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#2178: Patience a virtue in Haiti adoption (fwd)


Patience a virtue in Haiti adoption                                   
Couple finally getting son after cutting reams of red tape             
Friday, February 04, 2000_______
  By Mike Bucsko, Post-Gazette Staff Writer 

For nearly two years, Bill and Barbara Rissler have played a waiting    
game while attempting to bring their adopted son from Haiti to their
Murrysville home.By this time next week, the Risslers should be playing
with 5-year-old Wilverse Paul Rissler.The Risslers learned recently that
the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service had accepted documents
the family submitted to verify the legitimacy of the American woman in
Haiti who arranged the adoption, which cleared the way for the
government to grant Wilverse a visa. Still, after navigating the
bureaucratic waters since Wilverse's adoption and initial U.S. visa
application in March 1998, Barbara Rissler said she was keeping her
elation in check until she sees her son at the airport."It's been such
an emotional struggle, but I'm trying to temper it," she said. "I don't
know that I'll believe it until I'm holding his little body."          
The main stumbling block has been convincing the INS that the Risslers'
adoption of Wilverse was not a case of baby selling, said Charles
Territo, an aide to U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, D-Murrysville, who helped the
Risslers in their dealings with the government.The INS carefully
scrutinized the Risslers' visa application for Wilverse because of a
procedural problem that occurred when Barbara Walker,the woman who
arranged the adoption, incorrectly completed a form to sever the boy's
ties from his biological parents, Territo said.                        
In international adoptions, custody of a child must be given by the
biological parent or parents to an orphanage or adoption agency         
approved by the country's government or both the child's parents must
be dead, Territo said.In the Risslers' case, when Walker was making the
arrangements, she put their names on the parental abandonment documents.
This raised the suspicions of U.S. immigration officials that the boy
could have been part of a baby-selling scheme.The abandonment documents
were filed about a year ago. Since then,the Risslers have filed appeals
with the INS and supplied numerous documents to support their role as
Wilverse's legal adoptive parents.The Risslers have three other
children, two daughters, 19 and 21, who are in college and a 17-year-old
son who is a senior at Franklin Regional High School.When the INS turned
down another appeal in the fall, the Risslers were not optimistic that
they would ever see the boy Barbara Rissler firstlearned of when she was
in Haiti in 1997 on a medical mission. But Territo and Klink continued
to work with U.S. and Haitian officials to bring Wilverse to Western
Pennsylvania. INS agents, working through the U.S. consulate in Haiti,
found and interviewed Wilverse's biological parents to determine that
they were not involved in selling their son and had no previous
connection to the Risslers, Territo said.The boy's father deserted the
family and his mother, Francoise Blanc,decided she would abandon the
child because she could not feed Wilverse and his five siblings. One of
his sisters, Molly Paul, was adopted by a colleague of Barbara Rissler
who accompanied her on the medical trip in 1997.The interviews with the
boy's parents occurred in December. The Risslers also submitted
additional documentation to the INS during that time to verify that
Barbara Walker worked for an adoption agency approved by the federal
government.The Risslers have financially supported Wilverse since the
adoptionnearly two years ago by sending money through Walker, who has 
arranged for foster care for the boy. Bill Rissler declined to disclose
how much the ordeal has cost the family, but said "there's a lot of
costs in this."The Risslers expect Walker to call in the next few days
to make final arrangements for them to meet Wilverse in New York City
after he arrives by airplane. Then, they will return to Pittsburgh,
bringing Wilverse home for the first  time. When the couple heard last
month that the INS had approved Wilverse's visa, Bill Rissler unpacked a
bunk bed he had bought two years ago and arranged the boy's room.      
Once Wilverse is here, there will be some adjustment, he said.        
"He doesn't speak English, so we have some big catching up to do
before I send him to kindergarten or anything like that," Bill Rissler