Referral Process for Adoption from Guatemala
Special Note: Currently the U.S. is Not Processing Guatemalan Adoptions
This page explains how a child is recommended for adoption and includes things such as proof the child is eligible for adoption, DNA test results, HIV and other tests, plus information that can help the risk of paying fees and then finding the child is not eligible for adoption.
What is the Referral Process Regarding a Guatemalan Child
The exact sequence of events in an adoption involving a relinquishment may vary from case to case. However, the following should give you the general idea of how the adoption process proceeds:
1) The birth mother who wishes to place her child for adoption contacts a Guatemalan adoption attorney either directly or through an intermediary. The birth mother provides evidence of her identity to the attorney and gives the attorney records of the child's identity and birth. The birth mother then signs documents authorizing the Guatemalan adoption attorney to pursue an adoption and she assigns to the attorney custody of her child. The attorney places the child with a licensed foster care home or a privately run orphanage. When a birth mother places her child for adoption, and after the attorney received permission from the US Embassy, the attorneys will have the birth mother give blood for the DNA test. Some attorneys will also have birth mothers evaluated by a physician and tested for HIV, various types of Hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases. (The only tests that have to be done according to US Law are DNA tests and testing for HIV.) At the time a child is relinquished in Guatemala for adoption, the child is given a physical examination and blood is taken for DNA testing. A child may also be given any required immunizations that they have not received.
2) The referral is then sent to the adopting family. Referrals of Guatemalan children can come from three sources, the Guatemalan adoption attorney, adoption agency, or orphanage working with the attorney. This referral usually include information about the child and can, but usually does not contain information about the birth mother or birth father. Typically the information given at the time a child is referred includes the child's and birth mother's names, basic social and medical data as available, a photo or photos of the child.
3) The adoptive family reviews the referral and of course has the option to accept or reject it. Many families contact a physician in their country to have the medical information on the child evaluated. If the family accepts the referral, they then sign Power of Attorney (POA) to the Guatemalan adoption attorney to permit the attorney to act on their behalf during the adoption process. The Guatemalan attorney then registers the adoptive family's POA, and their dossier with the Guatemalan authorities. Once the POA and the dossier are registered all documents are reviewed and verified for correct translation by Guatemalan officials.
4) Once the family's adoption file has been translated and received, the Guatemalan adoption attorney submits the adoption file to Family Court and petitions the court to assign a social worker to investigate the case. The Family Court social worker reviews the dossier, interviews the birth mother, schedules appointments with the birth mother and foster family, generally visits the child in the foster care or the orphanage setting, and then prepares a report that summarizes the facts of the case and attests to the birth mother's reasons for deciding that she cannot parent the child. While in most cases the social worker recommends that the Family Court judges approve the adoption, this is more than a "rubber stamp" procedure and it is a very critical step in the process. The Family Court judges reviews the social worker's report and makes its recommendation to the PGN. After the family court report is received the birth mother appears before a notary and signs her second consent to place her child for adoption.
5) Since 1998 the US Embassy has required DNA testing for all relinquishment adoptions of Guatemalan children adopted by US citizens. After reviewing an adoption case file, the US Embassy authorizes DNA testing of the birth mother and child to confirm their biological relationship. The DNA testing is carried out by authorized medical personnel of an approved laboratory under strict procedures. The US Embassy reviews the test results and all supporting documentation. If all documents are in order, the US Embassy/BCIS provides the adoption attorney with the consent form which is required before the PGN will authorize the attorney to prepare the final adoption decree.
6) The Guatemala adoption attorney submits the adoption case file and a petition for approval of the adoption to the PGN. The PGN is the government agency in Guatemala which is in charge of approving all adoption cases. Once a file is submitted to the PGN, a PGN notary reviews all documents in the case file and, at his/her discretion, may independently investigate one or more aspects of the case. The PGN notary may reject the file any number of times for a wide variety of reasons that range from serious (e.g., irregularities in the birth mother's or child's identity documents) to minor (e.g., minor spelling errors, expired notary seals). If the case has been rejected, the Guatemala adoption attorney for the birth mother and adoptive family, the agency, or the adopting family is advised of the rejection, and the reason for the rejection is corrected, and the case is resubmitted to the PGN, where it is reviewed again by a PGN notary. Each time a case is rejected it takes approximately two to four weeks for resubmission.
7) Once the PGN has given their approval, the case "comes out of the PGN" and the Guatemala adoption attorney then prepares the final adoption documents, meets with the birth mother for her to sign her final consent to the child's adoption, and files the executed documents. At this point, the child is legally the child of the adoptive parent(s) under Guatemalan law.
8) The Guatemala adoption attorney then has the documents recorded and requests a new birth certificate reflecting the last name of the adoptive family. The attorney then takes all documents including the new birth certificate and applies for the child's Guatemalan passport. The attorney presents the case file with the child's passport and new birth certificate to the US Embassy which again evaluates the case for final approval. After the attorney receives this approval, the adoptive parents travel to Guatemala, and the attorney, the adoptive parents and the child appear at the US Embassy for an interview with a United States Consular officer. This consular officer reviews the case to ensure that the adoption was done properly, and that the child qualifies to immigrate to the United States under US immigration law. Once everything is in order the consular officer issues a visa for the child's entry into the US.
9) Regarding the referral of an abandoned child, while much of the referral information is often available prior to issuance of the COA, it can be risky to accept an abandonment referral, or to sign a contract or make payment to an agency or attorney for services related to a specific abandonment referral, unless or until you actually receive a copy of the child's COA. Until the COA is issued there is no guarantee that the child will actually be available for adoption. Once the COA has been issued the process is very much like that described above for a relinquished adoption.