Adoption Agency to Challenge DHR in Regulatory Dispute

Date: 1989-01-10

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

Despite the loss of its license, an Atlanta adoption agency has decided to keep its doors open as a challenge to the state's right to regulate its counseling services for couples interested in foreign adoptions.

A lawyer for Children's Services International (CSI) said the state Department of Human Resources (DHR) will need a court injunction to shut down the private, non-profit agency, which has been in business since 1980.

According to attorney Robert G. Brazier, CSI ended its domestic child-placement services after a judge refused to block a decision by DHR Commissioner James G. Ledbetter to terminate the agency's child-placement license. But it was the international counseling service that CSI vows to continue that formed the basis of complaints that led to the state's action against the agency's license.

If state officials go to court to try to stop CSI's international activities, DHR would have to prove that its regulations cover such services as assistance in preparing dossiers and having them translated and putting prospective parents in touch with lawyers or orphanages in other countries, Mr. Brazier said.

"My client is going to take the position that they can go ahead and counsel people in regard to foreign adoptions - exactly the same thing for which they have been cited," Mr. Brazier added.

Attorney General Michael J. Bowers said that once his office is notified by DHR that the adoption agency is violating the law or state regulations, he will take "whatever steps are necessary to see that the law is enforced."

CSI executive director Patricia A. Johnson said CSI's future counseling activities will concentrate on helping prospective parents who want to adopt children in Latin American countries, where adoptions are finalized under the laws of the child's home nation.

In those cases, she said, CSI does not act as a child-placement agency. However, CSI no longer will assist with adoptions of Korean children, she said, because guardianship is transferred to the adoption agency here, and the children are placed through action in Georgia courts.

Ms. Johnson said CSI takes the position that DHR would have to prove it has jurisdiction over adoptions in Latin American nations in order to put the agency out of the counseling business, "and I don't think they can do that."

Fulton Superior Court Judge Osgood O. Williams, who refused to stop the DHR from revoking CSI's license, is expected to rule later on the substantive issues in the case, but his ruling may not address the question of whether DHR's regulations control counseling as well as child-placement services.

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