Pressures that drove couple to bypass the bureaucracy: Kathy Marks reports on the experience of an adoptive couple who would have been prepared to defy the law

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TWO YEARS AGO, Paula Evans committed what could soon become a crime. Fearful for the health of the ailing two-week-old baby whom she had adopted in Romania, she brought her back to Britain without waiting for an entry visa.

Katie had been put up for adoption by a woman who could not feed or clothe the six children she already had, let alone a seventh. When Mrs Evans first saw her, she was dying of dehydration in a hospital pitifully short of medical supplies.

She had severe thrush all over her body and still bears the scars from pressure sores so deep that a pen could be inserted into them. Her mouth was full of white fungus; she did not even have the strength to cry.

Mrs Evans and her husband Ian had already been approved by the Romanian authorities and adoption proceedings for Katie and another baby, James, were completed within a short time. James had been born to a woman living in poverty and was about to be sent to an orphanage.

The paperwork completed, the Hampshire couple faced a wait of three to six weeks for Home Office entry clearance for the two children. Instead, they flew straight back to Britain, pleaded ignorance at the airport and, after a two-hour argument with immigration officials, were allowed into the country.

'I simply could not afford to wait that long for a piece of paper,' Mrs Evans said yesterday. 'My main concern was to get Katie back here so that she could receive proper medical attention.

'If what we did had been illegal at the time, it would not have stopped me. You can't put a price on a child's life. We had legally adopted the children and, as far as the Romanians were concerned, they were British citizens.'

Other pressures contributed to the couple's decision to bypass the bureaucracy. The long and complicated adoption process had involved several trips to Romania, thousands of pounds in expenses and much emotional trauma. They were also anxious to leave Bucharest, where tensions were still high following the revolution.

Mrs Evans believes that the Government should facilitate foreign adoptions by taking them out of the hands of often unsympathetic social services departments and creating a central inter-country agency with specialist staff.

'The fact is that they don't want foreign children in this country and they are making it as difficult as possible for anyone to achieve it,' she said.

'I know of one couple whose adoptive child died in Romania while they were waiting for an entry visa. They had already formed a relationship with the child and were so devastated that they could not face going through the whole process again.'