TELEVISION REVIEW; An Adoption Dream Turns Nightmarish

Date: 2000-02-10
Source: nytimes.com

WALTER GOODMAN

For a while, to judge from their home videos, Jesse and Crystal Money and their newly adopted daughter made a happy family. But that did not last long. Within weeks of bringing the blond, blue-eyed 9-year-old Russian girl to their home in Atlanta, they discovered that she was angry, destructive and something of a thief.

As Mrs. Money tells the story in ''The Perfect Child,'' when she came upon Samantha (a pseudonym) holding her 2-year-old son, Joshua, over the edge of a 30-foot-high deck, she feared that the girl was about to carry out her threats to kill him.

The Moneys, who first located the girl through the Internet, complain to Troy Roberts, tonight's ''48 Hours'' reporter, that they were not fully alerted to her condition by the adoption agency, which gave them a glowing account of the girl's personality despite evidence of mental retardation.

For four months, until the Moneys' cash ran out, Samantha was in the care of psychiatrists. One labeled her ''a homicide risk,'' and she was put on antidepressants. The couple installed cameras in several rooms of their home to keep track of Samantha and sent Joshua off to stay with his grandmother in Texas.

Although the adoption agency, the Frank Foundation, seems to have a respectable record and one official hints that the Moneys' reaction to the girl's behavior may have been excessive (Mrs. Money describes Samantha as a conscienceless sociopath who is incapable of bonding or affection), the program cautions the thousands of American families seeking to adopt foreign-born children that regulation is spotty and that they may not be getting the whole truth.

A second case reported tonight leaves open the possibility that a different couple might have been more welcoming to Samantha despite her problems. A couple accepts two children with disabilities who have been rejected by their adoptive parents. The new parents are committed to sustaining a loving home as they try to meet their children's needs.

The Moneys, however, gave up on Samantha. ''She doesn't love us,'' Mrs. Money says. ''She doesn't know what love is.''

They took the girl back to a psychiatric hospital in Russia and surrendered their adoptive rights. Samantha says she wants to return to her American home, and the adoption agency has recently brought her back to this country but has not yet placed her with a new family. For now, as Mr. Roberts sums up in this affecting report, Samantha is deemed to be ''defective merchandise.''

48 HOURS

The Perfect Child

CBS, tonight at 10

(Channel 2 in New York)

Executive producer, Susan Zirinsky; senior producer, Al Briganti; point producer, Patti Aronofsky; producer, Lisa Freed; correspondents, Troy Roberts and Susan Spencer.

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