions passed yesterday in its first
reading in the Congress. The treaty will put Guatemala to date with the
requirements to allow children to be adopted, and put a stop to the
illegal selling of babies.

For the Convenio to become a law, two other readings need to be done,
these are scheduled for later today and on Tuesday, before the
termination of the regular sessions period.

"With the ratification of this convenio we are going to leave behind
being first place in the world where adoptions of children are illegal",
explained Zury Rios, president of the Commission of Exterior Relations.

Posted by Kelly at 08:59 AM

May 03, 2007

Ortega Postponed

This announcement appeared in today's papers:http://www.sigloxxi.com/index.php?link=noticias¬iciaid=11004.
Below is my translation of the said article. It is explaining the mechanism now in place to avoid forged documents, corruption and child trafficking. We cannot at this time answer your questions. Please be patient as we get more verified info from our sources in GT and discuss what is next.

Thank you for understanding. The Guatdopt Team

NEW REGULATIONS of ADOPTIONS

Manual of Good Practices Normalizes Process of Notaries in Adoptions

As of yesterday, notaries agreed to carry out the process of adoptions with completing the 42 requisites that the new manual which regulates the procedure of this type includes.

To the effect that PGN elaborated a formula, called, "Adoption Registrar", in which detailed information considered necessary information to initiate an adoption.

A new telephone number (#1546) has been established and issued to the notaries/lawyers who can find out the status of the adoption petetion.

WELL IDENTIFIED:

For the first time, it is required 3 photos of the said to be adopted child. "It is a security mechanism." Before PGN was the only one handling the documentation. Now we will have images of the child who is being relinquished.", said Mario Gordillo, Titular from PGN.

ONLY EXCEPTION:

Though now at this time the Law of Adoption has not been yet approved, the only valid procedure to date is contained inthe Manual of Good Practices.

***"As of now, ALL cases in-progress before May 2, 2007 will proceed in the process."

DESTINED TO THE US:
Statistics-
Total number of adoption cases for 2006-2007=5,024
Total number of that went to the US 2006-07 =4,757

Also, ADA has posted an update on what happened yesterday and what actions the ADA is focusing on:
http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/

{posted on behalf of Marie, Guatdopt.com}

Posted by Kelly at 08:46 AM

March 13, 2007

White House Release on Guatemala Visit

From the White House Release...
"We also talked about adoption. I don't know if my fellow citizens understand this, but there are a lot of U.S. families who adopt babies from Guatemala, thousands of babies. This year it is very important for the United States and Guatemala to implement the Hague Convention on adoptions to help protect children and families during the adoption process. We found common ground on that issue. And I appreciate your strong stand, Mr. President, and I assured the President we would follow through, ourselves. "

READ ENTIRE SPEECH

Posted by Kelly at 05:43 AM

March 07, 2007

ADA Meeting March 6th

ADA has posted about their meeting yesterday on: http://www.adaguatemala.org

Also, there is an article about aid proposed to Latin America (just days before President Bush travels). CLICK HERE to read it.

Posted by Kelly at 06:53 AM

March 05, 2007

Open Letter to President Bush

This coming Thursday, President Bush will be traveling to Guatemala. The Media has speculated that international adoptions will be on the agenda. We are sharing our open letter with our readers. You are welcome to add a comment as long as it is adoption related, not partisan and respectful!

Dear President Bush,

Guatadopt.com is a popular website providing information, news and support for families adopting from Guatemala. The site is run by volunteer-adoptive parents, with no financial stake in Guatemalan adoptions. Instead we are merely people who work hard to give a little back to an institution we hold very dear to our hearts.

Undoubtedly, the issue of adoptions will be discussed between yourself and Guatemala’s President Berger. While we are sure that you are receiving input from adoption advocacy groups and adoption service provider organizations, we believe that Guatadopt has a perspective worthy of consideration. We have a very strong connection to Guatemala through our children and therefore, we are deeply concerned for the future of the children affected.

There are undoubtedly problems with Guatemala’s current adoption system that can theoretically be resolved through Hague compliant legislation. However, hasty implementation of the Hague has not historically proven to be in the best interests of children. One need only to look at the result of Hague implementation in countries like Romania, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica to see that the Hague has traditionally led to the end of intercountry adoptions, not a more transparent system. Children in these countries were left with very few options and little hope of a permanent family. If Guatemala, a country with extreme poverty second only to Haiti in the Americas, follows this same course the impact on children will be horrendous.

Guatemala is a sovereign nation and retains the full right to determine its own course of legislative agenda, we would never wish to question that. However, we understand the importance of open dialogue between our two countries.

We respectfully request that members of your administration contact Guatadopt as a resource in understanding the cultural, political, social, and humanitarian aspects of Guatemalan adoption. Members of the DOS and CIS in Guatemala are familiar with us and should be able to verify our history of advocating ethical practices in adoption.

We encourage you to focus adoption discussions on the enforcement of ethical practices and accountability from all parties (US and Guatemalan alike). We hope that proposed legislation will continue to enable the placement of children in a loving home first and foremost. In addition, we hope that discussions will address the need for social programs for the poor of Guatemala.

We also request that you work with the Guatemalan authorities to ensure that the families who have entered into good faith agreements under a legal system be permitted to complete their adoptions regardless of what the future holds for Guatemalan adoptions. The fact is that there are thousands of families and children currently in the midst of the adoption process. It would be nothing short of wrong to deny those children, who have already been relinquished by their biological families, the opportunity to reach permanency in a loving family. If their adoptions are disrupted, these children will most certainly be destined to a life in under-funded, unsafe institutions. No good can come from that.

We have posted this letter to you on our site and have allowed other families to add comments for your consideration. Those can be found at http://www.guatadopt.com

We thank you in advance for your consideration,

The Guatadopt Team

Posted by Kelly at 05:49 PM

March 02, 2007

ADA Update

The ADA has added a new statement to their website. You can read it by clicking here.

Posted by Kevin at 07:47 AM

February 22, 2007

Constitutional Court Decision

The Constitutional Court of Guatemala made a decision yesterday that apparently overturned its 2003 decision that deemed the Hague accession unconstitutional. The decision seems to say that the President have the authority to sign onto such treaties.

I do not believe there is reason for panic on this because I do not see what impact it would have. Whether or not Guatemala considers itself part of the Hague, we have known for some time that the US does and that without Hague compliant legislation, the US will stop issuing visas in the future. My opinion is that what this ruling means (and I do not know if it can or will be challenged) is that the legislature of Guatemala does need to pass new legislation internally. The million dollar question remains: can they pass Hague compliant legislation that keeps a functioning system and does not remove the chance for children to have permanency in a loving, family environment via intercountry adoption.

Posted by Kevin at 10:03 AM

February 16, 2007

Statement by ADA - on Protocol of Good Practices

{Posted on behalf of Susana Luarca, ADA}
ADA had a meeting yesterday to discuss the legal actions that we can take if the Protocol of Good Practices comes into effect. We all agreed that we will not remain powerless, while the PGN suspends adoptions and Bienestar Social (Social Welfare) decides who can adopt and who can be adopted. Different legal actions were discussed and an strategy was developed. We are more determined than ever, to shield the children from the evil agenda of UNICEF, who is using the Guatemalan officers to achieve its ends.

This morning, a little before the presentation of the Protocol was going to start, a sign was posted at the door of the National Palace of Culture, informing that the ceremony had been postponed. Later, we learned that even today, they were planning to go ahead with the presentation. The caterers and the florists were there. Nice folders to hold the written material were made for the occasion. Everything, including the folders, were being given away, which could mean that they will not need them again, because they have given up their plans to illegally legislate about adoptions.

Us, at ADA are fully convinced that the adoptive parents and the adoption agencies are entitled to know whatever happens in Guatemala that could affect adoptions. For doing so, we have been falsely accused of making up rumors, in order to extort money from the families. We do not charge for our work of keeping adoptions open. We do it because we are convinced that it is the best for those children, and nobody else will stop them. If there is a family who has been asked to pitch in to help our work, we apologize for that and unauthorize those requests. More than money, what we need is your trust and your confidence that we will not let down , nor the children, nor the families.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Susana Luarca, ADA.

Posted by Kelly at 08:24 PM

February 13, 2007

Protocol of Good Practices Back Again?

{see updates below - Protocolo Annoucement Postponed}
February 8th, an article appeared in the Prensa Libre about the Protocol of Good Practices. It claimed that the Protocol will be presented this Friday, Feb. 16.

Unlike the other times it has come up, this time it is Guatemalan VP Eduardo Stein formally announcing it. Oddly enough, on Saturday or Sunday the paper made it so that the story no longer comes up when one does a basics search on the term "adopciones" on the Presan Libre site.. We held off mention because we were not sure what that meant. However, the original link is still good and our sources have verified that it is still planned.

Here is the link: Trabajan en código para adopciones

Parents in process should NOT panic. While the situation is serious, DOS, JCICS and others are well aware of the situation. All parties are focused on making sure that current cases will not be affected.

We also wish to point out that this was printed and published before authorities in Guatemala were aware of the Mary Bonn case, so it would be a mistake to tie the two together.

{Added....2/13 ADA has published a statement regarding above...}
Statement Of ASSOCIATION DEFENDERS OF ADOPTION -ADA - regarding the intentions of President Oscar Berge to “legislate” a “Code of Good Practices”.

On January 29th, 2007, the Guatemalan newspapers Prensa Libre and Siglo Veintiuno published the interview made to the Vice President Eduardo Stein, regarding the intentions of the Executive to enact a Code of Good Practices, to toughen up the adoption process, “to avoid the commercialization of children”. While the government does not care for the welfare of the children whose parents cannot support them, it feels entitled to violate the Constitution and abuse its powers, making up rules that will only hinder an uphill road that is the only way out for those children. With the support of the Attorney General, who has claimed that “adoptions are a thorn on his side”, that “his life would be so much easier if adoptions were forbidden”, and that “he plans to keep delaying the cases for an average of at least three months” they are getting ready to implement the UNICEF proposal, same that for the last fifteen years has made its way into Congress but has failed to become a law, due to the several violations to the Constitution that it has.

The changes would be radical. The Secretary of Social Welfare, a very useless institution that is unable to run orphanages or to keep children in foster care, will be the one who would authorize the private orphanages and the children would be admitted only if a judge orders it. That would prevent private foster care and would make it very difficult for the private homes for children to take children in, unless they are sided with that Secretary. The list of obstacles is long and difficult. The result would be abandonment and abuse for those children, because nobody would finish an adoption in those terms.

Several times during the past year, Berger has tried to pass this “code” or “protocol”. He has also promised the Department of State of the United States, that he would not do anything to hinder adoptions. He even has denied the very existence of the “protocol of good practices” and his attempts to reinstate the Hague Convention, in order to make adoptions impossible.

Every time the government is questioned about its delay in performing their official duties, they argue that they “lack the staff, or the means, or the equipment to do it”. It is easy to understand that the system they plan to impose, even if it were well meant, is doomed to fail, for those very same reasons. The measure has an explanation: time is running short and the 176 million quetzals that UNICEF offered Berger in exchange of changing the adoption laws are a powerful incentive to set aside the Constitution, usurping the legislative powers of Congress and committing several felonies in the process. This is a moment when all of us who care for the children should set aside our different points of view and see only what is best for the children. Let us unite and prevent this tragedy from taking place.

ADA published in the edition of February 13, 2007, of the newspaper Prensa Libre, the following warning to President Oscar Berger:
THE ASSOCIATION DEFENDERS OF ADOPTION
To the Constitutional President of the Republic of Guatemala
LICENCIADO OSCAR BERGER PERDOMO ,
MANIFESTS:

1.That according to declaration to the media by the Vice President of the Republic, Mr. Eduardo Stein, the Executive Power is elaborating a Code of Good Practices to impose more strict controls to the processes of adoption, leaving aside the fact that those processes are duly legislated by the Civil Code and by the Decree 54-77 of the Congress of the Republic.
2.That the Executive Power elaborates a Code of Good Practices with the intention to restrict rights established by the law in effect in Guatemala, violates gravely the principle of the division of powers stated in the Political Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala and make the President to incur in several felonies, like usurping functions and abuse of authority, among others.
3.That your government has not complied with the protection that the State owes to adoption and to the orphans and abandoned children, as it is ordered by the Political Constitution of Guatemala in its articles 51 and 54, and that if it were not by the private institutions and persons who have taken care of its keeping and care, many of those children would have died of curable diseases or would have been mistreated and abused.
4.That any act or order that you authorize, that restricts or limits the children’s right to be adopted, will openly violate the Political Constitution of Guatemala, which also constitutes a felony.
5.In consequence, both you and the Vice President will be held personally responsible of the felonies committed if you try to enforce “laws” or orders dictated by the Executive Power, usurping the legislative functions of the Congress of the Republic, in clear violation of express constitutional provisions and mocking the promises made to the officers of the Department of State of the United States of America that your government would not hinder the adoption processes of Guatemalan children by citizens of that country.
6.That you have to bear in mind at all times that the officers are depositories of authority, legally responsible for its official conduct , subject to the law and never above it, according to article 154 of the Political Constitution of the Republic. Guatemala, February 13, 2007.

UPDATE by Kevin Feb 14, 2007 3:44 p.m. EST: We have confirmed that the Protocolo has been "Postponed" and will not presented Friday. DOS is apparently planning to issue a statement later today.

UPDATE by Kevin Feb. 14, 2007 4:56 p.m. EST The DOS statement just went onto the website. It contradicts information that came directly from members of DOS OCS. We are trying to find what in the world is going on! to read the statement, click here.

UPDATE 2/16: February 16, 2007- Joint Council, per their website, has reported that "the Presentation of the Protocol on Good Adoption Practices originally scheduled for today, Friday, February 16, 2007 has been postponed. The postponement has been confirmed with both the Guatemalan and U.S. governments. At this point, Joint Council has no information on when or if the Presentation will be rescheduled."
--------------------------------------

Posted by Kelly at 06:59 AM

January 31, 2007

Sorting out the rumors

{NOTE: This is more of a commentary than a news-brief}

One problem with being in our (Guatadopt 's) shoes is that we are constantly asked to speculate on what will happen to Guatemala adoptions. Will current cases be affected? Will adoptions halt? Will Guatemala implement something that will satisfy the US?

While we occassionally get "clues" to what will happen, they are fragile instruments for major decisions. I can tell you when the ground starts shaking, but I can't tell you whether it will lead to an 8.0 earthquake. So, with that in mind, lets review the "shaking".

1) The US has stated that they intend to ratify the Hague sometime in 2007. I believe that they are going to officially ratify once they feel that the agency certifications are in place and the processes are stablized. 3 months after ratification is when they plan to enforce it. (You can read more on JCICS website, here is a PDF release from December which discusses it). DOS has told JCICS and FOA that they would support a transition if Guatemala passed a Hague compliant law or implemented Hague compliant processes.
2) The US will NOT apply Hague compliant rules to orphan petitions (I600As) that were filed prior to US ratification.
3) Guatemala - Currently, there is a lot of support in Congress to pass an adoption law that will be adoption-friendly but meet the Hague requirements. Yesterday, Kevin noticed that Prensa Libre reported that the new guidelines would be voted on soon. We are looking into any factual information to see "what" is being proposed or if that was a generic statement. But there is a lot of pressure from UNICEF and anti-mass-adoption folks (meaning those who are more interested in cutting down the number of children leaving Guatemala as oppsed to finding child-friendly solutions).

As a sidenote, if you do not understand the UNICEF comments, please refer to Families WIthout Borders who spent numerous hours putting together factual information on the subject of adoption and UNICEF. Their site recently changed (to .com) and the entire URL is http://www.familieswithoutborders.com/

Posted by Kelly at 09:26 AM

December 28, 2006

GUATEMALAN ADOPTIONS AND THE HAGUE CONVENTION

{Posted on behalf of Susana Luarca, ADA}
Guatemala continues to be one of the most popular countries of origin of adopted children for American families, who adopted this year of 2006, four thousand one hundred and thirty five children. Only China placed more children (about eight thousand) with families of the United States.


The authorities of Guatemala -ill advised by UNICEF - see with growing concern the increasing number of children finding homes in the United States. During this year, the Guatemalan Congress was strongly urged by President Oscar Berger, to pass the proposal of adoptions law, known as “the Ortega Law”, which contains every possible constitutional violation one could think of. Aware of the flaws of such proposal, Congress resisted the executive pressure and told the authorities here and in the United States, that next year a new law will be passed that will follow the guidelines of the Hague Conventions, to allow adoptions to the United States to continue without any problems. That new law will also open the doors to other countries that are waiting the compliance of Guatemala to the Hague Convention, in order to allow their citizens to adopt children from our country. Among them are Canada, Australia, France and Spain..

The Guatemalan authorities are very concerned by the deportation from the United States, of thousands of illegal Guatemalans. The Minister of Foreign Relations and the Guatemalan ambassador in Washington met with the Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, to plead her to allow the Guatemalan illegal immigrants to remain in the US. Although the conversation went very well, the results did not change. Every week, more Guatemalans are sent back to our country, in some cases leaving behind their American children and for all of them, a good part of their lives. We fail to understand the position of the Guatemalan President, who begs to the US authorities to let the illegal immigrants to remain in the US, where they are breaking the laws of Labor and Immigration, and at the same time, trying to stop the adoption of Guatemalan children, who travel to the US with strict compliance to the laws of Guatemala and of the United States, with the support and the love of a permanent family, and who travel to the US for the same reason that the immigrants go there: to get a better life.

The US Department of State has stated: “The United States maintains ongoing high-level discussions with the government of Guatemala about the importance of ensuring a smooth transition to a Hague-consistent adoption process. We believe that any sudden halt to adoption processing would be problematic and hurt both the children and adoptive parents because children would be caught in the process with no system through which they could be placed internationally with a permanent family. However, prospective adoptive parents should be aware that changes in the adoption process could be instituted by Guatemala with little or no advance notice and the possibility exists that adoptions could be disrupted.”
We can assure you that the Guatemalan Congress is fully aware of the need of a smooth transition and has stated so. The same goes for the Guatemalan Attorney General, - who directs the PGN - who was quoted in a local newspaper as saying: “Adoptions will remain the same until the United States ratifies the Hague Convention”.

We have before us an enormous challenge: to make the Hague Convention actually work to defend the rights of the children to a family and to protect the rights of the birth parents and the adoptive parents, without losing the real goal, which is to give a family to the child that does not have one, instead of making it so hard that the need to protect the children’s rights becomes more important than the right of the children to a family. We are sure that we can do it. Guatemala is a poor country, where half of the children are malnourished and where the State refuses to take responsibility for the fate of the unwanted children. However, there is something that sets us apart from the rest of Third World countries: that in Guatemala we are aware that unless social conditions change, the only way out for many children is adoption, and that us, Association Defenders of Adoption (ADA) are not going to let that door to be closed. There is no plan B for the children of Guatemala.

International adoption is a complex process and as in any human endeavor, many things can happen. Although we seriously doubt that it could happen, if - as the DOS fears - “changes in the adoption process are instituted by Guatemalan authorities with little or no advance notice and adoptions are disrupted”, we are poised to file the necessary legal resources to restore the legal order, because our Constitution includes provisions that protect adoptions and the notarial process, so anything that restricts or limits them, would be unconstitutional. We have done it before successfully and will do it again, if it becomes necessary.

We are fully convinced that every child is entitled to be raised by a loving family and see as our duty to make that possible. If you are thinking of adopting from Guatemala, do not hesitate to do it. There is a child waiting for you in the Land of Eternal Spring.

Have a wonderful New Year!


Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law,
Association Defenders of Adoption
Guatemala City, December 2006

Posted by Kelly at 08:37 PM

December 21, 2006

New DOS Notice

The US DOS has issued a new notice for adoptive parents. You can find it here or read on.

I have also written some commentary on teh current situation that has been posted in Kevin's Corner. You can direct link to it here.

Guatemala, the Convention and the United States

More than 70 countries have already joined the Convention, including major countries of origin for adoptive children like China and India, because they firmly believe that the principles of the Hague Convention offer the best hope for the ethical and transparent adoption process and that every child deserves a permanent family. Many other countries have indicated their intention to join the Convention, as well.

Guatemala acceded to the Convention in 2003 and is recognized as a party to the Convention under international law. However, Guatemala has not yet created the infrastructure and systems necessary to implement the Convention and its current adoption procedures do not provide the protections for children, birth parents, and adoptive parents required under the Convention.

The United States is nearing completion of its preparations to ratify the Convention and our goal is to do so in 2007. Three months after the United States deposits its instrument of ratification with the Hague Permanent Bureau, the Convention enters into force for the United States. At that point, if Guatemala has not taken the necessary steps to comply with the Convention, the United States will not be able to approve adoptions from that country. It is important to note that U.S. law provides for a transition period and that orphan petitions (I-600A) filed with the Department of Homeland Security before the Convention enters into force for the United States will not be subject to the new regulations implementing the Convention.

The Way Forward

We continue to be hopeful that Guatemala can become compliant with the Hague Convention before the United States ratifies the Convention. U.S. and Guatemalan officials are engaged in a dialogue at the highest levels on the need for the Guatemalan government to move forward immediately to become compliant with the Hague Convention and to establish an intercountry adoption system that will be in the best interests of the Guatemalan children.

We are pleased that the government of Guatemala has stated that adoption reform legislation will be a priority. In order to avoid a situation where the United States can no longer process adoptions from Guatemala, a Hague-compliant process must be in place when the Convention enters into force for the United States.

The United States maintains ongoing high-level discussions with the government of Guatemala about the importance of ensuring a smooth transition to a Hague-consistent adoption process. We believe that any sudden halt to adoption processing would be problematic and hurt both the children and adoptive parents because children would be caught in the process with no system through which they could be placed internationally with a permanent family. However, prospective adoptive parents should be aware that changes in the adoption process could be instituted by Guatemala with little or no advance notice and the possibility exists that adoptions could be disrupted.

Prospective Adoptive Parents Must Stay Aware and Informed

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala has occasionally received reports of Guatemalan police in and around some of the major hotels in Guatemala City attempting to extort money from adopting parents by threatening to take the birth mother or foster mother and the prospective or adopted child into custody. There is no basis under local Guatemalan law for such actions and we encourage all U.S. citizens who encounter similar experiences to report them immediately to their local lawyer and the American Citizens Services section at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City at 502-2326-4405.

In addition, prospective adoptive parents may hear unsubstantiated rumors during this time when the situation is in flux. Some of these rumors may be generated by individuals or organizations opposed to the very important reforms that Guatemala needs to undertake, and designed to confuse prospective adoptive families. We encourage parents to contact the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala and to consult our website for the latest information. Prospective adoptive parents should not rely on word of mouth, which is often incorrect. This holds true particularly if someone is encouraging or insisting that you pay additional fees or threatening you in any way.

This information will be updated as the situation changes. Please check this page for updates. Additional information on U.S. implementation of the Hague Adoption Convention, and on intercountry adoption from Guatemala, can be found on the Consular Affairs’ website at: www.travel.state.gov or by calling 202-647-9090 or 1-888-407-4747 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST). Further information on the Hague Adoption Convention is available from the Hague Permanent Bureau’s website at www.hcch.net.

Posted by Kevin at 06:19 PM

December 14, 2006

Public Comment Period on Agency Accreditation

Did you love or hate your agency? Ever felt like you have no voice or recourse against unethical agencies? Well here is your chance... The Council on Hague Acrreditation is taking public comments on the agencies who applied for Hague Accreditation. They claim that comments from former clients will be seriously considered. The dealine is Jan 31, 2007.

