FOREIGN ADOPTIONS CAN TAKE EXTRAORDINARY WORK, EXPERTS SAY

Relates to:
Date: 1999-05-27

John C. Ensslin
Rocky Mountain News

Parents who adopt foreign children need to know that love does not always conquer all, adoption experts say.

It takes hard work, commitment, possibly therapy and plenty of outside support to form bonds with youngsters who may have suffered abuse and neglect.

Social workers, lawyers and adoption agency directors reacted with sorrow to the arrest Friday of an Arapahoe County woman police say tried to sell her 8-year-old Russian-born daughter via the Internet.

Denise K. Thomas, 42, and her husband Peter deny the allegations leveled against her by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department.

The couple said they have done everything they could to care for the girl since she came to live with them in January. But they say they have been overwhelmed by behavior problems stemming from an undisclosed history of abuse.

Sheriff's investigators claim Denise Thomas tried to sell the girl to a Texas couple for $4,000.

But Thomas contends that she was only trying to find a good home for the girl and cover a portion of the $15,000 in fees the Thomases paid to adopt her.

Gina Weitzenkorn, a lawyer who specializes in family law, said she could not recall a similar case.

"I know buying or selling a child is illegal," Weitzenkorn said. "But when you do private adoptions, there are fees that people pay."

She wondered what efforts the parents made to seek help from social services or other agencies.

That kind of help is often vital in making such adoptions work, said Virginia Appel, executive director of the Adoption Alliance, a nonprofit agency that helps coordinate domestic and foreign adoptions.

"I think the real key is education, education and education," Appel said.

"There really is no child in an orphanage overseas, other than an infant, that is not going to have a problem from institutional abuse and neglect, particularly with older children."

Her agency does not try to steer people away from such adoptions, but tries to make them go in with "eyes wide open."

She recommends couples obtain a video of the child, a medical report and a psychological report.

Jude Liguori, a child protection administrator with Denver Social Services, said it's important that would-be adoptive parents know the child's history before they see a video and "fall in love with the child."

When the adoptive parents travel overseas, Appel said, they "need to listen to their instincts," when observing the child's behavior.

If problems develop after the adoption, Appel sometimes recommends working with a therapist, getting support from other adoptive parents and respite care to give the parents a short break.

She said some parents are hampered by a "do-it-yourself" mentality.

But "the issues that these children have can be enormous."

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