exposing the dark side of adoption
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International adoption frustrating, sometimes heartbreaking


Sunday News (Lancaster, PA)

Author: Elizabeth Mehren

Los Angeles Times - As almost anyone who has navigated the labyrinth of international adoption will attest, the process is, at best, a bureaucratic bad dream.

It is always complicated, often frustrating, sometimes heartbreaking and occasionally dangerous. A child to love makes it all worthwhile, as Gerry and Gale Mazur of Irvine, Calif., are the first to agree, but the obstacles are frequently greater than even the most determined prospective parent is prepared to expect.

"It was the greatest adventure of our lives," say the Mazurs, whose quest for parenthood zigzagged from Asia to Latin America. They adopted their son, Daniel, seven years ago in Honduras.

"Some of that adventure," Gerry Mazur adds - such as watching a truckload of baby coffins pull up to the welfare office in Tegucigalpa, where they were completing Daniel's adoption -"you could do without."

Procedures vary wildly from country to country. At any moment, politics can intervene, prompting a country to abruptly shut down its adoption program. Such was the case at various times in recent years in Colombia, Korea and Romania. Last week, China suspended foreign adoptions - temporarily, officials of that country insist. Just as quickly, adoption may reopen to outsiders.

In addition, some countries make temporary residency demands of would-be adoptive parents, requiring them to leave jobs and homes in the United States for weeks or months at a time. A further roadblock is what

Susan Freivalds

calls a worldwide cultural misunderstanding of the practice of adoption.

In some parts of the world -such as the Indian subcontinent - orphans are regarded as "social outcasts," said Freivalds, executive director of Adoptive Families of America Inc., Minneapolis, Minn. In these regions, she added, "they just can't believe that we do what we do here, that we take these children and love them." Many children in these parts of the world, Freivalds said, languish in orphanages or are reduced to living on the street.

International adoptions by U.S. citizens traditionally have been greater than those from all other nations combined. In 1992, U.S. adoptions from abroad numbered 6,531, with almost half of these children coming from Asia. The 1992 figure - the lowest since 1982 - represented a 30 percent drop from the previous year, when more than 2,000 orphans were sent to this country from Romania. (By contrast, only 145 Romanian children came to the United States in 1992.)

The present lack of standards in international adoption means that confusion remains the prevailing force, said Betty Laning, chairman of the adoption information office of the

International Concerns Committee for Children

in Boulder, Colo. She cites the emergence of new countries in the former Soviet Union, "where we're hearing from individuals who are saying, "I can get you a baby in six weeks, just give me $5,000.' "

Because adoption is a puzzling phenomenon in some parts of the world, rumors of abuse continue to fester. These tales of black- market babies were only enhanced by the chaotic adoption scene that erupted in Romania after the fall of the Ceausescu regime in December 1990.

By many accounts, 1991 was an adoption madhouse in that country. Desperately ill babies were shipped overseas, often with false assurances that they were really just running a small fever. Eager foreigners arrived in Romania to find what in some cases amounted to baby bazaars. Then there were the unscrupulous relatives -aunts and uncles, and often not even genuine aunts and uncles -arranging to sell small children to the highest bidders.

In nations where Americans may be seeking to adopt children, "our own country is very difficult to understand," said Betsy Rosenbaum of the American Public Welfare Association, Washington, D.C. "There are so many different practitioners here. And our expectations are often different than what other countries are prepared to do."


Ana E. Fuentes Gale and Gerry Mazur of Irvine, Calif., learned that international adoptions can be frustrating. The Mazurs adopted their son Daniel (second from left) in Honduras and their daughter Kari (right) in the United States.

1993 Jul 4