September 27, 2013

Could it be - after 5 yrs

Well we have seen sort of thing before and I haven't spoken to anyone involved in the advocacy to get their take. But let's hope this is true that Guatemala will finally complete these cases that have been going on forever!

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/guatemala-complete-us-adoptions-year-20377450

Posted by Kevin at 08:04 AM

April 12, 2012

Is it true this time??

President Molina announced that he's willing to allow the remaining cases to be completed. We've heard some similar things in the past, hopefully it is true this time!

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/apr/11/lt-guatemala-adoption/

Posted by Kevin at 08:59 PM

December 14, 2011

USE Notice on CNA Cases

The US Embassy has a new notice regarding a process for those cases being handled by the CNA (not notarial cases with the PGN). You can read the notice by clicking on more or here:

http://adoption.state.gov/country_information/country_specific_alerts_notices.php?alert_notice_type=notices&alert_notice_file=guatemala_8

Notice: Processing Plan for CNA cases
This Adoption Notice is a follow up to the Notice of September 27, 2011.

The Government of Guatemala's Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA) has agreed to a process for certain adoption applications pending under the CNA's processing authority. The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will contact affected families to provide detailed information regarding the next steps. We anticipate that the CNA may identify additional cases for processing at a later time. The general outline of the planned process is as follows:

The CNA will initiate the process by providing the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City with the names of children identified as ready to be finalized.
The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City will then notify the USCIS Guatemala City field office. USCIS Guatemala City will contact U.S. prospective adoptive parents individually to provide detailed instructions regarding the CNA application requirements and final USCIS processing.
This process applies only to cases pending with the CNA's processing authority and not to cases pending with the Procuraduria General de la Nacion (PGN) as "notario" cases. We anticipate that the CNA will process cases on an ongoing basis. Families who have questions about the process may email the Department of State at AskCI@state.gov.

Processing questions related to a Guatemalan Form I-600 petition that qualifies as a grandfathered petition under U.S. law should be directed to USCIS at Guatemala.adoptions@dhs.gov.

Posted by Kevin at 01:23 PM

November 07, 2011

Molina Wins Election

Otto Perez Molina and his "Mano Duro" has won the Guatemalan presidential election. My hope is that he is somehow successful in making the country safer for all Guatemalans without returning to the human rights ills of the past, especially given his history. Admittedly I am worried but I also know that the security situation for average Guatemalans is dire. He got the vote of many kindred friends of mine so will try to be as optimistic as they are.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/06/world/americas/guatemala-elections/index.html?hpt=wo_c2

Posted by Kevin at 11:07 AM

August 22, 2011

New Decree for Pipeline Cases

I know nothing more than what is in this story. It was the first I had heard of this..

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2011/08/22/guatemala-issues-decree-speeding-up-child-adoptions/

Posted by Kevin at 04:24 PM

August 06, 2011

Developments in Anyeli/Karen Abigail Case

I'm not going to comment much on this. As I have consistently stated all along on this, my opinion is that the adoptive family has been making a mistake on this by not addressing it and trying to resolve collaboratively. Easy for me to say as I am not the one facing it, but also easy to say because I cannot fathom the pain of having a child taken away from me.

This case is going to set precedent or at least is unlike anything before. A horrible shame for all involved who love this child, and the child herself.

http://www.kctv5.com/story/15215292/parents-ordered-to-return-adoptive-child

Posted by Kevin at 09:55 AM

March 29, 2011

Marvin Bran Arrested

UPDATED 3/31

I got a better link and a translation. His arrest has to do with him being the original referring attorney in the case of Anyeli Hernandez (aka Dulce Maria and Karen Abigail ). He was charged with conspiracy in the kidnapping of Anyeli.

http://cicig.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=84&cntnt01returnid=122

Click on more for an intenret translation..

They ORDER PRISON TO DEFENDANT IN CASE OF ILLEGAL ADOPTIONS

Guatemala, March 29 of 2011. The Fourth Court of First Penal Instance left without effect the order of liberty in favor of Marvin Josué Bran Galindo, defendant to participate in processes of illegal adoptions, and ordered his immediate capture by manipulating a witness so that declared to his favor.

The resolution of the judgeship was derived from the petition of the Special Unit of the District attorney's Office of Support to CICIG –UEFAC- of the Public Department, that requested to revoke the substitute measures that were offered to Bran Galindo so that he recovered his liberty after remaining connected with process by he tries people and illicit association.

Among the media of conviction that the Public Department (MP) presented in the diligence stands out herself a statement of the witness, who declared that the defendant delivered her a manuscript in which indicated the features in which she should declare with the object of former to blame it of the syndications.

They add crime In a second audience and in the same process, the above-mentioned court added the crime of illicit association to Soul Beatriz Valley Flowers of Mejía, defendant to participate in processes of illegal adoptions. This adds to that of tries people and use of fake documents, by which was processed in its first statement.

As the defendant excused of be not presented to the audience of course damages of health, the judge he ordered that he was practiced him a medical report to determine the truth of its excuse, and of be verified the contrary thing the judge indicated that would be ordered the custody.

In this case there are nine people processed by their presumed participation in adoptions that were dealt with in an illegal way.

Posted by Kevin at 09:39 PM

January 21, 2011

DOS Request for PAP information

Department of State Request For Updated Information from Guatemala Grandfathered PAPs. Following the December meetings of Ambassador Susan Jacobs with Guatemalan officials, including President Alvaro Colom, the Department of State is asking potential adoptive parents with grandfathered cases in Guatemala to notify DOS as to the PAPs name, the name and date of birth of the child to be adopted and the date that the family filed its I-600/A petition with USCIS. You may add a brief case update as well.

This email should be sent to ASKCI@state.gov and the subject line should read "Guatemala Master List."

Posted by Ann at 10:35 PM

October 07, 2010

Congrats to Ann and Dave Roth - Angels in Adoption

Heartfelt congratulations go out to Guatadopt's (and Guatemala 900's) Ann Roth and her hubbie Dave for receiving a Congressional Coalition on Adoption Angel in Adoption Award.

As I write about when I introduced Ann here, her work and dedication is endless. She (and Dave) deserves it!

http://www.angelsinadoption.org/

Posted by Kevin at 04:49 PM

Us No Longer Interested in Guat Trial Program

The United States has withdrawn its Letter of Intent to participate in the 2 year Guatemala adoption pilot program. You can read about it here: http://adoption.state.gov/news/guatemala_pilot_program-faqs.html

Posted by Kevin at 09:07 AM

September 03, 2010

RENAP is Operating

We have heard some rumors nad seen some posts claiming that RENAP is not processing any adoption documents. Our sources in Guatemala have said that this is not true and that while RENAP may be running slow, they are still processing documents.

In addition, we are aware that ASG has stopped working on adoption cases and seem to be impossible to get a hold of. Unfortunately, I have no information on them or any contact info beyond what was publically known. I'm sorry I can't be of more help there.

Posted by Kevin at 03:15 PM

August 31, 2010

New DOS Update

The DOS Office of Children's Issues has issued what I'm pretty sure is a new update. You can find it here:
http://adoption.state.gov/news/guatemala.html

To all the waiting parents: keep up the hard work and determination because it is having an impact! For any not supporting Guatemala900 with everything in you, you really should get on board!

Update: 9/10/10 I've been asked to post Susana Luarca's response to this letter. You can find it here: http://www.susanaluarca-english.blogspot.com/. In addition, click on more to see an intro to it from Hannah Wallace.

Hannah's intro:

Hi Kevin, I'm sending you my short introduction and Susana's response to the DOS/OCI's recent report on Guatemalan adoptions (I've sent the letter as an attachment and also a link to Susana's blog). I think it is really important that Susana's response be accessible via Guatadopt as the DOS report named her.

Thank you for printing this ASAP. warmly, Hannah

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I'd like to bring to your attention Susana Luarca's response to the recent Office of Children's Issues report on the progress of Guatemalan adoptions. As many of you know, there are still approximately 300-500 adoptions still in process, which were supposed to be grandfathered under the new adoption law which went into effect on December 31, 2007. Those adoptions have been improperly subjected to many requirements which are not part of the new law ,nor the old law. They also have been subjected to intensive investigations, which many consider to be excessive and harmful to the children and U.S. citizen families who are in the process of adopting them. In a recent DOS report, the Office of Children;s Issues reported charges, allegedly as reported in the Guatemalan press, against Susana Luarca - charges which are allegedly one of the excuses the Guatemalan authorities have used to justify the "investigations" and extensive delays to these pending adoptions.

As a child advocate with long term involvement in Guatemalan adoptions and child welfare issues, I believe the continued delays in processing these adoptions and the contention by the U.S. Department of State that they cannot intercede on behalf of the US Citizen adoptors , has caused great harm to the children who were allegedly going to be protected by the new laws. Furthermore, passing on information which is reported in the Guatemalan press and which has not been substantiated or proven is also giving credence to this misinformation.

IN this case, I would say that the old adage: "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" has been realized. Orphanages,( who were the ONLY recourse for children whose DNA tests showed that the relinquishing "mother" was not the biological mother,) who then initiated abandonment procedures as the law required, are now being accused -- even though none of those accused had anything to do with the child's initial fraudulent relinquishment. All they did was take care of the child and try to reinstate the child's rights to a family -- which, by the way, was never financially supported by the Guatemalan government.

Please read the attached letter and write to AskCI@state.gov asking them to correct their report and become more proactive in correcting these miscarriages of justice.

Thank you,

Hannah Wallace

Posted by Kevin at 10:01 AM

July 27, 2010

Guatemalan Foreign Ministry creates adoption position

Fernando de la Cerda, Minister Counselor at the Guatemala Embassy in Washington, DC , has returned to Guatemala and will be meeting with officials from the CNA, PGN, and MP and others.

Fernando also announced the creation of a position at the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry that will deal with adoption issues full time. Fernando was very excited about the appointment of Lissette Ordonez to this position, as it will give his department someone on the ground in Guatemala City who has immediate access to the organizations dealing with adoptions in Guatemala.

The announcement of such a position is a positive sign for the hundreds of waiting families and waiting children. This is a hopeful step to a further opening of the communication lines between the Guatemalan entities involved in the grandfathered cases and with the US entities.

Posted by Ann at 03:58 PM

July 20, 2010

NEW SURVEY for In-Process Families

FOR ALL IN-PROCESS FAMILIES to COMPLETE

Two of the Guatemala900's greatest allies are Joint Council on International Children Services (www.jcics.org) and The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (www.ccai.org). These two organizations are tirelessly working for the Gautemala900 grandfathered cases every day. JCICS and CCAI recently approached the Guatemala900 and expressed a need for a comprehensive database of remaining grandfathered cases. JCICS and CCAI expressed that having this information will maximize the effectiveness of their advocacy work.

We know that the waiting families are no strangers to surveys. So why participate in another? The reason is simple - it will give our powerful allies the best tools to advocate for all of the children in Guatemala and families in the United States that are awaiting due process. The database created from this survey will supersede all previous databases, so it is important for all waiting families to participate.

To minimize the chance for data transfer error from our current database, we respectfully ask ALL In-process families to please participate in the the new survey asap. It should only take 10-15 minutes to complete. JCICS and CCAI will email to their extensive contact database in an attempt to find more in-process families, thereby expanding our voice and making us that more more effective in our efforts to to obtain “due process, due now!”

To participate in the JCICS/CCAI/G900 survey use this link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Guatemala2010

You will need to know the name of your Congressman and you will need to have either your PGN number and or your CNA number. So have those handy when you go to complete the survey.

Please if you are not a waiting family but know any families, please send this announcement along to them.

Thank you and let's hope this helps finalize our story.

Posted by Ann at 10:32 PM

May 31, 2010

Tropical Storm Agathy Hits Guatemala

I've been out of town a couple of days so we're late in reporting this. You probably already know about the storm that hit Guatemala.

Here's a story on it: http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/05/30/salvador.tropical.storm/index.html?section=cnn_latest

On behalf of Guatadopt and its readers, I can just wish support and prayers for all those in Guatemala recovering from a week of Mother Nature's torment!

Posted by Kevin at 10:06 AM

May 28, 2010

Pacaya Volcano Erupts - Airport Closed

The Pacaya Volcano erupted yesterday, causing some mayhem and sadly some fatalities. President Colom has declared a state of emergency in some areas and the airport is at this time closed.

You can find a story on it here.

Click on more to read a US Embassy announcement on this.

May 28, 2010
Embassy of the United States of America
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Dear American Citizen Warden:
The following Warden Message informs U.S. citizens about an incident which occurred recently on Pacaya volcano. Please share the following information with the U.S. citizens on your warden list, and any other Americans you know, as soon as possible. Please contact the American Citizen Services Unit via e-mail (amcitsguatemala@state.gov), fax (2331-3804), or telephone (2326-4501) if you have any questions. Thank you very much for your support and assistance.


The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City alerts U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Guatemala that a volcanic eruption of Pacaya Volcano, 20 miles from Guatemala City, occurred in the evening hours of May 27. Volcanic ash continues to fall, covering much of the surrounding area including, in Guatemala City. La Aurora International airport has ceased all operations due to falling and debris on the runway. International flights are being diverted to San Salvador and domestic flights to Santa Elena Peten. ConRed has issued a code red alert for all residents of the Departments of Guatemala and Escuintla and residents are advised to remain in their homes. Affected travelers are being advised to monitor the news on television or radio for the latest information and updates.

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala will be closed on Friday, May 28 due to the eruption. The Embassy will also be closed on Monday, May 31 for an American Holiday. We encourage U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website in order to obtain updated information on travel and security. Registering makes it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala strongly encourages U.S. citizens in Guatemala to register with the Consular Section through the travel registration website.

Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the U.S. Embassy’s website and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information can be found. The U.S. Embassy also encourages U.S. citizens to review "A Safe Trip Abroad," found at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1747.html, which includes valuable security information for those both living and traveling abroad. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is located at Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zone 10, Guatemala City. Please contact the American Citizen Services Unit by email to amcitsguatemala@state.gov or by phone at 011-(502)2326-4501, by fax at (502)2331-3804. The after-hours emergency number is 011-502-2331-2354 or (502)2331-2354.

Estimado guardián para Ciudadanos Americanos:
El siguiente es un mensaje en relación a información sobre un incidente ocurrido en el Volcán de Pacaya. Por favor comparta esta información con los Ciudadanos Americanos incluidos en su lista y con cualquier otro Ciudadano Americano que conozca, tan pronto le sea posible. Por favor comuníquese con la Unidad de Servicios a Ciudadanos Americanos vía correo electrónico a (amcitsguatemala@state.gov) fax (2331-3804) ó número telefónico (2326-4501) si tiene alguna pregunta o si necesita mayor información en español. Muchas gracias por su colaboración y ayuda.

La Embajada de los Estados en la Ciudad de Guatemala alerta a los ciudadanos que viajan hacia y que viven en Guatemala, que hubo una erupcin volcnica en el volcn de Pacaya, a 20 millas de la Ciudad de Guatemala. La ceniza volcnica contina siendo expulsada en el aire, lo que ha causado que el Aeropuerto Internacional La Aurora cese sus operaciones. Los vuelos internacionales estn siendo desviados hacia San Salvador y los vuelos domsticos hacia Santa Elena, Petn. CONRED ha emitido una alerta roja para todos los residentes de los departamentos de Guatemala y Escuintla; y se est recomendando a los residentes que se mantengan en sus hogares. Se recomienda a los viajeros afectados que monitoreen las noticias en los medios de televisin y radio para obtener la informacin ms actualizada.

La Embajada de los Estados Unidos permanecer cerrada el viernes 28 de mayo de 2010, a causa de la erupcin. La Embajada estar tambin cerrada el lunes 31 de mayo por la celebracin de un feriado estadounidense.

Recomendamos a los ciudadanos estadounidenses que viven o viajan en el extranjero a registrarse con la Embajada o Consulado de los Estados Unidos ms cercana a travs de la pgina de web del Departamento de Estado, a fin de obtener informacin actualizada sobre viajes y seguridad. El registrarse hace ms fcil para la Embajada o Consulado contactarle en caso de una emergencia. La Embajada de los Estados Unidos en Guatemala recomienda con insistencia a los ciudadanos estadounidenses en Guatemala a que se registren con la Seccin Consular en la pgina de web para registro de viajeros.

Los Ciudadanos Norteamericanos que viajan en el extranjero deben revisar constantemente el sitio en internet de la Embajada de Estados Unidos, así como el sitio en internet del Departamento de Estado, la División de Asuntos Consulares en www.travel.state.gov en donde pueden encontrar el documento de Precaución a Nivel Mundial, Advertencias de Viaje, Alertas de Viaje y la Información Específica de cada país. La Embajada de Estados Unidos también recomienda a los Ciudadanos Norteamericanos revisar el documento “Un viaje seguro en el extranjero” en el sitio en internet http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1747.html el cual contiene información importante de seguridad para aquellas personas viviendo o viajando en el extranjero. Adicional a la información en Internet, las personas que viajan pueden obtener información actualizada sobre las condiciones de seguridad llamando gratuitamente dentro de los Estados Unidos y Canadá al número telefónico 1-888-407-4747 ó fuera de Estados Unidos y Canadá al número regular 1-202-501-4444.

La Embajada de Estados Unidos en Guatemala está ubicada en la Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zona 10, Ciudad de Guatemala. Por favor comuníquese a la Unidad de Servicios para Ciudadanos Norteamericanos via correo electrónico a amcitsguatemala@state.gov o al teléfono (502)2326-4501, vía fax al (502)2331-3804. Nuestro número telefónico de emergencias, las 24 horas es 011-502-2331-2354 o (502)2331-2354.

Posted by Kevin at 08:13 AM

April 06, 2010

DNA Procedures

Probably old news to anyone it mattters to but you never know. The USE in Guatemala issued new DNA requirements. Long story shortis that DNA tests are now done at the embassy itself rather than an embassy approved doctor's office. Full information can be found here: http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/adop20091221.html

Posted by Kevin at 10:31 AM

April 01, 2010

CIS Update

Probably nothing new here for any of the in-process folks, who presumably get these via e-mail directly from CIS (and if you're not, you should get on their list!). But by clicking on more you can read their latest update.

Also, there is a pretty good sheet for those of you still in-process to use as a reference point in making sure you keep all of your US side approvals active. DO NOT LET THEM EXPIRE.

That sheet is here: Download file

Adoption Notice: Guatemala

March 31, 2010


Hogar Listserve Updates

The Office of Children’s Issues provides regular updates to families and adoption service providers specifically affected by legal actions taken regarding hogares or child care centers for children in Guatemala awaiting international adoptions. If you received this e-mail in error and do not wish to receive future updates please notify AskCI@state.gov using the subject line: Remove My Name from the Guatemala Hogar List Serve. Similarly, if you have friends or colleagues who would like to receive these updates, ask them to contact AskCI@state.gov using the subject line: Add My Name to the Guatemala Hogar List Serve. These updates will focus only on recent developments; for a comprehensive review of intercountry adoptions in Guatemala, please consult the Guatemala section of the Office of Children’s Issues general website www.Adoption.State.Gov.

We remind everyone that the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is not officially notified of investigations of individual hogares. Many of the investigations involve allegations of criminal wrongdoing. The United States Government does not have any official legal standing in these cases; thus we may not be informed and may also be officially barred from receiving routine information.

Casa Quivira

According to our records, adoptions petitions are still pending for 16 of the original 46 children who were taken into custody from Casa Quivira. For several of the cases, the Solicitor General’s Office (PGN) has identified irregularities and these cases will have to be processed as abandonment cases through the CNA. The Guatemalan government has agreed that these cases (if all requirements have been complied with) can be processed as transition cases and will not have to wait for the new procedures to be drafted and implemented.

A decision was issued by Judge Mena in 2009 determining adoptability of the children, including those already adopted and living in the United States. However, some errors were found in the final resolution and the Office of the Solicitor General (PGN) appealed the judge’s decision. The appeals Court, “Sala,” agreed with the decision of Judge Mena and sent the case back to her for the technical corrections. There was no appeal to the Sala’s decision.

Semillas de Amor

Various appeals and motions continue to delay the court hearings, underway since March 2009, to determine the eligibility for adoption of more than 50 children from Semillas de Amor (including some children already adopted and living in the United States). Most recently, on December 4, some prospective adoptive parents challenged PGN requests that some Semillas de Amor children be returned to extended families. If this plan had been accepted by the judge, it would have ended the adoption process for these prospective adoptive parents. One motion was recently decided in favor of the prospective adoptive parents, and several are still pending. Because all Semillas de Amor cases are under one court docket number, these appeals create a new timeline for all cases.

Earlier this year, the presiding family court judge who had been hearing these cases retired and a new judge was appointed. Once all the motions and appeals are decided, the proceedings will resume at the same place where they were stopped on the last day of closing arguments before the previous judge.

Santa Lucia de las Flores

The Embassy learned in 2009 that Asociacion Santa Lucia de las Flores Silvestres had been under investigation by the Guatemalan Attorney General’s office since 2008. The Embassy has been in contact with some of the prospective adoptive parents. We understand there were at least five children indentified for adoption by American citizens being cared for at this home. Many of the children taken from this orphanage are now living in various hogares until a judge decides on their cases. The case is still under investigation.

Asociacion Primavera

On August 13, 2009, the Embassy learned about an action by Guatemalan authorities involving 17 children from the Hogar Asociación Primavera, 16 of whom had been matched with U.S. adoptive families. We have since learned that the children were transferred to the following hogares: Casa Alegría, Casa Bernabé, and Amor del Niño. A police investigation continues, and the judge in Esquintla who approved many of the abandonment cases from Hogar Primavera is now under criminal investigation.

On December 16, the Guatemalan press reported that Susana Maria Luarca Saracho, a facilitator of international adoptions for Asociacion Primavera, was arrested by the Ministerio Publico on charges of irregular adoptions. She was later released on Q50,000 bail (just over $6,000) and is under house arrest.

Rosalinda Rivera’s Hogar

On May 6, 2008 an action was taken against a hogar on 11 Avenida 7-51, zona 11, Quinta Samayoa, Guatemala City. Rosalinda Rivera was apprehended at this location and 9 infants were removed from her custody. Ms. Rivera did not provide the necessary paperwork to prove this was an authorized home. The children are all living in other hogares awaiting a decision on their case.


Embassy and USCIS consultations with the Government of Guatemala

The following are brief updates on issues or related developments on pending adoption cases that are not under investigation or in the courts.
• Consular officers and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers in Guatemala City are in regular contact with Guatemalan officials about the current situation and to look for approaches that could streamline the process, coordinate the flow of information to adoptive families, and permit all adoptions to move forward. In some instances, the Ambassador has been directly involved in discussions with Guatemalan officials on the adoption situation in Guatemala. Senior State Department officials also regularly raise adoption issues with their Guatemalan counterparts.
• In light of allegations regarding the integrity of Guatemala’s former adoption process, Guatemalan Government authorities are making a concerted effort to confirm all aspects of every case. Because of the large number of investigations, progress overall is likely to be slow.
• The Consular Section continues to process visa applications as soon as the files are complete. From October through December 2009, the Embassy issued approximately 2 adoption visas per week, and in the first two months of 2010 only about one adoption visa per week

The Department would like to inform prospective adoptive parents of the new worldwide DNA procedures for its DNA testing. All second DNA tests for adoptions must be scheduled with the Consular Section. Information is available from the Consular Section at: adoptguatemala@state.gov or http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/adop20091221.html.

CNA’s announces new rules and procedures for Guatemala adoptions

On October 8, the CNA issued a statement telling parents they should not hire private attorneys or notaries to process their adoptions. The announcement applies only to cases that the CNA is processing at this time, i.e., pre-Convention abandonment cases or others that cannot be processed by the PGN.

USCIS Updates
• As of 2/28/10, USCIS Field Office Guatemala City had 433 active files. (Note: This total may include cases in which the petitioner has subsequently decided to abandon the case but did not inform USCIS.) Of these cases:
• 358 are pre-approved and pending action by the Government of Guatemala
• 75 are pending pre-approval or final decision by USCIS
• 9 are pending submission of 1st DNA results
• 66 are pending USCIS or other petitioner action

USCIS Field Office Guatemala City received final Guatemalan adoption documents for 13 cases during the period from December 1, 2009 to February 28, 2010. USCIS Field Office Guatemala City also reminds prospective adoptive parents of the new procedures for the 1st DNA test required in relinquishment cases. All 1st DNA appointments must be scheduled by USCIS. For more information or to schedule an appointment for DNA collection, please contact USCIS at: Guatemala.Adoptions@dhs.gov.
• In response to frequent questions regarding transition cases in Guatemala, USCIS developed the attached InfoSheet entitled Keeping Required USCIS Documents Valid for Transition Cases. Please note this InfoSheet is only applicable to intercountry adoption cases in Guatemala as outlined in the
document.

CNA’s Two-year Limited Pilot Program

The Guatemalan National Council on Adoptions (CNA) – the Guatemalan Central Authority–has announced a limited two-year pilot program. One component would seek international placement for a small number of primarily older children, groups of siblings, and children with special needs. (See information in Spanish on the CNA’s website http://www.cna.gob.gt/portal/adopcionesinterncionales.html.) According to the CNA, this program will not affect Guatemala’s efforts to process already–pending Guatemalan adoptions. The pilot will identify a maximum of four receiving countries and one adoption service provider in each country to seek placements for these children.

In late February, the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (CI) submitted to the CNA the final information regarding potential U.S. participation in the proposed pilot program. According to a recent press article, a total of ten countries expressed interest. The CNA estimated the selection process would take several months. Even if selected, however, the United States must review the Pilot Program, once the final details are presented, to determine that it is in conformity with the requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention.

Prospective adoptive parents are cautioned not to make any new commitments regarding possible Guatemalan adoptions at this time. The United States Central Authority has not determined that Guatemala’s intercountry adoption procedures are in compliance with the Hague Convention on Adoption. Further, it is not known if the United States will be selected to participate, and if selected, which U.S. adoption service provider the CNA will identify to handle placements. In addition, the CNA emphasizes strongly that the profile of children who would be placed under this pilot program contrasts sharply with the profile of most children previously adopted internationally from Guatemala.

The Office of Children’s Issues will update the Guatemala Country Information on www.Adoption.State.Gov as soon as more information is available.

Posted by Kevin at 02:39 PM

December 04, 2009

US Files Letter of Intent

JCICS is reporting that the US did in fact file a letter of intent with the Guatemalan authorities to participate in their ICA pilot program. I must say I am surprised and pleased to hear this.

To better understand and not get too excxited, be sure you read what it means or more importantly, what it does not. What it is...is a start!

http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala.htm

December 4, 2009 - U.S. Dept of State submits letter of intent

Joint Council can confirm that the U.S. Department of State has submitted a letter of interest to the Guatemalan government regarding participation in the pilot program announced by the Central Authority of Guatemala.

Related to the pilot program and the letter of intent, we bring you attention to the following:

Neither the pilot program nor the letter of interest should be construed as the ‘reopening’ of a Guatemalan intercountry adoption program with the U.S.

While potential adoptive parents may initiate a Hague adoption by submitting an I-800A with the National Benefits Center for a Guatemalan adoption, it is our understanding the application cannot be processed through to a completed adoption.

It is Joint Council’s understanding, that no country, which is a party to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, has indicated that Guatemala is compliant with the Convention.

It is Joint Council’s understanding is that eight (8) countries have submitted a letter of interest. Currently Guatemala has not selected any countries for participation in the pilot program and has not accredited any Adoption Service Providers.

The Government of Guatemala has not published a time-line for country selection nor initiation of the pilot program.

The Government of Guatemala has not provided assurances that the pilot program will actually be initiated.

The Government of Guatemala has not published the criteria by which they intend to accredit foreign adoption service providers. Based on the announcement published on the Guatemalan Central Authority’s website, only one (1) adoption service provider will be selected per country for participation in the pilot program.

Additionally, over the past two-year period, the Guatemalan Central Authority has made little if any progress in developing a Hague compliant process or implementing programs to support, process and finalize domestic adoption. This combined with continued delays in providing sufficient shelter and nutrition to children living outside of parental care all point to an indefinite period before the announced pilot program will be initiated and if the pilot program will actually be initiated.

It is therefore the recommendation of Joint Council that potential adoptive parents refrain from submitting an I800A application for a Guatemalan adoption at this time. We also encourage all to limit their enthusiasm for an imminent “reopening” of Guatemalan intercountry adoption.

Posted by Kevin at 09:53 PM

November 21, 2009

Guatemala Re-Open for ICA - Not EXACTLY

Boy, I take one Friday afternoon and evening away from Guatadopt and the whole world changes...

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_8560/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=QuQ0taLO

The CNA has issued a statement about reopening for ICA. This is a positive first step in progress toward possibly having a functioning ICA system someday... For now, they are apparently launching a two-year PILOT program with up to four countries, you must signal their interest in the next couple of weeks.

You can click on more for some interpretation and a translation of what CNA said...

So what does this mean? Key takeaways in my mind (some being opinion):
1.) The US has said before that Guatemala hasn't met all of their documentary Hague requirements and that until they do, the US will not recognize Guatemala as being Hague compliant. This appears to be Guatemala saying they've done their part. So the question is "will DOS send this letter to them". I'd love the answer to that one...
2.) This pilot program will be very limited and will be focused on the children who are traditionally the hardest to place. It is very interesting, and logical, that it will be a "push" rather "pull" oriented system. Nothing happens until Guatemala says it has a child. There will be no registry of waiting PAPs.
3.) We're at least two years out from any normal ICA system

I think one thing we all need to come to terms with, and is clearly stated in the annoucement below, is that things will never go back to to how it was before. More than likely, if it ever happens, by the time a normal US couple can look to Guatemala as a place to grow their family with any certainty, we'll all be too old to be wanting to adopt. More importantly, as we look to the future rather than dwelling in the past, is that at least those most difficult to care for and place may find homes soon.

And for one last thought, my guess is that this has no impact whatsoever on any of the in-process cases...

CNA STATEMENT

OFFICIAL INVITATION TO THE CENTRAL AUTHORITIES OF THE RECEIVING COUNTRIES TO PRESENT A LETTER OF INTEREST TO COOPERATE WITH THE INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION IN GUATEMALA.

The National Council of Adoptions will begin a pilot plan, with the purpose of expanding its operating capacities in the search of international families, for children who it has not been able to integrate into a Guatemalan family. For that effect, and to begin the cooperation with some central authorities of receiving countries, members of the Convention of The Hague, related to the Protection of the Child and the Cooperation on the subject of International Adoption, puts at your disposal, the following information:

1.Background

As a result of the armed conflict that Guatemala lived during 1960-1996, many children lost their families, becoming orphans. National and international adoptions begun with the purpose of finding families for these children. Nevertheless, as time went by, this situation generated an out of proportions demand for Guatemalan children.

During 30 years in Guatemala, there operated a system of international adoptions based on private requests processed mainly through notaries and without an adequate control by the entities of the state. This system generated abuses of different types that violated the human rights of the children and their families of origin. In this way children were handed in directly for the exchange of money and a real trade was made.
This situation was stopped with the approval and entry into force of the law of adoptions and the Convention of The Hague 1993, on December 31, 2007.

The law created the National Council of Adoptions CNA [for its initials in Spanish], as the Central Authority on the subject of adoption, an autonomous entity responsible for the implementation of a system of adoptions that will answer to the superior interest of the children. In 2008 and 2009, the CNA designed the technical guidelines of work and its institution that basically promotes national adoption. The time has come to broaden the operating capacity of the CNA, in search of collaborators from abroad, that will allow them to find families for Guatemalan children, who couldn’t find Guatemalan families.

2.Number and profile of the children in state of adoptability

About this we must make the following explanations:
The number and profile of children that require international adoption has changed, radically. Under the former system, 5,000 yearly adoptions were registered during the last years, most of the children were boys and girls younger than one year old and in good health, different from the reality of the unprotected children; therefore, we must emphasize that the number and profile of the children for which protection through adoption will be looked for, nationally and internationally, will never again correspond with the numbers of the past.

The actual trend in the adoptions in Guatemala is coming close to what exists in the other Latin American countries, which is the profile of the children of the system of protection for which a Guatemalan family hasn´t been found is: children who are older (around first years of school age and older), groups of siblings, children with health, mental or emotional issues and children that they haven’t been able to place in national families.

About the number of children with the potential need of national or international adoption, it is hard to estimate it, because Guatemala is now in a transition phase, which makes the management of the protection institutions of the children and among other things, the social and family investigation and the legal determination of their situation, difficult. The actual number is 200 children, they have been declared adoptable by the children’s courts in the year 2008. Although this number will vary according to the development of the work of the system of protection, it is an indicator that the needs of adoption, national and international, will remain in the hundreds and not the thousands, as in the past.

3. Types of collaboration
As a way to respect the subsidiarity of international adoption, in relation to national adoption and not to overload the multidisciplinary technical team of the CNA, files of request to adopt from foreign candidates, won’t be received. The CNA will promote a system of requirement of foreign families, according to the needs of the children and the moment they are presented. That is, it will be the CNA who will send the files of the children who need to be adopted internationally, to the receiving States and not vice versa.

That way, the CNA wants to implement a two year pilot project, with a maximum number of four Accredited Organizations and their corresponding Central Authority. This pilot project will have 2 sides, one is the adoption and another wider one is the subject of the protection of children.

We invite the Central Authorities interested, to get in contact with the CNA, who will send them more information about this project. No Accredited Organization can apply independently; it will always have to be within the framework of this project and through the corresponding Central Authority of their country.

The interested Central Authorities must send a letter written in Spanish, stating their interest of cooperation to the CNA, during the period between November 19 and December 3, 2009, to receive complementary information of the project that will be implemented.

The countries that have more than one Central Authority, must make this process through the Central Authority registered before the Convention of the Hague.

Sincerely,

National Council of Adoptions of Guatemala, Central Authority.

Posted by Kevin at 09:07 AM

November 10, 2009

New Procedures for 2nd DNA

It is being reported by Guatemala 900 that all DNA testing has been temporarily halted. Apparently the US is development new procedures and until they are finalized and instituted, tests are on hold. We do know that a new procedure had been instituted whereby the US lab had to send a sample collection kit to the Embassy for each specific test. But this new deal seems to be outside of that.

As we learn more we'll keep you updated and obviously, this is ridiculous - especially if it proves to be nothing more than a bureaucratic measure.

Posted by Kevin at 12:48 PM

October 12, 2009

New CNA Notice

The CNA has issued a statement, once again reiturating that they want to know who is still in process. I know that seems crazy, but believe me that there very likely are still PAPs in the US with a case that CNA may not be aware of.

CNA is obviously serious about this, issuing the statement in English. I assume they'd like to be conacted via the contact form on the site.

You can find the announcement here: http://www.cna.gob.gt/index.html

Posted by Kevin at 11:27 AM

October 07, 2009

Update on Loyda/Anyeli Legal Case

Update: Okay, I botched this thread. I've chnaged the title because saying charges were dropped was not accurate. I believe it was more that charges were not filed. The case developed with another story were the judge fired back at being accused of croany-ism and I believe stated she would refuse to hear any more Sobrevivientes cases. You can find that here: http://www.noti7.com.gt/index.php I've left the original thread below. Sorry for any confusion!


The charges against Susana Luarca for involvement in the Loyda/Anyeli case have been dropped. Admittedly, the reporter and interviewees in this video speak too fast for me to comprehend. Apparently the judge is basically saying that she is not the one involved with anything associated with the kidnapping. I don't think there is any mention of whether or not Karen Abigail is Anyeli. Sobrevivientes is claiming this decision is because of a friendship between Susana and the judge.

Also of interest is the mention that Marvin Bran is the person the Ministirio Publico needs to talk to. That says to me that we likely have our answer as to who was originally involved in the case.

If I've got anything wrong, please correct me in the comments. (note 10/8: please see comment by Hannah to clarify this because I did have some wrong)

http://www.telediario.com.gt/index.php?id=191&id_seccion=187&id_noticia=16116

Posted by Kevin at 07:55 PM

October 03, 2009

State Dept Release

For those who did not see thir on the forums, the State Dept issued a new release regarding cases with children at hogares.

http://adoption.state.gov/news/guatemala.html

Notice for Guatemala “hogar” adoption cases


In Guatemala, a number of private child care facilities or “hogares” have traditionally provided care for children. Some of these hogars were closely associated with the intercountry adoption process and provided care specifically for children awaiting adoption. Allegations of adoption irregularities have prompted Guatemalan officials to conduct a wide-ranging investigation that has included many of these facilities. A number of hogars have been investigated to determine if they were properly licensed, if the operators had appropriate documentation for the children in their care, and if there were illegalities in the adoptions arranged by the hogars. Some of the hogars have been accused of baby stealing and selling. These investigations have had a direct impact on processing of adoptions for children destined for the United States. It should be noted that the Embassy is not informed when these investigations are undertaken and is not a party to the legal process. Therefore, the Embassy is not formally notified of the legal status or the outcome of the investigations or of any legal determinations that may result. The information below is a summary of what we have learned informally.

The United States recognizes the responsibility of the Guatemalan government to ensure the protection and wellbeing of its citizens, particularly of Guatemalan children who are its most vulnerable citizens. We have and will continue to urge the Guatemalan government to conduct its investigations as expeditiously as possible and to ensure that any decisions made are with the best interests of the children as the foremost criteria.


Casa Quivira

According to our records, adoptions petitions are still pending for 16 of the original 46 children who were taken into custody from Casa Quivira. For several of the cases, the Solicitor General’s Office (PGN) has identified irregularities and will have to be processed as abandonment cases through the CNA. The Guatemalan government has agreed that these cases (if all requirements have been complied with) can be processed as transition cases and will not have to wait for the new procedures to be drafted and implemented.

A decision was issued by Judge Mena earlier this year determining adoptability of the children including those already adopted and living in the United States. However, some errors were found in the final resolution and the Office of the Solicitor General (PGN) appealed the judge’s decision. An appeal hearing by the Sala on August 12 did not lead to a final resolution on the adoptability of the children. A legal representative for some of the parents urged a swift resolution to the cases.


Semillas de Amor

In March of this year, the Guatemala judiciary scheduled hearings for more than 50 Semillas de Amor cases to determine the eligibility of the children for adoption, including some who were already adopted and living in the United States. On the last day of closing arguments, a petition was filed with the Court of Appeals (Sala) asking the presiding judge to be removed.

On September 10, we learned that the Sala ruled against the removal request, allowing the original judge to resume her proceedings at the same place where they were stopped, which was the last day of closing arguments. This will likely result in a more prompt resolution of these cases, since the hearings do not have to start over again from the beginning. However, we cannot predict how soon the judge will announce her final decision.


Santa Lucia de las Flores

The Embassy has learned that Asociacion Santa Lucia de la Flores Silvestres has been under investigation by the Guatemalan Attorney General’s office since last year. The Embassy has been in contact with some of the prospective adoptive parents. We understand there were at least five children indentified for adoption by American citizens being cared for at this home. Many of the children taken from this orphanage are now living in various private hogars until a judge decides on their cases.


Asociacion Primavera

On August 13, the Embassy learned about an action by Guatemalan authorities involving 16 children from the hogar Asociacion Primavera. We have since learned that the children were transferred to the following private hogares: Casa Alegría, Casa Bernabé, and Amor del Niño. As a result of the investigation, the judge in Esquintla who approved the abandonment cases from Hogar Primavera is now under criminal indictment.


Rosalinda Rivera’s Hogar

On May 6, 2008 an action was taken against a hogar on 11 Avenida 7-51, zona 11, Quinta Samayoa, Guatemala City. Rosalinda Rivera was apprehended at this location and 9 infants were removed from her custody. Ms. Rivera did not provide the necessary paperwork to prove this was an authorized home. The children are all living in new hogars awaiting a decision on their case.


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


U.S. Not Processing Guatemalan Adoptions

March 6, 2009

The Department of State advises potential adoptive parents and adoption service providers not to initiate new adoptions from Guatemala because the Department cannot process such adoptions from Guatemala to completion at this time.

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) entered into force with respect to the United States on April 1, 2008. Effective April 1, 2008, newly initiated intercountry adoptions between the United States and other Convention countries must comply with the Convention’s standards.

Guatemala acceded to the Hague Adoption Convention in March 2003. While Guatemala passed legislation designed to implement the Convention in Guatemala, it has not yet established the regulations and infrastructure necessary to meet its obligations under the Convention. As a result, the Department of State cannot issue the documentation required by the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA) for issuance of an immigrant visa for Convention adoption cases.

The Department has advised USCIS of its finding. USCIS has decided to not approve any new filings of Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, for adoptions from Guatemala at this time.

On Tuesday, December 11, 2007, the Guatemalan Congress passed legislation intended to implement the Government of Guatemala’s obligations under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. This new legislation creates the National Council on Adoptions as the Guatemalan Central Authority for intercountry adoptions and establishes many new safeguards for children and families in the process of intercountry adoption from Guatemala. It aims to reform the Guatemalan adoption system and child welfare system.

The legislation does contain provisions that allow for the completion, under previous adoption laws, of adoptions cases that were in process prior to December 31, 2007. The National Council on Adoptions has informed prospective adoptive parents involved in more than 893 transition adoption cases that their adoption will continue to be processed under the previous laws. It has also informed the Department of State that it will not process any other new adoption cases until the new legislation has been fully implemented.

The CNA is still finalizing the legal steps and establishing the new administrative procedures to process adoptions under the Hague Convention. An important next step in this process will be to establish the accreditation criteria that will be use to authorize or license adoptions agencies that wish to facilitate intercountry adoptions from Guatemala. At this time, the Government of Guatemala has not indicated when it is likely that this process will be completed.

The Department will continue to monitor the adoption practices of Guatemala. We cannot predict whether or when we will be able to start processing new adoptions from Guatemala. We will update this Adoption Alert with any information.

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 under previous rules. The Embassy is working closely with the government of Guatemala to complete those cases as soon as possible.

Posted by Kevin at 08:00 PM

September 19, 2009

Sobrevivientes Funding Cut - Ceasing Operations?

There are some stories in the Guatemalan press about how public funding for Sobrevivientes has been cut. I'm sure if Norma Cruz is saying that these will cause them to shut down or that this may be the result. She is calling it retaliation by former adoption attorneys who have been added to the Supreme Court. We'll get a full translation as soon as possible.

http://www.lahora.com.gt/notas.php?key=55694&fch=2009-09-18

http://www.telediario.com.gt/index.php?id=191&id_seccion=187&id_noticia=14627

Posted by Kevin at 08:52 AM

September 10, 2009

New Developments in the Anyeli/Loyda Case

Last night, Susana Luarca posted a comment to our "DNA A Match" thread. You can go there to read her exact words. But since that thread is old, I wanted to post what she claims to have discovered. After finally getting a copy of the original failed DNA test photos, it appears as though the child who was tested, the child who we now know is Anyeli, is NOT the child adopted as Karen Abigail through Primavera.

Susana told me that she has informed both the judge and the press about her findings, which does not mean we will read them in the Guatemalan press.

I'm sure this won't be accepted at face value by all. And everyone is entitled to their interpretation/opinion. I'm just posting what we know....

Posted by Kevin at 10:52 AM

September 03, 2009

US lawmakers urge easier Guatemalan adoptions

Okay, I'm not sure the headline is 100% accurate inn its use of "easier". But that's what the paper says so I went with it as well. In total, 52 legislators signed the letter to Sen Clinton, urging help clearing the pipeline of cases started before the "new" law went into effect. Let's remember that was over 18 months ago!

Click here to read the AFP story.

Posted by Kevin at 10:16 AM

August 26, 2009

DNA A Match

Prensa Libre is reporting that a DNA test has come back showing a positive match between Loyda Elizabeth Rodríguez Morales and the child adopted as Karen Abigail. That child obviously being Anyely Liseth Hernández. Don't get hung up on the sentences. It honestly seemed too weird to say a DNA match came back positive between someone and her daughter.

If I put together a few pieces, and since I know that this will come up.... My guess is that this is the court ordered test of Loyda, matching to the DNA sample that was taken as part of the failed DNA test for "Karen Abigail".

Many emotions come to mind right now as I type this. I'm not sure I want to vocalize them right now.

Here is the story: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2009/agosto/26/337945.html.

As Walter Cronkite used to sign off, "That's the way it is".

Posted by Kevin at 09:02 PM

August 25, 2009

Humanitarian Crisis In Guatemala

There is a severe humanitarian crisis going on in regions of Guatemala. As I understand it, this has been largely caused by poor corn and bean yields in the annual crops. While to folks like me, commodity products greatly impact product costs and the like, this shows what they mean in human terms when poor crop and weather luck hits sustinence rural, agricultural communities. In the US, corn is running high of historical norms but well below the all-time highs seen last year, when a strong market caused product to be "less available" for some. It's running around $3.25 a bushel to be exact. I wonder how we could get some of it to Guatemala...

And please, let's keep this thread not adoption-related...

For the story: http://www.namnewsnetwork.org/v2/read.php?id=92239

Posted by Kevin at 07:09 PM

August 15, 2009

More on Primavera

http://www.telediario.com.gt/index.php?id=191&id_seccion=187&id_noticia=11551

Above is a link to TV news coverage of the aftermath of the raid on Primavera, which I just watched for the first time a minute a go. So many thoughts to come to mind, all disturbing. Children waiting on a bus. They all seem healthy, and adorable, playing it up for the cameras. My oh my, look how old they all are. I wonder how long these children have been waiting to join families and caught in the middle of this mess.

This news story, from what I hear, states that the raid was initiated because CNA was looking for one child.

Click on more for a little commentary as well as to read what Susana sent to me on this.

Enough is enough already! I firmly believe that the authorities have the right to visit any hogar, any time they want, and be granted access to any child. But that does not equate to the right to just take them willy-nilly and uproat them from the place they know to be home. Away from the caregivers who keep them secure. How on earth can this be in the best interests of these children, who the courts and authorities know reside at Primavera. This is is just ridiculous!

And from Susana:

The kidnapping of the Children at the Primavera orpahange
Yesterday , the hogar of Primavera was raided again. Oscar Rivas and Rafael Curruchiche of the the District Attorney Office (Ministerio Publico), Jose Miguel Morales Lopez of the PGN and Jaime Tecú of the National Council of Adoptions came to the hogar, with a transfer order of Cesar, a two year old boy whose adoption started as a relinquishment, turned into an abandonment and it is already at the PGN for final approval. When the lawyers hired by Primavera opposed the transfer, based on the Abandonment Decree of Cesar that states that Primavera could continue the adoption initiated in 2007, if the CNA did not find a suitable family for Cesar within ten days. When the CNA did not place Cesar with a Guatemalan family, Primavera proceeded with the adoption already in process, it was approved by the Social Worker appointed by the Family Court and the file is now at the PGN pending approval, but the CNA refused to obey the court order and decided to take Cesar away,just to show who is in command.

The occupation of the hogar took place with the overwhelming help of policemen armed
with assault rifles and the agent Oscar Rivas , who was extremely rude, did not let in Susana Luarca, the lawyer of the hogar, arguing that there were already three lawyers inside. Around noon, they decided to take all the children with them, with the lame argument that "the children were `abandoned' because the director of the hogar is in jail". That has no legal grounds, because the director Enriqueta Noriega is in protective custody, not in jail, and furthermore, the seventeen children were under the care of three nannies, a cleaning woman and a laundress/cook who take very well care of them, so there was no reason to take the children to another place.

First they went to the Court of Appeals of the Childhood and Adolescence, to denounce that the children were at risk, in order to get a court order to move them. The time was running late, the court closed without giving them the order. That did not stop them. They went back to the hogar, ordered the nannies to prepare the children to go, and when they refused they opened the drawers and filled garbage bags with clothes and shoes, which is a felony, and under the rain, packed the seventeen children, aged from six months to six years into a minivan and took the children to the court that remains open all night, and left them there for over six hours, as the TV news reported, showing the children being treated as criminals, sitting on the floor of a court, waiting for a place to be sent. Around midnight, they found where to place them, although in different orphanages.

Primavera never has accepted children kidnapped from other hogars, in order to discourage the PGN from doing those illegal transfers of children. That is one of the reasons why it is being targeted. We hope that the places where the children are, have their best interest at heart and do not use them as pawns to further their own agendas. The best way to show that they want the best for these precious children would be to actively collaborate in sending them back to Primavera, where they belong, because there are court order for each of them to stay at the hogar Primavera until the finalization of their adoptions.

Susana Luarca, attorney at Law


Posted by Kevin at 09:04 AM

August 14, 2009

Primavera Raided

Yesterday, representatives from the MP, PGN, and CNA raided Primavera. Details are sketchy. But 17 children were removed from the hogar according to the Guatemala news. Sadly, some of the children residing there were waiting for PINK. In other words, the adoptive families are LEGALLY their parents and therefore, the children were illegally moved.
http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2009/agosto/13/335019.htm

Very sad news indeed.

Posted by Kelly at 09:07 AM

July 31, 2009

Hunger Strike Ends - Progress Made

The Sobrevivientes Hunger Strike ended after ten days. The attachment below has their press releqase on it. The results... With the of USAid, the Civil and Supreme Courts have agreed to to hear the cases to have the three adoptions annulled. In order for that to happen, new DNA tests will need to be conducted.

The Adoptive parents in one case have agreed to have the DNA test done after being contacted by PGN. Kudos to them for their bravery!!! This is what needs to happen.

Arrests are being and warrants issued for those responsible in the kidnapping of Raquel Par's child. No matter what else, it is a huge accomplishment to see the authorities in Guatemala prosecuting this. That goes beyond anything having to do with Guatemala. It has to do with the foundations of a more just and equal justice system. The courts can determine guilt. More information on all the cases can be found on the Sobrevivientes website.

Sobrevivientes Press Release: Download file

On a different note. Guatadopt could really use someone to help with translations. If you are fluent in Spanish and have some tiime to help, please let me know!


Posted by Kevin at 09:04 AM

July 15, 2009

Sobrevivientes Hunger Strike

flyer.JPG

Sobrevivientes has begun a hunger strike. The picture above is a flier on it. The intent is to attempt to get the courts to annul the three adoptions involving the notorious three cases of kindappings.

I believe that everyone in the Guatadopt community wishes that these cases could be resolved in some fashion. And as always it is imortant to remember that these cases are not representative of the thousands of adoptions that occured.

So that no one thinks I am editing, censoring, etc... I will not be on my computer much if at all the next two days. So expect a delay in approving comments. And in advance, I ask that everyone go out of their way to be courteous and clear in their comments. These are challenging times for our community, let's not let that tear us apart.

Click on more for a translation of their notice.

"After 36 years of systematic human rights violations in Guatemala we have the slogan: "Never again" to the acts of violence that left thousands of Guatemalan families bereaved as were cases of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, massacres, forced disappearance, among others. However, despite the efforts of civil society because these acts were not repeated as we are sad day day Guatemalan families face today acts of violence that cause pain and fear, with impunity in most of them.

This is the situation for children; Anyeli, Arlene Escarleth and Heidi Sarai, now under the identity of Karen Abigail Lopez Garcia (Karen Abigail Monahan Vanhorn), Cindy Garcia (Cindy Thomas Colwell) and Kimberly Jimenez Azucena (Kimberly Azucena Ocheltree ) in 2006 were torn from the arms of their mothers, who since then have remained a constant struggle to determine the whereabouts of their minor daughters, as well as research that leads to identify those responsible so that they face justice for the crime of human trafficking among others.

Some consider that this is a losing battle that will not bring the children back to the country, which have other moms and kids that they want a "burden", these people definitely do not know what love is A mother and what it can do for the love of a daughter or a son, only this feeling that we know we know that the struggle of Mrs. Rachel, Olga and Loyda is unwavering love of a fight and we have therefore decided to accompany and support them in this journey that is full of visitudes many challenges and risks. It has been two years of searching, and we know the truth and we have gone through the same thing in court to prove that the processes of adoption through which the children came out of the country are run by abnormal trafficking networks that for years have been enriched with the marketing of our children in the market for international adoptions, which is why we demand the annulment of these processes and the adoption is invalid and girls return to their country and within your home .

As we call upon the judges of the court of first instance civil fifth, seventh to the court of first instance and the civil court of first instance civil eighth to make the relevant proceedings in accordance with the law by applying the principles of speed, promptness, efficiency and justice above all a favor because it is not what is claimed before our courts, but law enforcement.

The event begins today, but we do not know when it will end as this will depend on the speed and promptness with acting judges. Found to be the solidarity of the people, social organizations and the involvement of institutions of state to President Alvaro Colom, President of Congress and chairman of the Judiciary, we can not ignore the responsibility levels State by these facts. Because this is not a problem but all three wells Guatemala bleeds that day by day the actions of criminal groups and the lack of enforcement of justice."

Posted by Kevin at 09:20 PM

June 19, 2009

Announcement from CNA to "In Process" PAPs

The CNA has issued a statement directed at those of you who are still in process. You can find it here: http://www.cna.gob.gt/index.html or click on "more" for a translation.

The one thing I would ask of the CNA to clarify within this is the "status" or standing on who has control over the cases that did not have a birthmother interview conducted as I believe those are technically new cases, and thus under the jurisdiction of CNA.

We will also try to get some clarity on how one should go about contacting the consulate in DC.

I would strongly encourage everyone to help the Guatemalan authorities understand/document exactly who had cases started, who was told they did, where the children are, who the children are etc. I believe this helps to protect all parties involved.

Announcement from the National Adoption Counsel

TO

Adopting families that have been affected by the private adoption process

The National Adoption Counsel sees with much concern the situation in which many foreign families are, families that, out of the goodness of their heart, attempted to complete a private adoption process of Guatemalan children, therefore this Counsel manifests:

1) On December 31, 2007, the new Adoption Law started ruling and created the Consejo Nacional de Adopciones -CNA- (National Adoption Counsel).

2) When the CNA started working, there were 3,033 cases in transition that had to be approved by the General's Attorney Office Procuraduría General de la Nación, according to the regulations in the old Adoption Law (Notarial Process).

3) The CNA is not authorized to approve or disapprove these cases, due to they started before December 31 of 2007 y and pursued by Notaries hired by the adopting parents. By Law, the final decision in these cases corresponds to the General Attorney Office.

4) Some of these processes have been finalized and the children are not with their adoptive parents because the Adoption Agencies and the Notaries have differences regarding the finances of the case..

5) Some other cases were reported as open processes but this is not the truth since these cases were not initiated.

6) We are also aware that some of the facilitators involved in the cases cannot be found and that is stopping the processes from being concluded.

7) Many of the children that were being adopted cannot be located as well, and that is why the CNA has Started Protection Process with the corresponding Court, in order to locate them and establish their legal status.

8) Those that have been affected must know that private adoption processes imply great risks due to the lack of involvement of a Judge that supervises the actions of the Lawyers and Agencies involved.

9) We suggest contacting the General Attorney's Office because according to the Law, that is the office responsible to resolve the cases that were not completed before the New Adoption Law started ruling.

10) Finally, in order to contribute with the Protection Processes initiated by the CNA, we request from the affected families that through the Guatemalan Consulate in Washington, they will send to the CNA a list that includes the name of the adopting parents, the child that is being adopted, the Notary and if possible, the number case with PGN and the date that the process started.

Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA). Guatemala de la Asunción, June, 15 of 2009.

Posted by Kevin at 02:40 PM

June 03, 2009

June 17 March in DC - In process cases

A group of in-process families, led by some from Semillas de Amor, have orgaanized a march and candlelihgt vigil in Wahington DC on june 17th as part of the the "Guatemala 900" initiative. I am told that they have obtained all necessary permits required to do this. You can find the information by clicking on "more". Speaking from experience, a day of social activism in our nation's capital is always a memorable one. So why not come out if you can. I'm going to try to be there if I can...

On January 1, 2008 adoptions in Guatemala abruptly changed from a privately run system to government run entity. The 5000 adoptions that were “in process” at the time were “grandfathered” to finish under the laws in which they began. Although the Guatemalan government promised to expeditiously process all of these grandfathered, pre-Hague adoption cases in a timely and reasonable manner, now almost a year and a half later approximately 900 children are still waiting to join their families.

The Guatemala 900 campaign is being launched as a voice for these 900 children and asks the governments of the United States and Guatemala to work together to ensure speedy due process for the remaining grandfathered cases.

The Guatemala 900 campaign will begin with the “Guatemala 900 March” on June 17, 2009 in Washington, DC. This event kicks off a SERIES OF ACTIONS to call attention to the stagnation of the remaining 900 grandfathered adoptions, and demand steps by the US and Guatemalan governments to deliver timely due process and transparency. We can no longer let these cases languish as political hot potatoes while children wait in limbo.

June 17 - The Day’s Events:
10am-noon: march from the White house to the Capitol. We will close with two great speakers.
5pm: Vigil at the Guatemalan Embassy, with 900 candles as a tribute to the children we represent.

All marchers are strongly encouraged to personally meet with their Members of Congress. Guatemala900 can help you with your approach and requests.

The website will be up and running within days, with loads of info: www.guatemala900.org

We need help to make the biggest impact possible! If you have a special skill or interest, please contact us by email.

For travelers:
The discounted hotel rate of $189 expires on Tuesday June 2, so reserve now.
Room Block for reservations is under Guatemala900
Courtyard Embassy Row, 1600 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington DC
Tel: 202.293.8000
We will Meet & Greet at the hotel on June 16 for banner & sign making.

The Guatemala900 was founded by Semillas de Amor adoptive families, some whose children are already home and others who still wait. OUR CAMPAIGN WILL CONTINUE TO PUSH FOR RESOLUTION ON ALL GUATEMALA900 CASES.

Posted by Kevin at 07:48 PM

May 27, 2009

Spiral of Allegations and Investigations

Numerous stories alleging past abuses in the Guatemalan adoption system have hit the presses. As you can see from the links below, some are from official government communications. Admittedly, I'm havng a hard time following the exact details of these. And I apologize that we do not have translations for the links.

Basically you have one account of an allegedly kidnapped child adopted to the US. The child's picture apparently was used in numerous files. Paperwork was provided with at least two names. There's also an investigation into a judge who declared this child abandoned. Charges apparently being brought against someone in the US who is not named. Lastly is mention of "research" done about what authorities are discovering in regards to where and how corruption occurred.

My commentary on this is take it seriously. We all have a sad legacy of corruption and aggregious crimes to contend with, not to mention of course the direct victims. Secondly, don't jump to conclusions. Trust me that the complexity and intricacies of the old system made anything possible. There's no way to know who knew what. We can't differentiate well between what may have been pathetically weak homework and what may have been active involvement in a crime. I could go on and on about this but will leave it at that.

I can't express my dismay regarding these things. They are not areas I ever imagined possible that have any tie to how we all grew our families. They are not a reflection on all adoptions. Yet they are something we all have have to address with our children...

http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2009/mayo/25/312319.html
http://www.dca.gob.gt/nacional4.html

Posted by Kevin at 07:49 PM

May 26, 2009

PGN Concerned About Children Being Abandoned

A story appeared on the Teledario news Saturday. It is about how PGN is concerned about the number of newborns being abandoned. It mentions four in the "last days", two of whom sadly did not survive. While we can not say that these children would otherwise have been relinquished, it has to make one think...

The story can be found here: http://www.telediario.com.gt/index.php?id=191&id_seccion=187&id_noticia=4278

Posted by Kevin at 12:57 PM

May 21, 2009

Notice in Guat Newspaper

The following appeared today in Guatemalan newspaper(s). I apologize that I don't have a link. I have no further information than what is included in the notice. It seems to me like an attempt to better understand the status of all cases, the whereabouts of the children, and to verify their well being.

Click on more for a translation...

Important Notification

To all the people in charge of children’s homes, foster mothers, substitute families, and people who have children or adolescents under their care with the purpose to be placed for adoption; that notaries or attorneys had placed them under their care and the process continued according to the Decree number 54-77 of the Congress of the Republic “Law of the Notarial Proceeding of Matters of Voluntary Jurisdiction” be informed that you have to appear before the Childhood and Adolescents Section of the PGN, to define the judicial situation of the children and adolescents.

The persons who appear before the PGN with the children and adolescents will not be prosecuted by any judicial way, considering that they have not incurred in any criminal act. This measure is taken to guarantee the well being and security of the children under legal age.

You must appear before the PGN immediately and most important if, up to the date, the notary or the proxy has not provided a follow up to the adoption process and/or they have not provided with the supplies and the economic support to provide for the children and adolescents.


Licda. Gladys Girón Herrera

“Jefa Sección de Procuraduría”

Posted by Kevin at 08:03 PM

May 14, 2009

News from Guatemala

We're a little behind the times but two stories of interest.
1.) There is a new head of the CNA named Byron Velasquez. I know nothing more about him or why the chnage was made on Tuesday.
2.) Not adoption related is a controversy gripping Guatemala. It involved someone who was murdered and had filmed a video that would blame Pres. Colom for his murder. Pres. Colom has of course denied the allegations and is asking for international assistance in investigating the matter. You can find a story on it here.

Posted by Kevin at 09:25 PM

May 12, 2009

Letters going out to PAPs

We have received numerous questions regarding letters that went out to APs and PAPs from the Embassy. The letters indicate that the case is being closed because of no activity for 12 months. IN PROCESS folks that received them, DON'T Panic. Click on more to get the scoop.

First off, thanks to the folks at the USE for getting back to me on this one...

These letters are computer generated automatically for ALL visa applications - nothing specific to adoptions. They are not something that came from anyone associated with the adoptions unit. This letter DOES NOT mean that the case is revoked. However, if a comment is not added to the case file indicating that the case is active, after 24 months it WILL be revoked.

If you received the letter AND are still actively pursuing the adoption, e-mail Adoptguatemala@state.gov and tell them so. They will go in and reset the "last contact date" for yor case.

I would recommend printing and saving a copy of the e-mail, somewhere showing "sent" status, to be safe should the need come. But knock on wood, a year from now those children will be home.

I'm not sure why some people received them who have their kids home. I personally wouldn't worry about it.

Hope this puts some hearts at ease!

Posted by Kevin at 07:20 PM

April 08, 2009

Raid on Primavera

This story has been in the Guatemalan papers, on our forums, and elsewhere I am sure. Guatadopt has confirmed that a raid did indeed take place. But contrary to the new reports, under order from the relevant judge in Escuintla, no children were removed from the Primavera location in Palin (or GC). Because the newspaper reports are incorrect, I don't feel it approproate to post a link to them here.

Posted by Kevin at 04:23 PM

March 29, 2009

GT History

A succint article detailing the civil war that ravaged a country and its people. Secret files reveal even more atrocities. This is for those of you that want to know more about the truth and for those of you who claim that those that report it have "sensationalized" it. Hopefully this will help you understand it better.

-The secret files reveal that children whose parents were killed during the war were put up for adoption by government forces instead of being placed with surviving family members. Investigator Marco Tulio Alvarez said the evidence suggests that hundreds of other children were taken to orphanages, and most were probably adopted by Americans.

