Guatemala: 2009

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.

November 30, 2009

Update on Guatemala

It is Joint Council’s understanding that the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City will begin processing 2nd DNA tests for grandfathered cases this week. As noted by Joint Council on November 9, 2009, the Embassy temporarily stopped processing 2nd DNA tests. It is our understanding that there will be new procedures, including samples taken at the U.S. Embassy with a U.S. Consular Officer present. Joint Council is consulting with the U.S. Dept of State and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City to gain further understanding of the situation. Joint Council will continue update our membership and our website as more information becomes available.

November 24, 2009

Announcement by the Guatemalan CNA

Based on multiple conversations with key stakeholders, the following represents Joint Council’s understanding of the recent announcement by the Guatemalan government.

Announcement by the Guatemalan CNA

As announced on November 20, 2009, by the Guatemalan National Adoption Council (CNA), letters of intent are being accepted by the CNA for participation in a planned intercountry adoption pilot program. While no date has been announced regarding the initiation of the 2-year pilot program, the deadline for letters of intent is December 3, 2009. It should be noted that the CNA is accepting letters of intent from Central Authorities only. The invitation to submit a letter of intent is not extended to Adoption Service Providers (ASPs).

The pilot program will involve a limited number of Central Authorities and one (1) ASP from each country chosen for the pilot program. At this time, the CNA has not published criteria for selecting participation by the Central Authority or ASP. Additionally, no time-line, other than the December 3, 2009, deadline for submission of letters of intent, has been announced.

To date, the CNA has not given any public indication of which countries will be chosen for the pilot program. In Joint Council’s assessment, it would be premature and presumptive to assume that the United States will either be chosen or not chosen for the pilot program.

Central Authority of the United States

It is also our understanding that the Department of State is currently making a determination as to their submission of a letter of intent to the CNA.

Joint Council strongly encourages the Department of State to pursue potential participation in the pilot program by submitting a letter of intent by December 3 2009.

Summary

We respectfully bring attention to the nature of the announcement by the CNA in that:

  • No timeline for implementation of the pilot program was announced,
  • Only Central Authorities may submit a letter of intent,
  • No criteria for selecting Central Authorities and/or APS has been established,
  • The Department of State has not finalized a decision regarding submission of a letter of intent,

To date, submissions of I-800A applications with the U.S. National Benefits Center for adoptions from Guatemala are being accepted but not processed.

In our assessment, U.S. based Adoption Service Providers and potential adoptive families should not assume that intercountry adoptions between the United States and Guatemala will begin in the near future

October 19, 2009

Notice from Department of State

Dear Prospective adoptive families, stakeholders in Guatemalan adoptions:

As promised, we will continue to update you on the latest information we received from the Gautemalan government regarding adoptions in Guatemala. TheConsejo Nacional de Adociones (CNA) provided the US Embassy in Guatemala two documents: 1) requesting prospective adoptive parents send the CNA case information and 2) advising prospective parents against hiring private attorneys or notaries to process adoptions. Parents may have someone, could be an attorney, to be able to act on their behalf to submit documents or answer questions. We understand that this message from CNA will not affect every prospective adoptive parent currently adopting in Guatemala. It only applies to those adoptions that will be processed by the CNA. The attached documents, in the original Spanish and English translation, explain how the CNA is currently processing adoption cases. For more information on this issue and where to send your case information, please visit www.cna.gob.gt

October 7, 2009

Alert from the Department of State for “Hogar” 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.

July 14, 2009

Many of the families who lovingly made the decision to adopt from Guatemala prior to the closure on January 1, 2008 continue to face unimaginable challenges. Joint Council, through our Guatemala 5000 initiative, has continually advocated for families and the children who need them. In order to best guide our advocacy efforts in May 2009 Joint Council announced a survey of intercountry adoption cases from Guatemala still in progress. This survey was a follow-up to our survey in September 2008. The Summary Report detailing the results of the survey can be found here.

June 4, 2009

As stated in yesterday’s posting by Hannah Wallace, families and friends committed to the chuildren of Guatemalan will launch the Guatemala 900 Campaign on June 17th in Washington DC. The launch of the campaign will include a rally, speaches, a march from the White House to the Capitol and a candlelight vigil at the Guatemalan Embassy.

While not officially affiliated with Joint Council, the Guatemala 900 Campaign has a goal in parallel to the ongoing Joint Council Guatemala 5000 Initiative: a family for every Guatemalan child. Joint Council has and will continue to work with many of the campaigns organizers and we fully support the goals of the Guatemala 900 Campaign.

