Tuesday, February 20, 1996
Baby Simone still trapped in legal limbo

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Just in case you were wondering, as I was, what happened to Baby Simone, I am sorry to report that she is still floating around in legal limbo.

She is 4 months old today.

When she was born, her 35-year-old birth mother surrendered all rights to her. Signed the papers. Signed off. So did the father, a married man.

Now, the Middletown woman wants her back, admitting that she was gambling on red tape to give her another chance to change her mind. Doreen Wilkinson told The Enquirer she felt pressured by Lutheran Social Services, a widely respected agency, to surrender the infant. She brought suit in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Oops. More delays. The judge is on vacation. It's Presidents' Day.

A day and a delay

According to David Lamb of Lutheran Social Services, attorneys for both sides have ''agreed that this case belongs in juvenile court.'' So today, there will be a hearing before Judge Robert Kraft.

Then it will be lateralled off to somebody else.

Excuse me. I don't mean to be unreasonable, but this is an emergency.

People have wondered how cases like Baby Richard and Baby Jessica have dragged on for so long.

Just like this one. A day and a delay at a time.

''I discovered that the safest way was to adopt internationally,'' wrote a Hyde Park woman after my first column on Baby Simone last month. ''The morning of Dec. 12, 1994, in a freezing orphanage in China, 10 workers filed into a room and handed 10 baby girls to 10 new mothers. We laughed, we cried, we hugged them to ourselves and held them up to each other for inspection.

''After seeing all of the other babies, I was convinced that I had been given the most beautiful, brightest, sweetest baby of them all. I was determined that no one would catch me off-guard and switch their baby for mine. All the new parents felt the same way.

''My prayers are with the adoptive parents of Simone, and I hope that they have the courage to hang on to their daughter and that the judge will have the courage to do what is right.''

Well, I don't know if Simone is with adoptive parents. For all I know, she's in temporary care with foster parents or even in an institution. Mr. Lamb is bound by rules of confidentiality, and all he'll tell me is that she's getting ''loving care.''

I suspect she is with a couple who are holding their breaths right now. Who are congratulating themselves that she finally slept through the night. Who are laughing when she splashes in the bathtub. Who have spit-up stains on the shoulders of some of their favorite shirts. Who are terrified that they will lose her.

She is probably starting to eat solid food. Dr. Donald Nofziger, a pediatrician who has been taking care of Cincinnati babies for about three decades, says by now she can distinguish between a friendly voice and a stranger. She can squeal in delight and laugh out loud.

She can turn in the direction of a voice, ''particularly Mom's. She is bonding.''

'A priceless gift'

Kathleen of Mount Washington wrote, ''I have a 6-year-old adopted daughter. My one and only. My life. It takes only seconds to hold, smell, breathe in her life to become bonded. She was given to me by a loving birth mother. A priceless gift.

''I am quiet about my daughter's adoption. I want to keep her forever and forever and forever. I have fear in my heart, too. I don't believe in our so-called justice system anymore.''

OK, ladies and gentlemen of the bar. This is your chance to restore Kathleen's faith in the justice system.

This is your chance to rescue this child and let her remain with the ''familiar voices'' and the people she has been bonding with for 120 days. One-third of a year. Four months.

Could you put a racing stripe on the gavel? Can you make an erasure in your Franklin Planner? Stamp this child's folder ''URGENT''? Work through lunch? Pull strings?

Now is the time.

A child is waiting.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 MHz), and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.