NOTE from Guatadopt: fell free to comment on your agency here but you must follow the link below in order to have those comments be relevant to Hague accreditation. Guatadopt.com is only informing you of this public comment period, we are not invovled in Hague accreditation.

PUBLIC COMMENT NOTICE

PURPOSE: This notice announces a public comment period through January 31, 2007 on intercountry adoption service providers seeking Hague Accreditation. A list of adoption service providers that haveapplied for Hague Accreditation and Approval through the Council on
Accreditation (COA) can be found below. COA is located at 120 Wall Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10005.

Instructions: Please click here to provide comments. If you provide an email address, then you will receive an email confirming that your comment was received. Note: Members of the public who wish to provide comments anonymously will not be contacted by COA. For further information on this notice, contact J. Fulmer, Director of Quality Services Management, at 866.262.8088, x 241.

Adoption Service Providers that applied for Hague Accreditation or Approval (Note: Locations of adoption service providers listed below denote their central headquarters or main location.)

4Kids of South Florida (Adoption 4KIDS) , Fort Lauderdale , FL
A Act of Love , Sandy , UT
A Better World - The Adoption Connection , West Hartford , CT
A Family Journey Adoption Agency , Minneapolis , MN
A Helping Hand Adoption Agency , Lexington , KY
A Loving Choice International , Greenville , SC
A New Arrival , Twin Bridges , MT
A Red Thread Adoption Services , Norwood , MA
AAA Friends In Adoption , Middletown Springs , VT
AAA Full Circle Adoptions & Family Building Center , Northampton , MA
ABC Adoption Services , Roanoke , VA
About A Child , West Des Moines , IA
ACCEPT: An Adoption and Counseling Center , Los Altos , CA
Across The World Adoptions , Pleasant Hill , CA
Adopolis , Washington , DC
Adopt A Child , Pittsburgh , PA
Adopt Abroad , Harrisburg , PA
Adopt International , Miami Beach , FL
Adopt International , San Francisco , CA
Adopt Kids , Kirkwood , MO
Adoption Advocates , Largo , FL
Adoption Advocates International , Port Angeles , WA
Adoption Alliance , Denver , CO
Adoption and Home Study Specialists , Louisville , KY
Adoption Ark , Buffalo Grove , IL
Adoption Associates Inc , Jenison , MI
Adoption Blessings Worldwide , Macon , GA
Adoption Center of Washington , Alexandria , VA
Adoption Choice , Milwaukee , WI
Adoption Covenant , Lubbock , TX
Adoption Home Studies , Mandeville , LA
Adoption Hope International , Myrtle Beach , SC
Adoption Horizons , Eureka , CA
Adoption House , Wilmington , DE
Adoption Journeys of Arizona Inc. , Tucson , AZ
Adoption Link / Chances By Choice , Oak Park , IL
Adoption Links Worldwide , Omaha , NE
Adoption Miracle International , Minnetonka , MN
Adoption of Babies and Children, Inc. , Lenexa , KS
Adoption Options , San Diego , CA
Adoption Options of Jewish Family Service , Providence , RI
Adoption Ranger , Weston , FL
Adoption Related Services , Shrewsbury , PA
Adoption Resource Associates , Cambridge , MA
Adoption Resource Center, dba Adoption ARC , Philadelphia , PA
Adoption S.T.A.R. , Williamsville , NY
Adoption Source , Boca Raton , FL
Adoptions From The Heart , Wynnewood , PA
Adoptions International , Dallas , TX
Adoptions International , Philadelphia , PA
Adoptions Together , Silver Spring , MD
Adoptive Families for Children , Keene , NH
Adoptive Family Services , Crosslanes , WV
Advocates for Children and Families , North Miami Beach , FL
Alaska International Adoption Agency , Anchorage , AK
All God's Children International (AGCI) , Portland , OR
Alliance For Children , Wellesley , MA
Amazing Grace Adoptions , Raleigh , NC
America World Adoption Association , McLean , VA
American Adoptions , Overland Park , KS
American International Adoption Agency , Williamsfield , OH
Americans for International Aid and Adoption , Troy , MI
Angel Adoptions , Waltham , MA
Angels Haven Outreach , Santa Clarita , CA
Around the World Adoptions , Provo , UT
Associated Catholic Charities of Baltimore , Baltimore , MD
Associated Services for International Adoption (ASIA) , Portland , OR
Avalon Center , Mason City , IA
Baby Steps International Adoption , Lexington , KY
Baker Victory Services , Lackawanna , NY
Bal Jagat Children's World, Inc. , Long Beach , CA
Bay Area Adoption Services , Mountain View , CA
Beacon House Adoption Services , Pensacola , FL
Bellefaire Jewish Children's Bureau , Shaker Heights , OH
Bethany Christian Services , Grand Rapids , MI
Bless This Child , Tulsa , OK
Board of Child Care of the United Methodist Church , Baltimore , MD
Buckner Adoption and Maternity Services , Dallas , TX
Building Arizona Families , Surprise , AZ
Building Blocks Adoption Service , Medina , OH
Care To Adopt / Ohio Homestudy , Cincinnati , OH
Caring for Kids , Munroe Falls , OH
Carolina Adoption Services , Greensboro , NC
Carolina Hope Christian Adoption Agency , Greenville , SC
Casi Foundation For Children , Boise , ID
Catholic Charities North Dakota , Fargo , ND
Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Inc./ CT , Bridgeport , CT
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago , Chicago , IL
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg, PA , Greensburg , PA
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria , Peoria , IL
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester, dba Catholic Family
Center , Rochester , NY
Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Hartford , Hartford , CT
Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New Orleans , New Orleans , LA
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet , Joliet , IL
Catholic Community Services , Baton Rouge , LA
Catholic Guardian Society and Home Bureau , New York , NY
Catholic Social Services of Fall River , Fall River , MA
Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois , Belleville , IL
Catholic Social Services Of The Diocese Of Charlotte, NC ,
Charlotte , NC
Celebrate Children International , Oviedo , FL
Cherished Children Adoption Agency , Greenville , SC
Child Adoption Associates , North Chelmsford , MA
Child and Family Service , Ewa Beach , HI
Child Family Adoption , Highland , NY
Child Link International , Richfield , MN
Children and Families First , Madison , WI
Children At Heart Adoption Services , Mechanicville , NY
Children of the World , Clayton , MO
Children of the World , Fairhope , AL
Children's Home & Aid Society of Illinois , Chicago , IL
Children's Home Society & Family Services , St. Paul , MN
Childrens Home Society of West Virginia , Charleston , WV
Children's Hope International , St. Louis , MO
Children's House International , Ferndale , WA
China Adoption With Love , Brookline , MA
Christian Adoption Services , Matthews , NC
Christian World Adoption , Flat Rock , NC
Chrysalis House , Fresno , CA
Commonwealth Adoptions International , Tucson , AZ
Commonwealth Catholic Charities of Virginia , Richmond , VA
Cradle of Hope Adoption Center , Silver Spring , MD
Creative Adoptions , Columbia , MD
Crossroads Adoption Services , Minneapolis , MN
Decolores Adoptions International , Lake Charles , LA
Dillon International , Tulsa , OK
Dillon Southwest , Scottsdale , AZ
Donna Clauss , Albuquerque , NM
Dove Adoptions International , Banks , OR
European Adoption Consultants Inc , Strongsville , OH
European Children Adoption Services , Plymouth , MN
Faith International Adoptions , Tacoma , WA
Families For Children , Salt Lake City , UT
Families Thru International Adoption, Inc. , Evansville , IN
Families United Network Inc , Trafford , PA
Family & Children's Agency , Norwalk , CT
Family Adoption Consultants , Kalamazoo , MI
Family Choices NFPC , Charleston , IL
Family Connections Christian Adoptions , Modesto , CA
Family Creations , Bradenton , FL
Family Focus Adoption Services , Little Neck , NY
Family Resource Center of Chicago , Chicago , IL
Family Resources , Anoka , MN
Family to Family Adoption Services , Richmond , TX
Family Tree Adoption Agency , Clifton Park , NY
FIG Missions , Webster , WI
Florence Crittenton League , Lowell , MA
Florida Home Studies and Adoption, Inc. , Sarasota , FL
Focus on Children , Cokeville , WY
For This Child , Dallas , TX
Foreign Adoption Associates , Wilmington , DE
Frank Adoption Center (MD) , Frederick , MD
Frank Adoption Center (NC) , Raleigh , NC
Generations Adoptions , Waco , TX
Genesis Adoptions , Woodstock , GA
Georgia Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries , Palmetto , GA
Gift of Love International Adoptions , Des Moines , IA
Glenkirk , Northbrook , IL
God's Families International Adoption Services , Trabuco Canyon , CA
Golden Cradle Adoption Services , Cherry Hill , NJ
Good Hope Adoption Services , South Dennis , MA
Grace International Adoption Agency , New Orleans , LA
Graham's Gift Children's Foundation , Grand Island , NY
Great Wall China Adoption , Austin , TX
Gregory A. Franklin , Rochester , NY
Guatemalan Adoptions NFP , Alton , IL
Hands Across the Water , Ann Arbor , MI
Happy Families International Center, Inc. , Cold Spring , NY
Harrah's Adoption International Mission , The Woodlands , TX
Hawaii International Child , Honolulu , HI
Heart of Adoptions , Tampa , FL
Heart to Heart Adoption Service , Royal Palm Beach , FL
Heartsent Adoptions , Orinda , CA
Heaven Sent Children , Murfreesboro , TN
Heritage Adoption Services , Portland , OR
Heritage Family Services , Tulsa , OK
His Kids Ministries; dba His Kids Adoptions International ,
Halstead , KS
Holston United Methodist Home for Children , Greeneville , TN
Holt International Children's Services , Eugene , OR
Holy Cross Child Placement Agency , Washington , DC
Homecoming Adoptions: an International Adoption Practice , Orlando ,
FL
Homeland Adoption Services , Congers , NY
Homestudies and Adoption Placement Services , Teaneck , NJ
HOPE Adoption & Family Services International , Oak Park Heights , MN
Hope Adoption, dba Hope International , Dallas , TX
Hope Cottage , Dallas , TX
Hope for Children , Atlanta , GA
Hopscotch Adoptions , Williamsville , NY
Huminska's Anioly , Moon Township , PA
Illien Adoptions International , Atlanta , GA
Integrity , Little Rock , AR
Intercountry Adoption Center , Bradenton , FL
International Adoption Guides, Inc , Belmont , NC
International Adoption Guides, LLC , Belmont , NC
International Adoption Services , Minneapolis , MN
International Adoption Services Centre , Gardiner , ME
International Assistance Group , Oakmont , PA
International Child Foundation , Tucson , AZ
International Children's Alliance , Silver Spring , MD
International Children's Care , Vancouver , WA
International Christian Adoptions , Temecula , CA
International Families , Washington , DC
International Family Services , Friendswood , TX
Irene Steffas, PC , Marietta , GA
James Fletcher Thompson, LLC , Spartanburg , SC
Jewish Child Care Association , New York , NY
Jewish Family & Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia / Open
Arms Adoption , Philadelphia , PA
Jewish Family and Children's Service , Waltham , MA
Jewish Family Service of Greater Harrisburg , Harrisburg , PA
Jewish Family Service Of Metrowest , Framingham , MA
Jewish Family Service of San Diego/ Adoption Alliance of San Diego ,
San Diego , CA
Jewish Family Service of the North Shore , Salem , MA
Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts , Springfield , MA
Jewish Family Service of Worcester , Worcester , MA
Journeys of the Heart Adoption Services , Hillsboro , OR
Karing Angels International Adoptions , Oceanside , NY
Kentucky Adoption Services , Owensboro , KY
Kids To Adopt , Vancouver , WA
KidsFirst Adoption Services, Inc. , Indianapolis , IN
KidsFirst Adoption Services, LLC , Indianapolis , IN
Kin , New York , NY
Kirsh & Kirsh, P.C. , Indianapolis , IN
La Vida International , King Of Prussia , PA
Las Estrellas, dba Adoption Partners , Simpsonville , SC
LDS Family Services , Salt Lake City , UT
Life Adoption Services , Tustin , CA
Lifeline Children's Services , Birmingham , AL
Life's Vision International , Bellevue , WA
Little Miracles International , Amarillo , TX
Little Treasures Adoption Services , Warwick , RI
Living Hope Adoption Agency , Fort Washington , PA
Los Ninos International Adoption Center , The Woodlands , TX
Love Basket , Hillsboro , MO
Lutheran Community Services of Southern New England , Rocky Hill , CT
Lutheran Family and Children's Services of Missouri , St. Louis , MO
Lutheran Family Services In The Carolinas , Raleigh , NC
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota , St. Paul , MN
Lutheran Social Services of New York , New York , NY
Lutheran Social Services of Northwestern Ohio , Toledo , OH
Lutheran Social Services of the South , Austin , TX
Lutheran Social Services Of Wisconsin And Upper Michigan ,
Milwaukee , WI
Main Street Adoption Service , Lancaster , PA
Mandala Adoption Services , Hillsborough , NC
MAPS (Maine Adoption Placement Service) , Houlton , ME
Michael S. Goldstein, P.C. , Rye Brook , NY
New Beginnings Family and Children's Services , Mineola , NY
New Beginnings International Children's and Family Services ,
Tupelo , MS
New Day Adoptions International , Dyersburg , TN
New Family Connection , St. Louis , MO
New Hope Christian Services , Rumney , NH
New Horizons Adoption Agency , Frost , MN
New Life Adoption Agency , Syracuse , NY
New Life Social Services , Chicago , IL
Nightlight Christian Adoptions , Fullerton , CA
One World Adoption Services , Flowery Branch , GA
Opt to Adopt , Fairmont , WV
Orphans Overseas , Portland , OR
Palmetto Hope International Adoption , Columbia , SC
Partners for Adoption , Walnut Creek , CA
Pauquette Adoption Services , Portage , WI
Pearl S. Buck International , Perkasie , PA
Plan Loving Adoptions Now, Inc. , McMinnville , OR
Plan-It for Kids PC , Berlin , PA
Premier Adoption Agency , Mesquite , NV
Project Oz Adoptions , Tarbora , NC
Protect Our Children , Indianapolis , IN
Rainbow House International , Albuquerque , NM
Reaching Arms International , New Hope , MN
Reaching Out Thru International Adoption, Inc. , Somerdale , NJ
Resources for Life , Kameula , HI
Russian Resources, dba Global Adoption Services , Bel Air , MD
Saint Mary International Adoption , Charlotte , NC
Seedlings , Parsippany , NJ
Shepherd Care Ministries, dba Adoption by Shepherd Care , Hollywood ,
FL
Small World , Mount Juliet , TN
Small World Adoption Foundation of Missouri, Inc. , Ballwin , MO
Special Additions , Bucyrus , KS
Special Delivery International , Wichita , KS
Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children , New York , NY
Sunny Ridge Family Center , Wheaton , IL
The Adoption Resource Center , Coral Springs , FL
The Barker Foundation , Bethesda , MD
The Children's Society of Utah , Salt Lake City , UT
The Cradle Society , Evanston , IL
The Datz Foundation , Vienna , VA
The Family Network , Captola , CA
The Gladney Center for Adoption , Fort Worth , TX
The Lutheran Service Society of New York , Williamsville , NY
The Lutheran Services Society Of Western PA , Pittsburgh , PA
The Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers , Waterville , ME
The Open Door Adoption Agency , Thomasville , GA
The Open Way Adoptions , Poulsbo , WA
Thursday's Child , Bloomfield , CT
Tree of Life Adoption Center , Portland , OR
Tressler Lutheran Services, dba Diakon Adoption Foster Care ,
Allentown , PA
Uniting Families Foundation , Lake Villa , IL
Villa Hope , Birmingham , AL
Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services , Los Angeles , CA
Voice for International Development and Adoption , Hudson , NY
Wasatch International Adoptions , Ogden , UT
West Sands Adoption , St. George , UT
Wide Horizons For Children , Waltham , MA
World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP) , Renton , WA
World Child International , Silver Spring , MD
World Links Association , Scranton , PA
World Partners Adoption , Lawrenceville , GA
Worlds Together , Cincinnati , OH
Worldwide Adoption Services , Spartanburg , SC

Please spread this message to as many adoptive parents as possible and encourage folks to participate in the comments process!

Posted by Kevin at 05:09 PM

November 20, 2006

I am THANKFUL for....

FAMILY!

Above and beyond our roller-coaster politics and discussions about what the US and Guatemala should do to become Hague compliant...there is the BLESSING of FAMILY. Last week, my daughter's school had a Thanksgiving Feast and invited all the families to enjoy the food, socializing and of course, the Thanksgiving SKIT!After the skit for my daughter's class, her teacher asked each of the children what they were thankful for.. I suspect that it wasn't totally prompted since 3 of the boys chose "Pizza" as their answer. When my daughter stood up and said "Mom, Dad and Max [our dog]"....I felt a mix of emotions. Something that can easily be taken for granted is such a complex and often contraversial part of an adoptive family's life.

ThankfulFor2.jpg

So, for this post....I am going to avoid talking about the negativity, politics and so-on. I just want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and urge each of you to pray (send good vibes if you are not religious) for the concept of "FAMILY" to become the key factor for any decision made in the interest of a child....

Posted by Kelly at 12:09 PM

October 18, 2006

The Directive by Ministra Publica

Last night, we received reports from Guatemala of a "Directive" that MIGHT have been the reason for the recent reports of police harrassment. (Several parents witnessed foster mothers being harrassed and possibly detained in the front of several hotels. I've also been told that a diplomatic visit to the Marriott last night might have also added to the unease of parents). We have spent a good portion of the morning calling our contacts and finding out the status. Before we discuss the supposed "Directive", let me say that our sources are telling us that it HAS BEEN RESCINDED, is no longer in effect , is defunct or is not an issue. The Department of State is aware of the situation and is also working to resolve any outstanding issues.

What we have been told is there was a 13 page "Directive" issued by the Ministra Publica with an effective date of October 1st which was issued to Prosecutors. It stated that custody of a child in the adoption process was only legal if the custodian had a judicial court order. Since the adoption process is non-judicial at this time, the government issued custodial documents that the foster mothers currently have in their possession (aka the "avis:) would not be considered legal.

Our reports indicate that language was very disturbing in how it described the current system as being something like organized crime and gave free reign for the police to enter hotels in search of "falsified documents" which by the wording of the Directive could include custody papers not issued by the court.

Several agencies and attorneys felt this was the reason for the recent reports of foster mother harrassment and have have put a stop to visitation. Even though it is supposedly no longer in effect, I do not advise visitation travel at this time. If you are already in Guatemala, do not venture outside of your room with your child if at all possible. It is always a good idea to keep the US Embassy phone number at hand when you are in another country. It is also worth the effort to get a cell phone (rent or buy) and have it handy at all times (along with either your attorney's phone number and/or your agency's). Do not relinquish papers to anyone without first attempting to get in touch with the Embassy. While I hope that parents will not be "targeted", I would not dismiss the possibility. Most importantly, if your agency or attorney informs you that they will not bring your child to the hotel to visit...please understand that they are probably pretty concerned about the current situation. If a child is detained, it could take several months for the false arrest or detainment to be cleared.

TRAVEL:
Regardless of the recent events that have caused many upset and frustrated parents, please remember to have some decorum when in Guatemala. On the whole, we are incredibly lucky to have such wonderful children from this beautiful country. Your visible respect in your dress, being polite, generousity, patience, facial expressions, etc... are sometimes the only exposure Guatemalans have to US adopting families. The folks that you see day to day do not know the stress you have been under. Their impressions effect whether adoptions are frowned upon or are smiled upon....and that can affect whether adoptions stay open!

TAKE it upon yourself to learn some basic phrases/words in Spanish. The attempt to use it even if it is very limited is a curtousy. DRESS in Business Casual or NEAT Casual when you are out and about in Guatemala City (Antigua is more touristy and so attire is a bit more casual)..ie: dress like you are meeting someone you want to make a good impression on. Remember that when we travel to Guatemala, we are ambassadors for intercountry adoption to the U.S.

You can check our Resource Center for information about Travel Tips and Dos and Don'ts. If you have any questions about current travel advice, please email us.

Posted by Kelly at 01:03 PM

October 08, 2006

Snapshot of Protocol of Good Practices (the basis for the First Lady's law)

Many thanks to one of our Guatadopt readers for providing the translation of the Protocolo. CLICK HERE FOR THE ENGLISH VERSION: Protocol of Good Practices (09/06). This document as well as the Spanish version are available in the Resource Center (under Political | Guatelama Proposed Laws). We will be discussing how the Protocolo could affect Guatemala Adoptions in an attempt to meet the Hague. As with any proposal, it may or may not suggest implementation for the intended practice.

Posted by Kelly at 06:31 PM

THE EXECUTIVE ORDER ISSUE (An additional perspective)

{Posted on behalf of Hannah Wallace, President, Focus on Adoption}
It's been difficult to weigh in on this issue, as I believe there is a great deal that will remain speculation in regard to whether this alleged "letter" or signed document exists, what was being discussed at the ADA meeting, who was being asked for funds, whether President Berger intended or did not intend to issue an Executive Order reinstating the Hague Treaty in Guatemala and implementing the First Lady's Protocol of Good Practices prior to Hague Compliant legislation being passed. Denials are being stated on both sides. I am not - in any way - trying to engage in character assassination, nor abscribe motivations for any of the events of the past week, nor do I want to demonize anyone. The ETHICA posting, however, was ONE posting, among several, from the JCICS listserve for the Guatemala Caucus.

I was in Guatemala from August 22 to September 6, working on Hague related issues.
During this trip several Guatemalan and U.S. officials confirmed that the First Lady's Protocol was going to be announced on October 1 (the day of the child) and would begin to be implemented by January 1. There was great concern among the lawyers about the information they had that Pres. Berger intended to announce it as an Executive Order. A month later, the lawyers believed they had confirmation of this, along with alleged intentions to reinstate the Hague Treaty by Executive Order. My understanding is that the ADA met to decide how to deal with this. One part of the meeting was a discussion of fund raising.for legal challenges.and PR. This information, if true, would possibly have an immediate impact on all adoptions. The idea was not to panic adoptive families or agencies, but to responsibly report what was happening. All of us are extremely relieved that the Guatemalan government and the U.S. government have stated that only a law, passed by Congress, will be implemented. I believe that www.guatadopt.com will be looking into this further.

During that time I met frequently with Susana Luarca and other ADA leaders to discuss
(1) the necessity for Hague compliant legislation
(2) various models which could be applied to implement the Hague Treaty, including the U.S. model - which delegates responsibility to various government departments and accredited private adoption service providers
(3) and various ways to provide more oversight and transparency in regard to fees and the intermediaries. I need to state, for the record, that it's a misperception to characterize the attorney leaders in Guatemala (the ADA or the Instituto) as wanting to maintain the status quo, at all costs. The facts contradict this:

*In fact, 13 years ago, when Guatemala only had about 700 adoptions a year and adoption fees were about half of what they are now, and a lot easier and faster, critics like Unicef and Bruce Harris were putting barcodes on babies on their website and attacking adoption attorneys and agencies. Susana Luarca was the only one of the many Bruce Harris attacked who fought back. I was at the trial, where Bruce Harris offered no defense to the clearly libelous information he presented over several years in Press Releases, television interviews, and Press conferences with Guatemalan government officials. He never had to defend his statements, as the powers that be had already decided to decide it on a "free speech" basis. (I believe it is also a fact that only after the Hague Treaty was finalized, did we begin to see the reform driven rhetoric and government after government in Latin America developing legislation which has noticeably put all adoption services, except legal services, in the hands of their governments). We have not seen evidence of improved reunification services, or family support services, or government sponsored domestic adoption campaigns. We have seen evidence of more children living in legal limbos in orphanages in Honduras, El Salvador and Peru... to name only a few. Check the figures on how many children get through the system each year. Where do you think all of those children are and what is the quality of their lives?

