COUPLE WARNS OTHERS TO AVOID ADOPTION PITFALLS

Date: 1994-03-07

Morning Call, The (Allentown, PA)
Author: MARGIE PETERSON, The Morning Call

Three years ago, adopting a child from another country seemed like a good idea to Scott and Lori Mulvihill.

The Mulvihills, of Allentown, had heard the horror stories about five-year waits to adopt babies in the United States and knew of a couple who adopted a baby whose birth parents then tried to reclaim the child.

"The way the laws are in the United States, nothing is really written in stone," Mulvihill said. "It didn't really matter to us where the child came from. It was more of what's the quickest way for this to happen and what's the most fail-safe way for this to happen."

The Mulvihills said they don't want their story to discourage others from international adoptions. They believe that, when their adopted daughter, Mariela, comes home to them from Guatemala, the struggle will have been worth it.

But they hope other couples can avoid the pitfalls they encountered.

They say they called many adoption agencies in the United States before choosing one.

"One sounded like it was being run out of someone's garage," Lori Mulvihill said.

They signed a contract with an agency in Colorado that worked with Filipino children and began the arduous process of having every aspect of their lives put under a microscope.

"You are scrutinized up and down," Scott Mulvihill said. "There's no test to be a parent unless you're an adoptive parent."

They went through police and FBI checks and fingerprinting. A psychiatrist evaluated them and their home. References from family, bosses and clergy were needed. Their bank accounts, property value and tax returns were examined.

They were given physicals and chest X-rays, asked for their philosophy on raising children, their marriage license and birth certificates. They had to have professional photographs taken of every room in their home; their dog, Mollie; their cat, Nathan; and themselves in a variety of poses.

"The paperwork is just mind-boggling," Lori Mulvihill said.

One day, an adoption agent told the Mulvihills they had to get 20 documents authenticated in Harrisburg and in Federal Express by 4 p.m. that day. They did it.

In the three years they have tried to adopt a child, they have spent about $30,000.

After being unhappy with some of the questionable practices used by the first agency, the Mulvihills signed up with an agent who found Thai orphans for American parents. Last summer, they got a letter from the agent that his program had gone under, he was bankrupt and had spent all their money.

Their experiences taught them to carefully check an agency's licenses and references. The National Council for Adoption in Washington, D.C., a trade group with 140 member agencies, agrees such practices are important.

Paul Denhalter, executive vice president of the council, also suggested people interested in adopting write for information from the council at 1930 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20009.

"We have very high standards," Denhalter said. "We expect the most reputable practices."

Gary Sheaffer, spokesman for the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, urged people adopting abroad to first contact the U.S. embassy in that country.

For general information on international adoption, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizen Services, Room 4817, Washington, D.C., 20520, with a letter requesting information.

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