For desperate parents, ‘there was no other option’

Date: 2013-09-10
Source: Reuters

For desperate parents, ‘there was no other option’
By Megan Twohey and Blake Morrison

[Inset on Part 3 of a 5 article series here The Child Exchange: Inside America's Underground Market for Adopted Children ]

The parents who turned to the Internet to find new homes for their adopted children made a choice that carries serious risks.

The explanations they give for their decisions are variations on a theme. As Melissa Puchalla, a Wisconsin mother, said: "There was no other option."

Parents who adopted from overseas often mention the child's behavioral problems or mental illnesses, conditions that were undisclosed, unforeseen or not fully appreciated prior to the adoption. Sometimes, the child never bonded with the parents, or acted out through violence or vandalism – behavior that parents came to believe could imperil other children in their households.

Here are excerpts from interviews with some of those parents, who explain what led them to use the Internet child exchange:

Melissa Puchalla, who advertised her daughter Quita online: "I was trying to find a better situation for her… Those Yahoo groups and those online things aren't all bad. There were days you were going through things that no one understands, but people on there understand. And we had those resources. That was something that was enormously helpful… We prayed a lot. We've cried a lot. People agree with us. People don't agree with us. Everyone's got their opinion, even if they haven't dealt with what you're dealing with… It's such a mess. I just want to go cry."

Gary Barnes, who advertised his daughter Anna online: "We reached a turning point when it got to where we couldn't find any help or get any help, and we had tried every suggestion… I guess you could say there were three phases to our life with Anna, maybe four. Wanting her, getting her, being joyous about it, going through all the problems we had, then trying to find help for those problems, and then, once we figured out that … we couldn't find that help and there was not help, and that things weren't going to change, trying to find someone who might be better suited to dealing with her problems … I mean, it's amazing. You'd just have to live it to understand it. Words don't even describe really how troubled our situation was, you know? … It was destroying our home … causing problems in our marriage."

Tom Mealey, who gave away his 5-year-old son: "We knew he was not going to be perfect when we adopted him, but we were grossly unprepared for the level of mental illness that he was suffering through… There's a woman who made the news a few years ago for putting a little Russian boy she adopted back on an airplane. This is from the total lack of resources for people who are dealing with children like this. I can only say that you get so desperate. We didn't know what to do or where to turn. You think about a cornered animal. You're backed into a corner and there's nowhere else to go. You have no guidance and nobody telling you what to do or how to do it.… It's absolutely troubling that people with no guidance at all are trying to figure out how to place damaged children. It's terrifying."

Glenna Mueller, who advertised her 10-year-old son online: "Time-outs, lots of counseling, social workers, you know … I tried to get help everywhere… Once you sign them papers and they're yours, it's your problem. And that's kind of what happened. And so then when I started talking that I couldn't care for him anymore, I couldn't do it anymore, well, there was nobody turn to… He was my son. I wanted help for him. I didn't want to just, like, turn him away… It was so horrible with him here that I was desperate. And I had been preparing (him) for this whole thing… 'Mom's just not doing a very good job raising you, and you need a better mom than me.'… I couldn't stand to look at him anymore… He would sit here and eat supper, and he'd scoop spaghetti in his pants pockets, or I'd find it stuffed in socks and thrown under the desk."


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