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A Sense of Belonging

Date: 1996-10-28

October 28, 1996 Vol. 46 No. 18
A Sense of Belonging
By Thomas Fields-Meyer

Separated from Their Mothers Four Decades Ago in What May Have Been a Widespread, Illegal Adoption Scheme, Three American Women Make An Emotional Journey to Greece in Search of the Families They Never Knew

JAYNE BERNSTEIN'S CHILDHOOD—complete with piano lessons, school plays and time as a junior high cheerleader—was just about perfect. Except for one gnawing issue. "I felt like I never really belonged," she says. "I was somehow different from everyone in my family." Her feeling was more than just intuition. Born in Greece, Bernstein had been adopted as a toddler by a Teaneck, N.J., couple, who told her lovingly from the time she was small where she had come from and how they had chosen her to be their cherished daughter. "I did feel special," says Bernstein, now 40. "But I always wondered about the mysterious woman who had me."

Rage reduction therapy: help or abuse?

Date: 1996-10-24

From Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen

FORT WORTH, Texas (CNN) -- As a teen-ager, Jeannie Warren was under the treatment of Dr. Robert Gross for more than a year. During that period, a Texas court says, he beat her, threatened her and restrained her, all in the name of "rage reduction therapy."

Rage reduction therapists believe that angry, misbehaving children will realize why they're so hostile if a therapist holds them down and talks to them. Opponents of the therapy hope that a recent judgment against Dr. Gross will prompt the Texas Legislature to ban the therapy statewide.

In April 1989, when she was 15 years old, Jeannie's mother committed her to a psychiatric hospital in Fort Worth, believing that therapy would help them get along better. In 14 months, she went through about 25 rage therapy sessions.

"They held me down, he got this close to my face," she said, putting her hand about a foot from her face. Then, she said, the doctor started screaming at her, saying, "You're not in control anymore, are you?"

When she failed to respond, she says he jabbed his knuckles into her ribcage and twisted.

Terrible Two

Date: 1996-10-10

Terrible Two

Renee Polreis and her adopted son had a miserable life together--until someone put an end to it.

By Karen Bowers 
Published: October 10, 1996

In the weeks before her adopted son died, Greeley business owner Renee Polreis told friends she had come to fear David. Where others saw a delightful two-year-old towhead, she saw a monster who was destroying her marriage and making life, in her own words, a living hell.

David's tantrums were horrific, Renee told friends, and he seemed to care for everyone but her. Though the boy, an orphan adopted from Russia, had lived with the family for just six months, Renee confided that she wished desperately to give up custody. The only reason she didn't was that her husband, Dave, a vice president with the ConAgra conglomerate, resisted.

Patient wins lawsuit against psychiatrist Damages awarded in `rage reduction' case against fugitive Gross

Date: 1996-10-09

FORT WORTH - A fugitive Fort Worth psychiatrist, who pinned his patients to the floor and subjected them to hours of poking and screaming, was ordered yesterday to pay nearly $8.5 million to a patient abused in his "rage reduction therapy." State District Judge Ken Curry found that Dr. Robert Hadley Gross defrauded and assaulted Jeannie Warren of Arlington, one of more than 30 patients suing the doctor in separate cases. Gross, who fled his Colleyville home in July...

[excerpt from an article]

Court awards woman $8.4 million Her psychiatrist, sought on fraud counts, defended `rage reduction' therapy

Date: 1996-10-09

A 23-year-old Arlington woman who accused her psychiatrist of physically abusing her during "rage reduction" therapy won an $8.4 million judgment Tuesday. Human rights advocates said they hope the ruling will prompt the Legislature to ban the treatment statewide. The court found Dr. Robert H. Gross responsible for assaulting and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on Jeannie Warren while treating her at the now-defunct Psychiatric Institute of Fort Worth.