-It has also emerged that the US government knew the Guatemalan regimes it supported with arms and cash were behind the disappearances of around 45,000 leftists. It is worth noting that Guatemala's civil war began after a CIA-spurred coup.

Violence and secrets: Guatemala bares its soul
- Sunday Herald

By Billy Briggs

In a country riven by gang warfare, death and disappearances, the release of millions of top-secret police files could be the first step towards justice

link: http://www.sundayherald.com/international/shinternational/display.var.2498500.0.0.php


Violence and secrets: Guatemala bares its soul
By Billy Briggs
In a country riven by gang warfare, death and disappearances, the release of millions of top-secret police files could be the first step towards justice

GERSEN ARMANDO Ramirez Santus was wheeled into San Juan Dion Hospital at 2.19am. Santus, a tattooed gang member nicknamed Lucifer, had been shot twice in the chest on the streets of Guatemala City. In the emergency treatment room he writhed in agony as he was stripped naked by a team of medics who frantically set to work. Lucifer was the 10th shooting victim to be brought to the hospital in as many hours and as doctors tried to save his life a row of wide-eyed patients, all suffering gunshot and knife wounds, looked on fearfully.

"This is what we deal with every single day in Guatemala. This is the violent reality of our country," said medic Luis Alberto Garcia.

Guatemala City is the capital of the Republic of Guatemala, which borders El Salvador, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. A land of stunning beauty, resplendent with smoking volcanoes and jungles studded with ancient Mayan temples, it is also one of the most violent places on Earth. A traumatised nation, Guatemala is still recovering from a 36-year civil war that claimed the lives of an estimated 200,000 people, and although that conflict ended 13 years ago its brutal legacy has left Guatemala virtually lawless with a machismo culture seeped in brutality.
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In 1999, a UN-sponsored Truth Commission said that the nation's armed forces and police were responsible for 93% of the atrocities that took place during the war, and that those responsible for the worst crimes should be brought to justice. To date, there has been no such justice. Moreover, according to human rights activists, army and police officers accused of abuses have kept their positions of power. The nation's culture of impunity is personified by General Rios Montt, whom Spain tried to extradite in 2007 for genocide and crimes against humanity. Montt ran for president in 2003 and now sits in Congress. Today, paramilitary death squads linked to the past are considered primary perpetrators of current atrocities. Violence is endemic, public lynchings are common and the streets are ruled by both a corrupt police force and the infamous tattooed Maras gangs who murder at will.

The UN stated last November that Latin America has the highest murder rate in the world. Guatemala took fourth spot after El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela. Guatemala's annual killing rate is 55.4 per 100,000, which makes young men there 70 times more likely to be killed than on the streets of Scotland. Official government figures estimate there are around 6000 murders per year. The levels of violence are worse than during the civil war and a recent nationwide poll found that 94% of the population was more frightened now than during those dark days.

Last week, however, Guatemala witnessed a momentous moment. In a move that could implicate hundreds of former officers accused of killing innocent people during the civil war, the contents of a top-secret police archive were made available to the public for the first time. The files, some 80 million pages, include classified information relating to spies, informers, government officials, clandestine death squads and some 45,000 unexplained disappearances.

The material belonged to the national police, second only to the army as the core security force during the war, and an entity so inextricably linked with violence that the December 1996 peace accord which ended the fighting specified that it be disbanded.

Human rights investigators say the importance of these files cannot be overstated. Scanned images of seven million of the files were released by Sergio Morales, the Guatemalan government's human rights ombudsman. His final report is due next month. Chillingly, Morales's wife was abducted shortly after the files were released. She was tortured but later freed by her kidnappers. Another official was beaten up, while a number of death threats were made against other staff at the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office.

Already two former members of a police unit linked to death squads that operated during the war have been arrested.

"We have to know the truth, not because we want revenge, but so we don't repeat errors made by ourselves or others," vice-president Rafael Espada said during the release of the report. As he spoke to a crowd of hundreds, people shouted "we want justice".

The secret files reveal that children whose parents were killed during the war were put up for adoption by government forces instead of being placed with surviving family members. Investigator Marco Tulio Alvarez said the evidence suggests that hundreds of other children were taken to orphanages, and most were probably adopted by Americans.

It has also emerged that the US government knew the Guatemalan regimes it supported with arms and cash were behind the disappearances of around 45,000 leftists. It is worth noting that Guatemala's civil war began after a CIA-spurred coup.

The accidental discovery of the police archive in 2005 was astonishing. Human rights workers found the dusty documents when they went to a rat-infested munitions depot in Guatemala City to investigate complaints by nearby residents about old explosives stored there.

The archive now sits in a former police base, ringed by razor wire. The building is under 24-hour armed guard. I was allowed access in 2007 on condition that I did not identify any of the 100 investigators working here. Gustavo Meono, in overall charge of the operation, explained that it took months to get a court order allowing an inquiry and several more months to recruit and train a team of investigators.

Meono, who had received numerous death threats, said people in the higher echelons of the army and government were determined to prevent the documents being made public.

Touring the corridors of the two-storey building I saw hundreds upon hundreds of sacks of documents, piled in musty rooms where investigators wearing protective masks painstakingly worked through bundles of papers, prioritising the information before computerising it. Hundreds of rolls of still photographs were being developed. Some showed pictures of bodies and of detainees. In one room a poster showed a lone shadow in a desert and read: "The Missing - and the Silence. The Right to Know." Some of the finds included confidential messages from the police to senior Guatemalan leaders.

Later, I interviewed the director of the Guatemalan Forensic Foundation, Fredy Peccerelli. A veteran of forensics work after the Bosnian war, the New Yorker has the job of finding and exhuming bodies from the hundreds of mass graves hidden across Guatemala. "They say 40,000 to 45,000 people disappeared during the war, but I believe the figure is much more," he said.

I also met a woman called Wendy Mendez, who was just nine years old when she last saw her mother alive. The date was March 8, 1984. Wendy and Luz were in police custody in Guatemala City, and Wendy was being tortured. "They put my head in a bucket of water and gave me electric shocks. I remember one of the policemen laughing and saying to my mother, Look what we are doing to your baby'," she said.

The memories were painful for Mendez, whose only crime was to be a child of parents who supported the rebels. Her mother worked at San Carlos State University and produced anti-government leaflets. Guatemala's culture of impunity meant that Mendez had been unable to find out what happened to her mother.

"These documents could finally put some people in prison and give us closure," she said. "My mother had a life. The people that did this are still free on the streets."

Mendez, who campaigned with HIJOS, a human rights group made up of young people who were children when their parents "disappeared" or were killed, explained that much of the violence in Guatemala was targeted at women, with tabloids such as Dia and Nuestro Diario full of reports of female murders In 2006, Amnesty International issued a report that highlighted a staggering rise in the number of women murdered. According to the study, the figure had increased by more than 400% since 2002. In 2005, the fourth consecutive year the total had risen, 665 deaths were registered. The death toll for 2006, according to the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, was 672. That equated to nearly two women every day, and female killings increased again in 2008. Many victims have been tortured and badly mutilated. The phenomenon, called femicide, is probably the most sinister legacy of the civil war.

Gangs are to blame for most of the female killings - or so runs the official line in Guatemala City - but I was offered another theory by a human rights defender called Claudio Samayoa who did research into femicide.

"Gang violence is generally gang against gang, using guns. But we've had weeks when it's just been pregnant women killed, or periods when females with the same characteristics have been targeted, or only female evangelicals, or specific age groups," she said Samayoa said these patterns of killing resemble those seen during the civil war when women were targeted by the state in the fight against leftist guerrillas. "Women were raped and killed extremely violently to give out a graphic message to communities that they should not support the rebels," Samayoa said.

She believed that forces linked to the military and the police were deliberately orchestrating atrocities for their own gain. In targeting women, Samayoa said, they were promoting instability and fear in Guatemalan society and engaging in a form of psychological warfare by casting up a perfidious past. "There were mutilated women's bodies put on the streets back in the 1980s during the war, and there are women's corpses littering the streets again now," Samayoa said.

Last month, Amnesty International released a report called Time For Justice For Guatemala's War Victims and yesterday the human rights NGO issued another statement.

Kerrie Howard, Americas deputy director at Amnesty International, said: "The ghosts of the past have no place in Guatemala today. The Guatemalan authorities must ensure that people responsible for the attacks and threats against those who work to bring to light the abuses committed during the armed conflict do not get away with it.

"The opening of the police archives is a huge step towards real justice in Guatemala. The key now is to ensure that the information is used to deliver justice to thousands of victims of human rights violations in Guatemala. Without justice, Guatemala will not be able to move forward from its dark past."

Until there is justice, violence will continue unabated in Guatemala.

I spent two nights in the A&E department of San Juan Dion Hospital to document the bloody reality of modern Guatemala. The tattooed gang member, Lucifer, survived his two shots to the chest but many other shooting victims that weekend did not.

"The problem with Guatemala is that you can get away with murder...literally," said medic Luis Alberto Garcia.

Posted by Marie at 05:21 AM

March 25, 2009

Guatemala: War orphans put up for adoption instead of reunited with family

By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) Guatemala's government said Monday it has uncovered evidence supporting a long-held belief: Children whose parents were killed during the country's 36-year civil war were put up for adoption.

Human rights groups have long accused the government of offering the children for adoption rather than reuniting them with surviving family members. Officials had never acknowledged that.

Link: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h9wD_s-EUhSraQx3DaLzNNoYY3iQD9741L0G0

A government investigation, however, has now found at least one case in which security forces killed the parents of a boy and a girl and then turned the children over to an orphanage, declaring them abandoned, investigator Marco Tulio Alvarez said.

It is unclear what happened to the siblings after that, and Alvarez wouldn't release their names because he said they haven't yet been located or notified.

Evidence suggests that hundreds of other children were likely taken to orphanages, and most were probably adopted by Americans, Alvarez said.

He is part of a team of government investigators analyzing the files of missing adults and children who were declared abandoned between 1976-86, the most repressive years of Guatemala's civil war. The team's final report is due next month.

Human rights groups estimate that some 40,000 people disappeared during the fighting. Peace accords in 1996 called for the whereabouts of children still missing after the war to be clarified.

In Argentina, the government confirmed that hundreds of children were taken from dissidents and raised by military families or others that supported the ruling military junta in the 1970s and early 1980s. El Salvador has worked to reunite children who were also separated from their families during that country's civil war and adopted by foreign families, often in Europe.

Posted by Marie at 07:54 AM

March 19, 2009

GT News: Files show US knew of Guatemala Abuses

Group says files show US knew of Guatemala abuses

By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA –

link: (AP News)-http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gN4H1VEFHPjsV6-2wuQYLw397dBgD970R2C01

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The U.S. government knew that top Guatemalan officials it supported with arms and cash were behind the disappearance of thousands of people during a 36-year civil war, declassified documents obtained by a U.S. research institute show.

The National Security Archive, a Washington D.C.-based institute that requests and publishes declassified government documents, obtained diplomatic and intelligence reports from the U.S. State Department under the Freedom of Information Act and posted them on its Web site on Wednesday.

"Government security services have employed assassination to eliminate persons suspected of involvement with the guerrillas or who are otherwise left-wing in orientation," one 1984 State Department report said.

State Department spokesman Fred Lash said he was unaware of the declassified documents and could not immediately comment.

Guatemala's U.S.-backed army battled leftist guerrillas in a 1960-1996 civil war that left more than 200,000 people dead or missing. Most were Mayan Indians.

"The government is obviously rounding up people connected with the extreme left-wing labor movement for interrogation," then-U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin said in a 1984 cable.

Chapin also said he was optimistic that missing union activist Fernando Garcia was alive and would be released. But Garcia has never been found, and two police officers were arrested in his case last week based on information found in Guatemalan police documents discovered in 2005.

The U.S. and local police files show that disappearances and executions were part of a deliberate strategy to crush leftist rebels, said Jesse Franzblau, a researcher at the Archive.

Kidnappings became "institutionalized" as the insurgency swelled in the 1970s and peaked during 1983-1986 government of Oscar Mejia Victores, "particularly in urban areas and against labor leaders, students, academics and political opposition leaders," a 1986 State Department report said.

Many innocent people were wrongly accused of involvement by "vengeful neighbors or others eager to eliminate personal, business or political rivals by proxy," it added.

"The tactic apparently accomplished its intended purpose — by 1984 insurgent networks in the capital had been decimated."
On the Net:

* National Security Archive: http://www.gwu.edu/nsarchiv/index.html

Posted by Marie at 04:36 AM

December 04, 2008

More agencies under fire...

We've got another lawsuit filed. This time against Adoption Partner's. Info can be found here:
http://www.courthousenews.com/2008/11/13/Adoption_Agency_Accused_Of_Extortion.htm

In addition, a story has appeared about Celebrate Children which indicates that Florida DCF is investigating them. It can be found here:
http://www.seminolechronicle.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2008/12/03/4937184fab40b

Posted by Kevin at 09:57 AM

September 30, 2008

Guatemala's National Council on Adoption Announces Temporary Halt in Acceptance of New Adoption Cases

Link: http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_4368.html

September 11, 2008 (please not this was not posted on their website on this date)

Lic. Elizabeth Hernandez de Larios, President of the Directive Council of the National Council on Adoption (CNA), confirms that CNA will not accept any new adoption cases at this time. The halt is to enable CNA to work on establishing guidelines to use in accrediting adoption agencies for intercountry adoptions and to focus on completing transition cases.

The CNA indicates that there were 883 cases that were not submitted by the August 31, 2008 deadline for the verification process. Those cases will be turned over to the Guatemalan courts as abandonment cases. In order to ensure that those cases get quick attention, CNA felt it was necessary to stop accepting new cases at this time.

Lic. De Larios does not view the halt as long term and expects that CNA will be ready to complete Hague requirements by January 2009. More information about CNA's decision may be found on its website, http://www.cna.gob.gt.

Posted by Marie at 05:22 AM

September 25, 2008

Colom Calls Forum to Discuss Immigration

Social cohesion, as well as gratitude for the support of the peace process and the establishment of CICIG, stressed in speech.

Link: http://www.sigloxxi.com/noticias/23374

By: Gladys Ramirez, Manuel Hernandez, Siglo 21 |

Following the increase in deportations of Guatemalans and immigrants from other nations, decided by the United States, President Alvaro Colom, during his speech at the 63rd. General Assembly of the Organization of the United Nations (UN) asked the Secretary General of that agency "to create a forum, formed by former presidents of countries of origin, such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia and Mexico, and recipients of large migrations, to develop together in about six months, a concrete proposal and end once and for all with this scourge that affects so many Guatemalan families and other nations. "

Colom has stressed that globalized trade and information, but we have not found a way to globalize humans so that our migrants are no longer treated as criminals, "but, like the products, trade and money, may have a free movement across borders, as they seek only the opportunity offered by globalization. "

The president thanked the UN support during and after the signing of the Peace Accords, with the accompaniment of Minugua, and now with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), because this is the only mechanism which will help us to combat impunity.

In the fight against drug trafficking, we must strengthen our security, because the more success with El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico in their attack, our country pays the bills, and for that reason I thank my neighbors Colombia and the support that we have given regionally to confront organized crime and drug trafficking. He also praised the program for Social Cohesion and listed other actions of his government. (read: Promote Social Cohesion).


PROMOTING SOCIAL COHESION

In New York, President Alvaro Colom took the opportunity to discuss the program of Social Cohesion, coordinated by his wife, Sandra Torres, and said that in 254 days it has reached to the people what they had in the Constitution: Free education and Free health. "We've broken the paradigm that Guatemala was banned after getting sick of the five in the afternoon, because the health posts were closed. Today, in 52 of the 333 municipalities that the country must complete the health service, and 300 thousand children have renovated schools and all equipment, " he said.
"Mi Familia Progressa" affects more than 40 thousand families and young people are going to their places of study, as the Open Schools program (schools open after 3pm, an after-school program) is reducing crime in the areas of greatest risk," he said.

Posted by Marie at 04:34 AM

RENAP UPDATE

RENAP: People Assured of the Same Prices

Link: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/septiembre/25/265671.html

PHOTO: (See inside RENAP)
RENAP employees working in the headquarters, located in the building Cortijo, Avenida de La Reforma, Zone 9.

By Jessica Osorio

"We believe that there has been some misinformation, and that's why some oppose the transfer of records to RENAP civilians," he said yesterday, the director of that entity, and said that rates for procedures are the same as charged in municipalities.

According to the National Registry of Persons (RENAP), the transfer of civil registries will not affect the citizens.

Until yesterday it amounted to 239 sites in the country that RENAP already received records of the communities, and the plan designed to cover all the communities by September 30.

This, despite the mayors of 70 municipalities in the West, who still refuse to hand over the books with the data of citizens.

Enrique Cossich, executive director of RENAP, reported that people can remain calm because the charges made by the RENAP are the same as those set in the municipalities.

For Citizen Action, in some cases, opposition to the delivery of public records is because it is seen as it could be conducive to acts like false identities or ones obtained fraudulently. (Of course this is to the contrary.)

Cossich argued that RENAP updated the register of identification of natural persons, and over the right to identity them. "We give legal certainty to the country, the electoral process will have a real pattern and with total transparency," he said.

He commented that this supports the reduction of underreporting of people who have died and are labeled as xx, a situation that worries the judges of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, who anticipated that there will be another audit of the pattern for the next election.

Victor Hugo Figueroa, president of the National Association of Municipalities, said that the speaker's dialogue, and that will resort to an end by next Monday in the Court of Constitutionality. He recalled that revenue for the communities represent the formalities of public records.

President Alvaro Colom will meet with the 70 mayors dissatisfied with the relocation of public records to RENAP, to make them see that the law must be met, briefed the Vice President Rafael Espada.

Data:
Costs

RENAP has determined that each document will have the same price as fixed by the municipality.

- The documents that are free in some places, and will remain so in RENAP.

- In the case of Guatemala City headquarters, a birth certificate costs Q15.

- Prices in towns of Quiche range from Q5, for birth certificates, Q10 on the first ballot, and neighborhood Q15 by replenishing it. For certificates of marriage are paid about Q20.

- In Huehuetenango, the birth certificates are charged Q5: Huista in Santa Ana, Union Cantinil, San Rafael La Independencia and Malacatancito, and in Chiantla, Q8.

- For the same procedure, in Quiche: Q10 in Santa Cruz, and Q5 in Nebaj, Chajul, Chicaman and Chinique.

- San Marcos: Q3 in Palo Gordo, Q5 in Rodeo, Malacatán, San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta, Catarina and Rio Blanco, and Q15 in San Pedro Sacatepequez.

Posted by Marie at 04:05 AM

September 24, 2008

Village Holds Mayor Hostage over RENAP

Neighbors last night took hostage the Mayor and several members of the Council in Santa Lucia La Reforma, Totonicapan, in opposition to the delivery of civil registries to the National Registry of Persons (RENAP).

About two thousand people called on the Mayor and the town Council to convey that they opposed the arrival of RENAP to that community.

An infantry brigade based in Huehuetenango, integrated 100 soldiers and will be sent to the town to restore order, informed Jorge Ortega, spokesman for the Army, in statements made to United Stations.

Representatives of the Attorney General on Human Rights will meet with the dissatisfied village to secure the release of the Mayor and other people on the Council, said the spokesman.

Posted by Marie at 04:12 PM

September 23, 2008

GT News: PGN Employee Arrested

Employee of PGN Captured for Stealing Children

The worker and his wife are accused by authorities of stealing a child to be given up for adoption.

Ericka Marroquin, Siglo 21 | ericka.marroquin @ sigloxxi.com

Link: http://www.sigloxxi.com/noticias/23308

Oscar Geovanny Galicia Guerra, 36, an employee of the Attorney General's Office (PGN), was arrested yesterday by security forces and the Public Ministry (MP) accused of the crime of child abduction.
According to prosecutors, from a few months ago to investigate Galicia Guerra, like other employees of the institution, on suspicion of integrating a network of kdnappers who handled the adoption by taking advantage of their positions.

Agents of the Criminal Investigation Division (DINC) of the National Civil Police (PNC) captured Galicia Guerra in the 4th. and 4th Avenue. street from the zona 9, when carried in her arms a child stolen from a private hogar on Sept. 7, and who is suspected, "negotiated" for the adoption.
The wife of the detainee could not be apprehended so that investigations are continuing to trace his whereabouts.

There was a cameraman
Abraham Baca, a spokesman for PGN, confirmed that Galicia works in the unit since May 3 1993, serving as a cameraman for the Attorney General on Children. His job was to document cases of adoption and the rescue of minors.

"He asked for permission to miss today (yesterday) to go to work, because he would go to the Civil Registry to register the child," said Baca, who said no official information on the causes of the detention of the worker.

Galicia refrained from declaring any statements after his capture, but said the mother of the child, who had made the complaint of theft of her daughter, had regretted giving her up for adoption, so she decided to "return to the courts" .

Up until Dec. 31, 2007, PGN was the institution responsible for examining cases of adoptions in the country. According to records of the institution itself, since 1997 gave up for adoption 30 thousand 568 children, whose main destination was the United States.
On April 26 this institution ruled favorably 650 records of children who left the country without being subjected to the process of regularization (comparison with the biological mother), referred to in Article 57 of the Adoption Act.

Posted by Marie, Guatadopt.com

Posted by Marie at 04:34 AM

September 20, 2008

FREE EDUCATION

On September 15, it was made official that in Guatemala public education will be FREE starting 2009 school year. Until now, parents had to pay for registration and other miscellaneous fees even though it was mandated by the Guatemalan Constitution that everyone had the right to a free education. This mandate of the Constitution had been broken since 1968 when it was permitted to charge for student's registration. A definite sign of the Social Democrat government voted into office. Marie, Guatadopt.com

Please note: the President passed legislation prohibiting public schools from charging for uniforms, inscription fees, books and texts.

Funds
Q270 million to cover costs

The Ministry of Education will deliver funds to schools to replace charging parents.

-Q270 million for the Ministry for the coming year within budget.

-26 thousand 764 educational establishments of pre-primary, primary and secondary schools will receive these funds.

-According to the agreement 1492-2008, for every student from pre-primary and primary handed Q40, and for each high school, the figure is Q100.

-The resources will be delivered each year.

Guatemala's public educational system is divided as follows:

Pre-Primaria (Pre-primary also known as parvulos and kindergarten)
Primaria (Primary school 1st to 6th grade)
Secundaria (Secondary school, 3 years known as 1st basic through 3rd basic or Basicos)
Diversificado (3 years corresponding to the last years of High School; also known as Preparataria in other parts of Latin America).

Posted by Marie at 05:46 AM

September 18, 2008

Mayors Refuse to Hand Over Registries to RENAP

The inconformaties may expose why deputies are reluctant to hand over civil records to Renap.
Marie, Guatadopt.com

Link: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/septiembre/18/264222.html

By Jessica Osorio

Some 70 mayors left yesterday with the promise of Congress to seek consensus with the heads of bloquess, directors and deputies, because of resistance from the elected representatives to deliver the civilian records to Renap.

A new appointment is cited for next Monday. The agreement brought an end to the roadblocks that kept the inconformaties yesterday in different parts of the country.

After six hours of negotiations, mayors of Huehuetanango, Quiche, Sololá, Quetzaltenango, San Marcos, Totonicapán and Solola, some of Sacatepéquez and El Progreso, explained that civil registration are the lifeblood of municipalities, and that the National Registry of Persons (Renap) want to remove it.

Since the September 30 deadline for which such records are handed over, heads of communities asked to authorize an extension. "It's a violation of municipal autonomy", stressed officials, who threatened to take over the city if their demands are not addressed.

The mood was heated when the deputy Mario Taracena described the subversive attitudes of mayors and asserted that with the withdrawal of civil registries they were finishing the business flow and elections.

Otero Chunuy, mayor of Santa Maria de Jesus, Sacatepéquez, explained that they must respect the municipal autonomy and that if there were irregularities in voting, also that is how they were elected as deputies.

UPDATE:
Congress continues to talk to these mayors who refuse to hand over the civil registries to RENAP which by law they have to and roads continue to be barricaded to these areas.
A meeting has been scheduled for September 29 and the military has been put on notice.
Unfortunately, please expect delays due this crisis in the affected areas.

Posted by Marie at 08:14 AM

August 14, 2008

Aug 31 Deadline Update

We have received some relevant points of clarification regarding the Aug 31 deadline. While we know that other questions still remain, and will update as we learn more, here is what we can tell you for now. (Click on more)

1.) Cases that have yet to enter PGN (ie are in Family Court) CAN have the bithmother interview completed. If you are being told otherwise, tell your adoption service providers to try….
2.) If you don’t meet the deadline…. What we are being told is NOT that the case will move to an abandonment hearing. What will happen is that the case will be moved to a Family Court judge and will turn into a Judicial adoption rather than than a Notarial one. What does this mean? This means that a judge will decide whether to grant the adoption. So the good news is that not meeting the deadline does not mean an end to the adoption.

We are not taking any position on the legality of what is and has been happening. For pragmatic purposes, the moves being taken by PGN and CNA are happening and thus far have not been overturned. We believe it is essential that no matter what appeals may be taking pace, that everyone push their adoption service providers to complete the birthmother interview. While a Family Court judge in a judicial process may very well approve the case, it is uncertain how long that may take. In addition, judges may understandably have reason to question why it is that the biological mother was unwilling or unable to do the interview.

Posted by Kevin at 11:52 AM

August 08, 2008

DOS Notice Re: non-accredited agencies and cases that may become Hague

The DOS has issued a new statement. To provide some clarity, this would be relevant ONLY for those cases where the agency did not apply for or was denied Hague accredidation AND for whatever reason your case will not be able to be completed under the old notarial system (abandonment cases, cases not registered with CNA, etc).

I wiill conjecture that this is a positive thing for those in these precarious case situations. The fact that DOS is saying this leads me to believe/hope that a resolution is imminent in Guatemala agreeing to recognize those referals and process the cases under the new law. I have no inside info that this is the case, just sharing what it means to me.

The DOS statement canbe found here or click on more to read it.

Notice Concerning Transfer of Pending Convention Cases to Accredited/Approved ASPs

Adoption service providers (ASPs) that have been denied accreditation or approval may have pending adoption cases that are now, or will likely become, Convention cases before they can be brought to a conclusion. Such ASPs are urged to transfer any such cases expeditiously to an accredited, temporarily accredited or approved ASP.

ASPs that have been denied accreditation or approval should activate their plans for transferring pending Convention cases to accredited, temporarily accredited, or approved ASPs in a timely and transparent manner, including refunding fees to prospective adoptive parents for services not yet provided. (All ASPs that applied for accreditation or approval provided a plan pursuant to 22 CFR 96.33(e) for transferring cases in the event an agency cannot see them to completion. Applicants for temporary accreditation were to have such a plan pursuant to 22 CFR 96.104(k).) Whether a transferred case may proceed on the same track it was on prior to the transfer to an accredited, temporarily accredited or approved ASP will depend largely on the facts of the case, the requirements of the country of origin and the regulations of the state in which the new ASP is located.

Posted by Kevin at 04:23 PM

August 07, 2008

Aug 31 B-Mom Interview Deadline

The CNA has announced that the birthhmom interview process will cease on Aug 31st. All interviews must be completed by that date. In the event that one has not been done by that date, the case will be turned over to a judge for abandonment proceedings. I am not sure what that means so far as a PAP's ability to complete the adoption, though it would likely need to be done under the new laws, not the notarial system.

Click here for the CNA website or click on more for a translation.

The National Adoption Council
For lawyers and notaries of in- processes cases
Making pending verification

Letting it be known to the people:

That to this date, the National Council for Adoptions, in coordination with the Attorney General's Office, has carried out verification of the greatest number of records in the process of adoption, pending still a significant number of them, so that, it is reported that such verification will conclude on August 31, 2008.

Interested parties may go to the Attorney General's Office, without subpoena or, if you like, ask the respective appointment to the National Council for Adoptions, phone 2339-0825 to 29.

The Lawyers and Notaries in their possession the file in question, must be submitted, together with the child or adolescent, the biological mother and the one responsible for their care.

After this deadline, the National Council for Adoptions will make arrangements to ensure that children's cases are handed over to a competent judge.

Posted by Kevin at 09:35 AM

July 18, 2008

Adoption Blessings Worldwide - CLOSED

Adoption Blessings Worldwide has shut its doors. Their attorney apparently claims all cases will be completed with a new, yet-to-be-named agency. We no nothing more than what is this story:http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/news-article.aspx?storyid=114031

Posted by Kevin at 11:27 PM

June 20, 2008

New CNA Update

The CNA has a new update that just went on their site. Judging from the date on it, it appears as though it takes a few days from the time it is issued until the time it makes itself onto the website.

cNA Website

In addition, the Prensa Libre had a story today indicating that in the event a birthmother does not appear for an interview (ie she "can't" be found) that the case would need to proceed under teh new laws. As always, the paper's are not 100% accurate.

Prensa Libre Story in Spanish

Click on more for translations of both.

CNA Update:

National Council for Adoptions

For adoptive families from different countries which are in process of adopting children or adolescents who are Guatemalans, started before 31 December 2007.

Let it be know and recommends:

I. That the adoption records in transition, are in the process of verification and processing takes place successfully before the Attorney General's Office have been revised to date approximately 900 cases, of whom around 525 have already left with favourable opinion.

II. That they should contact their lawyers and instruct them to come to the Attorney General's Office, introducing the children and their biological mothers, to be able to conduct a verification in the shortest possible time, in the best interests of children. The purpose of this requirement is to verify the origin of children, to avoid the adoptive families problems later. YOU DO NOT NEED TO WAIT FOR A SUBPOENA OR APPOINTMENT, you can request one and gladly ARE accommodated. Call these telephones: 24148787 extensions, 4005-4008 and 4009.

III. The verification process is free.

IV. The National Council for Adoptions is making best efforts to complete this verification, in order that children can be reunited with their adoptive parents in the shortest possible time.

V. Finally, an appeal is made to all biological mothers or fathers who have voluntarily given their children up for adoption in the years 2005 to 2007, as well as those who have been subjected to coercion or deception and anyone who knows of them, to present themselves at the Attorney General's Office.

GUATEMALA, JUNE 16, 2008


Prensa Libre Story

Time consumed given to review thousands of adoptions

The National Council for Adoptions (CNA), processed so far only 900 of a total of two thousand 286 cases of matter that they have inherited and two weeks to complete that mission.

The Council's spokesman, Rudy Zepeda said that many of notaries "have never been presented with cases being handled, while others say they can not find the biological mothers of children or they live far away."

According to Zepeda, the ANC could expand at least one month over the review period and cite them to appear to those responsible for adoptions of these children.

Jorge Meng, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office (PGN), said the cases in which at the end of the review has not been presented or the mother's lawyer, will be transferred to the Investigations Unit.

"If there is a notary who said that did not find the mother, it should be evaluated to determine what happened," said Meng.

Of the 900 cases reviewed, 525 have a favourable opinion to continue with the adoption-mostly by American couples-and the remaining have been detected some errors that can remedied because "they lack a stamp or consent but this does not mean that it will be refused, "said Zepeda.

The files in which notaries are not submitted, will be sent before a judge to declare the children in a state of abandonement and are subject to a new process of adoption, this time under the new adoption law that Congress passed in December to end a system riddled with irregularities, corruption and even theft of children.

Previously, the entire pipeline was directed by public notaries.

By implementing the new law, there were about three thousand children whose adoptions were already being processed and were allowed to be completed under the above rules, but a provision of the authorities in May halted those proceedings and ordered the CNA to review all the files that were outstanding

Posted by Kevin at 04:46 PM

June 18, 2008

PGN to Release Previously Approved Adoption Cases

DOS has a new statement and I think you will like it. The title of this post says it all, but read the DOS statement as well....

http://www.travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_4258.html

Posted by Kevin at 05:45 PM

June 16, 2008

New DOS Statements

The DOS has released a new FAQ and Fact sheet for Guatemalan adoptions. The FAQ does address abandonment cases and the Fact Sheet addresses Casa Quivira cases.

DOS FAQ

DOS Fact Sheet

Posted by Kevin at 07:36 AM

June 13, 2008

CNA Update/Newsletter

The CNA has issued an update which details progress to date. You can read the Spanish here:

http://cna.gob.gt/Noticias.html

Or Click on more for a translation. I am not sure what exactly the last parapgraph means about hogares and foster homes. I am HOPING it is saying that they are working on a system to approve foster families under the new law.

First newsletter

The National Adoption Council of Guatemala reported:

I. New premises: the National Adoption Council, as from Monday 09 July, 2008 ADDRESS at the new location, located in the AV. Reform 6-64 Zone 9, Edificio Torre Corporation, Level 2 and 3. Telephone: 23390825 to 29

II. Verification Properties in transition:

We continue with the verification of cases in transition in the Attorney General's Office. Result at 06 June 2008:


Cases; 2.286


Verified:690


Irregularities made available to judges of the CHILDREN AND A ADOLESCENCE
Where appropriate: 22


Cases advancing: 271


Complaints filed with the PGN; 8


cases with previos at the PGN: 263


# of Days for verification: 21


III. The new system of adoption in Guatemala is on the march.

The CNA made since the early selections of families (matchings) for two adoptable children. These are the first cases that serve as a model for subsequent procedures. We have qualified ten families, among whom it has been determined the adequacy of which were chosen for placement of the first two children. The identification of the ideal family is based on strict criteria, which meet the child's best interest, so their qualification involves interviews, home visits, profound social and psychological studies, to establish that can effectively meet the needs of children in state to adopt. The completion of this work ensures the best adaptation of the child in his new family and the best knowledge and attention to their needs.

IV. Families who have applied for an adoption.

To date we have 107 formal requests for Guatemalan families wishing to adopt, which are in the process of gathering requirements required by law to be evaluated in order to determine their suitability to adopt. The first application was received on March 4.

V. Children under care of the state to adopt.

To date, we received 37 children declared in a state to take from the courts of childhood and adolescence. These children are in the process of evaluation to determine their qualities and needs.

VI. Support for biological family.

The National Council for Adoption is the process of developing guidance to biological mothers who find themselves in the situation of giving their children up for adoption.

VII. PROTECTION Hogares and shelter.

It (the CNA) includes a study conducted by means of which it has been determined households operating throughout the Republic, and children who they are, that in order to carry out the necessary actions to locate these children with adoptive families and to oversee the functioning of the same being accreditation.

The above information will be constantly updated to keep accurate information for all concerned.

Sincerely,

National Adoption Council

Guatemala, 09 June 2008

Posted by Kevin at 07:26 AM

May 24, 2008

The Lastest from Guatadopt

Before getting into the meat of this, we want one thing to be perfectly clear. Guatadopt is trying very hard to validate what is happening, remain "objective", and provide our readers with as accurate of information as possible. We realize that many of the things we are posting can be interpreted as explanations and endorsements because we are not going on the attack. Those would be incorrect interpretations. We also know full and well that some of things could be logically explained even if officials are seeing them as nefarious. But at the moment, there is so much spin out there but we feel our role is best served by being as journalistic as possible.

Interviews are moving along. There are problems happening. Most are still going short and sweet. In cases where the interviewers suspect anything, the interviews are becoming more intense and much longer, with some last as long as 90 minutes. In the event that the interviewer is not satisfied, the child and birthmother are being put before a judge. In some cases the judge says there is no basis for concern and everything is allowed to proceed. If the judge believes there is reason for more investigation, the child is being removed from foster care and placed in a hogar pending the result of the investigation which we all know can take quite a while to complete.

The 15 cases which were reported as annulled are in this state of investigation. The word annulled is a misnomer from what we know. Pending the result of the investigation those cases will or will not be allowed to continue.

Problems are arising during the interviews. Some birthmoms are very nervous. Some are not able to answer what are considered to be simple questions such as what is the child’s name, where was he/she born, when was he/she born. Some are saying they have no idea why they were brought to PGN (not to be confused with that they don’t know about the adoption). These are just a few examples.

There are some attorneys and agencies who are known to have shady dealings and their interviews are likely automatically more intense. We do not have a list of who those are but it is fair to say that if you are working with the folks who have been exposed in the media, it may mean a more extensive interview.

We have been told from “reliable sources” that cases which cleared the interviews are poised for imminent release. But we’ve heard that before - although it is coming from a more official source this time around.

You have all read about what is being claimed about the nature of the intense questioning that goes on. We do know that some reports of fact have been misunderstood where what was interpreted as a first hand account was actually second or third hand. Because no one reporting this is in the interviews, we also don’t know how much may be inappropriate questioning versus true threats and/or bribes. Once again, we are trying to validate things and are in no way discounting what you have been hearing. I’m just saying that based on Guatadopt’s sources, we can’t validate the exact nature of it.

We do know that in most of the instances we know of where children have been taken into custody, there were issues with the responses of the interviews. To be clear, we are not saying that this was a necessary step or defending it, just that it was not done completely without justification.

That is what we know at this moment.

In other news, the CNA has a new notice on its website which reads:

The National Council for Adoption and
THE Procurator General's Office,
The interests

LET IT BE KNOWN:

That verifying in-processes cases that are in the pipeline, which is being conducted in the Attorney General's Office, aims to:

I. To comply with the legal mandate contained in Article 57 of the Adoption Act.

II. To verify the legality of the origin of the child, and establish that the biological mothers have given their consent in a free, spontaneous way and without pressure.

III. To provide legal certainty to adoptive parents.

Therefore:

a) We guarantee that the adjustment is being conducted with technical criteria and objectives.

b) The cases verified that meet the requirements of law, are being expedited so that children join their adoptive family in the shortest possible time.

c) reported that the verification process is free, public, transparent and has observers from the Human Rights Ombudsman and the Public Prosecutor's Office.

d) The adoptive families and the general public can have confidence in the verification process being done.

Lastly, the Guatadopt team is overwhelmed. For our own sanity we are going to be on-line minimally over the holiday weekend. In addition, a death in my family will have me out from Sunday until Wednesday night and at this point I honestly don’t know how much, if any, internet access I will have while I am away. In short, we will do our best.

We know this is an extremely difficult time for you all. Our hearts do go out to you all and of course the children caught in the middle of this debacle. We can only hope that the collective thoughts an

Posted by Kevin at 12:17 AM

May 21, 2008

Bad Stuff in The News

Two stories are out there in the US and Guatemalan Press. An AP story speaks of 15 cases being annulled by PGN because of improprieties. A story in the Prensa Libre speaks to 80 attorneys being under investigation by the Ministerio Publico because of false documents. We of course can not speak to the validity of these stories, we're only reporting what is being published. Both stories, and their links, can be found by clicking on more.

Prensa Libre Story (internet translated): http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/mayo/21/239796.html

The Public Department investigates some 80 lawyers that would have incurred in illegalities in the processes of adoption that deal with before the attorney general's office of the Nation (PGN), reported today the public prosecutor against the Crime Organized, Jorge Donated.

The public prosecutor said today journalists that the investigations against the lawyers, they initiated after the PGN presented the respective accusations, "after finding evidences of anomalies in the processes of adoption".

The holder of the PGN, Budilio Gap, ordered last May 5 to suspend some two thousand 300 children adoptions processes that still are dealt with for the notarial way, by to have been initiated before charged force the new Law of Adoptions, the ones that will be revised before giving them the seen good.

These processes were revised by officials of the PGN and the recently created National Counsel of Adoptions, to determine if the children that would be given in adoption are in reality children of the parents that appear in the documents negotiated by private lawyers.

Among the anomalies detected by the PGN in the continued processes by the jurists, they found false directions where supposedly they were found the smaller as well as identity documents alteration and forgery as a token of DNA.

Scores of lawyers, medical, nurses and nannies integrate extensive networks that are dedicated to deal with adoptions of Guatemalan children to be given to foreign families, a "business" that has left annual profits of to 200 million dollars.

AP Story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080522/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/guatemala_adoptions_4

GUATEMALA CITY - Guatemala's attorney general said Wednesday he has annulled 15 pending adoptions to U.S. couples after finding evidence of fraud or other irregularities.

Attorney General Baudilio Portillo suspended all of Guatemala's 2,286 pending adoption cases in early May to investigate them.

The 15 annulled cases represent nearly 10 percent of the 160 cases that have been reviewed thus far. Another 2,126 must still be investigated.

The 145 cases that were not annulled were allowed to move forward.

"We believe that, over time, the number of cases with irregularities will grow in the same proportion," Jorge Meng, the attorney general's office spokesman, told The Associated Press.

The babies whose cases have been annulled will be put in foster homes until a judge locates their parents. If their parents aren't found, they will be put up for adoption again.

It was not clear if the U.S. couples affected had been notified.

The irregularities were serious enough that the attorney general filed criminal complaints against lawyers, doctors, social workers and birth mothers involved in the 15 cases, Meng said.

Guatemala has been plagued by allegations of adoption fraud, including claims that babies are stolen from their birth parents or even sold by poor birth mothers.

A new law that went into effect in January is aimed at cleaning up the system by creating an independent council to oversee adoptions.

Before the council was created, private lawyers and notaries did everything from recruit pregnant women to obtain U.S. visas for the adopted children. The process was expensive, costing U.S. couples about US$30,000 (euro19,000) for each child.

But it was fast, usually lasting less than six months. That made Guatemala the second largest source of adopted children to U.S. couples, after China.

The new system is expected to be less expensive, but also slower. Adoptive parents will be assigned babies, instead of being able to choose them from a set of pictures, as they did before.

Bureaucratic delays kept the council from being able to process adoptions until just recently, and few new adoption cases have been started under the new law.

Posted by Kevin at 10:25 PM

May 19, 2008

Monday Update

I couldn't think of a better title than this...as we have a list of things to mention:

1 - PGN was closed today, so there were no birth mother interviews.

2 - We've talked to quite a few of our contacts and so far, these so called birthmother "offers" are not panning out as the normal interview process. We've located the source of the rumor and it is a single attorney with two cases. I'm not very confident that it is reality. While a few agencies mentioned it to their clients (it was traced back to an identical email). So, the question is whether all the hysteria is justified. We can't answer that for you. But I can say honestly that its hard to be objective when you have a child waiting.

3 - Forum: I have a couple of hours of maintenance to do tonight before I can bring it back up. But I think we need to reiterate a few things about Guatadopt and the forums:

Understanding Guatadopt and the Guatadopt Forums
The Guatadopt site is run by ADOPTIVE PARENTS. Kevin and I have very demanding FULL TIME jobs unrelated to adoption. We get a lot of requests beginning with "Could you just...." Unfortunately, the Guatadopt site is not a matter of pushing a button and viola, everything you need pops up. 90% of what we have to do is behind the scenes...lots of emails, phone calls, research and site maintenance. It takes a LOT of man hours for something we don't get paid for. Sadly, we've even had parents contact us because their agencies were unavailable afterhours. But we have families of our own and we cannot keep up this marathon. This last weekend, I had a packed schedule. Meanwhile, rumors were flying...and being propagated to other forums where it was interpreted as being an announcement on our main site. It became clear that the forum and the front page were contradictions in mission. While it was always our primary mission to have ACCURATE information posted on the main page, we also felt that forums should not be too restrictive....But over the last few months, the forum has turned into a swap meet for unvalidated "announcements".

Here's the problem: A large percentage of the rumors we hear are simply not true...really, that is why the site exists. Some info is simply misinterpreted, some of the information is secondhand (an attorney heard it from another attorney) etc.... So, its like to old game about whispering a story in someone's ear and seeing how much it changes before it gets to the person at the end. For us, it makes it EXTREMELY difficult to weed out valid information. Generally, we check with multiple sources and we avoid posting until we get a better idea of the "real" story. So, while we had many of our sources saying....Nope, not here...Nope, didn't happen with my cases....nope, not me. We had the forum in mass hysteria and a load of emails for the "inside scoop" on what we could only find isolated secondhand reports. I saw this huge TO DO list (which included maintenance and addressing the issue) but our team was burned out. So, instead of spending my normal 2 hours on maintenance....I walked away and said: it can wait until Monday. Not only can it wait, but for me to keep the forums it will HAVE to wait.

Going forward, we are going to enforce some self-preservation techniques. Please remember, that we DO feel obligated to keep our readers well informed with the MOST ACCURATE information. But the forums mean a LOT of extra work. Somehow, we have to take some steps to balance some of the site contradictions and every once in a while, we have to reduce the impact to our staff.

Our forum moderators will be posting some updated rules and guidelines. But I have a few guideline requests now:
1 - Before posting an "announcement" that may cause a lot of distress on the forum, PLEASE email us. We would prefer to get validated information on the main site before parents get hysterical about rumors.
2 - If it is not on the main site, then we have NOT verified it. Please do not assume that we are in agreement if we don't respond.
3 - Remember that your Guatadopt team folks are human (no crystal ball and we actually try to sleep at night). We are not in process, but that doesn't mean that we are immune to the non-stop stress.
4 - If any part of the site goes down, we know about it. We are not sitting around trying to freak parents out or withholding valuable information to torment parents (we've been there and that is why the site exists...we UNDERSTAND). Whether it is maintenance, our hosting service or sanity....we will address the situation when we can. IE: It may take some time (because of demands of our JOBS or demands of our families).

Please try to reduce your stress as well . That means get off the forums, go jog, play tennis, play WII, throw darts but give yourself a sanity break. I am very worried about the effects of all this upheaval. It became very apparent that some parents also needed a mandated downtime on the forum.

How to end....well, lets just say:

Abrazos!

Kelly

Posted by Kelly at 07:13 PM

CNA Launches Website

The Consejo Nacional de Adopciones has launched a website. The main URL is http://cna.gob.gt. The key section for in process PAPs is the News ('Noticias") page: http://cna.gob.gt/Noticias.html#

Click on more for a translation of what it says now. Before you read that, I realize that some of the wording is going draw your ire when it speaks of expeditious and things like that. I understand how you feel. But I think the important thing to realize is that it is formally recognizing their obligation to process grandfathered cases under the old law as well as that say their desire is to get legal cases done without delay.

Communique of National Adoption Council-CNA -

The National Council for Adoptions-CNA-makes the public aware that, pursuant to Article 57 of Decree 77-2007 of the Congress of the Republic of Adoptions Act, and ensuring the best interests of children, has begun the process of verification of records in transition, from children to be given up for adoption, under the previous law, in coordination with the Attorney General's Office.

This process is to make sure that there are no irregularities in the files provided by the Attorney General's Office and give legal certainty and speed to the final placement of children who are at this moment to care homes and state or private individuals individuals.

The CNA is not intended in any way, nor has the power to withhold or suspend proceedings already initiated or remove the children to the adoptive parents, but on the contrary, the intention is that children remain institutionalized the shortest possible time, why which has coordinated with the Attorney General's Office, so that all those files that they are properly adjusted to the law, follow its course and give a favourable opinion in the shortest possible time.

On the other hand, the ANC makes the public aware that this activity does not limit other programs serving, so that all those families interested in adopting, to give up for adoption, or requiring information from any work-related nature of the ANC can come to our facilities or visit this site.

Finally, we wish to express to the families that Guatemalan domestic adoption, is free and can be handled in person, so you do not need the intervention of Lawyers and Notaries to do one, please do not be surprised to (receive) offers of professional services in exchange for fees. In this issue, (we are) calling on foreign families to be confident that if his file has been handled within the legal framework, it will not suffer any delays.

This site is available to the public wishing to consult it and through it can carry out his consultations.

To serve the interests of the child and making processes be dignified and transparent.

Board of Directors
National Adoption Council

Posted by Kevin at 05:33 PM

May 12, 2008

Raid on Semillas de Amor

Authorities from PGN today raided the hogar Semillas de Amor. According to a story in the Prensa Libre (which incorrectly named the hogar Semilas de Esperanza) it was done to verify the conditions at the hogar. My Spanish isn't perfect and it also seems to be saying that their new facility was not registered or something of the sort. Having visited its old facility and based onwhat I have heard of the new one, I am sure that conditions were fine.

As we learn more, we will post it.

Prensa Libre Story: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/mayo/12/237729.html

Posted by Kevin at 05:47 PM

May 06, 2008

Tuesday Update - PGN and More

Let me start by sayng that everyone needs to remain calm and not take at face value what the press, Guatemalan and US, say. Words like "supsends" can be used to make things sound different than they are, while techicaly being correct.

Please click on more for all I have for you today...

NOTE: Please remember our rules on comments. If you do not provide a valid e-mail address on the comment form we will NOT approve the comment. No one can see the e-mail address except for Guatadopt staff and it is kept confidential.

1.) Birthmom interviews - we do NOT have any info to indicate any plans for ALL birthmoms to be interviewed. I'm not saying it won't happen, just that we have no info to indicate it will.
2.) There were somewhere between 40-50 cases that had been approved by the old PGN regime but not yet picked up. PGN has sent out a courrier with a notice to the Notarial attorney on those cases with an appointment date of this Thursday for the birthmom, child, and foster mom to appear before PGN. They are usig the addresses given on the CNA registration form.
3.) On at least some of those addresses, the courrier was unable to find the attorney. Either the office was closed or in some instances it appears as though it is an incorrect our outdated address. PGN is continuing to try to locate these attorneys and I have no info on "what if" they don't locate them or if the appointment is missed. I also don't know which attorneys they need to locate.
4.) An amparo was filed with the courts to question PGN's legal right to do interviews when there is no probable cause. Note: my legal explanation may be incorrect, I'm not a lawyer
5.) On all of this, my advice would be to encourage folks to comply with the request and not fight while they wait for the ruling on the amparo. Everyone I have spoken to who has had contact with the CNA and the new folks at PGN says that they seem to be well intentioned and willing to work with the attorneys. One of my best contacts emphasized that I deliver the "don't panic" message.

Two other important things:
1.) We have learned that the CNA has been developing procedures for enacting the new system. We hope for those be offiicial and released soon so that children can once again find homes with permanent families. I have no info on the details of this, just that they are very close to being done!
2.) We have learned that there are a large number (100+) cases that were not registered with the CNA. Some of them may have been registered with the "original" CNA but not with Colom's. EVERYONE: make sure you got a registration number from the CNA. DEMAND IT from your agency and attorney. The "original" CNA did not issue numbers, just a stamp. So having a number should mean you are okay. If you find out your case was not registered, the adoption is legally invalid and could be in jeopardy. I would recommend you contact adoption supervisors and/or have your attorney officially petition the CNA for resolution.
3.) We've had some technical issues with the Abandonment case form. We're working on it...

Posted by Kevin at 04:19 PM

May 05, 2008

Prensa Libre - Adoptions Suspended for a Month

According to the Prensa Libre, all adoptions are being put on hold for a month in order to validate the legitimacy of the cases. The story can found here: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/mayo/05/236311.html. By clicking on more you can read a so-so internet translation of it. As we learn more we will post it.

In different news many of you have been following the story of a Sobrevivientes led hunger strike by four women who claim their children were stolen. Guatadopt has tried to contact the organization in order to get pictures of these children so that maybe the adoption community can help find them. Sadly they have not respondedand pictures of the children can not be found on their website. If anyone has communciations with them, please ask them to do so as it seems "odd" that they would not accept or respond to our offer to help.

Prensa Libre Story:

At the request of the legislative commission of the Smaller one and the Family, the attorney general's office of the Nation and the National Counsel of Adoptions will suspend, by at least a month, all the procedures of adoption under way -near three thousand-, so that those companies, it cited room of work, and the Public Department, they can revise them and to verify that there is not irregularities.

"We know about at least 80 processes in which there are anomalies, besides that we include a listing of lawyers that deal with adoptions illegally", referred the representative Gudy Rivera, president of that commission, although did not want to give the names because will wait for to include more you test against them.

The General proxy of the Nation, Baudilio Gap, said that they will cite from next Thursday to the lawyers involved in the adoptions, to the mothers of the smaller that will be adopted, and will be verified that the process comply with all the requirements.

The PGN already had announced last week that would revise the near three thousand expedients of adoption that is alert of to be approved.

The announcement of the suspension is produced a week after four mothers whose children were stolen and an activist that supports them, they began a hunger strike set against the Parliament building of the Culture to require that they seek their children that were abducted.

Today they decided to raise the hunger strike after the National Counsel of Adoptions compromised to give answers to its demands next Friday.

According to the registrations of the PGN during 2006 four thousand 496 children and girls were delivered in adoption, 10 percent more than in 2005, while in 2007 they were around five thousand 100.

Posted by Kevin at 05:36 PM

April 29, 2008

Latest at PGN

IMG00085.jpg


The sign on the window (above) says that they are not releasing cases right now. We already knew this to be the case. But we have confirmed that they are accepting cases and have not closed the case submission window. To those asking about abandonment cases that don't have a COA and could not be registered, this would be a Consejo issue, not something PGN can decide.

Posted by Kevin at 05:50 PM

April 28, 2008

PGN Meeting

We're still waiting for multiple source updates. But one forum regular who attended the meeting basically posted that it went well. She said that
1.) PGN agreed to look into the legality of the CNA auditing grandfathered cases
2.) PGN agreed that everyone knows who the corrupt attorneys are and that they will not hold up all cases over that (note: I find this hard to believe as who decides the list of "corrupt" attorneys"). But they said that they will separate investigations of attorneys from the adoptions themselves and prosecute the corrupt ones.
3.) They will process cases in a timely fashion
4.) They are looking into cases that seemed to have exited PGN too quickly in the past. Iwould assume this part of investigating what went on in PGN with Gordillo and Barrios as there is till a court case open involving their firing.

Click on more for an update 8:00 pm Monday

As we learn more and get more reports, we'll post it.

We did hear back from a very trusted source basically verifying the information above. This source urges calm and says that they say some cases, starting with those that had been approved but not picked up, SHOULD start coming out next week. He also added that anytime there is a change in leadership at PGN, this sort of thing is normal. He said that in general, it was better news than expected.

Posted by Kevin at 04:22 PM

April 26, 2008

What's Going on Right Now

Guatadopt is currently trying to learn and verify the exact situation right now. As it appears, all cases in PGN are on what I will call a temporary hold, awaiting an audit. We have also heard that the CNA plans to interview all birthmothers to verify that their relinquishment was voluntary. Later tonight, I hope to write up a commentaty, but after two days travelling for work and much more time sleep deprived because of concern over some particular children in Guatemala, I'm in much need of a nap.

On a different note, please realize that sometimes it can take a little while for us to clear comments. Kelly and I both have real jobs that have to take precedence. Yesterday I was travelling all day and Kelly was in meetings, thus we couldn't clear comments. Please do not post repeatedly as it creates clutter and ends up having our server automatically ban you since it looks like spam. It's unfortunate that we have to clear all comments but back when we didn't, all sorts of porn and other inappropriate things got posted.

Posted by Kevin at 04:22 PM

April 24, 2008

Attorney General transition and Colom visits US

The new Attorney General Baudilio Portillo Merlos took over yesterday. The new Sub Attorney General (replacing Barrios) is Attorney Flory de De Leon and she has already moved into the office. It appears she may be holding off making any critical decisions until the Constitutional Court rules. The new AG has requested an audit, as well.

What does this mean? Short term, cases that were simply waiting for Barrios' signature are going to be delayed because of the way the review process works and the audit. With a change of power comes delays in about any business or government entity. Expect an impact on all cases currently in PGN. Long term, we cannot predict what this will mean. As always, we hope that this appointment by Colom will mean a more efficient PGN.

On April 29th, President Colom will be in Washington DC to meet with President Bush as well as the CCAI (Congressional Coalition on Adoption) which we can only assume that they will discuss the current situation with Guatemalan Adoptions.

This may very well be a good chance to have our voices heard by both governments! But before we start making demands or asking the US to pressure Guatemala to do this or that, let us think about what we really want to occur.

The Guatadopt team feels pretty strongly about US involvement here. We do not feel that the US has the right to pressure Guatemala into changing adoption laws. However, we do feel that it is appropriate for them to discuss the current delays and encourage Guatemala (and the US) to finish these cases ethically without "token" delays.

Furthermore, the idealist in me believes that we (as adoptive parents) should let the Guatemalan government know that as private citizens we (the Guatadopt extended community) are willing to try and help them support an ethical, appropriate adoption process which will offer families to children who really need families. And maybe, part of that support is implicit meaning that we will involve ourselves in programs that end the cycle of poverty.

In Kevin's recent post, Thoughts on ADA's Latest Post - Guatemala: The Next Romania?, we had a pretty good discussion on Grass Roots Movements. I saw that several readers felt "helpless" as just one person to make a difference. Well, maybe I am up too late, but I have to say that PERSISTENCE and DEDICATION are what matters here. Guatadopt started with just one person (me) and now has a network of individuals generally believe that adoption is an option that shouldn't be totally closed off to children in need. And while we debate heavily on this site regarding how we got here and the best approach for the future of adoptions, I know that most of our regular readers care deeply for the children of Guatemala.

So, tonight Guatadopt will make a pledge....

President Colom - We, Guatadopt and many of our readers, will pledge our support to assisting Guatemala in its quest to break the cycle of poverty, promote education and help socially responsible programs that we hope will reduce the NEED for adoption. We are committed to the children of Guatemala. We hope that Guatemala will find a way to promote the family option to ANY child who is in need of a family and a home. Ask for our help and we will be here. We pledge our time and efforts to assist Guatemala in becoming a model for child services.

Sincerely, Guatadopt Adoptive Parents

***If you would like to add your name to the pledge, I have posted the pledge separately here: PLEDGE TO GUATEMALA

Posted by Kelly at 03:20 AM

April 21, 2008

New Attorney General

Today, Guatemala has a new Attorney General appointed by President Colom. Attorney Baudilio Portillo Merlos takes over the position from Gordillo. Gordillo has filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court to keep the position. I guess we will see if that challenge holds any water!

Since this is connected to the operations of PGN, I will also mention that there have been some rumors that PGN "closed its doors" and everything has been left to the CNA. Today, several of our contacts went to PGN and are confirming that PGN is still working. If there is a problem, our sources usually contact us immediately and we will certainly post it here.

Posted by Kelly at 06:12 PM

April 15, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Another agency, Adoption International Program, is a goner, with numerous felony charges and it's founder Orson Mozes on the run. This agency has NO CONNECTION to Adoptions International in Philadelphia (Hannah Wallace's agency) or to Adopt International (Candace O'Brien) out of Florida. In fact, I think there is another California agency out of San Francisco with a similar name that is not connected.

An ABC News story can be found here: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/investigators&id=6080624

I think we can all expect more such investigations as it seems the current tide. As always, we applaud the authorities who actually listened to PAPs and encourage others to do the same!


Posted by Kevin at 09:30 PM

March 27, 2008

Claar Foundation Owner Arrested

Lisa Nowak, owner of the Claar Foundation adoption agency, was arrested Wednesday for theft and fraud. The link below will take you to a story on it. According to the story, "anyone with information about this crime or suspect is asked to contact Detective Jeff Kithcart in the Boulder Police Detective section at 303-441-3330."

http://www.timescall.com/news_story.asp?ID=7553

Posted by Kevin at 10:28 PM

March 25, 2008

Gordillo Out of PGN?

President Alvaro Colom has asked Mario Gordillo to resign as head of PGN. Thus far Gordillo is challenging him, stating that he can only be removed if just cause is presented. Half-joking, I'm sure some of you would love to help Pres. Colom with this one...

You can find the Presna Libre story on this here: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/marzo/25/227940.html

As we learn more, we'll post it...

Posted by Kevin at 09:59 PM

February 29, 2008

Hague Accredited Agencies

The list is out. It can be found here: http://www.travel.state.gov/family/adoption/convention/convention_4169.html

Or you can download it here: Download file

I haven't looked at it yet so I can not comment...

To anyone currently in process whose agency is not on this list - DO NOT WORRY. IT DOES NOT MATTER. YOUR AGENCY CAN COMPLETE YOUR CASE.

Posted by Kevin at 06:05 PM

February 28, 2008

Waiting Angels Plea Deal

Guatadopt has learned that Joe and Simone from Waiting Angels today accepted a plea bargain with the Michigan Attorney General's office. Under the agreement, they will plead no contest to the felony charges. Their sentencing hearing will be held on April 8 and it will be at that time that any restitution to their victims will be announced.

As part of the deal their website was ordered shut down (which has already occured) and they are forbidden from working in adoptions until they have completed any probation that will be part of their sentencing.

We applaud the efforts of the Michigan authorities on this matter. Compared to the pathetic response we have seen from states like Minnesota, South Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina when corrupt adoption agencies are brought to their attention, Michigan seemed to have cared more for its citizens. And if the AG's from those other states listed want a better Guatadopt rating, give us a call so we can help you bust the scumbags!

Posted by Kevin at 06:15 PM

February 20, 2008

Investigations, allegations and indictments

Over the past couple of days a number of stories have broken about investigations, indictments and other indicators of the sad side of adoption. Some people have asked me why we post these things. The main reason is of course because we post all news and information related to Guatemalan adoption (or try to). Second, because often times the only way families working with the adoption service providers involved find out about the situation is by us posting it. They have a right to know.

So read on to hear about what's up with the Claar Foundation, Homecoming Adoptions, and Casa Quivira attorneys Vilma Desire Zamora Perez and Sandra Patricia Leonardo Lopez.

Claar Foundation:

They’ve shut doors and they are being investigated. You can read about it here: Boulder Daily Camera and Vail Daily.

When I first read this the name Lisa Novak stuck out in mind. A google search solved it. She was the person who became some sort of self appointed spokesperson to the adoption community for DOS and the Berger’s in regard to the threat of the Executive Order/Protocol of Good Practices last year. I remember it well because it is the only time I know of when something Guatadopt reported was ever questioned for its authenticity or accuracy. And for the record, the darn thing was real back then no matter what DOS or anyone said and of course it came to fruition months later.

Homecoming Adoptions:

Admittedly it comes as no surprise to me to see these guys in the position they are now in. I can’t go into it because we promise confidentiality to anyone who contacts us. So I’ll just say that I am not surprised and leave it at that. You can read about their troubles and watch a video here: WKMG Orlando


Casa Quivira attorneys Vilma Desire Zamora Perez and Sandra Patricia Leonardo Lopez:

According to today’s Prensa Libre, the Ministerio Publico has filed some pretty serious charges against them. And they’re saying that charges may soon be brought against Clifford Phillips. Before reading the so-so translation below please know that Prensa Libre is often like the National Enquirer. The manner in which it phrases things as fact versus allegation leaves much to be desired and it often sensationalizes things. We will post something to the comments of this thread once we are able to verify or better explain what has happened.

Prensa Libre Story: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/febrero/20/221398.html

Indictments against Casa Quivira Lawyers

By Coralia Orantes

The Public Ministry (MP) filed charges against Vilma Desiré Zamora Perez and Sandra Patricia Leonardo Lopez, lawyers of Casa Quivira, for the crimes of complicity in the alternative and child abduction.

The prosecution has more than 60 ways of conviction against these lawyers, which shows the falsification of identity of juveniles in the casa cuna.

In addition, there are the stories of mothers of the children who agree that at no time were they given in adoption.

The office reported that they even locate the file of the alleged mother of one of the minors, but when corroborating her identity, it was discovered that the person who had that name had died.

