Saturday, October 10, 2009


The Relinquishment

Karen Abigail was a two year old girl who was brought on January 2, 2007, by her mother, a woman named Felicita Antonia, to Marvin Josue Bran Galindo, an adoption facilitator in Mixco, a town very close to Guatemala City. This facilitator worked with a Celebrate Children Inc., a Florida based adoption agency, in finding homes for children who needed them. The agency director, Susan Hedberg, referred Karen Abigail to a Missouri family, and her adoption as a relinquishment was started. I have no personal knowledge of either Marvin Josue Bran Galindo or Ms. Hedberg and did not know the lawyers who attempted the adoption of Karen Abigail.

The adoption process was initiated, submitted to Family Court and the social worker appointed by the Family Court interviewed the foster mother, the birthmother and the girl being adopted. The file did not go to the PGN because of the lack of the US Embassy pre approval.

After many delays and excuses, and seven months after Karen Abigail was referred to the Missouri couple, the DNA test was performed until July 9th, 2007, and the results were negative. The consequence was that the adoption could not be finalized because the positive DNA is a requirement of the US embassy to prove that the mother who relinquish the child is actually the birthmother of that child. The PGN, at the request of the adoption attorneys, started requiring the preapproval of the embassy before giving its approval to the adoption process.

After the DNA test failed, the adoptive parents were told that the real mother of Karen Abigail was the sister of the woman who went with her at the DNA test, and that she was going to be persuaded to come forward and to do her daughter’s adoption. This never happened and the offer of another referral was never an option for the devastated adoptive parents, who sought a Missouri lawyer for advice. This lawyer told them to talk to me, to ask me to help them to solve in a legal and ethical way, the situation of abandonment of Karen Abigail.

The adoptive mother also told us that they had been trying to adopt Karen Abigail since the end of November, 2006, when they approached the US adoption agency that was helping them to adopt a boy from Guatemala, after looking at the picture of Karen Abigail on their website and she was told that she and her husband could adopt her, on December 2006. They met Karen Abigail in January 2007, when they came to Guatemala to visit the boy they were then adopting. After referring Karen to the MO couple, for seven months, the Guatemalan facilitator did not do the DNA test, arguing that the midwife's ID was missing, until July 9th, 2007 when the DNA specimens were swabbed at the lab in the Multimedica building in zone 15, and then were analyzed by LabCorp in North Carolina. The DNA test results were negative, but it was obvious that there was a close kinship between the girl tested and the woman pretending to be her mother. Normally, only ten genetic markers are analyzed, but in this case LabCorp analyzed twenty, and only two genetic markers out of the twenty were different between the woman and the girl. This strongly suggests that an aunt of the girl was impersonating the girl's mother and it is highly probable that the aunt could have been helping the biological mother if she had some problem that prevented her from doing the adoption herself, as happens when the mother is married and the child is not the husband's or when the birthmother is underage and she does not want her parents to find out that she had a child. There was nothing to indicate that we were dealing with a case of a stolen child.

According to the former adoption procedure, when the DNA done to the birth mother and child got negative results, the adoption could not proceed any further and the child was either a) returned to the woman who appeared as birthmother or b) the child was presented to the Court of Minors, to be sent to an orphanage, where his chances of being adopted were very slim, or c) it could be, if he child was really lucky, that such child was entrusted to an orphanage that would undertake the uphill battle of getting him a declaration of abandonment. Of course, this only happens after the possibility of finding the real mother of the child is exhausted and only if no relatives claim the child, in which case, the judge would not hesitate to give the child to the birth family.

The Abandonment Process

The Law of Integral Protection of the Childhood and Adolescence states that when the rights of a child are at risk or are being violated, the case must be brought before a judge who has to preside over an oral process to decide the way to restore those rights if the investigation done by the PGN shows that they have been violated or are threatened. The Civil Code states that the director of the orphanages have legal custody of the children under its care since the moment they are admitted at the orphanage and there is no need for a judge to appoint them as legal guardians. Based on those legal provisions, the orphanages have the right to represent the children in matters before the courts. I help Association Primavera with the cases that have to be processed before the Courts of Childhood and adolescence to seek protective measures for the children whose rights have been violated, to help those children to solve their legal situation.