** In fact, in response to the accusations about kidnapping and other abuses, the Attorneys in Guatemala were the ones who initiated the request for DNA testing and welcomed INS supervision and oversight of that process.

** In fact, in the past several years FOA, the Instituto, and the ADA have advocated for second DNA to rule out the possibility of "child switching".

** In fact, the Attorneys have had reform legislation proposals in Congress for years. The most recent was the attempt to pass Amendments to the Civil Code, which they attempted 2 years ago -- which would have provided substantial compliance with Hague STANDARDS. These amendments were proposed AFTER the Constitutional Court overturned the Accession to the Hague Treaty. ** It is also a FACT that every time moderate and workable legislation is proposed, counter legislation is proposed which many on this listserve and observers of the ICA world would describe as the UNICEF model. I would say, rather, that the attorneys have chosen the status quo as second choice over what is perceived as legislation which would not address the needs of the many children in Guatemala who need families.

** In fact: The Guatemalan Attorney organizations have tried for years to have a "child friendly" abandonment law put in place.

-------------------------------------------------

In these years, we've seen adoption as an option for children grow in Guatemala, while it has conversely been reduced to either none or a small percentage in surrounding countries. It's so difficult to prove a negative.... since
no one is actually tracking the fate of children who might have been adopted. But for many years now, adoptions in Guatemala have been characterized as A PROBLEM, not a solution.. the largest export, children as commodities, abuses in the system etc. Whereas some of us might see the numbers of children who are being relinquished as a symptom of greater social ills which have not been addressed to any significant degree by the Guatemalan government or the International organizations. There is a great deal of humanitarian aid pouring
into Guatemala and it hasn't made much of a dent.

None of us have exact statistics. However, I believe that the birthrate in Guatemala is about 500,000 per year. If 5,000 children are being adopted, then one could say that roughly 1 in 100 children born each year are being
adopted. Of the 500,000 children born, there is also a quite high infant mortality rate. Most of these children are born into the 80% of the population who are living in poverty. Approximately 30,000 children a year die from
curable illnesses like diarhea and bronchitis. More than 50% are malnourished. They are part of the 99% who are not being adopted. Over 25,000 of them are living in PRIVATE institutions, being supported by adoption fees, churches, humanitarian aid organizations. While the courts send the children to the institutions, the Guatemalan government does not support these institutions at all.

Under this administration, there has been some evidence that the First Lady does care about the children to a greater extent than former First Ladies. However, funds for many social services have been cut. The conditions of
poverty in Guatemala have not been alleviated, but seem to have increased. Recently, one of the few government orphanages was closed and the children sent to other "private" institutions. There is absolutely NO reason - based on evidence - to believe that the kind of legislation or system that is being proposed would "work" in the best interests of the children. This is what the ADA and their supporters are resisting.

During one part of my trip, I was part of a delegation from JCICS. JCICS has taken the lead in trying to find solutions which will meet Hague standards in spirit as well as practice, as well as ensuring the children who need permanency will be able to join adoptive families.. Susana Luarca hosted a dinner in her home for many of the lawyer leaders, interested Congressmen, and the JCICS delegation. ALL of the leaders of the Guatemalan attorneys embraced the concept of meaningful legislation and regulation. There are no perfect or easily implemented solutions and there are still wide areas of difference on how to achieve this. And there is a great breach and much bitterness between many of the attorneys and the government offices, with possibly skewed
perceptions on both sides. Certainly this is not the first time that governments and interest groups have differed with one another, demonized each other, or disagreed on certain events for a perceived political advantage. However, I saw no evidence that the ADA was opposed to making changes and would, therefore, seek to disrupt the Hague legislation process.

Hannah Wallace, Focus On Adoption

Posted by Kelly at 06:05 PM

October 06, 2006

Forgery Rumor

Recently, Ms. Novak, posted to various listservs and organizations that the Executive Order was a forgery (Ethica's post). It is very disturbing to have received such a different account of the events in Guatemala regarding the Executive Order. So far, there is no compelling evidence to support Ms. Novak's contention that there was a forged letter/document. Nor has Guatadopt been notified of any such "signed" version...only the content of the Executive Order. We are not aware of anyone who has been approached by an attorney regarding the legal fund associated with the Executive Order nor why they would contact Ms. Novak to complain. On the otherhand, there is substantial testament (US sources and Guatemalan sources) that the President seriously deliberated on enacting an Executive Order to reinstate the Hague using the First Lady's Protocol of Good Practices.

Guatadopt.com is interested in getting to the TRUTH. We are currently waiting for responses to our inquiries which we will share with the public. We will provide our own analysis of the events, the interpretations that we have received and perhaps provide a timeline including the various statements made by DOS and Ms. Novak. We are also concerned that ADA and reliable sources who have warned us of impending legislation are being purposefully discredited as a political ploy.

Posted by Kelly at 11:30 AM

October 04, 2006

GUATEMALA AND THE HAGUE CONVENTION - More

{Posted on behalf of Susana Luarca, ADA}

The attempt of President Oscar Berger - misguided by his bad advisers - to reinstate the Hague Convention and pass the UNICEF adoption law, disguised as a "Protocol of Good Practices", could have brought him a lot of problems, because his political adversaries would have seized the opportunity with both hands, to prosecute him for usurping the power of Congress to enact laws and for violating the Constitution. The problem with Guatemalan public officers is that they think that they can get away with everything, forgetting that article 154 of the constitution says: "The public officers are holders of authority, responsible for their official conduct, subject to the law, and never above it". We understand that the government’s denial is a way to correct the mistake and to save face, so we are willing to let it go, knowing that President Berger must be very grateful that our warning saved him from having to face charges that would end his days as president sooner than planned.

As a way to keep adoptions open, we are working on the draft of a law proposal that would reconcile our legal system with the provisions of the Hague Convention. We do not oppose changes that improve transparency and accountability, but that is very different from giving to the government the exclusive power to process adoptions, because that not only would violate the Constitution in more ways than one, but would never work, as the Government does not have the resources to care for the children or to process adoptions. Everything that is being handled by the government, like education, health, public safety and social welfare is not working. (So, transferring the social welfare of the children is a concern)
The adoption process should be clear and easy to comply with and easy to oversee. The rights of the parties involved should be equally protected and the authorities should not have the power to hold the cases for more that the allowed time, otherwise they should be accountable, in the same way that the criminal judges are responsible for their unjustified delays if they keep in jail a person longer than necessary. An adoption is not only a legal process. Behind each file is the human part, a child who is growing up without a family , a family who is waiting for him and a birth mother who is tied to an adoption process, that until it is finished, does not allow her to move forward putting that painful decision behind her. We see every day, how the PGN rejects a file for an unlimited number of reasons, some of them totally groundless, and each rejection takes many weeks to be issued and then, more weeks to approve the adoption. That should not happen.

A law that makes adoptions impossible, even if it is said to be “in the best interest of the child”, would fail completely. A law, to really protect the interests of all those children who need homes, has to work. And that is what we are working very hard to get for Guatemala.

Best regards,
Susana Luarca, Asociación Defensores de la Adopción

Posted by Kelly at 06:50 PM

September 29, 2006

THE EXECUTIVE ORDERS ARE NO LONGER A THREAT

{Posted on behalf of Susana Luarca, Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion}

President Oscar Berger withdraw the executive orders that he planned to approve this weekend "to celebrate the Children’s Day" , October 1st. The abuse of power that he intended to do by-passing the Congress to pass the Protocol of Good Practices , which is the same UNICEF law of adoptions, and reinstate the Hague Convention, was halted by the same Congress, who warned him of the consequences of usurping the legislative power.

That Berger denied to the DOS that his intentions were to suspend adoptions and take them over by his wife who directs the Secretary of Social Welfare, was expected. He also lied when he said to the press, that Kofi Annan, General Secretary of the United Nations “told him that if Venezuela gets a seat in the Security Council, there will be trouble”. Annan denies having said that to Berger.

The positive part of this experience is to see that the legal system works and that we are working under the protection of the law. The rights granted by the Constitution to the mothers to relinquish their children, to the children to be adopted and to the lawyers to work on adoptions cannot be taken away, by any law or international treaty, not even by the President of Guatemala.

The next step will be to set the record straight with the people at the PGN. We have waited too long to hold them accountable for all their delays, their rejections without legal grounds and their abuses of power. The thorough review of the adoption files is their duty, to verify the legality of the process. But when the files are rejected for no reason or when the review takes not the three days that they should take, but more than a month if they are rejected and much more if they are approved , it is time to make use of the legal actions that the law supplies for cases like these and file criminal charges against them. The worst enemy of an abandoned child is time. The time that a child spends without the love of a family, hurts the child in more ways that we can think of. If the PGN does not care for the children, we have to make them to care. If we don’t do it, we will be as guilty as them.


Best regards,
Susana Luarca
Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion

Posted by Kelly at 01:38 PM

Word Play, The Hague, Protocolo of Good Practices and effects on Guatemala Adoption

Today is a good day to talk about "word play". Yesterday, we broke the news of the Executive Order that was threatening adoptions. Then, DOS used the words "unfounded rumors" and has repeatedly used phrases like "would not halt adoptions". But with every entity whether it is DOS, ADA, Guatadopt, Agencies, Families or the Guatemalan Government...the meaning of a phrase can be deceiving and you should be careful how they are being interpreted.

"Halting Adoptions" - There are several programs around the world that TECHNICALLY open for international adoption. But the procedures, the stalls and the restrictions have "effectively" closed the programs to the US (IMO) because very few parents successfully adopt children there. DOS and the First Lady would say that "NO, adoptions would not been halted" from their perspective. Yet, many of these changes proposed in their Executive Orders and so called "Protocols of Adoption" would cause many of you to lose your referrals or indefinately stall your adoption because your children would no longer be eligible for immediate adoption. So, technically, adoptions have not halted per DOS....but they have broken the hearts of many families and threatened the welfare of the children in process. Significant stalls in the process would not even register on the State Department's radar since they are pressuring Guatemala to become Hague compliant.

As a personal example, we tried to adopt from Costa Rica in 2001. Clearly, DOS and the Costa Rican government would have responded that adoptions were technically open....but the restrictions blocked us from adopting two little girls. The Embassy in Costa Rica (and I am grateful for their candor) said "I don't think it will ever happen" and "you may be able to adopt older siblings through PANI but the political atmosphere will most likely stall even that adoption". Technically, adoptions were open...but the chance of us completing an adoption of these girls was slim to none. When the Hague was so poorly implemented in Costa Rica and in other countries, DOS did not pressure these countries to review their implementation and the children have suffered...there simply was not enough of an uproar for them to be "shamed" by the outcome.

So, if a new process prevents all but 40 adoptions per year from Guatemala, would a familiy who lost their referral feel that it had been halted? Why yes, I think they would. Would DOS or the First Lady's Office admit they were "halted"....I sincerely doubt it.

Onward: All the terms about the Hague, Protocol of Good Practices, Laws and Executive Orders....I'll try to give newbies the down and dirty...but this is just a very high-level introduction....

HAGUE
We could write a book about the Hague, so it might be hard to summarize here. The Hague is a Treaty and a portion of that Treaty is "intended" to eliminate child trafficking and unethical adoption practices. The intent is good, however, several countries have been unable to implement the treaty without harming the children. Unfortunately, many of these countries do not value these children as we do...and therefore, there simple goal is to appease the Hague without adequately providing for the children. While it is certainly possible to implement the Hague while protecting the children, it has not been historically very successful. In My opinion, governments have simply responded to pressure from outside sources (like the Hague committee, DOS or UNICEF) . That is my concern when we discuss the Hague or Hague compliant laws. You will notice that I tend to be rather pessimistic about this and Kevin may seem more optimistic. The Hague is like a set of standards...it is not a law, so to speak. So, we may talk about proposed laws that are "Hague Compliant" without really discussing the merits of the Hague. Instead we should focus on denouncing the side effects of the proposed law. The devil is in the detail, so to speak...

The Hague in Guatemala
There is also different perspectives about whether Guatemala is a Hague Country. According to DOS, Guatemala falls under the Hague. However, because of constitutional issues in Guatemala, they do not consider themselves Hague. In 2003, many parents suffered the obviously poor attempt to become Hague compliant. One thing was painfully obvious, Guatemala did not have the funding nor the resources to implement the Hague in the sloppily thrown together procedures they tried to enact. Since that time, UNICEF has been pressuring Guatemala and offering them bribes (in my opinion) to become Hague compliant. Several proposed laws influenced by UNICEF and Wendy Berger (the First Lady) have been proposed to Congress and have failed to pass. There have been no strings attached to the financial offerings of UNICEF requiring that it is spent only on the affected children, as far as I know. Furthermore, even if the funds were dedicated to providing adoption related services and shelter, it is not sufficient to handle long term services (services that were previously funded through adoptive parents but become a burden of the state). But the monetary donations are QUITE attractive when the government can use it on whatever they like during the last year of office!

Recently Proposed Laws unrelated to the recent Executive Order (Past-Tense)
Since 2002, there have been several proposed laws on the table in Guatemala. They have failed to pass since many of them were unconstitutional and the government could not implement them effectively. Some of the line items in these proposals have been aimed at punishing the adoption industry and the birth mothers (again, this is my opinion only). Examples of past line items in some of these proposals: Requiring the child live with the birthmother for an extended period of time before relinquishment. Those of us who have children, know that this makes it extremely difficult emotionally. But beyond that, the birth mother may not be able to take care of the child, they may lose their job, they may be exposing the child to abuse...etc, etc. Another example: Requring all children are in state custody (restricting private adoptions)...since the Government does not even have a child welfare system in place, how would you think that they would support and care for these children? As it is, the government relies on many private organizations to care for children...no compensation is given to these orphanages. These line items in the proposed laws are what we are concerned about....not the so called "intent" of the law. It is not easy to draft a law that is Hague compliant, is constitutional and is also in the best interest of the child. We need to fight to make sure the child or birth family is not the unrepresented/devalued entity in the equation. It is our value of every child that encompasses the US Adoptive Spirit...which is not always understood in other countries.

Executive Order vs. Laws vs. Hague
The Executive Order was based on a previously proposed law of Wendy Bergers. This law failed to pass Congress and she is not happy about it. The Executive Order was not merely a threat, it was narrowly avoided possibly when President Oscar Berger was reminded that enacting such a legislative order was a felony. But with millions of dollars at stake...to use however they see fit, it was quite tempting to do whatever it took to get the UNICEF/Wendy Berger law in place. I am sure that DOS realizes that their position is weakened by these failed attempts and the information we are exposing about it. If they could convince every family that they only have the children's best interest at heart...then they don't have to face a rebellion from adoptive families. That is why I believe they use terms like "unfounded rumor" which is intended to discredit what we publish. Technically, they are right in saying there was no threat to halting adoptions...as long as families are content with THEiR interpretation (ie: many families lose their referral but the "program" is open for all intensive purposes).

Ongoing: There is still a version of a proposed Law that is not child-friendly coming from the First Lady's Office. This is different from the Executive Order and we will discuss that more shortly. Don't assume that nothing is being done because it is not outlined publically. There has been numerous attempts by organizations to reach an agreement on a Hague compliant law. I am hopeful that whatever is decided does not hurt the children and is reasonable and fair.

FYI: We do have the Spanish versions of these proposals and the Executive Order....but they are only as good as the date at the top of the page. We are in the process of getting translations. This entry was somewhat thrown together to bring folks up to speed...so I apologize if it not perfectly worded...I hope it helps some of the newer folks understand the politics behind the scenes.

Additional Note:
I believe the EO is a dead issue now. It sounds like a failed power-play. So, it does not affect adoptions at this time. Even at this time, *I* would not hesitate to start an adoption....but then, my focus is being an advocate for a child....not a completed adoption. I can't answer what may happen in the future.

What I can tell you is that we can expect versions of UNICEF/Bergers' adoption ideas being proposed in new laws. DOS/UNICEF are exerted very heavy pressure on Guatemala and the attorneys...each with their own agenda. We will update you periodically with the versions that are presented.

Posted by Kelly at 08:40 AM

September 28, 2006

PRESIDENT OSCAR BERGER AND THE HAGUE CONVENTION

Important Note: It is apparent that a number of individuals have contacted Christopher Lamaro from DOS and have been told that this was a "rumor". I am deeply concerned about why this would be dismissed by DOS as an "unfounded rumor" whether it was not phrased correctly by concerned parents or he is possibly trying to discredit ADA or Guatadopt. But that is neither here nor there. It is an irresponsible post by DOS. Keep in mind that our sources have COPIES of what we consider supporting documents to the Executive Order (see my additional comments below) in their pocession and the implications such an Order would have if it took effect. So, while the Guatemalan Government may have indicated to DOS officials that it would not go through at this time, the Executive Order was contemplated and was threatened. Yes, I am concerned that this is what we come to expect from the ongoing political pressure to come up with something Hague Compliant. As for those in process, I feel like this was a calculated threat and I can't imagine that it will go into effect...at this time. ~Kelly, guatadopt.com

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{Posted on behalf of Susana Luarca, Asociación Defensores de la Adopción}

President Oscar Berger is not willing to officially withdraw from the Hague Convention, because the Hague Convention provisions, that leave up to each country the form to implement them, give him the perfect excuse to change the Guatemalan legal system of adoption, which is one of the strings attached to the $28,000,000.00 (Q176,000.000.00) donation that UNICEF offered to the Guatemalan Division of Social Welfare, directed by his wife, Wendy de Berger. Such amount can be very useful for a president in the last year of his term.

We were informed today that through a presidential decree, President Berger is toying with the idea of restoring the Hague Convention in Guatemala. We would not object to that, if only the implementation were done in a way that would allow private adoptions in compliance with the Hague. We at ADA are working on a proposal that will be Hague compliant, and at the same time will allow adoptions to be processed in a timely manner. But that is not what UNICEF is trading the multimillion donation for. The deal is that all adoptions must be stopped and the children’s adoptions would be processed – in some years, when they are ruled “adoptable” - according to an adoption law that the president, tired of requesting the Congress to pass the UNICEF proposal, would be passing himself, as another presidential decree.

The president of Guatemala cannot commit the country to the obligations of an international treaty without the previous approval of Congress. In the case of the Hague Convention, the approval was given by Congress in Decree 50-2002 on August 13, 2002, but it was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, a year later. The president has very limited legislative powers, because that is the power of Congress. He can only pass decrees if he is expressly authorized to do so by the Constitution, and can also pass regulations to already existing laws, but without changing its spirit. If the president enforces an international Convention without the previous approval of Congress or passes a new adoption law, he would not only be disregarding the ruling of the Constitutional Court, but usurping the power of Congress and he would be personally responsible of several felonies, according to the Criminal Code of Guatemala.

If you are adopting, you must know that adoption is not for the faint of heart, so don’t panic. We are sharing with all of you this information, even though I am aware that this message is disturbing, more so for those families whose processes of adoption are not finished, yet, because we are confident that we will do what it takes to restore the order if it is abruptly derailed by an irresponsible act of a misguided president. I will keep you posted if there are news about this or any other subject regarding Guatemalan adoptions, and request your support if the need arises.


Best regards,
Susana Luarca, Asociación Defensores de la Adopción

Posted by Kelly at 10:23 AM

September 27, 2006

The Hague Convention Seminar at the US embassy in Guatemala

{Posted on behalf of Susana Luarca, Association Defensores de la Adopcion}

The US embassy invited the adoption lawyers of Guatemala, to attend a seminar at the embassy to explain the way the Hague Convention is being implemented in the United States, on September 26, 2006.

About forty people attended the seminar. It was held at a conference room at the embassy. The consul explained that the process to ratify the Hague Convention by the United States is almost completed and will take place sometime during the next year, after the process of accreditation of the adoption agencies is finalized. The consequences for Guatemala of the United States becoming party to the Hague Convention is that Guatemla has to comply with the provisions of such convention, because if it does not do it, the US will no longer allow its citizens to adopt form Guatemala.

Guatemala never ratified the Hague Convention, because our country is neither member of the Hague Conference of International Private Law nor attended the Seventeenth Conference where the Hague Convention for International adoptions was discussed and subscribed by the attending countries. In November, 2003 Guatemala acceded to the Hague Convention, and the Procuraduría General de la Nacion (PGN) was appointed as Central Authority. During the six months that the Hague Convention was enforced in Guatemala by an arbitrary PGN, not a single adoption was processed by the PGN. The files piled up on top of the desks in the drawers and even on the floor of the PGN, while the families and the children waited and waited . In July 1st., 2003, the US embassy stopped processing authorizations for DNA and the situation got worse. Finally, on August 13, 2003, the Constitutional Court upheld the challenges that the Instituto de Derecho de Familia and a group of lawyers filed against the Congress decree that approved the Hague, based on the fact that since Guatemala never signed the convention, it was not possible to ratify it, it could only accede to the treaty, but the Constitution of Guatemala does not allow the President to accede to a treaty, only to ratify it. As soon as the sentence of the Constitutional Court was published in the official newspaper, the PGN started processing adoptions and the order was restored.

After that painful experience with the Hague Convention, it is very hard for us to believe that such treaty “protects the rights of the children”. In Guatemala, with the lack of social welfare, the unwed and jobless mothers are given the option of placing their children for adoption. But for some people, it would be better if those children “were not born”, as Josefina Arellano, the director of the section of children of the PGN expressed at a press interview, not long ago.

The consul explained the consequences for Guatemala of the US ratification of the Hague Convention, making it very clear, that the US does not care neither what the Guatemalan Constitution says nor what the Constitutional Court ruled. The only fact that they care is that Guatemala has not formally withdraw from the Hague Convention and that is enough. No exception will me made in the case of Guatemala and no especial treatment will be given to our country.

The other speaker was Ms. Lisa Novak , a U:S. attorney sepecializing in International Law. For many years she practices law in Washington D.C. Currently she serces as co-founder and Director of the Global Orphan Supprot and Education Foundation (GOSEF) which supports orphans in countries around the world through education and vocational training. She is also co-founder of Claar Foundation, a US international adoption agency. Ms. Novak made very clear that her opinions were hers only and that she neither works for the embassy nor for the State Department. Step by step, Ms. Novak explained to us the requirements of the Hague Convention and the way it will be implemented in the United States. She told us about the enormous financial resources that the adoption agencies will have to get in order to afford the accreditation fee and the insurance that every agency must have to cover its liability for the actions of all the people involved in the process of adoption, in any given case. That includes also the people that the agency works with in Guatemala.

Ms, Novak also expressed that the United States does not care what the Guatemalan Constitution says or what the Constitutional Court ruled with regard to the Hague Convention. All that matters is that the name of Guatemala is among the list of members of the Hague Convention and that is enough to force Guatemala to implement it or to risk not being able to do adoptions with the United States. Ms. Novak said that Guatemala is wrong if it believes that because of the number of adoptions that we do every year, the United States will reconsider the drastic measure that is taking, because Guatemala is not irreplaceable, since the United States can adopt from about other thirty countries.

