Guatemala: 2008

December 23, 2008

The U.S. Department of State has released the following update on Casa Quivira and Semillas de Amor cases:

Casa Quivira

According to our records, fourteen of the original 46 children who were living at Casa Quivira when it was first investigated by police have adoption cases still pending. For each of these fourteen, the PGN has identified irregularities ranging from clerical errors or missing documents to suspected fraud. Six have been reclassified as abandonment cases, and their adoptions will have to be processed under Guatemala’s new adoption law, once those procedures have actually been finalized. We continue to press the Government of Guatemala to resolve the remaining cases. Judge Mena is expected to release her decision before the Christmas holidays. The Prosecutor’s office has informed us that it does not intend to file a blanket appeal to this decision; however, once the decision is released, each case will be individually reviewed and appeals may be filed in some cases in which there appears to be significant irregularities.

Semillas de Amor

The Embassy continues to meet with representatives of Semillas de Amor, adoptive parents, and Government of Guatemala officials to explore options for moving forward with these cases and to urge that cases by resolved as quickly as possible. We understand investigations into possible irregularities in these cases have not been completed.

October 20, 2008

The following details Joint Council’s understanding of the process and requirements for a Guatemalan adoption which was initiated as a relinquishment but is now considered an abandonment case. We recognize that this information is certain to generate numerous questions and requests for clarification. Please note that the following represent all of the information available at this time. Joint Council and USCIS are actively seeking further clarification and will publish any additional information provided by the Guatemalan or U.S. governments.

Relinquishment to Abandonment Process

For those cases which were initiated as relinquishment cases but are now determined by the Guatemalan government to be abandonment cases, USCIS is not requiring potential adoptive parents to withdraw their initial I-600A petitions nor submit an I-800A petition:

  • Potential adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to maintain a valid status for the I-600A approval (aka I-171H) via the newly announced ‘grandfather’ provisions. In the case of Guatemala, letting an I-600A application lapse could cause a family to wait an undetermined about of time, possibly into years.
  • USCIS is requiring the following documentation for these cases.
  • Adoption consent properly filled out with signatures legalized in an authorized format.
  • Child’s birth certificate in literal form with corresponding annotation of the courts resolution.
  • Original certificate of resolution of declaration of the violation of the human rights of the minor, issued by the Guatemalan competent court of abandonment
  • Notorial deed of appointment granted by the minor’s legal representative
  • Legalization certificate for the copies presented
  • All documents that are not originals must be authenticated
  • All documents must be submitted in person by the attorney or Potential Adoptive Parents.
  • All documents must be submitted to the Consular Section entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City at 7:00 a.m. (Monday to Thursday) in order to request a number for the public adoptions window #10.
  • Documents must be submitted as soon as the Potential Adoptive Parents are aware that the process has been changed from relinquishment to abandonment and before all other final documents are submitted to USCIS.

Joint Council respectfully requests your cooperation in refraining from contacting us directly, at this time, concerning questions and/or comments regarding this specific issue. We look forward to further information and clarifications from USCIS and will continue to publish any new information.

October 14, 2008

According to preliminary results of a survey conducted in August 2008 by Joint Council, over 600 children referred to families adopting from Guatemala still remain without their families. 56 % of the over 500 families surveyed indicate that their case has been released by the CNA to PGN for final processing. 37% indicated that their case had been released by the PGN.

Of the families whose cases had been released by PGN, only 11.5% reported having received passports from the Guatemalan government. Frustration levels among those surveyed were extremely high, significant frustration pointing towards the Guatemalan government’s implementation of the Hague and slow processing times of the CNA, PGN, along with the long wait for post-adoption birth certificates. Many also expressed surprise at what they perceived to be lack of concern on the part of the US government.

Joint Council is devoted to ensuring that children who were referred to families before January 1,2008, and whose cases have followed the necessary steps indicated by the US and Guatemalan governments arrive home to their families. Joint Council will continue to fight for the rights of these children.

September 29, 2008

The Department of State has released the following statement:

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.

