Adoptee deaths rare, experts say 12 Russian cases troubling, puzzling | Pound Pup Legacy

Adoptee deaths rare, experts say 12 Russian cases troubling, puzzling

Date: 2004-05-21

Adoptee deaths rare, experts say 12 Russian cases troubling, puzzling

By Russell Working
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 21, 2004

In some cases, the children lasted only a few months in their new country.

Luke Evans, 16 months, died six months after he arrived in the United States. His adopted mother, Natalie Fabian Evans of Lowell, Ind., is accused of shaking him to death.

In other cases, they survived a little longer.

Yana and Anatoli Kolenda, both 11, died in 2002--nearly five years after their arrival in America--when their adoptive father stabbed them and his wife to death at their home in Westfield, Mass., then fatally shot himself.

Circumstances differ widely in the deaths of 12 Russian adoptees whose parents have been accused of killing them in the past eight years, ranging from what prosecutors portray as flashes of rage to abuse that spanned weeks.

Yet beneath the grim tales are common threads. Defense attorneys say parents were stunned by the extent of their children's medical needs and behavioral disorders. Prosecutors accuse the defense of trying to shift the blame to innocent victims, who survived the deprivation of Russian orphanages only to die in the families that were supposed to care for them.

And the doctors and psychologists who treat such children say some parents are rushing into adoption unprepared for the problems that can accompany youngsters from Eastern European and other orphanages, ranging from fetal alcohol syndrome to emotional disorders.

The deaths, these experts say, are only the tip of an iceberg of adoptive families ill-equipped to deal with troubled children.

"We're talking about very, very at-risk children placed with families who don't know what they're doing, who are often left completely on their own," said Dr. Jerri Jenista, a Michigan physician and adoptive mother who consults with families seeking children abroad. "It's a prescription for disaster."

Studies show that most adoptive parents are happy with their children--whether from Russia or elsewhere. These parents wince when the press plays up deaths in adoptive families, said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a New York nonprofit devoted to improving adoption policy.

"Far more children die of abuse and neglect in biological families than in adoptive families," Pertman said.

Agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics do not break out child slayings according to whether or not the victim is adopted.

Still, experts knew of no other country from which so many children have been killed.

"It just didn't seem to exist until this phenomenon happened with the Russian< kids," said Thais Tepper, a Pennsylvania adoptive mother and co-founder of the Parents Network for the Post-Institutionalized Child.There have been other cases of severe abuse that did not result in death. A Utah couple face criminal charges for allegedly starving two Russian children and an Ohio man imprisoned on charges of throwing his adopted Russian daughter at the wall, breaking her spine and leaving her unable to walk. Doctors and psychologists who treat such troubled children in international adoptions say abuse cases are too numerous to count.

Agencies that deal with adoptions often protest that in spotlighting abuse or killings, the media misses the more commonplace stories of happy adoptions. Antonia Forkin Edwardson, executive director of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, an umbrella group of adoption agencies, said abusive cases amount to only a tiny minority of the thousands of adoptions that occur every year.

"The majority of international adoptions are positive," she said. "Families are happy."

Others say the agencies share a degree of blame for adoptions gone wrong. While agencies do home studies, seldom is any psychological screening done to weed out parents with anger-management problems or those inadequate to the task of raising children, said Ronald Federici, an Alexandria, Va., neuropsychologist who specializes in internationally adopted children.

"I've never known a family to fail a home study," he said. "I have a family that was charged with multiple counts of child abuse [after the adoption]. They were major alcoholics before. The home study didn't find it."

The suspects in these cases differ from the profile of parents who kill children nationwide, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. None of the alleged killers had a prior record, compared to 56 percent of family murder defendants nationwide.

Ten of the adults accused of killing Russian children--or 83 percent--were women, compared to 55 percent of parent killers of children nationwide, perhaps because mothers of adoptees are more likely to stay at home and therefore have more contact with the children.

One reason for the high number of deaths among Russians may be that some parents are unprepared for the problems related to fetal alcohol syndrome in a country where alcohol abuse is rampant, experts say.

Even if Russian parents insist on raising a disabled child, child welfare officials visit when the child is 6 or 7 years old and urge them to surrender their youngster to an orphanage, said Boris Altshuler, head of the Moscow children's advocacy group Right of the Child, which advocates reform in Russia's orphanage system.