The way that Guatemala implements the Hague Convention it is up to Guatemala. The United States will not dictate how that should be done, but it has to be done quickly, because in the United States “the train just left the station “ and it is a matter of time before the doors will close down for our children.

Ms. Novak pointed out the most important parts of the Hague Convention, suggesting different ways to implement it, because as a legal framework, the Hague Convention is very simple and very ample, and allows to each country the way it chooses to comply with the convention.

After listening to the consul and Ms. Lisa Novak, there is little doubt that the Guatemalan system must be changed, if we want to keep offering to our children, the possibility of finding a better future with permanent loving families in the United States.

After the meeting was over we were offered coffee and cookies and little time to exchange our views about the seminar and the information given to us. The question that remained is: Where are those thirty countries that the United States can adopt from?
According to the list of the top twenty countries that the US has extended orphan visas during the last year,( http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/stats/stats_451.html)only seven ofthem are Hague Convention members (China, Indian, Colombia, Philippines, Mexico, Poland and Brazil) The four major countries where the Americans adopted from last year are China, Russia, Guatemala and South Korea. The future of the four of them as sending countries is very somber. China has a serious gender unbalance among its population, due to the policy of only one child for each family, that makes the abortion of girls a common practice, but that after twenty five years is leaving a large percentage of the Chinese young man, with not enough women of their age group to get married. Russia and South Korea are facing a decline in their population growth, that threatens to close down adoptions permanently. Last week, South Korea suspended admitting new adoptions and even though they say that it is temporarily, it could become something permanent. Russia is encouraging its women to stay at home and care for their children, offering them pensions that make it very attractive. The response has been less than enthusiastic by the women, who are more interested in pursuing a career than in being stay-at home-mothers. That only leaves Guatemala, a country that made last year, as many adoptions as the remaining sixteen countries combined. The following country is Ukraine. On July 3, 2006 Ukrainian authorities announced that “Ukraine will accept NO NEW adoption dossiers from non-Ukrainian adoptive parents before January 1, 2007. This applies to ALL intercountry adoptions, including applications for biological siblings of previously adopted children”. They also give preference to married couples, allowing singles to adopt only in default of married couples.

According to Ms. Novak, a great success of the Hague Convention is to promote local adoptions in the countries of origin. She mentioned that before becoming Hague, Brazil “made thousands of intercountry adoptions”. According to the “Top Twenty List”, Brazil who became Hague until 1999, during the last fifteen years made less than 150 adoptions a year to the US, with the exception of the year of 1990, when it did 228 adoptions. That year was the lowest of Guatemala, with 257 adoptions. Ms. Novak stated that 30,000 domestic adoptions were made in Brazil last year. We hope, for the sake of the Brazilian children, that those numbers are right, but seriously doubt it.

If the United States closes down adoptions in Guatemala, the cases already started will be allowed to finish according to the old system. The catch is what is understood by “started”, pointed out the consul. Anyway, between the ratification and the time it becomes effective, there are three months, and that will give time to take a decision.

The adoption professionals of Guatemala are working to implement changes to comply with the Hague, because even if the US citizens can switch to another country, our children do not have that choice, and at this time, the alternative to adoption for a Guatemalan child whose parents cannot provide for him, is abandonment, mistreatment or being used for all sorts of illegal purposes. We cannot allow that. It is for them that we will do our best effort to keep adoptions as an option for the needy children of Guatemala.

Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law, Association Defensores de la Adopcion

Posted by Kelly at 11:05 AM

May 13, 2006

Should we start?

For as long as I have been involved in the world of Guatemalan adoptions, there has almost always been some impending threat making parents wonder whether they should start the process. And if there wasn't one, it was likely only because we weren't aware of what was going on behind closed doors.

There are two threats currently – one on the Guatemalan side as President Berger attempts to pass new laws to become compliant with the Hague. I don’t believe there is any way to predict what will happen on this end. The best I can say is that Guatemalan authorities have been trying to do this for many years and have yet to succeed, though it was scary back when they tried to implement it. If a new law is somehow passed, based on past attempts, “in process” cases are allowed to be completed under the old system. To be considered “in process”, the POA and first acta (birthmother’s consent for adoption) must have been completed and registered in Guatemala prior to the new law being enacted. At least that is how it has worked in the past.

The other threat is on the US side because of our implementation of the Hague which, as things stand today, will end adoptions from Guatemala to the US. While things can certainly change, it appears as though the DOS is going to take a pretty liberal approach on who will be grandfathered in and allowed to continue their adoption. It does appear as though anyone who has sent in an I600A prior to the Hague being implemented will be permitted to complete an adoption from Guatemala. So based on this, which as I said could be subject to change, you are safe starting the process now so far as the US Hague implementation is concerned.

There are no guarantees. And there is never a safe time to get into ICA. But that’s the state of affairs as best I can tell.

Posted by Kevin at 10:30 AM

April 28, 2006

Hague Pressures from all sides

Yesterday, the president of the Guatemalan Congress attempted to push Hague legislation through. Guatemala has been under extreme pressure from US (Department of State), UNICEF and Hague Officials. It was avoided for now, thankfully. The stipulations of the Hague, I believe, are impossible to meet in Guatemala without first being unconstitutional but most critically without the financial resources to support the very children it is "supposed" to protect.


It has taken years for DOS to come up with any sort of implementation plan for the US (and that is about as clear as mud!) Yet somehow Guatemala is supposed to discard their constitution in order to THROW something together to please the Hague Convention and the US before adoptions are effectively shut down to the US.

DOS and the Guatemalan Government need to understand that "INTENT" of a treaty does not protect children....its the IMPLEMENTATION that matters. Countries who have struggled to meet the Hague quickly without adequate resources have FAILED THEIR CHILDREN! I haven't exactly heard DOS speak out against BAD implementations of the Hague such as El Salvador, Costa Rica or Hondoras! That in itself is proof, in my opinion, that they are ONLY interested in establishing a "FEEL GOOD" policy which would severely reduce the number of adoptions and LOWER the State Department's expenses.

Yes, we are strategizing ways to get our voices heard and we will share our ideas shortly. For now, I would like to ask all our parents who are NOT in process and who would like to be involved, to create a mini biography (a couple of paragraphs) of what your child(ren) has/have accomplished and the relationship with your family. We will NOT be using family names or your name. Include pictures that are large enough to see but small enough to fit in the document. Why? Because faces tell a thousand stories and we need to emphasize the importance of the individual child (and the love we reserve just for him/her). We can accept WORD documents or mht (an HTML archive that stores the photo with the document), RTF, or editable PDF. These stories will be bound and presented to officials in Guatemala, the US and wherever we see a need to be heard (or seen;-).

SUBMIT YOUR DOCUMENT HERE....

Posted by Kelly at 02:45 PM

April 06, 2006

The CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND CO-OPERATION IN RESPECT OF INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION

{Posted on behalf of Susana Luarca, ADA}

It is one of the thirty seven international treaties created by the Hague Conference for Private International Law, an international organization based in the Netherlands. Guatemala is not a member of such organization and did not attend the session where the convention about international adoptions was signed, in May, 1993. For many years, us, the Guatemalan adoption professionals, watched with growing concern, how all the countries of origin of children, after becoming members to the Hague Convention on international adoptions, decreased the number of their adoptions until they were reduced to a few each year and how the countries of destiny, limited the number of countries their citizens could adopt from, In the case of the countries of origin, it was neither because the situation of the children was improved, nor because domestic adoptions were replacing international adoptions. It was because the inefficiency of the governments could not replace the activity of the private professionals who used to handle the processes of adoptions in those countries. In Guatemala we thought that we had no reason to worry, because our country was not a member of such convention. While the number of adoptions in our neighboring countries became very small, the success of Guatemalan adoptions did not go unnoticed. UNICEF brought the subject of Guatemalan adoptions to the discussion of the practical aspects of the convention in November 2000, and demanded that the countries members of the Hague Convention, “closed their doors to the Guatemalan children”, despite the fact that the convention itself states that it only applies when both countries are members of the convention. The Guatemalan ambassador in Brussels was approached by the Hague secretary and a letter was sent urging Guatemala to join the Hague Convention. During the following couple of years, the pressure of UNICEF intensified, to make Congress change the adoption laws of Guatemala and to become a member to the Hague Convention on adoptions.

Even though the Hague Convention does not state that private adoptions are inadmissible, as soon as a country of origin becomes member of such treaty, adoptions are handled by the government because the convention demands the establishment of a Central Authority, which is quickly translated into “only State adoptions are allowed”.

On August 13, 2002, the Guatemalan Congress approved the Hague Convention under the mistaken belief that it was signed by Guatemala. Alfonso Portillo, Guatemala’s former president, sent the documents of accession to the Hague Convention for international adoption, in November 2002. At the beginning of December 2002, another constitutional challenge was filed, on the grounds that the Constitution of Guatemala only authorizes the President to “celebrate, ratify and denounce international treaties”. Since the treaty was not celebrated by Guatemala, it could not be ratified by the president and being the accession the only way to become a member to the Hague Convention, the Constitutional Court ruled the approval of the treaty by the Congress unconstitutional, because neither the president has the power to accede to an international treaty, neither the Congress can grant such power to the president. In compliance with the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the president should have denounced the treaty right away. Alfonso Portillo left his position without doing so and Oscar Berger became president in January 14, 2004.

Unfortunately for the children in need of a family, UNICEF convinced President Oscar Berger and his wife Wendy, that adoptions in Guatemala are “easier than grocery shopping” as Wendy said to me when we met to discuss the adoption law – crafted by UNICEF - that she is sponsoring. The proposal is in Congress, and we hope that it will not be approved ever, because it is full of constitutional violations, that will reflect badly on Congress if it is ever approved, not to mention that it makes adoptions impossible. At the same time, President Berger refuses to comply with his obligation to denounce the Hague Convention and has even promised to Hans van Loon, the Secretary of the Hague Conference for International Private Law, that Guatemala will become Hague compliant.

An international treaty whose results are the opposite of what it was created for, is deemed a failure, and the countries who accepted it, waste no time in denouncing it, to be free of its negative effects. That is what should happen with the Hague Convention for international adoptions. It claims that it will protect the children, when it actually deprives children who could be adopted, of the family that they need. The so called “success” of the Hague Convention is measured by the number of countries that became members to it, completely forgetting that the main purpose of the convention should be to make adoptions easier, faster and available for every child who needs a family and that the Hague Convention makes them impossible.

In Guatemala, we suffered the painful effects of the Hague Convention, when the Procuraduría General de la Nación, which is the equivalent of the US Attorney General, was appointed as Central Authority for the purposes of the convention. At the beginning, the PGN attempted a hostile takeover of all adoptions started after March 5th, 2003. The director of the Central Authority told me that they planned to finalize the cases, while the lawyers kept taking care of the children and paying their foster care, because the PGN was going to collect the rest of the fees owed by the parents. Unable to apply the convention to the cases, the PGN paralyzed the hundreds of cases that were waiting its approval. The PGN kept the files hostages and neither UNICEF nor the so called “human rights organizations” contributed anything to help the children who were abandoned by their parents at the hospitals and public places, because adoptions were no longer possible. A wave of Rotavirus killed many children, and many others were given away by their parents for illegal purposes unrelated to adoption. The lack of concern of the government for the terrible situation of the needy children during that time was shameful. As it is shameful that there are no funds in the annual budget to support the orphans and the abandoned children, that according to the Constitution “its protection is of national concern”.

While adoptions were still paralyzed by the PGN, the Court of Amparo ruled in favor of the lawyers, suspending the effect of the Hague Convention. The Attorney General refused to obey the ruling and kept stalling the adoptions. At that time, the Constitutional Court gave its ruling exactly one year after its approval, and we all celebrated that the legal order was restored.

The United States signed the Hague Convention, but still has to ratify it. There is no way to know when that will happen. The Americans I have asked, say that it is a done deal and that nothing can be done to prevent the American President to ratify the convention. The State Department has told the adoption professionals, that once the United States ratifies the convention, adoptions of Guatemalan children will no longer be possible. The solutions to this situation could be:

a) The United States does not ratify the Hague Convention. Judging by the results of the convention in other countries, it does not make sense to ratify a convention that delivers exactly the opposite of what it was meant for.
b) The President of Guatemala denounces the treaty and twelve months later, Guatemala would no longer member of the Hague Convention. To accomplish that would be an uphill battle, because President Berger wants to embrace the convention, regardless of its consequences. For the second meeting of the Special commission on the Practical operation of the Hague Convention for Intercountry adoption, that took place in September 2005, the Guatemalan Government sent a high level delegation, formed by the vice minister of Foreign Affairs, the then Attorney General and now magistrate of the Constitutional Court, and the chairmen of three congressional committees, promising that every effort would be made to resubmit the 1993 Convention to Congress, regardless of the Constitutional Court ruling.

c) The United States ratifies the Hague Convention, but objects to the accession of Guatemala, not regarding it as member of the convention and therefore, continues doing adoptions with Guatemala. This would allow to continue doing adoptions, but will not stop the pressure of UNICEF to make the United States stop admitting children adopted from Guatemala. The UNICEF delegate in Guatemala says that only 500 adoptions should be allowed every year and 90% of them should be adopted by Guatemalan couples, and only ten percent by foreigners.

d) Guatemala becomes Hague convention compliant, which would be a solution just for a handful of children each year, as it happens in every Hague compliant country.

e) Finally and the only real solution would be that the whole world admits that adoption, like marriage, is a way to create a bond between people unrelated by blood and desist to make adoptions as difficult as possible. There are millions of orphans in the world. Even though not everybody is entitled to raise a child, every child is entitled to be raised by a loving family and the least everybody should do is to make every effort to make it possible, beginning with admitting that the Hague Convention is the main obstacle to that, and agreeing to put an end to a convention that never should have taken effect.

An example of how unnecessary it is to have an international treaty that regulates the relations of private citizens, is the Hague Convention on Celebration and Recognition of the Validity of Marriages, concluded on March 14, 1978 and entered into force on May 1st, 1991. Despite its obvious importance and the need of a legal instrument that helps to close the gap of different legal systems regarding marriage, only three countries have ratified it: Australia, Egypt and the Netherlands, and the three of them have expressed some kind of reservation. We would like that the Hague convention for adoptions would accept reservations or would state as it does the marriages convention: “This Convention shall not prevent the application in a Contracting State of rules of law more favorable to the recognition of foreign marriages.”
The ironclad clauses of the Hague Convention and the detrimental effects it has on adoptions should make all of us to raise our voices and demand from our governments to stop trying to take away something that belongs to the people, not to the governments. In the same unquestionable way that people get married, the state should limit its role to oversee the legality of the process and let the people exercise the right to relinquish a child or to love and raise someone else’s child as our own, simply because we have the will to do it. To give up those rights is costing millions of lives of children who die all over the world. Our silence has lasted long enough. We have to lend our voice to the children who cannot express themselves and work to give to as many children as possible, their most basic right; the right to a family.

Susana Luarca, ADA

Note: The above speecg may be reproduced only in its entirety acknowledging credits. Readers should be directed to Guatadopt.com if they have any questions or comments.

Posted by Kelly at 07:44 AM

April 01, 2006

DOS and Hague Update

DOS has elaborated on their position with Guatemalan Adoptions and the Hague. Click here for the posting to their site.
I found the line: "For purposes of international law, Guatemala has been party to the Convention since March 2003. Guatemala has not implemented the Convention and its adoption system does not currently assign Convention functions in the manner prescribed by the Convention." quite interesting considering that qualifying what they consider "International Law" really means *how we (DOS) choose to interpret it*.

I would also like to challenge DOS in explaining EXACTLY how they "seek" to avoid this situation. I realize that many felt that my original post about this as seeming to be the alarmist position. However, when Guatemalan adoptions are threatened whether it is in early 2007 or late 2008, I am concerned. More importantly, what will happen to these children? Certainly, DOS will not be planning mission trips or soliciting funds to send to the orphanages as they reach capacity!

We'll be discussing the Hague, the intent and the current failures of Hague countries more in articles to come....

The DOS has also added a FAQ... http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/notices/notices_2859.html#q1

Posted by Kelly at 06:12 PM

March 23, 2006

Hague Interpretation by Tifany Markee

Guatadopt readers -
We are exceedingly grateful to the many professionals and experts who take the time and share their expertise. I realize that at times, opinions and interpretations differ on many important issues. I know that makes it extremely difficult at times for our readers, but we feel obligated to share as much information as possible. I do feel that this is a serious issue that should not be glossed over by the agencies or prospective parents in the prepatory stage of their adoption.

{Posted on behalf of Tifany Markee, Immigration Attorney, Milner & Markee, LLP.}
I have been asked by GuatAdopt.com to provide a statement on the recent developments of the Hague Convention. As a bit of background, I am an immigration attorney, and specialize, in part, in international adoption law. I am an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Further, I am general counsel to 2 international adoption agencies, and have also been successful in assisting families with disputes they have with international adoption agencies. Finally, I am an adoptive mother of two children from Russia.

My statements below are simply my legal opinion, based upon my research and first-hand conversations with the Joint Council on International Children Services (JCICS) and the Department of State.

As many know, Guatemala acceeded to the Hague Convention (hereinafter called HC) in 2002. A challenge was immediately put before the Supreme Court in Guat, and the eventual ruling was that the method of accession was improper, and was thus against the constitution of Guatemala. Many here remember the near total stoppage of adoptions during that time.

Until now, this has never been an issue again. However, in Feb, the US finally signed on to the Hague. Again, there are a myriad of changes, but most principally, it will demand that any adoptions which occur between 2 HC countries must be done only by an accredited agency (the actual process of acceditation is a work in progress), and has all sorts of other safety nets, aimed at the protection of the kiddos. If the adoption is between a HC country and a non-HC country, no changes will be affected.

So now the pressing news:

The Department of State publicly confirms that the US considers Guatemala to be a HC country. Note that Guat is a non-member HC country, as they are not members of the Hague's permanent board. BUT, in the eyes of the US, Guat is a HC country. The Dept of State said last week that it did not recognize the "constitutional challenge," as that only pertained to domestic law, not internatonal law. The US seems to feel that the actual logistics of HOW the HC was aeceeded makes no difference in determining whether the country is a signatory to the HC.

However, the Dept of State also said in the very same breath that the adoption procedures in Guatemala were NOT in compliance with the HC. In short, this means that the US questions the procedures and safety nets.

So this presents an interesting problem: if the US considers Guat to be a HC country, then it will demand that any adoptions that occur after the effective date (which is slated, presently, to be January 1, 2007) MUST comply with the HC. However, at the present time, Guatemala does not comply.

The Joint Council has confirmed that is indeed the US' view.

The Joint Council as well as the Dept of State are presently encouraging Guatemala to allign itself with the Hague regs. Form a central authorization, etc. Guatemala does not seem so inclined to act, although there are several in Guatemala that would like to see such a central authority take over the job from the private attorneys.

Indeed, from both a legal and logical standpoint, adoptions from Guatemala (or more specifically, the US immigration of/ issuance of immigrant visas to children from Guatemala) are at jeopardy. The Department of State is clear: Guatemala, a Hague country, is not in compliance. Once the US effectuates the Hague, the convention effectively requires that the US not allow the immigration of adopted children from Guatemala, unless and until Guatemala complies with the Hague demands. If Guatemala fails to do that, I would expect that the US would refuse to priceed with Guatemalan adoptions. Again, this is the legal and logical conclusion, although one that has not been specifically and explicitly confirmed by the Department of State.

I have also posted on this subject on Adoption.com, and have gotten several questions about options. I have a few main thoughts I would like to share:

1. Adoption from Guatemala are at risk. Any prospective adoptive parent needs to be aware of the pending regulations, and take them into consideration as a part of making a decision to proceed with Guatemala. Families should take this news very seriously, and not allow an agency to dismiss it or claim that they have nothing to fear. It is up to the families to press their agencies for news and updates.

2. Any agency that completes adoptions from Guatemala needs to properly advise prospective adoptive parents of the risks. I personally feel that it is unethical for any agency to brush this under the rug, and dismiss any conversations about it. I would recommend to any agency to have a full and frank conversation with their families, and allow the families to make an informed decision. Agencies need to lead their clients in a fair and informed manner. I have advised one of my agency clients to begin these discussions with its families within the Guatemala program.

3. I know that the rumors that are floating around suggest that the filing of the I-600A will preserve eligibility to complete an adoption from Guatemala, despite a suspension (i.e. a grandfathering). I do not professionally agree with this line in the sand. The I-600A simply states that Mr. and Mrs. American citizens are stable and proper adoptive parents for an international child; it is not country-specific (the approval is then cabled to the country of the family's choosing). For this reason, I also do not feel that the issuance of the I-171H will also be a cut-off point. Rather, my opinion is that any cut-off line imposed in the event of a shut-down will relate to the initiation of the process in Guatemala -- filing of the Power of Attorney, fiing for Pre-Authorization, etc. I will research the cut-off points used when the US pulled the plug on adoptions from Cambodia and Vietnam and see if I can find a parallel to Guatemala.

4. As it relates to point #3, I would strongly encourage any family who is currently on the fence about adopting from Guatemala to make a decision, and a committment, and move forward as soon as they can. I have been in the immigration community for many years, and have seen many individuals who miss cut of dates of programs due to inaction. If a family has committed to Guatemala, I would advise that family to begin as soon as possible, with the goal of being as far down the path as possible by Jan 1, 2007. Hopefully, this will ensure that all families make it under any imposed cut-off lines.

5. Do not panic. I have seen the Department of State and CIS change and implement many programs over the years; often times, they extend deadlines and move the effective dates many times. While the Department of State has indicated that Jan 1, 2007 is the effective date, many other things need to be completed before Hague implementation, including the completion of the regulations related to the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA), the US implementation of the Hague, as well as the accreditation regs and procedures. While Jan 1, 2007 seems fairly certain now, that date may change.

I will be attending the JCICS conference at the end of April, at which time I will attend the Guatemala caucus, the Hague meetings, as well as the open forum with the Department of State. I am happy to provide a summary and highlights as soon as I return. I am also happy to answer questions as they come.
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ADDENDUM...added 24-MAR-2006
Based upon a conversation I have had with JCICS, I would like to amend or clarify a few of the comments I made in my statement yesterday. I feel that the only way to educate prospective adoptive parents is to provide the most accurate information possible, in a manner which is clear and timely.

1. Regarding the effective date of the Hague Convention in the United States: As the rumor mill begins to run rampant, dates and specifics begin swirling around. As I was writing my posts on Adoption.com and GuatAdopt, I made extensive use of and reference to a specific date for implementation: January 1, 2007. In my conversations with JCICS, I have confirmed that while we all may be eager for a bright-line start date, the Department of State has, so far, not committed to any specific date. They did mention in their open meeting that their goal for implementation is 2007; however, they attached no specific month or day to that goal. As I stated in my post yesterday, the implementation date is simply a goal; many steps have to be completed before that implementation, including establishing a process and authority for accreditation of US-based agencies. JCICS is of the opinion, and I concur, that the actual implementation date is likely to be closer to the end of 2007, possibly even into 2008. That timeline appears much more realistic given the amount of work that must be done in anticipation of the full implementation.