September 3 , 2008

Joint Council thanks all families currently in the adoption process with Guatemala who completed our Guatemala survey. Survey results are still being compiled but will be posted once the results have been assessed. Following is a summary of this important initiative:

As part of our ongoing efforts, we have joined forces with Ethica and the National Council for Adoption to provide a new tool in our collective advocacy initiative. A survey for families trying to adopt from Guatemala is now available through the Joint Council website. This survey is a vitally important means of gathering the information our three organizations need to properly advocate for adoptive families.

This survey will allow us to gauge the situation in each country, assess the number of families in each stage of the process and provide accurate data to those seeking to advocate on behalf of families and children. The survey results will be an important tool in positively resolving many outstanding issues. This survey will assist the families as well, by providing them with a new accurate perspective and relevant information regarding the status of their adoption as compared to other adoptive families.

Joint Council, Ethica and NCFA offer our thanks for your role in making this initiative successful as we continue to advocate for every child’s right to a safe, permanent and loving family.

July 30, 2008

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption has invited the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to conduct a briefing of Congressional staffers on issues related to intercountry adoption in Vietnam, Guatemala along with issues related to intercountry adoption in general. The briefing is scheduled for this Friday, August 1, 2008 in the U.S. Capitol Building, LBJ Room at 10:00 a.m.

Given the pending suspension of intercountry adoption and related services in Vietnam and the continuing issues of concern in Guatemala, Joint Council urges participation by Congressional staffers. It is critically important that staffers participate in the U.S. Government’s role in international children’s services, specifically intercountry adoption. Given the impact of current issues on children and families, Joint Council urges 100% participation by staff in this very important briefing.

In order to gain the largest possible participation, please choose to contact your Congressional offices and ask them to participate by sending a staff member.

  • Contact information for U.S. Senator’s offices can be found at www.senate.gov.
  • Contact information for U.S. Representatives offices can be found at www.house.gov.

If you choose to contact your representatives, please do so today by email or phone call, and request that they send staff to Friday’s briefing.

This briefing follows the briefing conducted for Congressional Staff last Friday, July 25th by child advocates and experts including Joint Council. These briefings on the ongoing issues related to international children’s services is critically important to the continuation of intercountry adoption as a viable solution for children in need.

July 29, 2008

On Friday, July 26, 2008, Joint Council participated in a briefing of over 60 Congressional offices on issues related to international children’s services with particular attention to intercountry adoption in Vietnam and Guatemala.

The panel presented varying perspectives on the issues facing intercountry adoption in Vietnam and Guatemala. With regard to Guatemala, the continuing problem associated with a lack of substantiated information from the Guatemalan government, the continued delays in processing grandfathered adoption cases, the lack of movement in creating a new child welfare system and the potential problems associated with the capacity of the U.S. Embassy to work with the Guatemalan government and provide timely information and advocacy on behalf of U.S. citizens and Guatemalan children were also addressed in detail.

The panel also provided information to the Congressional offices on ways in which Congress can support international children’s services, maintain the viability of intercountry adoption as an important element in providing children with permanent families and advocating for their constituents seeking to adopt a child in need of a family.

Among a variety of suggestions, the panel suggested the creation of a U.S. Government Task Force for Guatemala which would provide the needed resources to effectively communicate with the Guatemalan government and provide needed information and advocacy for potential adoptive parents.

In addition to Joint Council President Tom DiFilipo, Lynn Song, Executive Director of Joint Council Member Organization Ethica Inc., Susan Cox, Vice-President of Holt International and Vice-Chairperson of Joint Council’s Board of Directors, along with Tom Atwood and Chuck Johnson, respectively President and Vice-President of the National Council For Adoption participated in the briefing. Joint Council extends its appreciation to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chairs for coordinating the two-hour briefing and to all Congressional staff who chose to attend.

June 17, 2008

The Department of State has released the following statement on the release of cases:

The new Guatemalan Solicitor General (Procuradoría General de la Nación) or “PGN”) advised the U.S. Embassy on June 3 that he planned to release approximately 300 cases that had been approved by the former Solicitor General, but which he had previously decided should also pass though the comprehensive review process. Those cases were released on June 5. The Deputy Solicitor General told the Embassy on June 10 that additional cases, both approved recommendations and requests for more evidence, are being released on a regular basis. Guatemalan legal representatives should inform families as soon as their child’s case has been released.

