Testimony to U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Date: 1999-09-30

Chairman Jesse Helms,
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,
Date: September 30, 1999.

RE: International Adoption

We support S. 682 and would like to submit our story to you for
consideration when you are considering S. 682. It is imperative that
adoption agencies, lawyers and other child placing agencies be held
responsible for their actions. There should be recourse for families if
an agency is found to be unethical, irresponsible and or fraudulent.
Our Story:

We adopted a 12 year old girl through Nightlight
International Adoptions, Inc. of CA, in October 97. We had
heard good reports and were confident that all would go well
since Nightlight seemed to have such a good track record and
informative psychological reports.
We have 3 other children adopted from other countries and are
experienced parents. Due to where we lived at the time (outside
US in a remote locale), we were clear about what we could and
could NOT deal with post placement. No services, limited school
resources, etc.
Despite very specific questions prior to picking up Inga,
some crucial facts were NOT disclosed to us. We were shocked to
learn that she had been placed with 2 Russian families and
brought back to the home. In addition, she could not read or
write Russian (at the age of 12!). She was a smoker! AND, she
was a habitual runner. She had a history of being picked up by
the police and brought back to the home. Had we known any one
of these facts prior to traveling, we would not have proceeded.
Inga was not appropriately prepared for us to pick her up,
either. The workers feel that adoption is in the ``best
interest'' of the child and apparently avoided the necessary
emotional preparation for fear of tantrums or resistance from
To make a very long story short, our family was devastated
and we struggled to make things work for almost a year. We
traveled back to the states in the summer of '98 and placed
Inga with another family willing to work with her. She went
through 6 families and 2 hospitalizations. All of these
families were older, more experienced, and very successful at
parenting ```difficult'' and ``hard to place'' older children.
None of them could parent her. We researched all available
resources in the US. We accessed family therapy, special
education, post adoptive support groups, and a variety of
specialists. We reached the lifetime limit on our health
insurance coverage. We contacted the Russian judge in an
attempt to dissolve the adoption. We pled with Nightlight to
take some responsibility.
We are currently trying to release our parental rights and
make Inga a ward of the state so she can get the treatment she
needs which we cannot provide. We are truly emotionally,
physically and financially depleted. This has been a tragic
story for us, many other people, and most sadly, Inga.
Furthermore, Nightlight has been reluctant to admit ANY
responsibility whatsoever for their neglect in accessing
pertinent, easily available information. Nightlight has even
stated that they can't be responsible for families who are
``not satisfied'' with the children they adopt. To be sure they
have made other successful placements, but in our case they
were neglectful in obtaining very essential facts, and now, 2
years later, Inga is in a residential psychiatric treatment
center with a diagnosis of ``major depressive disorder,
psychosis, and post traumatic stress syndrome.'' Their
recommendation is 9 more months of residential treatment and
then a group home.
Clearly, we would have avoided much of this heartache and
tragedy if consumer protection laws pertaining to international
adoption had been in place. I would be happy to speak with you
in more detail if you would like.
Cilia J. Whatcott.


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