The untold story of Masha Allen
- Masha Allen (Mariya Nikolaevna Yashenkova)
- Nepal -- Rabin Shrestha (alleged child rapist) & Action for Child Rights International
- Man Sentenced For Raping Adopted Daughter
- Nepal Children's Organization (NCO/Bal Mandir) -- child trafficking, corruption and sexual abuse
- Nepal adoptions chief raped and groomed orphans for prostitution (The Daily Telegraph)
- Girl adopted by Missouri couple
- Nepali Times -- Child predators detained
How a Russian girl ended up in an adoptive house of horrors, TWICE
In February 2005, Toronto police made an unprecedented move to further the investigation of a child pornography case they had been working on for three years. Hoping to rescue a girl from the ongoing sexual abuse, they took the unusual step to release several of the two hundred images they had in their possession. The photos were altered in such a way that only the scenery was shown, hoping this would lead to new leads in their investigation.
The media was eager to pick up on the story and the photos made the front page of many news paper and televised news programs paid extensive attention to the case. Soon after the release of the photos, the location depicted, in a twist of irony, was identified as Disney World. The victim, not visible in any of the photos presented was immediately labeled "Disney World Girl".
The release of the photos gave the audience a unique glimpse into the forbidden world of child pornography, without actually being tainted by it. The voyeuristic element of the release of the photos in combination with graphic descriptions of what was removed from the photos, made the story of "Disney World Girl" a news media hit.
Several months later, in their quest to rescue "Disney World Girl", Toronto police even upped the ante by releasing an undoctored photo of a girl who presumable was linked to the case and could be a material witness. They hoped taking this risky step, someone would be able to identify the girl in the picture, leading to "Disney World Girl" and her eventual rescue.
Two weeks after the release of the ''material witness" photo, the case was solved. "Disney World Girl" had been found two years earlier and her adoptive father who had abused her for years was already convicted and been in prison.
The media, who had heavily invested in the story still managed to spin the Toronto police's action into a rescue action. It's interesting to note that CBS news, in their news cast of May 16, 2005, called Internet Porn Girl Rescued, only briefly speaks of the anti-climatic aftermath of the investigation, but spends the first half of their air time to the heroic efforts made to rescue "Disney World Girl". No matter the reality of the case it had to follow the singular logic that the damsel in distress was rescued by the knights in shining armor.
The audience bought the story hook, line and sinker, as they would accept the heroic stories in the media that followed in the year-and-a-half that followed.
Faith Allen makes the scene
Only ten days after the "breaking" of the case, WESH2 aired an interview with Mea (Masha), the girl formerly labeled as "Disney World Girl” and her adoptive mother Faith Allen, who had contacted WESH2. The interview is relatively brief and leaves most of the talking to Faith Allen, who is clearly presented as another of the saviors in the story. The story-line of the saving of “Disney World Girl” apparently needed one more chapter, after all the “knights in shining armor” couldn't take care of a sexually abused girl. That required a “good mother”, preferably one that had had similar experiences herself.
Faith Allen grew up in Georgia under the name Kimberly Murphy. She attended Pepperell High School in Lindale, where she graduated in 1996. Two years earlier she had reportedly suffered a heart attack as a result of Anorexia Nervosa.
In 1998 Kimberly Murphy moved to Pennsylvania to admit herself to the Peniel Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a faith-based drug rehab center. Apparently Kimberly Murphy was again suffering from Anorexia Nervosa. Around the time she moved to Pennsylvania, Kimberly Murphy changed her name into Lynn Ginn.
It was at the Peniel center the following observation was made:
Out of desperation, Lynn’s mother was forced to place her in foster care. Nevertheless, deep feelings of rejection, worthlessness and self-hatred drove Lynn into a world of fantasy where she would deliberately inflict pain upon herself. Her eating escalated to a dangerous point. Her tales of occult involvement and satanic worship provided the attention that she so desperately craved; and for those who were not impressed with these stories, Lynn had adopted a catatonic-like posture to alarm them
Having no record of mental illness or antisocial behavioral problems, the intake department had deemed Lynn appropriate admission. Furthermore, she was experiencing absolutely no difficulty communicating and interacting with her peers in the dorm and with most of the faculty. However, staff noticed these episodes of silence would occur when Lynn was in the presence of certain levels of authority or when she was facing unpleasant circumstances. This was Lynn’s way of defying structure and silently setting treatment limitations.
from: The Lynn Ginn Story
Through the Peniel Center, where she stayed twice, once in 1998 and once in 2001, Lynn Ginn met Cheryl Allen, a black evangelical judge, whose claim to fame was introducing prayer into her courtroom. Judge Cheryl Allen took Lynn Ginn in her home (something Lynn Ginn later denied under oath) and got her counseling through Theotherapy, a faith-based service for which Judge Cheryl Allen served as a board member.
