FAQ: U.S. Withdrawal of Interest in Participating in Guatemala's Pilot Adoption Program

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Q: What is the Pilot Adoption Program and why was it initiated?

In November 2009, the Guatemalan Central Authority, the National Adoption Council or Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA), announced plans for a pilot adoption program. Under the pilot program, the CNA would work with four countries to process about 200 adoptions of mainly special needs and older children, under an adoption process under development that would meet the requirements of the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention. The pilot program represents the CNA's first attempt to start new intercountry adoptions from Guatemala. The U.S. Central Authority and nine other countries submitted letters of interest in the program.

Q: Why did the U.S. Central Authority withdraw its interest in participation in the pilot program?

The U.S. Central Authority, under the Hague Intercountry Adoption, Convention withdrew its letter of interest in the pilot program because of concerns that adoptions under the program would not meet the requirements of the Hague Convention. Specifically, the United States is concerned that the CNA has not yet addressed and resolved vulnerabilities that led to widespread corruption and ultimately to the 2007 moratorium on intercountry adoptions. Specifically, the United States believes that more safeguards for children should be in place before the CNA could start processing new intercountry adoptions. In addition, the Guatemalan Government has not yet provided specific details for how adoption cases under the pilot program would be processed under Guatemala's new adoption law.

Q: Why is the U.S. pulling out before the CNA announces which countries have been selected to participate in the pilot program?

When the U.S. Central Authority submitted its letter of interest in joining the pilot program, it would not commit to participating until more information regarding the actual procedures that would be put into place became available in order to enable us to assess the program's compliance with the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention. However, we are concerned that after almost one year since the announcement of the pilot program that Guatemala has not yet provided specific details regarding how pilot cases will be processed. Therefore, we have no confidence that the safeguards that would prevent fraud and other problems inherent in the previous notarial adoption process from occurring are firmly in place and that the vulnerabilities of the past have been adequately addressed at this point. We also note that UNICEF, which had been working closely with the CNA towards development of a new international adoption process in Guatemala, recently announced that it is withdrawing its involvement in the Guatemalan adoption process, citing a number of concerns.

Q: Why haven't other countries pulled out of consideration for participation in the pilot program?

The United States has focused much scrutiny on allegations of corruption in Guatemala, and places the utmost importance on its responsibility to ensure to the greatest extent possible that any placement of children with U.S. families is in accordance with international standards. Unfortunately, under the current assessment of the situation in Guatemala, the United States believes that it cannot be assured that the necessary safeguards against abuse exist. It is also our hope that, in withdrawing U.S. interest in participating in the pilot program, we act as a catalyst that will cause both the Government of Guatemala and the governments of other countries considering participation to reconsider their involvement and, instead, focus on the additional measures needed for Guatemala to come into compliance with the Hague Convention.

Q: How will this withdrawal affect active "grandfathered" cases that are already in the pipeline?

The United States is only withdrawing its interest in participating in the pilot program at this time. This means that the United States does not wish to begin NEW adoption cases. Withdrawal of U.S. interest in participating in the pilot program should not impact the processing of active "grandfathered" adoptions in progress. In fact, we hope that our withdrawal will result in a shift of resources by the Government of Guatemala towards resolving these pending cases.

Q: When did Guatemala halt new intercountry adoptions?

In 2007, due to concerns about widespread corruption and fraud in adoptions, Guatemala placed a moratorium on new intercountry adoptions until a Hague- compliant adoption process could be developed and implemented. A December 2007 law created a new Guatemalan Central Authority, the CNA, for processing most intercountry adoptions.

Q: What does it mean to be a "grandfathered" case?

Guatemala's new adoption law to implement fully its obligations under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption was approved on December 11, 2007 and went in effect on December 31, 2007. A new Guatemalan Government agency to serve as the "Central Authority" for adoptions, the CNA, was created at that time. Notarial adoption cases that were in process before December 31, 2007 would be permitted to continue but only if the cases were registered with the CNA by spring 2008. Cases that were registered with the CNA would be considered "grandfathered" and allowed to continue their notarial adoption process under Guatemala's previous law. For relinquishment adoption cases to continue, the CNA and PGN were also required to interview the birth mother by August 2008.

However, it is important to note that any irregularities found in the notarial process of a particular case could negate the "grandfathered" status and prevent the case from being able to proceed.

Q: When will new adoptions from Guatemala to the United States begin?

The United States hopes that its withdrawal of interest in participating in the pilot program will encourage Guatemala to dedicate its resources to resolving existing cases and putting in place adequate safeguards to prevent the same type of corruption and fraud that occurred in the past. While we cannot predict when adoptions from Guatemala to the United States will resume, we will continue to work closely with the CNA and the Guatemalan Government to assist them with resolving the pending issues.