The Embassy has no backlog of adoption cases. The Immigrant Visa Unit is scheduling final immigrant visa interviews for one week after receipt of the matching DNA results and the approved final case from USCIS. Currently, about 35 adoption immigrant visa interviews are being scheduled each week, but the Embassy has the capacity to schedule up to 120 adoption cases a week if additional final adoption cases are received.

The Embassy maintains close communication with the PGN and has expressed the hope that the review of the approximately 1,300 remaining cases can be accomplished as quickly as possible. The Embassy understands that the new PGN has reviewed over 800 cases to date. Of those, the PGN/CNA has found 22 cases that are not approvable. The Deputy Solicitor General reported on June 13 that 452 of the reviewed cases complied with all PGN requirements and were ready for final processing. Another 350 cases were found to have no serious problems, but legal representatives would still be asked to submit additional information.

June 16, 2008

The Department of State has released a FAQs: Responses to Questions Raised With Us on Adoptions in Guatemala statement regarding the birthmother interviews and transition cases on their website, in addition to an Adoption Reform Fact Sheet to address general questions and the Casa Quivira cases.

June 6, 2008

Joint Council is pleased to announce that PGN has released approximately 230 adoption cases today. At this time, there is no estimate of the number of cases with previos, versus the number of cases without. Upon the release of cases by PGN, Joint Council will be providing estimates of the number of cases without previos. Joint Council extends its appreciation to PGN for its release of these cases. We will continue to work with PGN and key stakeholders in Guatemala on the review of the adoption procedure.

June 5, 2008

Joint Council remains seriously concerned about the status of the approximately 2,600 pending adoptions currently being reviewed. It is our understanding that over 260 adoptions have been cleared of serious irregularities yet have not been released by PGN for finalization. For those children whose adoptions have been cleared of any irregularities, it is clearly in the children’s best interest for PGN to release their cases and for the children to be united with their adoptive family. Joint Council again urges the PGN to immediately release all such adoption cases.

Joint Council also calls upon the Guatemalan authorities to recognize and validate the approximately 200 adoption cases registered with the CNA during the first of two registration periods. It is our understanding that the adoptions of these 200 children can not move forward through the review/interview process due to an error in registering the cases during the second registration period. In the best interest of these children, Joint Council continues to advocate, through direct communication with the CNA and PGN, for the adoptions of these children to be recognized and reviewed.

On Thursday, May 29, 2008, PGN released an initial group of 23 adoption cases. Of the 23, 4 were without previos and can continue through to finalization of the adoption. The remaining 19 contained previos and will require modifications and a re-submission to PGN. It should be noted that the previos and re-submission do not appear to be specific to the review process but rather are similar in nature to those previos issued under the notorial process.

We continue to advocate for a timely conclusion to the review process including birthmother interviews. These requests were clearly articulated during our recent meetings in Guatemala and have again been reiterated in a letter to PGN on Wednesday, June 4, 2008. Joint Council has also communicated this request to all other key stakeholders.

Joint Council congratulates those children and families who can now finalize their adoptions and the PGN for responding to collective requests to initiate the release of cases found to be free of significant irregularities. Joint Council will continue to call upon the PGN and CNA to ensure the rights of Guatemalan children through a timely conclusion of the review/interview process and the release all valid adoption cases.

June 2, 2008

On May 27-28, 2008, Joint Council Guatemala Representative Roberto Echeverría, President Tom DiFilipo and Caucus Co-chair Chris Huber conducted meetings with the key Guatemalan child welfare stakeholders. They met with officials in the Guatemalan PGN, CNA, SBS along with representatives of UNICEF-Guatemala and the U.S. Consular General.

Joint Council was invited to witness case reviews and birthmother interviews being conducted as part of the government’s review of all pending adoption cases. We are pleased to report that the interviews appeared to be conducted in a professional and respectful manner. Joint Council is aware of the reports of maltreatment of birthmothers and children and expressed our concerns to PGN and CNA officials.

Based on our observations, conversations with various involved parties, the format of the interviews and the relatively low number of irregularities discovered, it is Joint Council’s assessment that episodes of maltreatment were incidental and have been resolved. The review process while initially reported to last 30-days will take longer than anticipated. Until such time as those cases found to be without irregularities are released and finalized, we consider the review process to be a functional stoppage of the adoptions.

