Guatemala Adoption Alert
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues
Hogar Listserv Updates
The Office of Children’s Issues provides regular updates to families and adoption service providers specifically affected by legal actions taken regarding hogares or child care centers for children awaiting intercountry adoptions. If you received this e-mail in error and do not wish to receive future updates please notify AskCI@state.gov using the subject line: Remove My Name from the Guatemala Hogar List Serv. Similarly, if you have friends or colleagues who would like to receive these updates, ask them to contact AskCI@state.gov using the subject line: Add My Name to the Guatemala Hogar List Serv. These updates will focus on recent developments; for a comprehensive review of intercountry adoptions in Guatemala, please consult the Guatemala section of the Office of Children’s Issues general website http://www.adoption.state.gov/ .
The following are brief updates on issues or related developments that may be of general interest. We take this opportunity to remind adopting parents and others that the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is not officially notified of investigations of individual hogars. Many of the investigations going on in Guatemala involve allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Further, the U.S. Government does not have any official legal standing in these cases, thus we may not be informed, but may also be officially barred from receiving routine information.
Our records show adoption petitions are still pending for about 8 of the original 46 children who were taken into custody from Casa Quivira. In several of the cases, the Solicitor General’s Office (PGN) has identified irregularities and these cases must be processed as abandonment cases through the National Council for Adoptions (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 Hague procedures to be implemented.
Semillas de Amor
In early August, the court in Chimaltenango separated five of the Semillas de Amor cases, allowing them to proceed. Some of those children already have visas and will hopefully be able to depart soon. Several of the five cases have been sent to the PGN for final adjudication. We are awaiting additional information on these cases.
Santa Lucia de las Flores
The Embassy learned in 2009 that Asociacion Santa Lucia de las Flores Silvestres had been under investigation by the Guatemalan Attorney General’s office since 2008. The Embassy has been in contact with some of the prospective adoptive parents. We understand there were at least five children indentified for adoption by American citizens being cared for at this home. It is our understanding that many of the children taken from this orphanage are now living in various hogares until a judge decides on their cases. The investigation is still underway.
On August 13, 2009, the Embassy learned about an action by Guatemalan authorities involving 17 children from the Hogar Asociación Primavera, 16 of whom had been matched with U.S. adoptive families. We have since learned that the children were transferred to various hogares in Guatemala City. A police investigation continues. The judge in Esquintla who approved many of the abandonment cases from Hogar Primavera, was recently stripped of his immunity and could now face criminal charges.
On December 16, 2009, the Guatemalan press reported that Susana Maria Luarca Saracho, a facilitator of international adoptions for Asociación Primavera, was arrested by the Ministerio Publico on charges of irregular adoptions. She was later released on Q50,000 bail (just over $6,000) and is under house arrest while the investigation continues.
As reported in the press, a lawyer linked to various illegal adoption cases, Alma Beatriz Valle Flores de Mejia, was charged in Guatemala on April 22, 2010 with human trafficking and using false documents, among other charges. Valle de Mejia was implicated in 158 cases of irregular adoptions in 2008 as part of her involvement with Asociación Primavera. According to the charges, she formed part of a network engaged in illegal adoptions. This network included attorney Susana Luarca Saracho mentioned above.
Press reports state that Valle de Mejia was deported from the United States on April 22, 2010 after she was captured in Texas for remaining in the United States illegally after her visa expired.
Rosalinda Rivera’s Hogar
On May 6, 2008, an action was taken against a hogar on 11 Avenida 7-51, Zona 11, Quinta Samayoa, Guatemala City. Rosalinda Rivera was apprehended at this location and 9 infants were removed from her custody. Ms. Rivera did not provide the necessary paperwork to prove this was an authorized home. The children are all living in other hogares awaiting a decision on their case.
Embassy and USCIS consultations with the Government of Guatemala
The following are brief updates on issues or related developments on pending adoption cases that are not under investigation or in the courts:
•Consular officers and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers in Guatemala City are in regular contact with Guatemalan officials about the current situation and to look for approaches that could streamline the process, coordinate the flow of information to adoptive families, and permit all adoptions to move forward. In some instances, the Ambassador has been directly involved in discussions with Guatemalan officials on the adoption situation in Guatemala. Senior State Department officials also regularly raise adoption issues with their Guatemalan counterparts.