2. Regarding the status of families who are just beginning the process: As I stated in my post yesterday, I believe that families who are currently starting the process are unlikely to be impacted by any changes. Ultimately, only the Department of State will determine the line which a case must pass to be grandfathered in under any changes. However, given the time lines we are seeing for completion of various steps in an adoption from Guatemala, I believe, as does JCICS, that any family that begins within the next few months should be fine. Of course, opinions may change as the end of the year approaches, and only after an assessment of the progress of Hague implementation can further predictions be made. I would once again reinforce that any families who are uncertain of a Guatemalan adoption may wish to wait and see; but those who are committed to starting the process should begin that process within the next few months.

3. Regarding the status of Guatemala as a Hague Convention country: JCICS clarified for me that Guatemala is a Hague Convention country because it acceded to the Convention. States which are Permanent Members of the Convention (which Guatemala is not) can then object to the accession (which was seen in the actions of 5 countries). However, only Member countries can then ratify the Convention, and non-member countries cannot object to that ratification.

I am hopeful that this provides families with additional updates and details. I invite all families to maintain an open dialogue with all participants in this important discussion, including JCICS, FOA, as well as their agencies, to hopefully reach a solution to this upcoming potential problem.

Respectfully,

Tifany Markee, Esq.
Milner & Markee, LLP
www.milner-markee.com

---------------------------------------------

Posted by Kelly at 06:52 PM

Hague Update/Perespective

The following was supplied by hannah wallace, President of Focus on Adoption.

The concern engendered by the Department of State's announcement about Hague Treaty implementation re: Guatemala is understandable, but the conclusion that all adoptions will be stopped from Guatemala (unless they develop Hague compliant legislation) is quite premature.

In summary for newcomers to the listserve and the issues: Guatemala acceded to the Hague Treaty without any implementing legislation. The PGN, who was named by the President (Portillo) as a Central Authority developed a series of procedures which were challenged in court because (a) they went against existing law (b) the PGN has no legislative authority. These procedures were ALL overturned by the courts in Guatemala. Meanwhile, the actual Accession to the Hague Treaty was challenged and the Constitutional Court declared that the accession was illegal because of prior international treaties Guatemala was party to, which did not allow Guatemala to accede to treaties they had not been party to developing. Guatemala did not participate in development of the Hague Treaty. Therefore, in Guatemala, the highest court has ruled that Guatemala cannot be a party to the Hague Treaty.

However, the Guatemalan government has not formally withdrawn from the Hague. The DOS spokesman was incorrect in stating that Guatemala could not withdraw, as there are provisions in the Hague Treaty for withdrawal. The current President of Guatemala needs to formally withdraw from the Treaty, but Pres.Berger does not want to withdraw, and in fact, is favor of legislation being promoted by the First Lady, which would put the adoption process in the hands of the government entirely - more than fulfilling the Central Authority mandate required by the Hague Treaty. As I understand it, there are ways of legally forcing the issue and having President Berger comply with the Constitutional Court and formally withdraw from the Treaty. ** However, there is some reluctance to force the issue because of concerns that the US government could state that they will only work with other Hague countries. (which is NOT part of the Treaty) Or the U.S. government deciding that unless Guatemala changes their adoption legislation, they won't allow US citizens to adopt from Guatemala. In my opinion, both of those concerns can be addressed through legal and political advocacy -- and FOA is developing strategies for this advocacy which will be posted on our website and on Guatadopt shortly.

Even if Guatemala does not formally withdraw from the Hague, there are legal issues which can be addressed regarding the U.S. regarding Guatemala as a Hague Country despite internal laws which prohibit this. Finally, there are moderate changes to Guatemalan adoption legislation which have been proposed, but always get shelved in favor of the more radical proposals which create serious constitutional issues as well as serious social issues. The current proposal favored by the First Lady, and promoted by UNICEF, is similar to adoption laws in other countries which have absolutely curtailed adoption, if not formally stopping it, at great cost to the children who need families. Deprivatization of intercountry adoption, unless a government has resources to implement this successfully and to support the children places children without parental care at great risk. As the Guatemalan government is not currently caring for more than 25,000 children who are already in private, licensed orphanages, and these laws never provide for adequate funding, the risks are enormous.

I believe that many officials at the Department of State are looking at these issues abstractly and legalistically and that it is up to the adoption community to provide information about the complex social and political environment and the potential impact of supporting legislation which undermines the quality of life of the children they intend to protect.

Hannah Wallace, President, Focus On Adoption

Posted by Kevin at 02:08 PM

US State Department Confirms intent to close down adoptions in Guatemala in 2007

ALERT: We are extremely sad to report that the US State Department has confirmed they will treat Guatemala as a Hague country bound by the Hague requirements. Since Guatemala does not currently meet the Hague criteria, adoptions will cease in 2007 when the US enters the Hague. This position (that they are viewing Guatemala as a Convention country) has been publically stated on the US State Department site as well as a meeting held last week in which they confirmed that they viewed Guatemala as a non-compliant Hague bound country and therefore, could not do adoptions with Guatemala until they were compliant.

This position, in our opinion, must be politically motivated. We believe the US has several ways to legally recognize the current adoption system in Guatemala without violating their participation.

  1. The US could object to Guatemala's accession (the UK objected and found an acceptable process which would keep adoptions open).
  2. The US could recognize that Guatemala publically withdrew from the Hague once the Constitutional Court of Guatemala ruled the Accession unconstitutional. Currently, the State Department is claiming that this does not qualify as a formal withdrawal.
  3. Guatemala could formally (in writing) withdraw from the Hague. This is unlikely and unreasonable since it would make no sense for them to withdraw from something they were never constitutionally a part. Furthermore, a formal withdrawal mandates a year before it can take effect.

You can read some of the information on the State Department's site: Implementation of the Hague and the Stance of other Hague countrie in regards to Guatemala. What is unbelievable to me is that our own government is publically stating that they are not recognizing the Guatemala Constitution as affecting their participation in this International "Treaty". Excuse ME? Does this mean that OUR US Constitution has no bearing one what the State Department negotiates with other countries? I'm appalled!

I should add a disclaimer that I am not an International Law expert or an attorney and I will try to follow this post up with as much validated information as I can. But what I can see is that once again political ploys are getting in the way of children finding permanent homes with loving families. It appears that our government is not interested in finding homes for needy children, but are more interested in "looking" good by forcing adherence to a Treaty that is as vague as a politician campaigning that he is "for the children".

We will follow up with some opinions from the experts soon.....

FYI: I updated the above statement to make it clear that it is the interpretation and the way the US Government views Guatemala's participation.

Posted by Kelly at 08:16 AM

March 19, 2006

2007 - An end to Guat Adoptions for Americans?

A couple of weeks ago, we posted that the US released its final Hague rules. The convention is slated to go into effect in 2007.

There has been much debate about what this will mean to adoptions from Guatemala. And its kind of confusing to understand.

As things appear at this moment as I understand them, the Hague implementation may very well end adoptions to the United States from Guatemala.

In 2003, Guatemala acceded to the Hague Convention. That accension was later ruled unconstitional by the Constitutional Court of Guatemala.

Under official Hague rules, once a country accedes to the convention there is only one way to withdraw. To do so, they must formally withdraw in writing. And then one year after the date the letter is received by the Hague, the country is no longer considered a part of it.

The Convention entails certain principles, not specific policies per se, that countries must have in their adoption systems. If a Hague country determines that another country's system does not adhere to those principles, adoptions are not permitted between the two countries.

Their is little debate about the fact that Guatemala's system, for better or worse, does not adhere to the Convention. The debate circles around whether or not Guatemala is considered a member of the convention. As things have stood, Guatemala says it isn't, the Hague says it is.

All of this has been irrelevant for adoptions to the US because we have not yet implemented the convention. Now that implementation is imminent, it is a whole different story. Initial indications from our government had been that the US would not consider Guatemala a part of the convention. According to people who attended a public meeting on it last week, that position has now changed and the United States does in fact consider Guatemala to be in the convention.

If nothing else changes, this would almost certainly mean that once the US implements the Hague, presumably next year, it would end adoptions from Guatemala to the United States.

Whenever these threats arise, the uproar always tends to come from those in-process or preparing to start an adoption. I do not believe that either of these groups have any cause for concern. I do not believe that the US government will disrupt adptions in process when the convention goes into effect. The next question is at what point the US would grandfather in cases. My guess, and it is just that, is that it would be if you already have an I171H approval. Or it could be if you have already filed an I600A form. I say this because the I171H is the US government officially allowing you to adopt from Guatemala. I don't see how they could prevent you from doing so once they have said it is okay.

There is no telling what will happen between now and the time that the convention goes into force. The US could make an exception of some sort. Guatemala could formally withdraw. Guatemala could alter its system to be compliant with the Hague even it doesn't believe it can formally join the convention.

At this moment, my only piece of advice wouldbe to people considering an adoption from Guatemala. If you are in this situation, I would advise you to make the decision and if you decide you want to pursue an adoption, don't waste too much time before doing so.

Needless to say, there will be more to this in the weeks and months ahead.

Posted by Kevin at 01:42 PM

February 20, 2006

Guatemala and the Hague

Many questions are arising about what scoop is regarding the US putting the Hague Treaty into force and adoptions from Guatemala. It is a bit funky so here is my best shot at it.

The Hague is only relevant in adoptions between two Hague countries. So adoptions by US families from non-Hague countries will not be impacted by the Hague.

Some countries choose to say that all adoptions must live up to the Hague, even if the sending country is not a member of the Hague. The US legislation does not have this provision. However, that could be changed at any time and it is possible that proposed legislation like the ICARE bill could do this in the future.

The million quetzal question…. Is Guatemala in the Hague? Guatemala did accede to the treaty and filed all necessary documentation to join. But then it was determined by the Guatemalan Constitutional Court that it was not constitutional. Under the rules of the Hague, once all requisite documentation has been received, the only way out to formally withdraw from it in writing. One year after the date that the Hague receives that letter, the country is no longer considered a part of the treaty. To this date, Guatemala has not formally withdrawn from the convention because they feel they really joined.

So the Hague says Guat is in, Guat says it isn’t. the real question becomes what will the US think. IF the US determines that Guatemala is in the Hague, then this could mean huge problems for Guatemalan adoptions. If the US determines that Guatemala is not in the Hague, then adoptions from Guatemala will not be impacted by the US finally putting it into force.

Some initial indications from US authorities seem to be that the US does not/will not consider Guatemala to be a part of the Hague. However, I don’t believe that this is anything official and we will not know until it goes into force (my opinion on that). It is also possible that Guatemala will formally withdraw from the Hague. There are people trying to make that happen.

From what I can tell most adoption providers do not seem overly concerned that Guatemalan adoptions will be impacted anytime soon. But no one can predict the future. And I will use this as one more occasion to emphasize with everyone the importance of following US adoption policy. For a few years I have been saying that I think that the potential for US-Guatemala adoptions to be stopped by the US is at least equal to it happening on the Guatemalan end. We closely follow what goes on in Guatemala and then minimize US legislation like ICARE. I thin it is because the Guatemalan Congress acts much quicker then the US Congress, and in many ways operates more openly. But there are always adoption laws being slowly debated in the US that can have a huge impact.

This may create as many new questions as it answers old ones but this is the best that I can describe it.

Posted by Kevin at 10:44 AM

February 16, 2006

U.S. Final Hague Regulations

The United States issued its final Hague implementation regulations. These rules become effective one month from tomorrow though I am not sure when the Convention enters into forth. We hope to post more info on this soon. Click here to read more about it and to find the full text of the rules.

Posted by Kevin at 01:29 PM

September 13, 2004

An Important Anniversary

It's been an extremely busy day in the office but I didn't want it to pass without acknowledging that today, Sept. 13, is the first anniversary of the official end of the Hague Treaty in Guatemala when the decision of the Constitutional Court was published in the national newspaper.

For a few months I have been working on a book about our adoption and adoption in general. So for those of you with a few minutes to spare, here is the section I wrote for the book describing what it was that happened. As I read this just now, I couldn't help but to think of the stereotypical Grateful Dead lyric from the song Truckin: What a long, strange trip it's been....

That Pesky Hague Convention

There was something else going on with Guatemalan adoptions in general that merits a book on its own rites. After much deliberation on how to integrate this into the story, it seemed most viable to describe it on its own and then just allow the emotional agony it caused to naturally make its way into the story itself.

This something else going on was Guatemalas attempted accession to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The topic of international human rights type agreements as they relate to intercountry adoption will be focused on later, for the time being let it be enough said that these things can raise holy terror on the poor folks that get caught in the middle of a country trying to comply with one. The Hague Convention in Guatemala was no exception.

The Hague in Guatemala will be described as how it came to us as we went through it. To step back in time, unbeknownst to us, in November while we were in the middle of our homestudy, Guatemala essentially agreed to join this Convention. This in itself was not a major cause for alarm. Most countries take years to develop a system of compliance and formally accede to the Convention. Our adoption should have long since completed by the time this would happen. Then on March 13, 2003, the Guatemalan Congress made a surprise announcement that as of March 5, 2003, it had formally acceded to the Convention.

What this meant to families like ours was uncertain. Quickly, the in-process families were divided into two groups, pre 3/5 and post 3/5. Determining which category you fell into was not clear for many families because of the official criteria needed to be pre 3/5. If the birthmothers relinquishment, called the first acta, and the power of attorney were both formally registered before March 5, then you were considered pre 3/5 and your case would be able to proceed according to the old rules. Because these two criteria were not normal milestones to parents in the process, they were generally not noted by the adoption agencies or communicated to the parents. As a result, it took many people quite some time to find out which group they were a part of.

We were clearly in the post 3/5 group, which appeared a more precarious situation. For a few months, everything pretty much proceeded normally except for the fact that no one could ultimately get out of PGN, because there was no legal system in place for adoptions covered under the Hague Convention. The Convention itself is a bunch of principles. It is up to the country to work out the details of how to implement those principles. Guatemala had not worked out the details. So for the time being, until they enacted the new system, we were caught in limbo.

Early on in Isabels adoption, I wasnt very concerned about this. The rumor in the adoption community was that a few new documents would be required and that it would all be put to rest within a couple of months. Since we were early on in the process, it would already be a few months before we got to the point of being stuck in PGN with no way out.

In June, UNICEF brought the head of the PGN (the PGN had been declared the official Central Authority for adoptions as is required when one accedes) to the Hague. Because of UNICEFs public and covert attacks on adoption, we knew this could not be a good thing. When the head of the PGN returned, it became clear that he now had changes far greater than just a few documents in mind.

On July 1, a new adoption system was announced. Sort of. It was very clear on a few things. First of all, the notaries and lawyers were now out of the equation. Private foster care was to be ended and only four hogares in the country were authorized for housing children being adopted. In addition, all future referrals had to come directly from the government. All referrals for cases that were official (same standards as Pre 3/5) before 7/1 would be recognized.

Now the community was split into three groups. Even though months had passed since March, very few of the pre 3/5 cases were being completed. Then there were the people like us who were no longer post 3/5. We were now pre 7/1. The new post 7/1 group, while fewer in numbers, were in the worst situation. Because of what had been announced, they did not know if they would be allowed to adopt the child whose picture and vision they undoubtedly already loved.

What was not clear was how someone was supposed to receive a referral from the government, what would physically happen to the children currently in foster care, or how parents were supposed to complete the cases. We were told that all cases needed to be presented to the Central Authority, a new office located within the PGN. But since they were claiming that our lawyers and notaries no longer had any involvement and they had not made it clear what would happen next, parents realized that trying to have the files moved to this Central Authority could very well mean they were losing their only representation in Guatemala. Some lawyers did comply and turned over the files. But because of efforts underway to try to turn back the Hague altogether, most lawyers and parents waited to see what would happen to those cases that were given to the Central Authority before doing so ourselves.

A legal battle challenging the constitutionality of the Hague Convention in Guatemala now rose to new levels. There were a number of different fronts to this battle. As I understand it, one challenge had to do with the fact that the Guatemalan Constitution prevents the government from becoming party to international agreements that it was not involved in drafting. Another focused on Congress having overstepped its legal authority in acceding to the treaty. Yet another involved the fact that by naming PGN, which is part of the executive branch, as the Central Authority and leaving the implementation up to them, Congress had effectively granted legislative powers to the executive branch an understandable no-no (except for in the United States where Congress seems happy to see the executive branch usurp its sole authority to wage war!). Finally, the Guatemalan Constitution, to its credit, is very specific in the rights of the woman to decide the course for her child. And the function of the notarial system is deep rooted in its function and purpose. What was happening here went beyond just the adoption laws, it was setting precedent. Im still not sure how these issues combined into different formal legal challenges. The bottom line was that there were a few different challenges being brought before the Guatemalan Constitutional Court that could overturn all this Hague nonsense.

There was another front to be waged in this battle. This had to do with the nature of the Convention and I apologize for the disgustingly technical details. By definition, the Hague Convention is only valid between countries that have implemented it. The United States had not implemented the Convention. The United States had signed on to it, agreeing to implement some day. But it had not implemented it and thus adoptions between the United States and Guatemala were not covered under the Convention even if none of the constitutional challenges worked. There was hope that if the United States officially declared its Third Party status, everything could go back to normal until the United States eventually implemented it.

A group of lawyers banded together in an organization known as the Associacin Defensores de la Adopcin (Association in Defense of Adoption) and sought out the help of a reluctant Guatemalan Bar Association. One notorious and brave attorney took the gutsy and unprecedented move of keeping the parents abreast of what was happening. I venture to say it was gutsy because by doing so she was to a certain degree laying the legal battles strategy out for all to see. Secondly, much of what she said was her best and honest opinion. But people desperate to get their children home took this as the gospel and were quick to jump to conclusions if things didnt go as they should. In addition, for a time these updates were done on an e-mail list known as The Big List with over two thousand members. Inevitably, her voluntary updates led to some uncomfortable debate and endless questions being asked of her. Im sure that she also got infinite e-mails from parents looking for help because of some intricacy involving their case. Lastly, it created an awkward situation where many parents knew more about what was going on than did the adoption agencies they paid to represent them. For many agencies, Guatemala was a very small portion of their operations and they werent deeply involved in the details. This I am sure led to some of sort of schism for her openness in an unfortunately secretive industry. Nonetheless, Thursday Updates became a ritual for many and about the only thing they had to lust for in the week. These updates, when copied and pasted into a word file, make up anywhere from seventy-five to one hundred twenty-five pages depending on the font size.
From July through the beginning of August, the adoption system for the most part came to a screeching halt. The US Embassy stopped processing cases, refusing even to grant requests to initiate DNA tests. The cases presented to the Central Authority werent going anywhere and the children were still in foster care. Cases were receiving Previos from PGN for not being Hague compliant and there was no known way to be Hague compliant. Even the pre 3/5 cases werent being completed. An abyss for certain! The most difficult part for most people was the fact that there was no guarantee of any end in site. Something had to break sooner or later, but which it would be was unknown.

At one point of group of ninety-seven notaries filed a legal proceeding called an amparo (appeal), accusing the PGN of breaking the law by not allowing the notaries to perform their duties as defined by the Constitution. The courts agreed with the notaries and if everything proceeded according to law, cases should start moving again even if the Hague challenges were still up in the air. In a symbolic way, this was also the courts agreeing that the Hague was unconstitutional in Guatemala. The only problem was enforcing the amparo. In order to do this, criminal legal charges had to be brought against those not abiding by the amparo. This took more time, money, and resources. It is worth noting that by and large the notaries did not solicit money from in-process families in order to fund these challenges, although some families did have to pay for the foster care as cases were taking much longer than expected.

On August 13, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala sided with the notaries that Guatemalas acceding to the Hague was unconstitutional. The battle had been won, although it didnt seem like it for quite a while. For starters, the decision would not be official until the day after it was printed in the national newspaper, El Diario de Centro Amrica. Exactly one very long month of skeptical unease later, the decision became official. Because of the stand still that had occurred, even then it took quite a while to get past the backlog of cases that had been stockpiled.

In total, its estimated that 1500 2000 families were caught in the middle of what is now known as the Hague Fiasco. While it was a trying time, it was also a time of great solidarity in the adoption community. Lawyers, agencies, and parents were working together and much of the secrecy disappeared. Grassroots efforts of various sorts were organized. Elected officials were lobbied. Groups opposing intercountry adoption and supporting the end of adoptions in Guatemala were targeted with information campaigns and petitions. While all these efforts ultimately did not impact the outcome since the lawyers had really taken care of it unilaterally, it brought together many people, enlightened some on the politics of children, and gave others a new direction and outlook in their lives.

While the whole Hague Fiasco may only have been five months from start to finish, it seemed like an eternity to those in the eye of the storm.

Posted by Kevin at 07:24 PM

August 14, 2003

NOW we can celebrate!!!

(Posted with permisison from Susana Luarca)

SUBJECT: The Constitutional Court upheld the challenge against the Hague Convention

Dear Friends:

Yesterday, the Constitutional Court ruled on the challenges filed
against the law that approved by Congress the Hague Convention of 1993 for
Inter Country Adoptions. The Constitutional Court, the highest court
of Guatemala in Constitutional issues, corrected the Guatemalan
Congress, who approved the accession of our country to the Hague
Convention in clear violation of the Constitution. The basic arguments are
that Guatemala never signed the convention and therefore it could not be
ratified, leaving only the accession as a way to become a party to such
convention according to the same convention, but since the accession
is not among the powers of the president, it was unconstitutional for
Congress to give to the President a power that exceeded those granted to
him by the Constitution.

This means that Guatemala will no longer be bound by a convention
that in theory is for the protection of the children and to unify the
rules of international adoption, but in practice it is the most effective
tool to eliminate adoptions. For the last five months, the PGN
appointed as Central Authority for the purposes of the Hague Convention, gave
us more than a glimpse of the catastrophic consequences that the Hague
Convention brings to international adoption. Not a single adoption
started after March 5th was approved during those terrible five months.
It was not because of lack of implementing legislation, because the
lawyers and the waiting families were willing to fulfill any reasonable
requirements that the Central Authority would have established. Many
adoption files were presented to the Central Authority, only to gather
dust at this office of the PGN. "To ban the lawyers and the baby
farms" were the instructions that Luis Rosales, the State Attorney
received
from the Secretary of the Hague Conference. Or at least that is what
he told us, a group of lawyers who met with him to discuss the matter.

We learned many things during this journey. We learned, among many
other things, that there is a way to reverse the Hague Convention, in
order to give the children the opportunity to be placed with permanent
and loving families. We learned that we have to fight for the right,
because no matter how strong the opponent is, justice prevails.

We hope to have set the example for other countries whose children
are not being adopted and for those countries whose citizens long to
become parents and are prevented to do so, because their governments
fell into the sand trap of the Hague Convention for inter country
adoption

Although things will take a while to get back on track, amparos will
have to be filed to make a hostile PGN to do its work, and even criminal
actions will have to be brought if they keep disregarding the orders of
the Court of Amparo, the nightmare is over. The Hague Convention in
Guatemala cannot harm adoptions any more.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!

Susana Luarca
Attorney at Law
Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin
Guatemala City

Posted by Kelly at 01:09 PM

August 10, 2003

Amparos, CA, Etc.

I know that on several boards, there has been a rumor that the CA was shut down. Susana confirmed that this is just a rumor. There is some political backlash against the director of CA, Eizabeth de Larios from FRG party (Rios Montt's party). She is still there, but the PGN/FRG took away resources away from the CA.