Violent deaths for 12 adopted Russian children

Alex Pavlis (6)

From: Yeysk, Russia
In U.S.: 6 weeks
Died: Dec. 18, 2003

Schaumburg, Ill. prosecutors say Alex's adoptive mother, Irma Pavlis, 32, beat him to death. She has pleaded innocent.

Liam Thompson (3)

From: Ekimchan, Russia
In U.S.: 5 months
Died: Oct. 16, 2003

Gary Thompson of Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced to 15 years to life for scalding his 3-year-old son and leaving the child to die in an unheated basement. His wife Amy is awaiting trial.

Jessica Albina Hagmann (2)

From: Moscow
Died: Aug. 11, 2003

Patrice Hagmann of Prince William County, Va., was sentenced to probation and
two suspended 5-year terms in the death of her daughter. Hagmann said she
smothered Jessica while trying to calm a tantrum.

Maria Bennett (2)

From: Ussurisk, Russia
In U.S.: 9 months
Died: Oct. 23, 2002

Susan Jane Bennett, 41, of Lancaster, Ohio, was sentenced to three years in prison last November for reckless homicide in the death of her daughter, who died of shaken baby syndrome.

Yana and Anatoli Kolenda (both 11)

In U.S.: 5 years
Died: Oct. 20, 2002

Richard Kolenda, 49, of Westfield, Mass., fatally stabbed his wife and two adopted Russian children and then shot himself to death, according to police.

Zachary Higier (2)

Died: Aug. 15, 2002

Natalia Higier, 47, of Braintree, Mass., was charged in the death of her son Zachary, 2, who died of severe head trauma at home. She said he fell out of his crib, but doctors told police that Zachary's injuries were consistent with falling from a three-story building.

Jacob Lindorff (5)

From: Pskov oblast, Russia
In U.S.: 6 weeks
Died: Dec. 14, 2001

Heather Lindorff of Franklin, N.J., was sentenced to six years in prison in the death of her son, who died of blunt head trauma. Lindorff's husband, James, 54, is serving four years probation for child abuse.

Luke Evans (16 months)

From: Inozemtsevo, Russia
In U.S.: 6 months
Died: Nov. 30, 2001

Luke's adoptive mother, Natalie Fabian Evans, 33, of Lowell, Ind., was charged in the death of her son, who died of massive brain injuries. She claimed he hit his head in the bathtub. Trial is set for July.

Viktor Matthey (6)

From: Amur region, Russia
In U.S.: 10 months
Died: Oct. 31, 2000

Union Township, N.J., prosecutors charged Robert and Brenda Matthey in the death of their son, saying the parents locked Viktor overnight in an unheated pump room where he died of hypothermia. A jury deadlocked on manslaughter charges May 19 but convicted the couple of lesser abuse charges.

Logan Higginbotham (3)

From: Smolensk, Russia
In U.S.: 7 months
Died: Nov. 25, 1998

Laura Higginbotham, 33, of Shelburne, Vt., pleaded innocent to involuntary< manslaughter in the death of her daughter, who died of a massive head injury. Higginbotham said the girl fell and hit her head.

David Alexander Polreis (2)

From: Tula, Russia
In U.S.: 6 months
Died: Februrary 1996

Renee Polreis was sentenced to 22 years in prison in the killing of her son in Colorado. Polreis claimed David beat himself to death with a wooden spoon in a fit of rage.

Source: News reports
Chicago Tribune

0

Past, Present... What's in the future?

If I didn't double-check the published-date, I would have sworn the following statement applied to adoption-stories I find myself reading over and over again, in 2011.

Agencies that deal with adoptions often protest that in spotlighting abuse or killings, the media misses the more commonplace stories of happy adoptions. Antonia Forkin Edwardson, executive director of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, an umbrella group of adoption agencies, said abusive cases amount to only a tiny minority of the thousands of adoptions that occur every year.

"The majority of international adoptions are positive," she said. "Families are happy."

Others say the agencies share a degree of blame for adoptions gone wrong. While agencies do home studies, seldom is any psychological screening done to weed out parents with anger-management problems or those inadequate to the task of raising children, said Ronald Federici, an Alexandria, Va., neuropsychologist who specializes in internationally adopted children.

"I've never known a family to fail a home study," he said. "I have a family that was charged with multiple counts of child abuse [after the adoption]. They were major alcoholics before. The home study didn't find it."

The suspects in these cases differ from the profile of parents who kill children nationwide, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. None of the alleged killers had a prior record, compared to 56 percent of family murder defendants nationwide.

