Problems With Foreign Adoptions

15 04 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

International media organizations have reported recently about an American woman from Tennessee who adopted a young boy from Russia, and then sent him back after trying to deal with his mental health issues.[2] This episode is sad and tragic—for the child, for the mother, and for lots of innocent people—everyone knows that.  However, the deeper issues surrounding this adoption involve the inability of so many Americans to adopt children who are born in this country, and the willingness of Russia, China and other countries to foist “sick” children on U.S. adoptive parents.

Adoptions are critical to so many people.  They save lives that might otherwise be aborted; and they offer precious loving options to those people who cannot conceive children of their own.  For the adoptees, ideally they provide new parents and bright futures where there were none, and a chance to escape from the poverty and hopelessness of their countries.

A relative of mine and his wife are perfect examples of Americans who wanted to adopt, because cancer treatments had prevented one from ever conceiving again.  They desperately wanted to adopt more than one child, and they tried to adopt in the U.S. but found it was near to impossible[3], so they turned their attention abroad.  First, they adopted a baby from an orphanage in China, and all went well.  Then, they sought to adopt a second baby from another Chinese orphanage, and it was an unmitigated disaster.

The child had serious physical problems, which were not disclosed to the couple.  For a child to have “psychological problems” or to be “mentally unstable,” “violent and angry” or have “severe psychopathic issues”—in the case of the Russian boy—is tragic but not surprising.  China wants to get rid of such children, and presumably Russia and other countries do too; and it is arguable that the United States has become a “dumping ground” for these children.

It is easy to be holier-than-thou, and to tar or condemn the adoptive mother or parents as unfit and criminals, yet first those who do so should walk a mile in the person’s (or persons’) mocassins.  How would we feel, and how would we react?  I have searched my own soul with respect to that question, trying to put myself in the shoes of my relative and his wife, who are wonderful and loving people.

For the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, to say that he was “deeply shocked by the news” and “very angry that any family would act so callously toward a child that they had legally adopted,” constitutes pure theatrics, grandstanding and callousness by a political hack.  With the advent of ObamaCare’s healthcare “rationing,” the cost and human toll of dealing with sick children from other countries might overwhelm adoptive families and our medical system.

There should be an international agreement on the conditions for adoptions, the obligations of host families, and the obligations of those countries that seek to have Americans adopt their children.  It is a two-way street, and there is plenty of blame to share.  I do not have much patience with the Russians; and I have enormous contempt for the thoroughly evil Putin regime.[4] Hence, it is not surprising that they would seek to exploit sensitive adoption issues, at a time when they are allowing sick children to be adopted by American families.

Perhaps, the easiest way to deal with any Russian concerns is to cut off all adoptions from that country immediately.  This will stem the tide of sick children being foisted on Americans; and the same thing might be done with China and other countries, which are enormously brazen and uncaring.

A Chicago Tribune article states:

Rather than condemn the Tennessee woman, [other parents of adopted children who exhibit severely challenging behavior] are blasting adoption agencies that are not always reliable reporters about a child’s troubled past, leaving families adrift to manage extreme problems without training or options.

It includes the comment of a mother:

“I want to ask these people passing judgment: What would you do if your child threatened to kill you every day?”

. . .

Since 1991, more than 50,000 Russian children have been adopted by U.S. citizens, according to the State Department.  Add the former Soviet bloc countries, and the region is second only to China as a source of international adoptions for Americans, who are often drawn overseas by the difficulty of adopting domestically.

But prospective parents can be unprepared for the behavioral and emotional challenges that await them, explained Judy Stigger, an adoption therapist at The Cradle in Evanston, Ill.

. . .

Because children can be superficially charming and their disabilities are invisible, their problems often get blamed on “bad parenting.”  Also, adding to the uphill battle: The right kind of interventions—often not covered by insurance—can be scarce and prohibitively expensive.[5]

When Russia, China and other countries foist sick children on U.S. adoptive parents, they are engaging in brutal and callous human trafficking, which must be stopped.[6] On the bright side, my relative and his wife ended up adopting one child from China and another from Vietnam.  Both children are enormous blessings, and there is love abounding.