The Court of Appeals (or Court of Amparo) made the ruling that the *"Hague Convention does not apply to the petitioners because it violates their constitutional rights."

If your lawyer was NOT on the list, then his/her cases are NOT covered by the ruling. Pressure your agency to have your lawyer file, if he/she has not already done so.

I am also aware that some agencies are *interpretting* this news as "Everything is back to normal". Legally, the amparos require that an opinion is given within 3 days. But whether they will comply is another story.

(With permission from Hannah Wallace, I am reposting her clarification. Please note that these are the "general principles". Hannah has stated that she is expecting an exact translation of the 27 page Amparo. I will provide a link when we have it)

Dear Listmates, Some of yeou have written about the fact that SOME agencies
are still recruiting families... despite the DOS website warning and the
pronouncements from the PGN/ Central Authority. There is current information to
support cautious optimism about adoptions in Guatemala.

The AMPARO granted to 97 attorney/notaries on August 5, 2003 upheld certain
principles:

1. The Hague Treaty is not a Human Rights Treaty and can't supercede the laws
of the country (internal laws). *Remember that the C.A. says on their website
that they can enforce new procedures announced on July 1, because as a HR
Treaty, the HT supercedes the Internal laws. NOT SO SAYS THE COURT.

2. The PGN does not have the right to develop regulations which deviate from
the current Law, only Congress does. * Without legislation, none of the
procedures pronounced by the PGN can be put into effect. Applying the HT without
legislation is not permitted.
This means that "arbitrary dates" like pre or post March 5, or post July 1 to
apply "new procedures" are not legal.

3. The Notarial Process is protected by the Constitution. *This means that
Notaries can continue to take Relinquishments/Consents and process the adoption
as is stated in the Law. It also means that adoptions of abandoned children,
with legal abandonment decrees, can be processed.

This AMPARO covers all the cases of the 97 Notaries who presented it. There
is an identical AMPARO being entered this week with many more Notaries signing
on.

This AMPARO is like a Court Order and stays in effect while it is being
challenged, until or unless it is overturned by a Higher Court. (It is believed
that this is unlikely to be overturned though likely that it is being appealed.)

There is some legal justification for agencies making referrals, even of post
July 1 children born and relinquished. To be absolutely safe, some agencies
are asking for small retainer fees to care for the children and begin the
process; some agencies are waiting for the results of the Appeal. But there is
this window of "'opportunity" which each family faced with the choice will have
to make. There is also a possibility that adoption legislation would be passed
by Congress. If this legislation differs greatly from the current legislation
and requires Constitutional changes, without perceived benefit to adoptions,
then that legislation can be challenged. According to attorneys, the
legislation cannot be retroactive... however, I don't recommend that families pay a
full adoption fee or even half, until we know that the Amparo is upheld under
appeal.

We should be asking our DOS to change the web site information. We should be
asking BCIS to resume DNA testing. We should be asking that our government
respect the Laws of Guatemala, not the authority assumed by the Central
Authority, who doesn't have the Law behind it in applying certain rules. We should be
asking our government to mediate between the Central Authority and adoptive
families and to stop sending us to the C.A. for information. The PGN has a role
within the current Law to process adoptions within a certain time period.
Cases are being returned to the PGN. If they don't comply with the "court order"
they can be charged criminally.

While we don't have complete security by any means, August 5 was a good day
for the children of Guatemala who need families.

Hannah Wallace, Adoptions International

Posted by Kelly at 03:50 PM

August 06, 2003

Name of the Lawyers (Amparos Granted)

Sorry for the delay. Since this was a list of names, I wanted to double check whether to post it.

(Posted with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law).

Drumroll, please.

In case you wonder who are the lawyers who were granted the amparo,they are the following:

Edgar Ren Regalado Cardona, Vctor Alfredo Morales Rivas,
Miriam Consuelo Orellana Cardona, Rafael Morales Solares, Julio Roberto
Echeverra Vallejo, Ronaldo David Ortz Orantes, William Edilzar Rodas
Quionez, Vctor Hugo Trejo De Len, Rigoberto Tzirin Bal, Ral Ticun Urias,
Jos Mauricio Avila Gavarrete, Jos Alejandro Villamar Gonzlez, Anbal
Veliz Molina, Adolfo Dimas Rangel Solis, Francisco Sandoval Cingolani,
Carlos Humberto Gonzlez Medrano, Gladys Floridalma Alvarado Herrera De
Semp, Rosa Marina Rivera Cruz, Blanca Eugenia Martnez Luna De Arce, Javier
Oswaldo Villatoro Morales, Jess Ernesto Ramrez Lara, Gricelda Liliana
Lpez Ruiz, Miguel Angel Mayen Meja, Carlos Enrique Aguirre Ramos, Vicente
Olayo Guzmn Alvarado, Juan Alfonso Letona Salazar, Oscar Francisco
Cifuentes Mendoza, Vctor Manuel Uribio Alvarez, Aura Leticia Montes
Leonardo De Rosales, Carlos Humberto Aguilar Cabrera, Leonel Machuca Quiroa,
Walter Antonio Raymundo Toledo, Oscar Ademar Robles Rodas, Carmen Janette
Gonzlez Guzmn, Jos Alfonso Alfredo Close Sandoval, Mara Cristina
Menndez Acevedo, Arnoldo Torres Duarte, Sandra Patricia Leonardo Lpez,
Pedro Gonzalo Cabrera Polanco, Jess Adalberto Cabrera Urizar, Francisco
Alfredo Trinidad Gmez, Marina Elizabeth Meja Morales de Rodas, Mardoqueo
Ortega Alvarado, Barbara Alexandra Cofio Vides, Carlota Torres Ocampo, Olga
Patricia Sosa Montenegro, Gilda Lily Cuevas Cojulun, Leonel Rodrigo
Chavarria Alvarado, Ruth Isabel Estrada de Palacios, Indira Gonzlez Castro,
Anbal Gonzlez Dubon, Carlos Gerardo Obando Guzmn, Sergio Estuardo De Len
Morales, Gonzalo Cabrera Ocom, Mara Elena Letona Rodas, Susana Mara Luarca
Saracho, Lenin Ivan Loarca Palencia, Alma Beatriz Valle Flores de Meja,
Rosa Mara Vides Estrada De Monzn, Ana Mara Girn Rieckof De Miranda, Olga
Eugenia Ogaldez Solares De Ponce, Raquel Fortuny Arana, Werner Ortz
Quevedo, Abelardo Retana Godoy, Ramiro De Jess Guerra Figueroa, Angela
Beatriz Arana Gonzlez, Jorge Mario Sum Santiago, Jos Mara Arana Tobar,
Hector Antonio Dvila Mendoza, Bernardo De Jess Osorio Ramrez, Otto Ren
Galvez Abril, Ada Mara Odilia Molina Ramrez, Fernando Haroldo Santos
Recinos, Rodolfo Evaristo Morales Prez, Mara Beatriz Armas Galindo De
Ortega, Juan Carlos Pinillos Garca, Jorge Armando Carrillo Gudiel, Hector
Manolo Recinos De Len, Dina Esther Castro Meja, Francisco Leonel Castro
Escobar, Flora Aracely Jurado Gordillo, Jorge Arturo Sandoval Valentn,Mayra Rossana Ciraiz Rivera, Dora Amanda Zavala Navas, Aura Marina Zavala de Surez, Jos Francisco Monroy Galindo, Carlos Nicols Palencia Salazar, Jenny Noemy Alvarado Ten, Sandra Isabel Taracena Villatoro, Sandra Roselia Mrida Meoo, Ren Antonio Rodrguez Tortola, Alfonso Cacacho Ralda, Luis Roberto Aragon Hernndez, Andrs Vsquez Taracena, Rafael Mendoza Pellecer, Enrique Pellecer Hernndez y Rosa Carlota Silva Meja

Best regards,
Susana Luarca

Posted by Kelly at 09:52 AM

August 05, 2003

Amparos Upheld by Court of Appeals!

(Posted with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law).

THE COURT OF AMPARO GRANTED AGAIN THE SUSPENSION OF THE HAGUE CONVENTION

The Amparo action filed by ninety seven lawyers was upheld by the First Court of Appeals, acting as Court of Amparo, who ruled that the Hague Convention does not apply to the petitioners because it violates their constitutional rights.

Based on that ruling, all the adoption files of those lawyers will have to be processed by the PGN according to the Guatemalan laws and with total disregard to the Hague Convention. The PGN has three days to do so. If it fails to give the required opinion, the lawyers may accuse the PGN of contempt, and criminal accusations may be brought against the PGN officers.

The ruling of the Court of Amparo is another step to restore the order after the chaos and suspension brought to intercountry adoptions by the Hague Convention, five months ago. We are very confident that the law and order will prevail and the children that have been waiting will join their adoptive families very soon.

Today, Prensa Libre reports the visit of four Congressmen of the Committee of Foreign Relations of the United States Congress, who came to talk about politics and economics. They are Cass Ballenger (North Carolina), Kevin Brady(Texas) Marsha Blackburn ( Tennessee) and Jerry Weller (Illinois).

If only we could talk to them!

Best regards,

Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law,

Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin

Posted by Kelly at 06:30 PM

July 21, 2003

More Letters

I have received recent information that suggests that the DOS is working hard to resolve the current difficulties surrounding Guatemalan adoptions. Among other things, it appears that the DOS is considering pursuing the third party status line of reasoning which could result in U.S. cases being processed under pre-March 5th procedures until the Guatemalan Congress enacts new adoption laws or the US becomes full party to the Hague. It also appears that the DOS is simultaneously working to clarify the many important questions raised by the PGN's recent announcements. However, on their web page and in recent responses to letters, the DOS is still referring adoptive parents to the Central Authority web site for information.

I am pleased that the DOS appears to be responding to our concerns and believe this effort has reached a critical point. Our letters to the DOS have been having some effect, and I strongly encourage that we continue them. It has also reached a point where our representatives may be able to have a strong influence. Therefore, I believe it would be very helpful if we could persuade our representatives contact the DOS directly to exercise their influence to encourage the DOS to continue its efforts on our behalf.

So, please, write your senators and congressional representatives. New letters, reflecting the concern that the DOS continues to refer US adoptive parents to the Central Authority for information and providing information on the recent success of amparos in Guatemala have been provided below. They are designed as a follow-up to the letter-writing campaign of the past two weeks. So, even if you have already sent letters out, please consider sending this new set.
The DOS letter should go to Michelle Bernier-Toth, Steve Vann (both at the same address as provided, fax 202-312-9743) and Senator Mary Landrieu of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (fax number 202-224-9735) and should be attached to your congress/senate letters.

As with the other letters, please email me directly at mauramc@netcarrier.com to let me know who you sent the letters to, when, and what response you have received.

These letters were written by Allison McSweeney, Julie Nicholson, Theresa Lacy, Ellen Daley, Tara Kunkel, and Maura Meade-Callahan. I'd like to thank everyone for their hard work writing and editing recently!

Sample DOS follow-up letter (MS word)
Sample Congress follow-up letter (MS word)


Sample DOS follow-up letter (html)
Sample Congress follow-up letter (html)

Posted by at 10:50 PM

July 17, 2003

Amparo News

I am pleased to report that, on July 16, 2003, the First Court of Appeals granted a provisional amparo stating that PGN cannot apply the Hague Convention to a US case of adoption. The amparo was filed by attorneys working with HAPS (in NJ) for a case that was "kicked out" of PGN for not meeting the requirements of the Hague Convention.

The amparo stated that adoption cases filed on behalf of US Citizens do not need to meet the requirements of the Hague Convention until they become a full party to the treaty (expected in the next couple of years).

A Recurso de Amparo (aka amparo) is a legal action filed in the appeals courts of Guatemala. In the case of Guatemalan adoptions a (very) few attorneys have filed amparos - the first known to me on June 23, 2003. Amparos have been filed against various entities in PGN when they have refused to process adoption cases. The reasons that I know for amparos being filed are (1) post-March 5/pre-July 1 cases being issued previos (kicked out of PGN) for not meeting the requirements of the Hague Convention [has been successful]; (2) post-March 5/pre-July 1 cases not being accepted by PGN (instead referred to the Central Authority); (3) cases not being accepted to PGN appealed because it is prohibiting notarial attorneys in Guatemala from performing their work (which is constitutionally protected) [has been successful]; and (4) pre-March 5 cases that have been languishing in PGN for months without apparent action.

On July 16th, four amparos were granted in Guatemala City - each presented by a different attorney. Others may have been filed or granted outside of Guatemala City. I don't currently know the exact reason for each appeal, except that one involved scenario #1 above, and another involved scenario #3.

Although the decision by the First Court of Appeals in this case is very exciting, it does not mean that the battle is won. It is my understanding that the decision is only applicable to the particular case filed - so it provides precedence for other cases, but does not directly apply to them. And, PGN is likely to file an appeal, which they must do within 3 days of the decision.

What can you do? Well, if your case falls into one of the above categories, or others that I have not considered (like cases languishing in the Central Authority for 30 days without action, perhaps) talk to your agency or facilitator about the possibility of an amparo being filed on your behalf. So far there are only a few attorneys filing these documents, but early results indicate that they might be effective methods of getting through the PGN/CA roadblocks. However, it is only likely to work on a broad scale if many attorneys become involved. And, the best way for them to become involved is to hear from you that, as their client, you would like them to consider filing such an appeal on your behalf.

Update (7/20): As expected, PGN filed an appeal for the amparo granted on 7/16. Their initial appeal was rejected because it was not formatted correctly, however they have filed another appeal and the case will be heard by the Constitutional Court.

Posted by at 10:48 PM

July 15, 2003

New DOS Announcement

For those of you considering accepting referrals at this time (post June 30th), you may want to read this.

DOS Announcement

Posted by Kelly at 04:31 PM

July 01, 2003

The Gist of it (or jest of it)

Apparently, the PGN is still struggling to come up with processes...so, much of this information may change in the near future. Please keep in mind that even the attorneys that are CURRENTLY meeting with the PGN are not SURE what this will all mean.
1 - Post March 5th (those through June 30th) will be processed with few requirements and reportedly little involvement from the Notary Attorney.
2 - From July 1st on, assignments will come from the Central Authority not the private attorneys. The procedure for this is NOT in place yet. It may be that dossiers are submitted to the Embassy and the Embassy submits them to the CA.
3 - There are 4 orphanages that are licensed by the CA. We are not sure what will happen with the other orphanages..whether they will license them or not.
4 - CA, at this time is not specifying a fee for processing the adoption NOR a donation fee to the orphanage (like some other countries do).
5 - The role of the agency has not been definad...whether they submit to the CA or our Embassy. It may also mean that an agency will have to be licensed with the PGN.
6 - The PGN is creating a website for this information.

Who may adopt (reposted with permission from Rudy Rivera, Children of the World & Focus on Adoption):

Those individuals who have the civil capacity.
- Those that prove their physical, mental, moral, social and economical aptness to give a proper and suitable adoptive home to a child.THIS WOULD IMPLY THAT SINGLES CAN ADOPT. I ANTICIPATE THAT THIS MEANS SINGLE WOMEN, BECAUSE THERE IS STILL THE PREJUDICE AGAINST SINGLE MEN.
- The married individuals.
- The husband and wife may adopt a child, when both of them are in agreement in considering the adoptive child, as their own child. Out of this case, no more than one person may adopt a child. I BELIEVE THIS APPLIES TO TWO SINGLES TRYING TO ADOPT THE SAME CHILD. IF THEY ARE NOT MARRIED THEY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DO THIS.
- One of the married parties may adopt the child of another person. THIS REFERES TO STEP PARENT ADOPTION.
- The guardian may not adopt the child, if the guardianship matters are not arranged, and if the institution, which supervises the guardian of the minor, has not received the child’s goods. THIS WILL NOT APPLY TO CASES INVOLVING FOREIGN FAMILIES.
V. PROCEDURE FOR THE ADOPTION APPLICATIONS PROCEEDING, PRESENTED FOR FOREING OR GUATEMALAN INDIVIDUALS, WHO ARE DOMICILED ABROAD.

They must address themselves directly to the Office of the Central Authority, which headquarters id located at the above mentioned address, stating their wish to receive in their home, through the noble figure of the adoption social assistance, to one of our abandoned children who need a home;

Also, they may go to the organisms accredited by the Central Authority; THE ABOVE PROVISION STILL KEEP THINGS UP IN THE AIR. TO DATE THERE ARE NO OTHER ORGANISMS CERTIFIED. THEREFORE, THE APPLICATION MUST PROBABLY GO DIRECLTY TO THE CENTRAL AUTHORITY. THEY WILL APPROVE THE ASSIGMENT AND THE CHILD WILL COME FROM ONE OF THE FOUR ACCREDITED ORPHANAGES, WHICH NO ONE SEEMS TO KNOW FOR CERTAIN THEIR IDENTITY. THE INTENT HERE IS TO LIMIT THE NOTARY'S ABILITY TO MAKE THE ASSIGMENT OF THE CHILD. I WAS TOLD THAT HE COULD STILL WORK IN THE PROCESS BUT HIS OR HER ROLE IS NOT CLEAR. IT IS ALSO STILL UNCERTAIN IF THE THE AGENCIES WILL SEND DOSSIERS DIRECTLY TO THE CENTRAL AUTHORITY. THE EMBASSY HAS STATED THAT THEY DID NOT AGREE TO ACCEPT ADOPTIVE FAMILIES DOSSIER.


The applications must contain the personal and family data, such as the age, date of marriage, school education, occupation, income, housing, others, and the motivation they have to adopt a child;

They must enclose to the application, the home study prepared by professional individuals in said areas, and assigned to an official entity or an agency which has the license of the Government of that country, authorized to have international adoptions programs, authorized by the Central Authority of Guatemala;

Good physical and metal health of the interested parties, issued by a Medical Doctor, legally authorized;
- Home study prepared by an official of private institution, duly authorized by the Government of the adoptive parents;

NOWHERE DOES IT STATE THE LIST OF REQUIREMENTS THAT A PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT IS REQUIRED. HOWEVER, I WAS TOLD BY MS. LARIOS TODAY THAT THE PSYCOLOGICAL WOULD BE A REQUIREMENT. A REPORT WOULD BE REQUIRED OF EVERYONE IN THE HOUSEHOLD OVER THE AGE OF SEVEN YEARS.

THIS LIST HAS NOT CLARIFIED MUCH AND NOTHING NEW WAS POSTED AS OF 7 P.M. GUATEMALA TIME. THERE ARE STILL MANY PROCEDURAL ISSUES THAT NEED TO BE RESLOVED. FOR EXAMPLE, THE MECHANICS OF SUBMITTING THE DOSSIER TO THE CENTRAL AUTHORITY; THE MECHANICS OF GETTING THE ASSIGMENT; WHAT ROLE WILL THE NOTARY PLAY IN THIS; WHAT ABOUT FAMILIES THAT ARE REQUIRED TO VISIT THE CHILD BEFORE THE ADOPTION IS COMPLETE; WILL AGENCIES NEED TO BE ACCREDITED; MS. LARIOS ALSO STATED S THAT THE PLAN IS TO LICENSE MORE ORPHANAGES BUT THEY WILL START WITH FOUR.

Posted by Kelly at 03:53 PM

June 13, 2003

DOS clarifies position

The Department of State posted a statement in support of interim procedures for adoptions. CLICK HERE TO READ

***Note: I believe this announcement was due to many, many parents calling DOS asking to clarify their position. Good work, troops!***

Posted by Kelly at 08:59 PM

6/14 Update from Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion


Guatemala UPDATE SUPPLEMENT

(RE-posted with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law). We appreciate Susana's permission to temporarily repost this information as we feel it is important for as many people to read what is going on.

(Part One of Two)
Dear Friends,

As I write these lines, a ceremony is taking place at the PGN to officially announce and establish a new DNA testing lab to use in the adoption process. The speeches of the Attorney General and PGN director were about keeping adoptions open but with more transparency; they insisted that they are not trying to close international adoptions. At least on the surface, that is encouraging.

However, this does not mean all is well, and I am pretty sure they are about to announce some new twists in the adoption process, something we might not expect.

That doesn't mean adoptions would stop, but the entire process might get more involved and less efficient than ever.

As I have been sharing with you, the inefficiency of these bureaucrats is overwhelming. Some years ago, a number of embassies began requiring the DNA test. The embassies carefully elaborated on and they established their required system of doing the test. It was made mandatory and began working quite well.

At our request but without warning, on September 12, 2002 the PGN demanded that the DNA should be done in all cases, for all adoptions, even though a particular embassy may not have required it.

Because of the fact that this would erase uncertainties and accusations, we applauded the measure, but asked for specific guidelines. We couldn't get any guidelines at all, and at that moment, all adoptions for countries that had not
required a DNA test came to a standstill.

The Attorney General remained silent and PGN director Merida was "too busy" to see us. Most ridiculously, the files of children who had been *declared abandoned* began to be rejected, "for lack of DNA test", even though by their very nature, abandonments would of course not have DNA tests. Further, the legalizations/certifications and translations of the DNA test results were a problem that we had to solve, gradually over time.

It took a while - three to four months - to get things back on track.
But it has taken until now, nine months later, they have finally implemented a DNA unit, right at the PGN, where it should be, to make the tests easier, faster and more transparent. We don't know when DNA tests will start be processed at this new unit or if it will be required that all DNA tests be processed here. And again, there have not yet been any promulgated specific guidelines on exactly how the process is to work or how the test material and results are to be handled. I hope not, but it would not surprise me if an announcement was suddenly made that all DNA tests must be processed at the new PGN DNA unit. Imagine the confusion if they made such an announcement without taking into account DNA tests in process, regulations for handling the test, requirements for mother/child photos, and so on. But that is unfortunately the history of these types of new rules here.

Guatemala UPDATE SUPPLEMENT PART TWO of TWO

With the Hague Convention, the same thing is happening. Guatemala has this new Treaty that they do not now how to implement, and they don't have among them someone who can lead the way.

It is like having a car with no gas. Then someone puts in diesel fuel, but they have no driver. Then they find a driver but he doesn't know how to drive a manual transmission. Finally they get a proper driver, only to find out that the fuel is the wrong type. And at this point it is midnight and all the gas stations are closed. Then in the morning, when the station opens, they find they have no money.

To make things worse, the public officers don't want to take our suggestions, because the PGN lawyers are very resentful of the amounts that it is said that lawyers charge for adoptions. In their eyes each adoption file becomes evidence of the wealth that the lawyers are getting, and they are not. They resent this because they believe it is not fair that the lawyers "earn so much", when they are the ones who are contributing with their work to make the adoption possible.

It is my impression that the confusion over the Hague situation will be resolved fairly soon. I don't have a crystal ball, although many people believe that I do. But an educated guess is that in two to three months all this problems will be solved. This will require hundreds of hours of legal work, lobbying, attending meetings and keeping our ears to the ground.

So, this doesn't mean that you can relax now and focus only on theories and what you perceive as "issues" in adoptions from Guatemala. You can address any of that later, once adoptions are again being processed as smoothly as possible.

What my prediction does means is that if we all want the problems to be solved, we have to keep working, writing letters, making pressure, to move the people in power to help us to push away this bureaucratic roadblock. In all of this I urge you to be very careful when dealing with the media, especially television and talk show programs.

