State Upheld in Its Refusal to Renew License of Adoption Agency
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Author: BEASLEY, DAVID; David Beasley Staff Writer STAFF
A hearing officer has upheld the state's refusal to renew the license of Children's Services International Inc. (CSI) of Atlanta, accused of arranging the adoptions of Salvadoran orphans without telling the American clients that the children had severe afflictions.
The Department of Human Resources (DHR) has charged that CSI, a non-profit agency specializing in foreign adoptions, arranged for two Florida couples to adopt Salvadoran orphans who, the foster parents later learned, had serious medical problems, including possible mental retardation.
The state also accused CSI of accepting fees from clients wanting to adopt Filipino children when the agency had no agreement with the Philippine government to handle adoptions.
Officials at CSI, which places about 40 orphans a year, have denied misleading clients and plan to appeal the Sept. 16 ruling by state hearing officer Melvin Goldstein, a Marietta attorney hired by DHR to hear the case.
A rash of client complaints against CSI followed the 1987 arrest in El Salvador of Robert Parada, a lawyer who handled adoptions for the agency, on suspicion of smuggling babies out of the country. CSI maintained, however, that Mr. Parada was only briefly detained and never charged with a crime.
CSI has 15 days to appeal the ruling to DHR Commissioner James G. Ledbetter. CSI can continue operating while the appeal is pending, said DHR spokeswoman Joyce Goldberg.
If turned down by Mr. Ledbetter, CSI officials can seek to have the decision overturned in Fulton County Superior Court, Ms. Goldberg said.
"The company intends to appeal," said George W. Fryhofer III of Atlanta, CSI's attorney.
In a 34-page ruling, Mr. Goldstein held that while an adoption agency can't always guarantee a healthy child, families attempting international adoptions "should not be forced to engage in a game of medical roulette." CSI should provide "regularly updated" medical information on children scheduled for adoption, Mr. Goldstein wrote.
Mr. Fryhofer said that CSI always provides prospective parents with all available medical information on the children they are trying to adopt. The problem, he said, is that medical care often is limited in countries such as El Salvador, making it difficult to obtain accurate health reports.
The attorney said most of the complaints came from disgruntled clients of the agency's Florida office, which is no longer in operation.
The vast majority of CSI's clients are happy with the agency, Mr. Fryhofer said.
"There are a lot of parents out there who have been very satisfied with the agency and would not have children now if not for the agency," he said.