On June 17th, the Guatemala 900 Campaign will become a voice for the 900 children whose adoptions have yet to be completed despite 18 months of investigations, court hearings and interviews. The campaign will advocate with the U.S. and Guatemalan governments to ensure a quick and final resolution of all cases and an end to the victimization of Guatemalan children.

Detailed information can be found at www.guatemala900.org

June 1, 2009

As we all know, many of the families who lovingly made the decision to adopt from Guatemala prior to the closure on January 1, 2008 continue to face unimaginable challenges. Joint Council, through our Guatemala 5000 initiative, has continually advocated for families and the children who need them. In conversations with Members of Congress they have indicated an interest and willingness to help the situation. In order capitalize on this and best define our future advocacy efforts we need to have the current and most accurate information available regarding the number of cases still in process and hurdles faced. Unfortunately, the number of cases still yet to be completed is unknown due to a vast array of numbers provided to us from CNA, PGN, the MP, and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. Therefore a second survey, a follow-up to our survey in September 2008, is now available through the Joint Council website. The survey is a vitally important means of gathering the information in order to properly advocate for the children and the families who hope to adopt them.

The survey will allow us to gauge the situation in Guatemala, 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 cumulative data (no personal information will be shared unless specifically indicated on the survey) will be provided to organizations such as the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and individual Members of Congress. The collection of similar information was gathered during the closure of intercountry adoption in Cambodia and was instrumental in the completion of virtually all adoptions. While no one can make promises of such results, we do feel confident, through our discussion with key stakeholders, that the survey results will be an important tool in positively resolving many outstanding issues.

In order to be most effective with the survey results it is critically important that all families currently in the adoption process with Guatemala complete the appropriate survey by Tuesday, June 9th, 2009. The surveys can be found via a link on the homepage of the Joint Council website ( www.jointcouncil.org) or directly at Joint Council Guatemala Survey. Joint Council encourages all families to participate in this very important initiative. Further, we request that individuals not complete the survey unless they are still in the process of adopting, any individuals filling out the survey to “see what the questions are” could drastically skew these very important results.

We also encourage everyone to distribute this information to all families via email, websites, blogs and other media. Copies of this email announcement may be forwarded as needed in order to distribute this information. When distributing, please ensure that the live links in this email are active.

Thank you!

March 17, 2009

As part of Joint Council’s ongoing Guatemala 5000 campaign, we have continually advocated for the ethical and legal finalization of all adoptions initiated prior to the closure of intercountry adoption in Guatemala. Most recently Joint Council traveled to Guatemala immediately following the visit by Deputy Assistant Secretary Michelle Bond. Since our advocacy in Guatemala Joint Council has over the past 6 weeks remained in dialogue with Guatemalan and US officials. As we pledged when initiating the Guatemala 5000 campaign, our advocacy will not end until all transition cases have been legally and ethically finalized.

We are therefore very pleased to announce that after 18 long months, with one exception, the remaining children of Casa Quivera are now free to have their adoptions finalized. Judge Mena issued her decision allowing for the completion of the adoptions on Friday, March 13th. Friday and Monday are considered the notification period with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as the appeal period. Our understanding is that the adoptions can move forward on Friday, March 20th.

We are also very pleased to announce that 8 children of Semillas de Amor received similar rulings from the judge overseeing their cases. It is our continued hope that the adoptions of all 8 children will be complete within the next 3 weeks.

Given the intensive investigations surrounding the adoptions of the children of Casa Quivera and Semillas de Amor, no irregularities were found in any of the recent rulings by these two judges.

Joint Council offers our continued admiration to the adoptive parents of Casa Quivera and Semillas de Amor for their tenacious commitment to the children of Guatemala.

February 5, 2009

Joint Council has released its latest position paper, entitled Guatemala: One Year Later, as part of our ongoing Guatemala initiative. We are not asking for calls or emails from families at this time. Please continue to visit the Joint Council website for further updates on our advocacy work on behalf of the children of Guatemala.

February 2, 2009

Joint Council has received confirmation that the U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for American Citizen Services traveled to Mexico, Costa Rica and Guatemala the week of January 26, 2009. During her time in each country, Secretary Bond met with officials regarding intercountry adoption.

Following Secretary Bond’s visit, Joint Council’s Tom DiFilipo arrived in Guatemala and is scheduled to meet with representatives of PGN, Bienestar Social, the Guatemalan Central Authority, the U.S. Consular office, UNICEF and American adoptive families waiting to complete their adoptions.

The goal of Joint Council’s time in Guatemala is to advocate for the completion of all transition adoptions (where no issues of concern are present), to advance the implementation of the Hague Convention, and to offer assistance in developing services for the children and families of Guatemala.

Joint Council will publish the result of our advocacy trip upon its completion and hopes to report on progress towards the completion of pending adoptions.

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