Kennedy Family Adoption Story
Agency: A New Arrival, Montana (networked through Tedi Bear Adoptions, Florida)
Facilitator: Mai-Ly LaTrace
Date Signed Contract with A New Arrival: April 28, 2002
Date Terminated Contract with agency: August 16, 2002
On April 30, 2002 we were sent two photographs of infant girls by our agency, A New Arrival (ANA). We were told that they had a new Vietnam adoption facilitator named Kelly who was trying to place children quickly before the pending July 1 moratorium.
On April 30, 2002 we chose one named Hoa Tuyet Luu. A New Arrival received this referral photo on April 25, 2002. We immediately questioned the child's birthdate of April 28, 2002 printed on the photograph. The Vietnam program director, Missie Bland, told us she called their facilitator who said it was a mistake and the birthdate was really March 28, 2002. This made sense at the time so we decided to proceed and wired them money to hold the referral. In May, we received a child acceptance form from ANA with the name Hoa Tuyet Luu and birthdate '3/25/02.' We again questioned the date and were told that this was the correct birthdate for Hoa. This seemed a little strange, but we didn't question it further. We were told we would have the baby home by the end of July at the latest. On June 1st Chad traveled to Hanoi to submit a dossier to adopt this baby. While there he met our agency's in-country facilitator, Mai Ly La Trace (not "Kelly"). Kelly was the name of Tedi Bear Adoptions Vietnam program director with whom A New Arrival was networking.
Upon arrival Chad was told he could not see the baby because the social worker recently had surgery and hadn't told anyone. He was never taken to Thai Nguyen province where the baby allegedly lived. On June 6 Mai Ly and an unknown Vietnamese woman presented Chad and another ANA client with baby girls in a hotel room. We have video of this event. Mai Ly introduced the girls as Luu Tuyet Hoa and Tran Thi Nguyet (the referral names). Neither of the babies looked like the children in the referral photos and both were much younger. It was unsettling that the babies were brought to a hotel room. Why couldn't he and the other client visit the children at the orphanage? Chad did not say anything at that time, but Kim discussed it with ANA. The other client was equally concerned by the appearance and age of the child presented to her. ANA did not express any concerns and asked us what we wanted to do. We didn't know. Chad departed Vietnam on June 7. The following week we were told by ANA that Mai Ly submitted the dossier on our behalf (which we later found out is illegal in Vietnam).
Soon after Chad's return home we were told the baby's birthdate was really 4/25/02. We told ANA this could not be possible because ANA received the referral on 4/25/02. They notified Tedi Hedstrom, director of TBA. On July 11 Tedi Hedstrom called us one morning unexpectedly. She wanted to discuss the adoption because she heard that our referral fell through and wanted to assure us that it did not. She told us that we were adopting the same baby we had been referred. Kim shared with her all of the discrepancies and Tedi said she would call Mai Ly in Vietnam to discuss it. She did this and called us back a few hours later to say that it was in fact the same child it had always been. She said the baby was born in March as originally stated, but because of malnourishment appeared to be younger. She said the birth certificate was probably not issued until April because that is when the child was abandoned at the orphanage. Kim told her that the child Chad met was not malnourished at all, but quite plump and healthy. Tedi said Mai Ly had a birth certificate and was going to fax it to her office that day. She would then forward it to ANA right away. We never received this fax. We informed ANA of this conversation and asked them how Tedi got our home phone number. Lori Jones, director of ANA, stated that Tedi could have accessed it from the copy of our dossier that she held. (This was the first time we were told that TBA held our dossier information.) However, another ANA employee told us in an email that they had given Tedi our phone number because they wanted her to reassure us that everything was fine.
During our adoption, there were requests for additional fees. In June, the ANA Vietnam clients received an email stating that we were to wire them the additional half of the foreign fee and pay a $500 orphanage donation in order to secure a G&R date. Kim wrote back almost immediately and asked if we were the only ones who thought this request was strange this late in the process, especially for Tedi's pet project (Home for Thuy). The reply we received was, "NO." Kim called the director of ANA, who stated that several clients were unhappy about this unexpected donation request and she spoke to Tedi about it. She said that ANA would pay half ($250) and the clients could decide whether or not to pay the other half. Kim asked her what would happen if we chose not to pay it and she said she would hope nothing. We decided to issue a statement that we would consider paying the donation after our adoption was completed.
