Russia bans 3 adoption agencies following baby's death in U.S.

MOSCOW, July 11 (RIA Novosti) - Three international adoption agencies, including one that failed to inform Russia of the death of a baby in the U.S. this week, have been banned from operating in Russia, the country's adoption authorities said on Friday.

A 21-month-old baby adopted from Russia three months ago died in the U.S. state of Virginia on Tuesday after being left by his foster father for several hours in the back of a car, in searing heat.

The Russian Education and Science Ministry's adoption commission said in a statement: "The agencies to be banned from working on the territory of the Russian Federation include a representative office that violated the requirements of Russian law on swiftly informing us of the death of an adopted child."

The baby, born with the name Dmitry Yakolev, was left strapped in the back seat of his foster father Miles Harrison's car when the man drove to work in the town of Herndon. The boy was left in the car in the hot sun as the temperature in the vehicle rose to around 55 degrees C (130 degrees F).

Harrison, 49, was supposed to take the child, who he had named Chase, to a day care center on Tuesday morning but went straight to work, leaving the child in the SUV with tinted windows until late in the afternoon, when a passerby saw the child and alerted the office receptionist.

Herndon police spokesman Jeff Coulter told RIA Novosti earlier on Friday: "Mr. Harrison is in the hospital, where he was admitted in a state of shock after the death of the child. We will give him time to recover, and then we plan to arrest him."

Coulter said no charges had been filed against Harrison, but that he would be charged with manslaughter, and if found guilty could face up to 10 years in prison.

The incident had been expected to prompt new calls in Russia for tighter controls on adoptions following several other scandals, notably the killing of a two-year-old girl from Siberia by her adoptive mother in the United States. The woman, Peggy Sue Hilt, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in May 2006 for beating the child to death.

Around 120,000 Russian children were adopted both in Russia and abroad in 2007, a 6.4% increase on 2006, according to the Science and Education Ministry.

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080711/113805362.html

 

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In search of responsibility

I spent hours this weekend wading through Russian news paper articles to dig up more details about this case. The story broke before the above article was published. I believe the first publication was an article in the Washinton Post titled Va. Toddler Dies After Father Leaves Him in SUV, which was published last  Thursday. I had just added the case and a couple of American articles and was already working on three other cases that hit the news in the last couple of days, when someone mailed me the above article. The banning of three agencies was news to me, since it had not been mentioned in the American media and the article also contained the original name of the boy that was so grossly neglected, something not mentioned in any American news paper either. 

Though the article said three agencies were banned, it didn't say which agency, information I'd like to add to the case files we maintain. It so happened, the original name of the boy was the key to finding that out. Thanks to an online translation service I was able to translate his name into Cyrillic writing and with that started searching the Russian section of Google news. The first article I found did indeed mention one of the three banned agencies, European Adoption Consultants from Ohio, which was responsible for the placement of Chase/Dmitry but no mentioning of any home study agency.

In the mean time I had informed the Daily Bastardette in a comment on her blog about the placement agency involved, knowing that is typical information she maintains about the Russian murder cases as well. I noticed there was a heated debate going on whether this case deserved to be mentioned on the list of Russian adoptees killed by their adopters. There were proponents who blaimed the neglect entirely on wealthy people too self-absorbed to take proper care of their purchased goods and were now faced with a broken toy and there were opponents who said this was a tragic accident that unfortunately happens more often than not and cannot be ascribed to adoption. Faced with the debate I foolishly decided to add my one-and-a-half cent, so I wrote:

I've read quite a few comments now that say this case has nothing to do with adoption, which I think needs addressing.

I think there are two sides to this, a political and a personal.

On a political level, this has everything to do with adoption. Banning EAC from doing further business in Russia is a political decision made by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science and is entirely related to this case.

On a personal level it is much more difficult to establish a relation between adoption and the neglect taken place. Such is difficult to establish in all abuse/neglect/murder cases.

Only in cases where a family consists of natural and adoptive children and where the adoptive children are treated badly while the natural children don't, can we establish a relation between adoption and abuse/neglect/murder.

