Ginger Larsen returned home from Romania this week with two treasures: 5-week-old Christina and 3-month-old Lisa.
Chuck and Ginger Larsen adopted both girls in Romania, and the adoptions are already final, Ginger Larsen said.They had looked into adopting before, Chuck Larsen said, but they didn't have the money and were daunted by the many requirements. Ginger Larsen has two teenage children by a previous marriage, but they have wanted another child for about 10 years.
Although he hasn't totaled all the bills yet, Chuck Larsen figures that the adoption and trip cost less than $6,000. He said the cost would have been three times that amount if they had adopted in the United States.
The trip may cost more for other couples. The Larsens were able to share expenses with another couple, and they rented an apartment in Romania so they didn't have to stay in a hotel. The residents of the apartment moved in with relatives so they could rent out their apartment.
Before going to Romania, the Larsens were screened by an agency to document that they were suitable parents. They got passports and visas for the trip. "It's difficult to get in and out," said Ginger Larsen.
"We left for Romania Dec. 1," she said. Her husband could only stay two weeks, but that was long enough for them to find the babies and for him to sign a statement that he had seen the babies and wanted to adopt them. He also signed a form to give his wife the authority to conclude the adoptions without him.
She flew into Salt Lake City at 4 a.m. Sunday after five weeks in Romania. She was delayed a week because of a paperwork foul-up; then an airline strike forced her to take a train instead of an airplane out of Romania. The return trip took 60 hours, although part of that time was a stay in a hotel waiting for transportation.
Ginger Larsen has five cousins who have adopted two babies each in Romania. One of the cousins is still there waiting to adopt a set of premature twins.
One of her cousins adopted a newborn. When the unwed mother was signing the papers to give her baby up for adoption, she mentioned she had a 2 1/2-year-old girl she was putting in an orphanage. The cousin adopted the little girl as well.
Ginger Larsen said people from all over the world have come to Romania to adopt babies. The country has a high birthrate and many unwed mothers.
Under the rule of former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, toppled from power in December 1990, each Romanian family was required to have at least four children and abortions and contraception were banned.
Food shortages and poor living conditions forced the abandonment of thousands of children, who have been placed in orphanages or shelters.
However, people seeking to adopt may run into problems. For example, she said one orphanage went from 100 to 50 children because of adoptions. The workers try not to let anyone in to see the remaining children because they don't want to lose the children - and their jobs.
The problem of widespread AIDS among Romanian children has been exaggerated, said Chuck Larsen, although they did have one of their new daughters screened for the disease while in Romania. Both babies will have physical exams soon.
He said the experience of picking out their children and now having them home is "pretty exciting."
The nights are still hard, though, with a combination of caring for two babies and getting over jet lag.