The On-Going Crisis in Guatemala Adoptions and the Threat of a Closure or a Moratorium

We recognize that, as the US Government gets closer and closer to fully implementing the Hague Convention on International Adoption, and given the rough history of Guatemalan adoption over the last 30 years, it becomes more problematic for those of you who are just now embarking on the adoption quest to be able to resolve, with confidence, that you should actually begin a specific adoption case in Guatemala. At the same time, it becomes worrisome for those of you who are already in the midst of a Guatemalan adoption, when you find yourselves wondering whether the case will properly and timely finish.

Gautamela Adoption Crisis

Indeed, you may see that the US Government is posting on its various websites that Guatemala is not a good country to adopt from. In addition, there are recurrent rumors that the Guatemalan Government may impose a moratorium on new cases and/or put a hold on currently pending cases, as part of a restructuring of its adoption system (although as of October 17, it would seem, at least according to www.guatadopt.com, that Guatemalan President Berger and the proponents of the new adoption legislation–which still has to be re-voted in mid-November–have just come out in favor of an amendment consistent with grandfathering-in all cases started before the new law takes effect, which everyone assumes will be around the first of the year).

 

In any event, we will continue to start new cases, and we will finish them. In particular, we are not at all dissuaded by the doomsday predictions and threats of the US Government, which we see as both a nasty public relations campaign to soften-up the American public into accepting the inevitability of the imposition of the Hague Convention, as well as a terribly heavy-handed attempt to bludgeon the Guatemalan Congress into accepting our State Department’s view of the world (and hey–why not–if we can do this, in terms of geopolitics, now in the Middle East, and also 25 years ago in Vietnam, why can’t we also do it in the arena of social policy ? ) thinly disguised as a morally pure attempt to clean up corruption in the Guatemalan adoption system.

Notwithstanding all of these threats and challenges, we are confident that we will be able to finish all cases that we start. We know how to get new clients grandfathered-in under the currently existing rules, so that their cases will go forward even if moratoria or bans are imposed in the future, and we are confident enough in our knowledge, ability and professionalism, that we are willing to protect your money with our guarantee; in essence, if you start a case with us, it will finish–but if it cannot finish because of future US or Guatemalan governmental interference, you will get back your money.

In light of these introductory comments, here are some additional considerations that we would like to share with you:

Either the US Government, or the Guatemalan Government, can precipitate an adoption crisis, such as a moratorium on on-going cases or a bar on future cases; but because the US Government has promised the public three-months’ advanced warning (with notice published in the Federal Register), most people are primarily worried instead about the Guatemalan Government doing something negative without any advanced notice; parenthetically, we are convinced that in the first instance, the only reason why the Guatemalan Government of President Oscar Berger ever got interested in radically changing the country’s adoption practices and laws, is that the US began to push Guatemala in ways that it can hardly resist.

If you are in the midst of a Guatemalan adoption right now, you probably have very little to worry about from either government, and here is why– a. So long as you have already filed an I-600A application, the US Government (even if it disrupts Guatemalan adoptions in the future) will indeed allow your child to enter the USA once your adoption case is completed in Guatemala (but be careful because the technical definition of filing any USCIS application includes the filing of all exhibits, and the adoption homestudy is an exhibit; moreover, your I-600A should mention “Guatemala” in the answer to Question 16, and you should try to be fingerprinted at a USCIS Application Support Center as soon as possible) b. So long as your power of attorney form, which should clearly state the full legal name of the child that you propose to adopt, has been filed at the Archivo General de Protocolos (a Guatemalan Government office in Guatemala City), the Guatemalan Government (even if it tries to disrupt Guatemalan adoptions in the future as part of a new law or a presidential decree) will apparently be obliged to allow you to finish the case that you have started, under the rules that were in effect when you started, because of certain guarantees that are found in the Guatemalan Constitution, notwithstanding any legislation currently under consideration or passed by the Guatemalan Congress.

If you are just now embarking on the adoption quest, and if you are interested in Guatemala, it is not too late to start a case, but you must remember that this may be your last opportunity for a long time, and therefore you should do any of the following (and they all work out to mean the same)– “Seize the Moment !” or “Grab a Kid Now !” or “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May !” (if you remember your 12th grade English poetry class) or “Carpe Diem !” (if you remember your 12th grade Latin class).