In all other cases such relation is hard and often impossible to establish. That doesn't mean those case that are not all that cut 'n dry should be excluded. As much as we can't assume the neglect would not have taken place had this not been an adopted child, we can't assume either this is a foolish, yet otherwise loving parent who would have done so had the child been a fruit of his own loins.

I hoped that would cool of the debate a little, but boy was I wrong with that, it only put more fuel on instead. Long story short, the list of comments is now 80 posts long and there will probably follow some more. I decided to step out of the debate after three posts, because I don't feed the trolls.

Today I decided to look again into the Russian articles and this time around found one that mentioned what looked like the home study agency involved. An automatic translation of that article brought up the following sentence.

The conclusion of the opportunity to be adoptive parents Harrison couple and a commitment to monitor the "living conditions and upbringing of the adopted child", according to the Ministry, has prepared a licensed clinical sotsrabotnik Agency Adoption Connections Christian Hessindzher in Virginia, USA.

Upon verification there indeed was an agency "Adoption Connections" in Virginia and the sentence indeed seemed to indicate they did the home study, which was later verified by a Russian member of PPL. Still I was confused about the "Christian Hessindzher" part. Sure many agencies are Christian, but what the heck is a Hessindzher? Fortunately our Russian member sent me a link to yet another Russian article, which contained the following sentence after automatic translation:

The conclusion of the opportunity to be adoptive parents and spouses Harrison obligation to monitor the living conditions and upbringing of the adopted child, as reported in Minobrnauki, produced Kristin K. Hessindzher, a licensed clinical social worker adoption agencies "Edopshn Konnekshenz" (Virginia).

So my first conclusion this was some sort of  Christian whatever had been completely wrong, this was the name of the social worker involved, someone by the name of Kristin Hessinger or something like that. A couple of Google rounds further, I found an article about a Christine Hessinger who wrote home studies for Adoption Connections in Virginia. With that my search for the parties responsible for the placement of Chase/Dmitry was finished.

I still don't know who the other two agencies are that were banned from Russia, but we'll probably hear more about that in the coming days. For now the Chase/Dmitry case can rest for a while until the trials begin and we will hear more about the circumstances surrounding his gruesome neglect.

The other two agencies

I still don't know who the other two agencies are that were banned from Russia, but we'll probably hear more about that in the coming days.

Those words I wrote less than a day ago and by now the names are known. In an article in the Moscow Times two agencies were mentioned as being banned Cradle of Hope and The Adoption Center of Family & Children's Agency. European Adoption Consultants, the agency that placed Chase/Dmitry, is under investigation according to the Moscow Times and is still not on Russia's black list.

Let''s see what tomorrow's news will tell. So far none of the American news media have picked up on the banning of any of the adoption agencies.

Clarification

Cradle of Hope and FCA were suspended or banned prior to the death of Chase, it had nothing to do with that case at all. I am not sure what the reasons behind their suspensions, but most likely post placement reports.

For COH, the talk is the reason they are suspended is because they cut ties with a travel agency called Allways. Families with COH were not required to use this travel agency at all, it was just an option. Apparently this was not only a travel agency but had ties with orphanges, baby homes, staff worked as coordinators, etc.. They got more of a cut with the adoptions then just doing the travel part. So apparently COH was not happy with this and in an attempt to cut costs for families (as foreign fees kept going up), they cut their ties. According to what I have read, the Russian owner of Allways has alot of friends in high places and did not appreciate the loss of business for him so he decided to get back at COH.

I have no idea what the whole truth behind it is, but that seems to be a consistent story I am hearing.

Allways a catch

The only relation between Chase/Dmitry's death and the banning of Cradle of Hope and Family & Children's Agency is the mentioning of the two in several articles in the Russian media. Other than that there indeed is no relation.  

I went to the website of Always International Travel Agency and found a list of recommended adoption agencies. Of the twenty agencies listed only the following seven are accredited:

  • Adopt-a-child, Inc.
  • Alliance for Children, Inc.
  • Children's Home Society of Minnesota
  • Cradle of Hope Adoption Center, Inc. (Recently banned)
  • Create Adoptions, Inc.
  • Family and Children's Agency, Inc. (Recently banned)
  • Small World Adoption Foundation, Inc.