Under the advice of their US lawyer, the adoptive parents of Karen Abigail requested the Celebrate Children International director, to instruct Marvin Bran to order Veronica, the foster mother to present Karen Abigail to the orphanage of Primavera to start her abandonment process, which she did on September 12th. 2007.

The abandonment process started on September 18, 2007, with a petition filed by the director of Primavera under my legal direction, to the Judge of Minors of Escuintla, requesting him to investigate the situation of the girl named Karen Abigail, because her DNA test had negative results and her birthmother could not be located. The petition to the court was to locate her birth mother or her birth family and if that could not be possible, to restore her rights by ordering her adoption and it included all the pertinent documents: a copy of the DNA negative results, the birth certificate of Karen Abigail, copies of the ID documents (cedulas) of Felicita and Veronica and copies of the notarial acts where Karen Abigail was placed first with Veronica as foster mother while her adoption was processed and then, by Veronica to Primavera.

The court ordered Primavera to publish ads in two newspapers with the picture of Karen Abigail, which were published in Siglo Veintiuno and Al Día on October 5th., 2007 stating that the two year old girl was abandoned and summoning her mother to come forward at the Court of Escuintla. The court also ordered the PGN to conduct an investigation to search for the birthmother of Karen Abigail or for a relative who could and would raise her. A hearing that I could not attend, was held on November 6th, 2007. It was attended by Enriqueta, who is the Primavera director, Karen Abigail and a PGN Lawyer acting as deputy delegate of the PGN in Escuintla At that hearing, the PGN lawyer asked the judge to postpone the final ruling, due to the lack of a report from the Missing Persons Division of the National Civil Police, and therefore, another hearing was set for December 5th., 2007, when the PGN delegate submitted a written request to the court stating that since all the investigation was done and the report of the Missing Persons Unit was already in the file, to rule on the matter, declaring the violation of rights of Karen Abigail and to order to restore them through adoption. Accordingly, the court ruled the violation of rights of Karen Abigail to respect, dignity, personal integrity, adequate level of life and to a family, revoking the order of temporary shelter and granting the order to shelter permanently the child at Association Primavera until this entity could include Karen Abigail in an adoption program, ordering it to record its legal custody of Karen Abigail in the birth record of Karen Abigail in the Civil Registry of the Port of Iztapa, Escuintla, where her birth was already recorded.

The Adoption

The notarial adoption of Karen Abigail was started on December 13, 2007 and it was registered at the National Council of Adoptions on February 10, 2008, as a requirement to continue processing the adoption according to the old laws. On April 3rd. 2008, the US embassy gave its pre approval for the visa of Karen Abigail. On February 29th, 2008, the process was filed in court and the social worker of the Family Court who was appointed to the case, did the home study recommending the adoption of Karen Abigail by the MO couple, on May 5th. 2008.

The director of Primavera ratified her consent for the adoption of Karen Abigail by the MO couple on May 8th. 2008, and on May 29th, 2008, the file was submitted at the PGN. The director of Primavera took Karen Abigail to the verification interview with representatives of the PGN and the CNA on July 29th, 2008, where the mothers who were looking for their missing children kept a close watch of all the children being brought to the interviews, in case their missing child was among them. Nobody claimed Karen Abigail.

The PGN gave a favorable opinion on July 28th., 2008, but was released until September 2008. The final deed was signed by the attorney who represented the adoptive prent and by the director of Association Primavera and authorized by the notary who presided over the process, on September 2nd., 2008.

The recording of the adoption was slow because the National Registry of Persons (RENAP) was not fully organized yet and it took two months to record Karen Abigail's adoption and obtain a birth certificate with the names of the adoptive parents on it (needed in order to obtain her passport). After the final deed was signed, the adoptive mother fostered Karen Abigail in Antigua, took her to get the passport and waited with Karen until she and her husband could travel to Missouri on December 9th., 2008.

Her adoptive parents visited Karen several times during her derailed adoption and during her abandonment process and then again during her adoption process. Karen was fostered by her adoptive mother during the last month (November 2008) of her adoption process. It was her adoptive mother who took Karen to get her passport and to her final medical check-up. So there is no possibility whatsoever that either Karen or her records were switched sometime during all that time. The DA has been saying that the passport picture does not match the adoption picture, but that is not true. What looks different is the way her mother did her hair, that makes her look older, but the face is the same, without a doubt.

(To be continued...)