Around the time Cheryl Allen met Lynn Ginn, she had just been defeated in her efforts to seek a seat in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and was ready for a second bid to the office. Lynn Ginn was just the kind of person Cheryl Allen needed to appeal to white constituents in her district.
At Judge Cheryl Allen's recommendation, Lynn Ginn became a foster parent for Families United Network and had several black children placed in her home. Before Masha was placed with Lynn Ginn, two children had already been removed, because of alleged abuse, yet somehow she was considered a suitable candidate to take care of Masha.
Masha's “second chance”
On April 27, 2003, an undercover agent with the Illinois police made contact with Matthew Mancuso in a chat room on the Internet, where Mancuso bragged about his collection of child pornography. During the following month information was collected and a federal search warrant was acquired. Exactly one month later, FBI raided the Mancuso house and to their surprise found a 10-year-old girl living with him.
Masha, upon arrival of the FBI, immediately started telling her story, a secret she had kept for more than five years. Later that day she was sent to the Children's Hospital of Pittburg for assessment and consultation, after which the foster care agency, Family United Network, at the direction of Judge Cheryl Allen, placed Masha in the home of Lynn Ginn.
Not surprizingly things didn't work out all that well at Lynn Ginn's home, yet Masha's was not being placed with a more suitable family, instead adoption procedures were started.
On October 7, 2003, Michele A. Cunko prepared a report about the living situation of Masha, which contain the following observations (additional notes in bold are ours):
In section medical history of the home study prepared by Michele A. Cunko, October 7, 2003, Lynn Ginn advised that as of September 2003 test for Hepatitis B and C, RPR and HIV had not been performed despite recommendation by the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh to have these tests done as soon as possible and that these tests be repeated in three months and a final repeat testing performed in six months.
What has CYFS done to insure that Masha had received the above tests?
Vaccination information provided in home study prepared by Michele A. Cunko, October 7, 2003, contains incorrect dates. Vaccination against Tuberculosis (BGC) presumably took place April 20, 1992. Vaccination against Polio (July 17, 1992). Diptheria/Whooping cough (February 14, 1992).
All these dates precede Masha's birth! Is this information incorrect in the original Russian files, or was a transcription error made by Michele A. Cunko?
Masha's immunizations in the US were not in CYFS files. Lynn Ginn advised that Masha's immunizations are up to date.
Why was no verification asked beyond Lynn Ginn's word? Has CYFS done any follow ups on the omissions in care reported by Michele A. Cunko.
Records from the agency that handled Masha's adoption indicate that a Russian psychiatrist provided a diagnosis of astnic neurosis (sic) during 1997.
Astnic neurosis is not a term known in the English language. Why was this never checked? Could it be Asthenic neurosis? In which case the diagnosis is related to Dependent Personality Disorder. Was this ever verified? If said diagnosis is correct then Masha's own statements regarding her wish to be adopted by Lynn Ginn could be placed in another light.
In psychological/psychiatric section is stated that Masha does not exhibit any behavioral problems.
Odd for a girl who has been abused and exploited for 5 years. How can such be stated based on a single observation? Michele A. Cunko only met Masha and Lynn on September 22, 2003.
Masha undergoes mental health evaluation through A Second Chance Wellness Center by Dr. Sharon on May 30, 2003. A recommendation was made for psychiatric evaluation and therapy. CYFS files don't contain Dr. Sharon's report nor is there any documentation these recommendations were followed.
Why is it that CYFS has no such records on file? Has CYFS done any follow-ups based on this missing information?
Masha says in home study prepared by Michele A. Cunko, October 7, 2003 that she has had very real dreams and, on occasion, she is not sure if things are real or dreams.
Why was this relevant to mention in Michele A. Cunko's report? What has been done with this information. Not knowing the difference between what is real and what is a dream is goes by the technical term “dissociation” and should be an indication Masha is not doing well.