It was also discovered that some of the women who filed a claim with juveniles, were not their mothers, but which supplanted the identity of the real ones.

The Court of First Instance ruled that Antigua Guatemala also will begin action against Clifford Phillips, owner and representative of Casa Quivira therefore requests by him, was suspended, just last week, the blood tests of children located in the Children's Home and their alleged mothers.

On August 11, 2007, the MP and police raided the house Quivira, and found 46 children who were to be given up for adoption, several of them apparently with irregular procedures.

On Friday last, the Court of First Instance of Antigua Guatemala left tied to trial Nora Xalim Valenzuela, a social worker from Juvenile Court that city, for the crime of perjury.


Posted by Kevin at 01:30 PM

January 14, 2008

Viva Colom! Adios Oscar....

Today is Inauguration Day in Guatemala as Alvaro Colom becomes President. As people with a great deal of love for Guatemala, Guatadopt extends its strongest well wishes to the Coloms and the Guatemalan people. Forgetting about a adoption for a minute, he has a difficult task ahead in trying to improve the quality of life for his citizens. And as it relates to adoption, we're here to help in any way we can. We also vow, no matter what happens to adoptions, to continue to fight and raise aid to support children in Guatemala.

I am excited and enthusiastic to watch what this administration does in years ahead.

Paz!

Miami Herald Story: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/world/AP/story/377837.html

Posted by Kevin at 07:23 AM

January 04, 2008

PGN Not accepting New Cases

JCICS published a statement (http://jcics.org/Guatemala.htm) saying that PGN is not accepting new cases other than those which have been approved.

We are getting mixed information but our ground forces are trying to clarify the reality of the statement. At this time, we believe (based on the information) that PGN is not accepting new cases but they are continuing to process cases. Under the new law, they are in a questionable position because the law states that all cases must be registered with the Central Authority...you know, the one that does not exist yet. So, I believe that the translation is that they are still working on cases, but there may not be any "approvals" until this has been ironed out.

We are pushing for a solution regarding the Central Authority. But remember, that you have a new administration turnover. So, the current administration will be leaving on the 14th of this month. So, it is very possible that nothing will be resolved until the new administration is "in" UNLESS, the current administration establishes this Central Authority and comes up with some mechanism to handle registration under the new law.

Update: Folks, please do not confuse this with grandfathering. Its a logistics issue with the new law. At best, we are simply "on hold" for XYZ cases until some procedures have been identified. As for new cases, we are guessing at best (as I mentioned we are getting conflicting information)....I would interpret this as new cases entering in PGN. I do not know if resubmittals are being turned away at this point. Those who already have PGN approval should not be affected by this. We do not have any word on how long this will last. I think the best way to describe this is that the engine is sputtering, but the road has not been closed as of yet.

Also, please refrain from the "Does this mean....?" Speculating, in this case, helps no one....but certainly causes a lot of stress. I'm viewing this as an expected stall....nothing more at this point.

Posted by Kelly at 11:19 AM

December 21, 2007

Offline for a Few Days

We will not be providing updates over the next few days and through Christmas. Kevin is on vacation and I desperately need a break to be with my family (or I might as well check into a hospital!). I have been working many, many hours on Guatadopt, Do Good shipments, calendar issues and problem cases. But I cannot continue to neglect my own family nor my own health and need for sleep. As many of you know, this has been an incredible rollercoaster for us with news, requests, questions and problems every hour of our day...and has been taking more and more of our time each passing month. I've had to give up writing much over the last few months just to handle the day to day needs of our Do Good project and the site.

So, a couple of notes. First, understand that our team is EXHAUSTED. We *are* still volunteer and most of the proceeds we are making right now are going straight back into our projects or into our Do Good Feeding Project. The offline note INCLUDES EMAILS, PROBLEM CASE SUBMITTALS and any other service we typically provide. It is also possible that the site may go offline some during that time. Second, If you have questions, we would appreciate it if you would wait to post or ask until after Christmas.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and if you celebrate Christmas, that it is joyous!

Merry Christmas,

Kelly, husband and D-Lo

Posted by Kelly at 11:47 AM

November 28, 2007

Ortega Vote Today?!

The wind appears to have changed again. According to some stories in the Guatemalan media and the ADA, an adoption law will be finalized today. It will contain a grandfather clause and be effective Dec 31.

Once again, this is how things are as I know them at 7:30 am est. The Guatemalan Congress website has not updated its "Order of the Day" to show their actions today. We will update this thread as we learn more and the day continues.

The ADA has a new post on this here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/. There is a comment in it about the POSSIBILITY of the US not issuing first DNA test approval after Dec 31. I'm not sure where that came from and will be looking into it today so if you are early in the process, don't worry right now.

UPDATE NOV 30: The "new" law that has passed two readings and that is allegedly going to be approved mid-December in a special session of the Guatemalan Congress has been posted to the congress website. It DOES contain a grandfather clause. By reading the comments on this thread you can find a link to it and a translation of the grandfather clause.

Posted by Kevin at 07:30 AM

November 26, 2007

JCICS Statement - No Vote this Week

JCICS has issued a new statement that can be found here: http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala.htm It basically states what Guatadopt had already reported about no vote likely this week.

Some may be confused by the statement about a potential Berger veto. While I have no information on this I'd conjecture it means that the ammended law as it would likely pass is "too watered down" for Berger. That does NOT mean that grandfathering is in question.

In addition, the Guatemalan Congress website has a post about how if the vote doesn't occur this week, it will likely occur the first two weeks of December. Of course, that is according to the head of the Congress who has made other similar statements in the past only for them to not come to fruition. That can be found, translated, here: http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http://www.congreso.gob.gt&langpair=es|en&hl=es&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&prev=/language_tools
Let me reiturate one more time that if no law is passed, or until such a time that one is passed, the legal adoption system in Guatemala remains unchanged. In addition, there is no one out there stating that any new law, whether it be Ortega or a new one, will not grandfather in process cases.

Posted by Kevin at 09:02 PM

November 25, 2007

The battle heats up...

It's becoming really difficult right now to figure out what to post an what not to. So many stories in the Guatemalan and the US press, few on which really mean anything and most of which are filled with enough spin to dry a head of lettuce (okay, you have to know what a lettuce spinner is to get that one).

Our readers and our wonderful Marie do a great job of getting most every story in to our forums. So that is really the best way to keep completely up on what is being said.

A new report has been released by a group consisting of Casa Alianza, Bienestar, The Mirna Mack Foundation, and the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese. I've been unable to find a copy of the actual report anywhere. Based on media reports, it basically states that adoptions are a huge organized crime syndicate. Media sensationalizes things, so I don't want to attack the report without reading, though there are obviously some of the usual suspects involved. Nonetheless, Myrna Mack and the Archdiocese are not commonly involved in the adoption debate.

The newspaper La Hora seems to be on an anti-adoption rampage. They have run a number of stories, some of which cover truly atrocious things done to mothers and children. However, I don't see any of these showing that these children were to be adopted. It would make sense, but when a child is stolen and no DNA is ever taken, it seems tough to say the kids were joining families in the US, where almost all children go. So, these cases could be old and before the 2nd DNA. If so, I am at a loss for what to do other than be thankful for that second test and to reiturate - what took so long in institutiing one? Or these children could go through abandonment proceedings. If that's the case, then the children are in the courts and someone in law enforcement - find them and throw the perpetrators behind bars!

ADA has issued a new statement on their website about all of this, primarily the report mentioned above. It is very strongly worded and full of the passion we know and love of Susana. So while I personally have a hard time with some of it, the ADA's voice is one always worth having. http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/

Senator Norm Colemean of Minnesota has been pounding the pavement in Guatemala. Chalk up one more point that in-process cases will be be completed. No offense intended and I applaud Coleman's interest, but it is getting to be a huge distraction with solving the future of Guatemalan adoptions to have this ongoing coverage of grandfathering. It's a great humam interest story but its pretty clear it is going to happen. At what point is the coverage only serving to keep in-process parents worried?

Posted by Kevin at 10:09 AM

November 15, 2007

New Pink Slip Procedure

the US embassy has issued the following statement:

Adoptions in Guatemala
"Pink Slip" Processing Change
November 15, 2007

In order to be more responsive to adoptive parents and provide more timely information for the purpose of coordinating travel, the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City will no longer issue adoption interview appointment letters, or "Pink Slips", in hard copy. Beginning November 19, all appointment letters will be sent directly to the petitioner via email. It will no longer be necessary for a representative to pick up the "pink slip" at the Embassy. Adoptive parents will be responsible for notifying their attorney or facilitator of the appointment date, rather than being notified by a representative.

The Consular Section will contact adoptive parents using the email address that all adoptive parents are required to submit to DHS as part of the immigrant visa petition. If the Consular Section is unable to contact the adoptive parents using the given email address, we will then call the parents to request a new email address. In order for the Immigrant Visa Unit to work quickly and efficiently, we request that adoptive families not contact the Consular Section to update or check an email address.

To ensure that local representatives have necessary authorization for the immigrant visa medical examinations, those forms will be provided at the time that the second DNA authorization is given.

You can find it here: http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/adop20071115.html

Posted by Kevin at 04:10 PM

November 14, 2007

Vote in the "Next Sessions"

Update Th. Nov 15
The Guatemalan Congress website now says that the adoption law will be voted on next week. When we say voted on, that means the ammendments to Ortega although there is the possibility of it essentially being turned into an alternate piece of legislation.

Here is the notice:
http://www.congreso.gob.gt/gt/ver_noticia.asp?id=4442

The website of the Congress of Guatemala states that the adoption law will be addressed in the "next sessions". I don't know if that means THE next session or soon. It also mentions a Dec 31 date. It also states the Central Authority will consist of PGN, Bienestar, and the Supreme Court of Justice.

You can find it here: http://www.congreso.gob.gt/gt/ver_noticia.asp?id=4436

We'll update as we learn more.

Posted by Kevin at 10:11 PM

November 08, 2007

US DOS - Enough Already!!!!

US Consul General John Lowell is once again attemptiong to interfere with Guatemala's rights as a sovereign nation. He is apparently requesting a meeting with all the Guatemalan parties in Congress in an attempt to strongarm them into not delaying Ortega and the Hague.

As a US citizen who pays his taxes (meaning everyone in DOS's salaries), I am hereby calling on the DOS to be open and transparent with its activities and positions regarding adoptions from Guatemala. No more closed door meetings. No more double talking with members of the adoption community. No more political bullsh*t!

For many months it has been very clear to me that DOS wants Guatemala's adoption system shut down. They never come out and say it, but that has been the objective. For whatever reason, they lack the guts to just shut it down as they did with Cambodia. Instead, they have been taking this behind the scenes cowardly approach. They've issued ominous warnings, FAQs, and misleading statements. They have played games with the adoption advocacy organizations as a way to keep them at bay. And they used what I believe to be a huge red herring by bringing up a largely unfounded risk of in-process cases not being grandfathered.

Guatemala has approved the Ortega Law. To its credit, the Guatemalan Congress seems to realize that they need more time to institute the infrastructure. In addition, they realize that it is best for them not to have confusion regarding in-process, pipeline cases. Guatemala has just elected a new president who will take office early January. It only makes sense to give Alavaro Colom's administration a little bit of breathing room to get this law up and running.

But no, DOS is instead not repsecting their right to figure this out for themselves. It isn't enough for DOS that they practically shoved the Ortega Law down the throats of the Guatemalan Congress. Is it a coincidence that Guatemala got a huge loan from the US approved the same day as they unexpectedly approved Ortega? Might John Lowell now come up with other incentives to get them not to delay Hague/Ortega?

Some have asked me why they are doing this. My simple answer is that they don't want pipeline cases once the US ratifies the Hague. They don't want the potential for 4-6 more months of people accepting referals. This is why I say that they need to stop acting like covert agents and be open. Tell us what you want and what you are doing. If my theories are correct, then do what you need to do in the open. We all agree with the need for transparency in adoptions - that goes for DOS as well.

So DOS - enough already. I know that I have held back much of my criticism for too long. I've seen through your charade. In many meetings with adoption advocates, I called b.s. on your supposed open minded ideals. I know the pressure you put on the Guatemalan Congress. And now this. Well it is time for me to exercise my rights to free speech on this matter because quite frankly, this garbage is really pissing me off. To Condi Rice: from one Notre Dame alumni to another, please put the humanity and values I know you learned in South Bend to use on this matter. Look at the history of what happens when the US pushes Guatemala too much. The country has just held an amazing election that shows grassroots democracy is at work. Colom was elected by the people around the country, not the elite. It is an amazing time of hope for Guatemala and their Congress was doing the right thing here. Let Guatemala be and let it grow and flourish!

Below is a letter you can use to send to your members of congress. I am also told that you can call 202 647 5291 to reach Condi Rice's office. Everyone, let's get our government to be upfront, honest, and let Guatemala choose its own path. And let's remember that the key to ethical adoptions is busting the bad guys, not removing options for children!

Sample letter:

Dear Senator/Congressman/Congresswoman _____,

I am a constituent writing to ask for your help. As you know, almost 4,000 American families [including mine/my sister's/a friend of mine/etc.] are in the process of adopting a child from Guatemala. The Guatemalan Congress is now deciding how best to bring its adoption system into compliance with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

It has been reported in Guatemalan newspapers that the Consul General to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, Mr. John Lowell, has been in contact with Guatemalan congressmen and political party leaders to lobby for a specific bill, the Ortega bill, that threatens to terminate or severely hinder in-process cases, putting the adoption cases of almost 4,000 Americans directly at risk. This, despite the fact that the Guatemalan Congress has indicated its clear intent to bring the Guatemalan adoption process in line with the requirements of the Hague treaty and the various options that are available to any country in developing a Hague-compliant procedure.

Mr. Lowell's actions, if as reported, are unconscionable. First, it is wholly improper for Mr. Lowell to interfere this way with the Guatemalan legislative process - Guatemala should be able to choose, without interference from Mr. Lowell or any other U.S. official, a process that involves both public and accredited private sector actors (like the one we will have in the U.S. when the U.S. implements the treaty next spring). Second, Mr. Lowell's actions are directly contrary to the best interests of the children in the adoption process and to the thousands of Americans who would be adversely affected by the passage of the Ortega bill.

I ask you to take all appropriate action available to you to prompt Mr. Lowell and all U.S. officials in Guatemala to refrain from interfering with the Guatemalan political process regarding intercountry adoption.

[your signature]

Posted by Kevin at 10:03 AM

November 07, 2007

Ortega/Hague Update

Guatemalan papers are reporting that committees of Congress met yesterday on the adoption law. This was NOT the vote on the ammendments. But based on these reports, Guatemala will postpone implementing the Hague until April 1, 2008 in order to better coincide with the US's likely ratification date. Interestingly, one paper quotes US Consul General John Lowell as saying this is unnecessary.

In addition, one paper is reporting that the Ortega Law's effective date will be bumped back to April 1 as well. One story also mentions that one ammendment to be voted on is to permit singles to adopt.

Is that a sigh of relief I hear?

Once again, this all coming from Guatemalan papers.

Click here for an ADA Update/Commentary on this: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/
Click here for JICS's update on this: http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala.htm

From Prensa Libre

The Hague, until April
Congress delayed entry into force of the Convention
By: Ana Lucia Blas
Cover photo
(Photo Free Press: Mary Fleischmann).

Members of the Congress agreed yesterday to amend the date on which force charged the Hague Convention, which regulates international adoptions, for the April 30, 2008.

At a seminar for consensus on amendments to the draft adoption law, which could be approved in the next few weeks, deputies from different bench agreed to change the date it takes effect this international convention, with the aim of "waiting for States United implementation. "

A spokesman for the embassy in that country said yesterday that this treaty will enter into force in early 2008 "in the United States, has not yet been specified date.

"If Guatemalan begins to apply before USA, no child may be adopted in this country, and we can not afford that luxury, because there are children who really need a family," explained the deputy unionist Pablo Duarte, in proposing the amendment , which will be included in the adoption law, which also charged effect in April next year.

Moreover, in this term to prepare the institutional structure that will be required for the implementation of these two regulations, as the National Council for Adoptions, an autonomous body that will have to be created to comply with the Hague Convention, said Duarte.

"The important thing is that it was ratified after ten years of waiting, if it takes one or five months to be valid, then we will have to wait and prepare to implement it immediately," felt Nidia Aguilar del Cid, defender of Children and Adolescents , the Human Rights Ombudsman.

However, Jorge Luis Ortega, the Democratic Union, although it supports the extension, acknowledged that could help "those engaged in negotiations with adoptions, ran to initiate new procedures, to avoid having to comply with the new law neither the convention. "

"We should think about what we should to the country; The benefit of children and not on what the United States does. Remember that they have no hurry to implement the agreement because its country adoptions are handled legally, but in Guatemala same is not true, "said Oliverio Garcia, first vice president of Congress, but in the end it supported the extension because" has its logic " he justified.

Consensus

Adoption Act

These are some of the proposals agreed yesterday to the adoption law.

The central authority is the National Council for Adoptions, an autonomous body comprising representatives of the Supreme Court, the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Social Welfare Department and agencies accredited in the country to handle adoptions, among others.

They may take unmarried individuals.

From La Hora

Interest in approving Adoptions Act
• View other headlines
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National
06 November 2007
Edgar Hernandez

Members of the board of Congress deputies and representatives of the various bancadas met this morning to try to establish agreements on the discussion articles and final wording in the full Adoptions Act.

For Congressman Rolando Morales Francisco Chavez is necessary to establish agreements so that this initiative will be known in full as soon as possible because it is not possible for the Guatemalan children continue to be used as goods for sale abroad.

The chairman of the legislature, Ruben Dario Morales Véliz, expressed confidence agreeing inclusion in the meeting tomorrow, which appealed to the political maturity of the deputies of the different political forces represented in the Legislature.

The meeting was attended by heads of block and deputies of different benches to avoid further setbacks in the discussion and adoption at the plenary.

A group of lawyers asked for the ninth time meet with the board of directors and deputies engaged in the discussion because they say they had not been taken into account and be affected by not being able to continue working in the processing of adoptions, if the initiative is approved.

According to attorney Enrique Urizar, if approved as currently with the 61 amendments that were made, are committed several inconstitucionalidades and damage to more than 25 thousand children waiting to be adopted by families who offer better living conditions.

Siglo XXI:

Postponing Validity of the Hague Convention

U.S. government considers "unnecessary" postponement; PGN said that only the DC can do.

Gladys Ramirez, Ericka Marroquín, Century 21 |


The United States government, through its consul accredited in the country, John Lowel, considered "unnecessary" that Congress postpone the entry into force of the Hague Convention, which would be initially implemented locally from 31 December. At the request of the heads of block, it was decided to amend Decree 31-2007 and approve the April 30, 2008 as the date for its entry into force.
Lowel insists that it was not necessary to "postpone the date, since the Convention is vital for the protection of children."
The congressmen claim to be able to make the change through a legislative agreement to be prepared next week, but Mario Gordillo, owner of the Procurator-General's Office (PGN), which covers only the Constitutional Court has the power "to be an agreement international character. "
Similar position assumes a judge from DC, who did not want to identify themselves, to ensure that the way for amending the agreement is for that agency.

Discussion of changes
The Congress also proposed for the same date of the entry into force of Adoptions Act (also originally scheduled for January 1, 2008) and will discuss 69 possible amendments, among them, allow unmarried or divorced adopt a child (read: Council Nacional).
"Another four months would give us time to strengthen it, because if it enters into force too soon it would receive many attacks (protections and remedies for unconstitutional) that would weaken it," argues Congressman Jorge Luis Ortega, who made the proposal, which was endorsed by Pablo Duarte and Mariano Rayo.
Duarte also argues that a letter received from the United States Senate, urging the Guatemalan government to "be careful in the analysis of Adoptions Act," was reason enough to devote more time to his study.
The sending of the document is confirmed by Lowel, but rejected an intention to delay the adoption of the standard, but rather ask that there are no obstacles for 3,772 cases of adoptions in process and on track.


NATIONAL COUNCIL
The central organ or National Council in charge of adoptions would be a body "autonomous and independent," agreed legislators, who had previously placed the future institution attached to the Social Welfare Department (SBS) of the presidency. In addition, it would allocate a specific part in the General Budget of the Nation.
At independence the Council would be led by representatives of the Attorney General's Office (PGN), the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH), embassies and SBS.

Posted by Kevin at 07:32 AM

November 03, 2007

Election Day

Tomorrow Guatemala chooses its next president. The two candidates have very different visions for the country. I know everyone wants to know about where they stand on adoption but the truth is we don't know and this election is about things more important than adoption. As members of the Guatemalan community, we are all Guatemaltecos and need to be able to look at the larger picture.

Update Sunday 11:00 est - The Tribunal Supremo Electoral (the main election authority) has declared Alvaro Colom the next president of Guatemala with 52.7% of the vote and over 96% of votes counted.

As things stand, the latest poll indicates a narrow victory for Alvaro Colom of the UNE party (http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/view/guatemala_2007_colom_53_prez_molina_47/). Colom is depicted being left-of-center with a campaign focused on addressing the poverty that plagues the country. His vision for addressing the very real problems of crime and violence focuses on removing the socio-economic conditions that lead to these problems. Alvaro Colom is a successful businessman, mostly textiles, who has been in public service as well. Interestingly enough, he is also an ordained Mayan priest.

Otto Perez Molina is a retired general. He is a graduate of the School of the Americas, which you can learn about here: http://www.soaw.org/. During the civil war, he led troops in areas where a scorched earth policy was utilized. However, he was a part of the coup that removed Rios Montt from power and did represent the military in the peace accords that ended the war. Recently, stories have emerged tying him to the famous murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi in 1998. Molina’s campaign is based on the idea of a “firm hand, head and heart”. He was wants to use the military to fight the horrendous crime problem and has stated he will suspend some civil liberties in doing so.

Anyone who knows me can figure out who I hope wins this election but really my opinion is worthless. Guatemalans will decide this extremely important election.

As someone who loves Guatemala and its people dearly I hope that regardless of who ends up president that the democratic transition of power occurs peacefully. I hope for a free and fair election, free of intimidation, violence, or scandal. I hope that the results are clear and that it doesn’t come out too close because unlike what happened here with Bush vs. Gore, it could lead to violence if the result is contested.

So let’s all remember what matters most and say a prayer for the future of Guatemala.

Posted by Kevin at 12:21 PM

October 23, 2007

Susana's Statement on PGN Events

{Submitted by Susana Luarca, ADA}
The PGN is the legal adviser for the State entities. By law, it is required to give an opinion in different kind of proceedings. Adoption is one of them. The PGN must review the legality of the process, and the more thorough the review is, the better it is, because its approval confirms that everything is according to the book. Unfortunately, the legality of the process is in the eyes of the reviewer. The PGN lawyers who review the adoption processes go out of their way to reject as many cases as possible in as long time as they can. There is no limit to the grounds of objection or to the time they can take to release the files.

The morning of October 18th, 2007 I was scheduled to be at the hearings of two children at the court of Escuintla, a city in the south of Guatemala, an hour away. Because the PGN lawyers had another hearing in a different court, that same morning, they requested and obtained from the judge a postponement of the hearings. That could mean a delay of many weeks for those cases. Since the director of the hogar where the children are did not have to travel to Escuintla with me, she took a little girl whose case has been under investigation by the PGN since February. The reason is that the girl has cerebral palsy and instead of expediting her case, so she can have better care with her adoptive family, her file was sent - without any notification to the lawyers of the case – to the Minors section of the PGN. The director of the hogar was told that she should bring along with the girl, a medical certificate of whatever is wrong with the girl. When she arrived at the PGN she was told that the lawyer should be there and that one medical certificate was not enough, that she must bring two medical certificates. The director called me to ask me my opinion. I told her to call the lawyer of the case and reschedule the review of the girl, by the “experts” of the PGN. Since the condition of the girl is very obvious and the medical was issued by Dr. Sydney Hagen, one of the doctors of the embassy I just thought that the PGN was going out of their way to be more difficult than ever. Now I think that they wanted me to be there.

A little bit later, I got another call. It was from the foster mother of an eleven month old baby girl. She told me that the grandparents of the baby were very worried because the birthmother, a 16 year old girl, was taken into a closed room at the PGN, where she was being kept for over an hour and a half. I told her to wait. Some minutes later she called me again to tell me that the parents of the birthmother were told that their daughter did not want to place her daughter for adoption and that both, daughter and granddaughter were being taken to the court of minors. I went to the PGN and talked there to a man and a woman who told me that they had orders to take both minors to the judge. I asked them who gave that order. They did not tell me. I told them that they had that backwards. That they had to denounce and prove to the judge that the underage mother did not want to relinquish her daughter and only if the judge decided that the placement of both of them outside of the family home was in their best interest, and a court order was issued, birth mother and baby could be separated from their relatives. Meanwhile, they had to respect the parental rights of the parents of the under age mother.

With the parents of the birthmother, we went to the office where she was being kept. We found her sitting at the office of a psychologist, who was cutting with scissors the pictures of the teenager with the baby sitting on her lap. When I told her that the parents of the birthmother demanded that she went with them, she waived the hand with the scissors barely an inch from my face. I told her to be careful with those scissors, but she denied having done anything wrong. The girl raised and walked out with her parents, her sister, the foster mother holding the baby, the foster mother’s husband, and a lady friend, towards the entrance. The birth mother and her mother walked out of the building, when the two armed guards of the National Civil Police closed the glass doors and did not let the rest of us to get out. Behind us was the psychologist, waving a two page document, saying that the birthmother did not sign it, and to bring her back. The birthmother and her mother ran away. We were told that we had to call the birth mother to come back to sign that document or we would not be released. I argued that they did not have any right to hold us hostages, that it was kidnapping and that I demanded to talk to whoever gave that order. Since Josefina Arellano is no longer there, I asked to talk to a lawyer named Victor Hugo Mejicanos, who is a lot nicer than her, but I was told that he was not in. Using my cell phone I called a couple of lawyers to let them know that we were kidnapped. Then, I tried to take pictures of our captors with my cell phone but they would hide their faces. Then, a man with a video camera came to film us, so I took his picture and told him to let us out. He also hid his face behind the camera. More than half an hour passed and nobody was taking responsibility of the order to kidnap us. The man continued to film us. I expressly state that I did not insult anybody, that I did not attack verbally or physically anybody and that we were kept prisoners by two armed guards. If I would have done something improper, the PGN would have a video of the whole event to prove it. The people unrelated to the event, who wanted to get out were allowed to leave through another door, because we were the only ones trapped between the glass doors that are normally open and then were locked by one of the guards and the doors that only open with an electronic card that communicate the foyer with the lobby of the PGN building. The time was passing and I decided to try to escape by breaking the lower glass of the door. I did so, with a kick. Then I removed the larger pieces of glass that were still in the frame and got away. When I was free, I realized that my leg was wet. I pulled up the pant I was wearing and found that my right leg was sliced very deeply in a couple places and that several spurts of blood were coming out of it. I begged for help, but nobody came to help me. With my cell phone I called my nephew who is a doctor, telling him to come right away and feeling fainting, I was very grateful when the foster mother brought me a chair to sit on. I made myself a tourniquet with an elastic band that I had in my wrist to help me with a carpal tunnel pain that I have been suffering and then, the firefighters that the foster mother called arrived and did a better tourniquet. While I was being cared for by the paramedics, Mario Gordillo, the Attorney General, and about ten or fifteen men in suites were watching the scene from afar. I asked the AG to get closer and when he did, I asked if he knew that we were being kept hostages. The AG pointing a finger at me, told me that he knew who I was, that I was behind all the problems with the adoptions and that I had it coming. I told him that it was the other way around, that it was him who was creating the problems in order to sell solutions, corrupting the system and that I was going to take care that everybody knows what he is doing. The AG told me to tell the press about it, but did not let the press to get near me or to get a statement from me. I was taken in the ambulance to the Centro Medico Hospital, where I underwent surgery to repair the nerves, arteries, veins and the Achilles tendon that were sliced by the glass. I was fortunate that the best cardiovascular surgeon in town was already scrubbed to operate when I arrived and he and other three surgeons worked diligently for over four hours to repair the damage. I stayed at the hospital until Monday. I appreciate very much the many demonstrations of affection that I received.

At the PGN, when the foster mother went to help me, she gave the baby to her husband. One of the guards snatched the child from the foster dad’s arms. After I was taken away in the ambulance, the foster parents were detained and taken to the court, for their arrest hearing. They called their lawyer and since there was no evidence of any wrongdoing, they were allowed to leave, after many hours of captivity by sheer abuse of power of the authorities who are supposedly there to defend us. Both are sick, because she has a heart condition and he has diabetes.

While we were kept hostages, the birthmother and her mother were waiting for the rest of their family at the corner of the PGN building when a car came out of the PGN garage and stopped near them. Two men came out of the car and tried to take the girl by force to the waiting car. Her resistance and the screams of her mother made the thugs to give up and leave. Later, at the place of some friends where they were staying, the birthmother got a call on her cell phone, from someone of the PGN, telling her that her baby needed her, that if she went back to the PGN she would be given her baby back. Without telling her parents, the birthmother went back, and they took her and the baby to a place run by Casa Alianza, where she was told that she will have to stay there until she is 18 years old and that her baby will be adopted by another family. She told that to her mother, when she called her, crying hysterically, begging her to rescue her and to finalize the adoption, telling her that she never meant to keep the baby anyway. She also said that the place is a jail and that another inmate allowed her to use her cell phone because they took away her own cell phone. I was told all of this by the family of the girl who came to the hospital to see me and bring me a balloon arrangement, wishing me to get well soon. One of the sisters of the birth mother went to the PGN to ask to see her sister. A female lawyer told her that it was not possible, and that they were protecting her and the baby, because “Susana Luarca will kill her if she finds her”. I am piling up all the felonies that those people perpetrated and will file charges against all of them. When I asked why it was that nobody but the foster mother came to help me when I was wounded, I was told by a colleague that it was because the lawyer who runs the section of minors told everybody: “Let her bleed to death, don’t call an ambulance!”.

After reading the concerns of the posters at Guatadopt, I want to thank those of you who expressed concern for my well being. I am better than expected, on my way to recovery. To those who think that I kicked the door out of frustration, must inform you that I did not do it because I was angry or because I was upset. I would not be a lawyer if injustice would not make my blood boil in my veins. Of course I was angry but I did it because I needed to get out, in the same way that someone who is taken away against his will in a car, opens the door and gets out even if the car is going at full speed and knowing that it is dangerous. Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures.

Casa Alianza works hand in hand with UNICEF and with the PGN to advance their common agenda against adoptions. Some days ago I was waiting for a hearing at a Court of Minors when a family who was also waiting, told me their problem. The five teen age children of their alcoholic son were rebellious and keep trying to harm their ants, uncles, cousins and grandparents. They don’t want to keep them, but nobody wants them either. I asked the psychologist of the court why they were not send to Casa Alianza, she said that such institution does not take in any children, and that they just pretend to work in favor of the children, but are actually a school for juvenile delinquents. The people who run Casa Alianza, the Latin American division of Covenant House, have been more concerned in promoting their image to get donations, than in helping the children. At the hearing of the first of Casa Quivira’ children, the directors of Casa Alianza, went to the court to demand that the children were not given back to CQ, along with the directors of the hogars where the children were sent to. The judge told them that they have nothing to say about that case. Casa Alianza, whose by-laws do not mention anything regarding adoptions, and who cannot prove that they have done anything good for the children of Guatemala, is actually a money making industry who cares nothing for the children they claim to help and who would not stop at anything to further their agenda. They knew the sexual orientation of Bruce Harris and what he was doing to the children, but chose to remain silent because he was a good fundraiser. When Bruce Harris accused me of doing illegal adoptions, I sued him for defamation and he had seven long years to prove that I did something wrong. He could not. He had to recruit the help of the international community, to play martyr and change the defamation charges into a “freedom of speech” issue, which is like starting with a soccer game and ending up with a bull fight. The unconditional support of the US ambassador who went to the trial and made very clear his sympathy for the accused, by greeting Bruce Harris with very warm handshake, and turning his back to me, is a stark contrast of the lack of support from the current US ambassador that the CQ families are getting at the hearings of the children that were stolen from their home. The families of those children are US citizens and Bruce Harris is British (born somewhere in Scotland), so the presence of the US ambassador would be more justified at the CQ hearings than it was at Harris’. Casa Alianza is pure evil and the only reason they care about adoptions is because each child that is adopted is one child of the street less, which in turn, means less donations. Another source of income of Casa Alianza is to sue Guatemala before the international courts, for the wrongful deaths of street children.

The anonymous children who have no one to care for them, are duly identified by Casa Alianza, their grieving relatives are efficiently located and lawsuits are filed to get millions for the loss of their beloved ones. One cannot help but to wonder why the children of the street are so quickly identified and their relatives located, and if their deaths are also part of the plan to extract from the Guatemalan government those millionaire indemnifications.

Instead of showing the good that Casa Alianza does, their way of justifying their existence is to point fingers. The case of the son (singular, because the other boy is not his) of Gustavo Tovar is a clear example of the incredible way that Casa Alianza has to twist everything around. Gustavo Tovar abandoned his son with the boy’s mother, who used to leave him all day when he was seven years old, caring for his toddler brother. The older boy had to feed and change the diapers of the little one. The Court of Minors took the children to a hogar because they were left alone all day long and mistreated during the night, by their not loving mother, After a legal battle of the birth mother who could not prove that she could care for them and under the testimony of the older child who told with details the life he lived with such a mother, two judges ruled the children abandoned and ordered the boys to be placed for adoption. Two different families adopted them. The PGN opposed the adoptions and a judge approved them. The boys went to the US a year and a half after they were rescued. Six months later, Casa Alianza located in Mexico Gustavo Tobar and since then, has been using him to attack adoptions. When he went to the newspapers and started accusing me of taking away his son, I brought charges against him. Facing the possibility of spending some time in jail for his false accusations, he recanted and therefore, I have in writing his statement saying that there was nothing illegal about the adoption of his son, who was mistreated by the boy’s mother, apologizing to me and promising not to mention my name with regard to her son’s adoption ever again. But Casa Alianza needs a battle cry and that is why it brought the case to an international court of human rights, knowing very well that the boy will be an adult by the time the case is ruled, but Gustavo will get a nice allowance, which he will share with Casa Alianza as a token of appreciation. It is interesting that the Guatemalan adoption system is distrusted because it lacks “judicial oversight”, but when it has it, like in Tovar’s case, Casa Alianza denounces how bad the system is.

I hope that none of you would be kidnapped. It is the most insulting way of denying your human rights. Some said that I should have waited until the solution came by itself. My father was kidnapped and murdered. I was not going to wait to see what the thugs of the PGN were going to do to us, including the baby. I will press charges against them and if anything happens to me or to my family, Mario Grodillo, Victor Hugo Barrios and especially the lawyer who wanted me to bleed to death will have to answer for it.


God bless you and thanks for your concern,


Susana Luarca

Posted by Kelly at 07:10 AM

October 21, 2007

Susana and PGN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prensa Libre Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Kevin at 04:52 PM

October 17, 2007

Grandfathering in cases....the intent is "official"

President Berger publicly confirmed the intent to grandfather current cases (I assume this means the 3700 cases that are REGISTERED). The Guatemalan press reported this with a statement by Berger:

"I have never said that I want to stop adoptions. What my government wants is full respect for the legislation that is about to be approved and full compliance with the Hague (Convention)" . The Guatemalan Press also reported the following:

Congressman Rolando Morales, one of the proponents of the new legislation, said that the intention with the pending adoptions is a full review to verify the identity of the woman that is relinquishing the rights on the child, that she is the natural mother, and that the child is given for adoption without coercion, and verify that the child was not abducted (stolen babies). Morales also mentioned that the final version of the new Adoption Law which will be published in the following weeks will not affect the almost 3,700 processes in the pipeline.

These changes (even if they delay the process a few days) are in the best interest of everyone in the process, specifically our main concern, the children.

From Guatadopt:
As we have said before, we believe that the instability of the situation and the new law (where the ammendments are still unclear), prompted the Department of State (US) to issue strong warnings.

From our discussions with Guatemalan officials, we are reassured that they are supporting the good faith agreements made with adoptive families.

While legally this is good news, we hold fast that starting the process at this time is risky. In our opinion, there is an increase in unethical practices in order to get an adoption started and "grandfathered". Obviously, these are limited to the unscrupulous providers that have soured adoptions worldwide. We do not know to what extent that further investigations will impact the timelines. While we support the need for these investigations, we hope that the implementation will be appropriate and reasonable.

As a side note: The Guatemalan Embassy has been bombarded with calls and emails. Guatadopt.com would like to request that you ease up a bit. They need to do their jobs as well.

We will update as we know more.

Posted by Kelly at 11:05 AM

October 16, 2007

Conference Reviews coming

OK, Kevin and I just returned from the Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference. It was wonderful to meet several of our posters and to have a chance to get face to face discussions with everyone from UNICEF Guatemala to CQ parents to social workers who have been doing Guatemala home studies. I can't speak for Kevin, but I am BEAT! Kevin and I will be posting a pretty thorough review (each of our perspectives) on the Conference, where we go from here and some ideas that were spawned during the conference.

I also apologize for the calendar pre-ordering delays. We have been trying to get the secure site working properly, but getting some tech assistance after-hours has been impossible. Not to worry, we will be extending the pre-ordering as long as we can but we have no choice but to make it short since we have to place the order soon to make our Christmas goal!!!!

Posted by Kelly at 09:22 PM

October 12, 2007

DHS Statement and Berger - Today's Events

Most of this is old news, already posted in comments on other threads.

So here it is.

1.) DHS CIS has issued a new statement
2.) Will or has Pres. Berger endorsed a grandfather ammendment?

Read on...

New DHS CIS statement:

You can read it here: Download file

So what does this mean? I take it this way. The first paragraph is a stearn warning to agnecies that life will be tough if they keep giving out referals. The second is an equally stearn warning to PAPs not to accept a referal.

CIS is quite upfront about the fact that they are doing this to limit the number of new cases. So far as I know, and please someone correct me if I'm wrong, they already only allow 40 per day. The difference now is that they have to come from 40 different attorneys and be presented by forty, rather than potentially as few as ten, people.

This "initial application" described is what we all know as getting the first DNA test approval.

The statement at the end says to me that after Jan. 1, to get Pink you will PGN (ie the Central Authority) to approve the case. This would be different (or a new part of) PGN releasing the case as is done today. This would be consistent with the wording of the grandfather which says that all cases would still need to be presented to the Central Authority within 30 days. So... Don't anyone expect to be bringing children home at the very beginning of January if what I am reading here is correct. It seems inevitable that it will take some time for these approvals.

Berger Endorsement?

Rumors abound from a number of good sources that Pres. Berger will come out in favor of a grandfather clause. Kudos to him if he does because anything else would just not be fair to the children. Realize that Pres. Berger doesn't have any official say in this matter. The ammendments will be voted on by the Congress.

On the same note, JCICS reports that they are in direct communication with Pres. Berger's office about the current situation. So, it all seems to add up. And with all sincerity, especially after the statements made by VP Stein, I thank Pres. Berger for (potentially) looking beyond hardline positions on this matter and focusing on children who need families no matter what Guatemala's system has been.

JCICS will say more Monday...

On the topic of Monday, please bear with us next week. Kelly and I will be at the ethics in adoption conference and thus away from computers. So if it takes a bit longer than usual to clear comments, deal with it :-)

Posted by Kevin at 10:41 PM

October 05, 2007

Ortega, Ammendments, & Campaigns

UPDATE OCT 8: JCICS has on its website posted the exact wording of the grandfather clause ammendment. They have also shown a modification to UNICEF's formal position, though I think it is still quite week. Come on UNICEF, I know it hurts but why not just come out with everyone else and admit that in-process cases should be completed! Lastly, they have made some modifications to the Guatemala5000 campaign. http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala5000.htm#News

Latest and Greatest:

1.) JCICS is reporting that the Hague permanent bureau is supporting allowing in-process to continue. This is excellent news for in-process families!
2.) The Guatemalan papers are reporting about amendments being offered to the bill and that the executive branch is not happy that the bill will undergo so many changes. The UNE party seems to be the one most supporting significant changes, or at least they are the ones saying that the bill in its current form has many issues.
3.) It does not appear as though the amendments will be voted on before the Nov 4th election. We are hearing it will be on Nov 14th. All parties in Guatemala seem to be agreeing that they must not allow the adoption law to become a campaign issue.

We are getting numerous reports from congress people and others that all the campaigns are being noticed. So keep up the good work!

Here seem to be the primary/active campaign underway.

Focus On Adoption petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/foafoa1/petition.html

Families Without Borders: http://www.familieswithoutborders.com/#updates Note Oct 6: Families Without Borders has updated its site and materials to reflect that Ortega has been passed.

JCICS Guatemala 5000: http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala5000.htm

Casa Quivira Video with Plea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv9hbp_hwQU

5000Orphans Site - lots of great help with contact info, media contactc, etc. : http://www.5000orphans.com/

Posted by Kevin at 01:28 PM

October 03, 2007

Ortega Law Passed

Guatadopt has just learned that the Ortega Law was approved by Congress today on its third reading. Before you panic, it appears as though next week congress will go through a detailed, point by point, reading of it where ammendments can be made. It is our understanding that among proposed ammendments are a gradnfather clause as well as a delayed implementation date.

I have a lot to write on this matter and willl try to do so tonight when my temper is lessened and I have an ice cold Gallo in my hand.

The ADA has explained the events of today on its website and can be found here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/

Updated Oct 3, 11:22 pm - click on more for some commentary from me and a call to action from Hannah Wallace, President of Focus on Adoption

Updated Oct 4: The Focus on Adoption petition is up to almost 25,000 signatures. Please get everyone you can to add their name: PETITION

mis hijos.JPG


I have so many thoughts in my head, yet the exact words don’t seem to come to mind. In part, I am in a state of shock. In part, I am angry. In part, I sadly understand.

I chose to do a rare thing here by posting a picture of my kids. I felt compelled to do so because ultimately this is not about geography, this is not about nationalism, this is not about politics, this is about children. And my kids, like the children of so many of you who will read this, are the face of intercountry adoption from Guatemala.

In reading my thoughts below, understand clearly that I do not support the Ortega Law. Moreso, I do not support the others like it that have brought an end to intercountry adoption in countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru without any documented benefit to children and families. Maybe somehow Guatemala will break the mold and manage to implement a functioning system? While I’m not optimistic, I suppose anything is possible.

I respect the fact that each sovereign country can make its own decisions based on its constitution. We shall soon see what amendments are added to this bill and the form it ultimately takes. And as in 2003, we shall likely see a battle of constitutionality ensue. That’s okay, just as America has to solve its constitutional woes, so must Guatemala.

My main thought right now is really an attempt at being a voice of reason in regard to pipeline cases. I ask anyone reading this to glance at the picture of my beautiful children and realize that there are thousands of living children like them in need of families. And there are families wishing for nothing more than to provide that to those children.

There is no good that come from any suspension of in process cases. Not because of the waiting parents who may never raise a child. Not because of the money that has been injected into the Guatemalan economy. Not because it would be inconsistent with international law and The Hague. But because the victims will be the children

Even if children entered the system over some of the negative auspices often claimed, if their birthmothers relinquished them then they still need families.

It is without disrespect when I state that Guatemala is not prepared to take on responsibility for the care of these children. Building any system and infrastructure takes time. And it is a truth that there are not thousands of Guatemalan families looking to adopt these children.

So with that in mind I respectfully request the Guatemalan Congress to approve amendments to this bill to ensure these children are not penalized for all that has transpired in Guatemalan adoptions. I more forcefully and with an emotion that some might deem disrespect ask that the US Congress, the Department of State, and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute work with the Guatemalan authorities to the same end.

Posted on behalf of Hannah Wallace:
The JCICS initiative called for actions next week. Next week is TOO LATE. Our information about the Ortega Law in Congress was incomplete and we believed that the Adoption Law would not be voted on before the run off on November 4. Now there are TWO THINGS which must be done immediately:

ALL adoptive families in process and their supporters must be notified to contact their congressional representatives on Thursday and Friday (by email, faxed letters and telephone calls) and ask them to urge the Department of State to assure that a grandfather clause is in place which allows every adoption to be completed under the law it started under.

At the same time, Senators and Congressional Reps should be aware that our Department of State has urged the Guatemalan Congress to pass an adoption law which offers no plan for (1) funding adequately (2) child care (3) services to pregnant women and vulnerable children and that the Guatemalan Congress will be discussing amendments on Tuesday Oct.9 -- the DOS should encourage - with the same energy with which they encouraged the passage of this law -- amendments which include a realistic funding plan, child care plan, and prenatal, natal and postnatal services as well as a realistic way for existing child care facilities to be able to care for the children in their care (funding).

Families should call and fax the Department of State directly to urge support for amendments which could make this law more functional, as well as advocate for a grandfather clause and a delayed date for the law taking effect, so that fewer children will be at risk.

Posted by Kevin at 04:16 PM

The Latest - Campaigns, media, and legislative proposals

There is much going on, though not new news. So please click on more to get the latest and greatest as we see it.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 will be airing a segment on Guatemalan adoption tonight. I am very disappointed that they did not contact Guatadopt in order to get an unbiased, objective assessment. The show airs at 10 p.m. est.

We have learned that Josefina Arellano is no longer in her post at PGN. No news on what that means.

Other rumors – no, adoptions were not suspended. Agencies – read things more clearly! We don’t know if Barrios is on vacation. The process seems to be running in its usual slow pace.

Many of you have asked for info on where our old UNICEF halloween camapign are. You can find them here: http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000228.html

As previously reported, the DOS has said they are lobbying for in process cases. The Guatemalan congress website shows that Consul General John Lowell met with Guatemalan officials on Sept 28. in regard to adoption law: http://www.congreso.gob.gt/gt/ver_noticia.asp?id=4266

As I have stated since DOS made its original announcement, even the pessimistic, anti-authoritarian Kevin can’t imagine either the Guatemalan authorities or DOS officials sitting by and allowing so many children to suffer by suspending in-process adoptions. So please, don’t make a liar and participate in the various campaigns to save in process adoptions. With that in mind, be sure to be a part of JCICS’s Guatemala 5000 Initiative: http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala5000.htm. I have been critical of JCICS in the past but I want to support this well coordinated effort. Now is a time to be united in one thing – that a suspension of in-process cases would be disastrous.

While you are planning your letters and talking points for the Guatemala 5000 Initiative, you should decide whether you wish to address legislation before Guatemala’s congress at the same time. As a US citizen, I am reluctant to endorse specific legislation. But I will say this. Ortega (3217) would be a travesty. Guatemala’s system would suffer the same fate as so many others before it. If the DOS is going to be lobbying for any specific piece of legislation, meddling in Guatemala’s affairs, then it should NOT be Ortega. Bill 3635 contains many improvements over the current system. If implemented and enforced, it would make Guatemala a benchmark for other countries. Of course, Guatemala’s current system, if legally enforced, does the same. Since UNICEF and the Hague seem to be more concerned about laws meeting “international standards” than they do about the impact of those laws on children, 3635 does achieve that goal.

Focus on Adoption has officially endorsed 3635. You can read their paper on it here: Download file
The first couple of pages are an great intro in case you haven’t time to read the whole thing. Of course, we all need to be experts so you should read the whole thing.

I'll end with one last thought. The adults of influence all need to get off of their relative positions and start thinking about children's best interests. It is time for all "established positions" to be thrown out the window and for a new day to be born in the world of intercountry adoption. It is time for politicians to remember that their job is really to do what is right, rather than to do what is politically relevant. It is time for NGOs and international organizations to re-think what they have created. Things like the Hague and the CRC were created with the best of intentions. But until things go into force, no one can predict what they will actually cause. In the case of ICA, they have been a failure in many ways. So please, everyone, throw away your weapons and let's all act like adults, look at the goods and bads of Guatemalan adoptions, and develop a system that EVERYONE can be proud of. The opportnity is here, if only the right voices can be heard.


Posted by Kevin at 11:57 AM

September 25, 2007

New DOS Statement - Brace Yourselves

The US Embassy has issued what I will deem a very frightening statement. I will say that I have herd rumors of cases getting streamlined to clear the pipes cleared before Jan 1. In addition, this is all quite iffy and subject to change.

But I would take this as a serious warning to anyone considering starting a process right now.

I take one more thing from this and that is the DOS is stating that it does not have plans to stand by its citizens who have entered into good faith, legal process. In short, I find this "hands off" statement appalling. I am sure there will be more on this in the weeks to come as we learn more and strategize on what may need to be done.

Here is the statement: http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_389.html


Added 9:52 pm Tues 9/25 - click on more for my commentary, a response from Focus on Adoption, and a translation of an article on the Ortega Law that appeared to day in the Prensa Libre. It is worth noting since Guatemala faces a presidential election in a couple weeks that The Patriot Party, whose cadidate is Otto Perez, is suporting this legislation. The UNE (National Unity of Hope) party of candidate Alvaro Colom is much more tentative. Colom already had my support for reasons unrelated to adoption, now he may have it for adoption related reasons as well (which is not to say he "supports" adoption). Thanks to Chris Huber of Families Thru International Adoption for translating it.

A response from ADA can be found here: http://www.adaguatemala.org/English/news/ It has also been posted at the end of the main post.

Added Thurs 9/2: JCICS and NCFA have issued a press release. It can be found here: In addition, at the end of this now very long thread you can find the message they sent out to their agency members urging them to stop issuing referals as of Oct. 1.

Today was a very hectic day of meetings for me in the office. As such, I apologize for the short original post and the fact that it took quite some time to clear comments. That's unfortunately the real world where Kelly and I both have real jobs that feed our families and have to take precendence.

First of all, I am nothing short of appalled at what the DOS has stated. As you will read below in the FOA response, it is not only inconsistent with the Hague, it is also pathetic, cowardly, and immensely insensative to the thousands of in-process families. Granted, as has been stated many times, Guatemala is a sovereign nation and can do as it pleases. But this is also a matter of international affairs and our US government has the duty to defend its citizens. Moreso, ours is a reprentative government and I dare someone to show me how this statement in any way shows an executive branch dedicated to the principle "of the people, by the people, for the people".

I believe VERY strongly that this is political pandering designed primarily to prevent new parents from entering the system. In the end, and this is solely my OPINION, I do not believe that our government will sit around and allow thousands of in process adoptions, entered into in good faith, be disrupted to the detriment of living children in need of permanency and the checkbooks of US citizens. You damn well better believe that if Guatemala or any other country attempted to end good faith contracts on any corporate interest in this manner, there would be hell to pay. I'll point to Cuba after Castro took power, Iran's nationalization of oil industries, and Guatemala's purchase of lands from United Fruit as examples. Except in this case there is zero doubt in my mind that the matter could be handled through simple diplomacy rather than a Bay of Pigs, overthrow of Moussadeq, or genocidal 36 year civil war.

I do not believe this is all coming from the Guatemalan side with the US not raising a fuss. I believe that for some time our DOS, in what I consider its usual non-transparent, dishonest fashion, has not been upfront with the adoption community about its intentions. Instead of having some courage and acting on its own to just do what they ultimately want - to shut down Guatemalan adoptions - they have chosen to issue a series of prolific warnings and statements. Instead of actually prosecuting those who have broken laws, they have accepted plea bargains and not gone after others with vigor and determination. And now they issued a statement like this as yet another way to commit emotional terrorism on its own citizens. I don't think Guatemala on its volition plans to end in-process adoptions, I think the US is orchestrating this in its stereotypical fashion. And in addition, I don't think things will come down as described. I think in process cases will be completed and believe that the US would be better serving its citizens if it just issued a moratorium on new cases if that is what they ultimately want to happen.

I, of course, could be wrong. Moreso, it may take all of us to use our combined effort on an orchestrated campaign to prove me right. Formal plans are in the works for an official campaign and FOA has a call to action below. I did say not to freak out yet because as is being proved in Myanmar right now, as was proven by MLK and Gandhi before us, and as is chanted at many protests - "there ain't no power like the power of the people". We may need to fight. We may need to protest. We may need to threaten (non-violent of course!) all of our elected officials, many of whom are already in campaign mode . But IF somehow the DOS believes that they can just issue a "screw you" statement like this and get away with it, the solidarity of our adoptive community may need to bond together like never before to prove otherwise.

Lastly, since I know DOS reads this site - BUST THE SCUMBAGS, DEFEND CHILDREN, AND DON'T MAKE IT OUT AS IF YOU HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY TO YOUR CITIZENS!

Statement from Focus on Adoption:


Focus On Adoption Deplores DOS's position on Guatemalan Adoptions

Today, September 25, 2007, DOS announced several reasons why prospective adoptive families should not commence an adoption from Guatemala. Not least among them was the purported intention by unnamed Guatemalan officials that the Guatemalan government intends to ignore the clear requirements of the Convention and intends to disallow in-process cases from proceeding under existing law.

Any first year law student can read the Convention and immediately grasp why this "information" is, at best, misguided and, more likely, part of the consistent pattern of the existing (and soon-to-depart) Guatemalan administration's open hostility to constitutionally protected notarial adoptions in Guatemala. DOS is keenly aware of the provisions of article 46 of the Convention and is therefore likewise fully aware that this so-called "plan" is fundamentally at odds with the processes required by the Convention for its applicability. Yet, rather than identify and challenge the patent inconsistency and illegality of the "plan," and in lieu of consulting with the agencies that are left to manage the panic the warning will inevitably produce, DOS instead chose to publish this "plan" as part of a "warning." Why?

In issuing this warning, DOS, the "Central Authority" of the United States, has acted wholly contrary to the interests of U.S. adopting families. DOS should not be "warning" of this plan; DOS should be resisting this plan. American families who are already in process have the right to expect their government to do everything within its power to protect and preserve their rights as reflected in the Convention that the U.S. has been working toward implementing for over 15 years now. DOS's assertion that it is "working closely" with others "to support Guatemala's transition to meeting its obligations under the Hague Convention" is belied by the utter failure of its "warning" to announce U.S. resistance to a "plan" the implementation of which would be in clear violation of the Convention and would directly affect thousands of American families. Why?

Indeed there are changes happening in Guatemalan adoption. Currently, there are two bills pending in the Guatemalan Congress that would bring Hague compliance to Guatemalan adoptions. One, Bill 3635, would retain much of the current architecture, including many salutary features, of the Guatemalan adoption process, while bringing needed reform to parts of the process that all agree should be reformed. Another, the so-called "Ortega law," would render intercountry adoption theoretically possible but practically impossible. The mysterious "plan" that DOS warns of is fundamentally inconsistent with the Guatemalan Constitution, as it is only the Congress who can pass legislation and determine when and how this legislation will take effect. So far the Guatemalan Congress has NOT passed either proposal into law. However, it is a matter of interest to child advocates that DOS and the Hague are strongly promoting the Ortega Law, # 3217 and the Guatemalan congress is reporting on great international pressure to pass a law which includes no funding plan or possibility of practical implementation. Yet, DOS fails to so state. Why?
FOA challenges all adopting parents to flood the U.S. Government, in all its various forms, with questions for our "Central Authority" – Why? Why? Why? Why is DOS ignoring the clear requirements of the Convention? Why is DOS failing to protect the interests of Americans who have undertaken a process in good faith? Why is DOS failing its mandate under the Convention to ensure that adoptions proceed expeditiously and according to the terms of existing law? Why is DOS supporting passage of a law which will hinder adoptions and place children in jeopardy?

Please write to your two U.S. Senators, your U.S. Congressperson, the President of the United States, and directly to DOS. Hold DOS accountable.
You can find your US Senators and Representatives at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/
You can write to DOS at: Main address:
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Main Switchboard:
202-647-4000
TTY:1-800-877-8339 (Federal Relay Service)

Article from Prensa Libre

Adoption Law Ready

Parties agree to approve it with amendments but have not yet set a date.
By: Ana Lucía Blas

The amendments to the adoption law initiative were pacted yesterday in the Commission on Minors and the family of the congress and now should be included in the agenda of sessions so that this law will be approved before the 30th of next November as required by the application of the Hague Convention on this subject.

Rolando Morales, president of this working group, referred yesterday that they had already given their support to the law project and its amendments so that now they are only waiting for it to be programmed to discuss it in the third debate before the full body.

In this way, it would adequate the content of the Hague Convention on International Adoption to the legislation and it would facilitate putting it in practice starting next January.

Among the proposals presented by said commission, there would be created the National Counsel of Adoptions as the director of these processes, which would temporarily be assigned to the PGN and formed by the Secretary of Social Welfare, a representative of the Supreme Court of Justice, a member of congress and a member of the National Commission for Youth and Adolescents.

It was agreed that at the beginning it would be assigned to the PGN because they foresee that it will be difficult to assign resources for it to function as an autonomous entity from 2008. "We do not know not even how much money might be needed for which reason we decided that it will have to wait some time to become independent" explained Morales.

In the original initiative, that was stalled after the second reading in September of 2005, it designated the PGN as the only director of the adoption which generated divisions from various sectors including the Executive, that last July named, by a Governmental Accord, the Secretary of Social Welfare as being in charge of regulation the adoption processes.

Also in July, representatives of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, suggested that in order to avoid dissents, in the law, they should designate no just one institution but rather all who are involved in the process relatated to adoptions.

The Hague Convention, ratified by the congress last May, requires a directing body be defined to coordinate and approve all of the processes in this material.

REQUIREMENTS for ADOPTING

If the law is approved, persons interested in adoption a child would have to request it from the CNA. Once their petition is registered and they meet the requirements, the adoptive family could go to a notary to formalize the process.

A judge of Children and Adolescents would certify that the minor is adoptable before the procedures are authorized for it. The directing entity will decide if the petitioning family is suitable for the child, in accord with the best interests of the child, his right to a cultural identity, physical, medical, social-economic, psychological and other aspects.

The adoptive family and the child will have no less than 5 working days to live together and socialize while the adoption is approved. At the end of this period, a multidisciplinary team will emit an empathy report or quality of relationship established between the parents and the child.

With this, the goal is to avoid that adoptions be converted into a business which until now has generated the theft and sale of children. According to data from the Procuraduría of Human Rights, 203 minors where stolen this year by mafias in order to give them in adoption.

In 2006 there were 4496 adoptions in this country according to the PGN. Ninety eight percent were international, the majority process for US couples.

AWARE OF THE URGENCY

The majority of parties with a high representation in the congress are aware that it is urgent to approve an adoption law before the legislative period ends the 30th of November. "It cannot wait any longer" affirmed Francisco Barquín of the Patriot Party and member of the Commission of the Minor.

Another member of this commission, Conrado Garcia of the National Unity of Hope, agrees that it is necessary to regulate "such a noble action as adoption". Never the less this party has not decided if it would support the creation of the CNA.

Virna Lopez of the Great National Alliance, would support the Counsel and referred that she hopes that the law will be approved without holdups as soon as possible.

POSITIONS

INCOROPORATE RECOMMENDATIONS

Virma Lopez of the GANA party, commented yesterday that the amendments to the adoption law initiative had already incorporated the recommendations from the experts on the subject from the Hague for which it is hoped that the norm will be approved without problems.

IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO ANALYZE

Eduardo Meyer of the UNE party said that in order to know if they will support the opinion of the Commission on the Minor, first they will analyze the modifications together with the other members of their party even though their representative on the Commission had already pronounced his position.

MEMBERS OF THE PP WILL SUPPORT IT

Gudy Rivera of the PP party, referred that the law is need because many people make money with the adoptions. He added that first they will socialize the amendments in their party and if all goes well, it will be able to be approved before this legislative period concludes.

REQUIREMENTS

The norm will fix the conditions to process adoptions.

A judge of Children and Adolescents must declare that the minor can be the subject of adoption.

The National Counsel of Adoptions, the controlling authority on the material, will approve the adoption after having confirmed the empathy of the minor with the adoptive family.

It must also be watched out so that the adoption responds to the best interest of the child which will be taken into account for physical, medical, social-economic, and psychological aspects among others, both for the minor as well as for the possible adoptive parents.

It must guarantee the right of the minor to a cultural identity.

Until now, it is the notaries and attorneys who process adoptions.

In 2006 there were 4496 adoptions in the country, the majority of them processed for US couples.

ADA Response posted with the permission of Susana Luarca

THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE US AND GUATEMALA AGAINST THE CHILDREN
Today, the US Department of State announced a new warning, urging the American citizens not to commence an adoption process from Guatemala at this time, because - they say - fundamental changes in both countries will take place within the next six months.

According to the DOS warning "Guatemala has stated that it will become a Hague Convention country on January 1, 2008". The DOS also says that Guatemala will no longer do adoptions with non Hague countries, and since the US is not a Hague Convention member, it will stop doing adoptions to the US, until it ratifies the Hague Convention. When the US ratifies the Hague Convention, - projected to occur in the spring of 2008 - there may be a period of time during which we will not be able to approve adoptions from Guatemala, until Guatemala’s adoptions process provide the protection for children and families required by the Hague Adoption Convention.

In 2003, when the PGN as Central Authority for the Hague Convention, paralyzed adoptions arguing that they did not comply with the Hague Convention, and the US did not do anything to prevent it, we urged the US to assert their Third Country Status, - as stated by the Vienna Convention - to remove from the scope of the Hague Convention the adoptions done by American citizens. The US DOS did not do it. It was in Guatemala, the Court of Amparo who ruled that not being the US a party to the Hague Convention, it should not be applied to the adoptions being done by citizens of that country. The PGN refused to obey the ruling of the Amparo Court and just because at that time the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional the approval of Congress to the Hague Convention, that we did not proceed to press criminal charges against the PGN officers. The DOS did nothing then to help the American citizens whose adoptions were caught in the middle of the arbitrary and useless paralyzation of adoptions by the PGN.

The Hague Convention will not come into effect on January 1st., because that day is just when the approval of Congress to such convention becomes effective. The approval of Congress cannot by itself, make Guatemala a party to the Convention. The very same Hague Convention says that a country becomes a party the first day of the following month after a period of three months after the Secretary of The Hague Conference receives the document of accession or ratification. The document of accession sent by the Guatemalan president in November, 2002 cannot have effects internally in Guatemala, because the approval of the Congress to the Hague Convention in 2002 was ruled unconstitutional and therefore, such accession is null and void and cannot produce any effects in Guatemala. The US and the Guatemalan authorities know it, and that is why they forced the Congress to approve again the Hague Convention. If Guatemala would be bound by such convention, there would not have been necessary to violate again our Constitution, to become a party to the Hague Convention.

The US has been putting enormous pressure over the Guatemalan Congress to pass a proposal of adoption law known as the Ortega Law (Bill 3217), which eliminates the private care of the children, the right of the birthparents to relinquish their children or to choose who can adopt them, the notarial and judicial process of adoptions, limiting the intervention of the judge, to just ratify the administrative approval of the adoption. The appointment of the PGN as Central Authority is proven beyond any doubt that is a recipe for disaster. The role that would be played by the Secretariat of Social Welfare of the Presidency is mostly, to oversee what the private hogars would do, ignoring the fact that if they cannot charge for their services (undue benefits), not very many hogars will remain open to care for the children that no longer would be adopted. According to the UNICEF delegate, such entity will not provide anything for the children either, because the needy children are the problem of the local government, and all UNICEF cares about is that Guatemala passes laws that please the international community, according to the treaties that Guatemala is a party to.

