Saturday, May 24, 2008

Our FIRST Saturday Soapbox!!!

I am still working on the html development of this meme, including the use of Mr. Linkies, but for now we are going to have to work with the "archaic" :) The Saturday Soapbox meme will be for anyone to "get on their soapbox" about a topic specific to adoption. So, if you have something to say...please share :) If you want to stand on your soapbox over at your blog, please link back to us.

Deceived by Adoption Partners

Claar Foundation Story ~ Four Felony Counts

Judge: Lisa Novak case can proceed to trial
By Heath Urie (Contact) Saturday, May 24, 2008

Prosecutors have sufficient evidence to criminally charge the former CEO of a Boulder-based international adoption agency who is accused of stealing money from prospective parents, Boulder County Court Judge Carolyn Hoye Enichen ruled Friday.

Police arrested Lisa Novak, a former Erie trustee, in April and she subsequently was charged with two counts of felony theft and one count of felony fraud in connection with her work for the Claar Foundation, a now-defunct agency.

Monday, Boulder prosecutors added a fourth felony charge against Novak, alleging she stole more than $20,000 from another former client.

She was in court Friday to continue a preliminary hearing that began earlier this week. Novak’s attorney, Lance Goff, tried to convince the judge that his client didn’t take any money, and repeatedly said she should not be liable for the actions of her former company.

“Lisa Novak did not knowingly take anything,” Goff said, calling the case more about a “business failure.”

In ruling prosecutors have sufficient evidence to proceed with the case, Enichen warned Novak that she cannot “hide behind a corporate shield.”

“There was no evidence presented, none at all,” that the disputed money paid to Novak went toward the adoption of a child, Enichen said.

Boulder police Detective Jeff Kithcart testified Friday — for the second time this week — that he didn’t have any evidence that Novak personally received any of the money, although the investigation is still ongoing.

“At this point, it’s a mystery where all the money that these people have paid has gone to,” Kithcart said.

Jaspal Singh, one of the prosecution witnesses, said at the hearing earlier this week that Novak took at least $25,000 in fees for an adoption that fell through because she misfiled paperwork. Singh also said Novak urged him and his wife, Linda, to falsify a document to increase their odds of success as they tried to adopt their second child from Guatemala.

Novak, who did not want to comment after Friday’s hearing, is due back in court for an arraignment June 20.

She also is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on the additional theft charge June 16.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or

There are several more stories about Lisa Novak on Google News concerning this preliminary hearing.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Effects of Adoption Fraud & Corruption

This is the part that is heartbreaking. These babies in Guatemala languish while the government sifts through a web of "questionable" adoptions and PAPs are left with their heart on their sleeve wondering "if" and "when" they will have their child home.

This is further evidence that PAPs need to speak up about adoption fraud, scams, and corruption they encounter during the process. When this type of conduct is allowed it perverts adoption and pits triad members against one another.

Part 3 of Tedi Hedstrom Report Is Up

...with video and some startling news.

Part 3 of the ABW story airs 6 PM EST Friday

Yup, it's a three parter now. Have to watch to learn the latest developments.

No story URL to share until the story is uploaded and aired. I'll update when I get the info.

Clock countdown is 37 minutes until show time. Better go pop some popcorn and get my tissues handy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

ABW Tedi Part II Video Is Up

The text of the second part of this series is now on the TV station website.

I saw the footage of a second set of victims and continuation of the Hale-Runkle family story. A third victim declined to be interviewed but parts of her story were told. Joni was interviewed and she was stunning. Two attorneys representing Tedi appeared and rebutted the story, but not very well. Why was I reminded of a gorilla thumping his chest as I watched that part of the segment?

Tedi Hedstrom/ABW Being Investigated Part One

Update: 2:17 PM CST. Video is now uploaded to this story.

Adoption Agency Under Investigation Again
Posted By: Jackelyn Barnard 4 hrs ago

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- They sold everything to have a family of their own. They got rid of their motorcycle and even their BMW to adopt a child. But they say they have nothing to show for it.
First coast news first started looking into Tedi Bear Adoptions in 2003. As part of a state action, the agency surrendered their license in 2003. Then in 2005, The state sent them a demand to stop operating without a license.

Christina and John Hale's dream was to have a big family. The only problem is the two are unable to have children of their own.