The day Chad left Vietnam Mai Ly informed him that he owed her a $653 translation fee for the dossier. We questioned ANA about this fee as it was never disclosed in the foreign fee schedule. Our program director said she didn't know. Not wanting to jeopardize anything we sent this to ANA who held it for us. In July, Ms. La Trace emailed us that she needed the $653 translation fee before she would send our documents. ANA wired it to TBA. We were then told that our documents had been Fed Ex'd. We asked for a tracking number and were told TBA would not give it to ANA. Our program director told us she specifically asked Kelly Fraser at TBA if our documents were in the mail and Kelly replied, "Yes." When the Fed Ex shipment arrived at TBA the following Tuesday, we were emailed that there were NO documents for us. By the end of the summer we had been told many stories by many different people, however, there were several truths:
1) We were asked to give money to hold the referral of a specific child.
2) We were sent to Vietnam to submit on a child who was 'unavailable' upon arrival.
3) We were presented with a child who was not the referred child, but were told it was the same child.
4) We were told repeatedly (verbally and in writing) that documents existed for the child and that they had been sent, yet the birth certificate was not even issued until July 23, 2002.
5) The child's birthdate allegedly changed FIVE times over the course of three months.
At this point we contacted our attorney. We told our agency we were very concerned that the child brought to Chad's hotel room was not a true orphan. They wrote to us that they saw no red flags and recommended we proceed with the adoption.
After months of questioning TBA, ANA and Mai Ly how a child born April 25 could have a referral photo sent on the very same day to ANA, and repeated assurances that this was the child's birthdate, we received documents and another surprise. The birth certificate states that Hoa was born April 20, 2002. We received an email from Mai Ly stating that the reason she couldn't get the documents to us sooner was because they needed "corrections." The birth certificate was issued on July 23, 2002. Mai Ly previously claimed to have had all documents on the child in June, but couldn't get them to us because of the recovering social worker. In July, another ANA client received an email stating that the social worker in this province was fired for switching babies. So now would they admit our referred baby was switched? No, they still claimed it was the same child it had always been.
NOTE: TO DATE, NO AGENCY REPRESENTATIVE HAS ASKED US FOR THE PHOTOS CHAD TOOK OR THE VIDEO FOOTAGE TO COMPARE THE BABIES.
Throughout the adoption we were very clear with ANA and TBA that we did not want to take part in an unethical and/or illegal adoption. However, there was still the issue of the baby (whoever she was). Our attorney advised us not to give them one more penny and terminate our relationship with them. It was a very difficult decision to make, ending this adoption. We worried about what would happen to that baby brought to the hotel room, but knew that we had to walk away from this adoption situation.
We asked ANA for a refund of our money twice over the summer. We were told that they would only refund our money if there was something medically wrong with the child, not because we were adopting a different child. Yet no one would admit the children were different.
On August 16, 2002 we notified ANA that we would not complete an adoption with them because we were not comfortable with the practices of Tedi Bear Adoptions and Mai Ly La Trace. We were informed that we would not receive a refund of the country fee we paid and if they could find a family for the baby in question we would receive a refund of our agency fee. Soon after we left the agency another ANA program director, Cyndi Peck (who is no longer with ANA), called the INS in HCMC. She realized that there were big problems with this program. Lori Jones was interviewed for a newspaper article that was going to be printed about the scandal. We received an email from Lori telling us to disregard the first letter she sent and that we would receive a refund of our foreign fee and part of the agency fee. We were asked to sign a release of liability statement which we did. Although we were still out several thousand dollars on travel and paperwork costs, we accepted this and also demanded the return of our dossier copy held by TBA and the original dossier. We never recovered the original dossier.
Tedi Bear Adoptions no longer has a license to place children in Florida, however, they continue to operate under a Georgia license. A New Arrival has gone on as if nothing ever occurred. Mai-Ly LaTrace was reportedly deported from Vietnam. It is our hope that agencies and facilitators who engage in fraudulent practices are brought to justice.