I love it when Bastards write in and write about the issue of adoption. Although this individual disagreed with the disclosure veto, he disagree even more with Governor's veto on the bill. So here is a shoutout to a fellow bastard. Here is the link and the letter.
Adoptees should have the right to know their origins
Gov. Pawlenty vetoed an obscure bit of legislation on May 16, one that few Minnesotans have heard of and in which even fewer have any interest. But for tens of thousands of Minnesotans whose lives have been touched by adoption over the last 90 years, it was a significant event, one in which Gov. Pawlenty reached the right result for all the wrong reasons.
Every birth in Minnesota is memorialized by a birth certificate. A second birth certificate is issued for any minor adopted in Minnesota. Since 1917, Minnesota has sealed the original birth certificates of those born and adopted in this state. Initially, the information was locked away only from the general public. Over the years, however, the law was changed to prohibit anyone from seeing the original birth certificate, parent or offspring, adult or child. Under current law, some adult adoptees have access to their original birth certificates, some don't. It all depends upon when they were born and whether one of their biological parents has told the state not to release that information to them.
The bill in question would have changed the situation slightly, allowing any adoptee at least 19 years of age to obtain an uncertified copy of his or her original certificate upon request, provided that one of the birth parents had not already vetoed the adoptee's right to that information.
Neither the existing law, nor the bill vetoed last week by Gov. Pawlenty, makes sense to this adoptive father. Why my son should be denied the right to obtain a copy of his original birth certificate from the state, while I have the absolute right to my own, is a mystery. Both of our births were public events, like that of virtually every other person in this state. Yet, the state decided at some point in the distant past that some adults in this state should be denied access to this most fundamental personal information: who they are and where they came from.
No one should have the right to tell the state whether my son may have access to this information. Yet our current law and the failed attempt to modify it place that right in the hands of the man and woman who conceived him. Why? Because he was adopted after being born. Had he been placed in foster care, he would have the same rights I do. Whether he was born inside or outside of marriage, he would have the same rights I do. Whether he had been raised by one parent or two, he would have the same rights I do. But because he was adopted, the State of Minnesota has granted either of his biological parents the power to deny him the right enjoyed by every other non-adopted person in Minnesota: the right to know from whence he came.
The exercise of this power would not affect only my son. It would affect all those to whom he is related by blood and who may be deprived of the possibility of ever knowing him: his father, mother, grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. All because he was adopted.
Gov. Pawlenty was right to veto a bill that would have perpetuated this injustice. Sadly, he did so for all the wrong reasons. His veto was based not on a recognition of the rights of adult adoptees, but on the erroneous belief that those who relinquished children for adoption were in some way promised that the fact of the adoption would be kept forever secret by the state. He also cited a report that fewer than one-quarter of biological parents contacted by a single Minnesota adoption agency preferred not to have identifying information released by the agency.
Fortunately, my son was born in a country that does not seal original birth certificates. He already has a certified copy of his. He knows his origins. But thousands of others adopted in Minnesota since 1917 (and their descendants) will never know theirs, so long as Minnesota continues to meddle in their private lives.
Ninety-one years of such meddling is more than enough. Perhaps our next Legislature and our next governor will recognize that the state has no legitimate role to play in this area of our lives. Perhaps they will recognize that adult adoptees are indeed adults, not the children they once were. But they'll need to hear from us to do so.
James M. Hamilton is a St. Paul attorney in private practice and an adoptive father. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Here is the link. Here is the story.
Guatemala annuls 15 adoption cases
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala's attorney general said Wednesday he has annulled 15 pending adoptions to U.S. couples after finding evidence of fraud or other irregularities.
Attorney General Baudilio Portillo suspended all of Guatemala's 2,286 pending adoption cases in early May to investigate them. So far officials have looked into 160 cases. Of those, 145 have been cleared to move forward and 15 have been annulled.
The babies whose cases have been annulled will be put in foster homes until a judge locates their parents. If their parents aren't found, they will be put up for adoption again.
"We believe that, over time, the number of cases with irregularities will grow in the same proportion that we are seeing now with these 15 cases," Jorge Meng, the attorney general's office spokesman, told The Associated Press.
The irregularities were serious enough that the attorney general filed criminal complaints against lawyers, doctors, social workers and birth mothers involved in the 15 cases, Meng said.
Guatemala has been plagued by allegations of adoption fraud, including claims that babies are stolen from their birth parents or even sold by poor birth mothers.
