exposing the dark side of adoption
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Author: Stephanie Warsmith, Beacon Journal staff writer

Article Text:

An Akron man charged with severing his daughter's spine went through a lengthy process and tremendous expense to adopt the girl from Russia.

Gerald B. Hyre and his wife were screened to determine if they would make fit parents for the 26-month-old girl -- including looking at whether they had a criminal history.

The parents, who were unable to have a child of their own, both had clean records.

Hyre's arrest this week came as a surprise for officials with Building Blocks Adoption Service Inc., the Medina agency through which they adopted Kelsey -- the girl who was injured -- and Nathan, a 30-month-old Russian boy.

Denise Hubbard, the agency's executive director, started the business after she adopted a Russian girl.

"She's as upset about this as you get," said Richard Marco, the agency's attorney.

Hyre, who has worked as a stocker for Giant Eagle for 12 years, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Akron Municipal Court to charges of felonious assault and felony child endangering. He is being held at the Summit County Jail on a $10,000 bond.

The 32-year-old told police and doctors that Kelsey was accidentally injured Sept. 25 in the family's 18th Street home. Police say he gave two different accounts, including that he dropped the girl on the rail of her crib.

But doctors say his explanations were inconsistent with the severity of Kelsey's injury. They say the girl was most likely slammed against a hard object or surface.

Kelsey is paralyzed from the belly button down and will likely never walk again, doctors say.

Detectives are also investigating whether Kelsey or Nathan had been previously abused. Both children suffered fractures in their feet -- in the same bone on the same foot, doctors say.

The Hyres adopted Kelsey and Nathan in January. While officials with Building Blocks were unwilling to discuss details of the Hyres' adoption -- because of confidentiality guidelines -- they did discuss the process that adoptive parents must undergo.

Would-be parents must first have a licensed social worker perform a home study, which includes a review of their criminal history, financial situation and other personal details. Anyone with a felony or child abuse conviction is ineligible, Marco said.

Next, the parents must meet several standards required by both this country and the country from which they hope to adopt.

Marco said these steps are designed to make sure prospective parents are capable of caring for a child.

"We don't want some guy with an abuse conviction to be adopting a child," he said.

Building Blocks facilitates the adoption of orphans in Russia, Bulgaria, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Romania and Cambodia. The agency places about 60 children a year, Marco said.

Adopting a Russian child can take up to a year and cost between $9,000 and $15,000 -- not including travel expenses, Marco said.

The adoption agency will not be involved with the future placement of Kelsey and Nathan, who are both now in the custody of the Summit County Children Services Board. Kelsey is still at Children's Hospital Medical Center, while Nathan has been placed with a relative.

Kirk Migdal, the attorney Hyre retained, argued unsuccessfully for a lower bond for his client Thursday, citing his lack of a criminal record and the fact that both children were no longer in the home.

"He's not a danger to anyone," Migdal said.

While Migdal hedged on discussing details of the case, he did say his client "is not guilty of intentionally hurting" his daughter.

Hyre is a graduate of Manchester High School and a life-long Summit County resident. With his lack of a record, Migdal said his client "doesn't know what to expect."

"He's very scared and upset," Migdal said. "He loves his children."

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com

2002 Oct 4