Thursday, May 8, 2008

Community Mourns Laura Cleaves

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Please take my survey if you have adopted or attempted to adopt internationally. Another survey will be launched in the near future for those who have adopted or attempted to adopt domestically.


You may only take the survey ONCE from your IP address.

Another Experienced AP Shares...

How has your opinion about adoption changed from when you began to now?

It's with a heavy heart I write the following.

We began our "adoption journey" in March 1999 when we signed on with Building Blocks for Russia. At that time, we truly believed we were aiding "an orphan" by giving him a loving home in the United States.
We had been sold on international adoption by so many horror stories about domestic adoption (horrible, selfish biological mothers actually wanting to parent their children! mentally sick foster care kids! careless state workers! crass private adoption attorneys!). With international adoption, so agencies and post-adoptive parents told one another, it was a "guarantee" that you'd get a child. There'd be NO biological parents coming back to "get" the child. And the children would be healthy. Those reality check stories we'd seen on T.V. or read in magazines and the newspaper we were told were bunk. Yeah, maybe the child would have some delays, but all it would take was "food and love" to bring him on level with his American-born peers.

Fast forward to November 25, 1999 when our baby Cyril died in our hotel room in Perm, Russia. No amount of food, love and feel-good talk could Cyril back his life. Needless to say, the misinformation we had been fed especially by post-adoptive parents had been fatal. Nobody had told us how mistreated, malnurished and commidified babies had become in Russia. Commidified to the extent the baby's needs as a commodity were being met, but not the baby's needs as a human child.

Nobody could explain WHY some of these baby homes were understaffed, with hardly enough to go around. Hadn't the agencies and their clients been going nuts donating all that money to the orphanage? Americans are generous people. We give when we see the needs - especially tiny children with no parents.

Nor could it be explained WHERE these souls came from - had they all dropped out of the sky? Were they really "unwanted" and "unloved" (some yes, some no - it's all a human condition)

The reality was, babies were being treated like exchangeable goods. One dies? Hey, there may be one more - but . "Lost referral"? if you're lucky, the MOE may get you another "healthy" one, but oh wait - the wealthier facilitator from the greedier, better connected agency beat your faciliator to the punch. That LAST healthy referral just went to another family. Oh well - go home empty handed. Try again. Spend another $25K.

We learned that many of the children from Eastern Europe ARE NOT 100% "healthy". When you saw on the court decree "child was removed from an alcoholic family" - it meant EXACTLY that. Post-institutionalization issues are something that needed to be taken seriously. FAS, ARND, RAD, attachment issues, autism, in-vitro drug exposure, bi-polar issues - you name it, many of the children in those EE orphanages have something going on. You are a fortunate family if your child didn't have some residual issues from his poor upbrining and an institution.

We came to see in other country's programs that baby TRAFFICKING IS indemic in international adoptions (Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Guatemala, India). Again, babies don't fall from the sky. They are concieved and born. They are being obtained by brokers for us to adopt. I only wish their biological parents were paid more for their hardships, for God knows the brokers, orphanage directors and agency directors have gotten well compensated for their part in the trade.

We have questions about the biological origins of our son from Bulgaria - was he brokered? If so, how much did his orphanage director pay for him? How much money did she make by placing him with us? I know I paid the Bulgarian facilitator, Valerie Kamenov, $7,500 CASH when I made my first visit to Bulgaria to see our son. I know we paid $3,500 more in CASH when we picked our child up a year later.

Let's not hide our heads in the sand any longer. Some of our internationally adopted children were brokered.

What have you learned and what advice/insights do you feel are vital to share to new PAPs?

Educate yourself before you walk into international adoption. Read up on attachment issues. Read up on post-institutionalization issues. Connect with families who have been home for at least two years - how are their children adjusting? At what ages were they brought home?

If it sounds too good to be true - IT IS. If an agency is trying to sell you on a "pilot program" in a new country, ask yourself why they are selling you. Chances are that pilot rogram is not going to succeed in today's current adoption climate.

Follow the money. If an agency can't disclose where the foreign fee goes, they're feeding the corruption with YOUR MONEY.

Do a Google search on the adoption agency and its director. What do you find? If you find even ONE horror story, that one horror story too much. If you sign on with that agency, you are helping them to stay in business and continue bilking others.