A new law that went into effect in January is aimed at cleaning up the system by creating an independent council to oversee adoptions.
Before the council was created, private lawyers and notaries did everything from recruit pregnant women to obtain U.S. visas for the adopted children. The process was expensive, costing U.S. couples about US$30,000 (euro19,000) for each child.
But it was fast, usually lasting less than six months. That made Guatemala the second largest source of adopted children to U.S. couples, after China.
The new system is expected to be less expensive, but also slower. Adoptive parents will be assigned babies, instead of being able to choose them from a set of pictures, as they did before.
Bureaucratic delays kept the council from being able to process adoptions until just recently, and few new adoption cases have been started under the new laws.
Here is the link. This is the story. The adopters are getting real scared.
12:27 AM CDT on Thursday, May 22, 2008
COLLEYVILLE - A North Texas mother's dream has been yanked away by a political nightmare that is halting Guatemalan baby adoptions.
Jacki is among 2,000 other American mothers-to-be who feel helpless as the political dilemma leaves them in limbo.
Sienna's crib waits for her, but Jacki and her husband, who also have a two-year-old daughter named Isabella, said they fear the child may never get to use it.
"We've held her," Jacki said. "We've bonded with her. She is our daughter."
Jacki and her husband said they began the adoption of Sienna last year. But in early April, they were told Guatemala put a stop to children leaving the country for adoptions as they reexamine each file for fraud. They are specifically seeking cases in which mothers may have given up their babies due to pressure.
As the probe ensues, Sienna remains in an orphanage.
"The reason that we adopted is that we went through a couple of miscarriages that were late term," Jacki said. "So, we lost babies at like 20 and 30 weeks and to lose her will feel worse."
Marshall Williams oversees international adoptions at the Gladney Center in Fort Worth. He said the center's nearly two dozen families who went through adoption there are safe.
"I would certainly hope that no later than the end of this year all of those children would be home," Williams said.
But adoptive parents have expressed concerns, worrying about hostile questioning of the birth mothers by the government.
With less than ten percent of files reviewed, the Guatemala government has already thrown out 15 adoptions. As the review process continues, Jacki said she worries Sienna's adoption may be next.
"What if she doesn't come home," she said. "However small that possibility is, it's still out there."
Sienna turns one this June. Right now, she continues to share a room with nearly 20 other babies.
Here is another story. Another adoption agency in Florida is under investigation. Here is the link.
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- They sold everything to have a family of their own. They got rid of their motorcycle and even their BMW to adopt a child. But they say they have nothing to show for it.
First coast news first started looking into Tedi Bear Adoptions in 2003. As part of a state action, the agency surrendered their license in 2003. Then in 2005, The state sent them a demand to stop operating without a license.
Christina and John Hale's dream was to have a big family. The only problem is the two are unable to have children of their own.
So, they decided they wanted to adopt. "We went online and we were looking at some beautiful children." The Hale's say the moment they saw the little baby, they fell in love. Her name is Anna-Christina, but to them she is Emylee.
She is a little Guatemalan girl, the Hale's say they paid tens of thousands of dollars to adopt. "Emylee is our daughter. We love her," says John Hale.
But the Hale's say they have had to watch their daughter grow up in pictures. "It's been devastating. We watched her walk in pictures. Watched her crawl in pictures, receive her teeth in pictures. We've never heard her say momma or daddy," says Christine Runkle-Hale.
Emylee isn't at home in Blackshear, Georgia, with the Hale's and her six brothers and sisters. She is stuck in Guatemala in a web of adoption hurdles. "Here she is almost three-years-old and we were supposed to have her home when she was a baby."
The Hale's have been waiting for Emylee two and a half years. They met face-to-face in the fall of 2005, just weeks after she was born. Along with Emylee, the Hale's saw another Guatemalan baby girl named Emoria. The Hale's wanted both girls. The dream was they would grow up as sisters, but these days Emoria plays alone.
"It's gotten to the point where we don't even talk to them on the phone, because they'll say something and then say we didn't say that."
So, now we deal with them only by email," says Christine Hale. In August 2005, the Hale's say they contacted an adoption agency by the name of Adoption Blessings Worldwide. According to state records and tax returns, its office is located in Macon, Georgia, but its executive director, Tedi Hedstrom, lives in Ponte Vedra.
The Hale's say they used ABW for the adoptions of two other children, Emoria and Joshua. They say those adoptions went smoothly and quickly, but Emylee's adoption has been a different story. "They're wonderful to deal with while you don't question, and you don't have concerns and you play by their rules. But when you question, the first thing they do is they turn it around," says Christine Hale.
