Georgia cites adoption agency
St. Petersburg Times
Author: DIANE STEINLE
CLEARWATER - Children's Services International (CSI), an Atlanta adoption agency that several Florida couples recently accused of taking their money without delivering children, has been cited for numerous violations of Georgia regulations.
Georgia state regulators said Tuesday their investigators found that CSI:
- Collected fees from clients for services it could not and did not provide, including promising a client a baby when the child's natural mother had not surrendered it for adoption.
- Did not have an approved adoption agreement with the government of the Philippines, yet allegedly told clients that it could get adoptable children from the Philippines.
- Did not inform regulators within 10 days, as required, that its attorney in El Salvador had been arrested and accused of baby trafficking or that several lawsuits had been filed against the agency.
The Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) began investigating CSI last month after receiving complaints. The adoption agency has headquarters in Atlanta and a branch office in Orlando.
In December, the St. Petersburg Times published stories about several Florida families who said CSI lied to them and cheated them out of money.
In one case, a Clearwater family said it was promised a baby born in El Salvador and was even given a picture of the child. But the government of El Salvador cannot locate the child.
In two other cases, babies who had been awarded to Tampa Bay area families were found malnourished in a home with nine other babies, even though the families said they had been required by the agency to pay for individual foster care in a private home.
Investigators said they confirmed many of the complaints from clients in Florida and elsewhere, according to Jewel Norman, assistant commissioner for public affairs for the Georgia DHR.
The agency has been given 10 days to submit an acceptable plan to correct the violations. Ms. Norman said that if it does not submit a plan, or if the plan is not approved, CSI's license, which expired at the end of December, will not be renewed.
Pat Johnson, executive director of CSI, said Wednesday that the agency intends to submit a plan. Ms. Johnson refused to comment on the specific violations found by investigators.
But she said that when agencies are reviewed for license renewal, the state often suggests changes in procedures.
Investigators found that in some cases, CSI required payment from clients for services it did not complete or attempted to collect fees without giving legal documents to clients as agreed.
According to Ms. Norman, investigators discovered several violations involving the agency's relationship with lawyers in foreign countries.
For example, the agency had no policy for buying lawyers' services, she said, and in at least one case had no written contract governing its relationship with a foreign lawyer who handled adoptions. The agency also did not spell out for clients how their payments were being spent or what portion of those fees actually went for legal services.
Investigators also found that the person who was acting director of the agency during most of 1987 did not have a bachelor's degree as required. And the person who took over as director late last year, Ms. Johnson, is doing adoption placement work without the required master's degree in social work or a related field, Ms. Norman said.
Some of the agency's employees who handle large sums of money also are not bonded as required, according to the investigators.