exposing the dark side of adoption
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Foreign Couples Flock To Romania To Adopt Babies



BUCHAREST, Romania -- Joe and Carol Stevens wandered the corridors of the St. Ecaterina Children`s Home looking at babies in cots and toddlers in playpens.

The Stevens are here, as are many other foreigners these days, trying to adopt a Romanian child.

Frustrated by a year of delay and bureaucracy in the United States, they have carried their search for a baby to this revolution-torn country.

"To help a child in a difficult situation makes it even more worthwhile," said Carol Stevens, whose parents were Romanian emigres.

Under executed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Romanian women were expected to have at least five children, many of whom were unwanted and simply handed to the state by parents unable to cope in a society short of food, heating and living room.

Abortion was banned for women under 45 with fewer than five children, and birth control was illegal.

The result was that children`s homes became increasingly crowded. At St. Ecaterina`s there are 730 children.

In the children`s home, behind windows painted with Walt Disney cartoon characters, a 10-month-old blond, blue-eyed boy, Mihai Bacaunu, nicknamed "Angel," stood in his cot smiling and gurgling at visitors.

A search is on for his mother to get her permission for adoption by an English family.

In another corridor, a little dark-haired girl with button eyes below her curls ran up to Carol Stevens and leapt into her arms. She was intrigued by the fur coat, the likes of which she had never seen, but was wary of Joe Stevens, so used was she to being surrounded by women doctors and nurses.

The Stevens were quietly told that an Italian couple had chosen the girl just 24 hours earlier.

In another room, Joe, of Polish-Italian extraction, was drawn to a second dark-haired little girl. The nurse picked her out of the playpen and handed her to him.

The Stevens arrived from Detroit last week, having heard that adoption in Romania was easier than in the United States. Carol Stevens is active in the Detroit-Romanian Orthodox Church.

They were on their second visit to St. Ecaterina`s. On their first last Friday, they helped baptize two babies.

"You hold onto them for an hour and it`s hard to let go," Joe Stevens said.

They were still not sure how they would manage to take one, or preferably two, Romanian babies home with them.

Asked the sort of baby he was seeking, he replied: "I`m pretty flexible. I would like to get a boy and a girl, but we are just going with the flow. I don`t know what is possible."

Romanian law requires that adoptive parents be healthy and married, with the woman aged under 45, at least one of the couple employed, neither having a criminal record, and both offering a stable and comfortable home.

The National Salvation Front, the interim government, has been so outraged by reports that Romanian babies are for sale, as it has been claimed, that it has brought all future foreign adoptions under its own direct approval.

Explaining the new policy, lawyer Traistaru, said: "We do not sell children. Ceausescu sold children. He used these babies for his diplomatic and political interests."

She said that the Front`s priority was to make it easier and quicker for Romanians and foreigners to adopt children in state care.

"The Romanian state now says `let the Romanian people take their own children back or adopt children because they are our children."`

"But if we can satisfy the requests of foreigners, we will do it as far as we are able to afford it."

1990 Jan 25