Under a new adoptions law passed in December, Guatemala is requiring that all babies up for adoption must be officially approved and registered before they can be released.

The law, passed under pressure from the United States, is aimed at improving a previously poorly regulated adoption process dogged by allegations of stolen babies and mothers allegedly coerced to give up their babies.

The new law created the independent Central Adoption Authority to oversee the process, but authority representatives said the work to register all of the children could take months because they lack adequate personnel and funding.

"The lack of resources slows down the issuance of certificates," Marvin Rabanales, a government delegate to the authority, told The Associated Press on Monday. "We have no staff, just two law students, and let’s not talk about computers; we don’t even have a chair to sit on," he said.

The authority’s offices currently are located in a house temporarily on loan by a nonprofit organization, Rabanales said. He said the organization informed him the house has been sold and the adoption authority must vacate the premises by Feb. 15.

The administration of President Alvaro Colom fired Rabanales and a second delegate, and refused to turn over $1.3 million previously appropriated by congress until he has named their replacements.

"We feel it’s our right to name the people we are comfortable working with," Colom spokesman Fernando Barillas said. "We will not move a single cent until this legal issue is settled."

Rabanales and his fired colleague, Anabella Morfin, have appealed their firings in court and say they will continue to work until the issue is resolved.

Caught in the middle of the dispute are hopeful adoptive parents including Lance Kevin Armstrong, from the state of Colorado. He declined to say where in Colorado he was from.

"We don’t know what’s going on," said Armstrong, who along with his wife is in the process of adopting his second Guatemalan daughter. "We just know that we are missing the ‘constancia’ (certificate) and without it our paperwork can’t go forward."

The Armstrongs adopted their first little girl on July 4, 2007, after a process of about seven months, much faster than it takes to adopt a child in China and other countries.

SOURCE: AP by JUAN CARLOS LLORCA