Fox 8's Martin Adopts Twins by Terri Nighswonger

Sunday June 4, marked a milestone in the life of the Martin household. From that day forward, life for Bill Martin, Fox Channel 8 news anchor, his wife Judy and their daughter Katie, 9, would never be the same.

Two packages, marked special delivery from God, arrived via train to Bucharest to the waiting arms of their new mom and dad.

Otilia and Ibolya?s arrival in June marked the end of an almost five year labor for the Martins who struggled with miscarriages, infertility treatments and then the on again, off again red tape of foreign adoption.

"A lot of prayer, a lot of trust went into this," Bill said. "I cried the first time I saw the video tape (of the girls). I said that?s hand-delivered from God. That?s the only way I can describe it."

Bill had always wanted to adopt a child. "It?s something I thought would be a good thing to do, an important thing to do to change somebody?s life for the better because we were raised with so much," Bill said.

Judy, on the other hand, would have been happy to have her "2.3 children" and call it quits. She never expected that it wouldn?t happen the way she had dreamed.

"We had Katie and then we just couldn?t have another one," Bill said. "We did some infertility stuff and we said this is nuts, let?s adopt kids."

The Martins decided to have a second child about five years ago when Katie was four. After two miscarriages, they began infertility treatments at University Hospitals, which continued for the next 10 months.

"That?s very emotional. It?s a roller coaster ride every month. Even the doctors said you?ve got to decide when you want to stop. We didn?t want to do the invitro fertilization. At a certain point we said, we need to stop and listen to our hearts and to God and see what we need to do. That?s when we decided to look into adoption. That was in the fall of 1998," Judy said.

The couple started out by working with a local agency that deals with older, special needs children. They didn?t want to adopt a newborn baby. They went through training with the agency, learned a lot about special needs children, but decided it just wouldn?t work for them.

"We stopped that after two home study visits with our caseworker and we had to do some soul searching again on what we were going to do," Judy said. "Then Bill started doing some research on the computer and in magazines."

"Amen for the Internet," Bill added. "I checked everywhere and everyplace and finally found Christian World Adoption and that?s who we chose."

And then a strange thing happened to a still somewhat reluctant Judy.

"I was making dinner on a Monday night in October or November. Bill had left to take Katie to piano lessons and the phone rang. I had never talked to the people at Christian World Adoption, Bill had. It was one of the assistant directors on the phone," Judy said. "We were on the phone for about an hour and I think it was just meant to be that I was the one to answer the phone. I was the one who was a little reluctant about using an adoption agency outside the city. She was wonderful and at the end I said, ?let?s do it.?"

Christian World Adoption is headquartered in Hendersonville, N.C.

That following December 1998 they got "the packet," a daunting binder of everything they would need to do, fill out and sign for a foreign adoption. They filled out the application, got a caseworker, began the home study in January of 1999 and the frustrations and waiting began.

Finally, a referral came through for a three-year-old girl but nothing was happening. They were told the paperwork was lost. After six weeks, the Martins found out the child had gone to another family.

"That was devastating. That really hurt," Bill said.

"She was never ours," Judy added. "It was after about six weeks and I told Bill it was like having another miscarriage. It was very sad."

In early February of this year, another call came through from CWA. They asked the Martins, "how would you like twins?"

"I called Judy on her car phone and she almost drove off the road. I thought she would say no. We had talked about adopting two kids, a boy and a girl and she kept saying no, no, no, no. She called right back and said, ?I want them.?"

The arrival of a video tape of "their" girls a few weeks later confirmed that they had made the right decision

"Everybody says that each step of the way there are events where you know that you know that you know. We knew that was right," Bill said.

Through a friend, the Martins found out about a program at University Hospitals called Rainbow Center for International Child Health Adoption Health Services. They gave the center the video and medical information about the girls and had them evaluated. The doctor?s review said the two and a half year old girls were in good health and only a few months behind developmentally.

"A lot of them are worse off," Judy said. "The doctor was in Romania last fall and she said the orphanages there?well, it?s very sad. When she heard the kids were from Romania, she said, ?oh no? only because she?s been there and she?s seen it. But she said the group home looks very different. It looks like someone is giving them financial help. On the growth chart, the girls are where they are supposed to be, they talk on the video, which she said, most kids don?t even look at the camera. They are as cute as can be and they look like Bill?well before he was gray."

The girls have been raised in the group home, rather than an orphanage, with about 20 other children since they were five months old. They can count to ten in English, say bye, bye, and they know their colors.

"I can?t wait," Bill said. "When your in the wait, it?s painful as it can be because you?re filling out forms and you?re sitting and waiting and nobody is working at your speed. It?s all forms, stamp, forms. It?s like, come on let?s get going. If one more person had said, ?in God?s time? I would have choked them."

