Adoption Agency's Ga. License on Line at Hearing
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Author: RINER, DUANE; Duane Riner Staff Writer STAFF
A child placement agency specializing in adoptions of children born in other countries will be given a court hearing Monday in a last-ditch effort to keep its Georgia license.
Saying he was "concerned about due process" in the Department of Human Resources (DHR) action against Children's Services International Inc., Fulton Superior Court Judge Osgood O. Williams stayed a Friday deadline that the state had imposed for the adoption agency to close. The judge scheduled "a full-blown hearing" for Monday.
Until he rules, the agency will accept no new applications for adoptions under an agreement with DHR.
Children's Services International was denied a renewal of its license by DHR Commissioner James G. Ledbetter in October after the state cited the agency for several violations of regulations, including its failure to report within 10 days the child-smuggling arrest of a lawyer in El Salvador who had done business with the placement firm. Following a four-day administrative hearing, the state concluded that the agency had not corrected such deficiencies as taking money from prospective adopti ve parents in Florida for Filipino babies it could not deliver. Failure to provide accurate reports on the health of some children up for adoption was also cited by the state.
The agency's lawyer, Robert G. Brazier, who asked Judge Williams to postpone enforcement of the DHR decision pending a judicial review, said all of the complaints in the DHR notice of deficiency arose from activities of the adoption agency's Florida operation and relate to services rendered to Florida residents. A DHR spokeswoman said the Florida operation since has been closed on orders of state officials there. The lawyer said the agency was not aware that regulations required it to repor t the arrest of one of its contractors, against whom he said no charges are pending. He said the agency did report the arrest in writing when it learned of the state requirement.
As for the missing health reports on two children found to be impaired, the lawyer said DHR is aware that such reports are impossible to obtain in some Latin American countries.
He blamed the situation involving adoptions of infants from the Philippines on a change in government policy that gives first priority for infant adoptions to Philippine nationals living in the country and second priority to Filipinos living abroad. Only older children and those having "special needs" are available for adoption in the United States under the new policy, Mr. Brazier said, and the adoption agency has stopped taking applications for infants from that country. However, he said agency officials had been assured during a trip to the Philippines that applications for "normal, healthy infants" handled by the agency before the policy shift will be given consideration. The state's lawyer, William Droze, told Judge Williams at the preliminary hearing that the agency's attitude toward state regulations is that they are "something to be avoided, not followed." He said the adoption agency took money from eight Florida couples "to participate in a Philippine program that didn't exist ." He said the agency then failed to advise the hopeful prospective parents there were no normal, healthy Filipino babies available for adoption here. Mr. Droze asked Judge Williams not to allow the agency "to go out and wreak havoc, not only on familie s in Georgia but in other states." Arguing against even a temporary stay of the DHR commissioner's order, the state attorney said violations and abuses by the agency are continuing. Mr. Brazier said after the court hearing that he does not know why stat e officials are "coming after this agency." He said he fears that the DHR decision to pull the agency's license will have a harmful effect on other international child placement services in Georgia.