Ten of the adults accused of killing Russian children--or 83 percent--were women, compared to 55 percent of parent killers of children nationwide, perhaps because mothers of adoptees are more likely to stay at home and therefore have more contact with the children.

One reason for the high number of deaths among Russians may be that some parents are unprepared for the problems related to fetal alcohol syndrome in a country where alcohol abuse is rampant, experts say.

It was that last sentence that reminded me the more things change, the more Pertman and The Adoption Industry remains the same. 

I don't understand why adoptive parents are more comfortable blaming  the problem-child, than the parents who prove, once the quick study is over, they are free to exhibit uncontrolled behavior at home, and around their adopted kids.

It's not 2004 anymore.  The abused adoptee list is growing, and in some cases, the abusive acts are getting worse because the investigations are weak, and the interventions are lame.

Once Pertman is done promoting his new book and stance on adoptee rights and issues, I sure hope he floats back to reality, and decides abused adoptees not only deserve a little more attention, they deserve a little  A LOT more care from those promoting improved adoption services and adoption issues. 

Glorified Concern Trolls

Once Pertman is done promoting his new book and stance on adoptee rights and issues, I sure hope he floats back to reality, and decides abused adoptees not only deserve a little more attention, they deserve a little  A LOT more care from those promoting improved adoption services and adoption issues.

Adoption reformers are the concern trolls of Adoptionland.

Trolling around

You know, it's funny (in that 'you poor pathetic stupid-thing' sort of way), YEARS ago, (1998-9), when I used to post about MY adoption issues on Adoption.con, I was seen as a troll that had to be banned, removed, and deleted.  Of course, I had no idea how supportive educating adoption websites worked and operated back then, so I just calmed my bruised ego, and moved-on to the next adoption web-site, hoping members in that community would want to pay attention to additional serious adoption issues. 

<whisteling, looking stupid>

It took years for me to figure-out what 'Don't feed the trolls' meant, and it was a  very strange sobering moment when I realized, OOOOH, I get it, I'm a Troll, and my voice is not wanted.

It took a while to get the basic PPL format the way I wanted it... and we're still light-years away from the vision in my mind, but we're making progress with very little outside help.

When PPL started, an adoptee activist asked if PPL had a policy on trolls.  I remember thinking, why would we need that?  Is this not going to be Troll-Central?  [See:  A Position on Adoption Reform - Doggy Style ]

If I had to choose the most insulting rejection, ever, I would have to say it's a tie... between the shunning from the Bastard Nation community, and the outright rude and insensitive reaction made by a First Mother-turned Family Preservation Activist, I couldn't believe that "I want nothing to do with you" came from fellow angry adoptees and a birth mother who lost her daughter, twice.  Being smacked back into reality helps me see people more clearly.... and I never forget a smacker.

The only comfort I can extract from such alienating bitch-smacking experiences is, higher-profile adoption advocates may never have liked my style, my lack of tact, or my seemingly crazy approach, but they did decide the subject-matter I always tried to present is important enough to mention on their own active blogs.

Sometimes I really hate working on PPL; it's depressing, it's lonely, and there's no money or glory in it.  I often tell Niels, in private, "I HATE PPL.... HATE it, I wish we never started it."

But every once in a while, God, Karma, Fate, sends me a crumb, and I'm reminded WHY I wanted to help create a website dedicated to the Dark Side of Adoption.

If not for PPL, bloggers wouldn't have such simple classic one-liners, like "A new word" to discuss in the comfort of their own supportive communities.

AND, if not for trolls on PPL, and the "I'm done with this bullshit, I got better things to do than argue with the likes of you" attitude that goes with it, we would not have new adoption communities like Adopted-Abused and films like, The Mystery of #4709 - Who Am I? cropping-up, inspiring others to look into the many disturbing truths the adoption industry would like to keep deeply hidden and buried.

[mental note:  start looking for " I Trolls"  t-shirts]

Niels and I may not be Top Dogs making it big in the Adoption Industry, and PPL may not be a household name, and there could very well be someone else in this world who will get credit for initiating radical adoption reform,  but you can be sure, my eyes are on Pertman, et al.... and I can't WAIT to post a piece titled, "It's ABOUT <bleeping> TIME".   Yep, this ol' crazy bitchen and moaning complainer can't WAIT to write about the dangers delay in written policy can bring the adopted child.

[Let's just hope I'm still alive and well enough to post that litany of reminders...]

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