While some have reported that new regulations designed to fully implement the Hague Convention have been finalized, it is our finding that the regulations remain in early draft stage with an initial draft targeted for late June. The Chilean and Colombian governments along with UNICEF-Guatemala have contributed to the regulations and upon completion will be reviewed by the Hague Permanent Bureau prior to implementation.

Joint Council has submitted a Memorandum of Understanding with the CNA which in part will provide a formalized process for our contributions to the regulations. The MOU also offers assistance in creating a broad spectrum of family and child services including regional service centers and family preservation.

We will continue to monitor the progress of the review process, advocate for appropriate levels of scrutiny, the completion of valid adoptions and the establishment of functional permanency services for families and children.

May 29, 2008

Joint Council representatives Tom DiFilipo and Bruce Mossburg have returned from their visit to Guatemala, where they met with key stakeholders. An update on their meetings with elected officials and their advocacy work will be released next week.

May 28, 2008

The U.S. Department of State has released the following statement regarding the PGN Visit to Semillas de Amor “Seeds of Love” foster care home:

The U.S. Embassy was advised by the Director of Semillas de Amor (Seeds of Love) foster care home in Antigua that the facility was visited by the office of the Procuradoría General de la Nación (Office of the Guatemalan Solicitor General) or “PGN” last week on suspicion that the 51 children living there did not possess the documents necessary to be adopted. None of the children were removed from Semillas de Amor. The Director was able to provide the necessary documentation for all but three of the children, whose documents were said to have been in Guatemala City that day, where they were being reviewed by the Central Authority. The Embassy remains in contact with the Government of Guatemala and will report any further developments with the Semillas de Amor.

May 16, 2008

Joint Council has issued a statement regarding the ongoing events in Guatemala, including the review of all pending adoption cases, birthmother interviews, and two raids on Semillas de Amor. Joint Council continues to engage in dialogue with our Guatemala Caucus Co-chairs, our Guatemalan Representative, the Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Members of the U.S. Congress, and PGN.

Joint Council also wishes to express its concern with the manner in which some birthmother interviews are taking place. Reports of abusive techniques undermine the integrity of the process and may in fact be violations of the privacy and human rights of the birthmother. Joint Council has called on all parties, including the U.S. Government, to assist in the resolution of those cases where birthmothers have alleged that their children were stolen, or where the birthmother was tricked into participating in a DNA test. Failure to positively resolve the accusations and assist these birthmothers may be a violation of their basic human rights.

Joint Council is reviewing additional advocacy options and may travel to Guatemala as early as next week. In the meantime, it will continue to pursue its advocacy efforts through ongoing dialogue and correspondence with all key stakeholders.

May 6, 2008

On April 16-19, 2008, Joint Council and its Guatemala Caucus Co-chairs, including Bruce Mossberg of Bethany Christian Services, Chris Huber of FTIA, and Margaret Orr of Small Miracles, traveled to Guatemala to assess the current situation regarding permanency services, establish and strengthen working relationships with key stakeholders, and offer assistance to the government in developing their child protection and permanency services. The delegation met with the Executive Director and Vice-Director of the Guatemala Central Authority, the Director of Bienestar Sociale, the Director of SOSEP, the U.S. Consul General, John Lowell, and the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, James Derham. Additional meetings were also held with current service providers.

Immediately after the trip, Joint Council appointed Roberto Echeverria as Joint Council Guatemala Representative. Mr. Echeverria will significantly increase the effectiveness of Joint Council’s advocacy efforts within Guatemala.

Joint Council will soon publish an update on the status of the 2,900 transition cases currently in crisis and our collective advocacy efforts.

April 29, 2008

The U.S. Department of State has issued the following update regarding adoptions from Guatemala:

The new Guatemalan Solicitor General (Procuradoría General de la Nación) or “PGN” advised the U.S. Embassy on April 29 that it plans to review all adoption cases physically present in the PGN office, including those that may have already been approved by the PGN under its former leadership. The PGN emphasized that cases approved by their office should be transparent.