Specifically, if you want to start a Guatemalan adoption now, what you need to do (items a, b and c), and what you ought to do (items d, e and f), are as following: a) in order to be “grandfathered in” under the Guatemala system, you should find a stateside adoption facilitator that is willing, even if you do not have a homestudy completed or an I-600A approval, to assign you an adoptable child who already has a birth certificate, and you should make sure that this facilitator will arrange to have your Guatemalan Power of Attorney form filed as soon as possible at the Government office in Guatemala City called the Archivo General de Protocols; and b) in order to be “grandfathered in” under the US system, you should file, as soon as possible, your I-600A (mentioning “Guatemala” on line 16), along with a homestudy and fingerprints; and c) make sure that this very same stateside adoption facilitator has a very liberal and consumer-oriented refund policy, in the event that your adoption cannot be finished, even with all of these heroic efforts; and d) sign the two on-line petitions, now circulating, that make clear the sentiment and the demand that all on-going adoptions be allowed to finish with no obstacles thrown in their path by the Hague, the US State Department, UNICEF, or by new Guatemalan legislation http://www.petitiononline.com/foafoa1/petition.html http://www.petitiononline.com/guatpos/petition.html ( Although perhaps these petitions are, technically speaking, not absolutely necessary to achieve the goal of keeping Guatemala adoptions open, it certainly cannot hurt to underscore the point, and to sensitize key people in government, about the outrage and disgust that Americans feel about their pending adoptions being threatened. That is to say, perhaps the guarantees found in the Guatemalan Constitution will be sufficient in order to keep adoptions running smoothly, but it would be nice if a drawn-out court battle could be avoided in favor of an agreement, now, by all parties that would have the same happy effect! ) e) participate in the JCICS-sponsored campaign of calling and emailing UNICEF and members of the US and Guatemalan Governments; details are available at http://www.jcics.org/Guatemala5000.htm#Participate ( Again, although this campaign might not be absolutely necessary, we believe that it would be invaluable to have all concerned parties speak forcefully on this matter, and speak now! ) e) most importantly and urgently, please call the US Fund for UNICEF at 1.212.686.5522 (live line) or 1.212.922.2657 (recorded message) in order to make clear that Americans will not countenance the luke-warm statement that “UNICEF supports an amendment to the [new Guatemala adoption] law that would guarantee that due process is given to outstanding cases.” Instead, what is needed is a clear statement that UNICEF supports an amendment that would grandfather-in all outstanding cases, so that they will be finished under the current laws, without any delays caused by the new law. UNICEF also receives emails generated from its website, and here is a link to it.

If you would like an example of a “very liberal and consumer-oriented refund policy,” of a state-side adoption facilitator, feel free to click here, to read our refund policy, which is part of our adoption contract.

Moratarium

By the way, you might ask, is it “legal” for you to be assigned a child before you are “paper-ready” ? The answer is, yes, it is legal, or at least it is legal in any jurisdiction in which such an assignment of a child is not explicitly barred by state law or regulation; also, the legality of your being assigned a child before you are “paper-ready” is a function of the laws applicable where the facilitator works, and not where your live; finally, certain adoption facilitators just do not like to offer placements to families who are not yet “paper-ready,” but for those facilitators, it is just a matter of their personal or professional preference (to which they are certainly entitled), and not a matter of any state law they are observing.

Given our perspectives on these matters, it should be clear that International Families is willing to begin cases for new clients who are not “paper-ready,” in order to help them get “grandfathered-in” before any threatened moratorium or closing of adoptions destroys their last chance to adopt in Guatemala under the current system, or to adopt in Guatemala under any system for the foreseeable future.

However, we are not so stupid or silly as to accept as clients all people who apply to us. And yes, we do have our ways to verify that prospective clients who are not yet “paper-ready” are nevertheless not jerks, creeps or perverts who might put a child at risk.

Indeed, we admit that a prospective client who tries hard enough might, for a short period of time, succeed in deceiving us and thus find him/her self assigned to a certain child, but that short-lived client will be found out–and cancelled out–long before he or she ever has had the chance to visit the child in Guatemala, let alone finish the adoption case.

In this happily rare scenario, yes, the net result will be a lot of aggravation for us in canceling the case, but there will be a greater loss of time, money and credibility for any scam-artists who try to deceive us about their bona fides as adoptive parents.

OK, now–apart from the rare situation of the woefully unqualified person who is not “paper-ready,” who tries to deceive us into assigning him/her a child, the more frequently asked question is “how confident are we that we can finish cases that we start now, during this period of uncertainty ? Here is our answer:

Taking into account our contract as a whole, and our refund policy within our contract, we stand to lose considerable sums of money if we start cases that we cannot finish, and then have to refund almost every cent that our clients have given us. In the past, we have been through moratoria in Guatemala and country closings in Romania, and those experiences have taught us what we need to know, now, to avoid unhappy eventualities, either for our clients, or for ourselves. Suffice it to say that we have carefully assessed the risks, and we have taken the measures necessary to protect all concerned, and to assure that the cases will finish.

So, here is the bottom line–if you start a case with us, the case will finish, or else you will receive back your money, as per our contract’s refund policy.