One Year in Adoption Hell

Date: 1996-09-23

New York Magazine
Mark Frankel


Citing "despicable" practices, the state last week took action to shut down one of the region's most notorious adoption agencies. For the author, who still doesn't know if his prospective child even exist, it was justice at last.

How do you mourn a child you never had, never held, for that matter, maybe never existed? That question has been nagging me for months, After years of struggling with infertility and miscarriages before the birth of our son three years ago, my wife, Susan, and I decided we could not weather the heartbreak of trying and I decided we could not weather the heartbreak of trying to conceive another child. So last year we contracted with Today's Adoption Agency, one of the largest international agencies in the Northeast, to adopt a child from Paraguay. The snapshot the agency sent us of our daughter-to-be showed a butter cream-colored infant with legs like plump sausages and a shock of black hair. We renamed her Molly and put her picture in the dining room for all to see.


Date: 1996-09-20

New York Daily News (NY)

A dramatic plea from a distraught mother-to-be yesterday persuaded a judge to reopen a controversial adoption agency so more than 100 adoptions can be completed under state supervision.

Holding aloft a photograph of her future daughter, Denise Alba of Lindenhurst, L.I., rose from the gallery in Manhattan Supreme Court and begged Justice Carol Arber to lift a court order barring Today's Adoption Agency from doing business.

"It's all over for me if you don't allow the agency to process my adoption," Alba said. "My court appearance in Paraguay is scheduled for tomorrow."

Alba and her husband, Michael, have tried for more than a year to bring a South American toddler named Angelica home to the U.S.

Today's Adoption was shut last week after state Attorney General Dennis Vacco charged in a lawsuit that the private agency had bilked at least a dozen families who hoped to adopt babies.

Vacco accused the agency of leaving the prospective parents childless and defrauding them out of as much as $30,000 each in placement fees.

Adoption agency barred in N.Y. pending hearing

Date: 1996-09-14

Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)

An adoption agency that maintains a Bergen County office has been accused of illegal adoption activities in New York and was ordered to stop doing business in that state.

New York authorities contended Today's Adoption Agency collected thousands of dollars in fees from potential adoptive parents who never received their child.

The agency, which has an office in Fort Lee, has been barred from conducting any adoption activities in New York until a hearing next Thursday in Manhattan's state Supreme Court cq.

The agency's Fort Lee office remained open for business yesterday because the court order does not extend to New Jersey.


Date: 1996-09-14

Times Union, The (Albany, NY)
Author: CAILIN BROWN Staff writer

One of the couples in the case was promised a baby three different times

BETHLEHEM -- The eight agonizing years Becky and Barry Gray spent working with a for-profit adoption agency left them with no child, $9,000 worth of debt and the heartache of dashed hopes.

Now the Grays and 11 other families are part of a lawsuit filed against Today's Adoption Agency by the state attorney general's office. The company has been temporarily shutdown pending a court date Thursday.

Today's Adoption, which had offices in Port Jervis and in Hawley, Pa., used ``unlawful and abusive adoption practices,'' according to the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. In some cases, prospective parents were given insufficient medical histories and the children they later adopted became seriously ill and died, the suit states.

``We're also examining the possibility of bringing criminal charges against the company and its operations,'' said Joe Mahoney, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.


Date: 1996-09-14

Author: Agencia EFE.

New York - The adoption agency Today's Adoption Agency has been sued in a court in New York, of course collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars to a couple who promised the children of Guatemala and Paraguay, judicial sources reported on Friday.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday by the prosecutor general of the state of New York, Dennis Vacca, and it argues that some people interested in adopting a child to the agency paid sums of $ 10,000 and up to $ 30,000 without achieving its purpose.

The families facing emotional and financial strain in search of a child for adoption and are particularly vulnerable to abuse, said Vacca.

"This is the worst of the scams," said the attorney general, considering that the event combines the pain of disappointment with the loss of dollars that has cost both win. "

"We can not tolerate this kind of abuse," he added, emphasizing that the agency promised even babies from Paraguay, knowing that this country adoptions banned in September 1995.