They say with Emylee, there has been a delay every step of the way. "Emylee's mother was a minor, and we were not told until in Guatemala, holding her in our arms. But even then we questioned, and they said it would only add a couple of weeks."
The Hale's say ABW failed numerous times to complete their paperwork properly. Then came the request for more money. "When they said jump.....we said how high. We were the first to jump."
Then the Hale's say there were other requests again for more money, all while there was no end in sight to Emylee's adoption. April 2007, Wendy from ABW tells the Hale's, in an email, that those working on the adoption, "...have to have the $1000 and also need foster care expenses.....unless they get help with the expenses, they are prepared to just stop altogether and not finish the adoption."
April 2008, Christine says she got an email from Tedi of ABW, saying, "They do not feel that you really want to adopt....Anna-Christina as they feel if you did you would want to take care of her needs and clothing. I explained to them that you love her very much but they do not think so."
Then there is another email saying Emylee's grandfather wants cash in order to cooperate. But a year before, in another email, ABW told the Hale's the adoption was delayed because the grandfather had died. "As soon as we questioned it they would come back on us like ya'll don't care about yall's daughter," says Christine Hale.
The response from ABW was Emylee's grandmother had re-married and this was the step-grandfather now wanting money. "We never fought back because they've always held the adoption of our daughter over our head and I think we've gotten to the point where enough is enough," says John Hale.
According to Georgia records, ABW once operated under a different name--Tedi Bear Adoptions. The same agency once based in North Florida. The same agency that came under fire in Florida in 2003 for numerous complaints about its service.
In 2003, the state of Florida sanctioned the agency, which agreed to close its doors. Florida's Department of Children and Families told Tedi Bear Adoptions and its executive director, Tedi Hedstrom, she could not operate in Florida for four years. That time is now up. "At the end of that time they were free to apply for a license and they have not reapplied for a license," says Diane Seymore of DCF.
But the Hale's say a lot of their adoption work was done in Florida. "Since august 12, 2005, every bit of wiring money we sent to ABW went to an account in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida," says Christine Hale. The Hale's kept a check ABW sent them. The check's labeled as Tedi Bear of Georgia. It is also attached to that same Florida Bank account the Hale's say they have wired money to.
We showed that check to the DCF. We also showed DCF what the First Coast News I-Team uncovered. We found a local community listing for Adoption Blessings Worldwide with a Ponte Vedra address and phone number. We found ABW's website is registered to Hedstrom's home in Ponte Vedra.
We also found invitations to ABW parties recently held in Atlantic Beach and Ponte Vedra. "We have some questions as to the possibility she may be placing some children through a Florida office. They should not be placing children for adoption in the state of Florida," says Seymore.
Last week, DCF sent a letter to Hedstrom and ABW warning to cease and desist operating a child placing agency without a license. DCF says it has also contacted the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office to investigate any possible criminal action.
First Coast News has learned that DCF and investigators from the Sheriff's office will meet this week about the case. We have also learned that DCF has spoken with Hedstrom and she admits, "...she has an office in her home and that she occasionally sees clients related to Adoption Blessings Worldwide in her home office." According to the DCF report, Hedstrom says that all files are kept in Georgia.
Thursday night at 11, investigator Jackelyn Barnard gets ABW's side of the story about the allegations. Jackelyn also talks to another family, who lives in Florida, and who says they paid $40,000 to ABW and have no children.
We will also tell you about another state agency investigating ABW and how state agencies are not the only ones taking action against ABW. That story is Thursday night at 11 on First Coast News.©2008 First Coast News. All rights reserved
Another person giving adoption a bad name. Here is the link. Here is the story.
Adoption scammer in jail again
12:49 AM CDT on Thursday, May 22, 2008
HOUSTON -- Two years ago, 11 News was in Alice when Belinda Ramirez was arrested by the FBI.
The Feds had been investigating Ramirez for months, after several couples claimed they had been swindled by her. The couples said they met her through various adoption Web sites, where she claimed to be 8-months pregnant and wanted to give her child to a loving couple.
According to the criminal complaint obtained by 11 News, she claimed her name was Jessica and told couples that her doctor had put her on a special diet and that she needed certain medications, which she could not afford.
Couples, desperate to start families, sent her money, gift cards and clothes.
It was all a hoax and she was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Apparently she didn't learn her lesson.
Just a few weeks ago, soon after her release from prison, she was charged with fraud again.