Since the list may not have been updated in a while let's add the following three agencies, since they have been accredited in the recent past:

  • Dove Adoptions International, Inc.
  • Families Thru International Adoption
  • Hand in Hand International Adoption

Which means that the remaining ten agencies have no legal means to do adoption in Russia and have to use the umbrella construction, which defacto means the AP's in question have to lie in Russian court.

Changing Patterns

I wanted to give myself some time to cool-down from the rage I felt that a foster-parent (one who has been screened by formal-authority, and deemed fit, responsible and capable of caring for another family's child....) "forgot" his responsibility to the child he placed in his car that morning.

In order to be fair, I didn't want my response to reflect the disgust I have towards those who will find sympathy for a man who "made a mistake any parent could make", like "forgetting where a child was placed".

A foster/adoptive parent is NOT just your average parent.  These are people who should be expected to live up to a higher standard of responsibility because the purpose behind foster/adoptive service is to prevent child abuse and neglect. 

So what will become of the foster family that promised an agency and family, "any given child will be safer with us, because we can be trusted to put a child's needs first."

It's one thing to close the doors to an agency... the agency can quickly change it's operating name, and get back into business all over again. Instead, I wonder what will become of this case in the United States, because according to the legal statistics found in the article, "Sentences Vary When Kids Die in Hot Cars", it's the mother who typically suffers the harshest consequences of "temporary child placement".

An Associated Press analysis of more than 310 fatal incidents in the past 10 years found that prosecutions and penalties vary widely, depending in many cases on where the death occurred and who left the child to die - parent or caregiver, mother or father:

-Mothers are treated much more harshly than fathers. While mothers and fathers are charged and convicted at about the same rates, moms are 26 percent more likely to do time. And their median sentence is two years longer than the terms received by dads.

-Day care workers and other paid baby sitters are more likely than parents to be charged and convicted. But they are jailed less frequently than parents, and for less than half the time.

-Charges are filed in half of all cases - even when a child was left unintentionally.

In all, the AP analyzed 339 fatalities involving more than 350 responsible parties. July is by far the deadliest month, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total.

A relatively small number of cases - about 7 percent - involved drugs or alcohol. In a few instances, the responsible parties had a history of abusing or neglecting children. Still others were single parents unable to find or afford day care. 

Mothers were jailed 59 percent of the time, compared to 47 percent for fathers. And the median sentence was three years for dads, but five for moms.

"I think we generally hold mothers to a higher standard in the criminal justice context than in just family life generally," says Jennifer M. Collins, a professor at the Wake Forest University School of Law who has studied negligence involving parents and such hyperthermia cases. A large segment of society, she says, thinks "fathers are baby-sitting, and mothers are doing God's work."  http://ggweather.com/heat/ap_sentencing.htm

In terms of "higher standards", who is doing God's Work in the cases where a fostered/adopted child suffers, then dies?

Giving Chase/Dmitry a face

While reading the latest news articles about the case of Chase/Dmitry, I came across an article in Russia Today, which had a photo of him:

Investigations into Chase/Dmitry's case

Today the Washington Post had an update on the case of Chase/Dmitry. There was some information, that I believe wasn't covered before. It now seems Chase has been in the car for over 10 hours. His adoptive father left the house at 6:45 am on his way from Purceville to Herndon, which is about a 45 minute commute. At 5 pm that same day he was finally found in the car, by that time he was dead. So the poor boy must have been alone in that car for nine-and-a-half hours.

The attorney for the adoptive father said the following

"I have seen some pretty difficult and very tragic situations in 30 years of criminal defense practice," Greenspun said. "The sadness here is as bad as it gets for Mr. Harrison and his family and friends. This is a good man who has the unwavering support of his entire family. They are all dealing with their grief in this most difficult of times."

"Any suggestion of a motive is the exercise of wild imagination," Greenspun said. "This was an accident, a tragic accident. There was no motive of any sort, and any inference of that is absurd."

