San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Adoption System Under Investigation

THE Ombudsman’s Office and theinternal auditor of the Child WelfareOffice (PANI) are looking into accusationsof slowness, bureaucracy andalleged bribery in PANI’s adoption system.After parents’ legal and general complaintsof mistreatment at the hands ofPANI adoption officials, investigators areattempting to either weed out the guiltyparties or throw out the accusations, thedaily La Nación reported.This year, four couples called on theOmbudsman’s Office for help with theiradoption procedures.One couple, Francela Méndez andRónald Aguilar, were approved asprospective adoptive parents by a PANIpsychologist, rejected by a PANI socialworker, then approved by PANI presidentRosalía Gil. They were told they are onthe waiting list, but when they call, officialstell them their file is lost, the coupletold the daily.“We are concerned that those incharge of evaluating potential parentshave different agendas in deciding what isideal and what isn’t,” said Mario Víquez,director of the Ombudsman’s Office’sChildren and Adolescents Department.Gil said she was unaware of the particularsin the Ombudsman’s investigation,but said PANI’s board of directorsasked the institution’s internal auditor toinvestigate two weeks earlier.“The things that have been denouncedare very serious and we cannot allowthem,” she said.The waiting list contains 68 CostaRican couples and 12 foreign couples, andthere are 38 children in need of families,but potential parents and orphanageadministrators dispute that number, sayingit is much higher.The office recently launched a newcampaign to find homes for “hard-top lace”orphans – a group that includessiblings that must be adopted together,children with AIDS, or children with birthdefects (TT, July 8).

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