Date: 1993-07-03

Charlotte Observer, The (NC)
Author: DAVID PERLMUTT, Staff Writer
Dateline: (CHARLOTTE)

After months of bureaucratic entanglement between three countries, Linda and John Melius` baby nursery in their Mooresville home finally will be occupied.

Since last October, the Meliuses have been trying to adopt a Romanian girl named Monika, now 2, who`s been held in a Hungarian orphanage with 27 other Romanian babies waiting for American parents.

And for nine months, the Meliuses and the other American couples have been caught in the often trying process of international adoption.

Friday, Linda Melius got word that Romania has agreed to release the children.

``I am filled with a certain amount of trepidation, because we`ve been through this before and then let down,`` she said. ``So we are afraid to get our hopes up, but at the same time it is all so very exciting and beyond belief.

``It`s felt like a pregnancy and it`s been as long as one, nine months almost to the day.``

The children`s release came after months of mounting pressure from U.S. leaders, many of whom represent the 27 couples, including Sen. Jesse Helms, R- N.C.

There was pressure, too, from the Hungarian government, which on Monday told the Romanians that it saw no legal barrier to prevent releasing the babies to the Americans, some of whom are in Hungary visiting their babies.

Gary Sheaffer, spokesman for the U.S. State Department`s consular affairs bureau, confirmed Friday that the Romanians have agreed to let the children come to America.

But, he said, four of the 28 are still in the process of getting visas. He didn`t know when the other children would begin the journey to their new homes.

Monika Melius was issued a visa in March. Linda Melius said travel arrangements hadn`t been made, but the girl could begin her trip as early as Tuesday. And while Monika and the others settle into their new lives, the Romanian courts will legalize the adoptions.

Monika will be escorted by an employee of Adam Children`s Fund, the California-based relief group that originally found the children. Some, like Monika, were born in Romania to Romanian mothers and abandoned in Hungary. The others were born in Hungary to Romanian mothers.

It was Adam Children`s Fund, and its Eastern European director, John Davies, that the Romanian government accused of trying to circumvent the Romanian Adoption Committee to bring the birth mothers and babies to Hungary for adoption in the United States. Davies and the relief agency denied they broke any laws, and ultimately officials in Hungary and the United States sided with them.

The adoption committee was formed last year after widespread reports of baby-selling in Romania, where an estimated 80,000 orphans or abandoned children live in squalid orphanages.

And since Adam wasn`t an adoption agency, the Meliuses used an agency that is licensed in Washington state and Hawaii but wasn`t sanctioned by the
Romanian committee.

Thus began the haggling between the three countries over the fate of the children - and the months of disappointments and anger from the prospective parents.

They formed the Parents Coalition for Adoption Rights and flooded the fax lines and mailboxes of U.S. leaders - including President Clinton - with pleas for help.

They got help, some gentle nudging, some with more force, particularly from Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., and Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., who represents three of the couples.

The Meliuses and parents coalition spokesman Tom D`Ambola gave considerable credit to Helms.

``Jesse Helms went to bat for the Meliuses,`` said D`Ambola. ``He pulled off everything that he could and as a statesman. Whatever differences he has with Hungary and Romania, he overlooked that for the benefit of the kids.``

With the fight for their babies apparently over, the experience has left many of the Americans embittered toward their government and concerned that their children will be damaged psychologically after not being held and nurtured during their time in the Hungarian orphanage.

Linda Melius said the coalition will continue to work for easier adoptions. ``If this is the way international adoptions have to be, it should be illegal in America,`` she said. ``No one should have to suffer the way we`ve had to suffer. The system has to be better.

``It should be simplified, and that is what our organization will continue to work for. The lives of thousands of babies are at stake.``


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