If you do decide to write letters include what you wish about your particular situation, but don't just focus on self-centered issues; and please be clear in conveying the following message:

THE HAGUE CONVENTION DOES NOT APPLY TO THIRD STATES AND SINCE NO
IMPLEMENTING LEGISLATION HAS BEEN PASSED,THE ADOPTIONS BY US CITIZENS SHOULD NOT FALL UNDER ITS SCOPE.

To those who remind us that Guatemala may do as it pleases, it is true.
But you can still have influence by putting on pressure.

In Guatemala, it is our duty, as lawyers and as citizens to preserve the integrity of the Constitution and the State of Law in our country. What the PGN is currently doing with the effective suspension is illegal and we are not going to let them do it without raising our voice and taking the proper legal actions. But we need your support and the pressure that your country may bring, by clearly asserting its position as third state. (In the case of the USA)

Best Regards,

Susana Luarca, Attorney
Association in Defense of Adoptions
Guatemala

Posted by Kelly at 08:40 PM

June 06, 2003

6/6 Update from Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion

Thursday June 6th 2003 Update (RE-posted with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law). A note to readers: Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin is creating a website to answer many of the questions and to post these updates. We plan to link to this site when it becomes available and to note important news when it becomes available. We appreciate Susana's permission to temporarily repost this information as we feel it is important for as many people to read what is going on.

Dear Friends,

Here is this week's The Thursday Update containing up-to-date information including:

Part One, Two and Three
a. The U.S. Department of State notice about adoptions
in Guatemala
b. The PGN - Adoptions pre-March 5th
c. The PGN- Adoptions post-March 5th and continued in Part Two
d. Proposed UNICEF Adoption Law
e. The Law of Integral Protection to Childhood and Youth
f. Position: US Adoptions not affected by Hague Convention
g. Letter Campaign to US authorities
h. Publicity and Legal Campaign
Bruce Harris' trial should have been today

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE NOTICE ABOUT ADOPTIONS IN
GUATEMALA

The U.S. D.O.S. posted a notice stating: "In light of the uncertainties facing international adoption in Guatemala with the implementation of the new procedures, adopting families should not file for adoption in Guatemala until the current problems are resolved."

Despite our attempts, neither the Consul nor the Vice-consul have given us an appointment so we could explain to them the real situation about the PGN and the so-called implementation of the Hague Convention. Hannah Wallace, Caroline Tiffin and Rudy Rivera have asked for an interview on our behalf, without any results. The Consul, Mr. Mike Jocobsen insists that he only talks to the Central Authority/PGN and that any issues about Guatemalan Adoptions should be discussed either with the PGN or with the US Central Authority in the US Department of State because these are the proper points of contact under the Hague Convention. It is rather obvious that Mr. Jacobsen is not aware that the US has no "central authority" and no "proper points of contact" because it is still "Hague-free"; I hope it stays that way for many, many years.

b. THE PGN - Pre-March 5th Cases
Yesterday the PGN director Rudio Lecsan Merida, the chief of the section that deals with adoptions, released a large number of adoption files. If some of them are noted as having been rejected, they will have to be corrected and submitted again. If they were approved, then your lawyers may draft the deed of adoption and once the birthmother or the director of the hogar (if it was an abandonment) has signed off, the adoption is finished. Copies are then sent to the Civil Registry, new birth certificates are issued, passport and visa are obtained and you are free to take your child home. It takes a couple of weeks between the date that the PGN gives the approval and the pink slip (ticket to pick up your child) is issued.

c. THE PGN - Post-March 5th Cases
In the Constitutional challenge against the appointment of the PGN as central authority, we pointed out that such an appointment was a mistake because even now they can not handle the daily work of reviewing the files that by law have to be submitted to the PGN for its opinion. Their response was to deny our assertion and to accuse the lawyers of defaming them "now that with the Hague Convention ... the hen who lays the golden eggs is running away." This they put in writing, in the response to the challenge, believe it or not.

If your case has not been released after one month in PGN, whether it is a pre-March 5th, or a post-March 5th case, you may file a legal motion called a "recurso de amparo", for denial of an administrative response.We have talked to a lawyer who specializes in these matters and who will handle all our cases and who will also prepare criminal lawsuits for the criminal offenses ncurred by the persons who are delaying the files.

This is the first time in history that the adoption professionals of Guatemala are taking legal action against the abuses of the administration. It is also the first time that we have had so inefficient and negligent authorities. When faced with
this kind of problems the common attitude has been to be patient and to wait. I have many times told impatient parents: "They can delay it, but they can't deny it", knowing that it was just a matter of time.

But now, when they say one thing today and do the opposite tomorrow, we
can no longer afford to be passive. The officials have no idea what to do about an international treaty that cannot be applied by itself without implementing legislation. Yet they knew more than eight months ago that the PGN was going to be appointed Central Authority, and it is only now that they have about eighty cases already presented to them, that they are "considering a temporary suspension of the new adoption cases to address the concerns raised about the
implementation of the Hague Convention".

All they have done until now is to interview a few birthmothers, and in such a manner as to have made them cry and feel guilty.


e. THE LAW OF INTEGRAL PROTECTION TO CHILDHOOD AND
YOUTH

A less poisoned and less potentially dangerous version of the Code of the Childhood and the Youth of seven years ago, was passed by Congress yesterday. It was almost approved before Congress went into recess and yesterday the congressmen of the ruling party met at a special session, just to approve this law, with some changes. It makes the legal procedure for minors in conflict with the Criminal Law.

According to the Constitution, minors can not be judged to be delinquents, so they have to be treated differently when they commit criminal offenses. The former and terrible - version of this new law was fully supported by the PGN State Attorney and Casa Alianza. At a press conference held at the PGN offices on September 11, 1997, Casa Alianzas director Bruce Harris accused the Guatemalan adoption professionals of opposing the law because it would stop illegal adoptions.

He publicly accused me,- when I was then still married to the President of the Supreme Court - of illegal activities regarding adoptions so that he could sway the opinion of Congress about a motion presented by my then-husband; the purpose of that motion was to try to postpone the effect of this terrible law for six months based on of a lack of funds to implement the additional courts that would be needed.

Right away I pressed charges against Harris for defamation and the court found that there was merit in my claim and disallowed Harris' petition to dismiss my case. However, for over five and a half years now, Harris has been artfully evading trial, filing over and over the same frivolous defense that is denied every time and each time he files an appeal and more frivolous claims. He now claims that he should be tried as a journalist, to get the benefits of a more benign law that applies only to the journalists. The court has already informed him that "...because he is not a journalist, he cannot be tried as one.
When eventually he goes to trial, he could be sentenced to at least eight years in a Guatemalan prison. More information on his website:
http://www.casa-alianza.org

Today was another one of many frustrated dates for his trial. Again the file was still at the Court of Appeals and therefore the trial did not take place. My lawyer and I will continue the struggle.

f. US ADOPTIONS (SHOULD) *NOT* (BE) AFFECTED BY HAGUE CONVENTION
The legal arguments that support our allegations that the Hague Convention is a treaty, and that like any other contract, is binding only between parties, is not nuclear science. But it seems to be for the bureaucrats at the PGN, so it will take a little longer to educate them on what we are trying to explain.

Almost a hundred adoption files are piling at the Central Authority, are a headache to the authorities of the Central Authority. It would not come as a surprise if they, cornered by the impossibility of applying a treaty without implementing legislation and, due to their own incapacity, would give back the files to the notaries/lawyers, with a lame excuse based on their improper interpretation of the Hague Convention.

If that happens, we will take legal action right away.
The silver lining would be their public acceptance of their inability to handle a treaty made for receiving countries and totally unworkable for countries of
origin.

g. LETTER CAMPAIGN TO USA AUTHORITIES
We have discussed the possibility of a letter campaign by US parents and
families to the PGN/Central Authority as the US consul suggested, but we have decided against it. Our reasoning is the we aren't convinced that the USA citizens have anything compelling to say to the Hague Convention contact person at the PGN. There are no previous procedures or new procedures The procedures are the same for pre- and post- March 5th cases and they are already in the existing legislation. It is not up to the ineffective authorities of the PGN to decide to process or to not process an adoption case. Also, to involve the US Consul's office isn't the perfect contact point, because the Consular office's main purpose is to protect the rights of the citizens in foreign soil.

We believe that the U.S Department of State should clarify why they have
decided that it is fine or acceptable for the PGN to decide to finalize only already-started adoptions and to tell other families not to file for adoptions in Guatemala until the current problems are resolved.

To apply, or to not to apply the Hague Convention is not a matter of internal law or of public policy, but of International Law. We think that the US DOS should recognize this distinction and press for proper application of International law, which is something they already know how to do. This is not, as some have suggested, akin to meddling in another country's laws or internal politics. This is a matter of insisting that a country with whom we have diplomatic
relations regard and respect the International Treaties, policies and procedures already in place by mutual consent. In the case of the PGN, they have arbitrarily decided to change procedures and ignore proper and continuing protocol and treaty matters.

Keep writing to your Congress and Senate representatives and remind them
of the respective positions of the Consul and the US D.O.S. until the US DOS takes appropriate action.

g. PRO-ADOPTION PUBLICITY AND LEGAL CAMPAIGN
Today the first advertisement in our informative pro-adoption campaign
ran in the country's largest newspaper, the Prensa Libre. It shows a little boy with the sign: I am not a candidate but you can vote for me. Support adoptions, so I may have a family and a better life. Adoption is an act of Love. Campaign in favor of adoption. (included our email address.)

We are also planning to do an infomercial to show on cable tv stations both sides of the adoption process. We will show the Guatemalan side, with the before scenes of the children, their villages, their very sad lives, where they have to work almost since they learn to walk. We will also feature a few birthmothers, telling briefly why they chose adoption for their children. The other view would show some of the adopted children going to school, playing sports, living the carefree life that every child should have. We actually have no
experience with filmmaking and we would welcome suggestions and all the help we can get. The object is to dispel the rumors of organ transplant, slavery, trafficking of children, etc., that some people and organizations have spread so
effectively.

The legal campaign is meant to take immediate and effective legal action against every act of the PGN aimed to suspend, to retard or to stop the legal process of adoption. We would appreciate any help that you may offer. Email me directly please.

We are very confident that this wrinkle in the otherwise smooth process of adoptions in Guatemala will be ironed out, hopefully very
soon. But it is taking much more time and effort than we had expected. We see it as a vaccination, that is making us stronger to these and similar attacks against adoption and the true "rights of children". So that is good in the longer term.

Warmest regards,

Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law,
Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin
Guatemala City
SusanaLuarca@hotmail.com

Content of "The Thursday Update" on Guatemalan Adoptions is copyrighted
by Susana Luarca. But please pass this information on as much as possible; I only require that you give proper source credit to Susana Luarca and include my email address!

Posted by Kelly at 10:18 PM

June 04, 2003

PGN suspending NEW adoptions? Who says?

Yesterday, PGN adviced the US Government of a the possibility of a temporary suspension on NEW adoption cases while they implement new procedures.

This is posted on the State Department site [CLICK HERE].

{Let me be clear here: PGN HAS NOT PROCESSED ANY post 3/5 cases...unless, there are some that I do not know about (so, technically new adoptions are "stalled" for psychological evaluations). I believe that our representatives are trying to convince the Central Authority to release post 3/5 cases already in progress. Readers...please note: I simply try and post the relevant links. It is up to you to read them. We do NOT have any inside knowledge of what the Central Authority will do until they do it. The State Department has not commented on why they made the announcement.}

Another note 6/6/2003 - There is a meeting MONDAY with the lawyers. We are hoping that much will be clarified then! I apologize for changing the phrasing as much as I have these last two days. But I think it is important to try and reflect the current information as best I can (and often I *learn* quite a bit from my readers AND my agency**).

6/6 - Central Authority has responded to the questions about suspension with the following (translated):
Dear ____________:

We understand your concerns and the necessity of information of all of you, future adoptive parents. As we have informed them, the adoptions have not been suspended for this moment, but that decision is still being considered by the superior authorities, so we will communicate such decision to all the correspondent entities, so they can inform you also. We want to focus the fact that any decision they take will be always looking for the well-being of our children, we have really clear that this is the most important thing in this process, now and all the time.

Sorry that we can not help you more.

Sincerely,


Central Authority

Posted by Kelly at 10:31 AM

June 02, 2003

Strategy - Supporting Adoptions in Guatemala

Sunday June 1, 2003 Strategy (RE-posted with permission from Hannah Wallace, Adoptions International from the St. John's Listserve).

{UPDATE TO POST BELOW: I had a call from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute today, with a request that people PLEASE STOP WRITING TO THEM. Their email is getting backed up. Please continue to write to your Congressional Reps. Several have already contacted the CCAI, so CCAI has enough Congressional interest to begin to try to get involved in the situation.

Because of the large volume of email, they won't be able to respond to each
person who's written or copied to them, but have been and continue to be
interested in the issues and willing to help in whatever way they can. More later,

Hannah Wallace, Adoptions International}


Dear Friends,

I agree with others that a strategy is needed for effective
advocacy. It may be helpful to separate the issues and develop a strategy for
each aspect of the problem. There is alot of documentation which can be used to support positions we are taking in each area. I also agree that the most effective advocacy is to inform and educate. We should not be intimidated by the fact that we are each small voices in a large constituency when approaching
our elected officials. Because, aside from the larger global issues we're addressing, each family's personal passion and "story" will also resonate. And we should also keep in mind that the Congressional Coalition on Adoption has about 160 Senators and Congressmen/women, bipartisan, who have been touched by adoption personally, or moved by members of their constituencies to get involved.

Appeals to our individual representatives can only help to increase their members. So, aside from writing to individual congressional reps, all correspondence should be also sent to The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) ... Executive Director, Kerry Marks Hasenbalg - email address:

kerry@ccainstitute.org

Letters can also go to the U.S. Ambassador in Guatemala, John Hamilton, and
the Consul General, Michael Jacobson. I don't have the individual email
addresses, but the Consular Section's adoption address is:
adoptguatemala@state.gov

The other relevant office is the Office of Children's Issues, Department of
State

The Issues (and whom to address):

(1) The issue of whether the HCT is applicable to U.S. adoptive families, as
the U.S. has signed, but not ratified, the Hague Treaty. It only HAS to be applicable to both parties of the Convention, and the U.S. is a third party. There will be a model letter posted shortly to address this issue to (a) your individual congressional representatives (b) Consul General Michael Jacobson in Guatemala (c) The Congressional Coaltion of Adoption Institute - The papers supporting this argument have already been filed with the U.S. Embassy and the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (equivalent to Department of State in the U.S.).

(2) The broader issue of interpretation of the Hague Treaty and its requirements from a Country which has ratified. A model of this letter will be provided shortly and it should be addressed to the same people as above. We know that UNICEF, Casa Alianza, several European countries, and other groups have been pressing the PGN/Central Authority to take a very narrow interpretation of the HCT, while the U.S. has been supporting a more moderate interpretation. There are RUMORS that officials from the Hague have also been pressing the UNICEF interpretation. Some adoption professionals have already put our Consul General and the CCAI "on alert" and asked for clarification and negotiation with the Hague officials re: this. However, public pressure is really needed to get some action and
answers.

BOTH of these letters should be sent out TODAY or early TOMORROW (ASAP).

(3) The long standing phenomena of Criminalization of Adoption, which is
being addressed by those developing a UNICEF letter
, to go to the UNICEF financial supporters and spokespersons for UNICEF. Gregory's most recent post, which describes the circular nature of the "documentation" (or lack of documentation and logic) and a summary analysis of the flaws in his "documentation" needs to be addressed to our Public Officials as well as UNICEF supporters.

(4) The more global HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES inherent in how adoption programs are implemented. We will be providing a position paper shortly which addresses these concerns very specifically.

Hannah Wallace, Adoptions International - Philadelphia


The correct link for the status of the Hague is: http://www.hcch.net/e/status/stat33e.html

Posted by Kelly at 01:04 PM

May 30, 2003

5/29 Update from Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion

Thursday 29 May 2003 Update (RE-posted with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law). A note to readers: Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin is creating a website to answer many of the questions and to post these updates. We plan to link to this site when it becomes available and to note important news when it becomes available. We appreciate Susana's permission to temporarily repost this information as we feel it is important for as many people to read what is going on.

Dear Friends,

Here is this week's The Thursday Update containing
up-to-date
information including:

Part One
a. Foster Care at Private Homes
b. Hogares
c. US Adoptions not affected by Hague Convention
d. Central Authority - Post-March 5 Cases

and continued in Part Two
e. Delays in Release of Files from PGN
f. Adoption Law Project (UNICEF)
g. Constitutional Challenges
h. Pro-Adoption Educational Campaign

a. FOSTER CARE AT PRIVATE HOMES
In Guatemala, It is perfectly legal to take care of
other people's children in
private homes. No authorization is needed and nobody
supervises the thousands of
informal child-care centers that operate everywhere to
help working mothers. It
is only when the Police have reason to believe that
the children are cared for
international adoption purposes, that the generous act
of fostering a child
becomes "child trafficking", the house becomes a
"clandestine crib
house" and the children "need to be rescued from
adoption"

Over and over again the newspapers fill their pages
with pictures of uniformed
policewomen holding babies, taking them out of the
house where they were living
and of the foster mothers being captured and branded
as "part of the gang of
child traffickers". They never mention later that the
children were there
because their mothers signed an authorization, that
the adoption processes were
impeccable and that the poor woman who helped to
support her family by fostering
with loving care a couple of children, was released
after a nightmarish night
in jail, for lack of reasons to keep her locked.

Also not mentioned is the ordeal of the lawyers who
have to present many
documents and jump through every hoop that the Court
of Minors can come up with,
in order to regain custody of the "rescued children".

Before you start fretting for your child in foster
care, now that the PGN issued
the Acuerdo 53-2003 that leaves without effect the
Acuerdo 235-94, that
established the agreement that the PGN and the
Notaries reached in 1994 to
legally protect the foster care in private homes, let
me tell you that the
notification to the PGN given by the notary was the
best source of information
for the Police when they needed to raid foster homes,
because it stated the
address and name of the foster mother.

In my opinion, it is better what we are doing now. We
are having interviews
with the Police, Supreme Court, District Attorney
and Ministry of Interior,
to make them understand the legal reasons to respect
the right of the foster
mothers to have two children in their homes and to
instruct their enforcment
people to respect the law that allows this.

We worked together to form an emergency committee of
twelve lawyers to be on
call if there is a raid, which we think will help make
the law enforcement
officers respect the foster mothers and the children.
This is the first time
that something like this is being organized and I am
sure that it will be more
effective than the "aviso" to the PGN, that not even
the PGN social worker
honored, two weeks ago. We are working hard on this,
and time will tell how
effective our efforts are.


b. HOGARES
The hogares or private orphanages are rarely harassed
by the Police, because
there is no press coverage for "finding children for
adoption" at a
temporary home for children for adoption. The fact
that hogares insist upon
having a director and a lawyer at hand discourages the
Police from harassing
them. And of course, they have all their documents at
hand, as well.


c. THE US ADOPTIONS SHOULD NOT BE AFFECTED BY THE
HAGUE CONVENTION

I hope that you will join the letter campaign
requesting clarification to
clarify that Hague Convention should not affect the US
citizens' adoptions of
foreign children, because the US is a "third state"
(in the terms of the
Vienna Convention) because it has yet not ratified the
Hague Convention.

It would be good if you send a request for this
clarification to the US Consul
in Guatemala. (not to Guatemalan authorities) We
already sent the information
to INS Director Roy Hernandez at the US Embassy in
Guatemala.

Today I had a brief conversation with Mr. Epifanio
Monterroso, director of the
Central Authority. I asked him why they applying the
Hague Convention to
adoptions by US citizens and explained our position.
He answered that they were
studying the information that we supplied him about
that issue and, if they
realized/agreed that we were correct and that they
were making a mistake in
interpretation, they would correct it right away.
Therefore, a little pressure
form the US consul could help them to make that
realization sooner. Keep those
letters and e-mails going, please. I will post a
Sample Letter in the next day.

d. CENTRAL AUTHORITY - POST- MARCH 5 CASES
The Central Authority, after several months of being
appointed by the State as such, is still trying to
figure out the way to implement the Hague Convention.
The cases that are after March 5,are starting to
pile at the new offices of the Central Authority. The
law gives the PGN three days to give its opinion. The
PGN has no legal grounds to hold the cases due to the
implementation of the Hague Convention or to demand
additional information such as psychological tests of
any kind. Based on that, the lawyers are preparing a
legal resource called recurso de Amparo to get an
order from a Court to make the PGN to give the
opinion and to release the files. We thought that we
would not need to do that, but it seems that unless
we take legal action, nothing is going to happen.
We have made clear to the proper authorities that we
do not oppose controls, provided they are timely,
logical and based on law, not in the personal
interpretation/opinion/mood of whoever is in charge at
that moment.
According to the well known and respected adoption
professional Hannah Wallace, who has witnessed how
adoptions closed in other countries, and who was in
Guatemala for the past two weeks, this is the first
time that she sees an organized opposition to the
attempts of deprivatization of adoptions that in those
countries eventually have lead to a shut down. We
would not know about other countries, but we are not
willing to let UNICEF dictate our laws just to please
the international community at the expense of the
lives of the children who need a family in order to
survive. We are counting on all of you to keep that
option open for our children of Guatemala.

e. DELAYS IN RELEASE FROM PGN
There will be continued delays in the release of files
from PGN because Rudio
Lecsan Merida, the chief of the section that deals
with adoptions, only recently
returned from Holland where he attended a meeting
about the Hague Convention.
But now that he is back, he must attend to his other
job as well, which is the
presidency of the state-owned Housing Bank, which is
currently under
liquidation. Also, the staffing and furnishing of the
new offices for the
Central Authority have taken some of his time. The
cases are piling again on
top of every surface in his secretaries’ office. I
know how difficult the
extra waiting is for many of you, but it is so very
much worth it.

f. ADOPTION LAW PROJECT (UNICEF)
Congress is now in recess until August, but some
congressmen/woman are meeting
to discuss some matters. Last night, the TV news
reported that the adoption law
might be passed in one of those sessions. We talked
to several congressmen and they told us that it will
not happen. Sometimes the anti-adoption people spread
their messages fabricating news like that.

Today I spoke with the advisor to the President of one
of the commissions that
has to give its approval to the project before it is
approved as a law. I told
this person that I didn't know if I should take in
more children and try to
place them with families. His quick response was,
"You should do it,
absolutely".

When I told him about the TV news report, he said that
two days ago there was a
long working meeting, but there was no agreement about
the formal opinion that
the commission should give. However, he said he
didn'think the law could be
approved before Congress reconvenes on August 1, and,
that the project as we
heard/saw it in an earlier seminar had been reformed.
He didn't specify what
the reforms were.

There are several other, better, adoption law
proposals that have been presented
to Congress, but the pressure from UNICEF is making
Congress to consider only
this one.

If you want to read the lies that UNICEF tells about
adoptions in Guatemala go
to:
www.iss-ssi.org/Resource_Centre/Tronc_DI/ilpec-unicef_english_report_2000.PDF

The rebuttal that our lawyers group wrote will be
posted on our soon-to-be-live
website. When our website is ready, I will advise in
one of these Thursday
Updates on Guatemalan Adoptions.

g. Constitutional Challenges
Dates for final arguments on the constitutional
challenges: Friday May 30 - our
challenge to the accession of Guatemala to the Hague
Convention, and, May 22 we
had arguments for our challenge as to the appointment
of the PGN as Central
Authority.

