Adoption agency's tactics questionable, state says
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Hearing held on DHR's refusal to renew firm's license
Children's Services International (CSI) arranged for American couples to adopt Salvadoran orphans without telling them that the infants had severe medical problems, including possible mental retardation, the state charged Monday during the first day of hearings on whether the Atlanta-based agency should be allowed to continue operating. The Department of Human Resources (DHR) has refused to renew CSI's operating license, a decision the non-profit agency, which specializes in foreign adoptions, i s appealing before a state hearing officer.
Children's Services International (CSI) arranged for American couples to adopt Salvadoran orphans without telling them that the infants had severe medical problems, including possible mental retardation, the state charged Monday during the first day of hearings on whether the Atlanta-based agency should be allowed to continue operating.
"Our contention is that the parents essentially adopted this child in a vacuum, not knowing the medical history of this child," said Assistant Attorney General Mary Russell. She cited the case of a Florida couple, Michelle and Harry Ackerman, who discovered earlier this year that the child they adopted through CSI may be mentally retarded.
A CSI spokesman said the firm passed on to prospective parents all the medical reports it received and said children "don't come with a warranty."
The Department of Human Resources (DHR) has refused to renew CSI's operating license, a decision the non-profit agency, which specializes in foreign adoptions, is appealing before a state hearing officer.
DHR also cited CSI for failing to report to the state within 30 days the arrest last August of a Salvadoran lawyer affiliated with the agency, Roberto Parada, on suspicion of illegally smuggling children out of the Central American country.
DHR also says CSI took fees from parents interested in adopting Filipino children when the agency was never certified by the government in that country to handle adoptions.
Gregory Peterson, assistant director of DHR's office of regulatory services, testified Monday that CSI was told by Filipino officials that virtually all the children available for adoption by foreigners were handicapped or school age. Most CSI clients were looking for healthy infants, he said. CSI has therefore been unable to meet requests for Filipino babies, he said.
But George W. Fryhofer, attorney for CSI, on Monday said the agency has not done anything wrong and accused DHR's of taking "strained and unreasonable" interpretations of state regulations.
Parada was only "briefly detained" and never charged with any criminal violations in El Salvador, said Fryhofer.
He said CSI forwards to prospective parents all medical reports it receives on the children that they are going to adopt. But there is no way to guarantee a perfect child, he said.
"Children don't come with a warranty," he said. "CSI can't guarantee the health of a child."
The hearing room downtown was packed Monday with parents who have adopted children through CSI or are in the process of doing so and don't want the license revoked. Some parents brought their infants to the proceedings, which are expected to continue for most of the week.
CSI places an average of 40 children annually in Georgia for adoption and also has offices in Florida and New Jersey.
Some Georgia clients of CSI worry that the state's actions may scuttle their efforts to adopt children. It is often much faster to adopt a foreign child than to go through the adoption process in the United States, the parents said.
"With all this, it's probably going to slow everything down," said Jean Ann Wacker of Atlanta, who is trying to adopt a Korean baby through CSI. "I think a lot of what DHR seems to be going after are technical things."
Photo: Parents who have adopted children through Children's Services International or are in the process of doing so pack the hearing room Monday / Steve Deal
Photo: Lya Sorano, president of Children's Services International, listens to testimony during the hearing Monday Author: BEASLEY, DAVID; David Beasley Staff Writer STAFF