We still have three months ahead of us to make our governments quit this game of "If you are Hague, I am Not and If I become Hague, You won’t". We used to oppose the Hague Convention because we thought that far from protecting the children and the families, it was a sand trap, where adoptions got stuck in every single country where it has been implemented. But something made us change our minds. When we read the proposal 3635, we were amazed at the way the Guatemalan Congress has found the way to implement the Hague Convention and at the same time, to keep the good features of the current system. There is a way for a country to keep adoptions open and be Hague compliant at the same time: it is with proposal 3635. But it has been ignored thus far by the US DOS, the Hague Conference and the Committee for the Child and the Family of Congress. Such proposal needs only ten million quetzals to be implemented, because the money to keep it working would come out of the processing fees of the adoptions, and the accrediting fees. The work would be done by accredited bodies and the Central Authority would be an autonomous entity, formed by delegates of the presidency (SBS and PGN), of the Judiciary, of the Congress, of the Bar Association, of the Medical Association and of the Procuraduria of Human Rights. This proposal, unlike the proposal 3217, establishes that the part of the law regarding the organization of the Central Authority, would become effective immediately, and the rest of it, six months later, to give time to the Central Authority to get organized. Also, it states that the processes of adoption started before the second part of the law becomes effective, would be finalized according to the current system as well as those processes where the authorization by the receiving country was granted before the coming into effect of the second part of the law. The Central Authority in this proposal would have the following departments: of accreditation of the different entities who would perform different tasks of the adoption proces; of orientation of the birth parents; of supervision of adoptions; of supervision of child care; of finances; and information. Those departments give the Central Authority the tools to delegate part of their functions and at the same time, to retain enough power to really supervise and oversee the processes, the children and the people who either want to adopt, or collaborate with the adoption.

The Ortega Law, besides being a maze, difficult to understand and to apply, does not have the resources to be implemented and continue working, and after depriving the private orphanages of any income, it does not clarify who will support the children who no longer be adopted. The grandfather clause tht used to be in former versions of the proposal, was eliminated in the last one. According to this ls version, the children must be presnted to Bienestar Social and after an abandonment process is finalized before a judge of the childhood and adolescence, Bienestar Social would choose the right family for each child. The law does not mention who will support the children during the years that it would take to to rule them abandoned and to exahust the possibility of placing them with the extended family or with a national family, in order to allow them to be adopted by foerign couples.

There is a way to become Hague compliant in a seamless way: the proposal 3635. To become Hague compliant just to prevent the children from being adopted, in order to stop the adoption professionals to make a profit out of the adoption, is like having a house on fire and locking the doors and windows to prevent anyone from leaving the house, because they could be mugged in the street. To protect the triad in the adoption process, the law has to be clear, easy to comply with and easy to supervise. Anything else is just a front to close down adoptions.

We are poised to file as many legal resources as necessary to prevent the Ortega Law from keeping the children to join the permanent families who are waiting for them and will do everything that is necessary to make the President understand that he has to send a new instrument of accession for the Hague to become effective. We urge you to what it takes to persuade your government to stop blaming the Guatemalan government for not being able to properly implementing the Hague Convention and at the same time, blocking any attempts at passing implementing legislation that could mean the difference between life and death for the children of Guatemala.

Message from Tom DiFilipo, President of JCICS to its members issued 9/27:

Dear Colleagues,

Based on dialogue with stakeholders in Guatemala intercountry adoption, including the Guatemalan government, the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, adoption service providers, and Guatemalan attorneys, and with the support of the Joint Council Guatemala Caucus Co-chairs, the following represents Joint Council’s understanding of recent events, assessment of their impact, and immediate recommendations.

Recommendation and Call To Action

It is Joint Council’s strongest recommendation that all adoption service providers cease issuing referrals effective Monday October 1 2007. Similarly, it is our strongest recommendation that potential adoptive parents not accept any referrals issued by service providers choosing to ignore this recommendation.

Our recommendation is based on the recent announcement by the Berger administration, as reported by the U.S. Department of State. The Berger announcement clearly indicates that all intercountry adoption with the U.S. will be suspended January 1 2008.

We also strongly recommend that all potential adoptive parents and all adoption service providers join in the Joint Council effort in asking the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Congress to issue formal letters to the Guatemala government requesting that all pending adoption cases be processed through to completion under the existing process and law.

Announcement by Berger Administration

According to the U.S. Department of State, during a meeting of the international community sponsored by the Hague Permanent Bureau, the Berger administration announced the following:

* As of January 1 2008, (the date the Hague Convention goes into force in Guatemala), all adoption cases must meet Hague standards. This includes all pending (in-process) adoptions including those filed prior to January 1 2008.
* As of January 1 2008, Guatemala will not process adoptions for non-Hague countries including the U.S.

Assessment

Given that Guatemala does not currently have a functioning Hague process and the Hague Convention will not be in force for the U.S. on January 1 2008, implementation of the announcement by the Berger administration will bring all intercountry adoptions to a halt. Adoptions in process will be required to register under a new process which has yet to be identified or implemented. Should a Hague compliant system be in place on January 1 2008, the U.S. will not be a full Hague country until April 1 2008 or later and would not be permitted to participate in intercountry adoption until such time as the Hague Convention goes into force. This clearly indicates that a best case scenario is a resumption of adoptions in April 2008 through a process with unknown procedures or time-line.

In assessing the Berger announcement and its impact, Joint Council has considered the legislation pending before the Guatemalan Congress, the national elections, legal challenges and possible extension of the Hague effective date for Guatemala. We also considered the constitutionality of the President Berger’s planned actions and subsequent legal challenges. With none of these factors significantly altering our assessment, Joint Council remains confident in the prudence of our recommendation. Given the circumstances, we strongly believe that the suspension of referrals is in the best interest of children and potential adoptive parents.

There exist specific mitigating factors which could possibly preclude the suspension of adoptions. These include the possible push back of the date the Convention goes into force in Guatemala from January 1 to April 1 2008. It is also possible that one of the two pieces of legislation currently before the Guatemalan Congress will be passed prior to December 31 2007. Additionally challenges to the legal premise upon which the Berger suspension is based. Joint Council continues to strongly advocate and remains actively engaged in efforts to push the effective date to April 1 2008 and to pass Hague compliant legislation. If events occur that significantly alter our current assessment, we will revise this recommendation immediately. Until such time however, our current recommendation and Call to Action stand.

We again call on all adoption service providers and potential adoptive parents to join us in our call for a ‘grandfather’ clause covering all adoptions currently in process.

Best Wishes,

Tom


Posted by Kevin at 01:02 PM

September 09, 2007

Election Day

Today is election day in Guatemala. While we often don't agree with its government, Guatadopt has a deep love and concern for the the country and its people. So here's a wish for a safe, calm, peaceful, and transparent election. It is hard for we Amerricans to understand what an accomplishment it is for Guatemalan citizens to be able to vote for their leaders and for that to be done in an environment free of intimidation and corruption. Not saying things are likely perfect in their system, just as they are not with ours. But the country has come a long way since the 1980s and here's hoping that continues.

Of more interest today than the presidential election, which will almost certainly come down to a Nov. run off between Alvaro Colom and Otto Perez Molina, is what happens in the congressional races. But whomever ends up in power, we sincerely hope that they focus the country's energies on ending corruption of all sorts, keeping the peace, and working to end the extreme poverty that plagues this beautiful, asset rich nation. I once met a guy in Antigua who was there learning Spanish after having spent three years with the Peace Corps in Africa. He told me that the poverty in Guatemala was more troublesome to him than that in Africa. He stated that "Africa is a desert with draught and few natural resources. But Guatemala is like the Garden of Eden. There's no reason why people should go hungry" (sorry if I mangled your exact words Steve). So my hope for Guatemala is that its new leaders work to address the basic inequities that exist so that all its people can enjoy the riches god blessed it with.

Peace!

Posted by Kevin at 09:00 AM

September 07, 2007

Should Agencies Close Their Guat Programs?

A debate is underway among adoption professionals following an e-mail/notice issued by JCICS that essentially urges agencies to consider closing their Guatemala Programs. Without offering any opinions on this, I think everyone interested in Guatemalan adoptions should read it

First you will the notice from JCICS, followed by a reply from Hannah Wallace. Added 11:20 p.m. Friday: A response from the ADA (also posted on their website) has been added.

Please don't ask Kelly or myself the question of "what should we do". In all honesty, we have no answer or great insight. In addition, we are just adoptives parents who care a lot about children in Guatemala, their bioloigcal mothers, and the families who adopt them. These are such important, stressful life changing decisions that offering advice in any direction is quite frankly more responsibility than we can bear on our shoulders.

Statement from Tom DiFilipo, President of JCICS (Joint Council on International Children’s Services)
Dear Colleagues,

The right to permanency through intercountry adoption continues to be
challenged by a variety of factors in Guatemala. Hague
implementation, competing legislative initiatives, nation wide
elections, government raids on social service providers, negative
press, ethics concerns and pressure from the international community,
all give the immediate future of ICA in Guatemala a very unstable and
uncertain platform. Given the increasing uncertainties and in
assessing the current and future environment within the Guatemalan
adoption arena, Joint Council again strongly recommends that all
adoption service providers reassess their programming efforts within
the following context.

1. The Guatemalan Congress reaffirmed the Hague Convention
with an effective date of January 1, 2008.

2. The Berger administration continues to demonstrate a desire
to significantly alter or eliminate intercountry adoption; most
recently demonstrated through the raid on Casa Quivira.

3. The Berger administration leaves office on January 14,
2008, 13 days after the Hague Convention goes into force in Guatemala.

4. Based on the aggressive posture demonstrated by the Berger
administration and the 13 day window, the possibility exists that the
Berger administration may attempt to alter the ICA process.

5. The Guatemalan congress is currently reviewing adoption
legislation, most specifically 3217 (with the changes recommended
through the technical assistance provided by the Hague Permanent
Bureau and other governments such as Colombia). Passage of this
legislation, while not assured, would nonetheless significantly
alter the current ICA process. Current cases in the Guatemalan
process may or may not be "grandfathered" and it remains an uncertain
issue.

6. While the `grandfather' clause in the US IAA does provide
for the completion of `pipeline' cases, it does not provide any
protection against significant changes to the Guatemalan ICA
process.

7. Client families who have applied with USCIS can have their
cases transferred to another country program. The significant risks
to agencies, families and children begin when the referral is made
and accepted.

It can be noted that current efforts include amendments to both 3536
and 3217 providing for a continuation of the current ICA process
(a `grandfather clause'); however this assumes that either piece of
legislation is actually passed by Congress. It can also be noted
that separate legislation could be introduced which would extend the
effective date of the Hague Convention for a specific period of time
(i.e. 30-90 days).

In assessing this information, one can easily draw the conclusion
that the Guatemalan ICA process will be significantly altered as
early as January 2008 and no later than March 2008. Assuming that
most adoptions from referral to finalization can easily exceed 6
months and in some cases extend over 12 months, it can be concluded
that referrals issued in the third and fourth quarters of 2007 may
face a very uncertain conclusion.

Of significant concern is the potential for unresolved pipeline
cases. USCIS reports no slow down in new applications. Through
July, I-600A applications continue at over 400 per month with most
being identified with a small percentage of agencies. It is not
outside the realm of possibilities that should this pace continue,
over 2,000 cases may be unable to proceed to completion. This leads
to yet another concern related to an adoption service provider's
capacity to sustain services to children and adoptive parents over a
prolonged period which may include legal challenges.

It is the recommendation of Joint Council that all agencies again
reassess their programming and take the appropriate action to
minimize your organizational liabilities, to avoid the problems seen
in Cambodia, Romania and recently in Nepal and most importantly to
safeguard the best interest of client-families, birthparents and the
children we serve.

In a related matter, Joint Council, with the cooperation and support
of the Joint Council Guatemala Caucus, issued a letter to President
Berger regarding our significant concerns over the recent raid of
Casa Quivira. Joint Council called for an immediate halt to such
raids, a transparent accounting of all children and the prompt
resolution of each case."

Response from Hannah Wallace, President of Focus on Adoption and Director of Adoptions International in Philadelphia

I've struggled with a response to the recent posting re; Guatemala. On first reading, it is presenting a seemingly responsible and realistic course of action to the challenges facing us in Guatemala. And there is no doubt that the Berger government has stated intentions since last October to dramatically change adoption processing by planning to implement "executive orders" for the past year. Last September, the Embassy told the JCICS task force that the First Lady would be announcing her Protocol of Good Practices on October 1. There were alleged stated intentions from the President's office that this Protocol would be implemented by "Executive Order". In March, the Vice President announced the "Manual of Good Practices" in a public ceremony (which had been cancelled 2 or 3 times), and the government announced intentions to
implement the Manual in the near future, creating uncertainty about what impact that would have on processing.

In the meantime, there have been continued efforts on the part of JCICS, FOA, and the ADA and Instituto in Guatemala to develop Hague compliant legislation which would address the spirit and tenets of the Treaty and continue functional adoption services to the children who need them. Essentially, the two proposals which are before the Congress (Bill #3217, known as the Ortega Law which has been the law approved by Unicef and the Executive Branch, and gives the government greater control of the adoption process and Bill # 3635 which was developed more recently by Congressional advisers and maintains a balance of private accredited services and government oversight) reflects the real schism which exists in Guatemala and the polarization which has increasingly marked any attempt to come to agreement between the varying interest groups, all who purport to be working towards the best interests of the child.

However, while Tom is describing the very real power struggle which is going on and the possibility that the Berger government (the Executive Branch) will - in fact - do what they have threatened to do since last September, I don't think that he is fully pointing out how far the government (executive branch) has diverged from the rule of Law, most notably in their raid upon a respected Children's Home in the name of laws which don't exist or are being interpreted by the executive branch in a way that is far removed from their legal intentions when they were passed by Congress. And by taking the course that's been suggested by the DOS since March - not referring any more children from Guatemala -- how much this contributes to further destabilizing the system, and furthers the executive branch's agenda to get laws and policies in place which many adoption supporters think would spell the end to ICA to a great degree in Guatemala, thereby depriving the children of one of the few realistic opportunities to survive or grow to their full human potential. As well, it puts in the hands of the government the entire child care system which has been privately supported with NO government support. Many believe - and this is my belief - that this would bring on a child welfare crisis of dire proportions (similar to what has happened in many other Latin countries who under similar laws have almost no adoption services).

I have great disappointment in how the DOS has managed this significant issue as one of its first actions in implementing the Hague Treaty in the U.S. and dealing with the various issues of sending countries (mainly developing countries with various critical child welfare issues). Rather than taking the lead in bringing a new vision to the Treaty,(as was anticipated by the original participants from the U.S.) we apparently have joined with the Hague officials, who are heavily influenced by Unicef and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, who have a prevailing interest in abstract Child's Rights and seemingly little concern for the practical impact on the children they intend to protect. (Officials from the Hague, when confronted with the adoption statistics
over the past 12 years have stated: "The success of the Hague Treaty cannot be measured by the numbers of adoptions a country does." When asked what it can be measured by, the answer is usually something like : "Maintaining international standards". There has been NO accountability for what has happened to the children who "may" have been adopted, who are now in underfunded institutions, living on the streets, perhaps increasing slightly the high child mortality statistics already prevailing in these countries. There is little evidence of increased services to children and families in lieu of adoption services. The Hague officials have no budget to actually "police" the results of this treaty. And now, in Guatemala, the Hague officials and the DOS have all joined to "tweak" the Ortega Bill and are putting great pressure on the Guatemalan congress to pass this bill. They are virtually IGNORING bill # 3635.

How has DOS contributed to the instability in Guatemala? On March 15, the DOS published its FAQ which was meant to discourage adoptive families from adopting from Guatemala, by using recent information about scandalous and corrupt practices as reason to condemn the entire system. They also joined with the Guatemalan Executive Branch in demonizing the attorneys and marginalizing and ignoring all of the creative and practical suggestions which came from the attorneys (and many agencies). Several times, spokespersons for DOS have stated that the intention was to "hurt the attorneys in their pocketbooks" so that they would not "resist" the Hague. However, the attorneys have come a long way towards making peace with the Hague, but they ARE resisting the Ortega Law or variations of such which deprivatize the system, without any realistic way of replicating the current services available in the current system. Bill # 3635 actually provides a way for those ser vices to be continued and become more consistent, under government oversight through regulation and accreditation ... but the powers that be don't like this model, even though we have such a model in the U.S. Discouraging people from adopting from a country and undermining the current system for Agencies as well as attorneys is not mindful of the needs of the children in the system or coming into the system. As agencies we've had the moral struggle to soldier on for the sake of the children,or to just give up and move on to another country. (I personally believe that by doing the "politically correct" thing as suggested by DOS, we are failing in our responsibility to the children and in our responsibility to BEAR WITNESS and to support those in Guatemala who are laboring for a better system, though they;ve been disparaged and labelled as just reflecting 'self interest" and being "anti Hague".

In a few days, Focus On Adoption will come out with a position paper on bill #3635, which Hague experts have evaluated and find to be substantially Hague compliant. It's unfortunate that as soon as the pro adoption community in Guatemala started to support Bill #3635, the government came out against it and called it the "lawyers proposal". Supporters of the Bill consider it to retain the best of the Guatemalan adoption system and improve it through regulation, acceditation and accountability, while addressing the need for transparency. Its difference with other Hague compliant legislation is that it could be "workable", providing for accessibility to the system for those who need it. It does maintain the Notarial process and does not give full governmental control. All of the Latin American governments want to control the adoption process... but once they have that control, we can see what they have done with it.... under 20 adoptions a year, lengthy and bureaucratic procedures, because of lack of funding and infrastructure. However, this Bill has been virtually ignored by DOS, the officials at the Hague, and there has been an active campaign to discourage Guatemalan congressional support.

Finally, I want to state some legal realities about the current and future situation:

1. If the Executive Branch attempts to implement "emergency procedures" which go against the current law, the Congress and Lawyers will each have recourse to Constitutional and Legal remedies. By withdrawing and alloowing the Executive Branch to run over the law is, in my opinion, something that we should resist as undemocratic in what is supposed to be a democratic country. What is DOS' position in regard to this?

2. There is NO precedent in International Law or Guatemalan law to have NEW laws applied retroactively. We should be advocating for the best legislation possible; but also assuring that any legislation passed includes criteria for when a case is "grandfathered" (when the birthmother relinquishes to the notary?, when the adoptive family registers their POA?)). We DO NOT have to advocate FOR grandfathering as that is a part of any law. Therefore any referrals which have been made PRIOR to new legislation, should be defended by JCICS and DOS. We should assure that DOS is protecting the rights of US citizens under the law.

3. The Executive Branch is justifying its recent actions: raids on Children's Homes and foster homes by referring to TWO LAWS - one claiming that Children's Homes must be registered with the Bienestar Social in order to be legitimate; and the other the PINA law which requires a court order for children "at risk" prior to institutionalization.

The PINA law was never intended for children who are in the Notarial Adoption process (relinquished through the constitutional rights granted to biological parents). Those children are NOT considered "at risk". There are courts who have refused --despite great pressure upon them by the A.G., who is part of the Executive Branch not the Judicial -- to bend the law. The PINA law is designed to protect the rights of children who have been abused or abandoned by their biological parents by determining that a court order be required to place them in a registered Institution. When DOS sends out a notification to the adoption community that the A.G. was working within "the law" and that there are "conflicting laws" in Guatemala, (another reason for not adopting from Guatemala) it is overstating the case. There are conflicting INTERPRETATIONS of the law, which needs to be resolved by the legislature and the higher courts. We don't believe there are conflicting laws, as the PINA law, for instance, was never meant to apply to the children relinquished through the Notarial process. (the guatemalan government may want to change this law, but so far IT HAS NOT CHANGED.. THE NOTARIAL PROCESS IS STILL CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED.) I believe it is wrong for us to support one branch of government violating the constitution... even if it is Guatemala).

Until the current Berger government, the requirements for Private Institutions caring for children were for them to be registered in the Civil Registry and have an organizational structure complying with those registration criteria. The Bienestar Social does not have LEGISLATED POWERS to insist that Private, Humanitarian Aid organizations register with them. However, the Executive Branch has claimed that certain extra legal procedures should prevail and ARE ACTING as if they have the RIGHT to impose these. I believe it is wrong for our DOS to allow this deliberate "misinterpretation" togo unchallenged, especially when it is intruding on the rights of US Citizens who have entered into an adoption based on an understanding that it was legal.

What it means to have children who need families become the political football they have become, to see revealed (again, as in 2003) the indifference of the Guatemalan government to the very real children in order to force a legislative agenda, and how our DOS has tacitly supported this is something that all of us should be very concerned about. I'm very pleased that JCICS has written a strong letter to President Berger, but I think that we need to hold our DOS accountable as well.

RESPONSE OF ADA TO JCICS

JCICS: 1. The Guatemalan Congress reaffirmed the Hague Convention with an effective date of January 1, 2008.

ADA: Congress did not reaffirmed The Hague Convention. It gave authorization to the president to accede the convention, so the convention is not what takes effect on January 1, 2008. To take effect, the president has to send an instrument of accession to the Secretary of the Hague Conference and the effect will be the first day of the month after a period of three months, so if is sent in January, it will take effect until May 1st, 2008, way after the Bergers are gone.

JCICS 2. The Berger administration continues to demonstrate a desire to significantly alter or eliminate intercountry adoption; most recently demonstrated through the raid on Casa Quivira.

ADA: Yes, that is right, but it only proved how incompetent they are to care for the children, so if there was any doubt that the future of the children cannot be entrusted to the government, there is the answer.

JCICS 3. The Berger administration leaves office on January 14, 2008, 13 days after the Hague Convention goes into force in Guatemala.

ADA: Again, that is not true. It does not go into force, just goes into force the Congress approval of the Hague convention.


JCICS 4. Based on the aggressive posture demonstrated by the Berger administration and the 13 day window, the possibility exists that the Berger administration may attempt to alter the ICA process.

ADA: Berger has been trying to do so all this time, but he has not succeeded, so why help him, by closing down adoptions in Guatemala ourselves?


JCICS 5. The Guatemalan congress is currently reviewing adoption legislation, most specifically 3217 (with the changes recommended through the technical assistance provided by the Hague Permanent Bureau and other governments such as Colombia). Passage of this legislation, while not assured, would none the less significantly alter the current ICA process. Current cases in the Guatemalan process may or may not be "grandfathered" and it remains an uncertain issue.

ADA: That is not true either. As the law states all cases already started will be allow to be finalized. They only have to be registered with the Central Authority.


JCICS 6. While the 'grandfather' clause in the US IAA does provide for the completion of 'pipeline' cases, it does not provide any protection against significant changes to the Guatemalan ICA process.

ADA: Provided the US does not stop issuing visas, we will take care that all the adoptions already started (child born is enough) can be finalized.

JCICS 7. Client families who have applied with USCIS can have their cases transferred to another country program. The significant risks to agencies, families and children begin when the referral is made and accepted.

ADA: What country is risk free? Last time we checked, every country of origin of children was either implmenting changes or planning to do so. At least in Guatemala the families know that there is an organization that is poised to fight to restore the order if it is disrupted by an arbitrary decision of any authority .

JCICS; It can be noted that current efforts include amendments to both 3536 and 3217 providing for a continuation of the current ICA process (a 'grandfather clause'); however this assumes that either piece of legislation is actually passed by Congress. It can also be noted that separate legislation could be introduced which would extend the effective date of the Hague Convention for a specific period of time ( i.e. 30-90 days).

ADA: Yes, that could happen too, that the approval of the Hague Convention be postponed for months, until the US really ratifies the Hague convention.


JCICS: In assessing this information, one can easily draw the conclusion that the Guatemalan ICA process will be significantly altered as early as January 2008 and no later than March 2008. Assuming that most adoptions from referral to finalization can easily exceed 6 months and in some cases extend over 12 months, it can be concluded that referrals issued in the third and fourth quarters of 2007 may face a very uncertain conclusion.

ADA: That is a wrong assessment, based on a wrong assumption, that the Hague Convention will come into -force in January 1st. 2008. The earliest it can become effective is in May 1st., and only if the instrument to accede the Hague Convention is deposited sometime in January, 2008.


JCICS: Of significant concern is the potential for unresolved pipeline cases. USCIS reports no slow down in new applications. Through July, I-600A applications continue at over 400 per month with most being identified with a small percentage of agencies. It is not outside the realm of possibilities that should this pace continue, over 2,000 cases may be unable to proceed to completion. This leads to yet another concern related to an adoption service provider's capacity to sustain services to children and adoptive parents over a prolonged period which may include legal challenges.

ADA: Guatemala has a legal system that works, despite what the press says. The same legal system that restored the order in 2003, would allow us to finalize all adoptions started before a new adoptions law becomes effective.

JCICS: It is the recommendation of Joint Council that all agencies again reassess their programming and take the appropriate action to minimize your organizational liabilities, to avoid the problems seen in Cambodia, Romania and recently in Nepal and most importantly to safeguard the best interest of client-families, birthparents and the children we serve.

ADA: Since this statement is a way to suggest to turn your backs to the Guatemalan children, we suggest that each family who wants to adopt looks around and see if they can find a country where adoptions are risk free and no changes will be implemented ever. Since there is not such a thing, we remind you that the children of Guatemala do not have another choice and to help us to keep adoptions as an option to the birth mothers of Guatemala, to give their children a permanent and loving family.

Posted by Kevin at 02:00 PM

August 24, 2007

Children Removed From Casa Quivira

Obviously, we need to add more threads. Last night at around 9:30 p.m., all of the children were removed from Casa Quivira. We do not know where they were taken and will update as we learn more. My heart goes out to all of the families living through this turmoil and I ask everyone to offer their prayers and thuoghts for the future and health of these innocent children.

Posted by Kevin at 08:41 AM

August 15, 2007

Last Thread on Casa Quivira

As this story develops, we seem to have lots of updates. So rather than continuing to have new threads on it, from here on out I will just be editing this one and adding to it. In addition, I am closing the comments on the other threads so that all new comments come to the same place. I think that will make life easier on our readers!

News for today is that apparently the children are staying put for the time being. In addition, the tone of the allegations has been considerably softened. Here are link to two news stories as examples:

International Herald Tribune Story

BBC Story

Posted by Kevin at 05:48 PM

August 14, 2007

Embassy Statement re: Casa Quivira

The Embassy has contacted some, if not all, CQ families. I applaud them for doing so as I know any piece of info is a help. I am posting the message here because it does bring something up regarding the controversy over CQ's "license". I am not familiar with the Guatemalan "Pina" law mentioned and hope that someone will shed some ight on it.

Click on more to read what they have to say.

On Saturday August 11, Guatemalan law enforcement authorities exercised a court
order and took control of the Casa Quivira children\'s center near Antigua. The
Guatemalan Solicitor General\'s Office (Procuradoría General de la Nación, PGN)
informed the Embassy that the operation was the result of an ongoing
investigation in response to complaints that the police and district attorney's
office (Ministerio Publico) had received against the center.

The U.S. Embassy is concerned about the well-being of the children at Casa
Quivira. At this time we are advising families directly affected by this event
to maintain close contact with their local lawyers in Guatemala in order to stay
abreast of the status of individual children in the adoption process.

When custody is granted to Casa Quivira parents with final adoptions, the
Embassy will expedite immigrant visa interviews for the affected adopting
families. For families without scheduled interviews, we will continue to keep
the most current information and warnings regarding adoptions on our website.
Please visit http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/adoptions.html for information
updates in the future.

As the Embassy and Department of State continue to advise, the adoption
situation in Guatemala remains volatile and unpredictable. Prospective adoptive
parents should be aware that the laws regulating intercountry adoption in
Guatemala are conflicting.

Nearly all intercountry adoptions in Guatemala are processed under a "notarial"
system. Information the Embassy has received so far indicates that the children
in Casa Quivira are in various stages of the notarial adoption process.
However, the 2003 "PINA" law for the protection of children and adolescents,
created additional requirements for adoption cases, including the obligation
that caretakers of children in adoption processing obtain court-determined legal
custody. These provisions established by the 2003 law have not been enforced
previously. The Embassy has been informed, however, that one factor in the
takeover of Casa Quivira is that no court custody orders were located for any of
the children.

The U.S. Embassy cannot act as legal representative for Americans in any legal
proceedings, including adoptions. However, we stand ready to consult with
parents on these cases and to provide the most current possible information
regarding the adoption cases of children at Casa Quivira.

The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of Guatemalan English speaking attorneys
available directly from the American Citizen Services Unit or the Embassy
website at
http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/uploads/images/ZRzQeBYTqu9t0Gy4PD-nbA/acseattorneys.pdf
The Embassy is unable to provide a listing of attorneys specializing in adoption
as there are currently more than 600 Guatemalan attorneys participating in this
process.

Adoption Unit
American Embassy Guatemala

Posted by Kevin at 07:51 PM

August 13, 2007

Children To Be Removed From Casa Quivira

The Associated Press has released a story stating that the children will be removed from Casa Quivira and sent to "shelters". I have no further infomation at this time.

Here is a link to the story: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/G/GUATEMALA_ADOPTIONS?SITE=MSJAD&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

I am sorry to all the families.

Posted by Kevin at 10:50 PM

August 12, 2007

Casa Quivira Raided

Casa Quivira was raided yesterday by the Guatemalan police and PGN. Based on the story, it appears as though the situation was that the hogar itself did not have whatever licensing is required and that there was not proof that the cases had been presented/registered to the government.

There is nothing written in the story on this that would indicate the relinquishments were invalid or illegal.

According the story, the children have been left at the hogar for the time being.

In the story it below, it states that one of the two attorneys arrested, Sandra Patricia Leonardo Lopez, is stated to be the wife of the hogar owner. This is incorrect, the director's wifes name is Sandra but this is not the person arrested.

We have no further information on this. As we learn more, we will share it.

Here is the link to the story in the Guatemalam Press: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2007/agosto/12/179542.html

Here is a link to an English Reuters story: http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN1126522820070812

Posted by Kevin at 10:51 AM

August 10, 2007

DOS Issues FAQ on Second DNA

The DOS has issued a FAQ for adoptive parents. I think it makes clear and official many aspects. There are still a few unanswered questions. It does not list the exact document flow ("your attorney must bring X, Y, and Z to the second test" - stuff like that), but hopefully the attorneys and folks handling that stuff know. It doesn't say exactly what a PAP is to do in the event of a mismatch and what happens to the child, though technically and legally this is not DOS's responsibility. And of course, those situations, which may not even occur, may be handled as they happen.

I end with kudos to DOS for (a) issuing something like this for PAPs (b) showing a proactive stance on ensuring ethical adoptions.

Click here to read the DOS FAQ.

Posted by Kevin at 10:11 PM

August 08, 2007

Free USCIS Extentions

On Monday, USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) announced some good news. Because of extended adoption processing timelines, they are offering free one time extensions on I-600As (your I171H) as well as refingerprinting when necessary. Below is the notice as well as a FAQ.

No one likes things taking longer, but at least this can make one part of it a little bit easier!

Notice: Download file

FAQ: Download file

Posted by Kevin at 10:37 PM

August 02, 2007

DOS Announces New DNA Rule

I haven't read this yet myself. So more will come later. But here is the link to the official announcement.

http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_3751.html

Updated Th 6/2 11 p.m. est

Click on "more" to read the latest on how it will work...

Here are the new rules as explained to a group of agencies on a conference call today. We’ll have to wait and see if this is the final deal…

1.) Cases submitted to the embassy for pink before August 6 are exempt
2.) Abandonment cases are not impacted
3.) Testing is only on the child. Basically most of the logistics and paperwork requirements are as I wrote about last night
4.) The second DNA test will be an “interim” or new step between submitting all the docs for pink and actually getting it
5.) When cases are presented for pink, a second DNA test authorization will be issued
6.) The DNA test will then we conducted while the embassy reviews the paperwork
7.) Once the test results are back, the embassy will issue the pink slip and appointment date

What I don’t know, or questions that come to mind… Can they do the final doctor appointment the same time as DNA or will the child still need to go to the doctor after the pink slip is issued? Who will receive notification when the DNA test is resent to the embassy and how? Will there be a standard, “pink is issued 72 hours” (or some other time frame) after DNA results are in.

What I am hearing, and this is quite speculative, is that it will take a couple of weeks for the embassy to get the results once the test is conducted. I think that is a conservative estimate and believe a couple of days can easily be trimmed off of it. If we say it will then take the embassy 3 days to issue pink it seems like an added time of about two weeks. Given that pink slips have been taking a week or longer anyway, it may be less than that.

We’ll see what happens…

Posted by Kevin at 05:25 PM

July 30, 2007

Second DNA Test

Guatadopt has learned that the US Embassy plans to implement a second DNA test. This second test would occur between the time of the Pink Slip being issued and parents travelling. We believe it is to be annoucend/go into effect August 1. As we learn more of the details and further verify this, we will post it. But we have received it from a few reliable sources so we're confident in posting it.

UPDATED WED 8/1 10:45 pm est: Click on more to read it. The original extended entry follows the update.

Update 8/1/07:

Here’s what we’ve been able to surmise as of Wed night.

A second DNA is going into effect. At the moment, it is not clear whether it has gone into effect or not. I can report:

1.) Embassy doctors (who take the DNA swabs) and DNA labs that process results have been informed of a new policy. They first learned of this late last week.

2.) JCICS made mention of this new policy on their site earlier today and then promptly removed it within hours. Their note merely said what we had, adding that the embassy would be issuing something later this week. We do not know why they removed it from their site.

3.) There seems to be much confusion over if it is in place or when and how it will go into effect. If there is/will be a second DNA does not appear to be in question.

4.) Initial notice to the how would work is as follows as best I understand it. And it is not good news. The second DNA would occur at the same time as the final embassy doctor appointment – after pink has been issued. The time between pink and parent’s appointment would be extended (by how long I can’t say). The doctor will need the following
a. Pink slip
b. Evidence of first DNA and payment – there is a document (DNA authorization?) stamped “Paid” from the first DNA test
c. Copies of passport and amended birth certificate
d. Proof of payment to the DNA lab for the second test. This MUST be the same that did the first test.
e. Photos of the child

5.) No one gets grandfathered in, unless I believe they already have pink and an appointment date

6.) Some are saying that the embassy is delaying implementation because they don’t have it figured out yet. I can’t say this is not the case.

7.) Some families have apparently completed the process above. I don’t know when they got pink or any further details.

8.) Cost is looking like $120 for the lab and $50 for the doctor.

Let me state that through our usual techniques of learn something and verifying it with a second sources, this is what we have heard. But don’t take it as the gospel as we have no official documentation at this time (though hopefully its coming soon).

Now for my obligatory (cough, cough) commentary…

As I have stated on this site, I wholeheartedly support initiation of a second DNA test. However, the plan mentioned above does not make sense to me.

Why not allow the test to be done before pink is issued?

Why not give authorization to do the doctor’s visit and the DNA before Pink so long as it is within some specified amount of time of the interview? I’ll just throw out 30 days as a viable example.

And why not just come out and say what you’re doing rather than this incognito stuff?

I’m the first to admit that there could be a valid reason for the way it appears to be getting set up. After all, we don’t know everything the embassy does - formal policies, cultural etiquette, ways people have attempted to circumvent the system, etc. We must keep these things in the back of our minds as we judge. However, I can also say that I’ve been pondering this and I unfortunately know more than I’d like to about how people have attempted to circumvent the system. And I can’t figure this one out.

Who knows, maybe the embassy realized this themselves. Maybe they read my prior suggestions (yes, ego setting in). Maybe they intended to go live today and actually did before realizing there was a better way.

We may have caused the hysteria somewhat by posting what we knew, but that’s what our site is about – news and information. Granted, as a blog style site we reserve the right to editorialize, just as I am doing here. But we also believe firmly in transparency by all parties in the adoption process and stand firmly behind the principle that parents have a right to know.

Whatever the case may be I sincerely hope that the reason for the immediate confusion and hysteria is because the embassy is rethinking the process for a second DNA test to one that does not cause unnecessary delays while still achieving its goal.

As always, we’ll post more when we learn it.

Original extended entry from Tues. 7/31:

While it may be very easy to worry about an additional cost and hassle in the process, we adoptive parents need to fully support this. In fact, Focus On Adoption and others have been calling on the embassy to enact this for years.

We have all seen the allegations about kidnappings, child swaps, etc. It is extremely important that EVERYTHING possible be done to eliminate the possibility of these sorts of activities from occuring. A second DNA test that makes sure hte child receiving the visda is hte same child from the first test would go a long way in this regard..

Posted by Kevin at 04:27 PM

May 17, 2007

New USCIS Statement

Guatemalan adoptions to the US involve two departments of the government: DOS and CIS. CIS (Citizen and Immigration Services) has issued a new statement regarding Guatemalan adoptions. I believe the sixty days timeframe is referring to Pre-Approvals and the four days for Pink. We applaud the efforts on the part of the government to ensure ethical adoption practices, but also have to question whether extended timeframes could be avoided through additional staffing. Nonetheless, all to be expected and given the DOS warnings and severity of ongoing investigations, in reality these timeframes aren't all that bad compared to what I know I anticipated.

Here is the statement:
Download file

Posted by Kevin at 09:29 PM

May 12, 2007

Guatemala News Watch: Congress: Laws go to Congressional Session

The following article appeared in this morning's GT newspaper, Prensa Libre:
http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2007/mayo/12/170520.html
"Congresso: Leyes van a la Congeladora".

Below is a translation c/o Maria, Guatadopt.com
"Congress: Laws go to Congressional Session"

Not less than 14 laws have been prioritized by the Executive and the Congress, last January, and they should wait until their return in August to further discuss the paln for the nation, due to the recess beginning after May 15. (opinion of the writer of the article) The article continues to then explain the Laws.

Planned in the next session, this Tuesday, we predict the overall approval of the "Convenio de La Haya", which would detail the process of adopting a child.

(the article then discusses other issues and laws not related to adoptions)

It concludes with-
Law of Adoptions- the Legislators have not reached a consensus.

Posted by Kelly at 10:34 AM

May 02, 2007

Guat Congress Update

I suppose no news is good news. What I have heard is that nothing happened in the Guatemalan Congress today. There apparently was not a quorum (the mininum number of members of Congress necessary for a vote) so nothing happened. I do not have this 100% verified so I apologize if it is not accurate. But this is what I have heard.

On a separate note, I (Kevin) will be out of touch for the next 10 days or so, with very limited access to e-mail. I have a trade show to attend (yes, we have real jobs, Guatadopt doesn't pay the bills or any bills for that matter) and then my lovely wife and I will be escaping to Las Vegas for our first childless vacation. I hope my parents are up to the challenge of watching our darling, sweet, and perfectly sinister little rugrats!

Posted by Kevin at 10:23 PM

April 24, 2007

Adoption Service Providers Banned

The USCIS in Guatemala has issued the below statement about adoption service providers being banned by the embassy.

To Members of the Guatemalan Adoption Community:

Please be advised that the following individuals have been banned from any involvement with any aspect of the I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, process by the USCIS Guatemala Office:

1. Mary Bridget Bonn
2. Monica Janeth Ruiz González de Castañeda
3. Rosa Claudia Juárez
4. Dora Amanda Zavala Navas
5. Gamaliel Sentes Luna
6. Aurora González Campo Menes
7. Lilian Ferrer de Letona

Any documentation submitted to the adoptions window found to have any connection with the above named individuals will be rejected out of hand. Cases that have already been submitted for adjudication that have a connection with any of the above named individuals will require a letter from the petioner naming a substitute for the banned individual.

Any person and/or entity trying to circumvent this proscription will likewise be subject to a similar action.

Sincerely,

Joseph T. Roma

Field Office Director

USCIS Guatemala

Posted by Kevin at 03:59 PM

April 19, 2007

New "Adoption Registrar"

The Prensa Libre has a story in today's paper about a new office being established in Guatemala effective May 2. It is described as being accordance with the Protocol of Good Practices. The story can be found here.

It states that due to increasing kidnappings, falsifications of documents and unjust delays the creation of the "Adoption Registrar" has been formulated to insure safe and open adoptions in GT. Requested information include 42 new conditions that have to be met to proceed with an adoption.

Here are some:
-date of birth
-who was present at birth(doctor, midwives, etc.) names and info
-municipal incriptions
-current caretaker's name, address, religious affliation if any
-name of hogar, registration number/info, addresss, director's name, personal info
-photos at time of relinquishing including palm and foot print
-up to date photos of child
-name of lawyer/judge determining orphan status
-name of child
-birthplace
-hospital and directions/address
-Folio# and Book# of registered birth at Civil Registry and Date registered
-Bio-parents names, birthplace, reg. birth info at civil registry, cedula info and copy of,
-Current tel# and address of bio-parents
-Names of adoptive parents
-Country of origin, place of birth, tel# and address
-identification data, passport info
-name of agency and lawyers working with, their contact info

It does mention the ADA's legal challenge and we do not at this point know whether this would impact all in-process cases. But this also is just a gathering of information, much of which seems to me to be stuff already compiled.

As we learn more will post it.

Posted by Kevin at 07:40 AM

April 12, 2007

Waiting Angels Raided

The Michigan Attorney General's office in conjucntion with the Michigan State Police yesterday raided the offices of Waiting Angels. The raid was defined as "Criminal Search Warrants" to me and all I know is that documents and equipment (presumably computers) were seized. We are waiting on more information on this and will post it as we learn more.

Posted by Kevin at 03:19 PM

April 03, 2007

New DOS Notice

The DOS has issued a new notice about meetings they held with First Lady Berger. I'll just point out that it is wrong in implying that the Protocolo is constitutional and urge readers to read it realizing what it indicates about where our government stands on Guatemalan adoption reform.

You can read it by clicking on more below or here.

April 3, 2007

Assistant Secretary Maura Harty Meets with Guatemalan First Lady

Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty met with the First Lady of Guatemala, Wendy de Berger, on March 15 to discuss adoption reform in Guatemala. They agreed that reform, which implements the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention, is urgently needed in Guatemala. Assistant Secretary Harty expressed appreciation to the First Lady for her leadership regarding the publication of the Manual of Good Practices based on existing Guatemalan laws for the protection of children. Assistant Secretary Harty and the First Lady agreed that additional resources will be necessary to fund the principal agencies responsible for the oversight of intercountry adoptions.

Assistant Secretary Harty reassured First Lady de Berger that the U.S. Government will continue to work closely with the Government of Guatemala on reform efforts. She also noted that the U.S. Government is using greater scrutiny in its processing of individual adoption cases.

Assistant Secretary Harty also took the opportunity to assure First Lady de Berger that the U.S. Government would ratify the Hague Convention by the end of 2007. They then reaffirmed their mutual understanding that the U.S. Government will not be able to continue adoptions in Guatemala once the treaty is in effect in the United States if the Guatemalan Government does not take the steps necessary to implement the Hague Convention.

Posted by Kevin at 06:00 PM

March 27, 2007

Esteemed Houston surgeon hopes to be Guatemala's next vice president

This is an interesting article about Espada, who is running for Guatemala's Vice Presidency on Colom's ticket.
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4660635.html

I often wonder if the next presidency will loosen the red tape on humanitarian aide coming from the US. This presidency cracked down on container taxes. This meant that many charities who relied on donated clothing and such had to pay taxes on any items they received. So charities had to cut out container shipments because they did not have the cash base to "guess" on imposed taxes. Naturally, this severely limited donors and donations!

Posted by Kelly at 02:41 AM

March 16, 2007

JCICS Press Release

JCICS has issued a press release. While it is not on their website yet, we have verified that it is authentic.

While I am in no way questioning the validity of the content, the title line on the release may lead one to believe that everything is taken care of and all of the current uncertainties are over. That is certainly not the case, DOS's warnings remain real, and no legislation has been passed to date. It is certainly a positive step, I just don't want anyone to take the title to mean more than it should.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Guatemala To Keep Adoptions Open Through Reform

March 16, 2007- Alexandria, Virginia – Legislation intended to reform the current international adoption system will be introduced in Guatemala early next week. The legislation puts into place much needed oversight and is in line with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, an international convention signed or ratified by over 60 countries. “This legislation gives children the legal protections they need and also the continued opportunity to find love and safety through adoption” said Thomas DiFilipo, President of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services (Joint Council).

International adoption in Guatemala has been criticized by numerous groups for unethical practices and a lack of governmental oversight. Such criticism has called into question whether intercountry adoption will continue in Guatemala. “Legislative reform is the key to continuing intercountry adoption in Guatemala” said DiFilipo. DiFilipo’s statement seems to echo that of many members of the Guatemalan Congress who met in early December and throughout the winter to address a range of issues related to international adoption and are now prepared to present their recommendations to Congress.

The Hague Convention on International Adoption will be ratified by the United States later this year. Since more Guatemalan orphans find loving families in the United States than in any other country, passage of this legislation in Guatemala appears vital to the protection of children’s right. The United States Department of State has clearly stated that adoptions with Guatemala will not be permissible under law unless such legislation is passed. According to DiFilipo “It is clear the Guatemalan Congress intends on passing the respective legislation this Spring. The best interest of each child is at the center of their efforts.”

Joint Council on International Children’s Services

Posted by Kevin at 04:57 PM

March 14, 2007

New DOS FAQ

The US DOS has issued a new FAQ on Guatemalan adoptions. This is one more in a series of ominous notices coming from them that parents considering starting a Guatemalan adoption need to consider seriously. This should be appearing on their website soon but can be read below.

Guatadopt is working on some commentary for parents considering starting an adoption from Guatemala.

DOS FAQ
March 14, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions: Prospective Adoptive Parents of Guatemalan Children

Q: I have already begun the process of adopting from Guatemala but have not been matched with a child. After reading the information on your webpage, I am concerned. Do you recommend that I pursue adoption from Guatemala?

A: Although we understand many U.S. families have adopted children from Guatemala in the past, we cannot recommend adoption from Guatemala at this time. The situation in Guatemala has changed. There are serious problems with the adoption process in Guatemala, which does not protect all children, birth mothers, or prospective adoptive parents. The Guatemala government is planning to implement new adoption processing procedures to increase protections. The United States is also scrutinizing individual cases more closely than before. We recommend that you bear these facts in mind when choosing a country from which to adopt.

Q: What are the problems in Guatemala?

A: The major U.S. Government concerns about the Guatemalan adoption process include:

Conflicts of Interest: Guatemalan notaries may act as judges and determine a child’s eligibility for adoption and issue a final adoption decree. In the same case where he or she is acting as judge, the notary or his/her staff may also directly interact with birth mothers, solicit consents for an adoption, and handle the referral of the child to prospective adoptive parents. The Department of State does not believe that the notaries, given these multiple roles, can truly act objectively and in the best interests of the various parties.

Lack of Government Oversight: Despite these critical roles in the adoption process, the notaries are largely unregulated. Public oversight is minimal. Particularly in cases in which prospective adoptive parents are told that the birth mother relinquished her rights to her child voluntarily, the U.S. Government is concerned that social services to birth mothers are extremely limited and that their consents may have been induced by money or threats. Monetary incentives and high fees drive completion of the adoption more than protecting the children, the birth parents, and the prospective adoptive parents. The Department is aware of a growing number of cases of adopting parents who have told us that they are being extorted for very large amounts of money by their local representatives in order to complete an adoption.

Unregulated Foster Care: Like the notaries, Guatemalan foster care providers are not regulated or checked by the Guatemalan government for compliance with any standards. Many Guatemalan foster families have demonstrated their love and concern for the children in their care, and American adoptive parents have expressed gratitude for how the foster families cared for the children while the adoptions were in process. Unfortunately, however, the Department of State is also aware of instances of grossly inadequate care for young children in foster home situations. There are cases in which American adoptive families who have completed a Guatemalan adoption later learned that the foster care provider or others in the household had physically or sexually abused the children.

Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption: Guatemala has been a party to the Hague Convention since March 2003, but it has never enacted Hague-consistent legislation or instituted Hague-consistent practices that would provide children the protections that are now lacking. Guatemala has not established the required “central authority” to oversee intercountry adoption processing under the Convention and has not yet taken numerous other steps the Convention requires. The U.S. Department of State, the Hague Permanent Bureau (which oversees the Convention) and other countries have consistently expressed concern about these and other problems with Guatemalan adoptions. In fact, many Hague Convention countries have stopped adoptions from Guatemala.

Q: If the United States sees so many problems in the Guatemalan process, why has it continued processing adoption cases and continued to permit Guatemalan children to come to the United States?

A: The U.S. Government continues to process adoption cases, but subjects each case to detailed review. For example, in 1998 the United States instituted mandatory DNA testing for Guatemalan women who stated intentions to relinquish their children. This measure was taken in response to numerous cases in which impostors who were not the children’s actual birth mothers attempted to relinquish rights to children who were not theirs.

Even with DNA testing, however, it has become increasingly clear that the current adoption process in Guatemala does not protect all children adequately. U.S. authorities have therefore increased their scrutiny of all adoption cases. This increased scrutiny means more time will be needed to conduct individual case investigations and that each case will take longer to process. Similarly, more cases may be denied because the facts uncovered during the investigation show the child is not classifiable as an orphan under U.S. law.

Q: My agency is very reliable and they tell me that the adoption process they use in Guatemala is good and transparent. Can I rely on their assurances?

A: The Department of State has long advised all prospective adoptive parents, irrespective of the country from which they are hoping to adopt, to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, prospective adoptive parents should contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing office of the appropriate state government agency in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.

Even if a U.S. adoption agency has an unblemished record with such offices, however, and even if the agency itself is operating completely with the best intentions, the lack of oversight and regulation over the other actors in the Guatemalan adoption process make it extremely difficult for even the most ethical agency to be completely certain that everything has been done in accordance with the law and in the best interests of all the parties.

Q: What if I have begun the process of adoption from Guatemala and my child has already been identified? I consider this child my child and I cannot walk away at this point.

A: At this time, the U.S. Embassy is continuing to adjudicate each adoption case based on the merits of the information provided in that individual case. The Embassy, however, will adjudicate each case with even more scrutiny than has been its practice in the past. In addition, Guatemalan authorities have recently indicated that they plan to look more closely at each adoption case. Guatemala has introduced a new manual of adoption good practices. At this time, we cannot predict the full effect of the new manual on current or future cases. We do expect that processing individual cases will take longer due to the necessity of government scrutiny.

Q: My agency tells me that it is unlikely that Guatemala will change its adoption laws this year, because of elections and other political factors. Isn’t this good for me, because my case may not be delayed?

A: Adopting a child in a system that is based on a conflict of interests, that is rampant with fraud, and that unduly enriches facilitators is a very uncertain proposition with potential serious life-long consequences. When you decide whether to move forward with adoption in Guatemala, you should consider factors beyond timing. Some American prospective adoptive parents are deciding against adoption from Guatemala now because they do not want to support negative child welfare practices. In addition, a child’s long-term psychological well-being may be affected if the child later learns that his birth family did not freely choose to give him up or that he, and perhaps siblings, were “produced” for the sole purpose of adoption. U.S. parents have also discovered that their adoptive children have undisclosed serious special needs due to inadequate foster care and/or fraudulent medical information.

Q: We only want to adopt a child who is truly eligible for adoption and most certainly a child whose birth parents have legally terminated their parental rights. With these goals, can we adopt in Guatemala?

A: For the reasons stated above, we cannot say that the system of adoption currently in effect in Guatemala provides any assurances that your goals can be met.

Q: I understand that the process in Guatemala does not adequately protect children, but there are children in the adoption process now who will be hurt if adoptions are stopped abruptly. Will there be a process to help those children?

A; A number of foreign governments and non-governmental organizations have pledged their willingness to help the Government of Guatemala with technical support for a new adoption process with reliable oversight. Many good practices have already been identified.

Posted by Kevin at 02:30 PM

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 01, 2007

Protocolo Update - NO Immediate Shutdown

We've just gotten word that the Protocolo annoucement has been completed. The report says that there is NO immediate shutdown and that the protocolo will take some weeks to implement, especially because it has not been budgeted for. It is apparently an in-between phase until Guatemala can pass Hague compliant legilslation.

Yes, many questions still remain but I have no further answers at this point.

Stay tuned!

Posted by Kevin at 03:17 PM

February 26, 2007

Protocolo on March 1???

There are a number of rumors passing around about what may happen March 1. Among them is that the Protocolo will be announced. We've been able to verify this and below you will find a copy of the invitation to this event. But let's remember this has happened before.

Another rumor is that anyone without a POA registered by March 1 will not be able to complete an adoption. While we know that some reputable agencies have been taking actions on this, we have not been able to verify it. This is not to say it is not the case, just that we haven't verified it yet.

We can not at this point state what the protocolo means and will of course post more as we know it.

protocolo invite.bmp

Posted by Kevin at 08:59 PM

February 23, 2007

New Statement From DOS

The Dept of State issued a new statement on the status of intercountry adoptions. You can read it here or it is posted below

http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_3147.html

These are obviously very turbulent times in Guatemalan Adoption. I wish that I had a better ability to analzyze it for everyone. I guess what I would say is that the Hague implementation has been looming for some time. The protocolo as well. Add to it a facilitator's arrest that it appears involved more than the single case and we have a firestorm.

As we are able to add any info or insight on this, we will.

On a side note: The primary members of the Guatadopt team are tied up this weekend. So I apologize for delays n getting comments approved.

DOS Statement:

Guatemala Status of Intercountry Adoptions

In light of a number of problems with Guatemala’s intercountry adoption process, the U.S. Department of State strongly cautions American prospective adoptive parents contemplating pursuing adoptions in Guatemala to carefully consider their options at this time. The arrest in the United States of a well-known adoption facilitator as well as concern about unethical behavior and practices by others involved with adoptions in Guatemala indicate that the adoption process in Guatemala is not adequately protecting all children.

In its investigation related to the arrest of the adoption facilitator mentioned above, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have found evidence of the smuggling into the United States of Guatemalan children who had been candidates for adoption. They have also found evidence of fraudulent documents concerning adoption and visa status, and misrepresentation of the health condition of children involved.

Separately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Guatemala has denied adoption visa petitions for many reasons indicating wrong and unethical practices in Guatemala. These include cases where the purported biological mother of a child is not the true biological mother but an impostor and cases where the biological parent or parents have been deceived and there has been no true relinquishment of parental rights.

Activity of this nature is against U.S. law and also counter to the principles of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which the United States will join this year.

The adoption situation in Guatemala is volatile and unpredictable. The United States, because of ongoing investigations that affect adoption cases, may be unable to process cases quickly and is likely to review all pending cases with more scrutiny. More detailed investigations may be warranted to determine that a child is truly eligible for adoption as an orphan, that any prospective adoptive parent(s) are eligible and suitable to adopt, and that the child is ultimately placed in the custody of parents who have been accurately identified and evaluated through the home study and petition process.

The U.S. Government supports adoption reform efforts in Guatemala and is working closely with the Government of Guatemala to help encourage the implementation of reforms to protect children in the intercountry adoption process. The U.S. Government also supports Guatemalan Government efforts to implement the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and establish new case-processing procedures and an appropriate transition mechanism to the good practices of the Convention.

We will update our website (www.travel.state.gov) should new information become available. Our e-mail address is: AskCI@state.gov.

Posted by Kevin at 08:35 AM

February 09, 2007

Mary Bonn Arrested

Guatemalan adoption facilitator Mary Bonn was arrested earlier this week on the charge of Harboring of an Illegal Alien. The charge does stem from the case of a LEGAL adoption that was completed in Guatemala. Rather than joining the adoptive parents, the child was allegedly illegally brought to the United States under a different name and had been living with Mary for approx. 9 months.

Guatadopt is receiving some scrutiny for not allowing anything into comments that we feel further victimizes the family involved. All I can say is “sorry”, that WILL remain a steadfast rule on this site and, yes, we get to decide what crosses the line. You are welcome to call that censorship if you like, but it doesn't change what our policy will be.

Guatadopt is not passing judgment on this case. Mary is innocent until proven guilty and will have her day in court, which she like anyone accused of a crime deserves. So let’s review the allegations and facts that are relevant:

1.) A US family legally completed the adoption of a child in Guatemala. The child’s birth certificate has that family’s name on it.
2.) That child, without the knowledge or consent of the child’s legal parents, was allegedly brought to the United States illegally under false pretence by a Guatemalan woman using a visitor’s visa with a name different than the child’s legal name.
3.) That child is alleged to have been living in Mary’s home for many months without the knowledge or consent of the child’s legal parents.
4.) To our knowledge, none of the adoption service providers working with Mary have been involved in this, charged with a crime, or had any knowledge of what is alleged to have occurred.

Mary may very well have believed that she was doing the right thing. She may have had reasons in her mind that make her feel justified in her alleged involvement. That does not change the reality behind the allegations.

If and when this story is picked up by the media, they will undoubtedly not cover it accurately so let me say it loud and clear: THIS IS NOT A CASE OF A CROOKED ADOPTION. THIS IS A CASE OF A PERSON WHO ALLEGEDLY TOOK A CHILD THAT WAS NOT HERS AND SMUGGLED THE CHILD INTO THE UNITED STATES OUTSIDE OF ANYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH ADOPTION ON A TOURIST VISA, NOT AN IR3 OR IR4.

The family involved is attempting to recover from the ordeal they have been through. Guatadopt is intentionally not saying too much about the case in order to respect their privacy. What I will say is that these are good people who have been put through a living hell trying to find their child.

There will be more to this story as it develops and it goes without saying that there are plans in the works to help families impacted. We will communicate those plans as they occur and will do our best to answer questions you may have, keeping in mind that much of the details are only the business of the victims.

Our Guatadopt team has volunteered to create a "Guatadopt Support Team" and assist parents who have RAI or Mary Bonn cases. We will be posting some forms (hopefully today) for those families to fill out in order to be assisted by our team or participate in a private support forum. We will not be able to assist families without this information, so please reframe from requesting anonymous information.

REQUEST FOR SUPPORT FORM

We will keep updated information on these cases in our Resource Center

Click here to read a statement from Focus On Adoption

UPDATE MON FEB 12:The State Department has issued a statment on the arrest. Click here to view it.

UPDATE TUES FEB 13: JCICS sent an e-mail to its members about Mary's arrest. Nothng in it is new except for that it does state that the investigation includes four other children wo were living in Mary's home, "none of whom were her biological or adoopitve children". It does of course state that JCICS deplores the events surrounding the case and is fully cooperatig with authorities.

Posted by Kevin at 03:41 PM

Press Release Regarding Reaching Arms

A Press Release regarding the complaints and investigation of Reaching Arms International has been issued by the Minnesota Attorney General's Office. Guatadopt did ask the famiies mentioned in it (that we have contact with) for their approval before posting this.

While it is a matter of public record, we realize that posting it on this site brings it to the attention of people interested in Guatemalan adoptions. As always, and as may beome more crucial in the days or hours to come, Guatadopt is dedicated to serving the needs of adoptive families with accurate information, regardless of where the chips may fall. However, we are also EXTREMELY careful to respect the rights and privacy of families who have been victimized by alleged unethical providers. At times those goals create a challenge, but we do our best to stand by what we believe is best.

Click here to read the release.

Posted by Kevin at 09:46 AM

January 31, 2007

Attorney General Auditing Reaching Arms International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Kevin at 02:54 PM

November 10, 2006

The Executive Order- Back???

A Story has appeared in various Guatemalan Media, including the Prensa Libre, claiming that the Guatemalan government will/has ratified the Hague Convention. You can find the story, in Spanish, here.

Here is an assessment on what is happening in Guatemala:

Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court ruled that Pres. Berger could not be forced to formally withdraw from the Hague. Pres. Berger is using this decision as basis to claim that Guatemala must comply with the Hague. My understanding is that this is not true and that he is overstating what the decision actually was. But if you read the NYT story, it is clear to see that they are using the decision as I have described. Pres. Berger has reaffirmed all of this with the stories in the press today.

So what next? The story claims that if changes are not made this year, that next year adoptions will cease. Well we knew that from the US side anyway. However, the First Lady of Guatemala’s office has been telling some US officials that the Ortega/Berger proposal of earlier this year would become the policy of Guatemala formally in November.

I am very carefully choosing my words here. Here’s why… All indications we have are that the Ortega/Berger law proposal is not scheduled to be voted on in Congress this month. We are also confident that there is not enough Congressional support of it today for it to pass even if it were on the docket. So why is she so confident?

Remember that allegedly phony Executive Order that Guatadopt reported on. You know, the one that the DOS, Adoptive Families, and Lisa Novak (via Ethica) vehemently claimed was a fake. Well it now appears as though President Berger may be in fact issuing that Executive Order. And as we reported, it is basically just a rehash of the Ortega/Berger proposal. So while initially we believed that Sra Berger was in a dream world believing that she could pass this legislation in November, it now appears as though maybe she never said she could get the law passed, she just knew that they were going to do this Executive Order.

That is all I know right now and as always, we will keep you up to date as we learn things. What I will say is that IF Berger goes through with the Executive Order; it will create a stir in the Guatemalan Congress. The Prensa Libre Story quotes Ortega as saying that he believes it will push Congress to pass the legislation. Sources in Guatemala seem to feel that it will p*ss off Congress and make them fight Berger, not join forces with him.

For all of you in process… If you have read my rantings, you know that I am very critical and untrusting of our government. Despite that, I do not believe that there is any way the United States government will sit by and watch in-process adoptions be terminated. I am very confident (just my opinion of course) that whatever transpires in Guatemala, those of you with referrals will be able to complete your adoptions.

Finally, please do not send me personal e-mails on this. My family is going on a camping trip for the next week and I will NOT be checking e-mail. Kelly will keep you up-to-date on the news as it happens.


Posted by Kevin at 01:28 PM

November 09, 2006

"Guatemala System is Scrutinized as Americans Rush to Adopt, by Marc Lacey" was my last interview.

By Susana Luarca, attorney at Law, Guatemala City.
Marc Lacey, who works for the New York Times, called me a couple of weeks ago, to talk about adoptions in Guatemala. He said that "everybody told him that he must talk to Susana Luarca". I have a soft spot for the New York Times, from the year that I lived in the Big Apple and read it every day, so - against my better judgment - I agreed and talked to him..

