Author: BEASLEY, DAVID; David Beasley Staff Writer STAFF
The embattled Atlanta-based adoption agency Children's Services International (CSI) can continue operating in Georgia for at least the next several months, pending a decision by a hearing officer on the state's efforts to close it.
Lya Sorano, president and founder of the agency, said Thursday the dispute wi th the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) has sharply curtailed the demand for its services. CSI specializes in foreign adoptions.
"People want to know if we are going to be around a year from now," said Mrs. Sorano.
DHR, in declining to renew CSI's operating license, maintains the agency failed to inform couples that the children they were adopting had serious medical problems, including possible mental retardation. The department also alleges that CSI accepted fees from couples seeking to adopt Filipino children when it had not been approved by the Philippine government to handle adoptions.
CSI appealed the DHR decision, resulting in a four-day hearing this week capped by emotional testimony from prospective clients who complained about problems they experienced in trying to adopt children through the agency. A rash of client complaints followed the arrest last August in El Salvador of Roberto Parada, a lawyer who handled adoptions for CSI, on suspicion of illegally smuggling children out of the Central American country.
The state of Florida has also declined to renew CSI's license, according to testimony introduced during this week's hearing.
Melvin Goldstein, a Marietta lawyer acting as hearing officer for CSI's appeal, is not expected to issue a ruling in the case for at least three months.
In the meantime, CSI can continue to offer adoption services in the state, said Mary Russell, a Georgia assistant attorney general.
Mrs. Sorano said her firm will continue work on 150 pending adoption cases in Georgia.