HOLT: FINALLY, A FAMILY: TWINS GIVE COUPLE A CHANCE TO HEAL

Date: 2008-03-08

Detroit Free Press (MI)

HOLT: FINALLY, A FAMILY: TWINS GIVE COUPLE A CHANCE TO HEAL
THIS TIME, THE ADOPTION IS REAL FOR HEINRICHS

Author: DAN CORTEZ; FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
[note: Holt is a town in Michigan]

Over the past two months, Reece and Amanda Heinrich have been getting to know the 5-month-old twins they adopted in December.

Damian is a chatterbox who loves to smile, but hates baths. His sister, Kya, is a quiet daddy's girl, who loves baths.

"We find ourselves just staring at them and trying to absorb everything about them," said Amanda Heinrich of Holt. "Every now and then I feel like somebody's going to knock on the door and say it's over."

That bittersweet feeling of bonding amid uncertainty comes from experience for the couple. The Heinrichs - along with at least four other families - were victims of an adoption scam run by an agency called Waiting Angels in Macomb Township. The agency had promised all of them a baby from Guatemala. But no child ever arrived. After two years of waiting, all the Heinrichs got were pictures of a boy.

The Heinrichs adore their twins from Detroit. But they're also still dealing with the emotional toll of the scam.

"I think it's just residual from what we've been through," Amanda Heinrich said of feeling apprehensive about going through the process again.

Experts said it's natural for victims of adoption scams to continue to suffer for long periods of time. The emotions can range from depression to the victims blaming themselves for using poor judgment.

"It can last for years," said Kelly Kiser-Mostrom, who helps run a Web site that assists victims of adoption scams. She's also a victim. "You never forget it. You lose trust in your own instincts. Everyday decisions are questioned."

Amanda Heinrich hasn't gotten over it. She had given a name - Jamyson - to the boy she thought was coming to her from Guatemala. She and her husband even had set up a bedroom for him.

In the end, according to the Michigan Attorney General's Office, Simone Boraggina and Joseph Beauvais, who ran Waiting Angels, pocketed $12,000 from the Heinrichs without ever delivering the child. When investigators raided Borragina's home last May, they seized her safety deposit boxes and found stashes of cash totaling $436,000, according to court documents.

With that trauma in the back of their minds, the Heinrichs cautiously decided to work with a new agency, Adoption Associates, last fall. Understandably, Amanda Heinrich was skeptical at first.

"When we first talked to them, we told them what we had been through," she said. "We didn't know if we were strong enough to do this again."

One thing that helped was meeting with Adoption Associates workers in person, instead of conducting business over e-mail like they had done with the Waiting Angels agency. The Heinrichs also met with people who had used Adoption Associates' services before, to better vet the agency.

"We have to be extra vigilant to make sure their needs are met," Nancy Cannon, director of Adoption Associates' Central Michigan office who worked with the Heinrich's on their adoption, said of families who have been victimized in adoption scams. "It's a natural mistrust that they have."

While working with Waiting Angels, the Heinrichs talked to references through an e-mail address Beauvais supplied. Investigators later said the e-mail address belonged to Beauvais.

"That open-book policy is not something we were used to," Amanda Heinrich said of Adoption Associates. "We talked to three families, face-to-face. When you don't trust anybody, you need everything in your face."

Meanwhile, the Heinrichs have kept an eye on the Boraggina and Beauvais cases in Macomb County Circuit Court. The two pleaded no contest to conducting a criminal enterprise and tax fraud last month. They are to be sentenced on a misdemeanor count of tax fraud April 8.

And Amanda Heinrich plans to be there.

"That's a scar that will never heal," she said. "Our main goal has been to shut them down and to make sure they can't do this to anybody else. I just want to hear it from someone with a big, black robe on."

Contact DAN CORTEZ at 586-469-1827 or dcortez@freepress.com.



(SIDEBAR)

How to avoid adoption scams

Adoption scams could cost your family tens of thousands of dollars. Here are some tips to help keep you and your family from being conned:

*Avoid agencies that offer deals that seem too good to be true. That might include extremely low prices, or short wait times.
*Ask lots of questions and be assertive.
*Consult with an attorney, or adoption professional, before turning over money to anyone. Some agencies will promise information about babies up for adoption in exchange for hundreds of dollars.
*Research the adoption agency that you are dealing with thoroughly. Ask for references, check with the Better Business Bureau and read every contract thoroughly before signing. If the agency is reputable, it will be more than happy to put you in touch with clients who had successful adoptions. Try to speak with them in person, or over the phone, not through e-mail.
*Make sure the agency is registered with the state.

www.startyouradoption.com

ILLUSTRATION: Photo

CAPTION:
Amanda and Reece Heinrich show off their 5-month-old twins Tuesday at their home in Holt. The Heinrichs had been expecting to adopt a Guatemalan boy, but the deal turned out to be a fraud.

Adoption Associates' Central Michigan office helped the Heinrichs adopt twins Damian, left, and Kya, who were born in Detroit.


DISCLAIMER: THIS ELECTRONIC VERSION MAY DIFFER SLIGHTLY FROM THE PRINTED ARTICLE 2
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