Guatemala 5000 update: status of transitional adoption rules

Today the Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) issued an update regarding its Guatemala 5000 initiative:

Joint Council Update

Program: International Relations Initiative
Date: January 14, 2008
Regarding: Guatemala 5000

Dear Colleagues,

As part of our ongoing Guatemala 5000 Initiative, Joint Council has maintained dialogue with USDOS and USCIS and met with them most recently on January 7 and again on January 10, 2008. Meetings were also held with UNICEF on December 18, 2007, and on January 9, 2008. Similar dialogue was held with Guatemalan Congressional representatives and government officials along with members of the US Congress over the past three weeks.

Based on these meetings and in consultation with the Guatemala Caucus Co-chairs, the following represents Joint Council’s understandings and advocacy efforts.

Processing of Transition Cases

On January 1, 2008, PGN stopped the processing of all pending adoption cases including the acceptance of new cases, acceptance of cases with previos and the review of cases previously submitted. PGN has however continued to release those cases in which reviews/approvals had been completed as of December 31, 2007. The processing of pending adoptions will begin with the registration of those cases with the Central Authority no later than 30 business days after January 1, 2008 (approximately February 11, 2008).

Both USDOS and USCIS continue to process adoption cases, including the issuance of visas, released by PGN.

Formation of the Central Authority

As required by the new adoption law (Decree 77-2007), the Guatemalan Supreme Court, Bienestar and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have appointed Rudy Soto Ovalle, Marvin Rabanels and Anabela Morfin respectively as their representatives to the Central Authority. The installation of these representatives occurred on Friday January 11, 2008. It should be noted that while the law calls for the appointment of the representatives within 14 business days (approximately January 18th), Joint Council is encouraged that the appointments have occurred sooner than required.

It is expected that within days, these newly appointed representatives will meet as the Central Authority and establish

  1. procedures by which pending cases can be registered
  2. definitions of ‘cases in process’

Registering of Cases

All cases which are in process, as defined by the Central Authority, must be registered within 30 business days of January 1, 2008 (approximately February 11, 2008). Through considerable discussion with all stakeholders, the representatives to the Central Authority have acknowledged the importance of establishing definitions and procedures by which the pending cases can be registered. Given the early formation of the Central Authority and expected release of the definition and registry procedure Joint Council and others remain confident that the registry of pending adoption cases will be completed within the requirements of the law (by approximately February 11, 2008).

New Referrals

Joint Council issued a recommendation that no new referrals be issued after October 1, 2007. To date Joint Council has not amended that recommendation and continues to urge all adoption service providers and potential adoptive parents to refrain from issuing or accepting referrals.

Some adoption service providers continued to issue referrals as recently as the week of December 24th. Given the law’s requirements, the lack of a clear definition of ‘cases in process’ and other uncertainties, the ability of these cases to be registered and ultimately completed under the Notorial process is in serious question.

Applying for a Guatemalan adoption

Recently some have suggested that the passage of the new adoption law will allow potential adoptive parents to apply with the Guatemalan government for an adoption under the new system. While the new law does allow such applications, no procedures currently exist that would allow such an application. In short, applying with the Guatemalan government for an adoption is currently not possible.

Applying with a U.S. Adoption Service Provider

Given the following circumstances, Joint Council urges all adoption service providers and potential adoptive families to refrain from submitting/accepting applications for a Guatemalan adoption at this time.

  • No established regulations, procedures or process currently exists for the submission of an application with the Guatemalan government.
  • Currently Guatemala has limited capacity for the provision of social services such as intercountry adoption.
  • A time-line for the implementation of intercountry adoption related social services has been announced.
  • The new law requires adoption services providers to be accredited under The Hague in the United States and also seek and obtain accreditation from the Guatemalan government prior to participating in adoption services in Guatemala.
    • The Hague Convention and subsequent accreditation of U.S. based adoption service providers will not be in force in the U.S. until April 1, 2008.
    • The process of accrediting adoption service providers by the Guatemalan government has not been announced.

Advocacy

As part of the Guatemala 5000 Initiative, Joint Council continues to advocate for the following definitions and regulations related to the finalization of all transition adoption cases. While Joint Council’s advocacy on this issue is widely known by the U.S. and Guatemalan governments, a letter to the newly appointed members of the Guatemalan Central Authority detailing our specific recommendations (see below) will be received on Wednesday January 16, 2008.

In addition to our ongoing engagement with the U.S. DOS, U.S. CIS and UNICEF, Joint Council has also requested a February meeting with the government of President Alvaro Colom.

Joint Council Recommendations

  1. A case would be eligible for the grandfather status provided that by December 31st, 2007 the case had:
    a. Power of Attorney (POA),
    b. the POA was registered with the Supreme Court,
    c. the Acta de Requerimiento had been issued
  2. The case would be officially grandfathered upon its registration with the Central Authority during a 30 day period beginning December 31, 2007. [esvignore]The 30[/esvignore] day period represents 30 business days.
    a. Cases already “in” PGN (cases where an Aviso has been issued) would be considered to be automatically registered with the Central Authority thereby negating the need for a separate and additional act of registration.
  3. Recognizing that PGN is registered with The Hague as a competent authority, all eligible cases would be registered with the Central Authority via the PGN.

Best Wishes,

Tom

Thomas J DiFilipo
President

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