The PGN indicated that in certain cases they will require the presence of the birth mother and child to verify identification. They confirmed their intention to identify any cases that are readily approvable and to release them as soon as they have been reviewed.

The Embassy continues to be in frequent communication with the PGN and has expressed the hope that the review of cases can be accomplished as quickly as possible, in the best interests of the children who have already spent months separated from their birth parents and are in need of permanent homes.

March 28, 2008

On December 31, 2007, the Hague Convention went into force in Guatemala. On April 1, 2008, the Hague Convention goes into force with respect to the United States. With the Convention in force in both countries and with Guatemala not currently having a functional Hague compliant intercountry adoption process, new adoptions between the United States and Guatemala cannot be processed. Until such time that Guatemala has a functional Hague compliant process for intercountry adoptions, USCIS cannot process I800-A or I800 petitions for Guatemala as of April 1, 2008.

It is the current assessment of Joint Council that intercountry adoption and other permanency services will not be viable options for Guatemalan orphans until sometime in 2009.

Pending Adoptions

Please note that both DOS and USCIS will continue to process all adoptions where the I600-A petition was filed prior to April 1, 2008. Similarly, the Guatemalan government has reported that all adoptions cases appropriately registered with the CNA on or before February 12, 2008 will be processed.

Questionable Practices

It has been reported that some potential adoptive parents and their agents are attempting to process adoptions where the case was not properly registered with the CNA prior to February 12, 2008. It has also been reported that some adoption service providers are informing potential adoptive parents that new intercountry adoptions cases will be immediately processed after April 1, 2008. These two types of cases may be in serious jeopardy. Joint Council strongly urges any potential adoptive parent to contact a Joint Council Member Organization or Joint Council directly before proceeding with either of these two types of cases.

Joint Council Delegation to Guatemala

On April 16th, Joint Council and its Guatemala Caucus Co-chairs, Bruce Mossberg of Bethany Christina Services, Chris Huber of FTIA and Margaret Orr of Small Miracles International, will travel to Guatemala for a series of meetings. With a long-term goal of reestablishing intercountry adoption and all other permanency services as viable options for children living outside of family care, this delegation will seek to assess the status of the current Hague implementation plan, the status of pending adoption cases, and the feasibility of a joint effort to assist the Guatemalan government in providing much needed services to children.

Joint Council remains committed to its mission of protecting every child’s right to a permanent, safe and loving family. It is our belief that the delegation to Guatemala will be the first step in achieving our mission for the children of Guatemala.

February 14, 2008

The Guatemala National Council for Adoptions ended the registration period for transition adoption cases on February 12, 2008. We are very pleased to report, that close to 3,000 cases were registered under the ‘new’ system. It is also our understanding that the 3,000 registrations include virtually all of the adoptions initiated under the Notarial system.

Joint Council has been informed that an individual adoption case is considered registered provided the aviso filed with the National Council for Adoptions (CNA), has been stamped (with a number) and signed. The CNA is currently developing a database of all registered cases. Once completed, the CNA will provide the database to PGN. It is our understanding that PGN will begin processing cases upon their receipt of the CNA database.

We also have information that approximately 100 cases were not registered with the CNA, according to the revised registration process. The lack of registration for these cases may preclude the completion of these specific adoptions. Any adoption service provider or adoptive parent who did not register their case(s) with the new CNA should contact their Guatemalan attorney immediately.

As always, Joint Council will remain engaged with all stakeholders and inform you as the process of finalizing all pending adoptions is completed.

February 8, 2008

The U.S. Department of State has issued the following update regarding the registration of in-process adoption cases in Guatemala:

On February 8, 2008, Guatemala’s National Council for Adoptions (CNA) announced that adoption cases “entered” in Guatemala before Dec. 31, 2007 must be registered in the offices of the CNA, which are temporarily installed in the Secretary of Social Welfare (Secretaria de Bienestar Social or SBS) of the Presidency, located at 32 Calle 9-34, Zona 11, Colonia Las Charcas, by Tuesday, Feb. 12 (inclusive). The office will be open during the weekend from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

The Government of Guatemala further advises that those notaries who presented their cases to the members of the earlier National Council for Adoptions must bring their copy of the earlier registration to the office in the SBS during the above mentioned hours, so that a new registration number can be assigned.