According to home study prepared by Michele A. Cunko, October 7, 2003 there is no information beyond alleged alcoholism in CYFS files related to Masha's biological parents.
Did CYFS make a reasonable effort to obtain information about Masha´s past in Russia?
According to Masha there was a box of information about her birth family at the home of Matthew Mancuso but efforts to retrieve this information were unsuccessful.
Did CYFS make a reasonable effort to obtain the information at the house of Matthew Manucso as described by Masha?
CYFS according to home study prepared by Michele A. Cunko, October 7, 2003 did not have any information on Masha's siblings on file.
Did CYFS make a reasonable effort to obtain information about Masha´s past in Russia?
According to home study prepared by Michele A. Cunko, October 7, 2003, Lynn Ginn advised that Masha requested that she have a Christian therapist and that she attends counseling once per week at the Bethany Baptist Church.
This is hear say. Was Masha every questioned if she indeed made that request and if she came up with that idea herself? Is Bethany Baptist Church a licensed counseling agency? Why is that not stated in the report?
According to home study prepared by Michele A. Cunko, October 7, 2003 Masha has asked Lynn Ginn to adopt her.
The report does not state whether Lynn Ginn advised this information or if Masha did that herself.
Despite showing a neglect on Lynn Ginn's part to seek proper care for Masha and a profound lack of monitoring the situation by Allegheny County CYFS, nothing was done with the report and on May 14, 2004, less than a year after the arrest of Matthew Mancuso, Masha was formally adopted in the courtroom of Judge Cheryl Allen, who at that time was a criminal court judge. Lynn Ginn, by that time, had again changed her name, this time into Faith Allen, both in reference to her religious beliefs and as a homage to Judge Cheryl Allen.
On the day of the adoption hearing, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote a hagiography of Judge Cheryl Allen under the title A tale of faith, hope and love blesses all, which most certainly was part of the second campaign for a seat in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Charles Brown situation
Already in early 2003, Faith Allen (at the time still called Lynn Ginn), joined Potter's House Ministry, a black church in Braddock, Pennsylvania, and gets one Charles Brown assigned as pastor. Almost a year later, due to her name change, Faith Allen gets another pastor assigned, but keeps seeing Charles Brown, who counsels her in her own home.
Only two weeks after the adoption, Faith Allen suspects Charles Brown to fondle and sexually touch her while being under "hypnosis" and starts video taping the counseling session, but waits until September of that year to file charges. The Pennsylvania District Attorney's office is eager to pick up the case (while a much more important case, that of the abuse of Masha by Matthew Mancuso is still on hold at the same DA's office). So in December 2004, only three months after the filing of the charges, the first hearing in the case against Charles Brown takes place.
A later hearing follows in February 2006. The hearings shed a very disturbing view on the safety of Masha in the home of Lynn Ginn.
From the transcript of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v Charles Brown:
Q. Referring to that counseling session at the end of May that Counsel referred to, did anything unusual happen during that counseling session or after that counseling session.
A. The sessions usually were in my living room, and I was out asleep again, and I just remember waking up in my bedroom the next morning, and he was there, but I can't say that he was there all night. I don't know.
Q. You woke up in your own bed?
Q. Do you know how you got there?
Q. All right. Do you know whether or not he spent the night there?
A. No I really don't.
Q. You didn't invite him to spend the night there?
N.B. Q. = Janet R. Necessary, DDA counsel for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A. = Faith Allen, witness for the prosecution
In this statement Faith Allen said, the morning after the "hypnosis" session she woke up with Charles Brown being in her bedroom. A man, whom she suspected of sexual assault. Charles Brown could or could not have been there all night, nevertheless he was there when Faith woke up. So if all Faith Allen said is true, she was incapacitated, while a man she viewed as a sexual predator was roaming the same house that was supposed to be the designated safe haven for Masha.
The media circus
Late June 2005, attorney James R Marsh was retained "to uncover the truth about Masha's government-approved international adoption by Matthew Mancuso". Immediately all media contacts were stopped for another six months.
Maureen Flatley, a lobbyist and child advocate joined the team and made contact with Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma.) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who upon learning about Masha's story decided to promote a law that allowed for civil penalties for people downloading child pornography and allowed for compensating the victims portrayed. This would later become Masha's Law.
Maureen Flatley also introduced the big news networks to the case of Masha, leading to an appearance on ABC Primetime on December 1, 2005, later followed by appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show and on CNN's Nancy Grace.
