Can you explain the problem behind the pending crisis in Guatemala?
Guatemalan President Oscar Berger has announced plans to effectively suspend all adoptions into the United States as of January 1, 2008. This leaves the lives of more than 5,000 children who have already been matched to adoptive parents in limbo. The birthparents for these children have already relinquished their parental rights and as a result, these children currently have no family home. The effective suspension the prospect for the placement of these children in a permanent, safe and loving family. More so, the Guatemalan government currently does not have the finances or facilities to provide housing for these 5,000 children. For these reasons, Joint Council urges you to support the Guatemala 5000 Initiative.
The Guatemala 5000 Initiative
Joint Council’s immediate recommendation for a comprehensive response to the proposed changes in Guatemalan intercountry adoption.
The Joint Council Response
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 more information about the Guatemala 5000 Initiative, our immediate recommendation for a comprehensive response.
The Berger Administration’s Announcement
Guatemalan President Oscar Berger has announced (as released by the U.S. Department of State) plans which would effectively suspend all intercountry adoption with American families on January 1, 2008. Joint Council strongly opposes such a suspension and asks for your support in our efforts to ensure that all children retain the right to permanency through Intercountry Adoption.
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.
President Berger’s plans also would have the affect of suspending adoptions currently in-process. Such a suspension would be extremely detrimental to the children referred to adoptive parents. If President Berger’s plan is actually implemented, up to 5,000 will unnecessarily remain in foster care or orphanages indefinitely.
This situation represents a pending crisis for the adoptive families who have lovingly chosen to provide permanency, safety and love to a child in need and most importantly a crisis for 5,000 children of Guatemala.
Joint Council’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.
Joint Council’s Recommendation
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 Guatemala 5000 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.
How YOU can participate in the Guatemala 5000 Initiative
Make four simple phone calls and one email.
1. Call your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative
What should you say or write to a member of the U.S. Congress?
Speak from your heart and give them the following information:
Inform them that you are calling regarding the Guatemala 5000.
Ask them to sign the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) sponsored letter to President Oscar Berger
If they do not have the letters, ask them to contact CCAI at 202-544-8500.
Ask them to sign the Joint Council sponsored letter to UNICEF
Inform them that the Guatemalan government has announced that all intercountry adoptions with the United States will be suspended on January 1, 2008.
Inform them that President Berger’s initial announcement also indicated that there will be no ‘grandfathering’ of adoptions already in process.
Inform them that if children referred to families are not allowed to be adopted, they will languish in institutions or foster care.
Ask that their office get involved and sign the sponsored letters to the President of Guatemala and UNICEF. These letters ask that all adoptions in-process as of January 1, 2008 be allowed to process to completion under the existing notorial laws.
2. Call or fax UNICEF Headquarters and UNICEF Guatemala
What should you say or write to UNICEF Headquarters in New York?
Speak from your heart and give them the following information
Inform them that you are calling regarding the Guatemala 5000.
Ask them to support the rights of children and lend their considerable influence to ensuring that intercountry adoptions currently in-process be allowed to process to completion under the existing notorial laws.
Inform them that the Guatemalan government has announced that all adoptions with the U.S. will be suspended on January 1, 2008.
Inform them that President Berger’s announcement also indicated that there will be no ‘grandfathering’ of adoptions already in process.
Inform them that if children referred to families are not allowed to be adopted, they will languish in institutions or foster care.
Ask them again for their support of the Guatemala 5000 Initiative.
3. Send and email supporting Intercountry Adoption to Joint Council
When should you call?
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (October 9th, 10th, 11th)
For maximum affect, we are asking you to make these calls within a 72 hour window!
What else can you do? In addition to your primary calls to U.S. Congress and UNICEF, you can contact the following:
Director Teresa Echeverría de Bastarrechea
Assistant Director – Edin Palma
Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Minister Gerth Rosenthal
Vice Minister – Marta Altoaguirre
Carlos Victor Hugo Barrios Barahona
Procuraduria of Human Rights
Dr. Sergio Morales
Embassy of Guatemala in the U.S.
Please note that calls and faxes to Guatemala are international calls
Joint Council is pleased to report that members of the Guatemalan Congress, including numerous party chiefs, have submitted a new legislative proposal for implementing the Hague Convention.
Joint Council is pleased to report that two letters were submitted to the President of Guatemala and to UNICEF earlier this week by over 200 Members of the United States Congress. Copies of each letter can be downloaded below.