Date: 1996-09-13

New York Daily News (NY)



A private adoption agency bilked at least a dozen families who hoped to adopt babies, leaving the prospective parents childless and defrauding them of as much as $30,000 each, state officials charged yesterday.

State Attorney General Dennis Vacco got a court order that temporarily closes Today's Adoption Agency and freezes the Pennsylvania-based company's assets.

Vacco said he will use a lawsuit he filed against the firm yesterday as a means to gain reimbursement for families "that were left with nothing but broken hearts."

"This is the worst type of rip-off that I could think about, because it combines the horrors of losing hard-earned dollars with a heartbreak that will never go away," Vacco said.

State officials are conducting a criminal investigation of the company, which allegedly charged families thousands of dollars in "placement fees" for international adoptions without delivering any babies.


Date: 1996-09-13

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)


Author: Henry Goldman, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Dateline: NEW YORK

They wanted to be parents, and they paid thousands of dollars to Today's Adoption Agency, which they say promised speedy action on delivering newborn children from abroad.

Now the agency - some families say it took their money and did nothing - is accused by New York as a ``fraud'' and a ``ripoff.''

Yesterday, Dennis C. Vacco, New York's attorney general, used those terms to describe the Hawley, Pa., agency and then went to court in the name of would-be parents to stop the agency from operating. A judge issued a temporary restraining order and set a hearing for Thursday.

Today's Adoption has also come under scrutiny by Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare, which in November 1994 determined that the agency's license should not be renewed. A year later, after complaints persisted, the department formally revoked the license; the case is still pending.

WILKINS v. THE STATE., 267 Ga. 86, 475 S.E.2.d 607

Date: 1996-09-09

A jury convicted Willie Joe Wilkins of malice murder, felony murder and three counts of cruelty to children in the death of three-year-old Clayton Miracle and the beating of his twin sister Kelly Miracle. [1] Wilkins appeals and challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. Because the evidence, including Wilkins' own statements, was sufficient to support the convictions, we affirm.

Black-market babies search Greek records for birthright

Date: 1996-09-01

Houston Chronicle
Black-market babies search Greek records for birthright
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece - Forty-one years ago a frightened Greek child of 5, stolen from her mother, landed in America to begin a new life.

Raised in an orphanage and by foster parents and told her mother had died in childbirth, young Amalia Balch and dozens of other children that October were herded aboard an airplane in Greece.

When the plane landed in New York City, adults streamed on board to claim the children they knew only by photographs, the kids they had adopted by proxy.

""I remember being very sick, and a plane full of children . . . and being very scared," she said.

Today, at age 45, Amalia Balch still doesn't know if she was a black-market baby, if her adoptive parents paid money for her. She hasn't pressed the point, but she suspects they did.

Over the past 10 years and five trips to the country of her birth, she has learned some truths about her roots. First she learned that she was stolen from her unmarried mother at birth.


Date: 1996-08-30

By Chip Parkinson, Staff Writer

A judge was visibly affected by the tender pleas of the defendant's child, but Darlene Bright went to prison anyway.

The mother of two shuffled out of Judge Pat Brian's courtroom Thursday, sobbing and cupping her face in her hands. She faces up to five years behind bars and a $5,000 fine.Bright, 34, was originally charged with murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of her adopted son, Kameron. Bright told police the boy had fallen from a bunk bed in her family's West Valley home two years ago.

Several doctors said the child's skull could not have been cracked so severely from such a short fall - opinions the judge pointed to repeatedly during the sentencing.

"The court is convinced this 3-year-old child received some extremely lethal punishment" that night, Brian said.

Kory Bright, 10, asked for mercy for his mother.

"My mom is a good mom to me and my brother. I love her very much. Please don't take her away from me," he said to the judge, who listened intently.

Brian acknowledged the child's words but said he was bound by good reason and the law.

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