August 2, 2006
You can help
I've talked a little bit before (I think) about the Hague Convention and the problems it will cause for Guatemalan adoptions once the U.S. ratifies the convention sometime in 2007. Unless Guatemala makes some big legislative changes, it looks like adoptions between our two countries will be closed down. I've read that something like 20% of children in Guatemala die before the age of 5, be they orphans or no, from poor nutrition and water. It would be a tragedy for families here in the U.S. longing for a child, and children in Guatemala longing for a family, to be kept apart by bureaucracy.

Agency directors here in the U.S. are trying to bring Guatemalan legislators to San Francisco in the next week or so to meet many adoptive families and discuss why they must implement legislative changes into their congress (which they are currently reluctant to do). This is estimated to cost about $30,000. If you can spare anything to help a worthy cause, please consider doing so.

This is cut and pasted from the Focus on Adoption List:

As many of you know, the Department of State (DOS) has stated that the U.S. will be considering Guatemala as a Hague Country when the U.S. ratifies the Treaty, sometime between June and December 2007. Therefore they are expecting Guatemala to develop regulations/legislation which are Hague compliant in order for adoptions between the US and Guatemala to continue. Even though there's been a petition entered in the Constitutional Court asking the CC to order President Berger to formally withdraw from the Hague Treaty, the DOS has expressed serious concerns about Guatemalan adoptions which have to be addressed, or they probably will close the US to Guatemalan children - irregardless of their Hague status.

The BOD of Focus On Adoption has discussed this impending crisis and has come to a position on the issues. With some reservations, we believe that trying to get the DOS to change its mind in enough time to avert a major crisis would be extremely risky, as chances of success are minimal. On the other hand, the U.S. implementing regulations for the Hague Treaty are a model for Hague implementation, which Guatemala could adapt, and it could leave the Notarial process and much of the process intact, with some additional changes. The DOS' concerns are the lack of oversight and accountability for agencies, and facilitators in the U.S.,as well as attorneys and intermediaries (contacts) and facilitators in Guatemala, and the attendant lack of transparency about fees and where the money goes.

Therefore, Focus On Adoption has prepared a letter to the Instituto and the ADA leaders which we hope will be disseminated to ALL the attorneys in Guatemala, urging them to develop legislation which will comply with the main conditions of the Hague Treaty and address the DOS' concerns, concerns which many agencies, adoptive families, and many lawyers in Guatemala also share. Once this letter is finalized, we will be posting it on this listserve in the next few days. We hope you will share this with the attorneys you know in Guatemala, as well.

Jeannene Smith and Traci and Chip Orr, Board Members of FOA, have prepared a proposal which structurally takes the Hague Treaty and the Guatemalan process and essentially the way the U.S. has delegated responsibility and functions of the Central Authority (DOS) and created a proposal, which can be used as a road map for those in Guatemala preparing legislative initiatives. The DOS has reviewed this proposal (which has been "tweaked" and is being revised somewhat) and finds it acceptable. We've sent it to some Guatemalan attorney leaders so that they can use it as a model. We believe that the legislation should be initiated by the Attorneys and adoption friendly legislators, as we know that the Government will be trying to pass legislation which is radically different from the current law and process, in an effort to centralize and deprivatize the process -- which will lead to major confrontations, constitutional challenges, and will put so many children at risk.

Many of the Board of FOA as well as supporters are also members of JCICS and are on a Task Force which eventually will be composed of Guatemalan stakeholders, government officials, and the DOS, as well as JCICS representatives to try to find common ground. A delegation will be meeting with the Guatemalan attorney leaders and legislators in the near future.

Meanwhile, we have retained an International Law Professor to analyze the situation and he is preparing a brief regarding the actual legal status of the Hague Treaty in Guatemala. History has shown us that prior efforts to pass moderate and adoption friendly legislation has not fared well. If a legislative solution cannot be found - we would then want to make every effort to assure that adoption remains an option for the children of Guatemala.

Because many of the moderate changes proposed by the responsible attorneys in Guatemala have encountered opposition - and been changed unacceptably in the congressional committees --- the leaders of several of the Political parties in Guatemala, who are adoption friendly, have recommended that NO changes be initiated. Now, we have to convince them to help find a legislative and political solution. To this end, the ADA is trying to bring several Guatemalan congressmen to San Francisco in a week or so in order to have them meet with adoptive families and agencies and discuss these issues. They have asked us for financial assistance in helping pay for this trip, which will be quite expensive. Contributions are needed urgently and should be sent to Focus On Adoption, preferably by check as paypal takes too long.

Checks should be sent to:c/o Jeannene Smith, Treasurer
Focus on Adoption
312 S. Lincoln Avenue
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002

Checks should be made out to : Focus On Adoption

More on this and other topics shortly,
warm regards,
Hannah Wallace, President
Blogger Amy said...
Thanks for sharing this with me, Slush. I had no idea and I'm glad you opened my eyes to this.

Anonymous sara said...
Yikes. What does this mean for you guys? Will be praying for you.

Blogger SlushTurtle said...
Hopefully we will be home with little Julio before the US ratifies the Hague Convention. Even if we aren't home, we should be far enough along that it won't affect us. However, a lot of people with one Guatemalan baby would like him/her to have a sibling from the same country, and it will pose serious problems down the road. And of course, there will be tragic consequences to the children themselves.

Blogger adopttwins said...
I just returned from Guatemala having spent 10 days in an orphanage just outside the city. Meeting with an old friend who is a legislator, we have come to understand that we must find a way to communicate much more efficiently. There are those in the legislature who are very concerned and others who simply ignore it. They understand many of the issues stated above. but my conversation with him proves that their due process is slow and uninforming and riddled with corruption. If you are pro-adoption, then you probably know about the two main camps (Pro and Unicef). As proponents of adoption (adoptee of and adoptee and now adoptive parents of twins from Guatemala), we must spread the word for reform. Anyone who has gone through international adoption or even domestic adoption understands that regulation is virtually non-existent. Talk to all who are pro and let's get change and reform so the 20,000 plus children in Guatemla have a chance for a family..