While talking to Marc, I could feel that something did not sound right about him, so I asked him if he was one of those journalists that come with an already written article, just looking for names to fill in the blanks. He assured me that he was "a serious journalist, of a serious newspaper". I almost believed him. It helped that he told me that he and his wife adopted their son in Kenya. From one adoptive parent to another, we talked over the phone for a long time. Marc asked me about the money that the birthmothers get for giving away their children. I told him that the people who oppose adoptions, tell the birth mothers that their children will be used for organ harvesting, to replace the organs of sick children of the adoptive parents, and by the same token, the adoptive parents are told that the birth mothers of their children sold them away, discrediting with those lies, the brave women who instead of aborting or abandoning their children, have the courage to make an adoption plan for them, and belittling the parents who adopt someone else’s child, to love him as their own flesh and blood. Marc insisted that money was the key factor in the relinquishments. I invited him to go to any street in Guatemala to look out for poor women with children and to offer them what he considered an attractive amount for their children, and see how many of them would accept. I am sure that even if he did, not a single mother would accept, because there is no amount of money that would make a woman * relinquish her child. Definitely, money is not the deciding factor. To say that all women sell their children into adoption, because Guatemala is a poor country, is the same as to say that all women in Guatemala get married to find someone to support them. Could be true in some cases, but it is certainly not the rule and should not be used as an argument to malign adoptions, because it stigmatizes all adopted children, which is totally unfair.

I told Marc that even though not everybody is entitled to raise a child, every child is entitled to be raised by a family, and that Guatemalans usually do not adopt, so it is a blessing that the Americans open their hearts and their homes to our children. Marc kept talking about the cost of an adoption. I told him that a successful adoption costs no more than a year of in vitro fertilization, and it is possible that in vitro may not produce the desired baby. I went on to say that the lawyers in Guatemala only collect if the adoption is successful, that if the mother changes her mind or the child dies, the lawyer gives the grieving family another child, and the lawyers take the losses and even pay the hospital bill or the funeral, if that is the case. In Guatemala, adoption professionals do not receive any help from the government, even though they provide the homes, the food, the health care and the daily care that keeps thousands of children sheltered, healthy and off the streets, regardless of the outcome or the duration of the adoption process. I invited Marc to visit an orphanage in zone ten, not far away from the American Embassy.

Some days later, Marc called me again, asking for an appointment. We met at my office, where we talked at length. I showed him an adoption process file, and all the documents that must be submitted to the American embassy to get DNA test authorization and if the result is positive, the visa pre approval document the consulate issues for the adoptive child. Marc was very impressed with the amount of paperwork needed for an adoption. I showed him the numerous times that the birthmother has to sign away her child during a period of some months and the groundless objections of the office of the State that has to give its approval to the adoption.

We also discussed at length the Hague Convention for Inter country adoptions. I informed Marc that Guatemala’s adoptions came to a halt during six months from March 2003 to September of the same year, until the Constitutional Court upheld the challenges against the approval by Congress and the accession by the President to such treaty. Without those challenges none of the children placed for adoption after March 5, 2003 would have been adopted. And many more would have died. It is not true – as Marc points out in his article - that “the Constitutional Court ruled definitely this year that the country must abide by it.” What is true is the Constitutional Court ruled that the Court cannot order the President to withdraw from or to denounce the Hague Convention, but internally, the judgment that ruled unconstitutional the approval by Congress is still valid and therefore, the Hague Convention cannot be enforced in Guatemala.

Now that the United States prepares to ratify the Hague Convention and have warned Guatemala that unless the laws of adoption comply with such treaty, it places our country at a crossroad. The adoption professionals and adoption advocates of Guatemala have expressed our desire to comply with the Hague Convention, to avoid compromising the lives of the thousands of children that if not adopted, will certainly face a very somber destiny. The arbitrary and abusive interpretation of the Hague Convention by the bureaucrats in charge of adoptions, has closed single handedly adoptions all over Latin American. We do not want that to happen in Guatemala. We trust that our legislators will find a way to take the good of the Hague Convention and the good of our legal system and merge it into an adoption law that would allow Guatemalan children to be adopted, by people who want to raise them with love and happiness.

After talking for a while at my office, Marc Lacey accepted to visit the orphanage around the corner of my office. He said he was very impressed with the orphanage. But I could not believe my ears when he asked me why the children were not moved to a less valuable property in the outskirts of the city, instead of having them in a house that should be very expensive. I told him that the generosity of many people is what made that house possible and that it is for the children, not for any other use. Its location is very convenient, because there are many doctors near by, also labs to run tests, and it is easy for the caregivers and other workers to go there. I mentioned to Marc that the children from 4 to 7 years old will receive at the orphanage, because of its convenient location, a Berlitz/Sesame Street English course, to ease their transition to their new families. Marc told me that the Berlitz method is the most expensive language teaching method in the world and for that reason, the orphanage should hire a regular English teacher familiar with the Berlitz method, and that it would save a lot of money. The impression it gave me is that he meant "why bother giving those adopted children the very best, when you can give them less.". I did not like that.

Today I read the article that Marc Lacey wrote and my worst fears were confirmed. He did not understand many things, or chose not to, like the process of adoption. If the adoptive parents do not need to be in Guatemala during the whole process, it is because a lawyer acts on their behalf, not because the system is less reliable or "handled in one visit" . Josefina Arellano is not the person in charge of the government department that signs off on all adoptions. She is instead, in charge of the office of the government that deals with abused, mistreated and abandoned children. Because of her personal perception that adoption is a "sale of the children" by the lawyers, not by the mothers, she and the lawyers of her section, make it as difficult as possible for children to be ruled abandoned by the courts, because they do not want those children to be adopted. Yesterday, a judge of minors told me that every time that she rules a child abandoned and orders that the child be placed for adoption to restore his right to have a family, Arellano files an appeal, demanding that the ruling be amended, stating that the child should be adopted "by a Guatemalan family", - knowing very well that it will not happen - "so the child would not be sold into foreign adoption". Because of people like Arellano, the new Adoption Law should be very clear and preclude the clouded perception of a bureaucrat, from causing much more harm than the proposed adoption professional abuses that it tries to stop.

According to the Guatemalan Constitution, it is the obligation of the State, to support orphans and abandoned children, and to provide them with health care, education, food, dress and home. That provision is ignored by every government, as well as the very existence of the needy children. They only are remembered in connection with adoption and "all the money that those who handle adoptions make". Nobody is stopping the government or anyone else from either supporting the children, or helping their illiterate mothers, teaching them a way to earn a decent salary to support their children, or to do cost-free adoptions. The explanation is very simple. The orphans and abandoned children, neither vote, nor have parents who vote, so why bother with them? So, "If it is not the Lawyers, who? And if it is not now, when? "

Even though I must admit that Marc Lacey treated me with respect in his article and did not distort any of my comments, I am appalled by the rest of his article. It is way below what I expected of a New York Times journalist and it was the last interview that I will give. Ever.

Posted by Kelly at 03:16 AM

October 31, 2006

New Embassy Requirement

Many in-process families have been receiving an e-mail regarding a new requirement for supplying a copy of your passport. There was confusion about exactly what it is that needs to be provided. We inquired with the Embassy who informed us that all they need is the front page (with your pic, passport #, etc) and then the page where your passport would hae been stamped when you visited (if you did). This makes a lot of sense and is being done to streamline the process of determining whether your child will return home on an IR3 or IR4 visa. The embassy also stated that only one page needs to be notarized in which you state that it is a true copy of the passport.

The e-mail sent by teh Embassy is below:

In an ongoing effort to better serve you more efficiently, USCIS will now require that adopting parents submit notarized copies of their passports (every page that contains any information) with the final adoption packet and the fully completed I-600. USCIS is requiring these notarized copies in order to expedite the final adjudication process on the day of your "pink slip" appointment interview with the U.S. Consulate.

Please note that new requirement decisions are ones that are not made arbitrarily or capriciously, but are made in the interest of the adopting parent.

This is effective November 27, 2006.

Thank you for your understanding.

Sincerely,


Joseph T. Roma
Officer-in-Charge

Posted by Kevin at 02:20 PM

September 22, 2006

Embassy Invites Attorneys for Seminar

Below is a copy of an invitation from the US Embassy. I was not informed of the meeting until after the deadline and for that I apologize. I am also wondering why agency representatives were not invited to attend, but then I do not know the purpose for the seminar.

{Posted to agencies by the US Embassy}

The Embassy of the United States of America is pleased to announce an upcoming seminar on The Hague Convention on InterCountry Adoption for Guatemalan Attorneys and Notaries.

Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Time: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Place: The Embassy of the United States of America, Avda. Reforma 7-01, Zone 10, Guatemala City, Guatemala

We request that your organization, as an adoption service provider representative of those serving Guatemala, nominate ONE Guatemalan Attorney or Notary with whom you work to participate in this Seminar.

This seminar is by invitation only. Due to space limitations, we can only accommodate one attorney or notary nomination per adoption service provider.

If your agency would like to nominate a Guatemalan Attorney or Notary with whom your agency works, please email us directly at consularguatem@ state.gov with the name and email address of the individual no later than Tuesday, September 19 and we will forward them an invitation.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Sincerely,

John A. Lowell
Consul General
Embassy of the United States of America

Posted by Kelly at 02:45 PM

August 21, 2006

Attorney Banned

Guatadopt has just learned that the attorney Marta Marilu Martinez
Escobar has been banned by the US Embassy in Guatemala. Below is a communication that was sent to parents who had her registered as their attorney (and for whom the embassy had contact info). What appears odd in this is that with all other times someone has been banned, the Embassy has allowed in-process cases to be completed. That does not seem to be the case here.

We do not know why she was banned or have any other information regarding this. If we learn more, we will keep you informed.

Notice from DHS to clients of Lic.Martinez Escobar:

Please be advised that effective August 14, 2006, Marta Marilu Martinez
Escobar, your Guatemalan attorney of record, has been banned from involvement in the submission and/or processing of any adoption cases before this office.

Therefore, you need to provide us with the following documents:

1) New Case Informational Sheet stating the name of your new Guatemalan attorney that will replace Ms. Martinez, and his/her correct e-mail address and contact information. We will not accept to use the same e-mail address provided by Ms. Martinez previously.

2) New G-28 form.

This change must be reflected also in the documents submitted as part of the Final packet.

This office regrets any inconveniences that this may cause you, but this action was taken in order to protect your interests.

You need to take action as soon as possible in order to continue processing your case.

Sincerely,

Adoptions' Unit
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
American Embassy - Guatemala
Unit 3334/APO AA 34024
Guatemala.Adoptions@dhs.gov

Posted by Kevin at 01:30 PM

July 20, 2006

US Embassy concerned about Security Issues - RESPONSE NEEDED

trio near.jpg

While I believe the problem cited below is very rare, apparently some families have been harassed by Guatemalan authorities while visiting. I know that we have visited many times without issue and that I have not been hearing of problems from families. So as you read this, please do not let it scare you or prevent you from having the wonderful experience of visiting during your adoption. To make this point, I added a picture of our family on our first visit to Guatemala. Those are cherished memories that I can only wish everyone has.

Focus on Adoption has been working with the US Embassy to address the
problem of US adoptive families being harrassed at the hotels, etc. while in
Guatemala with their adoptive children.

The US Embassy is taking action on these problems and has provided letters
to the hotels in Guatemala, to be able to give to adoptive families in case
of harrassment by the Guatemalan police.

If you find you are being harrassed in Guatemala by the Police, please
report this immediately to the hotel were you are staying. They will provide you
with a letter that has been prepared by the US Embassy and now have reporting
capability to report these incidents to the US Embassy.

ACTION NEEDED: Rudy Rivera, VP Focus on Adoption, is currently working with
the US Embassy to provide details of incidents that have occurred. We are
asking ANY adoptive family that has experienced harrassment - to respond to
this request as soon as possible, providing detailed information on harrassment
experienced (i.e. approximate date, location, extent of harrassment, etc.).

The US Embassy is continuing to work on this issue to seek security and
protection for adoptive families.

To report it, please e-mail ReachOutNJ@aol.com.

Jeannene Smith
Focus on Adoption

Posted by Kevin at 03:53 PM

Stuck in PGN?

Please read to see an announcement from Focus on Adoption (of which I am a member of the Board of Directors)... Please send your info to ReachOutNJ@aol.com - DO NOT put your info into the comments section here.

Due to the continued problems of extremely long delays reported in the PGN,
and increased pressure by advocacy organizations seeking resolution to these
problems, US Embassy representatives, the Ambassador and Consul General, will
be meeting next week with the PGN director to discuss these issues.

We need to urgently gather information to provide to the US Embassy
representatives to aid in documenting the continuing problems and delays. The
following information is needed as soon as possible:

1. Documentation of cases with exceedingly long time frames in PGN (i.e.
over 3 months).
Please respond with TIMELINES and a very brief description (i.e. Name of Child, your name, entered PGN ____ date, kicked out with previos ____ date, or no movement since, etc.)
Please do not respond with long stories of all that has transpired on a case.

2. Documentation of "stupid" or illogical previos.
Please respond with a list of previos that did not seem to be well justified
(i.e. legitimate requests for information/corrections needed). Again,
please do not respond with a lengthy email about the entire case and speak solely
to the previos issue.

We would like to gather all responses and present them to the US Embassy
representatives so that they may speak to actual cases/facts at the meeting next
week. PLEASE RESPOND AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

Jeannene Smith
Focus on Adoption

Posted by Kevin at 03:45 PM

July 09, 2006

The Guatemalan Perspective...CON'T

Prensa Libre strikes out again against adoptions. I think the sources of the anti-adoption folks have made themselves known: UNICEF and of course, First Lady Berger. I will warn you that it is rather upsetting to read. But it certainly explains the current delays prompted by an administration that is in its last term year.

My Sincerest thanks to Gregg who spent his time translating this article to share with other prospective parents....


The original article in Spanish can be found HERE.
Guatemala, baby-exporting country

Counts more than 160 adoption agencies. The easy process creates a business that rents wombs, that has law firms dedicated to the process, and produces more than $150 million USD in revenue per year.

By: Olga Lopez, Claudia Munaiz, Carlos Menocal

It is the second time that Laura (a fictitious name) visits the medical lab located on the third floor of a building in Zone 10. She isn’t nervous because she knows that she and her baby only need to give a blood sample to verify that neither are carriers of HIV, an essential requirement to initiate the process of adoption.

It is also the second time this 24 year old woman “rents” her womb to give light to a child she will give for adoption. “They’re giving me 5,000 Quetzales (a little more than $650 USD), and during my pregnancy they fed me, bought me medicines, and my childbirth was in a hospital”, she relates.

Children “a la carte”
The demand has grown, as the laws of the country favor notarial adoptions, and to a small extent, judicial adoptions.

Guatemala lists more than 160 international adoption agencies that tell their clients that the process will take less than nine months.

“Typically the children will be Hispanic looking, meaning light to medium brown skin with dark eyes and brown or black hair. All the children receive the regular well-baby check ups and are tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and other diseases. Pictures and medical reports are available upon referral.” Married couples and single women up to age 55 can adopt, states Adopt Abroad on its internet website (www.adopt-abroad.com).

They are children “a la carte,” assure the social service agencies. For the most part, they are adopted by citizens of the United States, Finland, England, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, Israel, Canada, and Ireland, among others.

Each couple will have paid up to USD $40,000 to obtain a baby and will have generated for this industry some USD $200 million per year.

In the nine years since 1997, the country has given for adoption 23,474 minores, and more than 90 percent of these have gone to the United States.

On a per capita basis, Guatemala occupies first place in the world for exporters of newborns. Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, India, and Kazakhstan, also used by many agencies, all have larger population but none approve more than 2,000 cases each per year.

This year, the office of the Attorney General (PGN) has received more than 4,141 dossiers for adoption and has approved 1,544. En 2005 the country assigned 4,048 children, and 3,838 in 2004.

On average, 690 petitions for adoption enter the PGN monthly, and it is predicted to rise due to a warning that the U.S. government will suspend them next year if Guatemala doesn’t approve a law that protects children.

Victor Hugo Barrios, Assistant Attorney General, says that the agency lacks sufficient personnel to handle all the cases received by the PGN.

Alejandra Vasquez, from the Social Movement for Childhood, explains that there is an economic interest in this matter. “It is worrisome, because there is no law that follows-up on these cases” she advises.

Mario Taracena, member of the legislative commission on Childhood and the Family, affirms that there are proposed laws on this subject. “The first talks about an entity made up of various institutions, but with the participation of notarios. The second proposes that adoption should be a judicial process. Congress will revisit this subject”, he states.


Not abandoned
The number of international adoptions contrasts with the 3,000 orphans and abandoned children in hospitals, whom the state has under guardianship. The reason that these children are not attractive to the lawyers and agencies is that their situation is under the responsibility of a court.

Carmen de Wennier, director of “hogares comunitarios” (community homes), of the Secretary of Social Work of the First Lady (SOSEP), says that if they are declared as abandoned, orphaned, or subject to adoption, the process has to pass through the program of adoption and substitute families.

Nancy Amaya, director of adoption programs for SOSEP, indicates that international adoption agencies are not using this program because that they know that these children have been judicially declared as abandoned.

Josefina Arellano, lawyer for minors, attests that adoption has become a lucrative activity in which children who do not need to be born are given for adoption. “Abandoned children are not going to be adopted. There is a low incidence of judicial adoptions”, she states.

The Latin American Institute for Education and Communication (ILPEC) conducted an investigation at the request of UNICEF, concluding that adoptions are not focused on orphaned and abandoned children that need new families, but upon babies that are being produced for this purpose.

Laura admits: “When we went to for the exams, there were more than 50 women in the lab that were going to sell their child.”

The business has grown to such an extent that classified ads are placed, suggesting the possibility of an adoption resulting from a supposedly unexpected pregnancy.

“The economic engine of adoption has created a labor force in which the financiers, mothers, intermediaries, foster care providers, translators, lawyers, adoption agencies, and children’s homes receive benefits”, concludes ILPEC.

Fernando Linares Beltranena, criminal lawyer and adoption lawyer, claims that there is no proof that this supposed business exists.

“While there are more adoptions, good. There will be more lawyers that offer their services, more foster homes, more pediatricians. All of this will reduce the cost because there will be a larger offering of services”, he asserts.


Without regulation
Rosa Ortiz, a member of UNICEF, of the United Nations, states that the country is a paradise for adoptions because there is no intervention by the state.

Guatemala is the only country in Latin America in which a judicial process is not required. In fact, it is a process carried out by lawyers connected with the agencies.

The only contact that the judicial system has in this process is when the social worker interviews the mother in the Family Court. After that, the PGN approves the case.

According to investigators from the Minors Section of the national police, complex networks exist that could be linked to the international trafficking of children and child prostitution. In fact, there are recent reports saying that during this year thirty children of three years old has been stolen.

The case worries the social service organizations, concerned that these little ones could be placed for adoptions under suspicious circumstances.

Anomolies are also reflected in cases that have been filed with PGN. This year, 33 have been rejected after anomalies have been detected in the documents presented by the notarios.

Duplicity in birth certificates, falsification of documents and of the biological mothers, are some of the irregularities that have investigators from the section on Childhood of the PGN have detected.

“It has been established that many women use the identity of children that died some 20 years ago”, states Josefina Arellano, in charge of the section.

Indebted
En March of 2003, the government ratified the Hague Convention, concerning the protection of children, and anticipated that the state should control the process of adoption. In September of that year, several notarios pledged to lodge an appeal in the Constitutional Court against it.

Guatemala hasn’t completed the implementation of the agreement. For Byron Alvarado, lawyer with the Social Movement for Childhood, Congress should incorporate the Hague Convention. “Guatemala has committed itself to conforming with international treaties”, maintains Alvarado.

Nidia Aguilar del Cid, chief attorney for Childhood, of the office for Human Rights, affirms that the agreement confirms that in the adoption process there should be no thought of making profits.

“We’re not saying that the notario shouldn’t earn any money, but when we see what the adoption of a child entails, above all with the United States, the situation changes”, he says.

The assistant attorney expounds: “We would like to have a law that regulates the adoption process, in which the PGN will take part with central authority, but where the case would be judicial.”

The case hasn’t been dealt with by the Legislative body, and, according to Taracena, is awaiting a new brief to initiate the discussion. “This law has been in Congress for 18 years”, he says.

Study: Announcement and analysis of the case
Institutions are worried over adoptions.

ILPEC states that adoptions are not carried out with orphaned children that need substitute families, but with newborns that will be “produced” for this end.

Besides, he states that 60% of children given for adoption are less than 10 months old. Some 82% were confined to private homes, and 12% come from institutions that take in abandoned children.

The activity is developing with a parallel judicial procedure, in the form of ads in the press that say: “Unmarried woman, do you have problems because of your pregnancy? We will help you. We offer you a legal way out. Place (your baby) for adoption.”

One case: Testimony
Deceived

Three months ago, Jose and his wife Raquel Umpierre, from Puerto Rico, reported that they only needed to obtain a child’s visa and pay $6,500 USD to adopt the child. But the baby was already promised by a nursery to another couple from the United States.

“We went to the children’s home, paid $6,000 USD and signed a power of attorney. We began to share the life of our little Manuel with every trip”, he added.

His wife, Raquel, has lost about 13 pounds since they told her the news. “Araceli Reyes looked me in the eye and told me that my child would arrive the 17th of April”, she states.

Orphans await opportunity
Nancy Amaya, director of adoption programs for the Secretary of Social Works for the first lady of Guatemala (SOSEP), explains that as of this moment seven children, from a total of 3,000 orphans, are classified for adoption.

According to Amaya, SOSEP has a data base of families that want to adopt children under its guardianship.

“We look for a family for a child, and not for a child for a family”, she argues.

The Process
If a family wants to adopt a child, they should approach SOSEP. There, they will be given a form and will need to attach documents that prove their quality of life, pass a criminal background check, medical certificates, work history, tax information, and marital status.


Married people and single women can adopt.
The process is totally free, and the family can be considered as a candidate after being subjected to an evaluation of its profiles. Amaya states that they’re not looking for an ostentatious family, but rather one that will give a good life to the child.

In the state-run homes, there are children between the ages of one year and up to 11 years.

Carmen de Wennier maintains that adoption is a noble institution, when it favors needy children.


---------------------------------------------------------------------
Response posted by Kelly:
While I could write a book on the faulty reasoning of these articles...I just don't have time. I'm appalled that reporters are more interested in shock value than in thinking through and researching their articles..but I will respond to a few things in no particular order:

* PGN claims fraudulant documents and duplicity: OK...I believe that their JOB is to prevent adoptions from happening under fraudulant circumstances. If they cannot handle or prevent such occurrances from happening (they certainly declare that they have "identified" them), then they are not suited to become a Central Authority. I would recommend that PGN be immediately replaced if they ARE allowing such adoptions to occur. Governments are quick to criticize the private sector (especially, if they are not in the financial loop)...yet they are somehow exempt when they are ineffective at their own government jobs??

* Birthmothers having children for money: While this claim would be hard to dispute (at least whether it happens), I am disgusted by the elitist blanket statements. In only a few visits to Guatemala, I met birthmothers where fathers had been murdered, killed or they were left on their own. I've watched them cry when they talk about wanting a better life for their children. This is a Catholic country where abortion is unthinkable...so, why is it surprising that women find themselves pregnant with children they are unable to support? Certainly, it is no surprise that the first Lady, UNICEF nor any other state organization is unwilling to assist them. Remember folks, poverty is extreme in many areas of Guatemala.

* Abandonments - I know plenty of families that pursue abandonment cases. Unfortunately for them, the process can be long and painful. There are no guarantees and there are judges who are unwilling to grant an abandonment decree regardless of the situation.The process for Relinquishments (whether or not you agree with the current system) is about the only process that has obvious safeguards against stolen children! So, it seems that our dear reporter is contradicting herself!

*State Run orphanages? Well, I have not visited Guatemala for a while. But one thing that was incredibly sad about Central American STATE run orphanages is the number of children shoved into overcrowded and severely underfunded orphanges. To say that a child has a higher risk of attachment and emotional disorders is an understatement. The Privatization is what has kept these children well cared for. I cringe to think of what might happen if the Guatemalan government was tasked with taking care of all orphaned children.

* Most distressing to me: My daughter is a human being with dreams and emotions. She is not an export nor should her biological families circumstances be minimized because of some elitist political views of adoption. I resent children being discussed as objects. Again, I feel there is a severe detachment from the upper class about the economic reality in more rural villages. Notice folks, that the focus of concern seems to be the industry, not what would happen to the many children who would likely have NO sponsors if it were not for open adoptions in this country.

In summary, I realize that it is easy to either dismiss or believe every newspaper article. But these views are a good lesson in the issues facing Guatemala and even adoptions worldwide. Since UNICEF has done very little in actually helping or assisting the poverty stricken in Guatemala but they spend billions on advocating to KEEP these children from having opportunities..They have collected billions of dollars in the name of saving children in Guatemala which is certainly FALSE advertisement because they spend it mostly to pressure governments to do their bidding.
....well, what more needs to be said?

Posted by Kelly at 11:42 PM

July 03, 2006

The Guatemalan Perspective...

I decided to move this up to the top (instead of buried in the comments) because it is an important lesson in understanding in the Guatemala Perspective. The translation is in black and I added my comments in blue italics.

{English translation sent to us by Esperanza}

Esperanza wrote: What follows is my husband's translation of an article that appeared in the Prensa Libre newspaper in Guatemala City on Saturday, July 1, 2006. You can read the original article (in Spanish) at: http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2006/julio/01/145715.html. Perhaps it helps explain some of the reported slowdown in the PGN's processing of cases (?).

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

Alarm over the theft of children By: Olga López

More than 25 children have been stolen in the first half of this year,and organizations that watch over this sector of the population are expressing fear that they are being illegally sold for adoptions. Groups supporting the welfare of children back up their perceptions with statistics from the National Civil Police (PNC), where it has been reported that the theft of minors from 0 to 3 years old has increased, on the streets and in public hospitals. Investigators say that these are the ages that child thieves prefer, because they are not yet able to speak well.

In Central America, children are often stolen for prostitution and slavery which is unrelated to adoption. The DNA test makes it quite difficult to steal a child for adoption since the majority of adoptions are to US citizens. If an attempt is made to process it as an abandonment, then it becomes a lengthy process where the court attempts to find the birth mother or birth family.

The PN has also received 10 reports from the la Procuraduría General de la Nación (PGN), that it has detected irregularities in the processing of adoptions. Josefina Arellano, head of the office of Children, from the PGN, states that DNA tests have detected that many children are not the children of the women who have placed them for adoption.

I would love to know statistics here. I would not be surprised that there would be some findings of children who did not match with the relinquisher. However, this is why the DNA match is necessary to deter folks from such dispicable actions. I have also seen that sometimes birthmother's in fear have abandoned their children with relatives, with midwives or aquaintances in hopes that they will not be detected. In ANY case where there is a DNA mismatch, the adoption would not be allowed to go through and the child and case goes to the Court of Minors which is tasked with investigating. The point of any law or *test* should be in order to CATCH predators..but it cannot prevent attempts to circumvent the law.

As for the irregularities of PGN....well, yeah...seems that PGN has had a hard time figuring out what constitutes a legitimate adoption. Somehow, stalling the cases or inventing issues does not seem to be the answer. Seems to me that the biggest irregularity in PGN is PGN itself!

The Attorney General, Mario Gordillo, predicts that there will be an increase in the number of adoptions this year, due to the warning from the United States that it will suspend adoptions from Guatemala in 2007 if Guatemala does not approve a law that protects minors.

There has been an increase due to this threat. It may also play a part in the timelines we are seeing. Afterall, there are no increases in staff to handle them. The threat is legit. I just question the motives of all. Most seem more bent on stopping adoptions than they are protecting children.

Alejandra Vásquez, of the National Childhood Movement, says that because of this situation many children are at risk of falling into the hands of unscrupulous people who either purchase or steal them from their mothers.

Wrong. Nobody in their right mind is going to attempt stealing a child for the sake of adoption when it would be near impossible to process the adoption and being caught would ruin them. If PGN cannot handle investigating these cases, then they need to be replaced. In the past, while we have had our disagreements, one thing was true: They are in place to investigate each case and make sure it is legitimate. Moreover, our own Embassy takes a very critical eye to every adoption case. The statement only tells me that these people have no faith in THEIR own PGN. But really, it boils down to the fact that they want to stop adoptions because in their eyes it "looks bad".

On the rise "We believe that the number of missing children has risen in comparison to previous years", states Nidia Aguilar, of the office for the Defense of Children, from the department for Human Rights. Missing More than 25 children between the ages of 0 and 3 have been reported to the PNC as stolen, between January and June of this year. The thefts have occurred in the streets, and in the national hospitals of Guatemala City and the rest of the country. Many minors are stolen to be illegally placed for adoption.

This is yellow journalism. Again, how can you steal a child with a failed DNA and then place them for adoption anyway? I wonder about the intelligence of a reporter that can't put 2 and 2 together here. I also wonder who is making the connections...is it the reporter or these various organizations reporting the stolen children?

Guatemala's first lady, Wendy Berger, has a daughter who adopted from Romania. Ms. Berger has been very outspoken about enacting laws in Guatemala that would effectively end adoptions and would leave thousands of children homeless anually. Yet she has been heard stating that adopted children are not really wanted they are just easy to obtain. What is so sad about this view is not that she is so wrong, but that she apparently has an elitest prejudicial view HERSELF. She does not value them as human beings EQUALLY deserving than a Romanian child. I am curious what she would think if her grandchild was kept from her and her daughter for months just for the sake of displaying a political view! Well, Ms. Berger, you are wrong. These are very precious children and while it may be hard to fight those who want to take advantage of the system, it is only right to offer these children and their biological families the option of a loving home! Keeping them from their families is as criminal if not more than those who try to take advantage of the situation.

I pray that all may come to their senses and do whats right for the children!

 

Posted by Kelly at 12:08 PM

June 15, 2006

PGN Waiters....take note

Well, after receiving 40+ private emails today asking about PGN timeframes and questions, I decided I NEEDED to address all the "PGN Waiters". While I CERTAINLY understand the frustration, there is only so much I can do to "help". Not to mention that I do not get paid while your agency DOES get paid...and its REALLY hard right now to keep a good attitude when I am jobless and wondering how I am going to pay the electric bill this month.

First off: If you don't see your question answered or you just want to gripe, moan or comment, please do not hesitate to email me anyway. I'm here to support families *AND* agencies...even if *I* need to gripe occassionally too :-) I just had to say something because there were TOO many emails and I would hate for ANYONE to think that I was ignoring them or didn't care.

Alrighty, here are some general comments about PGN:

1 - Make sure that before you email any of the Guatadopt writers, you refresh your Guatadopt.com site and read the latest entries. IF THERE IS ANYTHING WE KNOW, WE POST IT IMMEDIATELY....or as soon as we're sitting at a computer (Really! I promise!).

2 - TWO days ago, I posted about the meeting ADA had with the PGN director. Yet, 90% of the email I am receiving from the site is asking about timeframes. Since I doubt ANYONE has entered into PGN and exited within 2 days, the guestimate would have to be based on the EXTREMELY long timeframes PRIOR to Tuesday. Unfortunately, PGN has been so unpredictable, I couldn't even do that (Please read back SEVERAL posts if you want to have a history of what was going on!).

3 - YES, it appears some cases have been released. But I don't think the "floodgates" have opened. Its too early to establish ANY idea or average timeframe. We'll just have to wait and see!

4 - There has been some speculation among some attornies, that the most efficient and "clean" cases have been delayed more than most...by being thrown into investigation or kicked out for nonsensical issues (punished for being efficient?...yikes!). So, its not logical to judge your attorney by the length of stay in PGN right now (other factors? yeah, but not PGN timelines).

5 - Finally, a reminder....we are QUITE limited to what we can speculate or advise on an individual case. We are NOT privy to your case details (and interpretations of information differ). Nor is anyone on ANY forum outside your agency. You must take advice/comments from anyone (including Guatadopt) with a grain of salt!!!!

I'm still crossing my fingers for all of you....and again, we'll post news as we get it!

Posted by Kelly at 04:18 PM

June 13, 2006

ADA Meets with PGN Director

{Posted on behalf of Susana Luarca, ADA}

Dear Friends,

Association Defenders of Adoption held a meeting last night to discuss the delays of the adoption files at the PGN. The audience was informed by the president of ADA, Enrique Urizar, of the contents of the letter that was sent last week by ADA to the director of the PGN, urging him to sign off all the cases that have been reviewed by the PGN lawyers and are waiting for his signature. The letter warned him that is he failed to do so, legal actions would be taken against him.

This past week, Barrios went to Bolivia and came back at the end of the week. This morning we were told he started signing off all files presented before May 15th. We assume that he is doing so, to prevent us from filing an Amparo (a legal resource where there is no other legal remedy) against him, for failing to give an opinion in more than a month. Although that is a good start, it is not enough. At the meeting, we agreed to file criminal charges against him, for not performing his official duties in the time that the law establishes (three days) and for sending many of the files for 'investigation' to the section of children and adolescents of the PGN, where the processes are paralyzed for many months. He has done a lot of harm and will have to answer for it.

For those of you who want to take an active role in the prosecution of Barrios, contact your lawyer and urge him or her to contact us. Criminal charges should be brought by the victims. Do not expect others to do it for you. Let us know that you support our actions and remember that united we will be stronger.

Best regards,

Susana Luarca, attorney at law
Assciation Defenders of Adoption
Vice President.

Posted by Kelly at 09:41 AM

June 07, 2006

PGN Bottleneck continues

While this is the same ole news, I guess its appropriate to reiterate it. I know a number of people have written to ask for updates....Well, I feel like the budget weather guy who stands there saying "Uh, its currently raining!" DUH! Those of you waiting are WELL aware that you are STILL waiting!!!

So, lets talk about what agencies, attorneys and little ole me CAN tell you and what we CAN'T tell you.

1 - The bottleneck is PRIMARILY with the new PGN director. Yes, his job is to "review" or look over the files before they are released. The question is: To what extent? My opinion is that he is using this excuse to stall the release of files.
2 - Chances are you are not going to get a PGN "update" privately unless your case has been signed off OR it has been kicked out (with a previo). Keep in mind that the attorneys/agencies have NO CONTROL over PGN slowdowns nor Embassy slowdowns. Expected timelines are being thrown out the window and there was no way that anyone could have foreseen it.
3 - Your case is a private-unique case unlike any other case. So, when we talk about vague concepts like slowdowns, you must remember that PGN is not a queue (first in, first out)....no matter what the speed of the "average" case. We have no idea why one case may only spend X amount of time while another case takes 3X amount of time...because we are not privy to the details of that case. So, don't expect to find answers in "averages"...
3 - FYI: Guatadopt is updating you based on our own contacts in Guatemala and various agencies' experiences. What we lack is direct information from PGN, statistics, reasons or individual case information. Most agencies and attorneys are blind to case statistics NOT their own....so take it with a grain of salt.

I am aware that ADA has been putting some pressure on the director to release cases which have been approved by the reviewers but not signed. But the most we can do is wait and see.

As usual, I wish there was something more we could do....but I suspect that the reasons are somewhat political and we must be careful not to fan the flames!

Posted by Kelly at 03:06 PM

May 25, 2006

ICARE added to Senate Immigration Bill

In just a few hours, the Senate is expected to approve an immigration reform bill. Everyone has seen the news coverage of the debate about the topic of undocumented immigration to the United States. Added to that bill is the ICARE bill. A search of this site will teach you quite a bit about ICARE.

This does not mean that ICARE will become law today! The House of Representatives has passed a very different immigration bill already and the two houses must still find a compromise before anything becomes the law of the land. Who knows if that will happen or if ICARE will be a part of any compromise.

Sen. Landrieu's Press Release is below.

Note 5/30: we have added the text of the bill to this posting after the press release

For Immediate Release
May 24, 2006

Landrieu Adoption Amendment Added to Immigration Bill
WASHINGTON – The Senate adopted today by voice vote the Inter Country Adoption Reform (ICARE) amendment offered by U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La. The amendment seeks to improve the international adoption process by affording children adopted internationally by American parents the same rights as children born abroad to American parents.

“We have millions of children around the world who need an opportunity for a family,” Sen. Landrieu said on the Senate floor. “Children should be raised in families, not alone.”

The ICARE amendment centralizes the current staff and resources working on international adoption into one office, the newly created Office of Inter-country Adoption (OIA). This allows for greater coordination, focus and expertise regarding international adoption, and enables the U.S. State Department to provide greater diplomatic representation and proactive advocacy in the area of international adoption.

“Every child should try to stay with the parents that bring them into the world, but when that is not possible and no parents in their home country can be found, then these children have a right to find a family somewhere in the world, and we must help them,” said Sen. Landrieu.

The ICARE amendment was originally introduced in 2003 by Sen. Landrieu and former Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., in an effort to improve the facilitation of the international adoption process as the numbers of inter-country adoptions increased. In 1990, Americans adopted more than 7,000 children from abroad. By 2004, Americans adopted more than 23,000 children from abroad.

“This legislation has taken us far too long to pass, but today we are helping eliminate barriers and provide a more effective international adoption system which will help the hundreds of thousands of children who are waiting for the safe and loving family they deserve,” said Sen. Landrieu.

Text of the Bill

TITLE --INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION REFORM

SEC. 01. SHORT TITLE.

This title may be cited as the ``Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2006'' or the ``ICARE Act''.

SEC. 02. FINDINGS; PURPOSES.

(a) FINDINGS.--Congress finds the following:

(1) That a child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding.

(2) That intercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her country of origin.

(3) There has been a significant growth in intercountry adoptions. In 1990, Americans adopted 7,093 children from abroad. In 2004, they adopted 23,460 children from abroad.

(4) Americans increasingly seek to create or enlarge their families through intercountry adoptions.

(5) There are many children worldwide that are without permanent homes.

(6) In the interest of children without a permanent family and the United States citizens who are waiting to bring them into their families, reforms are needed in the intercountry adoption process used by United States citizens.

(7) Before adoption, each child should have the benefit of measures taken to ensure that intercountry adoption is in his or her best interest and that prevents the abduction, selling, or trafficking of children.

(8) In addition, Congress recognizes that foreign-born adopted children do not make the decision whether to immigrate to the United States. They are being chosen by Americans to become part of their immediate families.

(9) As such these children should not be classified as immigrants in the traditional sense. Once fully and finally adopted, they should be treated as children of United States citizens.

(10) Since a child who is fully and finally adopted is entitled to the same rights, duties, and responsibilities as a biological child, the law should reflect such equality.

(11) Therefore, foreign-born adopted children of United States citizens should be accorded the same procedural treatment as biological children born abroad to a United States citizen.

(12) If a United States citizen can confer citizenship to a biological child born abroad, then the same citizen is entitled to confer such citizenship to their legally and fully adopted foreign-born child immediately upon final adoption.

(13) If a United States citizen cannot confer citizenship to a biological child born abroad, then such citizen cannot confer citizenship to their legally and fully adopted foreign-born child, except through the naturalization process.

(b) PURPOSES.--The purposes of this title are--

(1) to ensure that any adoption of a foreign-born child by parents in the United States is carried out in the manner that is in the best interest of the child;

(2) to ensure that foreign-born children adopted by United States citizens will be treated identically to a biological child born abroad to the same citizen parent; and

(3) to improve the intercountry adoption process to make it more citizen friendly and focused on the protection of the child.

SEC. 03. DEFINITIONS.

In this title:

(1) ADOPTABLE CHILD.--The term ``adoptable child'' has the same meaning given such term in section 101(c)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(c)(3)), as added by section __ 24(a) of this Act.

(2) AMBASSADOR AT LARGE.--The term ``Ambassador at Large'' means the Ambassador at Large for Intercountry Adoptions appointed to head the Office pursuant to section __ 11(b).

(3) COMPETENT AUTHORITY.--The term ``competent authority'' means the entity or entities authorized by the law of the child's country of residence to engage in permanent placement of children who are no longer in the legal or physical custody of their biological parents.

(4) CONVENTION.--The term ``Convention'' means the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, done at The Hague on May 29, 1993.

(5) FULL AND FINAL ADOPTION.--The term ``full and final adoption'' means an adoption--

(A) that is completed according to the laws of the child's country of residence or the State law of the parent's residence;

(B) under which a person is granted full and legal custody of the adopted child;

(C) that has the force and effect of severing the child's legal ties to the child's biological parents;

(D) under which the adoptive parents meet the requirements of section __ 25; and

(E) under which the child has been adjudicated to be an adoptable child in accordance with section __ 26.

(6) OFFICE.--The term ``Office'' means the Office of Intercountry Adoptions established under section __ 11(a).

(7) READILY APPROVABLE.--A petition or certification is ``readily approvable'' if the documentary support provided along with such petition or certification demonstrates that the petitioner satisfies the eligibility requirements and no additional information or investigation is necessary.

Subtitle A--Administration of Intercountry Adoptions

SEC. 11. OFFICE OF INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT.--Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, there shall be established within the Department of State, an Office of Intercountry Adoptions which shall be headed by the Ambassador at Large for Intercountry Adoptions.

(b) AMBASSADOR AT LARGE.--

(1) APPOINTMENT.--The Ambassador at Large shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among individuals who have background, experience, and training in intercountry adoptions.

(2) CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.--The individual appointed to be the Ambassador at Large shall be free from any conflict of interest that could impede such individual's ability to serve as the Ambassador.

(3) AUTHORITY.--The Ambassador at Large shall report directly to the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs.

(4) REGULATIONS.--The Ambassador at Large may not issue rules or regulations unless such rules or regulations have been approved by the Secretary of State.

(5) DUTIES OF THE AMBASSADOR AT LARGE.--The Ambassador at Large shall have the following responsibilities:

(A) IN GENERAL.--The primary responsibilities of the Ambassador at Large shall be--

(i) to ensure that any adoption of a foreign-born child by parents in the United States is carried out in the manner that is in the best interest of the child; and

(ii) to assist the Secretary of State in fulfilling the responsibilities designated to the central authority under title I of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14911 et seq.).

(B) ADVISORY ROLE.--The Ambassador at Large shall be a principal advisor to the

[Page: S4639] GPO's PDF

President and the Secretary of State regarding matters affecting intercountry adoption and the general welfare of children abroad and shall make recommendations regarding--

(i) the policies of the United States with respect to the establishment of a system of cooperation among the parties to the Convention;

(ii) the policies to prevent abandonment, to strengthen families, and to advance the placement of children in permanent families; and

(iii) policies that promote the protection and well-being of children.

(C) DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION.--Subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State, the Ambassador at Large may represent the United States in matters and cases relevant to international adoption in--

(i) fulfillment of the responsibilities designated to the central authority under title I of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14911 et seq.);

(ii) contacts with foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, and specialized agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations of which the United States is a member; and

(iii) multilateral conferences and meetings relevant to international adoption.

(D) International policy development.--The Ambassador at Large shall advise and support the Secretary of State and other relevant Bureaus of the Department of State in the development of sound policy regarding child protection and intercountry adoption.

(E) REPORTING RESPONSIBILITIES.--The Ambassador at Large shall have the following reporting responsibilities:

(i) IN GENERAL.--The Ambassador at Large shall assist the Secretary of State and other relevant Bureaus in preparing those portions of the Human Rights Reports that relate to the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children.

(ii) ANNUAL REPORT ON INTER-COUNTRY ADOPTION.--Not later than September 1 of each year, the Secretary of State shall prepare and submit to Congress an annual report on intercountry adoption. Each annual report shall include--

(I) a description of the status of child protection and adoption in each foreign country, including--

(aa) trends toward improvement in the welfare and protection of children and families;

(bb) trends in family reunification, domestic adoption, and intercountry adoption;

(cc) movement toward ratification and implementation of the Convention; and

(dd) census information on the number of children in orphanages, foster homes, and other types of nonpermanent residential care as reported by the foreign country;

(II) the number of intercountry adoptions by United States citizens, including the country from which each child emigrated, the State in which each child resides, and the country in which the adoption was finalized;

(III) the number of intercountry adoptions involving emigration from the United States, including the country where each child now resides and the State from which each child emigrated;

(IV) the number of placements for adoption in the United States that were disrupted including the country from which the child emigrated, the age of the child, the date of the placement for adoption, the reasons for the disruption, the resolution of the disruption, the agencies that handled the placement for adoption, and the plans for the child, and in addition, any information regarding disruption or dissolution of adoptions of children from other countries received pursuant to the section 422(b)(14) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 622(b)(14));

(V) the average time required for completion of an adoption, set forth by the country from which the child emigrated;

(VI) the current list of agencies accredited and persons approved under the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 et seq.) to provide adoption services;

(VII) the names of the agencies and persons temporarily or permanently debarred under the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 et seq.), and the reasons for the debarment;

(VIII) the range of adoption fees involving adoptions by United States citizens and the median of such fees set forth by the country of origin;

(IX) the range of fees charged for accreditation of agencies and the approval of persons in the United States engaged in providing adoption services under the Convention; and

(X) recommendations of ways the United States might act to improve the welfare and protection of children and families in each foreign country.

(c) FUNCTIONS OF OFFICE.--The Office shall have the following 7 functions:

(1) APPROVAL OF A FAMILY TO ADOPT.--To approve or disapprove the eligibility of a United States citizen to adopt a child born in a foreign country.

(2) CHILD ADJUDICATION.--To investigate and adjudicate the status of a child born in a foreign country to determine whether that child is an adoptable child.

(3) FAMILY SERVICES.--To provide assistance to United States citizens engaged in the intercountry adoption process in resolving problems with respect to that process and to track intercountry adoption cases so as to ensure that all such adoptions are processed in a timely manner.

(4) INTERNATIONAL POLICY DEVELOPMENT.--To advise and support the Ambassador at Large and other relevant Bureaus of the Department of State in the development of sound policy regarding child protection and intercountry adoption.

(5) CENTRAL AUTHORITY.--To assist the Secretary of State in carrying out duties of the central authority as defined in section 3 of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14902).

(6) ENFORCEMENT.--To investigate, either directly or in cooperation with other appropriate international, Federal, State, or local entities, improprieties relating to intercountry adoption, including issues of child protection, birth family protection, and consumer fraud.

(7) ADMINISTRATTON.--To perform administrative functions related to the functions performed under paragraphs (1) through (6), including legal functions and congressional liaison and public affairs functions.

(d) ORGANIZATION.--

(1) IN GENERAL.--All functions of the Office shall be performed by officers employed in a central office located in Washington, D.C. Within that office, there shall be 7 divisions corresponding to the 7 functions of the Office. The director of each such division shall report directly to the Ambassador at Large.

(2) APPROVAL TO ADOPT.--The division responsible for approving parents to adopt shall be divided into regions of the United States as follows:

(A) Northwest.

(B) Northeast.

(C) Southwest.

(D) Southeast.

(E) Midwest.

(F) West.

(3) CHILD ADJUDICATION.--To the extent practicable, the division responsible for the adjudication of foreign-born children as adoptable shall be divided by world regions which correspond to the world regions used by other divisions within the Department of State.

(4) USE OF INTERNATIONAL FIELD OFFICERS.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of international field officers posted abroad, as necessary, to fulfill the requirements of this Act.

(5) COORDINATION.--The Ambassador at Large shall coordinate with appropriate employees of other agencies and departments of the United States, whenever appropriate, in carrying out the duties of the Ambassador.

(e) QUALIFICATIONS AND TRAINING.--In addition to meeting the employment requirements of the Department of State, officers employed in any of the 7 divisions of the Office shall undergo extensive and specialized training in the laws and processes of intercountry adoption as well as understanding the cultural, medical, emotional, and social issues surrounding intercountry adoption and adoptive families. The Ambassador at Large shall, whenever possible, recruit and hire individuals with background and experience in intercountry adoptions, taking care to ensure that such individuals do not have any conflicts of interest that might inhibit their ability to serve.

(f) USE OF ELECTRONIC DATABASES AND FILING.--To the extent possible, the Office shall make use of centralized, electronic databases and electronic form filing.

SEC. 12. RECOGNITION OF CONVENTION ADOPTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES.

Section 505(a)(1) of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 note) is amended by inserting ``301, 302,'' after ``205,''.

SEC. 13. TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENT.

Section 104 of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14914) is repealed.

SEC. 14. TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS.

(a) IN GENERAL.--Subject to subsection (c), all functions under the immigration laws of the United States with respect to the adoption of foreign-born children by United States citizens and their admission to the United States that have been vested by statute in, or exercised by, the Secretary of Homeland Security immediately prior to the effective date of this Act, are transferred to the Secretary of State on the effective date of this Act and shall be carried out by the Ambassador at Large, under the supervision of the Secretary of State, in accordance with applicable laws and this Act.

(b) EXERCISE OF AUTHORITIES.--Except as otherwise provided by law, the Ambassador at Large may, for purposes of performing any function transferred to the Ambassador at Large under subsection (a), exercise all authorities under any other provision of law that were available with respect to the performance of that function to the official responsible for the performance of the function immediately before the effective date of the transfer of the function pursuant to this subtitle.

(c) LIMITATION ON TRANSFER OF PENDING ADOPTIONS.--If an individual has filed a petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the Department of Homeland Security with respect to the adoption of a foreign-born child prior to the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to make the final determination on such petition and such petition shall not be transferred to the Office.

SEC. 15. TRANSFER OF RESOURCES.

Subject to section 1531 of title 31, United States Code, upon the effective date of this act, there are transferred to the Ambassador at Large for appropriate allocation in accordance with this Act, the assets, liabilities, contracts, property, records, and unexpended balance of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, and other funds employed, held, used, arising from, available to, or to be made available to the Department of Homeland Security in connection with the functions transferred pursuant to this subtitle.

SEC. 16. INCIDENTAL TRANSFERS.

The Ambassador at Large may make such additional incidental dispositions of personnel, assets, liabilities, grants, contracts, property, records, and unexpended balances of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, and other funds held, used, arising from, available to, or to be made available in connection with such functions, as may be necessary to carry out this subtitle. The Ambassador at Large shall provide for such further measures and dispositions as may be necessary to effectuate the purposes of this subtitle.

SEC. 17. SAVINGS PROVISIONS.

(a) LEGAL DOCUMENTS.--All orders, determinations, rules, regulations, permits, grants, loans, contracts, agreements, including collective bargaining agreements, certificates, licenses, and privileges--

(1) that have been issued, made, granted, or allowed to become effective by the President, the Ambassador at Large, the former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their delegates, or any other Government official, or by a court of competent jurisdiction, in the performance of any function that is transferred pursuant to this subtitle; and

(2) that are in effect on the effective date of such transfer (or become effective after such date pursuant to their terms as in effect on such effective date);

shall continue in effect according to their terms until modified, terminated, superseded, set aside, or revoked in accordance with law by the President, any other authorized official, a court of competent jurisdiction, or operation of law, except that any collective bargaining agreement shall remain in effect until the date of termination specified in the agreement.

(b) PROCEEDINGS.--

(1) PENDING.--The transfer of functions under section __ 14 shall not affect any proceeding or any application for any benefit, service, license, permit, certificate, or financial assistance pending on the effective date of this subtitle before an office whose functions are transferred pursuant to this subtitle, but such proceedings and applications shall be continued.

(2) ORDERS.--Orders shall be issued in such proceedings, appeals shall be taken therefrom, and payments shall be made pursuant to such orders, as if this Act had not been enacted, and orders issued in any such proceeding shall continue in effect until modified, terminated, superseded, or revoked by a duly authorized official, by a court of competent jurisdiction, or by operation of law.

(3) DISCONTINUANCE OR MODIFICATION.--Nothing in this section shall be considered to prohibit the discontinuance or modification of any such proceeding under the same terms and conditions and to the same extent that such proceeding could have been discontinued or modified if this section had not been enacted.

(c) SUITS.--This subtitle shall not affect suits commenced before the effective date of this subtitle, and in all such suits, proceeding shall be had, appeals taken, and judgments rendered in the same manner and with the same effect as if this Act had not been enacted.

(d) NONABATEMENT OF ACTIONS.--No suit, action, or other proceeding commenced by or against the Department of State, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or the Department of Homeland Security, or by or against any individual in the official capacity of such individual as an officer or employee in connection with a function transferred pursuant to this section, shall abate by reason or the enactment of this Act.

(e) CONTINUANCE OF SUIT WITH SUBSTITUTION OF PARTIES.--If any Government officer in the official capacity of such officer is party to a suit with respect to a function of the officer, and pursuant to this subtitle such function is transferred to any other officer or office, then such suit shall be continued with the other officer or the head of such other office, as applicable, substituted or added as a party.

(f) ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE AND JUDICIAL REVIEW.--Except as otherwise provided by this subtitle, any statutory requirements relating to notice, hearings, action upon the record, or administrative or judicial review that apply to any function transferred pursuant to any provision of this subtitle shall apply to the exercise of such function by the head of the office, and other officers of the office, to which such function is transferred pursuant to such provision.

Subtitle B--Reform of United States Laws Governing Intercountry Adoptions

SEC. 21. AUTOMATIC ACQUISITION OF CITIZENSHIP FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.

(a) AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP PROVISIONS.--

(1) AMENDMENT OF THE INA.--Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1431) is amended to read as follows:

``SEC. 320. CONDITIONS FOR AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP FOR CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.

``(a) IN GENERAL.--A child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a citizen of the United States--

``(1) if the child is not an adopted child--

``(A) at least 1 parent of the child is a citizen of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, who has been physically present (as determined under subsection (b)) in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than 5 years, at least 2 of which were after attaining the age of 14 years; and

``(B) the child is under the age of 18 years; or

``(2) if the child is an adopted child, on the date of the full and final adoption of the child--

``(A) at least 1 parent of the child is a citizen of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, who has been physically present (as determined under subsection (b)) in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than 5 years, at least 2 of which were after attaining the age of 14 years;

``(B) the child is an adoptable child;

``(C) the child is the beneficiary of a full and final adoption decree entered by a foreign government or a court in the United States; and

``(D) the child is under the age of 16 years.

``(b) PHYSICAL PRESENCE.--For the purposes of subsection (a)(2)(A), the requirement for physical presence in the United States or its outlying possessions may be satisfied by the following:

``(1) Any periods of honorable service in the Armed Forces of the United States.

``(2) Any periods of employment with the United States Government or with an international organization as that term is defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288) by such citizen parent.

``(3) Any periods during which such citizen parent is physically present outside the United States or its outlying possessions as the dependent unmarried son or daughter and a member of the household of a person--

``(A) honorably serving with the Armed Forces of the United States; or

``(B) employed by the United States Government or an international organization as defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288).

``(c) FULL AND FINAL ADOPTION.--In this section, the term `full and final adoption' means an adoption--

``(1) that is completed under the laws of the child's country of residence or the State law of the parent's residence;

``(2) under which a person is granted full and legal custody of the adopted child;

``(3) that has the force and effect of severing the child's legal ties to the child's biological parents;

``(4) under which the adoptive parents meet the requirements of section __ 25 of the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2006; and

``(5) under which the child has been adjudicated to be an adoptable child in accordance with section __ 26 of the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2006.''.

(b) Conforming Amendment.--The table of contents in the first section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (66 Stat. 163) is amended by striking the item relating to section 320 and inserting the following:

``Sec. 320. Conditions for automatic citizenship for children born outside the United States''.

(c) Effective Date.--This section shall take effect as if enacted on June 27, 1952.

SEC. 22. REVISED PROCEDURES.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following requirements shall apply with respect to the adoption of foreign born children by United States citizens:

(1) Upon completion of a full and final adoption, the Secretary shall issue a United States passport and a Consular Report of Birth for a child who satisfies the requirements of section 320(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1431(a)(2)), as amended by section __ 21 of this Act, upon application by a United States citizen parent.

(2) An adopted child described in paragraph (1) shall not require the issuance of a visa for travel and admission to the United States but shall be admitted to the United States upon presentation of a valid, unexpired United States passport.

(3) No affidavit of support under section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1183a) shall be required in the case of any adoptable child.

(4) The Secretary of State, acting through the Ambassador at Large, shall require that agencies provide prospective adoptive parents an opportunity to conduct an independent medical exam and a copy of any medical records of the child known to exist (to the greatest extent practicable, these documents shall include an English translation) on a date that is not later than the earlier of the date that is 2 weeks before the adoption, or the date on which prospective adoptive parents travel to such a foreign country to complete all procedures in such country relating to adoption.

(5) The Secretary of State, acting through the Ambassador at Large, shall take necessary measures to ensure that all prospective adoptive parents adopting internationally are provided with training that includes counseling and guidance for the purpose of promoting a successful intercountry adoption before such parents travel to adopt the child or the child is placed with such parents for adoption.

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(6) The Secretary of State, acting through the Ambassador at Large, shall take necessary measures to ensure that--

(A) prospective adoptive parents are given full disclosure of all direct and indirect costs of intercountry adoption before the parents are matched with a child for adoption;

(B) fees charged in relation to the intercountry adoption be on a fee-for-service basis not on a contingent fee basis; and

(C) that the transmission of fees between the adoption agency, the country of origin, and the prospective adoptive parents is carried out in a transparent and efficient manner.

(7) The Secretary of State, acting through the Ambassador at Large, shall take all measures necessary to ensure that all documents provided to a country of origin on behalf of a prospective adoptive parent are truthful and accurate.

SEC. 23. NONIMMIGRANT VISAS FOR CHILDREN TRAVELING TO THE UNITED STATES TO BE ADOPTED BY A UNITED STATES CITIZEN.

(a) Nonimmigrant Classification.--

(1) In general.--Section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

``(W) an adoptable child who is coming into the United States for adoption by a United States citizen and a spouse jointly or by an unmarried United States citizen at least 25 years of age, who has been approved to adopt by the Office of International Adoption of the Department of State.''.

(2) Technical and conforming amendments.--Such section 101(a)(15) is further amended--

(A) by striking ``or'' at the end of subparagraph (U); and

(B) by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (V) and inserting ``; or''.

(b) Termination of Period of Authorized Admission.--Section 214 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1184) is amended by adding at the end the following:

``(s) In the case of a nonimmigrant described in section 101(a)(15)(W), the period of authorized admission shall terminate on the earlier of--

``(1) the date on which the adoption of the nonimmigrant is completed by the courts of the State where the parents reside; or

``(2) the date that is 4 years after the date of admission of the nonimmigrant into the United States, unless a petitioner is able to show cause as to why the adoption could not be completed prior to such date and the Secretary of State extends such period for the period necessary to complete the adoption.''.

(c) Temporary Treatment as Legal Permanent Resident.--Notwithstanding any other law, all benefits and protections that apply to a legal permanent resident shall apply to a nonimmigrant described in section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by subsection (a), pending a full and final adoption.

(d) Exception From Immunization Requirement for Certain Adopted Children.--Section 212(a)(1)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(1)(C)) is amended--

(1) in the heading by striking ``

10 YEARS'' and inserting ``18 YEARS''; and

(2) in clause (i), by striking ``10 years'' and inserting ``18 years''.

(e) Regulations.--Not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out this section.

SEC. 24. DEFINITION OF ADOPTABLE CHILD.

(a) In General.--Section 101(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

``(3) The term `adoptable child' means an unmarried person under the age of 18--

``(A)(i) whose biological parents (or parent, in the case of a child who has one sole or surviving parent) or other persons or institutions that retain legal custody of the child--

``(I) have freely given their written irrevocable consent to the termination of their legal relationship with the child, and to the child's emigration and adoption and that such consent has not been induced by payment or compensation of any kind and has not been given prior to the birth of the child;

``(II) are unable to provide proper care for the child, as determined by the competent authority of the child's residence; or

``(III) have voluntarily relinquished the child to the competent authorities pursuant to the law of the child's residence; or

``(ii) who, as determined by the competent authority of the child's residence--

``(I) has been abandoned or deserted by their biological parent, parents, or legal guardians; or

``(II) has been orphaned due to the death or disappearance of their biological parent, parents, or legal guardians;

``(B) with respect to whom the Secretary of State is satisfied that the proper care will be furnished the child if admitted to the United States;

``(C) with respect to whom the Secretary of State is satisfied that the purpose of the adoption is to form a bona fide parent-child relationship and that the parent-child relationship of the child and the biological parents has been terminated (and in carrying out both obligations under this subparagraph the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may consider whether there is a petition pending to confer immigrant status on one or both of the biological parents);

``(D) with respect to whom the Secretary of State, is satisfied that there has been no inducement, financial or otherwise, offered to obtain the consent nor was it given before the birth of the child;

``(E) with respect to whom the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is satisfied that the person is not a security risk; and

``(F) whose eligibility for adoption and emigration to the United States has been certified by the competent authority of the country of the child's place of birth or residence.''.

(b) Conforming Amendment.--Section 204(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1154(d)) is amended by inserting ``and an adoptable child as defined in section 101(c)(3)'' before ``unless a valid home-study''.

SEC. 25. APPROVAL TO ADOPT.

(a) In General.--Prior to the issuance of a visa under section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section __ 23(a) of this Act, or the issuance of a full and final adoption decree, the United States citizen adoptive parent shall have approved by the Office a petition to adopt. Such petition shall be subject to the same terms and conditions as are applicable to petitions for classification under section 204.3 of title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act.

(b) Expiration of Approval.--Approval to adopt under this Act is valid for 24 months from the date of approval. Nothing in this section may prevent the Secretary of Homeland Security from periodically updating the fingerprints or an individual who has filed a petition for adoption.

(c) Expedited Reapproval Process of Families Previously Approved To Adopt.--The Secretary of State shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to provide for an expedited and streamlined process for families who have been previously approved to adopt and whose approval has expired, so long as not more than 4 years have lapsed since the original application.

(d) Denial of Petition.--

(1) Notice of intent.--If the officer adjudicating the petition to adopt finds that it is not readily approvable, the officer shall notify the petitioner, in writing, of the officer's intent to deny the petition. Such notice shall include the specific reasons why the petition is not readily approvable.

(2) Petitioner's right to respond.--Upon receiving a notice of intent to deny, the petitioner has 30 days to respond to such notice.

(3) Decision.--Within 30 days of receipt of the petitioner's response the Office must reach a final decision regarding the eligibility of the petitioner to adopt. Notice of a formal decision must be delivered in writing.

(4) Right to an appeal.--Unfavorable decisions may be appealed to the Department of State and, after the exhaustion of the appropriate appeals process of the Department, to a United States district court.

(5) Regulations regarding appeals.--Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall promulgate formal regulations regarding the process for appealing the denial of a petition.

SEC. 26. ADJUDICATION OF CHILD STATUS.

(a) In General.--Prior to the issuance of a full and final adoption decree or a visa under section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section __ 23(a) of this Act--

(1) the Ambassador at Large shall obtain from the competent authority of the country of the child's residence a certification, together with documentary support, that the child sought to be adopted meets the definition of an adoptable child; and

(2) not later than 15 days after the date of the receipt of the certification referred to in paragraph (1), the Secretary of State shall make a final determination on whether the certification and the documentary support are sufficient to meet the requirements of this section or whether additional investigation or information is required.

(b) Process for Determination.--

(1) In General.--The Ambassador at Large shall work with the competent authorities of the child's country of residence to establish a uniform, transparent, and efficient process for the exchange and approval of the certification and documentary support required under subsection (a).

(2) Notice of intent.--If the Secretary of State determines that a certification submitted by the competent authority of the child's country of origin is not readily approvable, the Ambassador at Large shall--

(A) notify the competent authority and the prospective adoptive parents, in writing, of the specific reasons why the certification is not sufficient; and

(B) provide the competent authority and the prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to address the stated insufficiencies.