The Constitutional Court has twenty days after those
dates to give its final
ruling. Their ruling is final, because there can be no
appeal. If the
challenges are upheld, Guatemala will have to stop
being part of the Hague
Convention with the first challenge, and the PGN will
cease to be the Central
Authority, if our challenges are upheld in either of
the cases.

h. Private Questions
I receive many questions from people who need
information or clarification. I
would love to have the time to answer you all, but I
simply can't and I
apologize for not getting back to you. Time simply
does not permit me to do so.
Perhaps as soon as this roller-coaster-Hague-time
passes, I will have more time
and be able to find a way to address those questions.
Our website should help in
this.

Best Regards,

Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law
Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin
Guatemala City

Posted by Kelly at 11:57 AM

May 28, 2003

5/27 Update from Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion

Tuesday 27 May 2003 Update (RE-posted with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law)

Re: "Preview of The Thursday Update" on Guatemalan
Adoptions

Dear Friends,

The chief of section of the PGN, Rudio Lecasa Merida
has assured the Guatemalan adoption professionals, the
US Consulate officers and the US adoption agencies,
that it is not their intention to hinder adoptions.
However, the PGN is taking measures that indicate
that it is attempting to eliminate private adoptions,
following the Hague Convention provisions. Instead
of creating state orphanages or establishing a
state funded system of foster care for the thousands
of children that roam the streets, the measures
that the PGN is trying to implement, affect only the
children who are being taken care of by private
persons or private institutions.

a) Foster Homes:
In Guatemala it is not illegal to take care of
children in private homes, but in order to protect
the foster mothers from false accusations and undue
harassment from the Police, the adoption lawyers and
the PGN reached some years ago, an understanding that
allows a woman to take care of two children en her
house. Without previous notice, the PGN revoked
today the Decree that allowed the foster care in
private homes. Tomorrow, the adoption professionals
will take legal measures to protect the foster mothers
from being harassed like some of them were, two weeks
ago.

The raids that took place two weeks ago were against
foster mothers who live in the same zone of
Guatemala City. The newspapers and TV news
exaggerated the number of children “rescued” and
neglected to tell that all the foster mothers had
their documents in order, including the notification
of foster care to the PGN. In one of the cases, the
mother was taking care of two children and her
daughter, who lived in an apartment in the second
level of the house, took care of other two babies.
Even though the Police and the MP understood that
there were two different housing units, the PGN social
worker who lead the raids, insisted in removing the
children from their foster mothers “for having more
than two children in the same house”. The children
were transferred to orphanages. Those who already had
a DNA test have been returned to the foster mothers
by the courts of minors. DNA tests are being done to
the rest of the children in order to establish,
without any doubt, the origin of the children.

b) Hogares (private orphanages).

The chief of the section of minors of the PGN, Denis
Alonzo and the Secretary of Social Welfare, Marilys
de Estrada, met today with the Magistrate of Minors,
Isabel Prem, to request her that the abandonment
decrees of children living in hogares be ruled by
the judges of Minors, appointing the Secretary of
Social Welfare as legal guardian of the children.
That would give such Secretary, the power to decide
who can adopt those children. The Magistrate of Minors
denied the petition.

c) Hague Convention implementation:
The Central Authority’s small office was moved today
to larger offices in the building of the PGN. We still
don’t have any information about the conference that
the chief of section of the PGN, Rudio Lecsan Mrida,
attended the last week at The Hague, Holland, with
the directors of The Hague Conference of
International Private Law.
The PGN as Central Authority in Guatemala for the
Hague Convention intends to apply the provisions of
such treaty to all adoptions, regardless of the
dispositions stated in the Hague Convention and the
Viena Convention, that limit the scope of appliction
to the contracting states. We must insist that the
Hague Convention does not apply to adoptions by US
citizens.

The legal grounds that support that allegation are
based on two international treaties:

1. THE HAGUE CONVENTION - CONVENTION OF 29 MAY 1993
ON PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND CO-OPERATION IN RESPECT
OF INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION.
2. THE VIENA CONVENTION The Treaty of Treaties .
Viena, May 23, 1969 U.N. Doc A/CONF.39/27 (1969),
1155 U.N.T.S. 331, entered into force January 27,
1980.

1. THE HAGUE CONVENTION
The Hague Convention, articles 2, 14 and 41 very
clearly establish that the convention shall apply only
to “contracting states”. The United States signed
The Hague Convention on March 31, 1994, but has not
ratified it. That information can be verified in the
website of The Hague Conference of Private
International Law, the multinational organ who helped
to give life to the convention on international
adoptions
http://www.hcch.net/e/conventions/text33e.html

2. THE VIENA CONVENTION
Ratified by Guatemala, this multilateral treaty
establishes the way the international treaties and
conventions should be interpreted, understood and
applied.
http://www.un.org/law/ilc/texts/treaties.htm

According to Article 2, that states the Use of Terms
“f) 'contracting State' means a State which has
consented to be bound by the treaty, whether or not
the treaty has entered into force; and
h) 'third State' means a State not a party to the
treaty;”

The United States is, without any doubt, a THIRD
STATE WITH REGARD TO THE HAGUE CONVENTION. The rule
that the Viena Convention sets for third states is the
following:
Article 34: General Rule Regarding Third States:A
treaty does not create either obligations or rights
for a third state without its consent.”

The United States of America must assert its position
as third state regarding the Hague Convention
instructing its diplomatic officers to deliver the
message to the Guatemalan Minsitry of Exterior
Relations, in order to protect the rights of its
citizens who are adopting a child from Guatemala,
from having their cases delayed innecessarily due to
the implementation of a convention that does not apply
to their cases.

Because time is of essence, we allow ourselves to
urge the US adoptive community, to support our
campaign, by writing letters to congressmen/women,
senators and State Department, requesting them to
clarify to the Guatemalan Authorities, the position
of the United States of America as a third state, with
regard to the Convention On Protection Of Children
And Co-Operation In Respect Of Intercountry Adoption.

Best regards,

Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law
Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin
Guatemala City

Posted by Kelly at 01:16 PM

May 23, 2003

5/22 Update from Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion Part 2 & 3

Thursday 22 May 2003 Update (RE-posted with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law)

And now, continued in Part Two of this week's The
Thursday Update
e. New Psychological Testing Requirements
f. Continued Outlook for Adoptions Processing
g. Commitment to You
h. New Pro-Adoption Campaign to be Announced

NEW PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING REQUIREMENTS
The Central Authority today mentioned that from now
on, they will require that all adoptive family members
over the age of seven years must undergo psychological
testing. This obviously creates confusion such as (a)
what about family members who do not live at home,
possibly away at college or on their own?, and, (b) up
to what age?, and (c) what type of test?, (d) what
will PGN have as a criteria when reviewing such
tests? And, importantly at what date does this take
effect and what about files that are now in various
stages of processing?

We will be getting more clarification on this and will
post any new info in the next Thursday Update on
Guatemalan Adoptions. Meanwhile, don't panic - this is
just another small wrinkle in the process that can be
easily complied with albeit at an extra cost. Of
course this does nothing to remedy any perceived
'problems' with Guatemalan adoptions

CONTINUED OUTLOOK FOR ADOPTIONS PROCESSING
We are very confident that adoptions will continue in
Guatemala. Some people, based on their personal
experiences in Cambodia, have tried to establish
similarities between both countries. However, we see
only differences between the two circumstances.

In Cambodia it was the United States who closed their
doors to children adopted from Cambodia as a reaction
to the allegations of corruption, *even when* the
adoptions were legal/proper according to the Cambodian
legal system. In Guatemala, there never has been a
USA intention to close adoptions.
There are some delays, complications and uncertainty
BUT the source of these unfortunate issues is the
accession of Guatemala to the Hague Convention, a
convention that supporters say will facilitate
inter-country adoptions.

The Hague Convention does not apply to the United
States at this time. The United States consul has been
in close contact with the PGN, because
the United States would prefer to keep adoptions open
in Guatemala. The director of the PGN has told the
representatives of our lawyers group that the PGN has
promised the US representatives adoptions will be kept
open and fluid. This appears to be true, despite a few
delays, additional requirements and some general
confusion on their part.

COMMITMENT TO YOU
The Association in Defense of Adoption is in the
process of developing our website where we will post
theses Updates and available information,
clearly, professionally and with all the facts. Our
website will be a reliable source of up-to-date
information. The website will present this
information without being seen as having the intention
to mislead adoptive parents and/or those interested in
adopting from Guatemala about what is actually
happening in Guatemala.

Of course we cannot advise you to adopt or not to
adopt from Guatemala. But because we are in Guatemala,
on the ground here and next to where everything is
happening, we are in a position to provide the latest
and most reliable information. We'll give you the
facts, tell you about our efforts to keep adoptions
open and share with you the latest developments. We're
committed to realistic and practical information and
strategies that work. (Nice-sounding theories about
how adoptions might be done in an utopian ideal world
fall beyond the scope of our information service.)

NEW PRO-ADOPTION CAMPAIGN
We've just begun our first phase in raising funds to
initiate an aggressive, effective and widespread
pro-adoption educational campaign. I am sure you will
want to be a part of this to help assist us in keeping
adoptions open in Guatemala. Look for a future post
with info on how you can help.

Thank you to those who have personally expressed their
gratitude for "The Thursday Update on Guatemalan
Adoptions". Your comments are appreciated and
encouraging.


Best regards,

Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law
Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin
Guatemala City

continuation.......PART 3
WHAT MAKES A CASE A "PRE-MARCH 5 CASE"?
Although this has been discussed before, here is a
reminder as to what constitutes a "post-March 5" case:
When the adoptive parents give a power of attorney to
a Guatemalan lawyer, the document itself has to be
legalized by the Ministry of Exterior Relations and
translated into Spanish. (If it is already in Spanish,
only the seals and legalizations
that are in other language must be translated). Then,
a notary has to make the document part of the
Protocolo. (Protocolo is the collection
of all kinds of deeds authorized by the notary,
written in a special sealed paper that is sold only to
Notaries by the Ministry of Finances). After the
document is inserted among the pages of the Protocol
Register and a deed is recorded by the Notary saying
that he/she has done so, then a copy of the deed in
the Protocolo page and of the foreign document and its
translation and legalization is presented to the
General Archives of Protocolos, to be recorded.

There, the document is reviewed, a fee is paid and a
seal is stamped in the last page. The seal states the
date and the number of record. That is THE DATE that
determines whether a case is pre- or post- March 5th.
The relinquishment by the birth mother or by the
person who has legal custody of the child must also be
dated pre-March 5. The relinquishment by the birth
mother is usually before the Protocolo seal date, but
both documents have to be dated before March 5th,
2003.

REGARDING THE PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT:

This new requirement was told to the director of the
group of US adoption agencies who talked to one of the
lawyers of PGN. The lawyer told them that she
believed that everybody living in the household
(parents, children and relatives) older than 7 years
old has to get the report. Her opinion is not final
and we will look into that.

I talked to Elizabeth de Larios (advisor to Rudio
Lecsan Mrida,chief of section of PGN) this morning
and asked her about this. She said that it is
ridiculous, because the parents are approved in their
country and that is what the Hague Convention is
about,to accept the other countries' procedures
without having to repeat them in the country of origin
of the child.

Ths applies only to post March 5 cases and only to
those cases of adoptive parents whose countries have
ratified the Hague Convention.

The United States has not ratified the Hague
Convention, but its provisions could be applied to US
adoptions if you, the United States citizens, don't
do something soon.

We wll talk about this in my next post.


Best regards,
Susana Luarca
Attorney At Law,
Asociacin Defensores de la Adopcin

Posted by Kelly at 11:15 PM

5/22 Update from Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion PART 1

Thursday 22 May 2003 Update (RE-posted with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law)

Re: "The Thursday Update" on Guatemalan Adoptions

Dear Friends,

Here is the first part of this week's The Thursday
Update containing up-to-date
Information.
a. Clarification of Post-March 5 Cases
b. New Birthmother Interviews
c. What Makes a Case a "pre-March 5 Case"
d. Delays in Release of Files from PGN

CLARIFICATION ON POST-MARCH 5th CASES
Ethica's president, Trish Maskew posted incorrect
information earlier
this week regarding post-March 5th adoption cases and
we want to clarify
the actual situation. Maskew stated that ... it is
reported that several cases which were
considered filed post-March 5 have been processed by
the PGN. Because this statement could be interpreted
as if the PGN is accepting post-March 5 cases and
giving them its approval, we feel obligated to clarify
that it is not so. The Procuradura General de la
Nacin (PGN) has two sections and now, a new office
which is the Central Authority, for the Hague
Convention purposes. The section of the PGN that gives
its approval for adoptions
is the Procuraduria section. If a post-March 5th
adoption is presented to PGN, it will be assigned to
one of the lawyers and they will make an objection
which will be failure to comply with the Hague
Convention provisions.

Such a 'decision' by that PGN lawyer should not be
understood as the
file being processed. It is simply another type of
rejection. We have
tried to convince the Chief of Section that the PGN
lawyers should also
specify any other reason to object, along with the
objection they may
have about the Hague convention. He did not accept our
helpful
suggestion which would have helped keep things moving
more smoothly and
quickly.

BIRTHMOTHER INTERVIEWS
If the adoption file is presented to the Central
Authority, a date for
the interview of the birth mother will be set. To
date, the few mothers
who have been interviewed have complained about the
interviews, which
have been similar to the ones conducted by the US
embassy, with the same
lack of respect for the dignity of the mothers. Our
lawyers group will talk to Mr. Epifanio Monterroso,
director of the Central Authority, to present a motion
to instruct the people who
conduct the interviews of the birthmothers to do so
with utmost respect
and courtesy.

The Central Authority said that after the birthmother
interview, they
wantto see the children being adopted the following
week. We will not oppose that.

My impression is that the Central Authority is playing
games to buy time
while the Constitutional Court rules on the legal
challenges we
presented in the lawsuit. The more they show that they
have no serious
plans to implement the Hague Convention, the more
confident we feel that
the challenges to Guatemalan's accession to the Hague
Convention will be
upheld. The Court is scheduled to hear last arguments
on the
constitutional challenge on May 30. After that date,
the Court has 20 days to rule on the case.

DELAYS IN RELEASE OF FILES FROM PGN
Many adoptive parents have been asking why there is a
delay of the
release of the files being subjected to the approval
of the PGN.
Apparently, Rudio Lecsn Mrida, who has other duties
besides the PGN
(he is on the board of directors of a bank that is
being liquidated and
also fills in for the Attorney General whenever
needed) has been
extremely over-busy in recent weeks.
Last week I went to Mr. Merida's office (I know him
well) and talked to
the two lawyers who assist him, Elizabeth de Larios
and Mary de Mrida.
Both were very nice and kind, but commented that they
barely have the
opportunity to speak to Mr. Mrida because he has been
so busy lately.
(I doubt that regarding Mary, because she is his wife)

In Merida's office it was easy to see piles of files
on top of every
surface in Mridas secretaries office. Later, our
sources informed us
that Mrida signed many of files very late Thursday
and Friday night. We
expect that those files will be returned to the
notaries very soon and things will get moving along
once again.
If the PGN's comments on your file indicate that they
want additional information, your lawyers will have to
supply it and present the file
back to the PGN once again. Merida went away on a
trip but in this
case someone else signs the files, so his trip
does not necessarily mean that everything gets
completely stalled. He is expected to be back in his
office on Friday May 23.

Posted by Kelly at 11:11 PM

May 22, 2003

5/15 Update from Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion

This is a re-post (originally, posted on the St. Johns Guatemala Adopt list) with permission from Susana Luarca, Attorney at Law:

Re: "The Thursday Update" on Guatemalan Adoptions

Dear Friends,

The Current Situation
Yesterday, a large group of adoption professionals
attempted to arrange a meeting with the PGN Director
about the raids of the foster homes, where 13
children were "rescued". The Director only agreed to
meet with three representatives of the larger group.
The newspapers reported today that a total
of 16 children were "rescued" from "clandestine"
foster homes; no names were given.

It was explained that the raids were done by a social
worker in the Child Section of the PGN, but that she
had no authorization to do so and measures were
being taken to discipline her. The 16 children were
transferred to various orphanages.

The purpose of these raids has been always the same:
to discredit adoptions. It seems that every time an
adoption law is being discussed in Congress, someone
with a little power asks the police to raid houses
where children are appropriately cared for during
their adoption process. The newspapers" headlines
take care of the rest, trumpeting the "network in
illegal adoption" or similarly misleading words. As it
has happened before, the lawyers will prove now the
origin of these children, the birthmothers will give a
deposition and the children will then be returned to
their foster mothers.

Dr. Valladares, the congressman who proposed the
current adoption law project - which in its current
form we oppose - resigned two days ago from the FRG
(leading political party of President Portillo). Today
the newspapers report that he claims the government,
which also employed his wife and several other
relatives, fired all of them as retaliation for his
resignation.

Congress will resume sessions in August, when
everyone"s full attention will be focused on the
elections that will take place in November. I would
venture a guess that the adoption law will not be a
priority at that point.

The Director of the Central Authority established that
the birth mothers now have to be interviewed, to
comply with the Hague Convention. The first
interviews will start today. At this point, it doesn"t
seem as if anything else will be required, but only
time will tell.

The Director of the PGN, Rudio Lecs n M‚rida has
not signed off on many of the pending adoption files,
and they are piling up on top of his desk. It seems
that he has been "too busy" with other matters.

Our Continuing Struggle
We adoption professionals are working hard and working
constantly to keep adoptions open. It is hard and
unpaid extra work but we do this because we know
that there is no other option but adoption for many of
the needy Guatemalan children. Unfortunately, there
seems to be a consistent and alarming lack of
concern on the part of the government for the needs of
these children; this includes a lack of concern and
plans for the many who will be "stranded" if
adoptions slow down or shut down. There is virtually
no funding to care for poor children who are abandoned
or are without parents and homes.

After the Adoption Law Seminar last week, I spoke with
Gladys Acosta, the Peruvian UNICEF delegate. I told
her that the adoption law project that she had
just praised so highly, was nothing more than a way to
shut down adoptions. I also asked her if UNICEF was
going to fund the orphanages and pay for foster
mothers, because without the reimbursement money and
income from adoptions, they would not be able to
support the children. She answered that taking care of
the unwanted children was not the concern of UNICEF,
but of the local government. She claimed that UNICEF
was only interested to see that Guatemala passed the
laws that the international community expected,
according to the international
treaties that Guatemala has agreed to be a party to.

Accepting Referrals
For those who are undecided about accepting a referral
and have asked my opinion, I tell them that it is a
very personal decision. However, if it were my
decision, I would not hesitate for a moment to accept
a referral from Guatemala at this time.

Guatemala is still a country where adoptions are open
and the children have, as a general rule, few major
health issues and the foster care is good. Having said
that, there is always a risk, and therefore always a
few exceptions. Intercountry adoption is a very
complex process that involves two different
governments' laws, involves many people and sometimes
includes the challenge of dealing with various types
of problems. Added to this is the uncertainty of
ever-changing laws, rules, practices and regulations
all of which are out of your, and our, control during
the adoption process.

Those who start an adoption process must have
realistic expectations and a healthy dose of patience.
However, as Guatemalan adoption professionals, we are
quite confident that adoptions will not close,
especially in the near future.

If you read the archives of this Adoption List,
beginning in May 1997, you will find that the same
concern about the closing of adoptions has been
looming and discussed since that time. And, even
before that time the closing of adoptions
was an ever-present concern and ongoing discussion.

To have kept adoptions open and at the same time
increased the ethics and integrity of the process (ie,
DNA testing among others) is continuing and
present proof that the hard work of many adoption
professionals has paid off. Many times it has also
been evident that the faith and passionate help of
adoptive parents has also helped to save adoptions
from being shut down by the sometimes under-handed
work of several anti-adoption forces.

Thank you to all who have been a part of this valiant
struggle. May we all keep working together to help
provide a better life to the always precious, but
sometimes unfortunate, children of Guatemala.

Sincerely and with Best Regards,

Susana Luarca
Attorney at Law
Member of the Asociacion Defensores de la Adopcion
(and very proud of it)

Posted by Kelly at 07:33 PM

March 21, 2003

Hague Update and Travel (Rudy Rivera)

Reposted with permission from Rudy Rivera:

(Rudy): I tried meeting with the office of Exterior Relations, however they said that
they have nothing to do with the Hague Treaty any longer. The matter is now
completely in the hands of the PGN.

There is now the issue of travel. The Hotel Association has placed police at
the doors of each major Hotel. Foster mothers have been stopped as they are
leaving or entering the hotel. It is not happening everyday but it is
happening. The most recent episode was at the Tikal Futura. Discussed this
with the hotels and that is a matter out of their control. They do not want
the foster mothers detained. The police can not enter the hotel without a
court order, so they wait until the foster mother leaves. The foster mother
should carry documents showing that an adoption is taking place. Although
many foster mothers carry the proper documentation, the police still take
them into custody. Some of the police are really not investigation fraud but
are looking to extort money.

I would look to your agency for advice on this issue.

Yours truly,


Rodolfo Rivera

Posted by Kelly at 12:10 AM

Hague Update (Rudy Rivera)

Posted with permission from Rudy Rivera, Children of the World:

Yesterday, four lawyers met with the PGN director for approximately 1 hour. The PGN has yet to state specifically what the new procedures will be. The director continues to state that adoptions in Guatemala will not be stopped.

The office of Exterior Relations has a role in coordinating the Hague Treaty in Guatemala. Representatives of their office met with embassy
officials and stated that adoptions will continue in Guatemala. We have
requested an appointment with Exterior relations for sometime today.

Approximately 30 lawyers met last night to discuss strategy. There are two
more lawsuits that will be filed. I will tell you the nature of the suites
as soon as I have a chance to read the pleadings.

We are continuing the fight, but we need input form more agencies working in Guatemala. Please contact your agency and have them subscribe to our
listserver
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GuatemalanAdoptionAgencies/)

Rudy Rivera
Children of the World, Inc.
Missouri

Posted by Kelly at 12:06 AM

March 12, 2003

The PGN Meeting - Hague

UPDATE: According to a very reliable source, PGN or the Central Authority is still accepting cases after March 5th. There is no news as to whether there will be changes to the dossier requirements. The good news is that the Central Authority has stated that they do NOT intend to stop adoptions.

Prior to this, March 11th....there was a meeting with PGN and a number of adoption specialists. We do not have a transcript at this time, nor do we know if we will get one of all or part of the meeting.

But according to an adoption specialist that attended the meeting, PGN states that there is no intent to cease adoptions in Guatemala. Here is a little history about the Hague in Guatemala:

AUGUST 19th, 2002: Guatemala Congress acceded to The Hague Treaty
Soon after: A group formed challenging the legality of the Accession.
March 5th, 2003: Hague was *said* to go into effect. PGN named the Central Authority.

Even if the challenge to the accession of the Hague fails, Guatemalan law protects the process of adoption. At this time, there has been NO legislation or process change that would drastically change or stop adoptions in Guatemala all together.

However, it is very possible that the the process could be slowed down by new policies unless/until they are legally challenged.

Hopefully, PGN will see the benefit of making logical policies that would not cripple the adoption process in Guatemala. They have stated that it is not their intention to do so...and we hope that is the case!!! As an adotive parent (or I should say adopted parent), I cannot bare to think of even more children going hungry or left to the streets JUST because redtape will not permit them to survive.

Posted by Kelly at 09:06 AM