So, they decided they wanted to adopt. "We went online and we were looking at some beautiful children." The Hale's say the moment they saw the little baby, they fell in love. Her name is Anna-Christina, but to them she is Emylee.

She is a little Guatemalan girl, the Hale's say they paid tens of thousands of dollars to adopt. "Emylee is our daughter. We love her," says John Hale.

But the Hale's say they have had to watch their daughter grow up in pictures. "It's been devastating. We watched her walk in pictures. Watched her crawl in pictures, receive her teeth in pictures. We've never heard her say momma or daddy," says Christine Runkle-Hale.

Emylee isn't at home in Blackshear, Georgia, with the Hale's and her six brothers and sisters. She is stuck in Guatemala in a web of adoption hurdles. "Here she is almost three-years-old and we were supposed to have her home when she was a baby."

The Hale's have been waiting for Emylee two and a half years. They met face-to-face in the fall of 2005, just weeks after she was born. Along with Emylee, the Hale's saw another Guatemalan baby girl named Emoria. The Hale's wanted both girls. The dream was they would grow up as sisters, but these days Emoria plays alone.

"It's gotten to the point where we don't even talk to them on the phone, because they'll say something and then say we didn't say that."

So, now we deal with them only by email," says Christine Hale. In August 2005, the Hale's say they contacted an adoption agency by the name of Adoption Blessings Worldwide. According to state records and tax returns, its office is located in Macon, Georgia, but its executive director, Tedi Hedstrom, lives in Ponte Vedra.

The Hale's say they used ABW for the adoptions of two other children, Emoria and Joshua. They say those adoptions went smoothly and quickly, but Emylee's adoption has been a different story. "They're wonderful to deal with while you don't question, and you don't have concerns and you play by their rules. But when you question, the first thing they do is they turn it around," says Christine Hale.

They say with Emylee, there has been a delay every step of the way. "Emylee's mother was a minor, and we were not told until in Guatemala, holding her in our arms. But even then we questioned, and they said it would only add a couple of weeks."

The Hale's say ABW failed numerous times to complete their paperwork properly. Then came the request for more money. "When they said jump.....we said how high. We were the first to jump."

Then the Hale's say there were other requests again for more money, all while there was no end in sight to Emylee's adoption. April 2007, Wendy from ABW tells the Hale's, in an email, that those working on the adoption, "...have to have the $1000 and also need foster care expenses.....unless they get help with the expenses, they are prepared to just stop altogether and not finish the adoption."

April 2008, Christine says she got an email from Tedi of ABW, saying, "They do not feel that you really want to adopt....Anna-Christina as they feel if you did you would want to take care of her needs and clothing. I explained to them that you love her very much but they do not think so."

Then there is another email saying Emylee's grandfather wants cash in order to cooperate. But a year before, in another email, ABW told the Hale's the adoption was delayed because the grandfather had died. "As soon as we questioned it they would come back on us like ya'll don't care about yall's daughter," says Christine Hale.

The response from ABW was Emylee's grandmother had re-married and this was the step-grandfather now wanting money. "We never fought back because they've always held the adoption of our daughter over our head and I think we've gotten to the point where enough is enough," says John Hale.

According to Georgia records, ABW once operated under a different name--Tedi Bear Adoptions. The same agency once based in North Florida. The same agency that came under fire in Florida in 2003 for numerous complaints about its service.

In 2003, the state of Florida sanctioned the agency, which agreed to close its doors. Florida's Department of Children and Families told Tedi Bear Adoptions and its executive director, Tedi Hedstrom, she could not operate in Florida for four years. That time is now up. "At the end of that time they were free to apply for a license and they have not reapplied for a license," says Diane Seymore of DCF.

But the Hale's say a lot of their adoption work was done in Florida. "Since august 12, 2005, every bit of wiring money we sent to ABW went to an account in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida," says Christine Hale. The Hale's kept a check ABW sent them. The check's labeled as Tedi Bear of Georgia. It is also attached to that same Florida Bank account the Hale's say they have wired money to.

We showed that check to the DCF. We also showed DCF what the First Coast News I-Team uncovered. We found a local community listing for Adoption Blessings Worldwide with a Ponte Vedra address and phone number. We found ABW's website is registered to Hedstrom's home in Ponte Vedra.

