Guest Author - Karen Ledbetter
She advised against falling for any agency’s promise of “you can have your baby now.” She specifically advised against asking to be referred for a child seen on the web, as many families who have gone this route have found themselves in the midst of an adoption nightmare. It’s better, she said, to find your agency first, complete your documents, and wait to receive your referral.
For single applicants, be very sure that your chosen agency will, indeed, work with you. For some reason, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for single males to adopt Guatemalan children.
Don’t be afraid to ask any the agency questions. What if a moratorium occurs in Guatemalan adoption? Does your chosen agency have a contingent plan in place, or will you lose all of the money you have handed over? The agency contract that you’re given to sign should also address this subject.
Be sure that you contract an appropriate agency to provide your homestudy and post-placement visits. Although the agency or agency who provided excellent services for you cousin’s domestic adoption and may cost less than other agencies/attorneys you have contacted, this may not be the best agency or attorney to use in an international adoption, especially if the personnel are inexperienced in international adoption. You may very well save yourself a lot of stress by spending a little more money in the beginning to go with a qualified agency and/or attorney to provide these services. How to find one? Adoptive parent groups can be an excellent source.
Be sure to ask any prospective agency the names of the adoption attorneys that they rely on and the names of intermediaries and/or facilitators that they may use in Guatemala. Find out if the agency is directly placing through the attorneys that it works with. Some “agencies” really aren’t agencies at all. They are actually intermediaries that rely on other sources for the actual placement of children. Because this adds another source to the mix, your adoption fees can be considerably increased if you choose to go this route. Before you go any further, be absolutely sure that the professional has clearance through the U.S. Embassy and Department of Homeland Security to be involved in Guatemalan adoptions. (According to the Guatadopt.com web site, one attorney was recently banned by the U.S. Embassy.)
Ask about the average waiting period for referral and placement of the age child you’re hoping to adopt. One agency with an excellent reputation may have an 18-month waiting period, while an equally reputable agency may have a much shorter waiting period. Check the reputations of agencies and attorneys on one of the Yahoo Guatemala adopt lists or on the Guatemala-Adopt list through Maelstrom.
Does the agency have staff members who speak fluent Spanish? Believe it or not, this can affect the speed (or slowness) of translating and processing documents.
What does the agency require for a dossier? Then do the paperwork in the exact format that your agency requires. Not all agencies have the same requirements. Be very careful of spelling errors, and always use full formal names, i.e. no nicknames, in documents. Something this small can slow down your adoption process.
Be sure to keep duplicate copies of all documents. This way, if something mysteriously disappears (and it quite possibly will), you’ll have a back-up copy to present. Since all documents require notarization, be sure that your notary’s seal will not expire for at least a year from the date of notarization. Also, it’s much simpler and less time-consuming if your witness letters come from residents of your state. Otherwise, the documents may not all go to the same consulate, thus slowing down the whole process.
You’ll be sending documents back and forth between your agency, Secretary of State, and the consulates via Federal Express. Go ahead and open up an account with Federal Express, as it will save time in the long run, and will give you a way to track documents in transit.
If available, utilize the service of an adoption document courier. The courier hand carries documents in for the final seals from the Guatemalan Consulate and can personally check your documents for any errors (and have the errors corrected) BEFORE leaving the Consulate Building with them. The courier service may even be able to send your completed documents directly to your agency! Just imagine all the time and headaches this could save!
You may want to join an online Guatemalan support group. These groups consist of parents who have “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” and can provide a wealth of information, as well as encouragement, to anyone beginning the process. Expect completing your adoption to take the longest time estimated. That way, you’ll be pleasantly pleased if everything is completed earlier! The Guatemalan adoption process is not the same for every family, and international adoption in general routinely changes without notice. Some adoptions appear to go flawlessly, while others seem to hit every bump along the way.
Just hang in there and trust that you will eventually begin a new chapter in your adoption journey upon bringing your child home!
Be sure to come back next week for a listing of agencies that provide Guatemalan adoptions.
Note: I send a huge thank-you and a big hug to Callie for her wonderful insight and help with this article!