(3) Petitioners' right to respond.--Upon receiving a notice of intent to find that a certification is not readily approvable, the prospective adoptive parents shall have 30 days to respond to such notice.

(4) Decision.--Not later than 30 days after the date of receipt of a response submitted under paragraph (3), the Secretary of State shall reach a final decision regarding the child's eligibility as an adoptable child. Notice of such decision must be in writing.

(5) Right to an appeal.--Unfavorable decisions on a certification may be appealed through the appropriate process of the Department of State and, after the exhaustion of such process, to a United States district court.

SEC. 27. FUNDS.

The Secretary of State shall provide the Ambassador at Large with such funds as may be necessary for--

(1) the hiring of staff for the Office;

(2) investigations conducted by such staff; and

(3) travel and other expenses necessary to carry out this title.

Subtitle C--Enforcement

SEC. 31. CIVIL PENALTIES AND ENFORCEMENT.

(a) Civil Penalties.--A person shall be subject, in addition to any other penalty that may be prescribed by law, to a civil money penalty of not more than $50,000 for a first violation, and not more than $100,000 for each succeeding violation if such person--

(1) violates a provision of this title or an amendment made by this title;

(2) makes a false or fraudulent statement, or misrepresentation, with respect to a material fact, or offers, gives, solicits, or accepts inducement by way of compensation, intended to influence or affect in the United States or a foreign country--

(A) a decision for an approval under title II;

(B) the relinquishment of parental rights or the giving of parental consent relating to the adoption of a child; or

(C) a decision or action of any entity performing a central authority function; or

(3) engages another person as an agent, whether in the United States or in a foreign country, who in the course of that agency takes any of the actions described in paragraph (1) or (2).

(b) Civil Enforcement.--

(1) Authority of attorney general.--The Attorney General may bring a civil action to enforce subsection (a) against any person in any United States district court.

(2) Factors to be considered in imposing penalties.--In imposing penalties the court shall consider the gravity of the violation, the degree of culpability of the defendant, and any history of prior violations by the defendant.

SEC. 32. CRIMINAL PENALTIES.

Whoever knowingly and willfully commits a violation described in paragraph (1) or (2) of section __ 31(a) shall be subject to a fine of not more than $250,000, imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both

Posted by Kevin at 08:46 AM

May 22, 2006

PGN Update - Still not moving

The title says it all. While there has been a sprinkling of cases exiting, its a major bottleneck for most cases. To answer a few of the questions posed directly to me...

- I do not think the Embassy will step in for any particular case in PGN
- Nor will a State Representative/Senator be in a position to help individual cases.
- We have no information at this time of WHEN things will pick up.
- There are no average timelines and agencies are not in any position to tell you when you will get out...

I know how tough it is to wait and I wish there was something *we* could do. Keep your chins up and keep your spirits up. These children will come home...its just not on anyone's expected timeline!


Posted by Kelly at 06:16 PM

May 11, 2006

Mother's Day and Updates

Yesterday, I had an incredibly busy day...but I wanted to wish all the foster mothers and birth mothers a THANKS on Mothers Day (Guatemala) for the care of the children, the sacrifices they have made and the dedication to providing a child with a loving family.

On a personal level, I would like to thank my attorney (and family) and Carol who brought my family together. I would also like to say thank you to ADA and those in Guatemala who have recognized and "stood up" for the rights of our children (to become our children). Without them, adoptions would have effectively shut down with the first attempted implementation of the Hague.

With that said, lets take care of some business.
1 - PGN is now releasing the cases that were held. I am bumping Susana's comment here, so that it is not missed:
------------------------------------------
{Posted by Susana Luarca, ADA}
The meeting was positive. It was the first time that the new authorities of the PGN accepted to talk to the adoption lawyers. The PGN admitted that they were waiting for Congress to aprove again the Hague Convention, and that was why they were not releasing the files. Because Congress will not approve the Hague Convention, the PGN will be releasing the files within the next days.

We are confident that the Hague Convention will not be approved again, because to do so would be illegal and the congressmen know it, but in just in case, we are poised to use all the legal actions that the situation requieres, in order to allow the children of Guatemala to find permanent homes.

Susana Luarca
----------------------------------------

2 - Please continue to send in your biographies of your family. We are going to bind these and distribute them to authorities in our own government and in Guatemala. The photos ARE important. We have given calendars in the past and recipients have taken those smiling faces to heart dispelling their worries. So we are confident that our collection will make folks think twice about implementing legislation that would hurt the children. You can submit your biography HERE. FYI: It is BETTER if you upload a document with a picture embedded.

Posted by Kelly at 09:59 AM

May 03, 2006

PGN - Its slow, slow, slow....

I know we have had a number of parents who have been concerned with the lack of cases coming out of PGN and have asked us to post information about what is going on....well, that is the question, isn't it?!?

I believe that since the new director took over in March, things haven't exactly moved much. I couldn't tell you why...whether it is a lack of effort, political agenda or "newbie"ness. So about the only thing I can tell you is if you have been stuck in PGN for an outrageous amount of time....you are not alone.

Posted by Kelly at 05:55 PM

April 12, 2006

Congressional Resolution Urges Romania To Amend Adoption Ban

For those concerned about possible implementations of the Hague, please take the time to read THIS ARTICLE as it addresses a ban that was put into place because of the pressures of the European Union after allegations of corruption.

Romania's story is not unlike some countries where the Hague Implementations have shut the doors to foreign adoptions. Shutdowns around the world have effectively left children in under-funded orphanages with little chance of finding a permanent family. This is why we must urge every government to consider HOW adoption laws affect the children they "supposedly" protect. The "INTENT" of a law is not enough!!! It is reassuring that the US has taken a position here that publically criticizes the "EFFECT" and urges Romania to rethink how reacted to pressures from the EU.

FFT (Food for Thought!)

Posted by Kelly at 12:57 PM

April 04, 2006

ICARE Reintroduced

The ICARE was reintroduced into the Senate yesterday. I have not yet had a chance to read it but the full text is below. I also don't have time right now to reformat it so I apologize if anything is funky from my cut and paste.

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
SENATE
PAGE S2741
April 3, 2006

LANDRIEU AMENDMENT SA 3225

TEXT OF AMENDMENT

SA 3225. Ms. LANDRIEU submitted an amendment intended to be proposed to amendment SA 3192 submitted by Mr. SPECTER (for himself, Mr. LEAHY, and Mr. HAGEL) to the bill S. 2454, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for comprehensive reform and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

At the end of the amendment, add the following:

TITLE __-INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION REFORM

SEC. __01. SHORT TITLE.

This title may be cited as the "Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2006" or the "ICARE Act".

SEC. __02. FINDINGS; PURPOSES.

(a) Findings.-Congress finds the following:


(1) That a child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding.


(2) That intercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her country of origin.


(3) There has been a significant growth in intercountry adoptions. In 1990, Americans adopted 7,093 children from abroad. In 2004, they adopted 23,460 children from abroad.


(4) Americans increasingly seek to create or enlarge their families through intercountry adoptions.


(5) There are many children worldwide that are without permanent homes.


(6) In the interest of children without a permanent family and the United States citizens who are waiting to bring them into their families, reforms are needed in the intercountry adoption process used by United States citizens.


(7) Before adoption, each child should have the benefit of measures taken to ensure that intercountry adoption is in his or her best interest and that prevents the abduction, selling, or trafficking of children.


(8) In addition, Congress recognizes that foreign-born adopted children do not make the decision whether to immigrate to the United States. They are being chosen by Americans to become part of their immediate families.


(9) As such these children should not be classified as immigrants in the traditional sense. Once fully and finally adopted, they should be treated as children of United States citizens.


(10) Since a child who is fully and finally adopted is entitled to the same rights, duties, and responsibilities as a biological child, the law should reflect such equality.


(11) Therefore, foreign-born adopted children of United States citizens should be accorded the same procedural treatment as biological children born abroad to a United States citizen.


(12) If a United States citizen can confer citizenship to a biological child born abroad, then the same citizen is entitled to confer such citizenship to their legally and fully adopted foreign-born child immediately upon final adoption.


(13) If a United States citizen cannot confer citizenship to a biological child born abroad, then such citizen cannot confer citizenship to their legally and fully adopted foreign-born child, except through the naturalization process.

(b) Purposes.-The purposes of this title are-


(1) to ensure the any adoption of a foreign-born child by parents in the United States is carried out in the manner that is in the best interest of the child;

[Page S2742]


(2) to ensure that foreign-born children adopted by United States citizens will be treated identically to a biological child born abroad to the same citizen parent; and


(3) to improve the intercountry adoption process to make it more citizen friendly and focused on the protection of the child.

SEC. __03. DEFINITIONS.

In this title:


(1) ADOPTABLE CHILD.-The term "adoptable child" has the same meaning given such term in section 101(c)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(c)(3)), as added by section __24(a) of this Act.


(2) AMBASSADOR AT LARGE.-The term "Ambassador at Large" means the Ambassador at Large for Intercountry Adoptions appointed to head the Office pursuant to section __11(b).


(3) COMPETENT AUTHORITY.-The term "competent authority" means the entity or entities authorized by the law of the child's country of residence to engage in permanent placement of children who are no longer in the legal or physical custody of their biological parents.


(4) CONVENTION.-The term "Convention" means the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, done at The Hague on May 29, 1993.


(5) FULL AND FINAL ADOPTION.-The term "full and final adoption" means an adoption-


(A) that is completed according to the laws of the child's country of residence or the State law of the parent's residence;


(B) under which a person is granted full and legal custody of the adopted child;


(C) that has the force and effect of severing the child's legal ties to the child's biological parents;


(D) under which the adoptive parents meet the requirements of section __25; and


(E) under which the child has been adjudicated to be an adoptable child in accordance with section __26.


(6) OFFICE.-The term "Office" means the Office of Intercountry Adoptions established under section __11(a).


(7) READILY APPROVABLE.-A petition or certification is "readily approvable" if the documentary support provided along with such petition or certification demonstrates that the petitioner satisfies the eligibility requirements and no additional information or investigation is necessary.

SUBTITLE A-ADMINISTRATION OF INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

SEC. __11. OFFICE OF INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS.

(a) Establishment.-Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, there shall be established within the Department of State, an Office of Intercountry Adoptions which shall be headed by the Ambassador at Large for Intercountry Adoptions.

(b) Ambassador at Large.-


(1) APPOINTMENT.-The Ambassador at Large shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among individuals who have background, experience, and training in intercountry adoptions.


(2) CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.-The individual appointed to be the Ambassador at Large shall be free from any conflict of interest that could impede such individual's ability to serve as the Ambassador.


(3) AUTHORITY.-The Ambassador at Large shall report directly to the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs.


(4) REGULATIONS.-The Ambassador at Large may not issue rules or regulations unless such rules or regulations have been approved by the Secretary of State.


(5) DUTIES OF THE AMBASSADOR AT LARGE.-The Ambassador at Large shall have the following responsibilities:


(A) IN GENERAL.-The primary responsibilities of the Ambassador at Large shall be-


(i) to ensure that any adoption of a foreign-born child by parents in the United States is carried out in the manner that is in the best interest of the child; and


(ii) to assist the Secretary of State in fulfilling the responsibilities designated to the central authority under title I of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14911 et seq.).


(B) ADVISORY ROLE.-The Ambassador at Large shall be a principal advisor to the President and the Secretary of State regarding matters affecting intercountry adoption and the general welfare of children abroad and shall make recommendations regarding-


(i) the policies of the United States with respect to the establishment of a system of cooperation among the parties to the Convention;


(ii) the policies to prevent abandonment, to strengthen families, and to advance the placement of children in permanent families; and


(iii) policies that promote the protection and well-being of children.


(C) DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION.-Subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State, the Ambassador at Large may represent the United States in matters and cases relevant to international adoption in-


(i) fulfillment of the responsibilities designated to the central authority under title I of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14911 et seq.);


(ii) contacts with foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, and specialized agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations of which the United States is a member; and


(iii) multilateral conferences and meetings relevant to international adoption.


(D) INTERNATIONAL POLICY DEVELOPMENT.-The Ambassador at Large shall advise and support the Secretary of State and other relevant Bureaus of the Department of State in the development of sound policy regarding child protection and intercountry adoption.


(E) REPORTING RESPONSIBILITIES.-The Ambassador at Large shall have the following reporting responsibilities:


(i) IN GENERAL.-The Ambassador at Large shall assist the Secretary of State and other relevant Bureaus in preparing those portions of the Human Rights Reports that relate to the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children.


(ii) ANNUAL REPORT ON INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION.-Not later than September 1 of each year, the Secretary of State shall prepare and submit to Congress an annual report on intercountry adoption. Each annual report shall include-


(I) a description of the status of child protection and adoption in each foreign country, including-


(aa) trends toward improvement in the welfare and protection of children and families;


(bb) trends in family reunification, domestic adoption, and intercountry adoption;


(cc) movement toward ratification and implementation of the Convention; and


(dd) census information on the number of children in orphanages, foster homes, and other types of nonpermanent residential care as reported by the foreign country;


(II) the number of intercountry adoptions by United States citizens, including the country from which each child emigrated, the State in which each child resides, and the country in which the adoption was finalized;


(III) the number of intercountry adoptions involving emigration from the United States, including the country where each child now resides and the State from which each child emigrated;


(IV) the number of placements for adoption in the United States that were disrupted, including the country from which the child emigrated, the age of the child, the date of the placement for adoption, the reasons for the disruption, the resolution of the disruption, the agencies that handled the placement for adoption, and the plans for the child, and in addition, any information regarding disruption or dissolution of adoptions of children from other countries received pursuant to section 422(b)(14) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 622(b)(14));


(V) the average time required for completion of an adoption, set forth by the country from which the child emigrated;


(VI) the current list of agencies accredited and persons approved under the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 et seq.) to provide adoption services;


(VII) the names of the agencies and persons temporarily or permanently debarred under the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 et seq.), and the reasons for the debarment;


(VIII) the range of adoption fees involving adoptions by United States citizens and the median of such fees set forth by the country of origin;


(IX) the range of fees charged for accreditation of agencies and the approval of persons in the United States engaged in providing adoption services under the Convention; and


(X) recommendations of ways the United States might act to improve the welfare and protection of children and families in each foreign country.

(c) Functions of Office.-The Office shall have the following 7 functions:


(1) APPROVAL OF A FAMILY TO ADOPT.-To approve or disapprove the eligibility of a United States citizen to adopt a child born in a foreign country.


(2) CHILD ADJUDICATION.-To investigate and adjudicate the status of a child born in a foreign country to determine whether that child is an adoptable child.


(3) FAMILY SERVICES.-To provide assistance to United States citizens engaged in the intercountry adoption process in resolving problems with respect to that process and to track intercountry adoption cases so as to ensure that all such adoptions are processed in a timely manner.


(4) INTERNATIONAL POLICY DEVELOPMENT.-To advise and support the Ambassador at Large and other relevant Bureaus of the Department of State in the development of sound policy regarding child protection and intercountry adoption.


(5) CENTRAL AUTHORITY.-To assist the Secretary of State in carrying out duties of the central authority as defined in section 3 of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14902).


(6) ENFORCEMENT.-To investigate, either directly or in cooperation with other appropriate international, Federal, State, or local entities, improprieties relating to intercountry adoption, including issues of child protection, birth family protection, and consumer fraud.


(7) ADMINISTRATION.-To perform administrative functions related to the functions performed under paragraphs (1) through (6), including legal functions and congressional liaison and public affairs functions.

(d) Organization.-


(1) IN GENERAL.-All functions of the Office shall be performed by officers employed in a central office located in Washington, D.C. Within that office, there shall be 7 divisions corresponding to the 7 functions of the Office. The director of each such division shall report directly to the Ambassador at Large.

[Page S2743]


(2) APPROVAL TO ADOPT.-The division responsible for approving parents to adopt shall be divided into regions of the United States as follows:


(A) Northwest.


(B) Northeast.


(C) Southwest.


(D) Southeast.


(E) Midwest.


(F) West.


(3) CHILD ADJUDICATION.-To the extent practicable, the division responsible for the adjudication of foreign-born children as adoptable shall be divided by world regions which correspond to the world regions used by other divisions within the Department of State.


(4) USE OF INTERNATIONAL FIELD OFFICERS.-Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of international field officers posted abroad, as necessary, to fulfill the requirements of this Act.


(5) COORDINATION.-The Ambassador at Large shall coordinate with appropriate employees of other agencies and departments of the United States, whenever appropriate, in carrying out the duties of the Ambassador.

(e) Qualifications and Training.-In addition to meeting the employment requirements of the Department of State, officers employed in any of the 7 divisions of the Office shall undergo extensive and specialized training in the laws and processes of intercountry adoption as well as understanding the cultural, medical, emotional, and social issues surrounding intercountry adoption and adoptive families. The Ambassador at Large shall, whenever possible, recruit and hire individuals with background and experience in intercountry adoptions, taking care to ensure that such individuals do not have any conflicts of interest that might inhibit their ability to serve.

(f) Use of Electronic Databases and Filing.-To the extent possible, the Office shall make use of centralized, electronic databases and electronic form filing.

SEC. __12. RECOGNITION OF CONVENTION ADOPTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES.

Section 505(a)(1) of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14901 note) is amended by inserting "301, 302," after "205,".

SEC. __13. TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENT.

Section 104 of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 14914) is repealed.

SEC. __14. TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS.

(a) In General.-Subject to subsection (c), all functions under the immigration laws of the United States with respect to the adoption of foreign-born children by United States citizens and their admission to the United States that have been vested by statute in, or exercised by, the Secretary of Homeland Security immediately prior to the effective date of this Act, are transferred to the Secretary of State on the effective date of this Act and shall be carried out by the Ambassador at Large, under the supervision of the Secretary of State, in accordance with applicable laws and this Act.

(b) Exercise of Authorities.-Except as otherwise provided by law, the Ambassador at Large may, for purposes of performing any function transferred to the Ambassador at Large under subsection (a), exercise all authorities under any other provision of law that were available with respect to the performance of that function to the official responsible for the performance of the function immediately before the effective date of the transfer of the function pursuant to this subtitle.

(c) Limitation on Transfer of Pending Adoptions.-If an individual has filed a petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the Department of Homeland Security with respect to the adoption of a foreign-born child prior to the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to make the final determination on such petition and such petition shall not be transferred to the Office.

SEC. __15. TRANSFER OF RESOURCES.

Subject to section 1531 of title 31, United States Code, upon the effective date of this Act, there are transferred to the Ambassador at Large for appropriate allocation in accordance with this Act, the assets, liabilities, contracts, property, records, and unexpended balance of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, and other funds employed, held, used, arising from, available to, or to be made available to the Department of Homeland Security in connection with the functions transferred pursuant to this subtitle.

SEC. __16. INCIDENTAL TRANSFERS.

The Ambassador at Large may make such additional incidental dispositions of personnel, assets, liabilities, grants, contracts, property, records, and unexpended balances of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, and other funds held, used, arising from, available to, or to be made available in connection with such functions, as may be necessary to carry out this subtitle. The Ambassador at Large shall provide for such further measures and dispositions as may be necessary to effectuate the purposes of this subtitle.

SEC. __17. SAVINGS PROVISIONS.

(a) Legal Documents.-All orders, determinations, rules, regulations, permits, grants, loans, contracts, agreements, including collective bargaining agreements, certificates, licenses, and privileges-


(1) that have been issued, made, granted, or allowed to become effective by the President, the Ambassador at Large, the former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their delegates, or any other Government official, or by a court of competent jurisdiction, in the performance of any function that is transferred pursuant to this subtitle; and


(2) that are in effect on the effective date of such transfer (or become effective after such date pursuant to their terms as in effect on such effective date);

shall continue in effect according to their terms until modified, terminated, superseded, set aside, or revoked in accordance with law by the President, any other authorized official, a court of competent jurisdiction, or operation of law, except that any collective bargaining agreement shall remain in effect until the date of termination specified in the agreement.

(b) Proceedings.-


(1) PENDING.-The transfer of functions under section __14 shall not affect any proceeding or any application for any benefit, service, license, permit, certificate, or financial assistance pending on the effective date of this subtitle before an office whose functions are transferred pursuant to this subtitle, but such proceedings and applications shall be continued.


(2) ORDERS.-Orders shall be issued in such proceedings, appeals shall be taken therefrom, and payments shall be made pursuant to such orders, as if this Act had not been enacted, and orders issued in any such proceeding shall continue in effect until modified, terminated, superseded, or revoked by a duly authorized official, by a court of competent jurisdiction, or by operation of law.


(3) DISCONTINUANCE OR MODIFICATION.-Nothing in this section shall be considered to prohibit the discontinuance or modification of any such proceeding under the same terms and conditions and to the same extent that such proceeding could have been discontinued or modified if this section had not been enacted.

(c) Suits.-This subtitle shall not affect suits commenced before the effective date of this subtitle, and in all such suits, proceeding shall be had, appeals taken, and judgments rendered in the same manner and with the same effect as if this Act had not been enacted.

(d) Nonabatement of Actions.-No suit, action, or other proceeding commenced by or against the Department of State, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or the Department of Homeland Security, or by or against any individual in the official capacity of such individual as an officer or employee in connection with a function transferred pursuant to this section, shall abate by reason of the enactment of this Act.

(e) Continuance of Suit With Substitution of Parties.-If any Government officer in the official capacity of such officer is party to a suit with respect to a function of the officer, and pursuant to this subtitle such function is transferred to any other officer or office, then such suit shall be continued with the other officer or the head of such other office, as applicable, substituted or added as a party.

(f) Administrative Procedure and Judicial Review.-Except as otherwise provided by this subtitle, any statutory requirements relating to notice, hearings, action upon the record, or administrative or judicial review that apply to any function transferred pursuant to any provision of this subtitle shall apply to the exercise of such function by the head of the office, and other officers of the office, to which such function is transferred pursuant to such provision.

SUBTITLE B-REFORM OF UNITED STATES LAWS GOVERNING INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

SEC. __21. AUTOMATIC ACQUISITION OF CITIZENSHIP FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.

(a) Automatic Citizenship Provisions.-


(1) AMENDMENT OF THE INA.-Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1431) is amended to read as follows:

"SEC. 320. CONDITIONS FOR AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP FOR CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.

"(a) In General.-A child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a citizen of the United States-


"(1) if the child is not an adopted child-


"(A) at least 1 parent of the child is a citizen of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, who has been physically present (as determined under subsection (b)) in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than 5 years, at least 2 of which were after attaining the age of 14 years; and


"(B) the child is under the age of 18 years; or


"(2) if the child is an adopted child, on the date of the full and final adoption of the child-


"(A) at least 1 parent of the child is a citizen of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, who has been physically present (as determined under subsection (b)) in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than 5 years, at least 2 of which were after attaining the age of 14 years;


"(B) the child is an adoptable child;

[Page S2744]


"(C) the child is the beneficiary of a full and final adoption decree entered by a foreign government or a court in the United States; and


"(D) the child is under the age of 16 years.

"(b) Physical Presence.-For the purposes of subsection (a)(2)(A), the requirement for physical presence in the United States or its outlying possessions may be satisfied by the following:


"(1) Any periods of honorable service in the Armed Forces of the United States.


"(2) Any periods of employment with the United States Government or with an international organization as that term is defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288) by such citizen parent.


"(3) Any periods during which such citizen parent is physically present outside the United States or its outlying possessions as the dependent unmarried son or daughter and a member of the household of a person-


"(A) honorably serving with the Armed Forces of the United States; or


"(B) employed by the United States Government or an international organization as defined in section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288).

"(c) Full and Final Adoption.-In this section, the term 'full and final adoption' means an adoption-


"(1) that is completed under the laws of the child's country of residence or the State law of the parent's residence;


"(2) under which a person is granted full and legal custody of the adopted child;


"(3) that has the force and effect of severing the child's legal ties to the child's biological parents;


"(4) under which the adoptive parents meet the requirements of section __25 of the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2006; and


"(5) under which the child has been adjudicated to be an adoptable child in accordance with section __26 of the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2006.".

(b) Conforming Amendment.-The table of contents in the first section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (66 Stat. 163) is amended by striking the item relating to section 320 and inserting the following:

"Sec. 320.Conditions for automatic citizenship for children born outside the United States".

(c) Effective Date.-This section shall take effect as if enacted on June 27, 1952.

SEC. __22. REVISED PROCEDURES.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following requirements shall apply with respect to the adoption of foreign born children by United States citizens:


(1) Upon completion of a full and final adoption, the Secretary shall issue a United States passport and a Consular Report of Birth for a child who satisfies the requirements of section 320(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1431(a)(2)), as amended by section __21 of this Act, upon application by a United States citizen parent.


(2) An adopted child described in paragraph (1) shall not require the issuance of a visa for travel and admission to the United States but shall be admitted to the United States upon presentation of a valid, unexpired United States passport.


(3) No affidavit of support under section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1183a) shall be required in the case of any adoptable child.


(4) The Secretary of State, acting through the Ambassador at Large, shall require that agencies provide prospective adoptive parents an opportunity to conduct an independent medical exam and a copy of any medical records of the child known to exist (to the greatest extent practicable, these documents shall include an English translation) on a date that is not later than the earlier of the date that is 2 weeks before the adoption, or the date on which prospective adoptive parents travel to such a foreign country to complete all procedures in such country relating to adoption.


(5) The Secretary of State, acting through the Ambassador at Large, shall take necessary measures to ensure that all prospective adoptive parents adopting internationally are provided with training that includes counseling and guidance for the purpose of promoting a successful intercountry adoption before such parents travel to adopt the child or the child is placed with such parents for adoption.


(6) The Secretary of State, acting through the Ambassador at Large, shall take necessary measures to ensure that-


(A) prospective adoptive parents are given full disclosure of all direct and indirect costs of intercountry adoption before the parents are matched with a child for adoption;


(B) fees charged in relation to the intercountry adoption be on a fee-for-service basis not on a contingent fee basis; and


(C) that the transmission of fees between the adoption agency, the country of origin, and the prospective adoptive parents is carried out in a transparent and efficient manner.


(7) The Secretary of State, acting through the Ambassador at Large, shall take all measures necessary to ensure that all documents provided to a country of origin on behalf of a prospective adoptive parent are truthful and accurate.

SEC. __23. NONIMMIGRANT VISAS FOR CHILDREN TRAVELING TO THE UNITED STATES TO BE ADOPTED BY A UNITED STATES CITIZEN.

(a) Nonimmigrant Classification.-


(1) IN GENERAL.-Section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)) is amended by adding at the end the following:


"(W) an adoptable child who is coming into the United States for adoption by a United States citizen and a spouse jointly or by an unmarried United States citizen at least 25 years of age, who has been approved to adopt by the Office of International Adoption of the Department of State.".


(2) TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.-Such section 101(a)(15) is further amended-


(A) by striking "or" at the end of subparagraph (U); and


(B) by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (V) and inserting "; or".

(b) Termination of Period of Authorized Admission.-Section 214 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1184) is amended by adding at the end the following:

"(s) In the case of a nonimmigrant described in section 101(a)(15)(W), the period of authorized admission shall terminate on the earlier of-


"(1) the date on which the adoption of the nonimmigrant is completed by the courts of the State where the parents reside; or


"(2) the date that is 4 years after the date of admission of the nonimmigrant into the United States, unless a petitioner is able to show cause as to why the adoption could not be completed prior to such date and the Secretary of State extends such period for the period necessary to complete the adoption.".

(c) Temporary Treatment as Legal Permanent Resident.-Notwithstanding any other law, all benefits and protections that apply to a legal permanent resident shall apply to a nonimmigrant described in section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by subsection (a), pending a full and final adoption.

(d) Exception From Immunization Requirement for Certain Adopted Children.-Section 212(a)(1)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(1)(C)) is amended-


(1) in the heading by striking "10 years" and inserting "18 years"; and


(2) in clause (i), by striking "10 years" and inserting "18 years".

(e) Regulations.-Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out this section.

SEC. __24. DEFINITION OF ADOPTABLE CHILD.

(a) In General.-Section 101(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

"(3) The term 'adoptable child' means an unmarried person under the age of 18-


"(A)(i) whose biological parents (or parent, in the case of a child who has one sole or surviving parent) or other persons or institutions that retain legal custody of the child-


"(I) have freely given their written irrevocable consent to the termination of their legal relationship with the child, and to the child's emigration and adoption and that such consent has not been induced by payment or compensation of any kind and has not been given prior to the birth of the child;


"(II) are unable to provide proper care for the child, as determined by the competent authority of the child's residence; or


"(III) have voluntarily relinquished the child to the competent authorities pursuant to the law of the child's residence; or


"(ii) who, as determined by the competent authority of the child's residence-


"(I) has been abandoned or deserted by their biological parent, parents, or legal guardians; or


"(II) has been orphaned due to the death or disappearance of their biological parent, parents, or legal guardians;


"(B) with respect to whom the Secretary of State is satisfied that the proper care will be furnished the child if admitted to the United States;


"(C) with respect to whom the Secretary of State is satisfied that the purpose of the adoption is to form a bona fide parent-child relationship and that the parent-child relationship of the child and the biological parents has been terminated (and in carrying out both obligations under this subparagraph the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may consider whether there is a petition pending to confer immigrant status on one or both of the biological parents);


"(D) with respect to whom the Secretary of State, is satisfied that there has been no inducement, financial or otherwise, offered to obtain the consent nor was it given before the birth of the child;


"(E) with respect to whom the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is satisfied that the person is not a security risk; and


"(F) whose eligibility for adoption and emigration to the United States has been certified by the competent authority of the country of the child's place of birth or residence.".

(b) Conforming Amendment.-Section 204(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1154(d)) is amended by inserting "and an adoptable child as defined in section 101(c)(3)" before "unless a valid home-study".

SEC. __25. APPROVAL TO ADOPT.

(a) In General.-Prior to the issuance of a visa under section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section __23(a) of this Act, or the issuance of a full and final adoption decree, the United States citizen adoptive parent shall have approved by the Office a petition to adopt. Such petition shall be subject to the same terms and conditions as are applicable to petitions for classification under section 204.3 of title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act.

[Page S2745]

(b) Expiration of Approval.-Approval to adopt under this Act is valid for 24 months from the date of approval. Nothing in this section may prevent the Secretary of Homeland Security from periodically updating the fingerprints of an individual who has filed a petition for adoption.

(c) Expedited Reapproval Process of Families Previously Approved To Adopt.-The Secretary of State shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to provide for an expedited and streamlined process for families who have been previously approved to adopt and whose approval has expired, so long as not more than 4 years have lapsed since the original application.

(d) Denial of Petition.-


(1) NOTICE OF INTENT.-If the officer adjudicating the petition to adopt finds that it is not readily approvable, the officer shall notify the petitioner, in writing, of the officer's intent to deny the petition. Such notice shall include the specific reasons why the petition is not readily approvable.


(2) PETITIONER'S RIGHT TO RESPOND.-Upon receiving a notice of intent to deny, the petitioner has 30 days to respond to such notice.


(3) DECISION.-Within 30 days of receipt of the petitioner's response the Office must reach a final decision regarding the eligibility of the petitioner to adopt. Notice of a formal decision must be delivered in writing.


(4) RIGHT TO AN APPEAL.-Unfavorable decisions may be appealed to the Department of State and, after the exhaustion of the appropriate appeals process of the Department, to a United States district court.


(5) REGULATIONS REGARDING APPEALS.-Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall promulgate formal regulations regarding the process for appealing the denial of a petition.

SEC. __26. ADJUDICATION OF CHILD STATUS.

(a) In General.-Prior to the issuance of a full and final adoption decree or a visa under section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section __23(a) of this Act-


(1) the Ambassador at Large shall obtain from the competent authority of the country of the child's residence a certification, together with documentary support, that the child sought to be adopted meets the definition of an adoptable child; and


(2) not later than 15 days after the date of the receipt of the certification referred to in paragraph (1), the Secretary of State shall make a final determination on whether the certification and the documentary support are sufficient to meet the requirements of this section or whether additional investigation or information is required.

(b) Process for Determination.-


(1) IN GENERAL.-The Ambassador at Large shall work with the competent authorities of the child's country of residence to establish a uniform, transparent, and efficient process for the exchange and approval of the certification and documentary support required under subsection (a).


(2) NOTICE OF INTENT.-If the Secretary of State determines that a certification submitted by the competent authority of the child's country of origin is not readily approvable, the Ambassador at Large shall-


(A) notify the competent authority and the prospective adoptive parents, in writing, of the specific reasons why the certification is not sufficient; and


(B) provide the competent authority and the prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to address the stated insufficiencies.


(3) PETITIONERS RIGHT TO RESPOND.-Upon receiving a notice of intent to find that a certification is not readily approvable, the prospective adoptive parents shall have 30 days to respond to such notice.


(4) DECISION.-Not later than 30 days after the date of receipt of a response submitted under paragraph (3), the Secretary of State shall reach a final decision regarding the child's eligibility as an adoptable child. Notice of such decision must be in writing.


(5) RIGHT TO AN APPEAL.-Unfavorable decisions on a certification may be appealed through the appropriate process of the Department of State and, after the exhaustion of such process, to a United States district court.

SEC. __27. FUNDS.

The Secretary of State shall provide the Ambassador at Large with such funds as may be necessary for-


(1) the hiring of staff for the Office;


(2) investigations conducted by such staff; and


(3) travel and other expenses necessary to carry out this title.

SUBTITLE C-ENFORCEMENT

SEC. __31. CIVIL PENALTIES AND ENFORCEMENT.

(a) Civil Penalties.-A person shall be subject, in addition to any other penalty that may be prescribed by law, to a civil money penalty of not more than $50,000 for a first violation, and not more than $100,000 for each succeeding violation if such person-


(1) violates a provision of this title or an amendment made by this title;


(2) makes a false or fraudulent statement, or misrepresentation, with respect to a material fact, or offers, gives, solicits, or accepts inducement by way of compensation, intended to influence or affect in the United States or a foreign country-


(A) a decision for an approval under title II;


(B) the relinquishment of parental rights or the giving of parental consent relating to the adoption of a child; or


(C) a decision or action of any entity performing a central authority function; or


(3) engages another person as an agent, whether in the United States or in a foreign country, who in the course of that agency takes any of the actions described in paragraph (1) or (2).

(b) Civil Enforcement.-


(1) AUTHORITY OF ATTORNEY GENERAL.-The Attorney General may bring a civil action to enforce subsection (a) against any person in any United States district court.


(2) FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED IN IMPOSING PENALTIES.-In imposing penalties the court shall consider the gravity of the violation, the degree of culpability of the defendant, and any history of prior violations by the defendant.

SEC. __32. CRIMINAL PENALTIES.

Whoever knowingly and willfully commits a violation described in paragraph (1) or (2) of section __31(a) shall be subject to a fine of not more than $250,000, imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both.

Posted by Kevin at 11:20 AM

March 28, 2006

PGN Shakeup

It appears as though there have been some major staffing changes at PGN. Pres. Berger has been able to appoint someone to the Constitution Court (or it may have been he Supreme Court) and apparently it is Sr.Molina who had been the head of PGN. For the time being, reports are that Alvaro Lobos, who had been the head of the adoption unit, is taking his place as acting the Attorney General. We are trying to confirm the name of who is now heading the adoptions unit. I have no info of what impact, if any, this may have on adoption cases.

Posted by Kevin at 04:08 PM

March 23, 2006

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 10, 2006

Changes to Affidavit of Support Requirements - for IR4 visas only

The Department of States has recently changed its requirements for filing the I-864 Affidavit of Support. Previously, a sponsor was required to provide copies of Federal income tax returns for the three most recent taxable years, along with evidence of current employment. Effective immediately, the sponsor is required to submit with their I-864 a certified copy of only the most recent Federal income tax return. If assets are needed to meet the minimum income requirement, sponsors also will be asked to submit evidence that the assets have a cash value that equals at least five times the difference between total household income and the poverty guideline for the household size, exclusive of liens, mortgages, and liabilities.

Posted by Kevin at 01:52 PM

February 26, 2006

Embassy Issues...explained

Recently, we "touched" on the fact that the Embassy has been a bit of a bottleneck and while new "window times" seem nice, I'm wondering if it will really help.

As you know, Guatadopt does try to validate any information that we post on the site before publishing. In this case, we are discussing something that may seem rather subjective...but the "appearance" as a whole is rather discouraging. Since we have had numerous inquiries where adoptive parents have felt that they are being misled by their agency, I think we need to talk a bit more about these problems.

So YES, if you have heard for the fourth or fifth time that your attorney is trying to get DNA authorization, it is probably true!!! Sources in Guatemala tell me that attorneys and their representatives have been camping outside the Embassy waiting to request DNA authorization only to be turned away again and again. Agency officials visiting Guatemala have not been allowed to inquire about their cases raising the frustration factor. Requests JUST for DNA have turned into 3, 6, 8+ week waits and by no means have they been consistent. Once authorized, the attorney can FINALLY have the DNA test done and everyone involved in the case must again settle down and wait for Pre-approval. Understand, that no case can be approved by PGN WITHOUT pre-approval from the Embassy. Generally, the pre-approval is the labor intensive part of the process (at least on the Embassy's part). My own adoption was very smooth and short...yet the pre-approval wait was 6 weeks of it.

What parents should NOT do is expect to "make up time" waiting for pre-approval (nor any other part of the process). It is also counter-productive to make numerous inquiries upon entering a stage. I've heard parents requesting information from the Embassy within a week of DNA being submitted. This is just unreasonable and if addressed by the Embassy, it takes unnecessary time away from everyone's case. It is reasonable to wait 30 days before inquiring about your case. If you decide to email the Embassy, make sure to include your case # in the subject line. If you don't have it, include as much as your case information at the top of the email. Make it clear what you are asking and be polite EVEN if you have inquired previously. Yes, a number of parents have complained that the Embassy has not responded to their inquiries. However, if we could cut down the number of casual inquiries, maybe the staff would have sufficient time to respond.

There is also a difference between writing your Congressman about YOUR personal case and about writing about the need for additional resources there. Each congressional inquirey about a personal case to the Embassy requires a formal response....keep in mind that does not mean a formal resolution but a response. When things slow down, the number of case related inquiries goes up exponentially. So, the Embassy staff is forced to spend time addressing these inquiries instead of working on the already heavy case load. If you want something done, talk to your reprensentatives about the understaffing as a whole.

If you are having unusual problems that we have not discussed, please let us know. We will be glad to forward information along to FOA and/or the Embassy in the hopes that a task force can resolve some of these issues.

Posted by Kelly at 11:02 AM

February 23, 2006

Embassy Progress?

Many of you are familiar with Focus On Adoption, of which I serve on the Board of Directors. Members of the FOA BOD, including FOA President Hannah Wallace, have been working to address the concerns about embassy timelines. Below is an update on that from Hannah.

The USCIS in Guatemala has notified Focus On Adoption that they are opening a window from
9 to 9:30 A.M. Monday through Thursday where they will only be accepting finalized adoption papers ready for the "pink slip". They are also hoping to get a window that is only designated for USCIS., which would allow more time to receive and review adoption files. Right now the Embassy is under control of the Consular section and CIS has only been allotted one window, which is also used for other matters.

CIS is also in the process of setting up a "stakeholder's" committee which will be composed of representatives from Focus on Adoption and JCICS as well as Attorney's Associations and the officer in charge of CIS in Guatemala and the Consul General. This will be a solution driven committee attempting to resolve systemic problems and will not address individual cases. We're hopeful that a smoother interface between all the participants in the Embassy
process can be effective.

Over the past couple of weeks all inquiries have been diverted to the Mexico City CIS office. They've done an analysis and report that 43% of the inquiries have been premature. They are attempting to provide preapprovals within 30 days and have, for the most part, met that goal. They are asking families to wait at least 30 days from the time DNA results are received by the Embassy before inquiring on the status of your case. Congressional inquiries shouldn't be used except in the case of complications or after 30 working days have passed., as they are processing an increasing number of cases, are still short staffed, and premature inquiries from Congress
have to be answered, taking away more time from adjudications.

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

Posted by Kevin at 09:11 AM

January 06, 2006

Earliest Maya Writing Found at San Bartolo

While we do not publish every shred of news from Guatemala, the findings in the Maya Ruins always sparks my interest. When the finding relates to the earliest known writings, it adds to the awe I have for this early civilization!

If you haven't read about it yet, here are a few of the articles:

National Geographic
Sci-Tech
Reuters

Posted by Kelly at 04:19 PM

November 30, 2005

Article on Adoption Law Project

The article on thestatus of the Ortega law proposal appeared in the Nov 24, 2005 edition of Siglo XXI. Click Here to read the article in Spanish.

This article, if correct, seems to indicate that the Ortega Law is basically not going anywhere, but that the forces for major reform are from gone. Of great interest to me is the idea that a new proposal could come forth next year that would place churches and humanitarian organizations in charge of protecting children's rights and being invovled in referals.

Parties confronted by designation of leading entity

DISSENSIONS COOL ADOPTION LAW

Legislative parties differ about if the PGN, CSJ (Supreme Court of Justice) or the churches must manage the delivery processes of the children.

Disagreements regarding the entity that should lead the adoption processes have divided the main legislative parties, to the point that the proceedings for the preliminary plan that seeks the delivery of children have been cooled and almost discarded for the rest of the year.

While some parliamentary groups plead that the Attorney General’s Office is the most suitable entity to be in charge of controlling and authorizing adoptions, other consider that these faculties must be under the charge of the Supreme Court of Justice or of the churches (any denomination).

Those against the PGN assure that delegating these proceedings to them would be unconstitutional, since, as established in Article 252 of the Constitution, the PGN is in charge of the advise and consultation of the state organs and entities.

In an optimistic way, Jorge Luis Ortega, president of the Minor and Family Commission, who issued a decision favoring the preliminary plan, explains that they are looking for the agreements to define the responsible entity for the proceedings.

Proposal without a majority

The proposed law that is under discussion in the Congress, which is in its second debate and suggests that the PGN must be in charge, does not have the endorsement of the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE), Partido Unionista (PU), or the Integrationist Party (these three are political parties in Guatemala).

The mentioned preliminary plan was presented to the Congress by the Presidency of the Republic, suggested by the First Lady, Wendy de Berger.

Edgar Rodriguez, chief of the UNE party, discards the support of his party to the initiative, claiming that behind it there is an international entity, who would be willing to even give money to invest in the adoption processes.

Fatima de Polo, from the Communication Department of the First Lady’s office, states that she is not able to give any declarations based in just comments. “¡If he has documents supporting this, let him show them¡¨, she states, alluding the parliamentary.

The rejection of the unionists in availing the project is resumed by Pablo Duarte, chief of this party, as follows: “¡We won’t give our vote to a law that avoids adoptions¡¨.

According to Duarte, the intention is to harden the procedures in the delivery of the children, even though, to his judgment, the State should limit itself to procure the better controls of the procedures.

UNE and PU share the idea of continuing the discussion of the reforms to the Civil and Civil Procedures Code, where a register assigned to the Supreme Court of Justice is created as a leading entity.

“¡The Supreme Court of Justice would give more credibility to the international community, since it would be a less corruptible entity¡¨, states Carlos Godoy Florian, and integrationist congressman, who adds to the UNE and PU postures.

Furthermore, Carlos Velasquez, vice-president of the Minor Commission and a congressman from the FRG party, analyzes the possibility of presenting in January a position regarding that the institutions with humanitarian vocation (churches), no matter which denomination, would be responsible for these processes.

Posted by Kevin at 09:15 AM

October 16, 2005

Hurricane Stan Info and Relief

We have received a variety of e-mails with info on how to help with the impact of Hurricane Stan.

Guatefam has created a page on their site with suggestions on how to help as well as up to date information. You can find it here: http://www.guatefam.org/stan.htm

In addition, we have received info on Ecologic, an organization started by Hannah Wallace's godson http://www.ecologic.org/subpage.asp?P=donate.

And let's not forget Project Happiness and Hands of Hope.

Lastly, in my professional life I have sponsored a group called Coffee Kids that does a lot of great work.

Posted by Kevin at 09:10 AM

October 10, 2005

Relief Efforts in Guatemala from Hurricane Stan

Project Happiness with Hands of Hope has launched their own emergency relief program by putting together "Family Disaster Relief Boxes" for victims of the flooding and landslides. These boxes contain much needed items such as soap, food, vitamins, blankets, etc. Each box costs a mere $20.

Read More about their Relief Boxes here.

Please continue to post other aide efforts. This is a massive relief effort and each organization is key to the people affected by the disaster.

Posted by Kelly at 11:34 PM

October 06, 2005

Sesame Street STILL looking for twins for upcoming season

{RE-Posted on behalf of Theresa Anderson, Child Talent Coordinator, Sesame Street}

World Renowned Children?s Television Series, Sesame Street, Casting Guatemalan Twin Babies

Sesame Street, produced by the nonprofit educational organization Sesame Workshop, is looking to cast male or female twin babies of Guatemalan decent for its 37th season. The children need to be between the ages of 6-12 months and available to be in New York City mid-October once taping begins. It is preferred that the families live in the surrounding tri-state area, Pennsylvania or Maryland.

If you are interested and for more information please contact:
Theresa Anderson
Child Talent Coordinator

----------------------------------------------------
Note from Kelly: Guatadopt.com is not involved in the selection/casting of the children. However, I did speak with Theresa and she will consider individual children.
UPDATE 10/6 - Twins were selected back around our first posting, however, it does not appear that they will be home in time for the filming in December. We hope that they come home soon!

Posted by Kelly at 08:14 PM

Flooding and Landslides in Guatemala

Keep our brothers and sisters in Guatemala in your thoughts and prayers. The extent of the devestation has left thousands looking for shelter elsewhere and President Oscar Berger has declared a state of emergency.

Read More from the Associated Press....

If we have any of our Guatemalan Aide Organizations who are assisting the shelters, please contact us so we may find a way to get additional supplies to these displaced families.

Posted by Kelly at 05:37 PM

October 05, 2005

Law Update

Sorry for any confusion after this went up yesterday and then disappeared. As best we can tell, the law proposal is not dead. The Third Reading has been delayed, postponed, etc. There seem to be lots of rumors spreading about other options being viewed, how long it has been postponed, etc. All I can say at this point is that everytime it is delayed, that is a positive sign. It appears to me that there is obviously not a clear majority of Congress supporting the bill in its current form. As for what will transpire, I can not say.

Posted by Kevin at 12:12 PM

September 29, 2005

Law Update

While I don't have a lot detail on this, it appears as though there may be some action on the law proposal today. It is possible that it could be the third reading but apparently might instead be a vote to establish a new commission to study the bill.

On a side note, Guatadopt has recently updated its spam control system. As a result, some comments are not being published immediately as they are being registered along with the spammers. We will get those approved as fast as possible and try to figure out how to keep the spammers out of the comments without impacting genuine comments.

Posted by Kevin at 09:44 AM

September 27, 2005

WPA opens their reunion to other adoptive families

ALERT!!!

October 8th, World Partners Adoption (Atlanta) is having their annual family get-together. However, this year, they are opening their doors to other adoptive families (with children from Guatemala) in the Atlanta area. If you are close to Atlanta and have would love to "DO SOMETHING" to show how important adoption is to your family, please contact Jeannette and find out MORE about this event.

If you are in the area, please consider attending this event. We would love to have a nice representation of adoptive families with children from Guatemala at this event!!!!


Posted by Kelly at 07:45 AM

September 19, 2005

ADA Donations Being Matched

For This Child, a Texas agency, has been kind enough to offer matching donations to the ADA. This measn that if you donate $1 through For this Child, they will also donate $1. For more information, visit http://www.forthischild.org/help_needed

Posted by Kevin at 04:10 PM

September 14, 2005

Help the ADA!!

Many of you have asked about how you can help the ADA fight to keep adoptions open in Guatemala. Focus On Adoption has created a fundraising campaign to help the ADA in this fight. Click here for more information.

Posted by Kevin at 11:40 AM

September 13, 2005

Law Update

I just received word that the bill was presented to Congress today and did make it through the first reading. We do not know when the second reading will be, though I was told it could be as soon as next week. I do not have any info on the general mood, debate raised, etc.

It is worth noting that other proposals like Valladares passed the first reading. This is not necessarily a sign that this law will ultimately pass on the third. Many bills get voted on once and then are never heard from again. As always, I have no precdiction on whether it will pass, just trying to put this news into perspective.

As we learn more we will pass it on...

Posted by Kevin at 04:51 PM

September 07, 2005

Law Update

There?s not really much new news on the law. It will likely be presented to Congress next week. The law needs to be voted on and approved three times, however long that process might take. Modifications to it can be made along the way. It is possible for a law to be passed on one vote as an emergency measure, but that requires a 2/3 vote of the full congress, not just of a quorum. That is unlikely to occur.

I do not have any insights into the probability of the law passing. I can say that efforts are underway to have it voted down through the Guatemalan political process. In addition, plans are being developed for a public relations campaign about intercountry adoption in Guatemala. Your help in funding that effort will be requested in the days to come. And should it pass, constitutional challenges to the bill will be made as occurred with the Hague.

Below is a translation of the bill. I should say that it is a translation of the bill turned down by the commission in August. I believe this is the same bill that will be presented to Congress. Don?t ask me why it?s dated Feb 17? Shortly, I hope to make available detailed information about the legal issues with this proposal.

PROJECT OF JUDGMENT

HONORABLE COURT

Dated February 17th of 2005, the Congress of the Republic knew the Initiative of Law registered with number 3217, forwarded by representatives Jorge Luis Ortega and partners, which proposes the approval of an Adoption Law and arranged to transfer the initiative to the Minor and Family Commission, in agreement with what is established in articles 34, 40, and 41 of the Organic Law of the Legislative Body for its study and corresponding judgment.

I. PRECEDENTS

The current regulation of adoptions has not yet satisfied the social function it has to comply with due to the existence of a series of defects and normative insufficiencies. It can be pointed out that the most serious problem so far is that the current law does not properly regulate the ?international adoption?. Some norms contained in the Civil Code, the Commercial Code of Procedure and the Regulating Law of Notarial Proceedings in Voluntary Jurisdiction Affairs have been determinating for such noble institution to become an illicit sale and traffic of minors. Denunciations and statistics of easy ?international adoptions? show a rough reality in which a minor has become an object or merchandise, violating his or her human rights. Such a problem, not only in Guatemala but in the rest of the world, has moved into the elaboration of specific international instruments that regulate the protection of the minor. The Hague Convention Relative to Protection and Cooperation in International Adoptions Matters, indicate that its objective is to prevent substraction, sale and traffic of minors. To avoid a culture of disrespect to human rights, lack of institutional control and lack of transparency in adoption proceedings, today this initiative is presented which has as a purpose, to regulate the adoption institution by means of an specific law.

II. ANALYSIS OF THE COMMISSION:

After having studied and revised the presented proposal, this Legislative Commission considered the following:

The Law Initiative introduces improvements in the acknowledgement of substantive rights of adoptions subjects. After listening to arguments from different sectors of society which, in some way are involved in the protection of minors and family, some changes were made to the original project, which have as purpose the strengthening of the adoption institution.

In spite of the importance and nobility of the adoption institution, it is precise to recognize that its current regulation has not satisfied the social function it such comply with, due to the existence of a series of defects and normative insufficiencies. In Guatemala, some causes of this phenomenon are poverty in which more than half of the Guatemalan population lives in, great demand of children for adoption on behalf of foreign countries, lack of institutional control and transparency of adoptions, civil war and the lacking of a culture of respect in many sectors, in our country as well as destination countries. In 2004, Guatemala ranks fourth worldwide due to the number of international adoptions, according to the United Nations Organization (UNO), the proceeding to adopt is so free it allows any citizen of any State to adopt a Guatemalan child. Due to the lacking of existing controls, currently countries that are members of the European Union have suspended the adoption of Guatemalan children. Also, there are no existing strict controls of origin of the child, parents? consent or necessary investigation to know if the child has been stolen or illegally substracted. Lack of control in preceding acts of adoption have permitted the illegal traffic of children, allowing an inappropriate selection of adopters when considering their economic capacity as most important in stead of the superior interest of the child or teenager. Also, it is worth mentioning, that the Attorney General?s Office has implemented a specific area for adoption cases that end up in criminal processes due to the existence of constitutive irregularities of crimes in the current adoption process.

The Law Initiative implements improvements in the recognition of substantive rights of children; equals the condition of biological and adoptive child, does not establish differences in filiation or succession matters, the adoptive child acquires exactly the same rights and obligations as a biological child, in accordance with the right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution. Also, the adoption is recognized as an indissoluble bond as a biological filiation link, derogating the poor assertive revocation currently contemplated in the legislation in force. The Law Initiative protects the marriage institution and the legally constituted union, allowing only an adoption by only one person said person is one of the spouses to another?s child, when and adopter is a family member of the adopted one or supposed where the superior interest of the child is protected.

The Law Initiative does not suspend the notarial proceedings of adoptions; it is still carried out after an administrative proceeding where the suitability of future adopters is investigated. In said administrative proceeding, it is wanted to guarantee that the consent to give a child in adoption is not motivated by an economical motivation.

Considering the responsibility of the full enjoyment of children?s rights corresponds to the State, this will be the one in charge of guard that adopters? meet proper conditions to adopt a child by means of a Central Authority, a branch office of the Attorney General?s Office, which will have the purpose of establishing control and measurements to guarantee several aspects: the order of priorities regarding the protection of children, takes charge of, mainly of providing proper support to the biological family of the child so this can assume its responsibilities with him; and if said measure fails, make sure that the child is adopted by ideal persons. It will be a technical institution whose function will limit itself to the administrative proceeding previous to setting in motion notarial proceedings of voluntary jurisdiction or judicial adoption proceedings.

The Commission is aware that several years have passed since the discussion of the need of elaborating a new adoption law for which it considers that it no longer has to be delayed the approval of an instrument which protects the interest of children in an adoptability state.

III. JUDGMENT OF THE COMMISSION:

In virtue of the Constitutional Mandate of the State to protect the family and the constitutional norm which declares the protection of children and teenagers who are in a situation of vulnerability, due to abandonment or orphanhood, as national interest, to its effect it establishes article 171 literal a) of the Political Constitution of the Republic; articles 39, 40, 41, 111 and 112 from the Organic Law of the Legislative Body, the Commission of the Minor and Family issued a FAVORABLE JUDGMENT WITH MODIFICATIONS to the registered initiative with number 3217, forwarded by the representative Jorge Luis Ortega Torres, which propones the approval of an Adoption Law, and submits it for the consideration of the honorable court so, in case of having its approval, said can become a Law of the Republic.

GRANTED IN THE COMMISSION OF THE MINOR AND FAMILY?

Jorge Luis Ortega President

Carlos E. Velᳱuez Vice-President

Hilda Jeannette P鲥z Secretary

Jorge Mario Barrios

Rafael Barrios Flores


Mario Sola񯳊
Oliveiro GarcRodas

Juan Giordano Estrada


Carlos Alberto Godoy

Carlos Dumani Guererro

Hugo Hun Ponce

?gel Noe Lemus

Benjamin A. Paniagua

Jorge Villatoro

Eduardo Zachrisson

LAW INITIATIVE 3217 EXHIBITION OF MOTIVES

HONORABLE COURT:

The herein law initiative has regulating as its purpose, as established in the Law of Integral Protection of Childhood and Adolescence, all relative to the noble adoption institution and to make a reality the principles contained in the Children?s Rights Convention, which is a law in Guatemala since 1990 and the Hague Convention Relative to Protection and Cooperation in International Adoption Matters.

In spite of the importance and nobility of the adoption institution, it is precise to recognize that its current regulation has not satisfied the social function it such comply with, due to the existence of a series of defects and normative insufficiencies. In effect, to the Guatemalan society the ?international adoption? has become a synonym of illegal sale and traffic of children and so far no legislative answer has been given which properly regulates this institution, to prevent frequent and uncontrolled abuses that have converted the Guatemalan child in a traffic object, violating his or her human rights. Said problem, not only in Guatemala but in the rest of the world, has moved into the elaboration of specific international instruments of specific protection; in fact, as established in article one of The Hague Convention Relative to Protection and Cooperation in International Adoptions Matters, its objective is to prevent substraction, sale and traffic of minors. In Guatemala, some causes of this phenomenon are poverty in which more than half of the Guatemalan population lives in, great demand of children for adoption on behalf of foreign countries, lack of institutional control and transparency of adoptions, civil war and the lacking of a culture of human rights? respect which has permitted the creation of an international web that profit in many sectors, in our country as well as destination countries.

In 2004, Guatemala ranks fourth worldwide due to the number of international adoptions, according to the United Nations Organization (UNO), the proceeding to adopt is so free it allows any citizen of any State to adopt a Guatemalan child. Also, there are no existing strict controls of origin of the child, parents? consent or necessary investigation to know if the child has been stolen or illegally substracted. The current legislation is accused for the lack of control in preceding acts of adoption have permitted the illegal traffic of children, allowing an inappropriate selection of adopters when considering their economic capacity as most important in stead of the superior interest of the child or teenager. Also, it is worth mentioning, that the Attorney General?s Office has implemented a specific area for adoption cases that end up in criminal processes due to the existence of constitutive irregularities of crimes in the current adoption process.

The Law Initiative introduces improvements in the recognition of substantive rights of children. Equals the condition of biological and adoptive child, does not establish differences in filiation or succession matters, the adoptive child acquires exactly the same rights and obligations as a biological child, in accordance with the right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution. Also, adoption is recognized as an indissoluble bond as a biological filiation link, derogating the poor assertive revocation currently contemplated in the legislation in force.

It also seeks to guarantee that the consent to give a child in adoption is not motivated by an economical motivation. It is no secret that currently ?hitchers? are used to convince pregnant women with poor resources, very young, single, or with numerous descendants, among other motives, to give her child for adoption, with the argument that she ?will not be able to give him/her a good future, she will no be able to support him/her, that the child will be born condemned to undevelopment, while if she places him/her for adoption he/she will have a better future. Likewise, other cases exist where the consent has been obtain by means of an economic payment in exchange for the child or in exchange for the medical attention received during the pregnancy and delivery.

Considering the responsibility of the full enjoyment of children?s rights corresponds to the State, this will be the one in charge of guard that adopters? meet proper conditions to adopt a child, in compliance with The Hague Convention Relative to Protection and Cooperation of International Adoption Matters, instrument which also indicates that this function cannot be in the hands of biological parents, to avoid anomalies in the proceedings, and recommends that there are no contacts between biological parents and adoptive parents previous to the assurance that the future adoptive parents are suitable and proper to adopt.

It is established that this measurement will not be applied in case of an adoption by extended family members. It must not be forgotten that the institution of guardianship also exists, in which biological parents can intervene in the designation of the person who will be in charge of caring for their children in the case they were missing.

The Hague Convention Relative to Protection and Cooperation of International Adoption Matters declares that States must establish controls and measurements to guarantee several aspects: the order of priorities regarding the protection of children, takes charge of, mainly of providing proper support to the biological family of the child so this can assume its responsibilities with him/her; and if said measure fails, make sure that the child is adoptable and verify if the child can be placed or adopted by a family in his/her own country, or in the contrary, verify if an international adoption responds to the superior interest of the child. A preference of national adoption over international adoption is based on the child?s right to preserve his/her cultural identity.

The Initiative creates the Central Authority, as a central authority to the adoption process. In compliance with The Hague Convention Relative to Protection and Cooperation of International Adoption Matters, it becomes in the competent authority to authorize the adoption process.

The Authority is not part of the Judicial Body, it is an administrative entity; therefore it does not impart justice . Adoption proceedings are not a contentious matter, there is no litigation, in case of the appearance of any controversy, it is handed over to justice courts.

The Authority will be in charge of counseling the actors of the adoption process, so biological parents as well as adoptive parents can have full conscience of the implications that come with adopting or placing a child for adoption. This will allow that a consent to place a child for adoption is granted with no types of vices; and so the adopters understand the magnitude of commitment that is acquired and their duty of informing about the adoption success.

It will also be in charge of carrying out all investigation proceedings relative to adoption files, foster homes of children, adoption centers in other countries, qualities of persons aspiring to adopt and circumstances under which the consent was granted on behalf of the biological mother or parents to place a child for adoption.

The preoccupation of complying with the constitutional mandate of the State to guard the protection of the family, lead to the conformation of a multidisciplinary table in which a wide range of sectors from the civil society, religious entities of different denominations, human rights entities and renowned professionals in relative branches to this project of law participated. The Executive Body added itself to this effort by involving itself in the discussion and redaction of a proposal that complied with acquired commitments in international instruments regarding children and youth rights. I am honored to gather this popular clamor using my Law Initiative and becoming the spokesperson of this effort.

It is complied with the postulate of the Political Constitution of the Republic which states that the protection of children and teenagers who are in a situation of vulnerability, due to abandonment or orphanhood, as national interest, and with the exercise of participative democracy, due to that this proposal is the result of a long journey of discussion and the seek of a consesus.

CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC OF GUATEMALA

DECREE NUMBER

THE CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC OF GUATEMALA

WHEREAS

That the Political Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala establishes that the State recognizes and protects the adoption institution and declares of national interest the protection of abandoned and orphan children; and that the State of Guatemala ratified the Children?s Rights Convention, which entered into force since 1990, in which it committed itself to recognize and allow an adoption system in which the main purpose is the superior interest of the child.

WHEREAS

It is necessary to create a juridical ordering in accordance to principles contained in the doctrine of children?s integral protection for the existence of a process which guarantees the transparency of the adoption institution.

THEREFORE

In the exercise of the attributions conferred in article 171 clause a) of the Political Institution of the Republic of Guatemala and article 23 of Decree 27-2003 of the Congress of the Republic, Law of Integral Protection of Childhood and Adolescence.

DECREES AS FOLLOWS:

LAW OF ADOPTIONS

TITLE I
OF ADOPTION
CHAPTER I
OBJECT, APPLICATION ENVIRONMENT AND DEFINITIONS

ARTICLE 1. OBJECT AND APPLICATION ENVIRONMENT. The object of the herein laws is to regulate adoption as an institution of national interest and its judicial, notarial and administrative proceedings.

ARTICLE 2. DEFINITIONS. For the effects of the herein law, it will be in the understanding that:

a. Adoption: Is a social institution of protection and public order guarded by the State, in which a child or adolescent will be permanently restored his/her right to a family, integrated in accordance with the legislation of Guatemala, in which he/she will be welcomed and received as an own child; and will acquire the same rights and obligations of a biological child in filiation, succession and other matters.

b. Adoptability: Is the declaration which will establish that a child or adolescent needs an adoptive family in order to develop physical, psychological, emotional and socially.

c. Adopter: Is the person or persons who will take another?s child as their own in virtue of an adoption process.

d. Extended family: Is that which comprehends all the persons who have a consanguinity relation or affinity with the adopted who are not his/her parents or siblings; and other persons who maintain with him/her a relationship equally to a family relationship in accordance with practice, uses, national and community customs.

e. Biological family: Is that which comprehends the parents and siblings of the adopted one.

f. Substitute family: Is that which comprehends all the persons who will receive a child or adolescent in their home temporarily.

g. National adoption: Is that in which the adopters are Guatemalans, of origin or naturalized. As well, the one carried out by foreigners who, at the time of the adoption have been residing in Guatemala at least five years.

h. International adoption: Is that in which the adopters are not Guatemalans and have their usual residence abroad.

