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
GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan legislators approved a bill Tuesday that tightens adoptions but allows pending cases, mostly involving U.S. couples, to go through without meeting the stricter requirements.
President Oscar Berger is expected to sign the measure, enabling Guatemala to comply with an international agreement designed to protect adopted children from human trafficking. The country sent 4,135 children to the U.S. last year, making it the largest source of babies for American families after China.
Many adoptive parents feared that the changes would leave in limbo about 3,700 pending adoptions, and the State Department had pressured Guatemala to make exceptions.
Adoptions have been handled exclusively by notaries, who charge an average of $30,000. One in every 100 Guatemalans born in recent years has been growing up as an adopted American.
Critics claim the system has allowed birth mothers to sell their babies for profit, and the new measure expressly prohibits birth parents from being paid.
The legislation would also create an oversight agency responsible for setting any fees.
The Department of State has received inquiries about the status of anticipated adoption reforms in Guatemala, and the outlook for adoption cases which are currently pending. Whether the Guatemalan government elects to implement the Hague Convention on December 31st or later in the spring of 2008, pending cases would not be affected if, as expected, the final legislation includes a transition provision that allows pending cases to be processed to conclusion under current law. We continue to advise American Citizens not to initiate new adoptions until the Government of Guatemala has completed its implementation of the Hague Convention.
Adoption reform legislation remains under discussion in Guatemala’s Congress. We continue to advocate for a law that complies with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and that includes transition provisions for cases already filed under the current system of law.
Passage of a new adoption law is only the first step. The next, urgent priority will be for Guatemalan officials to establish a Hague compliant system. Designing and implementing the necessary structural reforms will take time.
The Guatemalan Government has said it will assume its obligations as a Hague Convention member on December 31, 2007, a decision we support, because Guatemala’s children — indeed all parties to an international adoption — deserve the protections afforded by the Convention as soon as possible. When the Hague Convention goes into force for the U.S. in the spring of 2008, both the U.S. and Guatemala must have Hague-compliant adoption procedures in order for new adoption cases to be filed. Thus in the interest of long-term adoptions from Guatemala, responsible, prompt reform of the current law and procedures is critically important. The U.S. is committed to provide assistance and support to the Guatemalan authorities for this task.
SOURCE: U.S. State Department