Just one of many slowdowns, was getting their home study completed. The couple was put on a back burner a number of times because of other families.

For the home study, Lake County Social Services interviewed Bill and Judy together, talked to Katie, inspected the house and looked at the room where the girls would sleep. Then Bill went once to the Lake County office and spent an hour or so to talk about his background. Judy also went and talked about her background and then the two of them went again to answer any final questions.

"The questions are psychological in nature, some of it," Bill said. "Some of it makes perfect sense. Some of it is just absurd and redundant. There?s constant fingerprinting and different agencies use the same mechanism to check you. Some of it is good and other parts? I?ve navigated the system and anymore I just get on the phone and call people I know."

Being a member of the media, and knowing a few people has helped Bill to pull strings when he needs to. He has utilized Senators Voinovich and DeWine?s joint adoption program to get information and open doors.

"Those people down there are absolutely awesome," Bill said. "There are people out there to make it easy. When you find the right people things work smoothly."

Delays continued as new forms came up to sign and fax and the couple found out they had to redo their fingerprints.

"They called and said we needed to redo our fingerprints because they are over 90 days old. Of course they?re over 90 days old. We did the home study LAST YEAR," Judy said in frustration. "We?re getting to the point where we laugh about it now. We?re pulling our hair out but we?re trying to laugh about it because it?s so ridiculous."

Bill was able to talk with someone in Sen. DeWine?s office who knew someone at the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI). That person was able to pull the Martin?s prints and move them to the front of the line.

"Everyone else can wait. I?ve been waiting for 13 months," Bill said. "We just want them. It?s so frustrating. People are in another planet working at their own speed. So many parents want kids?it?s so frustrating."

Another delay came, as they had to resubmit one of their INS forms and send more money so they could bring home two children instead of just one.

"We had to change our 571A something to say we?re taking two kids back. Ohio is one of the few states that puts the number of children on the form. All the other states just put children. Since it says one, now we have to amend it to say two. So that?s the lady I called today," Bill said. "Tomorrow morning it?s being faxed to the embassy. As soon as they have it, I call our caseworker, and they call Romania. Then they will grab what they need and get it to the right people so they will set the court date."

The cost of a foreign adoption, beginning at about $18,000, can be prohibitive for many couples. But despite this factor, the number of foreign adoptions has risen from 6,536 in 1992 to more than 16,396 in 1999. The Martins said the international fee for their adoption was $18,500, agency fees, about $4,000 and home study, about $1,200. The air fare itself came to about $4,000.

There is help to defray some of the expenses through the county and through some businesses for their employees. Judy?s employer, Bank One, helped with some of the cost of the adoption.

As immunizations are completed, the room is readied, and forms are finally complete, Bill and Judy waited for the call that would set the final wheels in motion and they could travel to Romania to get the girls.

"I got pictures sent over the Internet and I put them up on my desk," Bill said "I stare at them everyday and look at them while I?m daydreaming for a minute and think they?re mine. I just can?t believe it. I just love them. I love them already. I want to hug them and kiss them."

That call finally comes in late April for a mid-May court date.

"When I got the call, I stood up in the newsroom and screamed," Bill said. "We?ll go to London first and spend some time together. Then we?ll go to Bucharest on Saturday. The children will be given to us on Sunday."

"It will be weird for them. They have each other and they?ll always have each other and that?s a positive thing. We?re not taking one child away from an orphanage and all her friends and caretaker. Her sister?s coming with her," Judy said. "It will be difficult because we?re taking them away from the only home they?ve ever known but they?re going to love it here. They?ll have their own room. We?ll get them a trundle bed so they?ll sleep close to each other. They?re going to love living with the Martins."

Another short delay sets the court date back to the first week in June. This is the last. The girls are now safely in their arms as of early Sunday morning June 4th.

Just how much God was in the adoption was made more real to the Martins as they learned that a number of people had tried to adopt the girls. Even the caseworker in Romania had tried to adopt them but was unable.

"The judge in the district hates adoption and usually tries to make things difficult, but he helped us and worked with us," Bill said.

As the girls were given to their new parents, Bill said, there were many tears shed by the caregiver and the Martins. The caregiver provided them with baby pictures of the girls, clothing that the girls had worn and a videotape.

Otilia and Ibolya, who will eventually receive American names Anna and Emma, are bonding very well and are getting to know their new family. Katie thinks being a big sister is "awesome" and all are learning to speak Romanian as the girls are learning English.

"It?s harder than I thought but I knew it would be a challenge," Judy said.

The biggest challenge is just having two typical 2-year-olds in the house after seven years of quiet.

"We?re just talking with them, holding them and learning about each other," Bill said. "It?s just wonderful."