In the middle of this tumultuous period, Faith Allen appeared as a witness at the trial of Charles Brown, who was found not guilty before the court of Kevin G. Sasinoski.
Meanwhile things were not going well for Masha and in March 2006 she attempted to kill herself. By that time she has moved several times, never been at one place for more than 6 months and she still hadn't received the mental health care required. Instead she was being counseled by unlicensed evangelical quacks. All help was being refused unless it was faith-based.
Yet on May 2006, Masha appeared before Congress to testify in a hearing related to the exploitation of children on the Internet. It's interesting to notice that the hearing itself was not about the adoption of Masha, but about her exploitation. Still when members of congress learned about the negligence of the adoption agencies involved, they decided to use their power to subpoena to force Families Thru International Adoptions, Reaching out Thru International Adoption and Adagio Health to release the paper work related to Masha's adoption.
With Masha's appearance before the Congressional committee, the media circus neared its end. Her appearance again made the headlines and with that her fifteen minutes of fame were almost over.
The second congressional hearing
In 1997, Jeannene Smith was working as an independent contractor for Families Thru International Adoption (FTIA) in the state of New Jersey. In that capacity she received a request for adoption from Matthew Mancuso. At the time relations between Jeannene Smith and FTIA were deteriorating and Jeannene Smith created her own agency, Reaching out Thru International Adoption (ROTIA), which finalized Masha Allen's adoption after Mancuso's request was transferred from FTIA to ROTIA.
During the congressional hearings Sexual exploitation of children over the internet: follow-up issues to the Masha Allen adoption before the subcommittee on oversight and investigations of the committee on energy and commerce house of representatives, Keith Wallace, Chief Executive Officer of FTIA, made the following testimony with regards to Jeannene Smith and her relations with FTIA:
Through 1997, FTIA encountered many difficulties with Ms. Smith. The main problems in Ms. Smith’s performance were promising time frames to prospective adopting families that were not realistic, not following the procedures FTIA had established for her, and misrepresenting her relationship with FTIA. For these reasons and other reasons, I personally provided Ms. Smith verbal notice that I was going to terminate her contract with FTIA. As a courtesy, I advised her about a month before I actually terminated her so she could either find another agency to work with or she could get her own license. Ms. Smith was sent formal notice of her termination by letter dated February 13, 1998. Ms. Smith then founded an agency Reaching Out through International Adoption (Reaching Out). Because Ms. Smith continued to misrepresent her relationship with FTIA – after she created Reaching Out - FTIA sued Ms. Smith in federal court in December 1998. The lawsuit was settled in June, 1999.
After terminating her relationship, then we actually signed some agreements. We signed more than one agreement to settle our outstanding issues because after an agreement was signed, all the sudden there were new issues according to Ms. Smith or issues I thought had been settled but Ms. Smith did not understand it that way. During this period, I even wrote a letter of recommendation to the New Jersey licensing authority on her behalf. I had concluded that she could not work for FTIA, but I knew she was smart so I thought maybe she can run her own agency.
It was not until later that I finally said enough is enough and filed suit against Ms. Smith.
Ms. Smith recruited Mr. Mancuso to adopt while she was an independent contractor for FTIA. FTIA does not know how, when, or where Ms. Smith first had contact with Mr. Mancuso. FTIA did receive an application from Ms. Smith for Mr. Mancuso in 1997. The application had FTIA’s name, but Ms. Smith’s email address and physical address. FTIA received a copy of Mr. Mancuso’s dossier and a check in January 1998, which represented the second of three (3) payments for the FTIA agency fee. Again, the copy of the dossier and the check were sent to FTIA by Ms. Smith. However, FTIA never received an original dossier from Mr. Mancuso. When Mr. Mancuso submitted his dossier to Ms. Smith in January of 1998, I believe I had already verbally advised Ms. Smith that her contract with FTIA would soon be terminated.
The way FTIA has always processed applications is: after receiving an application it would be reviewed to determine if it was complete and the applicant(s) appeared to be qualified candidates for international adoption based on the information in the application. If approved, a coordinator is assigned to assist the family from start to finish with their adoption. The assigned coordinator would typically call the new applicant to introduce his/herself and to explain he/she was available to answer questions as they worked on INS (now CIS) approval and their dossier. Ms. Smith, as a regional coordinator, would provide some support and guidance during the dossier preparation, however, once the dossier was submitted all subsequent contact was to be with the FTIA coordinator in Evansville. This would include sending the referral information of a child to the family, arranging travel to the foreign country, providing travel letters and instructions and follow-up with all required post placement reports.