February 5, 2008

The U.S. Department of State has issued the following update regarding the registration of in-process adoption cases in Guatemala:

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

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

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

February 1, 2008

Joint Council can confirm that the Central Authority in Guatemala has recently stopped accepting registrations of in-process adoptions. Joint Council has already petitioned U.S. Department of State consular offices in Guatemala City and in Washington, D.C. for their immediate and direct advocacy to address the current suspension by the Central Authority. Additionally, Joint Council staff have already addressed the suspension with officials from several U.S. congressional offices as well as the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Joint Council remains in frequent dialogue with representatives of the Guatemalan government and will post additional information as it becomes available.

January 29, 2008

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued an update regarding the new Guatemalan adoption legislation.

January 18, 2008

Through Joint Council’s continued dialogue with the office of U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, Co-Chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joint Council is pleased to offer Senator Coleman’s letter to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.

Senator Coleman continues to be actively engaged in and supportive of our collective efforts to ensure that every child has the right to a safe, permanent and loving family. The Senator’s letter, presented on Friday morning, outlines his concerns regarding in-process adoption cases and requests the assistance of President Colom.

Additionally, on Wednesday, January 16, 2008, new members of the Central Authority were appointed. The new members are; Concha Marilis Barrientos de Estrada – Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aura Azucena Bolanos de Aguilera – Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sonia Elizabeth Hernandez Guerra de Larios – Bienestar Social and Norma Elizabeth Roble Avila de Villagran – Bienestar Social.

On Friday, January 18, the newly appointed Guatemalan Central Authority released the forms necessary to register in-process adoptions as required by the new adoption law (Decree 77-2007). Joint Council has forwarded these forms to all Joint Council Member Organizations and hopes to provide additional registration instructions in the coming days. If you are in the process of adopting from Guatemala, your adoption service providers should now be aware of the availability of these forms and work to complete the registration process at the earliest possible date.

While additional details regarding the registration process are not available at this time, Joint Council remains engaged and will notify you and Joint Council Member Organizations immediately as more information becomes available.

Please know that Joint Council remains engaged with the U.S. and Guatemala governments, UNICEF, the adoptive parent community and adoption services providers. Joint Council remains dedicated to our mission and will continue to advocate through the Guatemala 5000 Initiative until the children we serve are united with their adoptive families.

January 16, 2008

The U.S. Department of State has issued a warning regarding adoptions initiated on or after December 31, 2007 in Guatemala, which states the following:

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

We do not know when the Government of Guatemala will be prepared to process cases under the new system set forth in the new Guatemalan adoption law that went into force on December 31, 2007. The Government of Guatemala is now working to put into place the infrastructure necessary to implement the provisions and obligations of the new law. The National Adoption Council, Guatemala’s Hague Convention Central Authority , was installed on Jan. 11 and is expected to begin initial operations soon and to quickly ratify and publicize the registration procedure required for adoptions initiated prior to the law’s effective date. But the full process must be in place and functioning before an adoption can be completed under the new law. There is no process in place at this time.

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

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

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

January 14, 2008

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

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

Processing of Transition Cases

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

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

Formation of the Central Authority

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

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

Registering of Cases

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

New Referrals

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

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

Applying for a Guatemalan adoption

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

Applying with a U.S. Adoption Service Provider

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

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

Advocacy

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

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

Joint Council Recommendations

A case would be eligible for the grandfather status provided that by December 31, 2007 the case had:

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

January 4, 2008

Joint Council can confirm that PGN is no longer processing adoption cases with the exception of those that have already been approved. All other aspects of adoption processing have been stopped.

This is a result of the new adoption law requiring the registration of cases with the Central Authority prior to cases being reinitiated. Joint Council continues to advocate for a position solution to the situation.

Please note: Joint Council staff, particularly Tom DiFilipo, President & CEO, remain in frequent conversation with officials from both the U.S. government and the Guatemalan government. Joint Council will issue a more detailed analysis in the coming days, which will include important updates received at Joint Council’s Board of Directors meeting with the U.S. Department of State and U.S.

Citizenship and Immigration Services on Monday, January 7th.

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