Adoption agency may lose license
St. Petersburg Times
Author: DIANE STEINLE
Children's Services International (CSI) - an adoption agency accused of cheating clients and not delivering the children promised to them - may soon be out of business in Florida and Georgia.
Both states have refused to renew the agency's license to operate.
''The corporation has done some things that we think are quite serious - serious enough that we are willing to revoke their license,'' said Jim Sawyer, attorney for the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS).
Sawyer informed the adoption agency last week that its application for annual license renewal was denied, ''which will have the effect of ending their right to do business in Florida,'' he said.
The agency so far has not taken advantage of its right to request an appeal within 30 days. CSI's Florida office, near Orlando, closed last week, and its telephone has been disconnected.
CSI, which specializes in foreign adoptions and has its headquarters in Atlanta, did appeal Georgia's recent refusal to renew its license.
An emotion-charged appeal hearing in Atlanta last week lasted four days and included testimony by several Tampa Bay-area residents who complained about CSI in stories published in the St. Petersburg Times last July and December.
Debbie Carlisle of Clearwater testified against CSI at the request of the Georgia Department of Human Resources. Mrs. Carlisle and her husband, Pat, said CSI promised them a baby born in El Salvador. They were allowed to name her Caitlin Rebecca at birth and were sent photographs of the infant.
They won't get her because authorities in the United States and El Salvador can't find her. They don't know if she ever was available for adoption.
Wayne and Donna Mori of Palm Harbor also testified against CSI at the hearing. Some supporters of the agency who showed off foreign children they had successfully adopted through CSI also attended.
The Moris paid CSI $1,600 in initial fees and were told they would get a baby from the Philippines. After more than a year of delays, they learned CSI had no Philippine program. They have filed a lawsuit to recover their money.
Pat Johnson, executive director of CSI in Atlanta, did not return a reporter's call Thursday.
An investigation of the agency was begun by the government of El Salvador and the U.S. Consulate there after several Florida families asked for help in getting children they had adopted through CSI.
CSI's attorney in El Salvador and his wife were arrested last August on suspicion of baby trafficking. At the same time, two babies promised to Tampa Bay families were found malnourished in a crowded home with nine other babies, even though the clients were paying for individual foster care.
Georgia regulators checking into complaints against CSI alleged that CSI collected fees for services it could not deliver, including promising a client a baby when the child's natural mother had not surrendered it for adoption.
The volume of complaints against CSI, particularly from Florida families, prompted both Georgia and Florida to act against the agency, officials said.
In Georgia, the state hearing officer who presided at the appeal hearing last week will render a decision within 90 days. If he rules against CSI, the agency may appeal to the state courts.