All files of adoptive families that complete their adoption through FTIA have several contact notes, copies of referral information on a child, copies of travel letters, and travel itineraries, etc. None of this is in Mr. Mancuso’s file because FTIA did not complete his adoption.
Soon after FTIA terminated its contract with Ms. Smith, FTIA sent a notice to the families that Ms. Smith had recruited. FTIA advised that if the family wanted to continue with FTIA all subsequent contact would need to be with FTIA. Applicants in the process of adopting that did not respond to this letter had their files closed.
Mr. Mancuso was such a client with no record of any direct contact with an Evansville coordinator. Although we had received an application and a copy of the dossier from Ms. Smith, our records indicate no contact directly with Mr. Mancuso. I concluded that he and others that did not respond to the letter from FTIA advising of Ms. Smith’s termination had completed their adoptions with Ms. Smith’s new agency. These applicants’ files were closed.
Thus, in Mr. Mancuso’s case, even though he completed an FTIA application (with a New Jersey address) and FTIA appears on some of his dossier documents, FTIA did not complete his adoption. Of particular note about Mr. Mancuso’s file - the home study prepared by Family Health Council, Inc. dba Family Adoption Center of Pennsylvania identifies FTIA as a New Jersey licensed agency. Mr. Mancuso submitted his original dossier to Ms. Smith, but FTIA never received his original dossier. If Evansville had received an original dossier, we would have record of (1) receiving it, (2) reviewing it, (3) sending it to one of the Russian coordinators/facilitators we worked with at the time. In addition, we would have record of receiving the last payment of his FTIA agency fee as well as a copy of the international fees. There are no such records and FTIA still has possession of all records from the inception of FTIA in 1995. Our policy was and is to keep a copy of all checks received at FTIA in the adoptive parent’s file.
FTIA is currently licensed/accredited in Russia by the Ministry of Education. Russia has long required four post placement reports after an international adoption is completed. Prior to the rule of four post placement reports, I believe Russia required three post placement reports. FTIA has a 100% record of submitting post placement reports to Russia as far as I can recollect. I have had to work very hard to make certain all post placement reports are submitted. In fact, I had to threaten legal action against a few families to secure their post placement reports. I have always had families sign documents agreeing to submit all required post placement reports and that if FTIA had to go to court to force compliance, FTIA would also be entitled to attorney fees. Most families willingly submit post placement reports. But a few families are not cooperative with the post placement report for a number of reasons.
I do not know for certain what adoption agency completed Mr. Mancuso’s adoption. I do know it was not FTIA, and I assume it was Ms. Smith based upon her April 21, 1998 communication to me when we were trying to settle outstanding issues of her termination. I do not know if anything was done wrong in the procedure allowing Mr. Mancuso to adopt. However, from what I have seen and heard something went very wrong with the required post placements.
Jeannene Smith was questioned before the same committee, but that day she suddenly suffered from temporary partial amnesia, so unfortunately she was not able to give any details about the case. Here are some of the answers she gave:
I don’t really know
I am looking at this document, but I don’t recall this.
I have no way of knowing that
I think we had a role in it, yes. I don’t know who, ultimately.
I don’t know. I don’t recall--
I don’t know the answer to that.
I don’t know that, but can I ask my social work--
I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.
Her evasive responses and complete lack of accepting responsibility didn't go unnoticed. Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) made the following statement, which blasted Jeannene Smith's conduct in the Masha Allen case:
First, the evidence shows that Jeannene Smith, the founder of an adoption agency called Reaching Out Thru International Adoption, was the placement agency for Mancuso’s adoption of Masha. Mrs. Smith attempted to mislead committee staff about her role in Masha’s adoption and withheld documents in an attempt to minimize her role. I believe the reason she sought to minimize her role is because with that role came certain responsibilities. Ms. Smith did not live up to those responsibilities and as a result, Masha was left in the hands of a pedophile for many years. The primary responsibility that I am referring to is one that Masha rhetorically asked the committee in her testimony when she was here and she said, “Why didn’t anyone ever come to check on me?”
