Date: 1997-03-20

New York Daily News (NY)

An adoption agency that allegedly bilked dozens of families who hoped to adopt babies was shut down yesterday by a Manhattan judge.

Today's Adoption Agency was slapped with a preliminary injunction by Acting Supreme Court Justice Carole Arber after she found evidence the firm engaged in "fraudulent and illegal adoption practices."

Arber barred the agency from doing business pending a trial that will resolve charges of civil wrongdoing brought by the state.

Pennsylvania-based Today's Adoption specialized in securing orphans from South America for childless couples in the U.S., including hundreds of clients in the metropolitan area.

It has been operating under state supervision since September, when State Attorney General Dennis Vacco sued its owners on behalf of a dozen couples who charged the agency had ripped them off.

Vacco accused the agency of leaving the prospective parents childless and defrauding them of as much as $30,000 in placement fees.

The mother-daughter team that runs Today's Adoption, Patricia and Denise Zuvic, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In the past, they have denied wrongdoing, blaming adoption delays on bureaucratic snafus in South America.

Yesterday's court order prohibits them from taking on new clients or from collecting more placement fees from prospective parents waiting for children from such countries as Paraguay, Guatemala and Chile.

After presiding at a four-day hearing, the judge issued a 30-page decision in which she found that Today's Adoption charged excessive fees, failed to place children, misled families about adoption completion time and failed to clarify the legal status of adoptive children.

Arber said the agency knowingly offered Paraguayan babies to three families after Paraguay had imposed a moratorium on international adoptions.

But not all of the agency's clients were happy with Vacco's intervention last year. Some couples complained the crackdown delayed their cases.


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