We also found invitations to ABW parties recently held in Atlantic Beach and Ponte Vedra. "We have some questions as to the possibility she may be placing some children through a Florida office. They should not be placing children for adoption in the state of Florida," says Seymore.

Last week, DCF sent a letter to Hedstrom and ABW warning to cease and desist operating a child placing agency without a license. DCF says it has also contacted the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office to investigate any possible criminal action.

First Coast News has learned that DCF and investigators from the Sheriff's office will meet this week about the case. We have also learned that DCF has spoken with Hedstrom and she admits, "...she has an office in her home and that she occasionally sees clients related to Adoption Blessings Worldwide in her home office." According to the DCF report, Hedstrom says that all files are kept in Georgia.

Thursday night at 11, investigator Jackelyn Barnard gets ABW's side of the story about the allegations. Jackelyn also talks to another family, who lives in Florida, and who says they paid $40,000 to ABW and have no children.

We will also tell you about another state agency investigating ABW and how state agencies are not the only ones taking action against ABW. That story is Thursday night at 11 on First Coast News. ©2008 First Coast News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

I'll be waiting impatiently for my mail carrier to arrive in the next few days. I spoke to an attorney with FL Department of Children as well as a licensing specialist and a copy of the thousand or so page investigation report is being shipped to me. I'm also getting a copy of the cease and desist order. It should be interesting reading. And here I was, planning to go to the library and get a juicy crime novel for the weekend. I suppose I can skip the library and read non-fiction instead.

Part Two will air at 11 tonight and some members of this blog roll finally will get to see what their attorney looks like. Including me. But then again, I am going to meet Joni in person when she appears as co-counsel at the next case management conference on July 29th for the LSSI lawsuit.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

David and Desiree Smolin's Story Covered Extensively

If you click on the title of this post it will take you to the extensively covered story of David and Desiree Smolin's adoption nightmare in which they discovered their adopted children were stolen from their parents! I have one of David's articles in the sidebar.

Another PAP Left Heartbroken

Local Family Heartbroken After Spending
Nearly $10,000 On Failed Adoption
May 21, 2008

DeLand, Fla. -- Rebecca Hinshaw set up the nursery in her DeLand home three years ago after hiring Homecoming Adoptions inside an office tower in downtown Orlando. She says the adoption agency claimed she and her husband could have a baby from overseas in 12 months.

“We were told that was a sure bet, you would get a baby from China,” said Rebecca.

The Hinshaws say they had paid $25,000 upfront. Since then, Rebecca heard all Chinese adoptions had slowed, but she says Homecoming Adoptions stopped returning calls.

“It's been horrible," she said. "It's been a rollercoaster.”

When the Hinshaws tried to get answers at the agency's Orlando office on Robinson Street, it was panic time. The agency sign was gone, the door was locked and there was no forwarding address.

Rebecca reached a manager by phone who offered a $9,500 refund for services not yet done, but only when the agency had the cash.

“I would have to wait until the money came in, so I would have to wait,” she said.

Action 9 first investigated the agency in 2006, when another couple paid $30,000 for a Russian baby, but the adoption never happened. Later, the Department of Children and Families revoked the agency's license but it continues to operate after it went to court and claimed it was not a child placement service.

Action 9 tried to reach agency owner Kendall Rigdon, an attorney, who is a partner at a law office in Melbourne. Eventually, Rigdon called Action 9 and said Homecoming Adoptions is still processing adoptions, and that it has been in contact with all the clients, and furthermore, Rebecca will get her refund.
Rebecca welcomes the change of heart, but regrets the ordeal her family has faced.

“It wasn't supposed to be this way," she said. "It’s heartbreaking.”

According to DCF, the agency is investigating Homecoming Adoptions for all the activity since its license was revoked. The Better Business Bureau has received 13 complaints against the company.

Rebecca Hinshaw calls the refund a godsend. She has found a domestic adoption agency and the family will use the money toward the adoption.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May God Bless You

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and
superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done!"
~A Franciscan blessing taken from Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren~

I came across this quote today and it really spoke to my heart. I believe those of us here at this blog have been blessed with these things.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Book Discussion Anyone?

I just started a new book group on titled "Adoption Education & Reform". The first book for discussion will be The Stork Market by Mirah Riben. I hope you will join me as we look at adoption from multiple perspectives. Stop by and check out my list of adoption related books for future discussions HERE. See you there! :) Dawn