Attorney General wants to see Adoption Agency's books
"This is Josephine," said a sobbing Christine Moulder as she held up a photo of a child. "She's almost 14 months old. We don't know when we're going to get her."The Minneapolis woman spoke to reporters in the Minnesota Attorney General's office Wednesday afternoon. Clearly, the yearning for a child can be an emotion that is powerful. It can also be expensive. "I figure," Brad Kantor of Plymouth told the media, "we're probably out about $9,000."In all, six Minnesota families claimed their efforts to adopt children from overseas were handled badly by a New Hope, Minnesota adoption agency called "Reaching Arms International". The agency's web site refers to the non-profit group as "An adoption agency like no other". The Attorney General is going to court to get a peek at their books to see if that claim is more "warning" than "marketing". "One of the things that you want to prevent in this kind of situation," Attorney General Lori Swanson said, "is having an agency that takes on money from new families to satisfy the adoption of old, but then the new families could be left holding the bag." The families allegations against Reaching Arms include delays, deception and out and out threats to cancel their adoption efforts. "It's very scary to speak out right now," Moulder explained. "So many adoptive parents don't speak out because they're afraid of their adoption being disturbed." Several of the couples insist that Tom Hilton, husband of Reaching Arms founder and President Nila Hilton, told them they needed spiritual counseling. Nila Hilton describes her husband as a "psychotherapist". One of the couples paid $65 for the "counseling". "It was about a three hour session called the 'shame barrel'," Beth Kantor of Plymouth recalled. She says when she and her husband questioned the agency's practices, Tom Hilton told her the "Devil had a hold" of her family and that was why she was "infertile". In fact, the Kantor's had two biological children of their own. "Infertility" was not their motive for adoption. Beth says she made notes of Hilton's comments during the counseling session."And I know I wrote down, 'Shame equals sin equals Satan' and that afternoon was filled with references to the devil and Satan and never once did it tie in parent training as an adoptive parent." Both Tom and Nila Hilton told Kare11's Allen Costantini that they deny saying to any clients that "the devil had a hold of them". They say the families' comments are "a severe case of revenge" and, in part, "bold faced lies". They went so far as to say one of the would-be families "should not parent", alleging drug use, which that parent denies. Joshua and Angela Lair of Glenville, Minnesota say they have paid Reaching Arms in excess of $15,000. In return, they say they were shown numerous photos of the Central American child they were to adopt over a period of months. Although all the photos were supposed to be of the same child, the Lair's believe there are obvious differences in the children in the pictures. The Lairs have yet to receive a child and have filed their own lawsuit against Reaching Arms. During the briefing at the Attorney General's office, the Lair's said that a woman in Senator Norm Coleman's office suggested Reaching Arms as an adoption agency.Wednesday afternoon, Reaching Arms President Nila Hilton e-mailed this statement to news media: Reaching Arms International contracts with a licensed CPA firm to do an Annual Audit, as required by the Department of Human Services, since its incorporation in 1993. It is our intent to cooperate fully with the investigation and order. Our books and records are open.We are confident that this will all come out fine. Due to confidentiality aimed at protecting the interests of our clients, we cannot discuss the investigation or specific cases.
By Allen Costantini, KARE 11 News