Through our collective efforts, the Guatemala 5000 Initiative has resulted in 203 Members of the United States Congress supporting the completion of all in-process adoptions via their signature on letters being sent today, October 31, 2007 to Guatemalan President Oscar Berger, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman and UNICEF Guatemala Director Manuel Manrique. The 203 Senators and Representatives represent the largest number in the 22 year history of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and the first time the Coalition has addressed UNICEF.
Joint Council thanks the thousands of adoptive families and their friends who made calls, sent faxes and emailed their Congressional representatives. We also extend our considerable appreciation for the efforts of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute for their tireless efforts, to the National Council for Adoption for their support and to the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Coalition, Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Norm Coleman, Congressman James Oberstar and Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite for their vital leadership.
It is our continued hope that these letters will result in the development of a legal, transparent and expeditious process by which the thousands of children currently in Guatemalan orphanages and foster-care will find their permanent, safe and loving family.
As we have stated many times, Joint Council will continue our advocacy on behalf of the Guatemalan children until each child needing a family has found one.
10/29/07 – In an effort to address the current Guatemalan adoption crisis, the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) today sent two separate letters – one to Guatemalan President, Oscar Berger, and one to the leadership of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – to encourage an interim measure for pending adoption applications.
10/22/07 - Joint Council President & CEO Tom DiFilipo has issued a new update concerning the Guatemala 5000 Initiative, which specifically addresses Joint Council’s advocacy efforts with the U.S. Congress, Guatemalan President Oscar Berger, and UNICEF. To review a copy of this latest update, please click here.
10/15/07 – Since Joint Council’s call to action on September 27, thousands of adoptive parents along with Joint Council Member Organizations, our colleagues at the National Council for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Adoptive Families magazine and the public at large have lent their support to the Guatemala 5000 Initiative. We are pleased to provide you with the attached summary update, as well as a posting of our most recent direct communications with the Office of Guatemalan President Oscar Berger. On behalf of the children we serve, our heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed to the collective effort.
Please know that Joint Council will continue to update you on our ongoing efforts and all pertinent developments. As events unfold, we may be calling upon the entire community for support and action. Lastly, please know that Joint Council will continue the Guatemala 5000 Initiative until all children referred with adoptive parents have joined their forever family.
Through direct dialogue with UNICEF headquarters in New York, Joint Council confirms that on Friday, October 5, 2007, UNICEF updated its stated position on intercountry adoption to reference the best interest of the child during a country’s transition to full implementation of the Hague Convention. UNICEF now states,
“UNICEF urges national authorities to ensure that, during the transition to full implementation of the Hague Convention, the best interests of each individual child are protected.”
Joint Council applauds the inclusion of this critically important issue into the intercountry adoption position statement of UNICEF. The revised version of UNICEF’s position on intercountry adoption can be found in its entirety by clicking here.
While the revision of UNICEF’s stated policy is a major step in the right direction, Joint Council will continue to urge UNICEF to revise the full text of their statement through the elimination of prejudicial phrases and the inclusion of concise, clear and supportive statements.
It should be noted that in our dialogue with UNICEF, the revised statement is meant as a global position statement and can be utilized in any country transitioning to full Hague implementation.
10/8/07 – Joint Council can confirm that an amendment to Bill # 3217, permitting the continuation of adoptions initiated under the current notorial and judicial laws, has been approved by the Children’s Committee in Guatemala and will be reviewed and voted on by the Guatemalan Congress. It is our understanding that the U.S. Department of State and Hague Permanent Bureau are advocating for the inclusion of this amendment in the final version of the law.
The following is the text (and English translation) of the amendment to Article 52 of Bill # 3217 which addresses with the completion of transition cases. This amendment, while a major step towards ensuring the completion of adoptions already in process, has not been passed by the Guatemalan Congress. We expect a vote on this and all other amendments in early November 2007.
Joint Council will continue to advocate for the passage of this critically important amendment and will remain vigilant in ensuring that our colleagues at the U.S. Department of State, Hague Permanent Bureau and UNICEF will also continue to advocate for its passage. Please read the full text of the amendment below:
Congreso de la Republica Guatemala C.A.|
Enmienda por sustitución total
Los abajo firmantes proponemos la siguiente enmienda por sustitución total al articulo 52 del proyecto de decreto que dispone aprobar ley de adopciones para que quede redactado así.
Articulo 52. Adopciones en trámite. Todos los procedimientos notariales y judiciales de adopción que se encuentren en trámite al momento de la vigencia de la presente ley deben ser registrados ante la autoridad central en un plazo no mayor de treinta días, para los electos del seguimiento del caso y continuación del trámite, de conformidad con la ley vigente al tiempo de su iniciación.