Read the agency's contract. How awful is it? How many "non refundables" are there in those clauses? How many "keep off the internet" clauses are there?

Just because somebody says they're "Christian", "Jewish" "Catholic" or "non denominational" does NOT mean they have YOUR best interests at heart. All of the above can lie like the best incarcerated congressmen going. And those claims of being 501(c)(3) ? Big deal! So much money can be ciphoned off under dubios headings in the 990s, nobody has a clue how much these directors & faciliators are TRULY making.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How Has My Opinion on Adoption Changed?

Dawn, do you ever ask loaded questions!

In the six years since our agency retaliated against us, even summoning the courage to trust a social worker to try to adopt again, is impossible. I've learned too much about child welfare law and that it is an ingrained system that your average PAP can't fight. Not without expert legal help anyway. I've learned that the system protects the private agency at the expense of PAPs, foster parents, and even more horrifying, children. The enforcement mechanisms to root out bad agencies and caseworkers is a joke.

Back in my starry-eyed PAP days, I trusted people and I believed in the good of child welfare. I'm beyond disillusioned now.

But on the bright side, I found a passion in me that I didn't know existed. I've found the ability to take a grim set of circumstances and use them as a positive force.

Ditto on Kim's comments about researching an agency and going in with a cautious attitude.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Adoption: An Excruciating Process

It was a little over 2 years ago that my husband and I set out on what we thought would be a beautiful, heartwarming journey. We made the decision to adopt a child internationally.

We believed that our journey to our child would be full of smiles, excitement and anticipation. We were wrong. It was instead filled with tears, fear and anxiety. What we thought of as a beautiful journey in the beginning, we realized was actually an excruciating process.

There is of course a story behind our adoption process, but I will save that for another post. For now I just want to touch on the subject of how my opinion about adoption has changed since that day 2 years ago when we set out on our "journey". There are many sayings out there about how we learn from our mistakes or by trial and error or through experience. Well, however you say it, we did in fact learn a lot. My hope is that people who come across this blog can learn from all of us here who have been through it. I wish I had come along a resource like this 2 years ago. Perhaps I would not have had to learn the hard way. (yet another of those wonderful sayings)

The following question was asked of the members of this blog. How has your opinion about adoption changed from when you began to now? What have you learned and what advice/insights do you feel are vital to share to new PAPs?

When we started out I believed that we would keep that happy, excited feeling throughout the whole journey. Instead I became physically ill due to the stress involved with the process. Stress headaches, stomach aches, backaches and fatigue were my constant companion for nearly a year. I thought adoption was supposed to be a joyous experience and in the end when we got our son it was, but the process itself was torture. Nobody warned me about that and I was naive and had no idea how hard it would all be on me. My advice to new PAP's: be aware that this is not going to be all fun and smiles. The process is hard and it's stressful. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

Another thing I didn't realize was just how scary international adoption can be. I used to hear all the time about birthmothers in the US changing their minds but I had never heard of it happening with international adoption until it happened to our friends. It does happen and that is something else people need to be aware of. For my husband and I the fear was not of the birthmother returning but of an official stepping in to disrupt our adoption. We were threatened by our adoption agency about that. I journaled our adoption process at Roller Coaster Ride To Kazakhstan, which is now a private blog. I made it private because between trips Orson Mozes of Adoption International Program called us on the phone and told us that my blog had angered officials in Kaz and that we may not be able to bring our son home. He "warned" us to make the blog private or remove it altogether. It turned out to be nothing more than a scare tactic by Mozes to get us to take down the blog. The fact was he and his staff were not happy with my blog because I spoke out against him. He "warned" that our 2nd trip might take longer than other people's had and that we may have troubles on that trip. He was right, but it was trouble and delays caused by his staff as retribution against me for the blog. Until my son touched down on US soil, I was in constant fear of something going wrong. My advice to new PAP's: If you blog it may be best to stay anonymous. I feel it is important to tell the truth so others can know what is going on, so don't mislead people into thinking everything is wonderful. Just be careful about who may be reading your blog and how they may react.

