Date: 1991-12-29

Press of Atlantic City, The (NJ)



At this time last year, Gary and Roberta Hoffmann were a childless couple spending their Christmas holiday alone.

They were acutely aware of it.

"Six Christmases with no kids," Gary Hoffmann said Saturday as he looked back over seven years of marriage, several miscarriages and deep disappointments.

But the close of 1991 has been happily, almost miraculously, different.

After a year of red tape and dashed hopes, Christmas Eve brought Anthony, 22 months, thousands of miles from Honduras to the comfortable Rio Grande home of the Hoffmanns.

The year also brought Nicole, who was born on the eve of Thanksgiving.

"It turned out we got both of them," Roberta Hoffmann said. "It's nothing short of a miracle."

The Hoffmanns had been trying to adopt Anthony since February after seeing the child's picture but were running into bureaucracy and touchy international relations.

Because the Honduran government is intent on avoiding the "wholesaling of babies" that has plagued other countries, all candidates are closely scrutinized, and the wait is long, Gary said.

"They don't want you coming down and just leaving with a baby," he explained.

The adoption, done through the Adoption Alliance of Warrington, Pa., required interviews with American psychologists, reassurances from local police "saying that we weren't criminals" and originals of documents such as birth certificates.

Roberta, a teacher at Middle Township Elementary School Three, and Gary, a loan officer with Chemical Bank in Wildwood, duplicated the process in Honduras with a Spanish interpreter. The government also required two visits to the Latin American country, and all adoption decrees had to be signed by the wife of the Honduran president.

The Hoffmanns were scheduled to get Anthony on Christmas Eve but then received a call saying the president's wife was out of the country.

"I had my flight all set up, and we get a phone call saying the decree wasn't signed," Gary said.

The Hoffmanns called Middle Township Mayor Michael Voll, who immediately contacted Rep. William J. Hughes, D-2nd.

Within half an hour, Hughes' office was working on the case, Roberta said.

U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley was also contacted, and congressional and senatorial inquiries were launched. The next day, the decree was signed, and Gary Hoffmann flew to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

"They (the officials) just jumped right in," Roberta said.

"This is great," she said. "(Nicole) came one and a half hours before Thanksgiving, and (Anthony) came one and a half hours before Christmas."

"We talk about who had the harder delivery," Gary said with a laugh. "Mine was longer."

After only a handful of days in the United States, Anthony - a child with an almost constant smile and no fear of the Hoffmanns' "woolly bully," their 10-year-old sheepdog Chelsea - has adjusted well to his new surroundings.

"He just takes it all in stride," Roberta said. "He's so good. His mind's like a little sponge. And he loves books, which is great for a teacher."

"This kid was a champ," Gary said.

The Hoffmanns have advice for other couples who think they can't have children: "Just keep trying," Roberta said, "and do whatever you have to do."

(1) Adopted Anthony joins dad Gary, mom Roberta and newborn sister Nicole.


Pound Pup Legacy