A Difficult Decision

Date: 2000-02-09
Source: cbsnews.com

Visits The Biological Mother

(CBS) As Samantha's adoptive parents prepared to go back to Russia to leave her there, Jesse said that he and Crystal were not rejecting Samantha.

"It's going to be a case of her adoptive parents not being able to care for her," he said. "You have to understand psychiatrists tell us that she has no bonding, no affection. She most likely will just move on."

But Nina Kostina, the director of the agency that set up the adoption, was distraught over the couple's decision: "It looks cruel to me, cruel and not thoughtful," she said.

"This is the first case when the child was returned to Russia and put in the psychiatric hospital," she says. She questions whether Samantha is even that sick.

But psychiatrist Brian Kennedy says Samantha suffers from attachment disorder - in effect, an inability to love. Kennedy says the condition makes her dangerous. "She has thought about killing her brother," Kennedy says. "She has tried to kill him and she could not give me assurances that she wouldn't kill him."

At least one psychiatrist had another opinion. In a report, the doctor described Samantha's overall behavior as "impeccable." He had some troubling things to say about her parents. He said staffers perceived the adoptive parents to be cool and distant toward their daughter. At times, he said, Samantha appeared to be frightened of them.

Crystal, however, defended herself and her husband. "(Samantha) is a very different person when you get to know her," she says. "It took me a year and a half to break through the facade."

Kostina says that such problems are rare, and says the vast majority of the 5,000 adoptions her agency helped arrange have been successful.

She introduced 48 Hours to Diane Cadenhead, who adopted three children from the same orphanage in which Samantha had been living. Cadenhead says she has had a "wonderful" adoption experience.

Kostina also says she offered to place Samantha with another family, but that Samantha's adoptive parents would not cooperate. Crystal and Jesse say the Foundation told them something else.

"We had spoken to the agency several months ago and they said essentially there's no family in the United States that will take this child," says Jesse.

On the morning they were to leave, both Jesse and Crystal were very upset. Crystal was crying; Jesse, she said, had been throwing up.

After a 10-hour flight from Atlanta, Crystal and Jesse arrived in Moscow with Samantha. It was Samantha's first trip back to her Russia since being adopted there two years earlier.

"The doctors in America have told me that if she returns home, she will kill my son," Crystal said. "I believe them."

Crystal and Jesse tapped into their life savings to bring Samantha to Moscow to be treated by Russian doctors. "She'll be able to be seen by doctors who are thoroughly familiar with Russian institutionalization," esse said. "They have worked with kids from Russian orphanages."

The couple found a bed for Samantha at a children's psychiatric hospital in Moscow. But because doctors there suspected that Crystal and Jesse might abandon Samantha, they demanded copies of the couple's passports - and made them promise to return for Samantha in two months.

Crystal and Jesse did not tell Samantha that they would not be coming back for her. At the hospital with her parents, Samantha seemed to sense that something was wrong. Talking with Troy Roberts, she said that she had told her parents that she loved them very much. "But they didn't believe me," she said.

A few minutes before she was to enter the hospital, Samantha told Roberts that she had never tried to kill her brother. "I just tried to pick him up, that's all," she said. "He was too heavy." She also said that she loved her little brother.

Samantha was assigned to a room with another child on a locked ward. She said she didn't feel safe there, and wanted to go back to America.

But Crystal and Jesse had made their decision. They don't plan on ever bringing Samantha back into their home. The couple blames the adoption agency for not telling them enough about Samantha before they adopted her.

After leaving Samantha, the couple took a train ride eight hours north of Moscow to meet Valentina, a recovering alcoholic who is Samantha's biological mother. Valentina was stripped of her parental rights when Samantha was five. Samantha's father died years ago, and Valentina's second husband ekes out a living carving religious icons.

The couple asked Valentina if Samantha had had an unusual birth. Valentina didn't know, but admitted that there was physical abuse in the home. Samantha was hurt, Valentina said.

"Children coming from those types of backgrounds are not going to just come into your home and all of a sudden just flower," Crystal said.

Valentina could never afford a trip to Moscow to visit Samantha. Instead she wrote to wish her daughter a merry Christmas and to beg her forgiveness. Roberts read the letter to Samantha when he returned to Moscow a few days later.

Samantha seemed pleased with the letter, even though it came from a woman she hardly remembers, and who can't help her now.

A week after leaving Samantha in the hospital, Crystal and Jesse flew back to Atlanta.

What about Samantha? "I believe that she might be waiting for us, but she's not waiting for us as parents," said Crystal. "She doesn't love us. She doesn't know what love is." But when 48 Hours last visited her, Samantha was counting the days until the time her parents promised to return for her. She says that they had promised to return in 60 days.

Two months after the couple left Samantha in Moscow, they signed papers that officially severed their relationship with her. They gave Samantha back to the agency that arranged the adoption.
"I really didn't want to sign it," Crystal said. "I think it's in a mother's heart that you want to save your child. And she was my child and I loved her. It was very hard."

Crystal and Jesse are now planning to move. Their house stirs sad memories, they say.

Slowly, they are leaving behind the memories of Samantha. "It's taking a long time to get used to," Crystal says. "Sometimes I still take four plates out, or four cups, and I have to remember."

Samantha was released from the Russian hospital last week and brought back to the United States by the Frank Foundation. It is now looking for another American family to take her.

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