While it is an attorney's job to defend his client, the statement he made, resembles much of what I have read in comments on this case in the previous week and half. It seems on the one hand there are people wanting to claim this is merely an accident, while other's claim this to be murder. As it now seems this is in the least a situation of gross neglect, not an accident, but there is no indication so far this is a murder case either.

It is good to see the police is covering all basis and are investigating all angles of thise case

Herndon police have obtained a series of search warrants -- for Harrison's home, home computers, backpack and vehicle -- as part of their investigation. A warrant for Harrison's home computers indicated that Harrison had "made statements during interviews about prescriptions, life insurance policies and adoption information for the victim."

Detectives sought to examine the computers to verify or discredit Harrison's claims that he did not have a life insurance policy for his son, one police affidavit says.

Herndon police Lt. Jeff Coulter said he thought detectives were just "covering the bases and trying to get as much information as they can to determine whether this was accidental or intentional. It's a follow-up to cover those angles." He added that he did not think there was any indication of insurance playing a role in the case.

Somehow the case of Shawn Lowrance, whose adoptive parents took out a life insurance policy of $650,000 on him a year prior to his death, must have had some impact on law enforcement practices. At least now the police investigates these kind of possiblilties, while in Shawn's case it was the insurance company that, weeks later, reported their suspicions.

Regardless of "intentions"

The bottom line in this case is simple:  a child was placed into the hands of someone deemed trustworthy and responsible to care for a child.  Money was paid so this child would be kept well and in safe-keeping.

There are parents who were told [or led to believe] adoption/foster care is the best option for a young child's future.  [As if to say, "without these services, this child is doomed to die an early, "preventable" death."]

Someone failed.

"The sadness here is as bad as it gets for Mr. Harrison and his family and friends. This is a good man who has the unwavering support of his entire family. They are all dealing with their grief in this most difficult of times."

No, the sadness is, it took the "responsible" care-giver over 9 hours to remember he left a child in the back-seat of his car.  The sadness is, this child was promised protective custody.  This child is dead, and there is more than one family dealing with this loss.

In loving memory

Wednesday last week services were held at St. Francis DeSales Roman Catholic Church of Purcellville for Chase/Dmitry followed by his interment in Ebenezer Cemetery, Round Hill, VA. The Fairfax Times reported about the funeral mass. 

There were a couple of remarks in the article that gave me the shivers:

It's not what we gave him but what he gave us,” said a family friend, who eulogized the smiley toddler with blond hair.

That indeed sums up the position of many adoptees, we are there to give. We are there to give meaning to a marriage, we are there to fulfill the wants and needs of our parents. All the while adoption should be about what can be given to a child. Had more attention been given to Chase/Dmitry, he would still have been alive. The same sentiment is reflected in a letter from Miles Harrison who couldn't attend, still being hospitalized at the time. He stated in his writing: Chase would “always be our perfect gift.”. Again the reversal of what should have been.

The eulogist also spoke of the “unconditional love” Chase's parents had for him.

How unconditional is someone's love when out of sight means out of mind? Unconditional is not just in good times or in bad times, but also in mundane times, in times when work and child-rearing go hand in hand.

There is also an online obituary in his name, which most disturbingly states:

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions in memory of Chase to Project Sunshine, c/o European Adoption Consultants, Inc., 12608 Alameda Drive, Strongsville, OH 44149, USA, 440-846-9300.

So in the end everyone loses, except for the industry.

there is little that

there is little that separates adopters from our abusers, because of this very way in which we are regarded which you caught and pointed out. 
it is this connection i've always known but avoided because it is one of the saddest things in the world. 

how can adoptive parents come to abuse?  is not this very regard for us the first step and the underlying reason? 

i have been deeply disturbed since reading this - the scope of this attitude is too great to comprehend.  the sky is black and there is no birdsong.

Where I Place Myself

Because I was there.... because I was married to the abuser....  because I could not fathom abuse in my home....  and because
I didn't want to put a red flag on 3 strange things that happened almost 10 years apart.   THERE ARE things that were not owned which could have prevented this child's death.  AND there were things within a 30 year period, that were not owned as very strange in my home that could have prevented my children's abuse! 

IN A WORLD OF WHY,
Teddy

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