And Friday morning in the tiny town of Beeville, special agents from the Houston office of the FBI arrested her again.
Law enforcement sources told 11 News she went to a motel room in that town to pick up a Federal Express package sent by another couple hoping to adopt a child.
Such swindles are frustrating for Lynne Banks.
She runs an adoption Web site warning couples across the country about people like Ramirez.
“You can be the most intelligent person, but when you have your heart involved and your emotions are running high you can be scammed,” said Banks.
Now Ramirez is in a Corpus Christi jail. If she's found guilty again she'll likely face an even longer prison term.Here is another with the worst of the worst. Adopting for money. Here is the link. Here is the story.
Posted on Wednesday, 21 of May , 2008 at 5:36 pm
NEW YORK—A Florida woman ha pleaded guilty to a fraud scheme in connection with the adoption of disabled children, collecting approximately $1.68 million based on misrepresentations about her identity and the childrens’ living situation. Judith Leekin, 63, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., admitted defrauding New York State and New York City out of adoption subsidies that were intended to provide for the care of 11 adopted children.
She pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud charges before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in Manhattan federal court.
There are children in the foster care systems of New York State and New York City whose age, background, or physical or mental disability make it more difficult to find an adoptive placement. In order to increase the likelihood of these children finding permanent homes, New York State has enacted legislation which allows payments to be made for the care and maintenance of these adopted children who fit the definition of handicapped or hard-to-place as defined by New York State law and regulations.Monthly subsidy payments are available to all eligible children until the age of 21 regardless of the adoptive parent’s income. These payments are discontinued only when it is determined by a social services official that the adoptive parent is no longer legally responsible for the support of the child or that the child is no longer receiving any support from the parent.
The New York City Administration for Children’s Services requests adoptive parents who are receiving adoption subsidies from NYC ACS to submit an annual certification form accompanied by supporting paperwork, the purpose of which is to determine
whether adoptive parents continue to be legally responsible for the support of their adopted children and whether the adoptive parents are still providing support. New York State law requires that adoptive parents notify the State in the event that they
either cease to be legally responsible for the child or are no longer providing support, or if the child has died.
Between 1988 and 1996, Leekin adopted 11 children in New York City, many of who were physically and/or mentally disabled, and maintained custody of a 12th adopted child. Prosecutors said Leekin misrepresented her identity and living situation to the New York State Office of Children & Family Services and the NYC ACS in order to adopt Adopted Children 1-11. She used four different, fake names in adopting the children, and misrepresented both how many other children were in her care and the extent of the physical and mental disabilities of those children.Between 1988 and July 18, 2007, based on these misrepresentations, Leekin collected approximately $1.68 million in adoption subsidies, and used the money to support a lavish lifestyle for herself.
In 1997, Leekin lived with adopted children 1-12 in Queens. During this time, adopted children 1-11 lived in the basement of Leekin’s home and did not go to school or outside. In addition, prosecutors say several of adopted children 1-11 were restrained in order to prevent them from getting out of their beds.
In 1998, Leekin moved with adopted children 1-12 from New York to Port St. Lucie, Florida, and while there, caused adopted children 1-11 to live in a similar manner to which they had lived in New York, according to prosecutors.
Between 2004 and July 2007, in Florida, adopted children 1-10 slept on the floor of a storage room abutting the garage and typically only entered the house to use the bathroom or the kitchen. In addition, adopted children 1-10 did not attend school, and several of the children were restrained using plastic ties. Neither the NYS OCFS nor the NYC ACS reportedly knew about the manner in which Leekin treated the children.
In order to collect the adoption subsidies for the children, Leekin submitted Certification Forms containing false information. For example, in 2002, Leekin (using the aliases “Eastlyn Giraud” and “Michelle Wells”) submitted to the NYC ACS copies of school report cards for seven of the adopted children, based on which Leekin received adoption subsidies on behalf of those children. The report cards, however, were fraudulent, and the children had never attended the schools reflected on the report cards, prosecutors said.
In addition, Leekin allegedly submitted multiple false Certification Forms for adopted child 11 who was so severely mentally and physically handicapped that s/he could neither speak nor walk. In 2000, Leekin removed the child from her home, and stopped providing care for the child altogether. Nevertheless, she continued to submit Certification Forms for the child in which she falsely stated that the child continued to live in her home.
Leekin continued to collect adoption subsidies for the child until July 18, 2007, when her scheme was discovered.
She pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Leekin is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Berman on July 23. 5-21-08