Disclaimer: This translation is provided as a courtesy only. Joint Council retains no responsibility for the accuracy of the translation nor for the interpretation of the original.
Congress of the Republic of Guatemala
It amends, by substitution, the total article
The signatories below propose to amend, by total substitution, Article 52 of the project which by decree arranges to approve the law dealing with adoptions in process.
Article 52. Adoptions in Process. All notorial and judicial procedures related to an adoption that are in effect at the moment the present law goes into effect should be registered before the central authority in a not greater time limit than thirty days, for the tracking of the case and the continuation of the adoption according to the governing law at the time of its inception
10/8/07 – Based on events of the past three days, Joint Council has revised its Call to Action and Guatemala 5000 Initiative. While the changes are minor, they are none the less important to the overall goal of ensuring that the Guatemalan children whose adoptions are in process are allowed to be united with their forever family.
It is the understanding of Joint Council that the U.S. Department of State, Hague Permanent Bureau and UNICEF-Guatemala now support the amendment to Bill # 3217, which addresses the issue of adoptions in process. As a result, we are recommending that your calls, emails and faxes be targeted to two primary entities; the United States Congress and UNICEF Headquarters in New York.
We greatly appreciate the recent revisions to the UNICEF statement on intercountry adoption. While UNICEF-Guatemala has been removed from our list of recommended calls, we continue to request that the office of Ann Veneman publicly support the completion of Guatemalan adoptions currently in process.
10/5/07 - Joint Council is pleased to confirm that the Hague Permanent Bureau (HPB) has now joined with Joint Council, the U.S. Department of State and others in agreeing that transition cases should be allowed to proceed to completion without interruption. It is our understanding that the HPB has now conveyed their revised position to both the Berger administration and Guatemalan Congress.
To date, Joint Council has not received a similarly positive and clear confirmation from UNICEF in support of grandfathering the transition cases. We have however received a response which we feel falls seriously short of supporting the best interest of children. The complete text of UNICEF’s statement and Joint Council’s response can be read here.
10/5/07 – Joint Council is pleased to offer additional information about the legislation process regarding Bill # 3217 in Guatemala:
Legislative Process: It is our understanding that the majority of bills passed by Congress require two (2) initial readings into the Congressional record followed by a third reading, review and vote. In the case of Bill # 3217, the third and final reading has been separated into a third reading and vote on October 3, 2007 and a final review and vote on or after November 4, 2007.
Amendments: At the time of the final review, each article and amendment separately will be reviewed/voted upon. In the event that more than 35% of the articles are amended, the bill would normally be sent back to the committee for review and approval. However, the committee has already approved over 60 amendments to Bill # 3217. Given that all amendments have been “pre-approved” by the committee, the number of amendments added will not impact the status of the bill or the ability of Congress to vote. The only exception to this would be if the amendments that are not pre-approved by the committee, exceed 35% of the total number of articles in Bill # 3217.
Joint Council is in the process of obtaining translated versions of Bill # 3217 and proposed amendments. Upon our receipt, we will provide an in-depth assessment of Bill # 3217 and the proposed amendments. Please know that this is not a speedy process and may take a number of days to complete. Joint Council will post our comprehensive assessment as soon as is possible.
10/3/07 - Joint Council has confirmed that the Guatemalan Congress passed Hague compliant legislation – Bill # 3217 – today, October 3. The Guatemalan Congress is now reviewing the written text of the bill and may amend particular sections on Tuesday, October 9, 2007. It is Joint Council’s understanding that a grandfather clause has been drafted by the Children’s Committee and will be added to the bill as an amendment. Additional information is unavailable at this time, including the effective date of Bill # 3217. Joint Council is continuing to work closely with all interested parties and will alert the public once more information becomes available. Joint Council staff will also be issuing our assessment of Bill # 3217 sometime in the next week.
10/1/07 – The U.S. Department of State has issued a new statement, suggesting support for the continuation of Guatemalan adoptions already in progress. The text reads as follows: “At this time, over 3000 applications for adoption from Guatemala are in process with USCIS or the Guatemala government. The U.S. government is asking the Government of Guatemala to allow such cases, now pending, to proceed to completion without additional requirements.” It is Joint Council’s understanding that the U.S. Department of State will continue to advocate for the uninterrupted completion of all transition cases. This public statement of a longstanding USDOS policy is a credit to the early efforts of the Guatemala 5000 Initiative, and we thank the Department of State for their child-centric efforts.
9/27/07 Click here to review the latest Joint Council press release.