No one came to check on Masha because Ms. Smith’s agency, the agency responsible for the placement of the child, never told the home study agency that Mancuso had a child placed in his home, so the home study agency never followed up. Mrs. Smith also, in my view, shirked her responsibility to obtain three post-placement reports required by the Russian government, from Mancuso. These reports required exactly what Masha asked about; a licensed social worker to come see her at Mancuso’s home; to see how she was doing and progressing; and to talk to her.
Instead of, at a minimum, calling a licensed post-placement agency in Pennsylvania, which is where Mancuso and Masha were living, and asking them to contact Mancuso and set up a meeting, she went ahead and had one of her social workers call Mancuso and write a report based on a phone call. This report was then sent to the Russian authorities as an official post-placement report. Notably, nowhere in the report does it say it was based on a phone call. It is my understanding that a telephonic post-placement report is almost worthless and more importantly, a social worker can only do a post-placement report in the State in which they were licensed.
Jeannene Smith and her social worker were not licensed in Pennsylvania. I would like to know why they did not take their responsibility seriously and in the fact of documentation to the contrary, why she has repeatedly tried to mislead committee staff into believing she had a minor role and that her agency did not have contact with Mancuso after Masha was brought to the United States.
It is clear, from all the documents we have reviewed, that from the start of Mancuso’s adoption in August of 1997, all the way to the last contact with him, the infamous telephonic post-placement report in November of 2000, Ms. Smith and her employees were the only people Mancuso was contacting about his adoption of Masha. While certain official forms that Mancuso submitted may have had her former employee’s company’s name on it, an agency called Families Thru International Adoption, at all times Mancuso was a client of Ms. Smith.
I will certainly have some questions about why Families Thru International Adoption was not more stringent in their overview of these adoption applications that Ms. Smith was handling, but that doesn’t take away from her central role in Mancuso’s adoption of Masha. And we expect to get some answers here today. One of the things that is also disturbing about this international adoption process is the lack of and absence of any Federal guidelines or Federal regulations. And so it appears to me this is an area that certainly this committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, as a whole, needs to look at very closely.
After the congressional hearings Jeannene Smith changed the name of ROTIA in Child Promise and stayed in business until it closed in February 2008. It took until September 2008 before a civil procedure was started against Jeannene Smith, ROTIA and FTIA.
Faith's abandonment of Masha
Just a week before the second Congressional hearing, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, a non-profit organization set up by members of congress to promote adoption, awarded Faith Allen with an Angel in Adoption™, lauding her for giving Masha a safe home.
The award was nominated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). Gingrey spoke movingly:
Faith Allen is a shining example of the selfless love adoptive parents give their children, Faith is more than just Masha’s adoptive mother; she is her pillar of support, providing encouragement as Masha bravely shares her story. Everyone who spends time with Faith and Masha feels the warmth and kindness that make Faith an Angel in Adoption.
The next day, Faith Allen and Masha were still in Washington DC when Faith took off for Georgia, leaving Masha behind. People from James Marsh's law firm, who were present at the time of the incident, contacted Michael and Amanda Slaten, the parents of Masha's best friend and told the Slatens that Masha would be returning from Washington separate from Faith. They also asked if Masha could stay with them for a while.
At that point in time the relationship between Masha and Faith had deteriorated to the point that Masha reportedly exclaimed: "I'd almost rather live with Matthew, at least he cared about me."
There had been several incidents that indicated how far the relationship between Masha and Faith's had deteriorated. In March 2006, Masha had already attempted suicide and was known to cut herself. In the Summer of 2006, Masha had started Christian modeling classes, the instructor of which had received Faith's permission to hit Masha if she did not comply.
Faith Allen herself hit and slapped Masha regularly, especially when she refused to go to church and saw the devil in everyday events like music, books, foreign language, make up, clothes, earrings. Faith even talked about Masha being the devil and that she had brought the devil into her Christian home. She destroyed Masha's anime drawings and poetry, claiming the Japanese to be devil worshipers and accusing Masha of learning Japanese so she could communicate with the devil. She also destroyed Masha’s notebooks when she found the word Greenday.
Faith also told Masha she had invisible cameras, photographers, friends, neighbors and strangers spying on her 24 hours per day.
At the time Faith attended the The Daystar tabernacle, a pentagram-shaped, black church in Douglasville, Georgia, led by the “Apostel Skip Horton”, who in 1984 was honored by God with a vision to teach the whole bible without denominational persuasion with the zeal of God. This zeal was mimicked by Faith who proselytized door to door, together with Masha and led Faith to make substantial donations, while not making more than $50 a week herself. Over $1000 donated by individuals to Masha’s Fund were unaccounted for.