CHAPTER II
GENERAL DISPOSITIONS

ARTICLE 3. GUARDIANSHIP AND PROTECTION. It will correspond to the State of Guatemala, the obligation of protecting and guarding the children and adolescents in the adoption process to avoid their substraction, sale and traffic, as well as any other form of exploitation or abuse.

ARTICLE 4. SUPERIOR INTEREST OF THE CHILD AND FAMILY. The superior interest of the child is a guarantee which will be applied in every decision adopted in relation to childhood and adolescence, which shall assure the exercise and enjoyment of his/her rights, respecting his/her family bonds, ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic origin, having always in consideration his/her opinion in function of his/her age and maturity.

Interest of the family is understood as every action towards into the favoring the unity and integrity of such and the respect of relations between parents and their children, complied within the legal ordering.

The State of Guatemala shall promote and adopt all necessary means for the effective compliance of the interest of children and adolescents and the family.

ARTICLE 5. EQUALITY OF RIGHTS IN INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS. Only international adoptions between States that guarantee children susceptible to be adopted as minimum the same rights granted by the Guatemalan legislation can be authorized.

ARTICLE 6. LACK OF MATERIAL RESOURCES. SITUATION OF POVERTY. The situation of poverty or extreme poverty of parents does not constitute sufficient motive to place a child for adoption.

The State must promote and facilitate the creation of policies, institutions, programs and services of support which improve life conditions and promote familiar unity.

ARTICLE 7. NATIONALITY. The adopted one will not loose his/her Guatemalan nationality nor its inherent rights when placed for an international adoption.

ARTICLE 8. RESERVATION. All actions within the adoption process will enjoy the guarantee of discretion and reservation, certified copies will only be issued to the adopted one, the adopters or biological parents.

ARTICLE 9. TYPES OF ADOPTION. Adoption will preferably be national, subsidiarily it will be international.

ARTICLE 10. PROHIBITIONS. Adoption is a social institution of protection, for which it is prohibited:

a. The obtainment of material or other type of undue profit for biological parents or legal guardians of the child or adolescent placed for adoption; and any other persons who promote adoptions or intervene in them having no bonds with the family of the adopter or adopted one.
b. That biological parents or legal representatives of the child, expressly dispose who will adopt their child, unless he/she is the child of the spouse or cohabitant, or the substitute family who has previously sheltered him/her.
c. That adoptive parents dispose of organs or tissue of the child or adolescent for illicit purposes.
d. That all persons participating in the adoption process have a relationship of any kind with private entities that dedicate themselves to the care of children or adolescents declared for adoptability.
e. That a consent for adoption is granted by an underage person with no judicial authorization.

In files where any previous prohibitions are not complied with, the adoption will not be authorized, with no prejudice to certify the conducing to criminal of the action itself is constitutive of an offense or felony.

ARTICLE 11. INHERENT RIGHTS. Guarantees and rights granted by the herein law, does not exclude others, even if they do not expressly appear in it, are inherent to children and adolescents or have been recognized in international doctrine or normatives regarding children?s rights. In no case, its application will diminish, disort or restrict rights and guarantees recognized in the Political Constitution of the Republic, Treaties or Agreements regarding Human Rights matters which have been accepted and ratified by Guatemala and in the herein law.

CHAPTER III
OF ADOPTION SUBJECTS

ARTICLE 12. SUBJECTS WHO CAN BE ADOPTED. The following can be adopted:

a. An orphan child or adolescent.

b. A child or adolescent who in a judgment signs that his/her right to family has been violated.

c. In cases where it has been declared that the patria potestas has been lost.

d. A child or adolescent whose biological parents have voluntarily expressed their desire to place him/her for adoption.

e. A child of one of the spouses or cohabitant; if the spouse or cohabitant who is the biological parent has expressed his/her voluntary consent in accordance to law.

f. The person of age, if he/she expressly states his/her consent or if he/she is lent by the tutor in civil incapacity cases.

When two or more siblings are susceptible to be adopted, it will be tried not to separate them before or during the adoption process. It must be tried that they are adopted by the same family, unless for justified reasons of their superior interest determined by the Central Authority.

ARTICLE 13. SUBJECTS WHO CAN ADOPT. A man and a woman united in marriage or union declared in accordance with Guatemalan legislation can adopt, if they both are in agreement to consider an adopted child or adolescent as their own.

Exceptionally, a sole person can adopt in qualified cases such as when the adopter is a family member of the adopted party; one of the spouses to another?s child; or other supposed cases where the superior interest of the child is protected.

ARTICLE 14. SUITABILITY OF THE ADOPTER. The person who requests to adopt a child or adolescent must have a difference of age with thee adopted of no less than twenty years; have ethical, moral and sociocultural qualities; as well as aptitudes that allow the full development of the child or adolescent.

The selection of adoptive parents must be carried out considering the following criteria:
a. Superior interest of the child
b. Right to cultural identity
c. Medical and physical aspects
d. Socioeconomic aspects
e. Psychological aspects

The aforementioned must be accredited with a Certificate of Suitability issued by the Central Authority. For international adoptions, the equivalent accreditation issued by the Central Authority issued by the receiving country.

ARTICLE 15. EXCEPTIONS. It is not necessary to obtain a Certificate of Suitability:

a. When the adoption is of someone of age
b. When the adoption is of a child of one of the spouses or from the union or a family who was previously sheltered him/her.

ARTICLE 16. IMPEDIMENT TO ADOPT. There is an impediment to adopt to:

a. Who suffer from physical sickness, mental or personality disorders, which represent a risk in the health, life, integrity or full development of a child or adolescent.
b. Who depends physically or psychologically of medication or any other addictive substance, whenever they have not been prescribed by a doctor.
c. Who has been condemned for felonies that attempt against life, physical, sexual integrity and freedom of persons.
d. One of the spouses or united parties without the consent of the other.
e. The tutor or protutor, who has not rendered account of the guardianship or has given the assets of the child or incapacitated.
f. Parents who in firm sentence have lost, been separated or suspended of the patria potestas of their children, if they have not been reestablished in the exercise of the same by a competent judge.

TITLE II
OF INSTITUTIONS RELATED TO ADOPTION
CHAPTER I

CENTRAL AUTHORITY

ARTICLE 17. CENTRAL AUTHORITY. The Attorney General?s Office is the Central Authority in adoption matters and will be the institution in charge of guarding the loyal fulfillment of administrative proceedings in all adoption files.

ARTICLE 18. ATTRIBUTIONS AND FUNCTIONS. The attributions and functions of the Central Authority are:

1. To assure the protection of children and adolescents in the process of adoption.
2. To promote national adoptions, as well as the adoption of institutionalized children.
3. To receive adoption requests, as well as forming and maintaining the respective file under custody until the moment where it is sent to the judge or Notary.
4. To take proper measurements to prevent undue material profits in relation to adoption.
5. To request to institutions as deemed convenient of necessary information for the fulfillment of its attributions and functions.
6. To verify that the consent granted by the parents is granted in accordance with the herein law.
7. To inform about the legal basis of the adoption of the child or adolescent, with the previous favorable judgment by the multidisciplinary team.
8. To supervise the socialization period and issue a Certificate of Empathy.
9. To assign every child in the process of adoption to a proper family in accordance with the child?s superior interest.
10. To request a Certificate of Suitability or the Central Authority or its equivalent in the country of origin of the adopter.
11. To maintain the following records:
a. Of national adoptions
b. Of international adoptions
c. Of adoption files
d. Of Notary Publics who intervene in the files
e. Of children whose adoption has been justified
f. Of Adoption Agencies authorized to function and who are certified by the Central Authority in their country of origin
g. Of ideal families or persons who wish to adopt
h. Of scientific, photographic proof; digital, hand and feet prints of children whose adoption has been justified.

12. To have follow-ups on children placed for adoption. In international adoptions, an update report will be requested to the Central Authority or equivalent in the receiving country.
13. To maintain constant communication with Central Authorities or their equivalents.
14. To exchange general evaluation reports with different Central Authorities or international bodies to create proper supervision in the receiving country.
15. Any other function considered pertinent to the effective fulfillment of its attributions.

ARTICLE 19. OF THE MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAM. The Multidisciplinary team is the unit from the Attorney General?s Office who will assess all actions in adoption proceedings so these can be carried out according to law, transparently, ethically and accepted international standards.

ARTICLE 20. INTEGRATION. The Multidisciplinary team will have a Coordinator who will carry out the technical administrative chieftainship, appointed by the Attorney General of the Nation and a team of professional specialists and technicians in different disciplines, focused on childhood and adolescence.

ARTICLE 21. REQUIREMENTS. To be a member of the Multidisciplinary team, it is requested to comply with the following requirements:

a. To be Guatemalan of origin.
b. To be of a renowned honorability.
c. To be a university professional, active member.
d. To be in the full enjoyment of his/her citizen rights.
e. To accredit experience in childhood and adolescence subjects.

It will have the administrative and technical equipment considered necessary.
ARTICLE 22. FUNCTIONS. The functions of the Multidisciplinary team are:

a. Counsel all involved persons in the adoption process.
b. To elaborate a report of the child or adolescent susceptible to be adopted which will have information regarding identity, social environment, personal and family evolution, personal and family medical history and all related to particular needs. If for any motive, any of these data cannot appear in the report, it will be indicated.
c. To carry out works of experts and investigations required by the Central Authority and suggest any other deemed necessary.
d. To issue an opinion regarding the suitability of the adopters and the empathy between the adopted and the adopter.
e. To issue a professional opinion that orients the Final Judgment from the Central Authority.
f. Other functions in accordance with its technical labor which are required by the Central Authority.

ARTICLE 23. PROHIBITIONS. The following cannot be members of the Multidisciplinary Team from the Central Authority:

a. Who has been condemned to an account trial.
b. Who has been condemned for any other felony committed against any child, adolescent or against the public administration.
c. Who has been sanctioned by the Professional Association where he/she is a member, if not reinstituted.
d. Who has a relationship, link o represent the interest of private entities that dedicate themselves to the care or any other relation with children or adolescents susceptible to adoption.

CHAPTER II
OF THE SECRETARIAT OF SOCIAL WELLBEING AND THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC

ARTICLE 24. SECRETARIAT OF SOCIAL WELLBEING OF THE PRESIDENCY. The Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency is the one in charge of guarding the children and adolescents in the State of adoptability, who enter into protection and shelter homes or a program of substitute families form the State. With the previous judicial authorization by request of the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency, they will enter private entities dully registered and authorized in accordance with the herein law.

ARTICLE 25. OF THE ATTRIBUTIONS OF THE SECRETARIAT OF SOCIAL WELLBEING OF THE PRESIDENCY IN ADOPTION MATTERS. Besides the functions currently carried out by the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency, it shall:

a. Elaborate a file of very child or adolescent in the state of adoptability who is found in its institutions or request its equivalent in private institutions, where it is stated:
a.1 Personal data and circumstances, including photographs of the same.
a.2 Full identification by means of the birth certificate; and a document containing his/her palm and feet prints; the impression of fingerprints of the mother and father, whenever the case and other scientific means.
a.3 His/her medical history

b. To maintain an updated record of all children and adolescents violated to the right to a family and the institution where he/she is located.
c. To maintain a registry and surveillance of private entities that dedicate themselves to the care of children and adolescents in a state of adoptability.
d. To authorize and sanction private entities that dedicate themselves to the care of children and adolescents in a state of adoptability.

The regulation of the law will regulate all relative to this chapter.

CHAPTER III
OF PUBLIC OR PRIVATE ENTITIES THAT DEDICATE THEMSELVES TO THE CARE OF CHILDREN OR ADOLESCENTS

ARTICLE 26. OF THE AUTHORIZATION AND SUPERVISION OF PRIVATE ENTITIES. Private entities in charge of the care of children and adolescents will be authorized by the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency; and will be supervised by the Defenceship of Children?s and Adolescents? Rights from the Human Rights Ombudsman in accordance with this law and its regulation.

ARTICLE 27. OF THE REGISTRATION OF PRIVATE ENTITIES. Private entities in charge of the care of children and adolescents, besides of complying with legal requirements, must be registered at the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency indicating the address of the place where the children and adolescents are located. As well as a detailed report of the infrastructure of the centers, its installed capacity, type of population that is attended, specific program of attention and enclose a legalized photocopy of the following documents:

a. Testimony of the Public Deed of Constitution duly registered.
b. Appointment of its legal representative.
c. Payroll of employees and positions.
d. Favorable judgment of functioning issued by the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare and by the Ministry of Education.
e. Others required to the criteria of the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency.

ARTICLE 29. OF THE OBLIGATIONS OF PRIVATE ENTITIES. Private entities that dedicate themselves to the care of children and adolescents are obligated to guard and assure their integral development; must guarantee them as minimum:

a. Their due attention, nourishment, education and care.
b. Their physical, mental and social health.
c. The maintenance of proper hygiene conditions of the location required by the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency.
d. To give reports and data of children and adolescent under their care to the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency and the Central Authority.
e. Others that the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency deems pertinent.

ARTICLE 30. SANCTIONS. Foster homes, children?s home, nursery or any other private institution that dedicates itself to the care of children and adolescents that do not comply with established norms in the herein lay, its regulation and dispositions of the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency will be sanctioned in accordance with the regulations of this law, unless it is deemed necessary to file a denunciation before a competent judge.

If the institution is public the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency must take measurements so officers and public servers who work in them comply with the herein law and its regulation.

TITLE III
ADOPTION PROCESS

CHAPTER I
DECLARATION OF ADOPTABILITY

ARTICLE 31. PROCEEDINGS TO DECLARE ADOPTABILITY. When concluded the proceeding of protection of childhood and adolescence with a declaration of violation to the right to a family of any child or adolescent without having restituted such by means of shelter in a biological family, extended in his/her community or substitute home, the Judge of Childhood and Adolescence in that same definite resolution will declare the Adoptability of the child.

In cases where children are voluntarily placed by their biological parents, must carry it out before the Central Authority which must immediately present them before a Judge of Childhood and Adolescence, so the corresponding process may be set in motion.
CHAPTER II
GENERAL ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS

ARTICLE 32. GENERAL PROCEEDINGS. Once the definite resolution is notified in which the right to a family has been violated and the declaration of adoptability of the Judge of Childhood and Adolescence and the respective file or a child or adolescent voluntarily given to the Central Authority, the Multidisciplinary team shall:

a. Gather ideal scientific proof necessary to establish the filiation between them of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA).
b. Take fingerprint impressions of the parents and palm and feet impressions of the child or adolescent to establish the biological bond.
c. Carry out evaluations that the Multidisciplinary team deems convenient.

One the investigation is finished, the multidisciplinary team must issue a judgment.

ARTICLE 33. ORIENTATION PROCESS. The adoption orientation process consists of individual and professional orientation and counseling carried out by the multidisciplinary team from the Central Authority with the purpose of informing about principles, rights and consequences of the adoption. This process of orientation must be set forth by the Central Authority at the respective registry.

The regulation of this law will establish the proceedings that must be applied.

ARTICLE 34. ORIENTATION PROCESS OF BIOLOGICAL PARENTS. The biological parents of a child or adolescent who voluntarily wish to place him/her for adoption, only after their child is born can appear before the Central Authority to express their will to place him/her for adoption and set in motion the process indicated by this law.

If after carrying out the orientation process, the parents continue with the intention of placing their child for adoption, they will personally appear before the Central Authority to comply with the investigations, required scientific proofs and pertinent evaluations.

ARTICLE 35. REQUEST. The adoption process can be filed by the adopters to a Family Court or before a Notary Public.

ARTICLE 36. REQUIREMENTS OF THE ADOPTION REQUEST OF NATIONAL ADOPTERS. The Judge or Notary Public who carries out the adoption proceedings, by national requesting parties, will forward a request to the Central Authority containing full name of the requesting parties, age, civil status, nationality, address, document of identification and a location to receive notifications. Also, the following documents will be enclosed to the request:

a. Birth certificate and entry of their Identity Card registration.
b. Lack of criminal records of every requesting party.
c. Marriage or union certificate of the requesting parties.
d. Proof of employment or economic income of the requesting parties.
e. Medical Certificate of physical and mental health of the requesting parties and anyone who cohabits with them.
f. Recent photographs of the requesting parties.

ARTICLE 37. REQUIREMENTS FOR THE TUTOR. If the requesting party had been the tutor of a child or adolescent, the Notary Public or Judge must have at sight the documents where it is spread upon the record that his/her accounts were approves and his/her assents were given.

ARTICLE 38. REQUIREMENTS OF AN ADOPTION REQUEST BY FOREIGN REQUESTING PARTIES. The Judge of Family or Notary Public who carries out the adoption proceedings of foreign petitioners must enclose to the request filed before the Central Authority, the following documents:

a. Special mandate in favor of the person who can represent them in Guatemala.
b. Legalized photocopy of documents which accredit their personal identifications.
c. Birth certificate issued by a competent authority.
d. Lack of criminal record for every petitioner issued by the corresponding authority in their country.
e. Marriage or union certificate of the petitioners issued by the corresponding authority in their country.
f. Proof of employment or economic income of the requesting parties.
g. Medical certificate of mental and physical health of the petitioners and anyone who cohabits with them.
h. Recent photographs of the requesting parties.
i. Testimonial declarations, under oath before the Central Authority of the receiving country or its equivalent or Notary Public of the country of origin of the petitioners, of two persons who know them for at least two years, and indicate all relative to their economical and moral capacity that allows them to fulfill all obligations imposed by an adoption.
j. Certificate of attendance and completion of the orientation process or its equivalent before a competent authority in their country.
k. Suitability certificate issued by the Central Authority or its equivalent in the country of origin of the requesting parties.
l. Others indicated in the regulations of the Central Authority of Guatemala.

ARTICLE 38. SELECTION OF A FAMILY. When adoptability is declared by a Judge of Childhood and Adolescence, the Central Authority, will carry out the selection of an ideal family for the child, in accordance with all forwarded requests by a Family Judge or Notary Public.

A family in order to be ideal must respond to the superior interest of the child and must be in the capacity to satisfy the following needs of the child:

a. Cultural identity
b. Physical characteristics
c. Psychological characteristics

Situation which must be set forth in the resolution that designated a family to a child.

ARTICLE 40. ORIENTATION OF THE ADOPTERS. Person wishing to adopt a child or adolescent must carry out an orientation process and, when an international adoption, they must present proof issued by the Central Authority or equivalent in their country, where it is set forth that they carried out an equivalent process in their country.

ARTICLE 41. SUITABILITY CERTIFICATE. The disposition and aptitude to adopt of the requesting parties will be set forth in a certificate issued by the Central Authority, in accordance to what has been established in article fourteen of the herein law.

ARTICLE 42. SOCIALIZATION PERIOD. The Central Authority will authorize a period of co-habitation and socialization between the requesting parties and the child or adolescent, no minor to five working days, in national adoptions as well as in international adoptions.

This period will be supervised by a specialist designated by the Central Authority, who can be supported by the multidisciplinary team if deemed necessary.

The Central Authority must inform the judge or notary public who carries out the authorization file of the period of socialization and co-habitation.

ARTICLE 43. OPINION OF THE CHILD OR ADOLESCENT. Two days after having concluded the period of socialization, the Central Authority will call the child or adolescent to ratify his/her wish to be adopted according to his/her age and maturity.

ARTICLE 44. EMPATHY REPORT. When concluding the socialization process and taking into account the opinion of the child or adolescent, the multidisciplinary team will immediately issue an empathy report which will indicate the quality of the established relationship between the child or adolescent and the requesting parties.

ARTICLE 45. MIGRATION GUARANTEE. In case of international adoptions, the commitment of the Central Authority or its equivalent in the receiving country will be required of providing all information that can allow to have a follow-up on the child placed for adoption. Likewise, the proof that the adopted can enter and permanently reside in the receiving country will be required at the moment of the formalization of the adoption.

ARTICLE 46. JUDGMENT. When the aforementioned administrative process is concluded, the Central Authority will issue a judgment in the following five working days, based on the legal basis of the adoption considering the prohibitions this law establishes in article ten.

The Central Authority will issue certificates of the reports, so the interested parties can attach them to the request before the judge or notary public who is carrying out the case

ARTICLE 47. REFUTATIONS. To refute a judgment issued by the Central Authority, the resources contained in the Law of the Contentious Administrative, Decree 119-96.

CHAPTER III
JUDICIAL AND NOTARIAL REQUIREMENT

ARTICLE 48. JUDICIAL OR NOTARIAL RESOLUTION. After complying with all the requirements aforementioned and based on the judgment of the Central Authority, which will forward the file to the corresponding judge or notary public; in the first case the judge will issue in a term no longer than five working days, the corresponding resolution, in which the adoptions proceedings are approved or denied.

In case that the request was filed by a notary public, such will authorize the corresponding Public Deed in which it is set forth the consent of the parents of the child or adolescent or the institution who is in charge of him/her, the acceptance of the adopter and the transcription of the judgment which approves the adoption.

ARTICLE 49. REGISTRATION OF THE ADOPTION. The testimony of the public deed or judicial resolution of adoption must be filed to the Civil Registry so the inscription is spread upon the record in the corresponding books. The testimony of the public deed must be attached to the certificate of the issued judgment by the Central Authority.

ARTICLE 50. RESTITUTION OF THE RIGHT OF FAMILY. Authorized the adoption by the judge or notary public, the Central Authority will verify that the right to a family of the adopted is restituted, by means of an act in which the adopted and adopters personally appear.

CHAPTER IV
TRANSITORY DISPOSITIONS

ARTICLE 51. ADOPTIONS IN PROCESS. All processes which are being carried out at the moment the herein law enters into force, will continue with their proceedings in accordance to the law in force at the time of them being set in motion to their conclusion.

ARTICLE 52. REGULARIZATION. Within thirty days of this law being in force, the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing will confirm the situation of the children or adolescents that are under the care and guard of substitute families and private institutions that dedicate themselves to the care of children and adolescents.

ARTICLE 53. TERM FOR INSCRIPTION. All private entities, who are in charge of the guard and care of children and adolescents must be inscribed at the Secretariat of Social Wellbeing of the Presidency, within the next thirty days of this law entering into force.

ARTICLE 54. BUDGETARY ASSIGNATION. The Executive Body must incorporate in the Income and Outcome Budget of the State the necessary budgetary entries in order to finance the implementation and functioning of the Central Authority and the multidisciplinary team contemplated in the herein law and in accordance to the proposal from the Attorney General of the Nation.

ARTICLE 55. REGULATION OF THE LAW. Within the following ninety days after this law being in force, the Executive, through the Attorney General of the Nation shall issue the respective regulation.

CHAPTER V
REFORMS AND DEROGATIONS

ARTICLE 56. REFORMS. Articles 228, 258, 274, 435 and 1,076 of the Civil Code are reformed, Decree number 106, which stay as follow:

Article 228. All aspects relative to adoption will be regulated by the law specialized in the matter.
Article 258. The patria potestas over the adopted child is exercised jointly by the persons who adopted him/her.

Article 274. The last paragraph of article 274 is reformed, which stays as follows: ?The patria potestas is lost when the violation to a family is declared by a firm judgment issued by a Judge of Childhood and Adolescence or when he/she is adopted by another person.?

Article 435. The adoption will be inscribed in a special book, having at sight the testimony of the public deed or the certificate of judicial resolution which approves it, in accordance with what has been established by the law specialized in the matter.

Article 1,076. The children, from or not from the marriage, biological or adoptive, will inherit their parents assets equally. The adoptive child has the same rights of the biological children regarding successory rights among relatives of the adopters; but does not preserve the successory rights of his/her previous biological family.?

ARTICLE 57. Article 28 of the Regulation Law of Notarial Proceedings in Voluntary Jurisdiction Affairs is reformed, Decree No. 54-77, which stays as follows:

Article 28. Formalization. The adoption can be formalized before a notary public, in accordance to was has been established by the law specializing in the matter.

ARTICLE 58. DEROGATIONS. Articles 29, 30, 31, 32, and 33 of the Regulation Law of Notarial Proceedings in Voluntary Jurisdiction Affairs, Decree No. 54-77 of the Congress of the Republic are derogated.

ARTICLE 59. Articles 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250 and 251 from the Civil Code, Decree Law number 106 are derogated.

CHAPTER IV
FINAL DISPOSITIONS

ARTICLE 60. FORCE. The herein decree will enter into force eight days after been published in the Official Newspaper.

Given at the Legislative Palace?

PONENT CONGRESSMAN

JORGE LUIS ORTEGA TORRES





Posted by Kevin at 10:29 PM

September 02, 2005

Law Proposal is Back!

The Commission on the Minor and the Family in Guatemala voted to approve the Ortega Law proposal which first appeared a month ago. This does not mean this law has been passed, it means that it will be presented for a vote to the full Congress. I am not sure at this time if this proposal is exactly same as what the Commission rejected in August or when it will be voted on.

There are apparently members of Congress prepared to fight this proposal based on constitutionality and the ADA will certainly fight it. Don?t be surprised to hear a call for help on this shortly.

A story in the Prensa Libre (click here to see it) indicates that it will be part of the docket of the legislative session beginning Sept. 13. It also mentions that banning singles could be a sticky point.

As the situation progresses we will update as necessary.

Posted by Kevin at 03:02 PM

August 10, 2005

New Adoption Law - DIDN'T PASS!!!

A collective sigh of relief. We just received word that the Commission on Children and Families in Guatemala DID NOT approve the new law proposal. As such, it will not move on to the full Congress for a vote. This does not mean that new threats will not arrive, but things are back to normal for the moment.

As I have written in the past, it is in the times of calm that we all need to find ways to get involved. If we only gear up once there is a threat, eventually it will be too late.

Posted by Kevin at 02:11 PM

August 08, 2005

New Law Proposal

A new law proposal is circulating in Guatemala. This proposal HAS NOT been presented to Congress yet and must be approved by The Commission for the Minor and Family before it can be voted on by the full Congress. That commission is likely to vote on whether to present it to Congress in the next week.

If passed, the proposal would likely result in a near shut down for new cases as it does not really explain how referrals would be made. It also specifies no timelines for how long it would take to allow a child to be adopted internationally. It is this type of thing that has shut down many other countries in Central and South America.

This law proposal seems to be the culmination of meetings with UNICEF in which the country was promised Q176 million for passing certain initiatives, one of which is an adoption law (this was printed in the Diario de Centroamerica official newspaper).

Key Points from the proposal (based on my reading of it):
1.) Current cases are allowed to be completed
2.) Singles would be prevented from adopting
3.) It follows the standard UNICEF model of promoting family unification and domestic adoption before considering ICA. It does not however specify timelines for how long to wait before allowing a child to be adopted internationally.
4.) All referrals would come from the PGN who would match the child with a family
5.) It places strong emphasis on maintaining a childs cultural heritage, it is not clear what that means so far as policy is concerned
6.) Once a child is connected with a family, the notarial system would remain in place. What would be eliminated is the practice of facilitators who connect birthmothers with attorneys.
7.) Birthmothers would have to relinquish their child before a Judge or PGN
8.) The law contains numerous provisions that would and could be challenged in Guatemala because they contradict the Constitution.

All in all, while the wording of the bill does not sound too scary and creates the appearance that adoptions would continue, experience has shown this not to be the case.

Focus On Adoption is preparing a campaign to fight this law if necessary. More information and a complete translation will be posted on their site (www.focusonadoption.com) in the days to come. We will also provide updates as appropriate.

Is this cause for panic?

If you already have a referral, I would remain calm. If I were about to be matched with a child, I would definitely be paying attention to this. As a survivor of the Hague fiasco, I have to say I am glad beyond belief that we hung in there because if we had not, we would have our beautiful daughter home whom we love more than words could describe. However, it is a turbulent time and everyone should make his/her own risk assessments and act accordingly.

Once again, this is just a proposal at this time and it may never make its way to the full congress.

Posted by Kevin at 10:20 AM

August 02, 2005

Sesame Street Casting Guatemalan Twins

{Posted on behalf of Theresa Anderson, Child Talent Coordinator, Sesame Street}

World Renowned Childrens Television Series, Sesame Street, Casting Guatemalan Twin Babies

Sesame Street, produced by the nonprofit educational organization Sesame Workshop, is looking to cast male or female twin babies of Guatemalan decent for its 37th season. The children need to be between the ages of 6-12 months and available to be in New York City mid-October once taping begins. It is preferred that the families live in the surrounding tri-state area, Pennsylvania or Maryland.

If you are interested and for more information please contact:
Theresa Anderson
Child Talent Coordinator

----------------------------------------------------
Note from Kelly: Guatadopt.com is not involved in the selection/casting of the children. However, I did speak with Theresa and if you do not have twin siblings but would still like to inquire, I would contact her.

Posted by Kelly at 08:23 AM

July 23, 2005

Senate Passes Ammendment

Senator Landrieu offered an amendment which passed the United States Senate unanimously on July 20. The amendment directs the USAID to give money to international programs that support adoption and the placement of orphans in permanent families. It was prompted by information that UNICEF, which is funded in part by USAID, was funding programs that favored creating orphanages and boarding schools over the adoption of children. Senator Landrieu characterized the amendment as reaffirming the United States' support of the Hague Convention.

This certainly seems a positive step and I must admit I love the use of UNICEF to formally promote in theory the benefits of ICA vis a vis long term institutional care. In addition, this does appear to me to be some decent precendent for a new Ambassador-At-Large of ICA should the ICARE Bill come to law. However, this statement also does to a certain extent just restate was been formal policy without addressing things like "how does one determine that no options for permanency exist in the child's country of birth". Nonetheless, I applaud the actions of these Senator's, particularly Senator Landrieu, to focus attention on the primary goal of children growing up in a permanent family and that USAID should put some effort on this.

Here is an excerpt of her concluding remarks from the Congressional Record, followed by the text of the amendment:

Sen. Landrieu's comments are in italics:

Mr. President, I offered this amendment on behalf of myself, Senator Clinton, Senator DeWine, Senator Inhofe, and Senator Craig. It is an amendment we feel very strongly about and are proud to offer to the Senate this afternoon to clarify a very important principle as we give out billions of dollars in aid to other countries. That principal is very simple and straightforward: Families matter; families should be respected; children belong in families.
..
To clear up some misperceptions that are out there about this issue, again the Landrieu amendment is not a sense-of-the-Senate amendment. It is a directive. It is a directive to USAID to say that as you are giving out this money, keep in mind that children belong in families. Try to allocate money in a way that keeps them with the families to which they were born, their families of origin. But if they become orphaned, let's work as hard as possible to reconnect those children to other families, preferably to relatives through domestic adoption, long-term permanency, long-term care; not long-term foster care, but through the permanency of a real new family. If that family is not available in that country, then to look within the human family to place those children, keeping sibling groups together as much as possible.

That is our policy in the United States. It is what our law is. It is a value that Americans hold dear. That is what this amendment does, and I offer it in a bipartisan spirit of cooperation.

Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
.
The legislative clerk called the roll.

Sen. Durbin: "I announce that the Senator from West Virginia (Mr. BYRD), and the Senator from West Virginia (Mr. ROCKEFELLER), are necessarily absent."

The result was announced--yeas 98, nays 0, as follows:

[Rollcall Vote No. 195 Leg.]

YEAS--98

**
Text of Senator Landrieu's amendment to the DEPARTMENT OF STATE, FOREIGN OPERATIONS, AND RELATED PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT:

ORPHANS, DISPLACED AND ABANDONED CHILDREN

SEC. 6113. (a) The Senate--

(1) reaffirms its commitment to the founding principle of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, that a child, for the full and harmonious development of the child's personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding;

(2) recognizes that each State should take, as a matter of priority, every appropriate measure to enable a child to remain in the care of the child's family of origin, but when not possible should strive to place the child in a permanent and loving home through adoption;

(3) affirms that intercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a family cannot be found in the child's State of origin;

(4) affirms that long-term foster care or institutionalization are not permanent options and should therefore only be used when no other permanent options are available; and

(5) recognizes that programs that protect and support families can reduce the abandonment and exploitation of children.

(b) The funds appropriated under title III of this Act shall be made available in a manner consistent with the principles described in subsection (a).

Posted by Kevin at 11:17 AM

July 11, 2005

New Visa Policy

Effective today, the US Embassy will no longer be issuing visas on the same day as your interview. They will instead be issued the next afternoon. This means that families will have to spend an extra day in Guatemala during their "gotcha"trip. We have no knowledge of a reason for the change but can only assume that the Embassy had reason to need the extra time.

UPDATE: The announcement is available on http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/notices/notices_2504.html

Posted by Kevin at 06:44 PM

June 03, 2005

Adoption Happenings

It has been a while since there has been much activity on the future of Guatemalan adoptions, which of course means we are due for some.

Over the last week or so, there have been some rumblings. There have been some attempts to try to call a special session of Congress in order to push through the Berger law proposal. These were not successful in even getting the bill out of committee, apparently with the relevant committee members pointing out significant constitutional issues with the bill in its current form. However, it is possible that the bill will eventually be recommended although the Congress is not in session until August.

In addition to this, a representative of the Hague named Hans van Loon was in Guatemala trying to push that Guatemala needs to comply with the treaty. Guatadopt has reported before that to many Hague countries, Guatemala is still a part of it because they have never formally withdrawn. This is a weird thing because to Guatemala, they never really joined since the manner in which they attempted to was deemed unconstitutional.

Lastly, it was reported in the Prensa Libre that PGN has announced that they will be publishing a manual regarding adoption policies. (Click here to find the story.) While we dont know what changes, if any, will be a part of it, we do know that they are consulting the Instituto (the Guatemalan Bar Association).

I cant offer up an opinion on what exactly all of this means. It is probably inevitable that reforms will eventually be made to the current system. It is my hope that rationale reforms are enacted to remove the opportunities for corruption and unethical behavior without ending a wonderful institution that has given thousands of children permanency in loving homes. And as always, I will take the position that the best reform may be strict enforcement of the laws currently on the books, which if strictly followed would result in an adoption system that could serve as a benchmark for other countries.


Posted by Kevin at 09:08 PM

May 24, 2005

Study finds international adoptees better adjusted

The following story was published today by Reuters. It can be found at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N24537845.htm

A second, more positive story that directly admits to all sensationalized press around ICA can be found at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050525/ap_on_re_us/adopted_children

Study finds international adoptees better adjusted
24 May 2005 20:00:31 GMT

Source: Reuters

CHICAGO, May 24 (Reuters) - Most of the children adopted internationally in the United States and Europe wind up better adjusted than those adopted in their birth countries, perhaps because their parents are more motivated and open-armed, a study said on Tuesday.

The finding from Dutch researchers based on a review of 55 years of international medical literature did find that children adopted from other countries have more contact with mental health services than their non-adopted peers but still less than children in domestic adoptions.

The authors said that rate of contact with mental health services could simply reflect the sophistication and wealth of the adopting parents.

The study from Leiden University in the Netherlands compared international adoptees, similar children who were not adopted and domestically adopted children.

The analysis found "the majority of international adoptees are well adjusted although more ... are referred to mental health services" than their non-adopted counterparts, the study said.

"Contrary to common opinion, international adoptees present fewer behavior problems than domestic adoptees, and they have lower rates of mental health referral," regardless of age, the study said.

The overall positive findings may come from the fact that parents adopting internationally "are highly motivated to raise children and they usually have ample opportunities to invest in their children's development because of their relatively high socioeconomic status."

It may also be that those parents are more up-front and honest because of obvious racial and ethnic differences from the start, leading to "more communication and trust in the family," the researchers said.

International adoptions are rising and currently involve more than 40,000 children moving among more than 100 countries each year, said the study, which was published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Before adoption, international adoptees often experience insufficient medical care, malnutrition, maternal separation, and neglect and abuse in orphanages," the report said.

In 2004 most of the nearly 23,000 children adopted internationally into the United States were from China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea and Kazakhstan. Of the nearly 16,000 children coming to Europe in 2003 most were from China, Russia, Colombia, Ukraine and Bulgaria.

At the same time, domestic adoptions within the United States and Europe have declined since the 1970s, the researchers said. Only adoptions in Western countries were studied because not much research has been done in other parts of the world, the report said.

Posted by Kevin at 05:53 PM

April 26, 2005

ICARE Revisited

Latest news appears to be that ICARE passage may be imminent as it has been attached to a general Department of State appropriations bill (PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS FOR CLARIFICATION ON THIS) and will likely be voted on very shortly.

For those completely unaware of the bill, it has two main purposes. One is to centralize all intercountry adoption functions in a new Office of Intercountry Adoption (OIA). This office would be part of the State Department and would be headed by an Ambassador-at-large who would be appointed by the President. The second purpose of the bill is to confer the same citizenship rights to children adopted abroad as those enjoyed by the biological children of US citizens who are born abroad. Basically this makes them the same as any US citizen except for that they still cant become President.

The latest version of the bill has many improvements over what had been previously presented to Congress. Much of the ambiguity over what was meant by a competent authority has been clarified among other things. The bill still does confer much needed citizenship rights though as I have pointed out before, conferring these rights does not require a new law. The bill also changes the orphan status definition so that married couples could choose to relinquish and still have the child considered an orphan.

While I do support the bill in principle I still have some major reservations that prevent me from giving it my endorsement (for whatever my endorsement is worth). For those of our readers who at times criticize me for not being clear on what is my opinion and what is fact everything from this point on is MY OPINION.

POLITICAL APPOINTEE The person in charge of interpreting the best interests and rights of the child will be a political appointee. This could lead to a few troublesome things. The obvious one is just the fact that political appointees generally have a 4 to 8 year shelf-life. Every time there is a new President, jobs change. This is especially so when we have a change in the political party of the President. Do we want to have changes in the interpretations of adoption policy every few years?

The second problem with the Ambassador-at-large being a political appointee is the fact that it leaves us open to politics infiltrating ICA policy. I, for one, have absolutely zero faith in the ability of our highest elected officials of any party- not to use innocent children as pawns in their geo-political chess game. This is not a partisan thing in any way. I would fear that with a right wing President we could face situations where the US might use adoption policy as a way to pressure countries into things like free trade deals. And with a pinko President like Id be likely to elect, I could very easily see a Human Rights agenda result in misguided ICA policy.

Lastly on this appointee thing is the fact that the OIA will get to decide who can and cant adopt. There is nothing to prevent them from going farther than the current system of essentially making sure you can provide a healthy home and that you arent a child molester. Is it a far stretch to believe that Pres. Bush might appoint someone who would say that gays and lesbians cant adopt? How far of a stretch is it to believe that groups like Focus on the Family might be able to take it one step further and prevent singles from adopting? Once again, just my opinion, take it or leave it.

FUNDING The ICARE bill does not offer any guaranteed funding stream. Instead, the office is funded out of the DOSs annual budget. This leaves it very vulnerable to overall fiscal woes and well as prioritization on the part of the Sec. of State. I believe that ICA should have a direct fee for service arrangement similar to Al Gores concept of a social security lockbox. This becomes especially important when the next concern is taken into consideration.

STAFFING AND RESPONSIBILITIES ICARE does not specify any guidelines for staffing the new office. Logic would state that this would be a function of how much money is allocated for the office. In addition, ICARE calls for the OIA staff to do a lot of non-adoption related things such as gathering data for annual reports on human rights and trafficking. I do not object to their involvement; however if budgets are tight and they will be and there is limited staff, how much of the OIAs time is going to be spent on things other than processing adoption paperwork.

MAYHEM ICARE gives the DOS six months to establish the office. Once that six -months (following passage by Congress I believe) is past, the DHS no longer has any involvement in adoptions. There is no way that this office will be established, all hiring and training completed, responsibilities assigned, and up and running in six months time. Without doubt, there will be a period of extreme stress and mayhem in the first year of the OIAs existence. I do not state that this is a reason not to pass the bill, though it could have been written better to give more time or flexibility. But this is something that the adoption community must be prepared for. Maybe it is an inevitable inconvenience if things are ever to change.

In conclusion, ICARE is not as frightening to me now as it was last year when I first started to research it. I still believe that this law is a danger to adoptions from Guatemala as the very nature of the private system could lead an Ambassador-at-large to call for a shutdown. I still believe that the US needs a national policy that explains how we interpret doctrines like the Convention on the Rights of the Child so that the Ambassador-at-large has at least some guiding direction. My greatest fear is that ICARE will pass and five years from now well be calmed down and satisfied with the great new citizenship rights. At that time, some religious zealot, tree hugging hippie, or other ideologue will become the head of the OIA and then well be wishing we had fought harder.

Posted by Kevin at 06:12 PM

April 23, 2005

We're on a new server

Guatadopt.com has moved to a new server. If you are viewing this message, your ISP (Internet service) is pointing to our new server. There are still a few things that we will have to "tweak". However, if you notice problems with links or documents, please report them to us.

Thanks for your continued support!

Posted by Kelly at 07:53 PM

March 30, 2005

FACILITATOR BANNED BY US EMBASSY

This morning, the US Embassy banned the facilitator commonly known as Athanassis. To my knowledge (and please correct me in the comments if I am incorrect), this is the first time a facilitator has been officially banned. I must admit I am curious how the US Embassy will attempt to enforce this since I dont believe facilitators like Mr. Collias are actually involved in any paperwork that goes through the Embassy.

For those of you with cases currently in process that came from Mr. Collias, you should be safe so long as your case has already been presented to the Embassy. You would know that it has been if you have received your approval to conduct a DNA test. For anyone uncertain, I would recommend speaking with your agency.

As always, we do not know the exact reasons why Mr. Collias was banned. There was a raid done on his apartment several months back that generated some sensationalist press but did not uncover anything other than legal dossiers and documents.

I am sure the Embassy had good reason to ban Mr. Collias but would not want parents with children adopted through him to be uncomfortable. I personally know ethical adoption providers who had cases through him processed completely by-the-book. Not a defense of Mr. Collias, just sharing some perspective

The Embassys official notice:

This is to inform all involved in Guatemalan adoptions that effective today, Mr. Athanasios Kollias, aka Athanase Thomas Collias, Athanasis Thomas, Thomas Collias, has been banned to act as facilitator in the submission and/or processing of I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative)applications before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the American Embassy in Guatemala.

We advise all agencies to not accept any referrals from Mr. Kollias, as they will be rejected.

Any Guatemalan attorneys or notaries found to be involved with Mr. Kollias in attempting to circumvent this proscription will likewise be subject to similar action.


Sincerely,

Adoptions Unit
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
American Embassy / Guatemala
APO AA34024
Unit 3334
Fax 011(502) 2331-4342

Posted by Kevin at 11:17 AM

March 29, 2005

Trade Protests

If you are planning on visiting Guatemala in the next few days, please be aware of the growing animosity towards the US over the free trade agreement CAFTA. Again, protests have been planned for this week which may effectively shut down businesses in some areas. In the past, busses and streets have been closed and workers have found themselves stranded for a time.

Visitors should be alert to the atmosphere and take extra caution when venturing out. Be cognizant of current events and be flexible enough to change your itinerary. At this time, I do not see a reason to cancel travel plans.

Posted by Kelly at 11:46 AM

March 20, 2005

New Head of PGN

President Berger has appointed a new person to head the office of the PGN. From my translation of the story in Prensa Libre, it appears as though some are claiming Pres. Berger does not have this right. It would also appear to have some partisan politics involved.

We are hearing that the new appointee, Roberto Molina Barreto, is a constitutional lawyer with great respect for the Guatemalan Constitution which would certainly be a positive for those concerned with adoptions.

Click here to read the story from Prensa Libre.

This move will most likely mean that there will be a change to the PGN position that leads adoptions currently held by Sr. Merida.

As we learn more, we will pass it on...

Posted by Kevin at 10:27 AM

March 09, 2005

Translation of Law Proposal

As many of you know and have been following, a new law proposal, endorsed by First Lady Wendy Berger, was presented to the Guatemalan legislature last month. As always, Guatadopt is working to provide you up-to-date information on the status of that proposal. Also as always, we would like to urge our readership to view this proposal for what it is a proposal. This does not mean that it will be signed into law and if it was it would be challenged because of constitutional issues with some of its provisions.

Focus On Adoption has added a translation of this law proposal to their website. Special thanks goes to Chris Huber of Families Thru International Adoption for translating the bill. To read the bill, click here.

In addition, Focus On Adoption held a conference in Guatemala in January titled In thebest interests of children: a permanent family. The keynote speaker was Prof. Betsy Bartholet of Harvard Law School. A link to her homepage and a transcript of her speech at the conference can be found on FOAs website. To see them, click here.

Posted by Kevin at 04:30 PM

January 08, 2005

Tsunami Victims

I know that many of us have taken the time to donate to various organizations assisting the victims of the Tsunami. It is impossible to see these faces of the children who have been left homeless or separated from their family and not want to do something. The Joint Councel on International Children's services has posted a statement about Adopting from these countries on their website.

JCICS has also posted a list of reputable relief organizations. In the coming weeks, we will attempt to post other organizations who are actively setting up long term projects in Tsunami affected regions.

Posted by Kelly at 11:11 PM

December 31, 2004

Guatadopt.com changes and side effects

Some of you might have noticed that there were some problems posting to the comments, sending form mail etc. Our hosting company changed the location of our directory which disabled many of the features of this site. We have finally restored most of the functionality. However, comments will be closed once they leave the main page in order to deter SPAMMERS who have used the open comment feature to advertise questionable material.

I apologize for the inconvenience. In 2005, we will be reorganizing and expanding the site to present more information about Guatemala, spotlight Charities and offer more adoption related information. Your support and suggestions are always welcome.

Posted by Kelly at 03:24 PM

December 15, 2004

FOA Conference for Agency Professionals

ATTENTION ADOPTION PROFESSIONALS

Focus On Adoption is hosting a conference for ADOPTION PROFESSIONALS in Guatemala City on Jan 20th and 21st, 2005. For more information, please see http://www.focusonadoption.com/foaconf/

Kelly Caldwell
Administrator, FOA

Posted by Kelly at 05:51 PM

October 19, 2004

Proposed New Law

Here is a translation of the law that has been proposed to the Guatemalan Congress. There are some issues with the translation so please bear with them. I have given it one quick read and it reminds me of ICARE in that it does not spell out all the specifics, such as how it is determined that no domestic family exists for the child.

A few things I know of interest are that it does seem to end foster care as we know it. As someone whose daughter had the most wonderful care possible and who remains very close with her foster family, this is truly a shame! My daughter's foster family is now our family and that is a tie to her birth country that should be rewarded as being consistent with the Hague Convention and the UNCRC!

The good news for those of you in process is that it does state that you will be allowed to complete your adoptions under the current system. At least that is how I read it.

THERE IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT THIS LAW WILL PASS AND IT IF DID, THERE IS EVERY REASON TO BELIEVE THAT IT WOULD BE OVERTURNED BY THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. So read this for information, not as something destined to become reality!

Decree number
Congress of the Guatemala Republic

Considering
That, according to what it is established by the article 1 of the Politic Constitution of the Guatemala Republic, the State is organized to protect the person and the family, having as a goal the realization of the common wealth. Based on that, and being that part of the rights that are inherent to persons is to have a family; its organization must be promoted based on the legal basis of marriage and responsible parenthood.

Considering

That the Guatemalan State recognizes and protects the adoption declaring of National interest the protection of orphan and abandoned children based on what is established in the article 54 of the Constitution of the Guatemalan Republic.

Considering

That it is necessary to create a organized group of laws to protect the Guatemalan children and that would grant their rights and that specifies as a priority all the adequate measures to allow the child or adolescent to remain with their families, or, in the case of given in adoption, that that process is based on the child or adolescents best interest

Considering

That the Guatemalan State has assumed a series of international compromises in what respects to the protection of the children and adolescents, specifically in what is related to international adoptions and because the current legal framework in our country do not respond to the basic principles of that institution, it is necessary to establish the corresponding regulations

Considering

That the Law of Integral Protection of the Childhood and Adolescence, Decree number 27-2003 of the Congress of the Guatemalan Republic establishes in the article 23rd that a special law must regulate what respects to adoptions

Therefore

In exercise of the attributions conferred by the article 171 section a) of the Political Constitution of the Guatemalan Republic,

Declares the following:
Adoption Law

Title 1
Of the Adoption
Chapter 1
Definition, Principles and Effects of Adoption:

Article 1. Definition and Juridical Nature. The adoption is a social institution of protection and order tutored by the State and for which it is restored the right to a family to one child or adolescent, family that is integrated according to our legislation, and from which the child or adolescent is received and welcomed as own son or daughter.
Adoption is complete, irrevocable and could not be resigned.

Article 2. Types of Adoption: Adoption can be National or International.

The adoption is national when the adoptive parents have their permanent residence in the Guatemalan Republics territory, with the objective that the child or adolescence would grow in National territory.
The adoption is international when it is realized by people of any nationality that have their resident in a foreign country and which the objective of transporting the child or adolescent out of this country

Article 3. Principles. The Regulating principles of the adoption are:
A. The best interest of the child
Any decision taken with respect to the adoption of a child or adolescent, must guarantee its best interest and it must ensure the realization of its rights.
B. The right to have a family
The child or adolescent has the right to remain with its biological family. In the case that this is not possible, it must remain with more distant relatives. If this is not possible, the child could be adopted, first of all, by a family that lives in its own community and, in the last case, by a family outside its community. If this is not possible, the child could be adopted by people outside its community but in the National territory and if this is not possible, then it could be adopted by internationals.
C. Subject of Right
The child or adolescent must be considered in all moments as subject of its rights
D. Tutoring
It corresponds to the Guatemalan Republic State to protect, control and facilitate the adoption of orphan or abandoned children.
E. Protection
The child or adolescent has the right to be protected by the State of any kidnapping or trade of children, prostitution or usage in pornography or any form of exploitation or sexual abuse
F. Expressed consent
The consent of the biological parents must be expressed in written form; it must be express freely and only after the child is born. Such consent could not be obtained in trade of money or any other kind of compensation.
G. Advisory
The biological parents and the adoptive candidates must be adequately advised about the consequences of their decisions along all the adoption process.
H. Opinion.
Every child or adolescent has the right to freely express its opinion and the right for it to be taken into account during the process of adoption, considering its age and maturity.

I. Lack of material goods
The lack of material goods from the biological parents does not constitute a sufficient justification to give their child or adolescent in adoption.

J. Social Nature:
Being the adoption an institution of social character, it is against its nature to obtain financial benefits or of other nature by the persons involved in it.

K. Nationality
The child or adolescent does not lose the Guatemalan nationality or the rights that are inherent to it, when is given in adoption.

L. Life and Integrity
The State must make sure that the life and integrity of the child and adolescent is being respected.

M. Equality of Rights
The State must make sure that the children or adolescents that are to be adopted by internationals, have at leas the same rights and guarantees than the Guatemalan legislation provides them.

N. Right of privacy
All the actions in the adoption process have the quality of confidential and certified copies of the documents could only be provided to the adopted child or adolescent, the adoptive parents or the biological parents.

Article 4. Effects of Adoption. With the adoption, the links of the adopted child or adolescent and their biological parents cease, and consanguinity links are generated among the adopted and the adoptive parents and relatives.
The elimination of the link with the biological parents do not eliminate the prohibitions contained in the Civil Code concerning the impediments about marriage.


Chapter II
About the subjects of the adoption

Article 5. Subjects that could be adopted
Could be adopted:
a. the child or adolescent who is orphan from both mother and father;
b. the child or adolescent that, in court sentence, his right to have a family has been declared endangered due to abandonment or lack of protection;
c. the child or adolescent whose parents have lost its custody;
d. the child or adolescent whose parents had voluntarily declared their wish to give their child in adoption; and
e. the son or daughter of one of the spouses or united-partner that has expressed its consent according to the law.
When two or more siblings are susceptible of being adopted, they could not be separated before or during the adoption process. In the same way, it must be attempted for them to be adopted by the same family, except when there are reasons responding to their best interest.

Article 6. Adoptability. Adoptability is understood as the declaration that establishes that a child or adolescent needs an adoptive family and that it has the physical, psychological, emotional and social capability to adapt to the new family. Every child or adolescent that has been declared as in state of adoptability could be subject of adoption.

Article 7. Subjects that can adopt. Could adopt:
a. the persons that are united in marriage or in legally declared union; and
b. single persons

Article 8. Difference in age. The person who is intending to adopt a child or adolescent must have a difference in age with the child of at least fifteen years.
This rule does not apply when the child to be adopted is the son or daughter of the spouse or legally declared partner and when the couple is been living together for at least for years.

Article 9. Adequacy of the adoptive parent(s). To determine the adequacy of the adoptive candidates it must be taken into account, besides the age difference, the following: have ethic, moral and sociocultural qualities besides the physical and psychological capabilities to foster the full development of the child or adolescent. This adequacy must be accredited by the Adequacy Certificate.

Article 10. Exceptions to the Adequacy. It will not be necessary to obtain the Adequacy Certificate when the adoption is of a person who is not a minor, if this persons expressly manifests its consent, and only if the adopted person had lived with the adoptive parents for a period not less than 3 years, or if is one of the partners in a couple that is to adopt the child.

Article 11. Impediments to adoption. Have impediments to adopt:
a. Those persons who suffer of diseases, mental or behavioral disorders that represent a risk to the health, life, integrity or full development of the child or adolescent;
b. Those persons that have physical or psychological dependence to drugs or psychoactive substances;
c. Those persons indicted for crimes against the integrity of the child or adolescent;
d. The spouse or legally declared partner without the expressed consent of the other.

Article 12: Material goods of the adopted. In the case that the adopted child owns material goods, the adoptive candidate will be under the same regulations regarding the rights and responsibilities than the biological parents in what respects to the administration of such material goods.
The tutor could not adopt a pupil as long as the tutored administration of the accounts and the material goods have not been given to the pro-tutor.

Article 13. Rights and Obligations. The adopted child or adolescent will have the same rights and obligations than the biological sons or daughters with their parents.

Article 14. Prohibitions. Given that the adoption is a social institution of protection, it is prohibited that:
a. The persons involved in the adoption obtain financial benefits or other kind of benefits;
b. The biological parents would decide who is to adopt their child or adolescent;
c. The adoptive parents use or decide to use the organs or tissues of the child or adolescent, either for their family or third parties; and
d. The authorization of adoption without fulfilling all the requisites and procedures that are established by the law; and
e. The persons involved in the process of adoption have any association with the private entities that are responsible of the care of children or adolescents that are in state of adoptability.


Title II
OF THE INSTITUTIONS RELATED WITH THE ADOPTION
CHAPTER 1
OF THE RECTORY OF ADOPTIONS

Article 15. Creation. The National Rectory of Adoptions is created and will regulate in what respects to adoptions.

Article 16. Juridical Nature. The National Rectory of Adoptions is a technical institution, deconcentrated with functional independence, ascribed to the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency and that depends financially from it.

Article 17. Integration. The National Rectory of Adoptions will be integrated in the following manner:
a. The Attorney for Childhood and Adolescence of the Office of the National Attorney General will coordinate it;
b. One representative designated by the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency;
c. One representative designated by the National Commission for the Childhod and Adolescence; and
d. One representative designated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Simultaneously with the designation of the titular of each position, one substitute will be designated and they will have the ability to decide and could not delegate their functions. The member of the National Rectory of Adoptions will remain in their positions for four years.

Article 18. Of the requisites to be member of the National Rectory of Adoptions. To be a member, the following requisites must be fulfilled:
a. be a Guatemalan citizen by birth;
b. be of recognized honorability;
c. be a professional and active collegiate; and
d. be in full possession of its rights as a citizen
Besides the above-mentioned requisites, the persons integrating the National Rectory of Adoptions should be chose preferentially among those persons with experience in the issues related to childhood and adolescence and in conformity of the Ethic Norms of the Executive Organism.

Article 19. Prohibitions to be member of the National Rectory of Adoptions. Could not be members of the National Rectory of Adoptions:
a. Those persons sentenced in hearings for accounts;
b. Those persons sentenced for crimes DOLOSO;
c. Those persons sanctioned by their professional college;
d. Those persons connected to or representing the interests of public or private entities that provide care to children or adolescents.

Article 20. Functions of the National Rectory of Adoptions. Functions of the National Rectory of Adoptions are:
a. To ensure the protection of children and adolescents in the process of adoption and to take the appropriate measures to prevent that material benefits are obtained from it;
b. To receive the adoption applications and create the respective file;
c. To maintain and facilitate the control and registration in the process of the adoption;
d. Promote and provide the advisory services in what respects to adoption;
e. To receive from the Central Authorities or equivalent authorities in other countries, the applications for international adoptions, verifying their authenticity through the Ministry of External Relations;
f. To maintain an archive of the realized adoptions, national and international;
g. To maintain an archive of the process of adoptions and the consent of authorization to initiate the process;
h. To maintain an archive of notaries that intervene in the process of adoptions;
i. To maintain an archive of children and adolescents in state of adoptability;
j. To maintain an archive of persons who wish to adopt;
k. To execute DNA testing and other scientific tests to verify the paternity of the biological parents;
l. To maintain an archive of scientific tests, photographs and DACTYLAR, PALMAR AND PLANTAR prints of the children or adolescents in state of adoptability.
m. To declare and certify the adoptability of the child or adolescent in the process of adoption;
n. To provide the certification of induction to adoption;
o. To certify and provide the Certificate of Adequacy;
p. To request the Certificate of Adequacy from the Central Authority or its equivalent;
q. To authorize the period of socialization with the adoptive parents according of that it is established in the law;
r. To provide the Certificate of Empathy;
s. To verify that the consent of the parties is obtained according to the present law;
t. To provide a final resolution to establish the precedence of the adoption;
u. To request to the pertinent institutions the information necessary to fulfill its obligations;
v. To provide the required information about the National Legislation in what respects to adoptions to the Central Authorities or the equivalent authorities in other countries;
w. To request information about legislation in what respects to adoptions from the Central Authorities or the equivalent authorities in other countries;
x. To follow the course of the national adoptions according to the present law and its regulations;
y. To follow the course of the international adoptions maintaining frequent communication with the Central Authorities or the equivalent authorities in other countries in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
z. Exchange evaluation reports with the different Central Authorities or international organizations to crate an adequate supervision of the process in the receptor country in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and
aa. Any other function pertinent to the fulfillment of its obligations.

Article 22. Normative capabilities. The National Rectory of Adoptions will dictate the regulations about its own organization and operation.

Article 23. Exercise of functions. The members of the National Rectory of Adoptions will execute their functions in independence of the entity that designated them and in conformity to the principles of impartiality and dignity inherent to their positions.

Article 24. Sessions of the National Rectory of Adoptions. The National Rectory of Adoptions will have sessions as many times as required and their members will establish what respects to ordinary and extraordinary sessions.

Article 25. Quorum. For the sessions of the National Rectory of Adoptions it is required the presence of all its members, with the possibility of calling the substitute members to take the place of the absent titular

Article 26. Voting. The resolutions of the National Rectory of Adoptions must be unanimous among their members.

Article 27. Of the multidisciplinary team. To achieve an effective fulfillment of its obligations, the National Rectory of Adoptions will have the support of a multidisciplinary team constituted by: lawyers and public notaries, clinic psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, internal-medicine doctors, pediatricians and any other professional that the National Rectory of Adoptions considers adequate.

Article 28. Of the requisites needed to be a member of the multidisciplinary team. To be a member of the multidisciplinary team the same requisites to be a member of the National Rectory of Adoptions apply.

Article 29. Of the functions of the multidisciplinary team. Functions of the multidisciplinary team are:
a. Provide advisory to involved parties regarding the process of adoption;
b. Write the report about the child or adolescent susceptible of being adopted, that contains the information regarding the identity, social environment, personal and familiar development, medical history of the child or adolescent and its family and all what is related to its future needs. If for any reason any of the information could not be presented in the report, it must be explicitly stated;
c. To execute the required investigations and tests requested by the National Rectory of Adoptions and to suggest other that consider adequate;
d. Express opinion regarding the Adequacy of the adoptive candidates, the adoptability of the child or adolescent, the empathy between the adoptive candidates and the child or adolescent and the advisory required for the process;
e. Write the final report to the Rectory; and
f. Other functions that, according to their technical work, would be required by the National Rectory of Adoptions.

CHAPTER III
OF THE SECRETARY OF SOCIAL WEALTH OF THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC

Article 30. Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency. The Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency is in charge to protect the children and adolescents in state of adoptability, who will go into the orphanages, homes or substitute families of the State.

Article 31. Of the functions of the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency in what respects to adoptions. In addition to the functions attributed to the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency by the Agreement No ***, this institution must:
a. Write a file for each child in state of adoptability in which it states that:
a.1 Information and circumstances and photographs of the child or adolescent;
a.2 Its complete identification given by birth certificate that contains DACYLAR, PALMAR AND PLANTAR prints, as well as fingerprints of the mother when it is adequate;
a.3 Medical history
b. Maintain an archive of the children and adolescents whose right to have a family has been declared endangered and of the institution where they are receiving attention;
c. Maintain an archive of the children and adolescents that have been voluntarily given by their parents;
d. Maintain an archive of the private entities that provide care to children and adolescents in state of adoptability; and
e. Authorize, supervise and control the private entities that that provide care to children and adolescents in state of adoptability.


CHAPTER III
ABOUT THE PUBLIC OR PRIVATE ENTITITES DEVOTED TO PROVIDE CARE TO CHILDREN OR ADOLESCENTS

Article 32. About the registration of the private entities. The private entities devoted to provide care to children or adolescents must register in the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency, indicating the address where the children or adolescents are hosted, their carrying capacity and type of population assisted. In addition, they must attach a certified copy of the following legal documents:
a. Certificate of the corresponding foundation of the institution, adequately registered in the corresponding Civil Registry;
b. Document of Appointment of the legal representative of the institution;
c. List of employees and respective positions;
d. Favorable statement about the functioning of the institution by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance;
e. Favorable statement about the functioning of the institution by the corresponding County office;
f. Other that are to be required by the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency

Article 34. About the supervision of private entities. The private entities devoted to provide care for children and adolescents will be supervised by the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency, at least once a month.
To perform this supervision, the private entities must allow the ingress of adequately identified staff members of the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency to their facilities and provide them with the required information.

Article 35. Penalties. The houses, child care centers, and any other institution of public service, as well as all the private entities that provide care to children and adolescents, that fail to meet the regulations and norms established in this law, as well as the directives of the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency will be penalized in the following manner:
a. If the failure is considered light the institution or entity will receive a written call;
b. If the institution or entity persist in failing, or if the fault is severe , a fine of twenty five thousand to one hundred thousand quetzales will be imposed according to the severity of the fault; and
c. If after the fine is imposed, the institution or entity persists in failing, a definitive closure of the entity will be imposed, through a well founded decision with previous audience to get to know the case.