Of course, the most important thing I learned is that adoption is not the same thing to all parties involved. To the agencies it is a business. It is a way for them to make money. It is a way for the countries the children are coming from to make money as well. To us PAP's (prospective adoptive parents) adoption is about bringing a child into our family. It is about finding our son or daughter. This is the problem. There is a big, BIG, difference in motivation from PAP's to agencies. Because of this it makes us easy targets. There are of course good agencies out there. It is simply important to realize that there are also bad agencies with no interest in the families or the children they are supposedly trying to help. My advice to new PAP's: I learned that the number one rule in adoption is to research any agency you are thinking of using, and then research it some more. I actually wrote a page dedicated to this on another site of mine. You can find that here.

I now view adoption differently than I did before. I still believe it is a good thing. I have an amazing son and he has a family now. That is of course an incredibly wonderful thing. It is the process itself that is terribly flawed. It needs change and regulation. Adoption is amazing... the adoption process is pure hell!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Why Agency License Regulations Need to Be Tightened

Two of the best examples I can identify that illustrate the necessity for tighter regulations for adoption agencies and adoption facilitators are Seymour Kurtz and Tedi Hedsrtom. Seymour Kurtz of Chicago has been around and under investigation since the 1960’s and continues to broker babies to this very day. Tedi Hedstrom is a more contemporary player, but once again, epitomizes how someone can have their license taken away by one state and simply set up shop in another.

According to Mirah Riben (2007, pg.77):

The Golden Link Foundation pays up to $10,000.00 to mothers who surrender their babies to one of its agencies (Adoption World, Birth Hope Adoption Agency, and
Easter House). None of these agencies has a physical address, just 800 numbers, and all are owned and operated, as is Golden Link Foundation, by Seymour Kurtz of Chicago.

In 1985, Easter House, one of Kurtz’s agencies, was charged with a dozen violations of state laws and regulations intended to protect children, mothers, and those who want to adopt. The licenses of Friends of Children and Birth Hope, two of his operations, were not renewed. Kurtz’s agencies have been denied licenses in Florida, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

And yet, “Despite all of the criticism and charges against him and his agencies. Kurtz continues to operate…”

Tedi Hedstrom was the Exectuive Director of Tedi Bear Adoptions in Florida and had her agency license revoked for several criminal and administrative code violations. However, she now owns and operates Adoption Blessings Worldwide in Macon, Georgia. Some of her violations were:

As of October 15. 2002. TBA'S website located on the Internet does not include the Respondent’s Florida License number of the agency, which is a violation of Section 6 3.212(1)(9), Florida Statutes and Rule 6 5C-15.002(9) Florida Administrative Code.

Ms. Hedstrom, Executive Director of TBA, falsified her employment application by indicating she has a BA/BS degree with a major in Social Work /Education:

However, her resume shows she has a BA with a major in Education from the University of North Florida 1987 and a minor in Social Work from Florida State University. When questioned about her application showing a major in Social
Work and her resume showing a minor in it, she admitted that she does not have a degree in social work and that though she attended classes, she did not graduate from Florida State University. The reviewer verified that Tedi
Hedstrom's Bachelors degree is in Education only. Knowingly providing false information constitutes violation of Section 6 3.212(2) (a11) which is a criminal and an administrative offense.
Yet, Tedi continues to mislead adoptive parents on her current website by stating:

“Tedi attended Florida State University where she majored in Social Work [emphasis added] and graduated Magna Cum Laude from The University of North Florida with a B.A.E. She plans to complete her M.S.W. in the future.”

The Florida State Department of Children & Families also cited that Tedi had program directors residing in other states (in violation of Rule 65C-15.003(4), admitted to fabricating certificates of attendance to training and conferences, multiple missing employee records and background checks, falsifying her employment application, failing to conduct numerous post-placement reports, and violating AP’s confidentiality.

Complaints by adoptive parents included offering a child to multiple families, collecting monies that were not outlined in the fee schedule, using a website consisting of fabricated stories to solicit donations, non-disclosure of developmental delays or disabilities, notarizing documents in which the witness has a financial interest, and numerous other allegations.

Considering all of the above, it is appalling that this woman is still in operation! How can this be? It is due to the lax licensure standards and requirements and a faulty system that con artists can easily manipulate.