The Slatens had tried to help Masha and made attempts to get it through Faith's head that Masha needed to be in therapy. Amanda Slaten had to help Faith set it up, because "she simply couldn't handle anything by herself". Faith took Masha to therapy only once. When asked why she didn't go back, Faith said that therapists decided it was too complicated and they couldn't handle the case.
On September 21, 2006, being asked to pick up Masha from Atlanta International Airport, Michael Slaten, with the written permission of Faith Allen did what he was asked to do and brought Masha to his house, where he and his wife Amanda took care of Masha.
In the mean time negotiations were started with Faith Allen to allow Masha to stay with the Slatens permanent. Faith would remain Masha's legal mother but sign a power of attorney so that the Slatens could take care of Masha. Faith's stake in this was that she would not be hauled into court and declared an unfit parent. On top of that, she would be relieved of responsibilities that she was clearly incapable of handling.
The two big stumbling point in the negotiations were :
- Faith wanted to meet with Masha
- Faith did not want the Slatens to receive Masha's adoption subsidy and rental assistance
A phone call instead of a meeting was negotiated, which was all Masha would agree to.
The second issue is what eventually sunk the deal. As soon as Amanda Slaten said she needed that money to be able to take care of Masha, the deal was off. Clearly Faith needed the money attached to Masha. This happened on the morning of the 27th.
Late in the afternoon that day, Faith Allan along with attorney Diane Sternlieb came to the Slatens home and asked to see Masha outside. Masha went out and sat in Diane Sternlieb's truck for about fifteen minutes. Masha came back into the house in tears. She said "They're making me leave". The Slatens told Masha to go into their daughters room, accompanied by the Slatens' daughter and wait.
While all parties waited for the police, Diane Sternlieb told Faith to "go help Masha get her things". Faith burst into the Slaten's daughter's room and was physically shoved out by Masha. The door then slammed shut and locked. At that point Amanda Slaten ordered Faith Allen and Diane Sternlieb to wait outside.
The deputy arrived and stayed outside talking with Faith and Ms. Sternlieb for a long time(turned out that the responding deputy and Ms. Sternlieb were friends). When finally Michael Slaten went out to see what was going on, he was told that they were waiting for someone from DEFACS to show up. Later he was told that it was "after hours", so no one was coming.
The Slatens were also told by the deputy that Masha had to go with her mother and Masha left the house looking like she was in a trance.
In the aftermath the Slatens daughter told Amanda that Masha had told her she planned to kill herself that night. The Slatens placed frantic calls to both the sheriffs department and to James Marsh, who was able to convince the police to remove Masha from Faith's house that evening and place her in an institute temporarily.
The next day the Slatens called every child welfare agency relevant and told them the story. A case was opened against Faith. The Slatens learned later that Faith and Masha went to live with the very same deputy that responded to the call, until Faith fled the state in response to the abuse charges filed.
In conjunction with the events of that day, Faith Allen dismissed James Marsh.
In February 2007, James Marsh filed a notice of claim against Allegheny County CYF, Families United Network et al. for the handling of the adoption of Masha by Faith Allen. This notice gives Masha the right to sue the officials in Allegheny County until the age of 21.
Later that year Faith Allen filed a grievance with the Georgia Bar against a partner of James Marsh for interfering with parental rights, using confidential information against her, refusing to cease communication with Masha, having made false accusations and refusing to release files and other papers related to Masha. The Georgia Bar dismissed the grievance and advised to have a guardian appointed for Masha.
At that time Faith Allen had moved back to Pennsylvania, avoiding the advice of the Georgia Bar to appoint a guardian for Masha, by living under another jurisdiction.
Allen v Families Thru International Adoption, inc. et. al.
In September 2008, more than five years after Masha was rescued from the house of Matthew Mancuso a civil complaint was registered with the court of New Jersey against Families Thru International Adoption (FTIA), Reaching Out Thru International Adoption (ROTIA), Child Promise and Jeannene Smith. Prominently absent from this list is Adagio Health, the organization that under the name Family Adoption Center had performed the home study for the adoption of Masha by Matthew Mancuso.
The follow-up post-placement by ROTIA had made it possible for Matthew Mancuso to continue his practices, but it was the home study, performed by Nancy Simpronio that had made the adoption possible in the first place.
