Guatemala Urged on Adoption Procedures

The Associated Press
Thursday, January 11, 2007; 11:47 PM

GUATEMALA CITY -- Guatemala must improve its procedures for adoptions by American parents or the U.S. will no longer provide visas for the babies, a State Department official said Thursday.

Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs Maura Harty told reporters that the improvements need to be made before the U.S. ratifies the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions later this year.

The Hague Convention sets tough standards that Guatemala's corruption-prone adoption system doesn't meet.

"Guatemala must pass the legislation under the convention soon," said Harty.

More than 4,000 Guatemalan babies were adopted by American parents last year, making the Central American nation the second highest source of U.S. adoptions after China.

Under current laws, willing parents can adopt Guatemalan babies by paying thousands of dollars to notaries who act as baby brokers, recruiting birth mothers, handling all the paperwork and completing the job in less than half the time it takes elsewhere.

The Hague Convention requires that a government agency regulate adoptions, especially to make sure the babies have not been bought or stolen.

© 2007 The Associated Press