Judge Orders Unlicensed Agency to Halt Adoption Services

Date: 1989-05-23

The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Author: RINER, DUANE; Duane Riner Staff Writer STAFF

A judge Monday ordered the operators of Children's Services International (CSI) to stop their adoption activities or face contempt of court proceedings.

Fulton Superior Court Senior Judge Osgood O. Williams issued a permanent injunction against the private, non-profit agency, which he ruled has not materially altered its adoption services, although it lost its license in December.

Violation of the injunction, he said, would place CSI's operators, Lya Sorano and Patricia Johnson, in contempt of court.

"The extent to which CSI has involved itself in providing adoption services leads to the inescapable conclusion that by design they engage in activity which provides assistance in locating and effecting the move of a child from a foreign country to an adoptive home in this state or the United States," Judge Williams wrote in his 11-page order.

Judge Williams said evidence presented in court by the state Department of Human Resources (DHR) indicates that CSI, which contends it has confined its activity to counseling, is providing seven of the eight services "which, when coordinated through an agency, result in the placement of a child."

Robert G. Brazier, a lawyer for CSI, said he is disappointed in the ruling and will ask Judge Williams to suspend its enforcement pending an appeal. "The regulations and the interpretation placed on them by DHR are vague, and we will seek a determination from a higher court," he said.

DHR refused to renew the agency's license last year after finding that it violated several regulations, including failure to report within 10 days that a lawyer in El Salvador who did business with CSI clients had been arrested on a child-smuggling charge.

Judge Williams refused on Dec. 9 to block DHR's action, and the state brought CSI back to court earlier this month following a random review of the agency's records in April.

Among the state's witnesses was 19-year-old Alicia Dennis, who said she called CSI to inquire about adoption procedures while seven months pregnant. She said she was visited in her home by Ms. Johnson, former executive director of CSI who now serves as a consultant to the firm, and was given a background information form to fill out. She said she made excuses to avoid a follow-up visit by Ms. Johnson after learning the agency had lost its state license.

Another state witness, Denise Edwards of the DHR Office of Regulatory Services, said she reviewed random files at the agency's Peachtree Road office in April and found that CSI was still engaged in activities such as recruiting adoptive homes and talking to prospective adoptive parents about specific children available for placement.

Both Ms. Sorano, president of CSI, and Ms. Johnson testified that the agency merely counsels prospective parents interested in seeking adoptions in Latin American nations and helps them prepare their applications and translate them into Spanish.

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