Helping Map Out International Adoptions

Originally printed in the New York Times on August 7, 1994 , by Penny Singer. Read the original article.

Cconsider a day in the life of Lorraine Restivo-Waly. Shortly after her husband, Haidar, and their seven children — all under the age of 10 — have departed in the morning, Ms. Restivo-Waly, a psychotherapist in private practice, sees her first patient.

“My office is in my home. We live in a huge loft on 18th Street in Chelsea, so it is not as difficult for me to go to work as it might be,” she said. “I see patients until 3, and then I pick up the children at their various schools and we’re together until after dinner. Then I have office hours until 9. It’s a full day but I seem to thrive on all the activity.” Mr. Waly is a computer systems analyst at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

Some days are even fuller than others. Ms. Restivo-Waly, who is also a social worker, takes assignments to make home visits to prospective adoptive parents. “It’s a state requirement that anyone who wants to adopt must be visited at home by an impartial certified social worker,” she said.

The Walys, who have five adopted children of their own, have had firsthand experience with both domestic and international adoption procedures. They first adopted Rachel, now 4, who was born in Texas in 1990. Then a year and a half ago, in quick succession came Anna and Matthew, David and Rebecca. All four children were adopted from the Nyirbator Orphanage, which is in Hungary near the Ukrainian border. The Walys were assisted in all their adoptions by the White Plains law firm of Rosenstock, Lowe & Nichols, specializing exclusively in domestic and international adoption law for 17 years.

Lucille Rosenstock, the firm’s founding partner, also holds a master’s degree in counseling. Ms. Rosenstock said the firm, whose principals are all women, is one of only a handful in the country that specialize solely in adoption law.

Ms. Rosenstock, who is in her 60’s, has three grown children of her own. She was appointed by the State Department to be a member of the United States Delegation to the Hague Conference’s Special Commission on Intercountry Adoption in 1991.

“Practicing law is actually my third career,” she said. “Among other things, I was once a caption writer for Associated Press and a school guidance counselor. But I always wanted to be a lawyer. I was in my 40’s when I finally decided to enroll in New York Law School, and when I graduated I went into general practice.” A ‘Natural’ Move

She first got involved with adoption law, she said, “when I helped a nurse I knew find the right family for her newborn infant that she was placing for adoption.” Ms. Rosenstock’s partner, Suzanne B. Nichols, became a lawyer when she was 38 years old.

Ms. Nichols also holds a master’s degree in counseling.

“But the law was always in the back of my mind,” she said. “I finally made the commitment and when I received my law degree it was a natural fit for me to go into family law, which led me eventually to adoptions.” Ms. Nichols is 44 and has three children.

As the lawyer in the firm who directs the international practice, she travels to Hungary and Ukraine to assist prospective adoptive parents like the Walys with adoptions through orphanages in those countries. This fall she will visit Chinese orphanages. Chinese Girls Available

“We were recently the law firm chosen to handle adoptions with China,” she said. “Because of the one-child family rule in China, many healthy baby girls age 6 months to a year are being put up for adoption.”

Although the firm’s domestic adoption practice is larger than its international practice, Ms. Nichols pointed out that the adoption climate in America is such that international adoptions are gaining in favor.

“Potential adoptive parents are now worried that birth parents might change their mind, or they worry about their financial obligations to the birth mother; such things as paying for medical expenses, legal expenses and some court-approved living expenses,” Ms. Nichols said. “There’s no such financial involvement with foreign adoptions. And what’s more, when parents adopt abroad, they are able to choose the sex of the child.”

The children in Hungarian orphanages “are marvelously cared for,” Ms. Restivo-Waly said.

The Cahns, who have been married 10 years, contacted public and private adoption agencies and explored every adoption option without success. ”There just didn’t seem to be any healthy American babies out there,” Mr. Cahn said. ”The adoption agencies kept giving us hope but no results. In the meantime, I had clipped an ad about overseas adoptions and forgot all about it, until one day I found it. As a result, we went to a seminar given by Suzanne on overseas adoptions. It was outstanding. About 30 couples were there, including a mother with her adopted baby. In May 1997, we decided to go for it, and now we have two wonderful children, so loving and affectionate it’s hard to believe they are adopted. People even remark on how much they look like us. Jeffrey is dark, with dark eyes like me, and Michael has my wife’s blondish hair and brown eyes.”

The boys, who lived in foster care in Hungary, were extremely well cared for, Mr. Cahn said. ”We were supplied with detailed medical records. The boys are healthy and emotionally well adjusted. They have no hang ups. Michael is beginning to talk — in English, naturally — and Jeffrey has become fluent. They are a joy.”

Another couple, Nancy and John Crotty of Rye, have a biological set of 4-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, yet last November they came back from Hungary with a 4-month-old girl they named Anna.

”We always wanted a large family,” said Mrs. Crotty, whose husband is a bond salesman. ”I heard about Suzanne and Hungarian adoptions through a friend. Adopting Anna has been the greatest experience I could ever imagine, even surpassing the birth of my twins. When we first saw her, by our standards, she was living in very primitive conditions, but her foster mother was wonderful, and Anna is emotionally a very happy, well-adjusted baby.”

The Crottys are so delighted with Anna that they are going back to Hungary a second time. ”This time we requested a boy,” Mrs. Crotty said. ”Suzanne has been wonderful, helping us all the way.”

Not all of her clients are affluent, Ms. Nichols observed. ”Many are working-class people who save and save, because it is so important for them to have a family,” she said. ”That is part of why international adoption is so attractive to them. You only pay when you get the child.”

This entry was posted in Suzanne Nichols In the News. Bookmark the permalink.