exposing the dark side of adoption
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Kalaheo woman names Galindo in civil suit


By Tom Finnegan -

KALAHEO — There are very few people who have done business with Hanalei resident Lauryn Galindo who feel ambivalent towards her.

Galindo was convicted last week after pleading guilty in federal court in Seattle to federal charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud in connection with running an adoption agency.

Depending on whom you talk to, she is either a great humanitarian, or she made a living profiting from desperate parents and babies born in unbelievably poor conditions.

She is a genuine free-spirit who cannot say "no" to needy children, or she is a fraud, a con-artist wrapped in flowing dresses and long hair.

She is either a convicted felon or a pawn in a plan of a government trying to save face.

One thing is for sure — she has friends and enemies among the rich and famous from the United States to the most squalid areas in the jungles of Cambodia.

She has also placed bundles of Cambodian orphans with adoptive parents across the country, and facilitated adoptions from Cambodia longer than almost any other American.

One of Galindo's customers, Kalaheo resident Summer Harrison, is suing Galindo and numerous others for fraud after an adoption that, Harrison claims, went terribly wrong.

Harrison's daughter, Hannah, looks like a normal four-year-old at first glance. But watch her try to walk and talk and you'll see the challenge of a lifetime.

Hannah, born almost two months premature with an underdeveloped brain, has conditions that will hamper her for the rest of her life, her mother says. She is blind, has cerebral palsy, has to eat from a feeding tube in her stomach, and cannot walk on her own. Only a word or two escapes from her lips. She has devastating seizures, and she needs round-the-clock medical care.

And it's a miracle she made it this far, her mother says.

Harrison first met Hannah in a Cambodian orphanage in April, 2000, and the Kalaheo woman says she seemed like a healthy, albeit small, baby girl. Harrison alleges that she was duped into believing that Hannah would continue to develop as a normal child would.

"I told them I was not prepared to care for a child with cerebral palsy," she said in an interview at her home. "She just looked like a baby, a very small baby."

She claims that Galindo and Galindo's sister Lynn Devin, as well as Dr. Nancy W. Hendrie, a pediatrician from Maine, and a Honolulu-based adoption facilitator, Lee Slater, told her that the baby was born premature, but she would be fine. They are all named in Harrison's civil suit, as well as Devin's company, Seattle International Adoptions, Hawaii International Child Placement (HIC), a Honolulu-based adoption agency associated with Slater, and Hendrie's nonprofit, Sharing Foundation.

Slater's phone number listed on her Web site was disconnected, and she did not return a request for information sent by e-mail.

HIC, the adoption agency for which Slater used to work, would not comment on the lawsuit on the advice of their lawyers, said HIC president, Kristine Altweis Nicholson. She said that the company, operating since 1975, has placed over 3,000 children from many different countries in American homes.

The only Honolulu-based nonprofit specializing in overseas adoption, HIC follows the highest ethical standards and is both state-licensed and sanctioned by the Joint Council on International Children's Concerns, based in Washington, Nicholson says.

HIC was the adoption agency Harrision used to find a child, and Harrison alleges she was duped into believing Hannah was healthy.

Hendrie "told me that the fact the child survived without medical care was a good sign. Chances that there was anything wrong was minimal," Harrison says. "She was (just) small."

Hendrie, 72, when reached at the Sharing Foundation's offices, a nonprofit in Maine which built and runs what has been called "the Cadillac of Cambodian orphanages" as well as numerous programs in the Southeast Asian country, said she is "bitter and annoyed" by the lawsuit.

"There is absolutely no truth to this whatsoever. I had no reason to defraud this woman," Hendrie said. "The child was placed by Galindo. I had nothing to gain.

"I made a mistake. I stupidly volunteered my services to children in orphanages as a gift to (adoptive) parents," she says. "I gained no honor, money, or prestige. I had no association with Galindo or HIC. I had no reason to perpetuate fraud."

As for Galindo, "

I regret sincerely, more than anything, the day I met that woman

," Hendrie says.

"I practiced medicine for 30 years. I do a favor, just because I was there, and this is how I was repaid. I will regret to my dying day the day I met this woman. She used me," Hendrie claims.

"It's a devastating blow after so many years" of impeccable service, the doctor says. Hendrie is a former chief of pediatrics at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass., and has been a consultant in international adoptions from Cambodia and China for 10 years.

Galindo was contacted this week through her media advisor Steven Jaffe.

In a phone interview with The Garden Island she called the inclusion of Hendrie and her foundation in the lawsuit a "low blow."

"Dr. Nancy Hendrie has always acted with the highest integrity. She always discouraged people from adopting young," in order to give babies time to develop, Galindo said. "She was always working for humanitarian motivations."

Galindo claims that Harrison knew that the baby was premature, and could develop disabilities.

Harrison was told that Hannah had failed her medical exam, Galindo alleges.

"Hendrie encouraged Summer not to go forward with the placement," claims Galindo. She says that Hannah's medical tests had to be sent to the national Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, to see if U.S. adoption officials would accept the child with her serious conditions.

Galindo claims that in the lawsuit filed by Harrison that two days before returning to Kaua�i, "Hannah had tested positive for cytomegalovirus (CMV), which causes microcephaly," a condition which always indicates severely diminished mental capabilities.

But Harrison produced paperwork that indicates CMV was found, but didn't mention microcephaly or brain damage. It was explained by another doctor that Hannah could've picked it up after birth, she says.

Also, Harrison acknowledged she knew that Hannah failed her physical, but said she was told it was because she was premature.

Harrison claims that she found out about the CMV two days after the adoption was made final. She also alleges that she was never told that the adopted baby was born in a hospital, was subject to medical care for months before being brought to the orphanage, and had to be resuscitated.

She was told, by Slater, that "babies like Hannah are never born in a hospital," when in fact she had been, said Harrison.

Harrison says that Galindo and Slater suggested she could get another child. But the Cambodian adoption process had already had gone through. "We were already a family," she says.

Galindo claims there was "a distinction from the finalization of the Cambodian paperwork" and the finalization of the U.S. visa process. And that's where some of Galindo's legal troubles are based.

The conclusion of this special report is scheduled for the Friday, July 2 issue of The Garden Island.

Tom Finnegan, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or mailto:tfinnegan@pulitzer.net.

2004 Jul 1