Date: 1996-09-20

New York Daily News (NY)

A dramatic plea from a distraught mother-to-be yesterday persuaded a judge to reopen a controversial adoption agency so more than 100 adoptions can be completed under state supervision.

Holding aloft a photograph of her future daughter, Denise Alba of Lindenhurst, L.I., rose from the gallery in Manhattan Supreme Court and begged Justice Carol Arber to lift a court order barring Today's Adoption Agency from doing business.

"It's all over for me if you don't allow the agency to process my adoption," Alba said. "My court appearance in Paraguay is scheduled for tomorrow."

Alba and her husband, Michael, have tried for more than a year to bring a South American toddler named Angelica home to the U.S.

Today's Adoption was shut last week after state Attorney General Dennis Vacco charged in a lawsuit that the private agency had bilked at least a dozen families who hoped to adopt babies.

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

A temporary court order closed a Today's Adoption office in upstate Port Jervis and froze the Pennsylvania-based company's assets. But it also left as many as 100 couples like the Albas, with cases already in the pipeline, in baby limbo.

Yesterday, many of the couples crowded into the courtroom with the Albas to press their case.

"The attorney general's action was very reckless and in total disregard for the pending adoptions," said Alba.

Bernardo Kriboshey, a limo driver from Queens, said his plans to finalize his adoption of a Chilean boy also had been put on hold by Vacco's move.

"I'm really disappointed," Kriboshey said.

Ira Bussison, a salesman from Berlin, N.J., whose adoption of another child from Paraguay has been pending for two years, said: "There are people's lives at stake here, and it's not fair."

William and Anne Stanton, also of Long Island, said they need access to agency records to complete adoption of a 14-month-old boy in Guatemala.

The woman who runs Today's Adoption, Judith Zuvic, denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

"There is no fraud involved in this," said Zuvic, who attributed adoption delays to bureaucratic snafus in several South American countries.

Assistant Attorney General Judith Kramer said the state opposed reopening the agency, saying it had a "long history of defrauding people in New York."

Arber wanted to reserve decision, until Alba spoke up. The judge then ordered the state to allow the agency to process existing cases, but under state supervision. She continued to bar the firm from soliciting any new business.

The families applauded the ruling.


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