The Situation Worsens

Date: 2000-02-09

Agency Says That It Is Not At Fault

(CBS) Crystal and Jesse say that the Frank Foundation, which arranged Samantha's adoption, did not tell them about Samantha's condition.

Before leaving for Russia, the adoption agency gave the girl's medical records to Crystal and Jesse. "She is emotionally nice," the report said of Samantha. "She's open. She's tender. She's obedient. She's friendly."

But the records did says she was "olgriphrenic," a Russian term for mental retardation. But the couple says they asked about it and were told not to worry.

According to Crystal and Jesse, only after the adoption was official did the Frank Foundation provide them with more documents, which, they say, revealed troubling things about Samantha's past.

Before the adoption, the couple was told that Samantha's birth mother was an alcoholic. But the new documents go into greater detail, relating how Samantha's birth mother left her hungry, dirty, and in rags. The adoptive parents believe the mistreatment had a lasting affect on Samantha. Had they known this information, says Crystal, they would not have adopted the child.

As they continued digging into Samantha's past they found more. Officials at the orphanage say Samantha was in a special dorm for children with mental disabilities. The adoption agency failed to share this information with them, the couple says. They say the agency has been "grossly negligent."

The director of the Frank Foundation, Nina Kostina, says that her agency hid nothing. Kostina says the medical information she gets is limited by Russian privacy laws.

According to Kostina, adoptive parents can, and should, do more extensive research once they're in Russia. "Once the parents are in the orphanage they have access to any medical records, to the doctor, to anything, and this is their time when they should ask questions," says Kostina, a Russian émigré.

Kostina insists no information was withheld from the couple. But Crystal and Jesse still blame Kostina. Kostina points out that three other families have sued the Foundation with similar claims; each time the court ruled in the Foundation's favor.

48 Hours spoke with eight families who adopted through the Frank Foundation, including the three that sued. All say they received inaccurate medical information. Their children have been diagnosed with illnesses like fetal alcohol syndrome, hepatitis C, brain tumors, and a slew of psychological problems they claim the Frank Foundation didn't prepare them for.

Julie and Joe Ferenc say they were misled when they adopted their child, eight-year-old Alex. They say the Frank Foundation didn't tell them that Alex was microcephalic, which means his brain won't grow normally.

The Ferencs sued the Foundation but lost; a judge ruled the couple received all the medical information the agency had. The agency says that it provided enough information for the couple's doctor, who helped the Ferencs examne the file, to notice Alex's small head size.

The Ferencs decided to keep Alex. "We started to love him," says Julie. "We were in love with him. He loved us."

Meanwhile, Crystal and Jesse say that they are out of options with Samantha. Their insurance is running out, they say, and taking care of Samantha costs $500 per day.

So after Joshua goes to his grandmother's house, the couple makes a painful decision.
They decide that they only way Joshua can return is if they send Samantha away.

"We've been here every day loving her, nurturing her, helping her and we couldn't save her," says Crystal.

The couple says they agonized over the decision, and understand how others could question it. Says Crystal: "If I hadn't been in this position myself I might have been stating the same thing that I would hear from them: 'How can you do this? How can you do this?'"

Crystal and Jesse say they tried to find a family in America to adopt Samantha. But according to the couple, those who expressed interest decided not to adopt after reviewing Samantha's medical information.

A few weeks before Christmas, the adoptive parents gave Samantha her gifts early. The next day, they would fly with her to Russia.

Crystal and Jesse told Samantha they were taking her to a new hospital. But she didn't know that the hospital was in Russia.


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