New Laws Complicate Confusing Process

Article excerpt

Byline: Kathryn Grondin

Just a year ago Sue Cain's mission in life was to help average suburban people like herself navigate the complex process of international adoption.

The Wheaton woman and her husband, Tim Buividas, had adopted two girls from Eastern Europe. They found Gracie in Russia in 1999 with the help of an adoption agency, but they worked independently to locate Emma in 2003 in Ukraine.

Neither process was ideal, without struggles. But, she says, at least they could choose whether to go through an agency, which can cost an additional several thousand dollars, or go independently with the assistance of a facilitator and translator.

They were determined to help others realize that their dreams of adopting children could come true.

"There's so much information it's overwhelming. It's nightmarish," Cain said. "We want to give them a starting point."

The couple joined with some other adoptive parents to organize the not-for-profit Adoption Services Group in Lisle to serve as a clearing-house for people who want to find a child overseas either independently or through an agency.

Cain and company also were licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to conduct home studies. They helped bring 75 children to suburban homes during their four years in business, Cain said.

However, the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption regulations, which will go into effect next year, led to the demise of the company.

The organization closed this past summer - the first of many small agencies that could shut down because of costly and complex changes. Ultimately, that will limit options for adoptive parents, Cain predicts.

"The laws were changing so quickly and I didn't think we could keep up and do a good job," Cain said.

The regulations - which aim to prevent trafficking, kidnapping, smuggling and baby-selling - will require annual audits that will be costly and likely create mounds of paperwork.

Agencies will have to be accredited by the U.S. government rather than just through their state, another costly and time- consuming task, agency representatives say.

At least some of the additional documents aim to spell out adoption fees upfront - a good thing Cain says. Another new cost and benefit: Agencies will be required to provide 10 hours of parenting training to adoptive couples so they are prepared to deal with some issues unique to internationally adopted children, according to the U.S. State Department Web site.

Cathy Harris, a facilitator who has helped nearly 1,000 families in the suburbs and throughout the United States adopt Ukrainian children, says she also would go out of business if Ukraine ever signed the Hague pact. Since it has not yet, she can keep working unaffected as an exempt agency.

"Families already pay a lot of money for adoptions just by the actual cost - between immigration, traveling, time away from work, paperwork, etc. …