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International Adoption Agencies Ė Dealing when Dreams of Adoption are Fading

It had been three long years for both Karen and David Richards. They had been waiting to bring home a young Romanian girl to adopt. They had kept a photograph of Larissa on the side of their refrigerator only to be told at the last minute by their International Adoption Agency that she had been adopted and placed with a Romanian Family

The Richards's are one of three families in New Hampshire and more than 100 in the United States that have been stuck in the middle of a complex political situation involving Romania, the European Union and the United States.

During the course of the families' wait, Romania has continually tightened its policies on international adoptions in an effort to get into the European Union. It now looks as if more families may end up with news like the Richardsís

"Sometimes even with the help of the right International Adoption Agency, Overseas Adoptions don't always end as well as some people hope"
For another family, the Cohnís of Milford, the situation was just as bad. "For the first year and a half, we were very anxious," said Julie Ann Cohn, who filled out her application in 2002 and was matched with a Romanian girl named Katherina in early 2003. "And now for us, it's more like it's sad. I feel like we've been in limbo for more than three years just hoping and praying, but we just don't really know what's going to happen. We're waiting for a positive outcome."

The situation in Romania was exacerbated by the fall of Romania's Communist government in 1989, international attention was focused on the country's thousands of orphans, many of whom lived in understaffed, state-run orphanages. Romania began offering abandoned children for international adoption in 1990, and many U.S. parents adopted them. But reports of corruption over the years led to a series of temporary bans. Such a moratorium was in place when a family such as the Richardsís applied to adopt.

The International Adoption Agency that took the families' money and submitted their applications knew that there was a chance the applications wouldn't go through. But when all of the families received case numbers, names and photographs of the children they would adopt, they assumed that their applications had met the conditions.

The agency based in Windham provides humanitarian aid in Romania and helped the New Hampshire families find children to adopt. The Director said that people familiar with Romanian politics did not take the ban too seriously at the time.

"If the moratorium is absolutely in effect, then Romanian officials would not be assigning children, but they did," they said. "In many years Romania had rules, laws and regulations, but the sad thing is that in a country that's recovering from Communism, everyone put their own interpretation into what was law."

Once families had seen a face and heard a name, it became harder for them to consider that the adoptions might not go through.

In January 2003, Romania enacted a permanent ban on international adoptions, after the EU indicated that such a law would be a requirement for the country's ascension.

The Romanian Prime Minister said that all of the pipeline cases would be placed with Romanian families, according to the U.S. State Department and Romanian press accounts. But last week, the European Union passed a resolution with an amendment recommending that the country place the pipeline cases with foreign adoptive families.

The outcome isn't clear. Edgar Vasquez, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said it's difficult to predict what will happen to the adoptive families.

"Of course we hope," he said. "We're deeply concerned."

Julie Ann Cohn said that the recent news from Romania may mean the end of her wait.

"Once we know for sure that it's a no, absolutely set in stone, then we'll likely proceed to a different country," she said. "When I think my heart is ready for it."

Kathleen Richard said that she was relieved to hear that Larissa had found a loving family, even if it wasn't her own.

"I'm thankful that she finally has a family, because if she can't be with us, I wanted her to have a family," she said. "That's what I was praying for. For me, it was just like a Christmas gift for her."

About the Author: Stephen Morgan writes regularly on social matters and is editor of , and

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