Guatemala is a warm and hospitable Latin American country, rich in history and
Mayan culture. Nevertheless, we call Guatemala "a developing
country" to describe its weak economy and overwhelming poverty, especially
in the country-side. Extreme poverty, coupled with ostracism towards unwed
mothers, leads many women no choice but to give up their children for
adoption. Guatemala is one of the few countries that allows private
adoptions to be facilitated by attorneys between birth mothers and foreign
Guatemala has long become a popular choice for adoptions, especially for
families who want younger children or can afford to make only one short
trip. In private adoptions, children can be referred at birth and if the
adoption process moves quickly, arrive home in 5-6 months. Private foster
care and good healthcare system ensure most children are healthy and
well-nourished. Special-needs and older children often end up in
orphanages, or "hogars", and although their adoption is sometimes more
difficult, it is always rewarding despite its challenges.
U.S. Embassy in Guatemala plays an important part in the adoption process,
facilitating DNA testing and issuing pre-approval from the Department of
Homeland Security. Other major adoption authorities include Minor's Court
(local authorities) and Solicitor General's Office (PGN) that reviews and
approves all international adoption cases in Guatemala. Please see U.S.
Department of State overview
for more details.
Our Guatemala program is currently closed. About A Child has applied through the
State Department to be a part of a small pilot program to help place older and special-needs kids and large sibling groups. However, USDOS
recently announced that they have withdrawn from the pilot program and
we don't foresee any new adoptions from Guatemala taking place in the near future.
There is no national or international adoption
registry in Guatemala, and children typically become available for
adoption/referral once they are released to the attorney (often, at birth) and
may be as young as 4-5 months at the time adoption is finalized. Most children
are of Spanish or Mayan descent, with olive skin and dark hair. Siblings
and unrelated children can be adopted at the same time.
While in the U.S., prospective families are
required to prepare an adoption dossier (a set of
documents required for adoption processing by local
authorities abroad). For Guatemala, dossier
includes USCIS (former INS) permission to adopt
internationally, homestudy prepared by a licensed
agency and a number of documents
verifying family marital status, income, health
condition, criminal history, etc.
Once the dossier is completed, it is
first authenticated in the Guatemalan Embassy in USA and then mailed to an
attorney in Guatemala. There, it is translated into Spanish, and parents'
Power of Attorney is registered at the Guatemala Supreme Court.
At that point the attorney starts looking for a
referral for the family. About A Child
does not withdraw a referral until the prospective adoptive parent(s) have had two
weeks (unless extenuating circumstances involving the child's best interests require
a more expedited decision) to consider the needs of the child
and their ability to meet those needs, and to obtain physician review of medical
information and other descriptive information, including video of the child if available.
family accepts their referral, attorney submits their dossier to the Minor's
court and simultaneously submits documentation for DNA testing to prevent any
fraud or baby-selling. Upon receiving DNA results, U.S. Embassy accepts
documents for processing and issues DHS pre-approval for adoption. Once
both pre-approval and Minor's court approval are received, the documents are
submitted to PGN. Once PGN releases, or approves, the documents, final
paperwork may be completed and parents can travel to pick up their child(ren).
U.S. allows Guatemalan children to be escorted to the U.S., or pick up the
child once adoption has been completed in the U.S. Such adoptions are not
considered to be finalized (children don't automatically become U.S. citizens,
and re-adoption must be done in USA). Immigrant visas issued to children in
such adoptions are called IR-4. If both parents saw the child before their
case went into PGN (verified via passport entrance stamps), they are issued IR-3
visas, and children become U.S. citizens upon entering U.S.
In our program, parents may visit their referred child before accepting the
referral, and any time during the wait..
At the moment, there are no registration requirements
imposed by Guatemala, but families are asked to send in two agency-conducted post-placement
reports, at 6 months and 12 months after the adoption is completed.
It is possible to estimate average timeframes of
adopting from Guatemala, but any delays in PGN or Minor's court processing are
hard to control. At the moment, we estimate it to take from 4 to 6 months
to complete an adoption after the dossier is submitted. Typically, it
takes 3-5 months for dossier preparation, but
unexpected circumstances and USCIS
delays might extend the wait time.
length of stay in Guatemala could be as short as four days if the family chooses
to adopt under IR-3 visa, though we recommend at least two trips, the first one
to accept the referral or visit the child before family case enters PGN.
Guatemalan adoptions are understandably expensive
considering high attorney fees and several months of foster care expenses.
However, it affords a convenience of a very short stay for families with one
parent on a tight work schedule.