•In light of allegations regarding the integrity of Guatemala’s former adoption process, Guatemalan Government authorities are making a concerted effort to confirm all aspects of every case. Because of the large number of investigations, progress overall continues to be extremely slow.
•The Consular Section continues to process visa applications as soon as the files are complete.
The Department of State reminds prospective adoptive parents of the worldwide DNA testing procedures. All second DNA tests for adoptions must be scheduled with the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section. Information is available from the Consular Section at: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/adop20091221.html .
Publication of adoption law regulations
The National Council for Adoptions (CNA) was confirmed as the lead agency for adoptions of Guatemalan children for both domestic and foreign adoptive parents. New procedures implementing the December 2007 adoption law were published by the CNA in the official newspaper in Guatemala and went into effect on July 13, 2010.
Under these rules, Guatemalan parents will be the first to be considered for adoption and foreigners will be considered subsequently. According to the new regulations, a multidisciplinary team composed of psychologists, medical doctors, lawyers and social workers will determine whether a child can be adopted and then will evaluate the prospective adoptive parents to make a decision on whether to allow the adoption of that child.
Reminder - CNA rules and procedures for Guatemala adoptions
Adopting parents are reminded that CNA issued a statement last year telling parents they should not hire private attorneys or notaries to process their adoptions. This announcement applies only to cases that the CNA is processing at this time, i.e., pre-Convention abandonment cases or others that cannot be processed by the PGN.
Special Advisor for International Children’s Issues Appointed
On July 1, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the appointment of Ambassador Susan S. Jacobs as the Special Advisor to the Office of Children’s Issues. This new foreign policy position will address intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. In her new role, Special Advisor Jacobs will actively engage with foreign government officials to protect the welfare and interests of children. Ambassador Jacobs plans to go to Guatemala in the coming months and will meet and advocate on behalf of all adopting parents whose cases were properly registered and are pending.
Special Advisor Jacobs has recently served as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. She is a former Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and her Foreign Service career has included tours in Caracas, Tel Aviv, New Delhi, Bucharest, and San Salvador.
Members of Congress ask Guatemala’s President to expedite adoptions
U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and 75 other Members of Congress signed a letter that was sent to the President of Guatemala, Alvaro Colom, and other key Guatemalan officials, asking them to facilitate the adoptions of approximately 400 cases. The letter discusses the fact that these cases have been pending since at least the 2007 adoption system reform was enacted and the continued concern that these cases have been inexplicably delayed.
The letter asks President Colom to create a transparent system to protect the children, birth parents, and adopting parents.
Survey of Pending Adoption Cases
Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS), the Congressional Coalition on Adoptions Institute (CCAI) and the Guatemala 900 group are conducting a survey on behalf of the U.S. Congress and the Guatemalan Embassy to ensure that they have up-to-date case information on behalf of all families with pending Guatemalan adoption cases. If you have not already responded to the survey, you may do so at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Guatemala2010
As of June 30, 2010, USCIS Guatemala City had 396 active cases. (Note: This total may include cases in which the petitioner has subsequently decided to abandon the case but did not inform USCIS.) Of these cases:
◦355 are pre-approved and pending action by the Government of Guatemala
◦33 are pending U.S. petitioner action
◦4 cases are pending USCIS or other U.S. Government action
◦4 cases were transferred to Consular Section to schedule the final appointment
USCIS Field Office Guatemala City reminds prospective adoptive parents of the procedures for the 1st DNA test required in relinquishment cases. All 1st DNA appointments must be scheduled by USCIS. For more information or to schedule an appointment for DNA collection, please contact USCIS at: Guatemala.Adoptions@dhs.gov .
In response to frequent questions regarding transition cases in Guatemala, USCIS developed an InfoSheet entitled Keeping Required USCIS Documents Valid for Transition Cases. Please note this InfoSheet is only applicable to intercountry adoption cases in Guatemala as outlined in the
Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.