The fact Adagio Health was not included in the civil complaint is especially strange, since they were financially the biggest party involved in the placement of Masha. The omission was corrected, in January 2009, when defendants FTIA, added a so-called third party complaint to the case.
By the time the complaint was filed Diane Sternlieb no longer worked for Faith Allen, who was now represented by David S. Bills, a catastrophic injury attorney from Altanta, Georgia. Needing a representative in New Jersey, Robert N. Hunn of Kolsby, Gordon, Robin, Shore & Bezar (KGRSB) was retained.
The case reached histrionic levels, so fitting all other things in Masha's life, since she lived with Faith Allen, when Robert N. Hunn filed a motion to withdraw, claiming there have arisen irreconcilable differences between KGRSB and Faith Allen.
The following months were filled with legal back and forths. An opposition against the motion to withdraw was filed. Jeannene Smith, who had earlier already filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, demanded to learn the reasons of David N. Hunn's motion to withdraw.
Eventually Jeannene Smith's motion to dismiss was rejected and David N. Hunn was replaced by William Q. Bird and his partner Darren Summerville. The Bird Law Group retained Francie P. Maneri and Thomas Vecchio from Dilworth Paxson LLP for representation in the State of New Jersey. This additional quartet of lawyers, brought the number of lawyers involved with Masha since her rescue from Matthew Mancuso, to an astonishing 27.
What lies ahead?
August, next year, Masha Allen will turn 18. For the legal team currently involved in her case, time is running out. They have only eleven more months, before Masha has the legal standing, to fire all involved with her and retain a lawyer of her own choosing.
Faith Allen only has eleven more months to use her legal authority over Masha. Eleven months from now, adoption subsidies will stop, any financial gain to be made from the compensations Masha could be awarded, will cease to be within reach, and eleven months from now no opportunity exists anymore to spite Masha by settling for too a low an amount of compensation.
All that, Masha gains in only 11 months, something she would have gained, had the advice of the Georgia bar to install a legal guardian, been followed up, years ago.
Yet, 11 months from now, who will be there for Masha? She has moved so often, she hasn't had opportunity to find something close to a support network. Much of the people she has known for the last six years are self-proclaimed religious zealots, who believe all Masha really needs is more prayer.
If ever there were a case of landing between a rock and a hard place, it is Masha's. That is why the media will not touch it with a ten-foot pole. Their investment was made a long time ago, to present the story of Masha Allen as a one-dimensional sequence of Disney-like events, with "knights in shining armor" rescuing the "poor innocent girl" and taking her to the "good mother" who would make everything right.
Simplified fairy tales sell, stories of heroes and heroines sell, but in Masha's case no one won. Well, Judge Cheryl Allen won her seat at the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals, but other than that everyone lost. Masha's story is not a fairy tale, it doesn't fit the Hollywood template, it is a story of girl lost in system of child placement where no one acts in her interest. The agency's involved in Masha's placement with Matthew Mancuso were mostly interested in getting or keeping their businesses running. Allegheny CYF and the court involved made the unforgivable decision to place a girl who needed the best care in the world, with a woman who is so obviously incapable of giving Masha even the most basic proper care.
The real story of Masha Allen is about the transition of one house of horrors to another and that's not what news media will want to report on.
The Oprah Show is not going to look back and do a follow-up on the story, knowing they helped create a false image of the story. Just last year, ABC news killed its own investigations into the case before it saw the day of light.
Nancy Grace is not going to ever do a follow-up on the care either. As a friend of Maureen Flatley, she knew about most of the events taking place in Masha's life since her Adoption by Faith Allen.
Sen. Isakson and Rep. Gingrey will probably not like to see anymore congressional follow-ups on the Masha Allen case, either. While politicians are known for their flip-flops and for throwing people under the bus, they rather will not like the words they spoke on behalf of Faith Allen, to be seen in a different light.
Still, despite the fact that Masha's story contains so much many people don't want to hear about, it is a story that has to be told. What happened to Masha doesn't stand on its own. There have been other children recklessly placed for adoption to keep business running. There have been other children adopted for the purpose of child pornography. There have been other adopted children who were sexually abused within their "forever family". There have been many children placed in completely unsuitable homes by state authorities. That is the inconvenient truth that comes along with the story of Masha Allen and that is a truth no Angel of Adoption can cover up.