TITLE III
ABOUT ADOPTABILITY
UNIQUE CHAPTER

Articulo 36. Stage previous to the process of adoption. Previous to initiate the process of adoption, the process of induction must be completed during a period of not more than 10 days.

Article 37. Process of induction to adoption. The process of induction to the adoption process consist of an individual, professional advisory service directed by the multidisciplinary team of the National Rectory of Adoptions, with the objective of informing about the consequences of adoption. This inductive process must be must be verified by the National Rectory of Adoptions in the respective registry.
The boy of rules of this law will determine the manner in which this process will be performed.

Article 38. Process of induction to the biological parents. The biological parents of the child or adolescent to be voluntarily given in adoption, must go to the National Rectory of Adoptions and express their voluntary intention to give their son/daughter in adoption and perform the induction process only after the child is born.
If after completing the process of induction, the parents persist in their intention to give their son/daughter in adoption, they must appear before the Rectory, where it will be certified in an act of consent.

Article 39. Scientific tests. Once the above-mentioned requisites are completed, the Desoxiribonucleic Acid test must be performed as well as the registration of the finger prints of the parents and the finger, hand and feet prints of the child or adolescent whom, after the declaration of adoptability is completed, will be transported to the adequate center.

Article 40. Children and adolescents whose right to have a family has been threatened. The adoptability of a child or adolescent, whose right to have a family has been declared as threatened by a court sentence, could be declared through a study performed by the multidisciplinary team in which it is established his/her need of a family and his/her physical, psychological, emotional and social ability to adapt to it.


TITLE IV
PROCESS OF ADOPTION
CHAPTER I

Articulo 41. Process of induction to the adoptive parents. The persons who wish to adopt a child or adolescent must be subject to the inductive process and, when the adoptive parents are internationals, they must present a certification extended by the Central Authority of their country of its equivalent, that states that they already were subjects to the inductive process.

Article 42. Requisites of the Adoption Application for National Adoptive parents. Once the inductive process is completed, the adoptive should present its application to the National Rectory of Adoptions.
The adoptive who is Guatemalan citizen, must indicate in its application its complete name, age, civil status, nationality, address, Identification Document and mail address to receive notifications. In addition, the adoptive must propose two witnesses. The following documents must be attached to its application:

a. Original or certified photocopy of the birth certificate, and the place of registration of its cedula de vecindad, extended by the corresponding Civil Registry;
b. Lack of criminal record of each of the applicants;
c. Original or certified photocopy of the marriage or legalized union certificate of the adoptive applicants, extended by the respective Civil Registry;
d. Certification of employ or income of the applicants;
e. Health certificate of the applicants and of those who live with them;
f. Recent photographs of the applicants; and
g. Certificate of the completed inductive process, extended by the National Rectory of Adoptions.


Article 43. Requisites of the adoption application for international adoptive parents. The international applicants must attach the documents described below, with the necessary law approvals so they can be effective inside Guatemalan territory:

a. Document stating the legal representative in Guatemala;
b. Legalized photocopy of the Identification Documents;
c. Birth certificated extended by the corresponding authority;
d. Lack of criminal records of each of the applicants, extended by the corresponding authority in their country;
e. Marriage or legal union certificate, extended by the corresponding authority in their country;
f. Certification of employment or income of the applicants;
g. Health certificate of the applicants and the persons living with them;
h. Recent photographs of the applicants;
i. Certificate of completion of the Inductive process, extended by the corresponding authority.

Article 44. Additional documents for the international adoptions. In addition to what is required in the above articles in what applies to international adoptions, the applicants, both national and international, must attach the following documents:

a. Witnessed declaration, under oath before the Central authority or its equivalent or before a public notary of the State of origin of the applicants, of two persons who know the applicants for at least two years and who indicate about the financial capability and ethics that will make them able to achieve the obligations that adoption imposes;
b. Certification of Adequacy extended by the Central Authority or its equivalent in the country of origin of the applicants. In the case that the Central Authority is inexistent, it must be extended by the National Rectory of Adoptions following the established procedure.
c. Certification of the completed inductive process extended by the Central Authority of the State or origin of the applicants. If there is no Central Authority or its equivalent, a certification extended by the National Rectory of Adoptions must be presented.
d. Commitment of the Central Authority, and the Adoption Agency in the foreign country when it applies, to provide all the information that will allow to track the development/adaptation of the child or adolescent in its new home.
e. Proof of commitment extended by the Central Authority or Consulate of the receptor country, in which is stated that the child or adolescent can ingress and permanently reside in such country in the moment in which the adoption is legally formalized.

Article 45. Declaration of the Witnesses. Within five days following the day when the application was presented, the National Rectory of Adoptions will summon the witnesses, proposed by the Guatemalan applicants, to present declaration according with that the law requires.

Article 46. Certificate of Adequacy. The disposition and aptitude of the applicants to adopt will be stated in a certification extended by the National Rectory of Adoptions within the five days following the declaration of the witnesses and taking into account, besides the age, the following:

a. That the adoptive applicant possess the ethic and moral capabilities; and
b. That the adoptive applicant possesses the physical and psychological capabilities to foster the full development of the child or adolescent.
This certificate will not be required for the exceptions defined in the Article 10 of this law.

Article 47. Socialization period. After the witnesses had presented their declaration, the National Rectory of Adoptions will authorize a period of coexistence and socialization of no less than eight working days for both the national and international adoptions. This period will be supervised for a specialist designated by the National Rectory of Adoptions, who could request assistance of the multidisciplinary team if he/she considers it necessary.

Article 48. Opinion of the child or adolescent. Within the ten days after the socialization period is concluded, the National Rectory of Adoptions will summon the child or adolescent, according to her/his maturity, for him/her to ratify his/her wish to be adopted.

Article 49. Certificate of Empathy. After the socialization period concludes, and taking into consideration the opinion of the child or adolescent, the National Rectory of Adoptions will extend a certificate of empathy in which it qualifies the quality of the relationship of the child or adolescent and the applicants. This certificate must be extended within eight days and must be taken into consideration to declare if the adoption proceeds or not.

Article 50. Final resolution of the National Rectory of Adoptions. Once all the above mentioned requisites are fulfilled, and based on the final report of the multidisciplinary team, the National Rectory of Adoptions will inform of, in a period no longer than five working days, the corresponding final resolution approving or denying approval for the requested adoption. The resolution that approves all the administrative stages should be voted unanimously.

Article 51. Judicial Intervention. Once the final resolution of the National Rectory of Adoptions is released, this must send the respective file to one Family Court to validate it or not through the corresponding action. It the application is declared valid, it will order the writing of the public decree of adoption.

Article 52. Registration of the adoption. The public decree of adoption must be presented to the corresponding Civil Registry for its registration in the book of adoptions.


TITLE
DEROGATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS

Article 53. The article twenty-eight of the decree number fifty-four hyphen seventy-seven (54-77) of the Congress of the Republic it is modified and will be read as: Article 28. Formalization. The adoption regulated by this law could be formalized before public notary.

Article 54. The article twenty-nine of the decree number fifty-four hyphen seventy-seven (54-77) of the Congress of the Republic it is modified and will be read as: Article 29: Application. The application of a person who wishes to adopt another one could be presented before a public notary, bringing the documents mentioned in the article *** of this law.

Article 55. The article thirty of the decree number fifty-four hyphen seventy-seven (54-77) of the Congress of the Republic it is modified and will be read as: Article 30. Inventory. If the minor possesses material goods, a legal inventory will be performed and it will constitute as sufficient guarantee for the adoptive before to satisfy what the notary requires.

Article 56. The article thirty-one of the decree number fifty-four hyphen seventy-seven (54-77) of the Congress of the Republic it is modified and will be read as: Article 31. Requisites for the Tutor. If the applicant was the tutor of the child or adolescent, the notary must oversee the documents that present evidence that their accounting was approved and that all the material goods were handled out.

Article 57. The article thirty-two of the decree number fifty-four hyphen seventy-seven (54-77) of the Congress of the Republic it is modified and will be read as: Article 32. National Rectory of Adoptions. Once completed the above mentioned requisites, the notary will send the file to the National Rectory of Adoptions for it to perform the administrative procedure as indicated in the chapter *** of this law.

Article 58. The article thirty-three of the decree number fifty-four hyphen seventy-seven (54-77) of the Congress of the Republic it is modified and will be read as: Article 33. Deed. When the adoption deed is written, it must be present the adoptive applicant and the institution who is providing care of the child or adolescent. The notary will extend the respective document and send it to the corresponding Civil Registry with the objective of registering it in the corresponding file.

Article 59. The second paragraph of the article four of the Civil Code is revoked, decree of law number 106.

Article 60. The Chapter VI, Title II of the Book I of the Civil Code is revoked, decree of law 106.


TITLE
TRANSITIONAL DISPOSITIONS

Article 61. Adoptions in process of legalization at the moment when this law becomes in force, they must be legalized according to the dispositions of the law that was used to initiate the process.

Article 62. Children and adolescents under the care provided by foster families at the moment when this law becomes in force. Within thirty days the National Rectory of Adoptions will evaluate and confirm the situation of children or adolescents under the care provided by foster families.

Article 63. Deadline for the registration of the private entities in the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency. All the private entities that provide care to children must register in the Secretary of Social Wealth of the Presidency within the fifteen days after this law becomes in force.

Article 64. Regulations of the law. Within fifteen days following the entrance in force of this law, the corresponding group of regulations must be emitted.

Article 65. Deadline for the integration of the National Rectory of Adoptions. The entities in charge of assigning a representative for the National Rectory of Adoptions must do so within the thirty days after this law becomes in force with the objective of integrating the National Rectory of Adoptions in the five days following the members designation.


TITLE
IN FORCE

Article 66. The present decree will become in force eight days after its publication in the Official Newspaper.


Posted by Kevin at 06:04 PM

October 17, 2004

UNICEF Calls for a Moratorium

As seems to be a near annual event, UNICEF has once again called for the government of Guatemala to place a moratorium on adoptions. Last year this was via the Procurador de Derechos Humanos when he falsely claimed that PGN had approved 1,500 adoptions in 10 days. This year, it has come via a conference held in Guatemala. The conference was attended by President and Mrs. Berger, members of the PGN, members of Congress, as well as officials from other Latin American countries.

It is uncertain what impact, if any, this conference will have on in-process cases or on the future of adoptions from Guatemala. For the most part, the content seemed to be more of the sensationalized claims that have become commonplace for UNICEF. These claims are all well documented and quite frankly not worth repeating

Despite a change in its formal position regarding intercountry adoption issued earlier this year, it is apparent that UNICEF has not changed anything in practical application. They still lobby for an end to intercountry adoption from Guatemala without offering any help, monetarily or legislatively, to how Guatemala can improve its adoption system in a manner that is consistent with the Guatemalan Constitution, respectful to the human and civil rights of birthmothers, and not detrimental to very children it claims to seek to protect. Once again UNICEF had speakers declare the definition of success as being a severe reduction in intercountry adoptions without any mention of increases in domestic adoptions, family unifications, or improvements to social programs designed to provide the basic necessities children need to survive and flourish.

As more develops regarding any impact this conference may have we shall certainly report it. We shall also report any grassroots campaigns or other organizing going on to expose UNICEF for its hypocritical position on ICA. In the next week or so, we will also be publishing a campaign to inform Trick-or-Treaters for UNICEF on how their position on ICA is truly detrimental to children.

For more information on UNICEFs position on ICA, please visit Families Without Borders.

Posted by Kevin at 01:28 AM

September 18, 2004

Casa Alianza Fires Bruce Harris

One of the greatest critics and foes of intercountry adoption from Guatemala has fallen prey to some of the atrocities which he fought against for years. He has been accused of paying a 19 year old boy for sex, and apparently has admitted to the misconduct.

The story can be found at http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-honduras-childrens-rights,0,4248937.story

Even though many of us in the adoption community have for a long time been angered at his often inaccurate and sensationalized propaganda, this is not a time to rejoice. There is at least one victim in this, the young male who had been sheltered by Casa Alianza, and we must not look beyond the harsh realities that children face through the world and the real tragedy in this.

While I am happy to see Bruce Harris gone and hope that his departure will help lead the way for organizations like Covenant House and Unicef to lobby for pragmatic adoption reform that is not detrimental to children, it would be wrong to celebrate something that hurt an innocent young adult. While I hope that this will end the barrage of inaccurate NGO reports and the media pundits that repeat them, I cant help to wonder if this is just the beginning of finding out exactly what all had been going on and how many more victims will come forward.

When Larry Flynt, in an attempt to defend Pres. Clinton during the Lewinsky affair, began to expose the extramarital activities of conservative members of Congress, he said he did not do it because of any morality. Quite to the contrary, he said he certainly couldnt preach morality. It was the hypocrisy that he wanted to expose. So in that regard, I am glad to see this story uncovered. Jesus said Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Mr. Harris has certainly thrown his share of stones.

It is such a shame that in todays world there seems to be no such thing as a true hero. While I havent agreed with Bruce Harris on matters of adoption, I have always admired his passion and the help he worked to provide children facing homelessness, drug addiction, and prostitution.

It is truly sad to see that good scarred now with uncertainty.

Posted by Kevin at 12:01 PM

August 12, 2004

Attorney Banned

The following notice was sent yesterday via e-mail to many adoption agencies regarding the named lawyer being banned from the Embassy (italics and bold were added by Guatadopt). If this lawyer is working on your case and you already have authorization for your DNA test to be conducted, you should not be impacted. If you have yet to receive DNA test approval, you should certainly contact your agency immediately to address this.

This is to inform all involved in United States/Guatemala International adoptions that effective August 9, 2004, Oscar Rene Portillo-Donis has been banned from involvement in the submission and processing of all NEW adoption cases with the Department of Homeland Security at the United States Embassy in Guatemala.

All adoption cases already submitted will be processed as usual.

We advise all agencies to not accept any referrals from Mr. Portillo as they will be rejected at the window.

Any attorneys or notaries found to be involved with Mr.
Portillo in attempting to circumvent this proscription will likewise be subject to similar action.

Sincerely,

Roy Hernandez
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Bureau
of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Guatemala City Country Office
Unit 3334
APO
AA34024
Tel. 011(502) 331-1541 Fax 011(502) 331-4342

Posted by Kevin at 11:17 AM

July 09, 2004

US REP. Engaged to Rios Montts Daughter

US Representative Weller (R IL 11th district) announced that he will be marrying Zury Rios Sosa, the daughter of former Guatemalan dictator, General Efrain Rios Montt.

For those of you not up to date on basic Guatemalan history, Rios Montt presided over the worst times in Guatemalas 36 year civil wear. He took office in a military coup. During his short time in power, his scorched earth policy resulted in thousands of innocent indigenous people being slaughtered with their villages being burned to the ground. The United Nations deemed it genocide and President Clinton formally apologized to the people of Guatemala for our role in this slaughter. For the record, Rios Montt was deemed a great defender of democracy and freedom by the Regan administration while the United States waged the Cold War on the peoples of Latin America.

Last year, Guatemala put a symbolic end to the threat of Rios Montt when he was powerfully defeated in the first round of the Presidential elections. But that was not before Montts thugs rioted in the capital city on what has become known as Black Thursday. This riot was designed to overcome a constitutional provision specifically designed to keep Montt from ever being able to run for President. Zury Rios Sosa, the soon to be Mrs. Weller, has been considered by many to have played an integral part in orchestrating and organizing this violent uprising. For a story on some of this, please read http://www.commonborders.org/guat_digest%20sep25-oct16.htm

There are many groups calling for Rios Montt to be charged on human rights violations and war crimes for what he did. His involvement in Black Thursday is also under investigation in Guatemala. To this day, he and his family deny any wrong doing. When he did manage to get on the ballot for President last year, despite the constitution preventing it, the United States stated that it would be hard to have normal relations with a Montt presidency. So how is it that a member of the United States House of Representatives managed to fall in love with this genocidal despots daughter?

The largest outrage on this comes directly from Rep. Wellers official press release announcing his engagement (http://weller.house.gov/News/DocumentPrint.aspx?DocumentID=4510
) in how pathetically it portrays the family that Rep. Weller is marrying into. It states that Rios Montt served as President and was twice elected President of the Guatemalan Congress. That is quite a nice way to avoid mentioning that he took power in a military coup and what his presidency meant to the indigenous majority in Guatemala.

In Ms. Rios Sosas defense, she does appear to have a good record of supporting womens rights and education issues in Guatemala and has drafted legislation whose intent has been to prevent things like infant mortality. Nonetheless, this does not change the history of her family with whom she has done nothing to separate herself. Obviously, it is easy for Americans to judge the history of other countries from a distance. But in the case of the Guatemalan Civil War and the atrocities of Rios Montts tenure, the history books are pretty clear.

To the thousands of Guatemalans living in the United States, many of whom came here because of the war, this marriage is undeniably a punch in the face. For them, it must feel like the equivalent of a U.S. Representative marrying the daughter of Osama Bin Laden. After all, three thousand died on 9/11, two hundred thousand died in the Guatemalan Civil War).

It is said that love can conquer all and I do not wish any ill harm to these two lovebirds. But Rep. Weller is a public servant and the message this marriage sends is horrendous. So I do not suggest that he not marry his true love. It is up to him whether or not he can handle who any future children would have as a grandfather and how he would explain it to them. But if he is going to marry into this family, he should step aside from office so as not to create the impression that President Clintons apology, which symbolically was very important to the people of Guatemala, was an empty one.

Posted by Kevin at 06:59 PM

June 09, 2004

Berger hit with First Protest

For those planning on traveling in the next few days, please contact your agency and find out the latest details. Protests may affect the airport and the conditions in Guatemala City.

Reuters News Story

Posted by Kelly at 07:51 AM

March 25, 2004

Rally for Intercountry Adoption

{posted with the permission of Hannah Wallace}

There is a very important rally being held in Washington, D.C. on Monday and Tuesday, March 29 and 30, on behalf of the children of Romania, whose opportunity to be adopted may be permanently denied. While Romania and Guatemala are worlds apart, the insidious influences of the E.U. anti intercountry adoption proponents, along with the misguided principles of UNICEF, is affecting every country of world, and is condemning many children from Third World Countries to death, or lives without hope.

I urge everyone who cares about preservation of adoption opportunities for children to TRY to attend these two rallies. Details and contact information is below,

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

Dear Child Advocates,

The Romanian government has been forced by the EU to alter its adoption law to prohibit all international adoption, thereby condemning 97,000 children to group homes and foster care. The EU does not want to approve any country that is "exporting" its children. All countries seeking EU membership now and in the future, will be affected and will prohibit international adoption if the EU does not change its stance. Bulgaria will be next and other countries will follow. We urge all adoptive families to join us in protest of the EU's position regarding orphaned children.

Everything is looking good for the peaceful demonstration that we will be doing on the 29th and the 30th. It appears that we will have a good number of media there to cover the events and may have 60 minutes interested in doing a piece. In order to make this successful, we still need people! The people do not have to have children adopted from Romania, or be in the process of adopting, they just have to care about children needing a permanent family. Get neighbors, religious organizations, friends and anyone who is sincerely interested in children!

The schedule is as follows:

Monday, March 29 3:00pm Demonstration at the British Embassy

British Embassy
3100 Massachusetts Avenue
Washington DC, 20008

Tuesday, March 30 10:00am Demonstration at the EU Consulate and the Ambassador to the European Union Delegation of the European Commission to
the United States
2300 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Please submit the following information:

Name:
Address:
Phone Number:
Phone Number in Washington DC:
Address in Washington DC

Can we publish your name and address on a contact list for the
embassies? How many people will be attending the demonstration at:
EU: _______
British Embassy: _________

Are you a parent waiting to adopt an identified Romanian child? Are
you a parent wishing to adopt from Romania? Are you an individual
who is concerned about the welfare of Romanian children and the
trend to curtail all Eastern European Adoptions?

The information is needed as soon as possible as the authorities need to be told the number that we are planning on having attend.

An application for a permit to demonstrate at the above identified addresses has been filed.

NOTE: This is a Peaceful Demonstration! The following rules will apply:

All participants are encouraged to bring posters with appropriate slogans (NO Derogatory language will be permitted). Organizers of the demonstration reserve the right to request a participant not to display a poster that is deemed inappropriate. No violence in ANY way will be tolerated. This includes everything from throwing objects, to spitting! No voicing profanities will be allowed.


We encourage you to submit facts that will be compilated to a fact sheet to provide to all three entities. If you are bringing letters and pictures of your adopted children, or children you had hoped to adopt, please have two copies, one for the Romanian government and one for submission to the EU.

Remember, we are trying to influence key decision makers to allow US citizens the right to offer permanency to their children. PLEASE don't give them the ammunition to prove that they are right!

Thank you so much for your help and assistance!

Lynn L. Wetterberg
Executive Director
Uniting Families Foundation
95 W. Grand Ave.
Suite 206
Lake Villa, IL 60046
847-356-1452

Debra L. Murphy-Scheumann
Executive Director
Special Additions, Inc.
19055 Metcalf P) Box 10
Stilwell, KS 66085
913-681-9604
specialadd@aol.com

Posted by Kevin at 07:36 PM

For the Love of Luis Video clip

If you missed seeing the video clip "For the Love of Luis", I urge you to view it now. Channel 14, WFIE was very accommodating and went to a lot of effort to re-capture the video and post it for us.

The newstory and clip is HERE. The clip is posted under the pictures.

Posted by Kelly at 11:14 AM

February 29, 2004

A Refreshing News Story

Every once in a while, our voices are heard....and our children's stories are told. This is a wonderful example.

A Families Guatemalan Adoption Story (Text Version)

Note: The video clip on this page is definately worth watching.

{Congratulations to Chris, Linda and family!}

Posted by Kelly at 10:36 PM

February 24, 2004

Sex and the City's Finale and Guatemala Adoption

The series finale of Sex and the City contained a remark about adoptions from Guatemala which offended many members of the adoption community. The comment made implied that anyone could adopt from Guatemala and that it only cost a hundred dollars. While the writers of the show most likely meant no ill intent, this is one more example of how adoptions from Guatemala have been misconstrued in the media. Many members of the adoption community have formally complained about this comment, and today it was noticed by MSNBC http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4326967/.

To any members of the general populace or the press who have come to Guatadopt.com as a result of the MSNBC mention, welcome. Please spend a few minutes to learn more about the issues and challenges we face in trying to keep international adoption available to provide deserving children with loving homes as well as to protect our adopted children from the lies and distortions permeating the media about how they joined their forever families.

Each year, a little over 3,000 Guatemalan children join forever families through intercountry adoption. The process has many safeguards in place, primary of which is DNA testing to ensure that the woman relinquishing the child is in fact the birthmother. For more information on the exact system in Guatemala, please read the report written by Families Without Borders available at familieswithoutborders.org.

The families who adopt from Guatemala put themselves through consider emotional and financial strain during the process. And while adoptive families come from all walks of life they share one thing in common the desire to bring a child into their home. A major portion of the stress associated with adopting is being caused not by the inherent nature of the process, but by the war being waged on adoptions from Guatemala by supposed child rights activists and the lies which are repeated reported in the media.

Many reputable groups believe that the private adoption system in Guatemala amounts to nothing short of child trafficking. This viewpoint is based on the fees being paid for the legal services required to complete an adoption. Their solution is to lobby the Guatemalan government into passing reactionary laws that would strip birthmothers of their rights, increase infanticide and child abandonment, and ultimately remove the only chance for a decent life that the children being adopted have. Their "solutions" ignore the cultural, economic, and political environment in Guatemala. For more information or a press release on this, please e-mail: Kevin@guatadopt.com.

The media have repeatedly printed disparaging stories about adoptions from Guatemala which quite simply could not be true. Rumors about kidnappings, organ harvesting, and other atrocities have been printed without any investigative integrity. A petition has been written to address this issue and I would encourage you to read it to better understand the press issue and to sign it if you agree. It is available at http://www.petitiononline.com/41203gm/petition.html.

What no one ever thinks about when these stories are printed or comments like those on Sex and the City are made is the impact it has on those touched by international adoption. For parents like myself, our adopted children are the most precious things in our lives. And like any parent, we wish to protect our children from wrongs that may harm them. Comments and stories that equate adoption to buying and selling of children are emotionally detrimental to our children. Imagine how you would feel if you read a story or saw a television program that implied you might have been kidnapped, or bought for a hundred dollars? These things are not true and have no business making their way into the mass media.

Please do all you can to spread the word and have the wonderful institution of intercountry adoption seen in its proper light. There are children in the world who need and deserve loving families and there are parents who believe that geographic boundaries are irrelevant when it comes to the love between parent and child.

Posted by Kevin at 12:59 PM

February 12, 2004

CCAI's Congressional Delegation to Guatemala City, Guatemala Feb.4-6, 2004


Here is the official report on the visit by CCAI.

Posted by Kelly at 10:16 PM

February 05, 2004

DELAHUNT LEADS CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO GUATEMALA

DELAHUNT LEADS BIPARTISAN CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS OF ADOPTION CORRUPTION IN GUATEMALA

News Release

Posted by Kelly at 06:32 PM

December 29, 2003

IAR News

Just some updates about IARs legal/licensing battles.


Tallahassee Democrat: Agency's practices scrutinized

Sun Sentinel: State subpoenas records from adoption agency

Miami Herald: State goes after records of adoptions

Sun Sentinel: Adoption inquiry alarms Costa Rica
{One thing that I pointed out BEFORE the Guatemalan Baby fiasco is mentioned in the article: "Even if IAR is correct in its assertion that private attorneys could have arranged the adoption of the Guatemalan children in Costa Rica, the attorneys likely would have encountered problems in obtaining immigration visas for the children from U.S. authorities in Costa Rica"}

Sun Sentinel: Springs adoption agency leased baby-raid house in Costa Rica

Editorial (Sun Sentinel): Foreign Process Needs Oversight
{I find this editorial a bit off. First off, PANI is still required to give its opinion on all direct adoptions. There were 4 adoptions in Costa Rica in 2002....8 in 2001 with the loophole. US Government Oversight *IS* there....but with so few adoptions what exactly is expected here? Adoptions didn't *slip through the cracks* as so many would like to think. If these loopholes HAD been there, we would have seen quite a few more adoptions prior to 2002. If IAR had not been questioned by PANI officials, I can guarantee you that the US Embassy would have red-flagged these adoptions and the children would have been denied Visas.}

Posted by Kelly at 06:32 PM

Berger wins Election

Yahoo News Coverage of Berger Election

Posted by Kelly at 05:43 PM

December 03, 2003

NEW DOS NOTICE

The U.S. Department of State has issued a new notice. It deals primarily with the new e-mail only policy for adoptive parents wishing to contact them. But the end of the notice states that the new adoption law did NOT pass during the last session of congress. The notice can be found at http://www.travel.state.gov/guatemala_notice.html

Posted by Kelly at 02:09 PM

November 23, 2003

Streamlining the Child Citizen Process

Great news for adoptive families from the US...Certificate of Citizenship will automatically be issued to IR-3 visa holders.

Press Release

Posted by Kelly at 02:16 PM

November 11, 2003

Word has it....

I try to avoid publishing rumors and sometimes, it may seem like I filter too much. However, I have noticed a *bunch* of cases exiting PGN which is quite exciting. Apparently, Merida signed a number of cases late Friday night. While he is away for two weeks, Caballeros will be signing...according to Susana. I believe Susana will have another official update for us soon.

Please remember, parents....PGN is not predictable. They are not necessarily releasing older cases sooner than newer cases (it was not very predictable BEFORE the Hague delays either). But the tiny trickle of cases being released has increased to a moderate stream of cases...and I think that is news we need to hear!

Again, let me stress the Guatadopt disclaimer....We are not a crystal ball for every case and we certainly can't predict the future. But I would strongly suggest to those waiting in PGN, to put away the stress balls and finish the nursery. Most importantly, please share your good news when it happens!

Posted by Kelly at 10:22 PM

November 10, 2003

Guatemalan Presidential Results

Preliminary election results have been released and it appears there will be a Dec. 28 runoff election between Oscar Berger and Alvaro Colom. Despite many legitimate concerns, it appears as though the election was fairly smooth with only a few problems. Fears of violence if Rios Montt did not win have not materialized. Thus far, however, the FRG party has not made any formal announcements or concessions.

Yahoo News - Rios Montt Defeated in Guatemalan Presidential Race
Reuters - Maya Villagers Vote for Change
Testing Guatemalan Democracy

Prensa Libre reports that Oscar Berger of the Gran Alianza Nacional (Great National Alliance it is a coalition of three formerly unrelated parties) came out in first place with 47.6% of the vote. Since a candidate must win over 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff election, it appears as though Berger fell short of that goal. Berger (pronounced bear jer the animal plus Cher with a J) is a former mayor of Guatemala City and has been the front-runner during the entire campaign. He is known as the pro-business candidate and is the favored candidate of the United States. So far as policy is concerned, it is likely that he will support the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, which current President Portillo announced last week he was leaving for the next president.

The second place candidate (26.4% of vote) who will also be in the runoff is Alvaro Colom of the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza party (National Unity of Hope). He is an engineer and an ordained Mayan priest. Colom had traditionally been a more leftist candidate in the past but moved more towards the political center-right this campaign. He still garners the support of the former guerilla fighters from the civil war and his campaign slogan was a real president.

The third place candidate with 11.2% of the vote, who will not proceed to the runoff, is Efraim Rios Montt of the FRG party (Guatemalan Republican Front). He is commonly known as The General because of when he seized power in a military coup toward the end of the civil war. Montts candidacy was controversial from the start because of a constitutional law which states that no former dictators can run for office. In two prior attempts he was not permitted to run but this time, following days of riots now known as Black Thursday, his candidacy was permitted when it was decided that this law could not be retroactively applied. Montt is most known for the atrocities that were committed under his scorched earth policy while he was dictator. Even though his tenure lasted only 18 months, the impact of his rule was significant as countless indigenous villages were destroyed. Montt is the current head of the legislature and many believe that he has been the true president, with Portillo being more of a figurehead than anything. Once Montt is no longer in office, he will no longer have impunity from prosecution for his past alleged war crime. Because of this, many feared that he will not leave office without a struggle. Montt is also an ordained Evangelical preacher.

It is not known what impact the future president will have on adoption as it has not been a major campaign issue. Most likely, it will not have a significant impact since the attacks on adoption are coming primarily from outside sources. It is logical, however, to assume that adoption will not be at the top of the future presidents priority list since there are many more significant issues to be addressed.

While the community of adoptive families naturally tends to view the election solely from an adoption-related perspective, it appears as though we should all be very happy with the election. The defeat of Montt is an important sign for the people of Guatemala and their attempts to get beyond the death, pain, and sorrow of the civil war. During the course of the campaign, over 20 opposition candidates were murdered. In addition, there were widespread stories of attempts to buy votes, intimidate voters, and otherwise jeopardize a free and fair election. Despite these attempts, the Guatemalan population came out in huge numbers (some estimates say that 80% of eligible voters cast a vote) and defended their countrys insecure, developing democracy. They refused to fall prey to the attempts to influence the election and voted for Guatemalas future. So whether the next president ends up being more friendly to adoption or continues on the current path, all of us who care for the people of Guatemala should be relieved!

{The above information/comments were provided by Kevin who has joined the Guatadopt.com team...Thanks, Kevin}

**In other news, I (Kelly) am SOOOOO close to finishing the calendars. I will still need to review the drafts before being sent out. I expect that next week, those that want a calendar will be able to order them.


Posted by Kelly at 08:52 AM

October 07, 2003

Susana's Updates

I know many of you have been missing Susana's updates. I want you to know that she has been extremely busy trying to help with individual cases that aren't moving. At this time, she states that there has been nothing extraordinary happening in PGN or the US Embassy. Cases are moving on through....albeit a bit slowly.

Be assured that Susana will post when there is news.

Posted by Kelly at 12:36 PM

September 29, 2003

Handling Previas

(Posted with permission from Hannah Wallace, President, Focus On Adoption).

It's come to my attention that some agencies have received cases back from the PGN with the previa requiring that they conform to the requirement in the Convention On the Rights of the Child which requires efforts to locate a family in Guatemala....

While this seems to be applied arbitrarily, since many cases are NOT getting this kind of previa and some are being approved with none at all, if your attorney tells you that such a previa is required, I think you should suggest that
they contact the ADA to address this. My understanding is that when this was
discussed prior to the Constitutional Court ruling publication, but after the ruling, the Attorney General was told by the C.C. that it couldn't be applied.... here is no mention of this on the Guatemalan Embassy website, either. But it seems to be happening sporadically, and has to be dealt with..... our "legal" understanding of this is that there are only certain aspects of the Convention On the Rights of the Child which supercede internal law, and this is not one of them...

One lawyer is addressing this by getting an affidavit from the birthmother
asserting her Constitutional right to "choose" to place her child out of the country, with the family who has been named on her "consent". This doesn't mean that the ADA won't challenge this, but is the necessary step in a "first
response".

Hannah Wallace, Adoptions International
President, FOA

Posted by Kelly at 04:53 PM

September 24, 2003

Adoption Atmosphere in Costa Rica - NOT GOOD

Before reading these articles (published in Costa Rican newspapers and Guatemalan newspapers), I will remind you that we do not know how much was sensationalism NOR the details of the case.

I'll leave it at that.

TICO TIMES ARTICLE (English)

AM COSTA RICA (English)

NACION.COM (Spanish)

Posted by Kelly at 12:36 PM

September 12, 2003

DOS Update - DNA to Resume!

Click here for the latest DOS update

Posted by Kelly at 04:33 PM

August 26, 2003

Site Woes

As many of you know, our site maxed out on bandwidth for the last few days. Unfortunately, I was in Costa Rica with NO internet access and Maura was desperately trying to figure out how to fix it.

What happened:
Right before I left, the ListAdmin email (which is temporarily down) was hit by a couple of viruses on the server. Since this was totally on the hosting side, I notified the company that we host with. Unfortunately, before filters were in place it still clogged up the email system and maxed out the bandwidth! Story of my life....if its going to happen, it will happen when I can't fix it;-)

I have a LOT maintenance to do before I can get the site updated. Please be patient...and I will try and get the updates posted ASAP.

Posted by Kelly at 11:54 AM

August 15, 2003

Still much work to be done!!!

Yesterday, we had much to celebrate. Today, we have to remember that there is still much to be done.

DOS has posted the information to their site here.

Also, some clarification. The Ruling is supposedly not official until it is posted which it has not been. So, many organizations were concerned with spreading the news in the event it could affect the outcome. I was not aware of these concerns until later in the day, yesterday. However, the news WAS reported by Siglo Veintiuno (not the official post). So, it was not a secret.

Today, we need to look at yesterday's news with guarded optimism. On the one hand, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel for our children to come home. On the other, we have no guarantees that things will return to business as usual. Dates cannot be predicted.

I am still taking information from the polls (Click here to read about the polls). We will still plan on submitting names to the DOS *list*.

Posted by Kelly at 11:44 AM

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 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

More from Hannah (Washington DC Update)

(Re-posted with permission from Hannah Wallace, President of FOA).

Dear Listmates, As Susana mentioned in her "update" about Amparos, she came up to Washington D.C. last week and she and I (as President of Focus On Adoption) met, along with two adoptive parents who work in Washington, with several congressional offices.

We had an extremely productive meeting with the staff of Senator Lugar (chair) and Senator Biden (ranking member) of the Foreign Affairs Committee. We had an opportunity to address several issues:
(1) Unicef's role in Guatemala
(2) the legal impasse in Guatemala vis a vis the governmental and political issues
(3) the constitutional issues and significance of amparos
(4) the need for DOS to be the liaison between US families, agencies, and the PGN/C.A.
(5) the desirability of DOS expanding its diplomatic mission to be more inclusive of the entire adoption and legal community in Guatemala (6) the increasing child
care crisis during this impasse
(7)concerns about legislation
(8) U.S. Third Party Status.
(9) BCIS suspension of DNA. They wanted further documentation which we will be providing through a liaison. We provided some articles, Susana's rebuttal to the ILPEC report, the on line petitions and sample letters.

I think it would be extremely useful if families who have a Senator on the
Foreign Affairs Committee would please contact those offices and ask for an
opportunity to meet and discuss the issues with the local staff.

(2) Another extremely useful meeting was with Senator Stabalov's office - Michigan.
All Michigan famiies and agencies are encouraged to fax letters to local and
DC staff - please use the "on line" letters as a "sample". You are also encouraged to do the same with Senator Carl Levin's office. We discussed the necessity for an in depth briefing session with Congressional reps when Congress reconvenes.
At that time we will bring up more Guatemalan representatives.

(3) Our meeting with staff from Sen. Nickles (Oklahoma) was short because of
some Energy hearings, but this office is extremly involved in adoption matters. It was confirmed that the DOS is trying to negotiate an expeditious
processing of ALL cases.

It is quite important that ALL families in process (including families who
have their I-171 H approval for Guatemala) contact your Senators and
Congressional Reps (local office is fine) and fax your information: your names and address and phone number, your child's name and birth date, your agency name and contact number, the date you received your referral, where you are in the process, and when you had DNA authorization.

IF you have not had DNA authorization, please indicate and make a strong
request for BCIS to resume DNA testing until the C.A. issues are resolved in
Guatemala. These issues are more than just the DNA and their costs - as right now the C.A. is attaching unacceptable conditions ( illegal and being challenged
under the Guatemala law) to the processing of the DNA - removing the Notary and lawyer (who represent the birthmother and the adoptive family) from the
process and possibly taking over the cases. So far ALL of the Amparos regarding these procedures have been upheld, and more are being entered each day. The DOS and BCIS have a "list" and you want to make sure that YOUR information is on that list. Even if you've not had a referral, but have an approved I-171 H for Guatemala, please get this information in to your Congressional and Senate Reps!!!!

Apparently there are a bit over 1,000 cases in process and about 200 without
DNA authorization. It is important that you let your Reps know that there are
about 1,000 cases in process!!! Some have no idea of the large numbers.

ALL agencies on this list, please compile your "list" and send to your
Representatives.


Hannah Wallace, Adoptions International
FOCUS ON ADOPTION

**Hannah has given her permission for this to be posted on all lists**

Posted by Kelly at 12:57 PM

August 01, 2003

General Note

Susana and Hannah are in Washington, DC meeting with some Congressional offices (which is why there was no Thursday update). We are still waiting for an address and/or paypal account for FOA donations. Unfortunately, our FOA team has been SO busy, it is hard for them to stop long enough to set up accounts!!!

New: I have added a Monthly archive section on the left under Topics for those that want to browse back through the posts by month.

Posted by Kelly at 12:06 PM

July 31, 2003

Petition for families without DNA authorization

In consultation with adoption professionals and adoptive parents, we have pulled together another online petition. This petition is specifically for US adoptive parents who have "transition" cases and have not been able to get DNA authorization from the US embassy.

Although we know there are many people who support the position that the BCIS should resume DNA authorization and testing immediately, we thought that a statement directly from those involved would have a great impact. We do encourage everyone to continue mailing your letters to Joe Cuddihy at the BCIS. A sample letter is available on this site. I also hope to put together a more general petition to get the DOS and BCIS to stop legitimizing the Central Authority in Guatemala. However, that one isn't done yet.

For now, I encourage all families who are stuck in the process without DNA authorization to please visit the petition at: http://www.petitiononline.com/DNAauth/petition.html and sign it. I will fax letters to Joseph Cuddihy (BCIS in DC) and Roy Hernandez (US Embassy in Guatemala) tomorrow to let them know about the online petition. Hopefully there will be quite a few signatures on it by that time.

Thanks,
Maura Meade-Callahan
with special recognition to petition co-authors (in alphabetical order): Ellen Daley, Tina Edmonson, Allison McSweeney, and Julie Nicholson

Posted by at 03:08 PM

July 26, 2003

Asking BCIS to resume DNA authorizations

As many of you may know, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala stopped granting DNA authorizations for transition (March 5 - June 30, 2003) adoption cases. Adoptive parents are now referred to the Central Authority for DNA testing. There are a couple of problems with this - first the CA labs are not working yet, to my knowledge, and there are no procedures in place for conducting DNA studies. More importantly, adoptions by U.S. families should not be under the jurisdiction of the CA at all.

Although this may seem to be a problem facing only those families who do not currently have visa pre-approval to bring their children home once the adoptions are completed, the implications go beyond that group. By yielding to the request of the Central Authority in Guatemala to stop performing some duties related to the immigration of adopted Guatemalan children, the U.S. government is legitimizing the CA. This is dangerous for all adoptions in process in Guatemala, since the best possibility for the process to go back to "normal" is if the U.S. asserts third party status to the Hague Convention, and therefore doesn't recognize the authority of the CA in processing U.S. adoption cases.

This "problem" is one that can be solved by the U.S. government quite easily, since it is one solely of their creation. We are not asking representatives from the U.S. to lobby the government of Guatemala on our behalf. Neither are we asking them to become involved in international treaty law by asserting third party status (at least not in this letter). We are simply requesting that the BCIS in Guatemala resume their job of authorizing DNA studies so that the "transitional" adoptions might proceed quickly once the PGN begins processing adoptions again.

With this in mind, I am providing yet another letter to add to our campaign. We would like everyone, whether you already have DNA approval or not, to consider sending this letter out to Joe Cuddihy at the BCIS.

Resume DNA authorizations (MS Word)

Resume DNA authorizations (html)

Thanks again to Allison McSweeney and Ellen Daley for their outstanding assistance in editing this letter.

Posted by at 01:54 PM

July 24, 2003

Unrest in Guatemala City

Apparently a Rios Montt rally turned violent in Guatemala City. Montt supporters have caused many businesses to close and to effectively lock themselves in their buildings for the time being. I think this shows the TRUE COLORS of the type of people that support Montt. I believe this is going on in Zone 10 near the airport.

If you were planning to travel in the next few days, please contact your agency for their recommendation. Updated information is on Prensa Libre if you can read Spanish. Also, as a precaution: If you have relatives in Guatemala City, you probably should contact the embassy and have them registered. The number is 011.502.331.1541 or you can fill out the form online at http://usembassy.state.gov/guatemala/wwwhacseregistration.html. Families in GC should stay put at this time (you can contact the embassy by calling 331 1541 in Guatemala).


* Always follow conservative guidelines! When in doubt, keep close to the hotel (with the baby). Do not discuss your adoption with anyone local except your lawyer, foster mom or facilitator.

More on Rios Montt...

Statement by Ambassador John R. Hamilton, US Embassy in Guatemala

Posted by Kelly at 02:52 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

An Interesting Letter

As many of you know, there are a few agencies/lawyers fighting to keep the process reasonable. Here is a letter that I received anonymously. I want to know why was she invited? Did the agency pay her expenses? If they did, is that legal (It doesn't sound ethical)? There are a lot of unanswered questions here.

Copy of Original Letter (PDF)

This is the English translation of the letter:
***********************************
Guatemala 20 of June of 2003

Atty Elizabeth Hernandez de Larios
Chief of the Office of the Central Authority
Attorney Generals Office

Esteemed Atty Larios:

By means of this present letter allow me to extend a cordial invitation to personally visit the corporate offices of the adoption agency All Gods Children International located in the city of Portland, State of Oregon in the United States which we want to present to you as an option of the agency which the Central Authority is going to require in order to complete adoptions from Guatemala to the United States of America and other countries.

For this visit I am proposing as a date of departure from Guatemala Tuesday the 8th of July returning on Sunday the 13th of July. In this opportunity in addition to seeing the corporate offices and the personnel of All Gods Children International in the United States, also you will have the opportunity of sharing with 30 families with their children adopted from different countries.

Atty Larios, if you consider it to be appropriate we would also like that in this trip for the Atty Maria Olimpia Cano de Merida and the atty Eduardo Rafael Rivera accompany you due to the position and the responsibility the has been delegated to them by the Central Authority.

Nothing remains but to await your confirmation of this invitation which I hope can be given to us as soon as convenient sine we need to confirm as soon as possible the spaces on the airline.

With nothing further and begging God to greatly bless you,

Sincerely,

Elia Lizama L de de la Cerda
Director.

Posted by Kelly at 11:13 AM

July 15, 2003

Another Reality Check - My 2 Cents

I just had a little reminder about how families are struggling with the day to day news in Guatemala. The stress is terribly high and we still seem to be sitting with a list of questions on our plate.

*** PLEASE keep in mind that our lawyers are presented with different information from day to day. Then to add to the confusion, DOS has its OWN version. You can imagine how frustrated your agency feels. What CAN they tell you??? Many of you assume that I know much more than I do....but I simply TRY and post official annoucements along with messages from those on the front lines. Believe me, there is a lot more that I scratch my head over. We are all fighting for answers and YOU are not alone in your confusion nor distress.

Based on historical knowledge and constitutional law our lawyers are vying for our best interests and our childrens' best interest.

International adoption is VERY difficult. Guatemala has been a diamond in the ruff for soooo long that we are devastated when changes threaten the adoptions. But to use the diamond analogy....diamonds are created from extreme pressure.....don't let exhaustion rule your actions and DON'T let others decide what is best for you.

Some suggestions for survival:
1 - limit your surf time. Give yourself certain times that you *allow* yourself to get on the boards. I even advise this for blowing off steam on message boards.
2 - Get a punch bag and swing away at it.
3 - Get a foot massage, a neck massage, whatever. Justify it: You are building up toxins due to the amount of stress.....believe me, neglect can have you walking around like a 2x4.
4 - If you have a neighborhood pool or your own pool. LAPS!!!!! Decide to do more than you think you can and DO THEM. The physical exhaustion is wonderful! You also get a mental pep that you have accomplished something.
5 - Allow yourself some good cries. Don't keep punishing yourself for feeling depressed. Instead, think of crying sessions as relieving those toxins!

Keep the faith. Most adoptive parents (and especially those that have had failed adoptions) feel that events led them to THEIR child. It is not a superficial comfort, but sometimes it helps you get through the moment!

Thinking of you all!!!!!! And as always, forgive me for my poor grammar!

Kelly

Posted by Kelly at 06:32 PM

July 10, 2003

Misc.....

I just have several things to mention.

1 - As you know, this site is a mix of passing information and opinions. I have tackled a couple of co-writers that are helping me with the site (which I am very excited about as this can be quite time consuming and I like being prompt with information).

2 - The UNICEF petition is still active CLICK HERE to sign or review.

3 - If you have not written letters yet, we have sample letters that were put together with the consultation of FOA and ADA. CLICK HERE for the sample letters.

4 - Embassy of Guatemala to the US News Release (yesterday)

5 - MONGOLIAN SPOTS - Ok, so this is the mismatched part of this post. However, since my little girl went to daycare for the first time yesterday, I wanted to mention the importance of documenting Mongolian Spots. CLICK HERE for more on that!

6 - Yes, an adoption *process* has been annulled in Costa Rica (I believe it was the law put into place August 2002). I am getting clarification on what was reversed or how it affects US adoptions (that are currently non-existent right now). I believe CR is a very interesting case to follow since Casa Alianza is headquartered in San Jose, they are a Hague country and there are several other parallels.

Posted by Kelly at 06:32 PM

July 08, 2003

MORE REVISIONS

OK...we have even more revisions to what we are sending. After a bit of discussion amongst the troops, it was decided that the list of PGN questions might not be a good idea at this time....Per Hannah, we are sticking to one message in our letters: Third Party Status and processing all cases based on date of Birthmother's consent.

Here are the new revisions:
BCIS Sample Letter (MS Word document)
Sample Letter to Congressmen (MS Word document)
Position Statement (MS Word document)
DOS Sample Letter (MS Word document)

BCIS Sample Letter (HTML)
Sample Letter to Congressmen (HTML)
Position Statement (HTML)
DOS Sample Letter (HTML)

(1) DOS letter should be sent with position statement
(2) BCIS letter should be sent with DOS letter and position statement
(3) Congress letter should be sent to senators and representatives with DOS letter and position statement

Please email Maura at mauramc@netcarrier.com when you have sent the letters - especially to your senators and representatives. Include in your message your full name, date the letters were sent, how (fax, mail), who they were sent to, and your state.

Please be patient with us....we are trying to make sure that we are supporting the efforts of ADA and FOA as best we can.

Posted by Kelly at 10:02 PM

Updated Letters and List for Letter Campaign

Sorry for the confusion yesterday, we needed to make some changes. Maura just sent me the updated documents and here they are (including the list of questions for PGN):

BCIS Sample Letter (MS Word document)
Sample Letter to Congressmen (MS Word document)
Position Statement (MS Word document)
DOS Sample Letter (MS Word document)
PGN Questions (MS Word document)

BCIS Sample Letter (HTML)
Sample Letter to Congressmen (HTML)
Position Statement (HTML)
DOS Sample Letter (HTML)
PGN Questions (HTML)

Posted by Kelly at 02:54 PM

July 07, 2003

Letter Campaign

We are starting a letter campaign to BCIS, the US Embassy and DOS in hopes of clarifying the adoption process for us. We need to get our letters to these officials NOW!!!

Here are the sample letters provided by Maura Meade-Callahan (thanks to her, Hannah and several others who spent a lot of time perfecting these letters):

The DOS letters need to be modified, I will post a link shortly to those (as well as the address to Joe Cuddihy).

BCIS Sample Letter (MS Word document)
Sample Letter to Congressmen (MS Word document)
Position Statement (MS Word document)

BCIS Sample Letter (HTML)
Sample Letter to Congressmen (HTML)
Position Statement (HTML)

There is a letter addressed to Michelle Bernier-Toth at the DOS with a cc to Seve Vann. These should be sent out without additional coverletters, but with a copy of the position statement.

A copy of the position statement with title at the top and reference to the web site at the bottom - this should be sent with all correspondence.

A copy of a letter to Joe Cuddihy at the BCIS. Hannah put this one together specifically to request that the BCIS start processing DNA authorizations for pre-July 1 cases again. This should be sent with copies of the DOS letter and position statement.

A copy of a letter to congressional representatives to let them know what they can do to help us out. This should be sent with copies of the DOS letter and position statement.

FAXING & MAILING: Since security may slow down receipt of letters, please also consider faxing your letters! Faxing, followed up with a phone call, is a good way to make sure the message is received. Members also have "local" offices in their home states/districts, where mail MIGHT get through a little quicker. That's also where "constituent service" staffers are often located. Unfortunately, we don't have a list of those office addresses.

Here are the phone numbers and faxes of our congressmen and congresswomen:
House & Senate Spreadsheet (HTML) (notice the HOUSE and SENATE tabs at the bottom)
**NOTE: I may be adding additional information as needed, so please check back with us!

Posted by Kelly at 01:41 PM

July 03, 2003

My 2 Cents

Though the DOS annoucement seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel, the rest of the story has caused more questions than it has answered.

Be assured that our representatives in Guatemala are working around the clock to get answers. There are several things that we must keep in mind:

1 - If you fall between March 5th and June 30th or you don't know: Your lawyer will find out shortly. There is no use speculating whether there will be changes to foster care OR any other aspect of your case UNTIL IT IS REQUESTED. I would not advise calling PGN/CA directly....they are not tracking cases and there is no need to give yourself an ULCER over it. Talk to your agency.
2 - The legality/constitutionality of these changes are being challenged. We're not giving up!
3 - If you are debating on switching countries, don't make the decision soley on emotional exhaustion. Every country has its changes and many country's have factors that are *almost* as frustrating. You may find yourself jumping from the frying pan INTO the fire!
4 - Keep the pressure on DOS and your government representation.
5 - Find 2 vent buddies. One person that is IN the process and you can blow off steam privately without getting an adoption forum upset with you. The second person should be someone NOT in the process, but maybe who has adopted before. They may be able to give you some objectivity.
6 - The questions are being asked, and I am sure that we will get answers. Again, there is no use speculating, panicing or trying to get a *jump* on things before it is asked of you.
7 - We (the United States) are third party to the Hague. Technically, we are not bound to the Hague implementation (though, it may not mean much to DOS and the CA)

Also note: You are ONLY getting pieces of information right now. For some, it is needed. For others, it causes undue stress....consider giving yourself a break from the news.

As for me...YES, I am disturbed at some of the information. YES, I am upset that our wonderful foster care may be gone. YES, I am upset that my wonderful lawyer may be out of work. YES, I am upset at the impact that this may have on the number of children that could fall through the cracks. HOWEVER, these things HAVE NOT HAPPENED YET.....and I tend to wonder if they WILL happen since it is in conflict with Guatemalan law.

If you have not read and signed the Position Statement, click here.

OK, so that is my 2 cents. Just remember....International adoption is tough.....but the addition to your family is priceless.

Kelly

Posted by Kelly at 01:37 PM

July 01, 2003

DOS Announcement

GOOD NEWS....adoptions are NOT, NOT, NOT suspended and PGN is ready to process post March 5th cases! CLICK HERE for the DOS announcement

The new procedures are to be posted (in Spanish) here!

The translation is as follows (provided with permission from Rudy Rivera, Children of the World):

THE TRANLATED PAGE OF WHAT THE CENTRAL AUTHORITY HAD POSTED. IF YOU GO DIRECTLY TO THE ADDRESS WWW.PGN-GUATEMALA.COM/INFGENADO.HTM YOU WILL FIND THE PAGE IN SPANISH. IF YOU JUST GO TO THE SITE AT WWW.PGN-GUATEMALA.COM YOU WILL FIND PAGES UNDER CONSTRUCTION. I HOPE THIS TRANSLATION HELPS YOU;

THE ADOPTION

The State acknowledges and protects the adoption. The adopted child becomes the adoptive party’s child. The protection of the orphans and abandoned children (article 54 of the Political Constitution of the Republic) is declared of national interest.

The adoption is the social assistance juridical act through which the adoptive party takes as his/her own child, the child of another party. However, and despite the fact stated on the previous paragraph, the adoption of a major child, may be legalized, with his/her express consent, as long as this consent were existed while he/she was a minor. (Article 228 of the Civil Code).

It is established the general principle that regarding the human rights, the treaties and conventions, accepted and ratified by Guatemala, have preeminence over the internal right. The rights and guaranties that the Constitution grants, do not exclude the other ones, that even though, they do not expressly figure on it, are inherent to the human individual. (Articles 44 and 46 of the Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala).

…the fact that the Constitution had established that supremacy over the internal right, it must be understood its acknowledgement to the evolution, that regarding the human rights, it has been granted, and must continue granting it, but its main objective is that to enter to the juridical ordering with constitutional regulation nature, that agrees with its conjunct, but never with a reform capacity, and less derogatory of its precepts, due to the eventuality of entering in contradiction with the regulations of the own constitution. (Judgment of the Constitution Court dated October 19, 1990).

The Agreement relative to the Child Protection and to the Cooperation regarding the International Adoption, done in the Haya [Hague], on May 29, 1993, is effective for Guatemala, as an internal law, since march 5, 2003.

The objectives of said Agreement are:

To establish the guaranties so that the international adoptions may be admitted, only regarding the superior interest of the child, and regarding the fundamental rights that the international rights acknowledges to it;

To establish a cooperation system between the Contractor States that assures the respect to said guaranties, and consequently, that foresees the subtraction, sell of traffic of children;

To assure the acknowledgement between the Contractor States of the adoptions done according to this Agreement.

II WHO ARE ENTITLED TO ADOPT?

- 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.
- 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.
- One of the married parties may adopt the child of another person.
- 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.


III. WHO MAY BE ADOPTED?

- Minors of 18 years old, judicially declared in abandonment.
- Those minors, whom the biological parents or Guardian had given their consent in an express, free and voluntary way.
- Minors of 18 years old, when it were existed the common-law adoption.


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 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;

In the event, they are pre-qualified, the following documentation will be requested:

- Birth certificate of the applicants;
- Marriage Certificate of the applicant couple;
- Verification which proves their economical capacity;
- Criminal and Police Clearances;
- Certificate of Good Behavior, issued by a competent authority;
- Witness statement of individuals who know the interested parties, and who attest regarding their aptness to adopt a child;
- 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;
- Compromise of the respective authority, in order to give continuation to the corresponding adoption proceeding, making sure to deliver the periodical reports about the adaptation of the child in his/her new home;
- The foreign individuals must fulfill with the migratory requirements of their respective country;
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must legalize the documents that come from abroad, in order to get admission.
- If the documents are written in a foreign language, a translator authorized in the republic must translate them into Spanish, under oath.

Posted by Kelly at 11:00 AM

June 19, 2003

US-UNICEF Position (Petition)

Maura Meade-Callahan has written a position statement for us. I encourage everyone to take the time to read it and sign it. As many of you know, UNICEF has been pressuring the Central Authority to implement unrealistic procedures.

UNICEF Position Paper/Petition

**NOTE: I have had many comments on this post and I wanted to make sure that readers did NOT think that by adding a comment, they were signing the petition. To read/sign the petition, click here or on the link above. At the top of the petition are links to sign or to view signatures. There is also a place for your comments.

Posted by Kelly at 09:32 AM

June 13, 2003

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 05, 2003

Holding On (A personal message)

I'm not quite sure how to express my concern for the emotional rollercoaster that many of you are going through right now. I know that many post 3/5 families are struggling with the question "Will we ever be able to bring our child home?". Then there are families waiting for referrals wondering "Should we be looking at other programs?".....and I know how I would feel if I were waiting myself.

Just as your adoption is a PERSONAL choice, so is the decision to tough it out or look at other options.

Some things to think about....
1 - It is not uncommon for a government to temporarily suspend adoptions while trying to implement new procedures.
2 - Kazahkstan implemented a 30 day wait (paperwork is held at the Embassy for 30 days before being sent to Kazahkstan). Children must be on the registry for 6 months before they are considered adoptable. These children come home at around 10 months nowadays. However, during a 6 month timeframe there were several changes in the procedures.
3 - Guatemala had one of the most *reasonable* processes out there. OK, so procedures may take more time...but for now, there is no indication that these procedures will be MORE restrictive than other countries.
4 - Guatemala has some of the finest lawyers fighting to keep the adoption process reasonable.
5 - There STILL has been NO indication that adoptions will cease.

I hope that many of you will *hold on* to your dream. There seems to ALWAYS be a level of uncertainty during an international adoption....and I HOPE that this is a temporary hump in the journey. Like many journeys, there are NO guarantees....but some of the best things in life come to us with heart-wrenching decisions and many disappointments.

I brought my little girl home in January. If I had to do it all over again with the current situation, I would NOT hesitate in the least....she is an incredible joy and I cannot imagine my life without her.

For now, keep your chin up and envision yourself in a few years!

Sincerely,

Kelly
(site webmaster and mother to a beautiful Guatemalan daughter!)

Posted by Kelly at 03:13 PM

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

May 14, 2003

Updated Shop

We are constantly updating our CAFEPRESS SHOP - GUATADOPT with new designs. CLICK HERE to check them out!
fromGuat.jpgflagssteelmug.jpgGuatgirl.jpg


Posted by Kelly at 05:07 PM

April 03, 2003

Guatemala Travel Advisory issued by the State Department

The State Department has issued a travel advisory as of April 2nd for travel to Guatemala. Click here to read the advisory.

Posted by Kelly at 05:19 PM

April 02, 2003

Discovery Health Channel

Discovery Health Channel is airing a new adoption series with a few stories from Guatemala. Click here for the schedule.

Posted by Kelly at 07:23 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

November 05, 2002

INS Birthmother interviews cease

Earlier this year, INS (in Guatemala) started requiring that EVERY birthmother be interviewed by their office before they would give their approval. In October this year, the interviews gradually became later and later until it was apparent that they could not continue this practice without adding a significant amount of time to EVERY adoption.

Roy Hernandez of INS announced this week that after 11-12-2002, they would remove this requirement. They will still do random interviews and ask for an interview where there was concern about the case.

Though some complained that they felt these interviews were intimidating to the birthmother, the purpose was to make sure the birthmothers understood the consequences of their actions.

Posted by Kelly at 02:14 PM

October 22, 2002

New Passport Law

Today, a new law goes into effect in Guatemala pertaining to the issuence of passports. Prior to this law, an adopting parent could expect several weeks (possibly even more than a month) to receive a passport for their adopted child. However, that has all changed. NOW, those seeking passports for their new children can expect a 24 hour turn-around.

That is excellent news for those who have seen new procedures slowing down the process!!!....like requiring DNA tests to be notarized OR the embassy interviewing birth mothers.

!!!

Posted by Kelly at 04:41 PM

August 14, 2002

Guatemala - INS changes

This was posted on the Yahoo group (As I understand, interviews will happen at the beginning of the process).

This message is to advise everyone that effective Monday, August 19,
2002, we will begin conducting interviews of every birth mother as
part of the adoption process. The acceptance of the initial adoption
applications will continue as normal. The only change will be that at
the time of acceptance of the application, we will issue the
attorneys a form G-56 notifying them of the date and time for the
birth mother to appear for an interview. We will begin issuing
the G-56's on Monday, August 12th with actual interviews beginning on
August 19th.

This should allow our office to effectively utilize time and manpower
to screen every adoption case thoroughly in the best interest and
protection of the birth mother and child.

Posted by Kelly at 04:29 PM

July 13, 2002

PANI to Restrict Foriegn Adoption

UPDATED: 7/13 2002.
For a few weeks now we have been waiting to see what Costa Rica was going to change in the adoption law (this news came from the US Consul in Costa Rica).

We (US citizens) tend to differentiate adoption processes with "private" vs. "public". However, you have to be careful.....Costa Ricans see a "private" adoption as one that bypasses the legal system and is basically ILLEGAL.

They differentiate these adoptions with "Direct" vs. "PANI".

But apparently the Costa Rican government and PANI are concerned that foriegners are taking advantage of the "Direct" adoption process. I originally thought that the concern was over the birth mother and care takers being paid.

However, I now know that the issue is quite different. PANI is apparently wanting to control ALL adoptions. It is their opinion that foriegners can waltz in and take a newborn through a direct adoption easily. PANI claims that it is unfair to Costa Rican citizens (saying that allowing foreigners to come in and adopt directly prevents Costa Ricans the opportunity to adopt newborns).

PANI paints this as an epidemic and has introduced legislation to STOP DIRECT adoptions all together. The countries sited for abuse are US, Russia and Spain. In the US, year 2000 there were only 17 adoptions TOTAL where IR-3 Visas were issued. Even if 100% were DIRECT adoptions, I would hardly call this a severe problem.

My concern is that no matter WHAT type of adoption we pursue, the contraversy with PANI will delay this process indefinately.

It is sad that so many children will AGAIN be held hostage to the red tape of political power.

The article describing this is online Nacion.com. Click here for the article (in Spanish).

So, what to do....what to do?

Posted by Kelly at 10:30 PM

July 11, 2002

Newsweek Article

Unfortunately, Newsweek has become a TABLOID. If their writer's don't bother to research their articles, I can't bother to read them. A petition has been started to show our disgust over such BAD reporting practices.

You can find the article HERE!

You can find the petition HERE!

Posted by Kelly at 04:01 PM