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Romanian Adoption

Couple's Adoption Hopes Rise as Wexler Courts Romanians.

Gabriella Springer woke up Christmas morning to find an Amazing Amanda doll under the tree. The interactive doll, the envy of many little girls, does just about everything a toddler can do.

But what the 8-year-old truly wanted for Christmas remains half a world away: her 4-year-old twin sisters, Madalina and Manuela, who are living in foster care in Romania.

Richard and Karen Springer of suburban Lake Worth adopted Gabriella from Romania just days shy of her first birthday. The couple also has a son, Bradley, 13. They learned of Gabriella's sisters three years ago and have been trying to bring them to the United States ever since.

"They were 18 months at the time. They just turned 4, so it shows you how long we have been fighting," Karen said. "All this time we have had them on a waiting list for preschool."

But the twins, and 1,000 other children, have become political pawns of the Romanian government, which imposed a moratorium on foreign adoptions under pressure from the European Union, which the country hopes to join in 2007. The ban was imposed after allegations of corruption by officials involved in the adoption process including charges that babies were being sold.

An estimated 4,000 children are abandoned each year in Romania, according to Nobody's Children, an international children's relief organization. About 200 U.S. families and 800 European families filed paperwork to adopt the children before the ban went into effect.

"I call it the adoption roller coaster," said Richard, a criminal defense lawyer. Hope of bringing the girls home rises and falls as the political winds change, he said.

The next push to the top of the hill is coming from Congressman Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach. In about two weeks he plans to fly to Romania, where he has requested meetings with that country's president, prime minister, foreign minister and other top government officials.

"The congressman's heart went out to them," said Eric Johnson, Wexler's chief of staff. "He just might be the right member of Congress who can help them."

Wexler is a senior member of the International Relations Committee and the ranking Democrat on the Europe and Emerging Threats Subcommittee.

A couple of weeks ago, Wexler, Richard Springer and the Romanian ambassador to the U.S., Sorin Ducaru, sat down to discuss the case. It was around that time that the European Parliament, which monitors human rights in Eastern and Central Europe, called on the Romanian government to resolve the international adoption cases registered before the moratorium.

"I would be thinking there is no chance, but that's been the first break in a long time," Richard said.

Other lawmakers have stepped up to the plate. On Dec. 14, Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, who co-chairs the Helsinki Commission — a U.S. panel that monitors human rights in Europe — introduced a resolution expressing disappointment in the Romanian government for its ban and urging that pending adoptions be allowed to go through.

On Dec. 16, the State Department made a similar plea.

But Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu has remained unmoved. As recently as Dec. 22, he rejected the U.S. requests, saying it was preferable for the children to live in Romania with families who speak the same language and share the same culture and customs.

Since their ordeal began, the Springers have spent close to $30,000, including a plane ticket to pay for the girls' biological father to fly from Italy, where he was working, to Romania, where he agreed to give up his parental rights. The mother, who lives in Romania, had already agreed.

"He testified he didn't want them because they were girls," said Karen, who has only one photo of the twins, whom she considers her daughters. "It is my understanding the girls are in foster care and have not been reunited with their biological parents."

Lorri Kellogg, founder and executive director of Universal Aid for Children, the Pompano Beach adoption agency that the Springers used, said she has six families whose Romanian adoptions are on hold.

"Nobody has gotten official notice that their case is over," Kellogg said. "Have any of them given up? No."

Kellogg, the adoptive mother of five girls, has been helping families adopt for 29 years. She remains hopeful but admits the Springers and the others are at the mercy of the Romanian government.

Meanwhile, the longer the girls remain in Romania, the harder it will be for them to adjust to life in the U.S.

"My daughter says when the twins come home, we will have a lot to teach them," said Karen, who refuses to give up hope.

And if she's wrong?

"Whether we get them or not, they will still be our children," she said. "There's not a day that goes by that we don't think about them."

This article was written by Susan R. Miller for the Palm Beach Post.

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