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele

[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates (  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years.  See, e.g.,

[2] See, e.g.

[3] In at least one instance, a birth mother “interviewed” them, and then she backed out.  I remember their frustrations with the American adoption process, so they went abroad.

[4] See

[5] See

[6] See



12 responses

13 05 2010

More Travesties From Obama

The Obama Administration is moving toward completion of an agreement with Russia that would head off Moscow’s threat to halt U.S. adoptions of Russian children—which is absurd, and is merely the latest example of Barack Obama bowing to dictator-for-life Putin’s regime.

Clearly, both Russia and China have used the U.S. as dumping grounds for their “sick” children, and Americans have paid dearly for it. Until Russia addresses its own problems, all adoptions from that country should be banned; and the same thing is true of China. Enough is enough!

See; see also

14 05 2010

Mr Naegele,

I feel compelled to respond to your post. I am the adoptive mother to a 3 yr old daughter adopted from Russia. She is hardly sick, nor was she “foisted” upon me in any sense of the word.

You seem determined to make your political point and pull in any issue to help bolster your cause. Your comments that these “sick” children that the US State Dept is helping come to homes in the US will only further hurt the US by being a draw on the new Healthcare program are so far off base that it’s humorous. International adoptions cost upwards of $45K – essentially eliminating any family who would likely be in need of a public medical program. In fact, one of the 100’s of documents I had to provide during my adoption was proof that I was covered (and my child would be too) by medical insurance.

Additionally, did you know that Ambassador Beyrle was appointed by George W Bush? Most State Dept employees cross over different govt administrations. It’s hard to point fingers to a certain polictical party’s agenda when the current Ambassador wasn’t appointed by the current administation.

Your comments on Putin are scary as well. Putin, while a leader surely in Russia, has nothing specifically to do with adoptions. Adoptions started long before his term as President started in 1999. I don’t claim to be an expert on his political movements, however you can’t hold that against children who simply need a home.

At any given time, it is projected that there are 730,000 orphans in Russia. This is the “published” number and doesn’t include the suspected million+ that are homeless on the streets. This # is dwarfed by the # of orphans in China, Ethiopia, etc. Most world estimates are usually given @ 147 Million. Million. Yes.

Unfortunately, many parents have to deal with their child’s health issues – biological, adopted, step or otherwise. It doesn’t make them any less loveable or worthy of a family. I read another one of your own posts titled “What and Where Is God?”. Here is one of your own quotes:

God is as close to you and me as our next thought or breath. God is present in a child’s laughter, and the rustling of leaves on a tree, and a bird in flight, and the love expressed by one human being or animal to another. What is God? Infinite Intelligence, and Love. Where is God? Here, there, and everywhere.

When reading your two posts back to back, I think of the bracelets that were so popular a couple years back “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do). I don’t think he’d abandon children due to politics.

14 05 2010

Thank you, Amy, for your thoughtful comments.

The thrust of my blog article above is aimed at the callousness of foreign countries—principally China and Russia—which foist “sick” children on unsuspecting Americans adoptive parents. In its most brazen forms, it is akin to human trafficking.

See, e.g.,

Americans need to be protected, for all of the reasons that I have mentioned. You are fortunate to have adopted a healthy daughter. Other Americans have not been as blessed. Russia is making a big issue out of the need to screen Americans; however, equally important is the need to screen the country’s adoption practices to safeguard against the trafficking in sick children.

Yes, children worldwide are in need—in staggering numbers—and their stories are often tragic and heart-wrenching. However, America cannot solve the problems of the world, especially during the dire economic times that will persist for the balance of this decade, in all likelihood. Our immigration problems are merely one facet of those issues.

See, e.g.,

Lastly, I am an Independent politically, and am not a “fan” of either political party. Yes, I know that Beyrle’s tenure spans more than one administration, which appears to be a mistake that should be corrected. And no, I do not hold anything “against children who simply need a home.” They are victims, every bit as much as adoptive parents who are overwhelmed by unforeseen and undisclosed medical problems. I know what my relative and his wife went through.

14 05 2010

I enjoy discussing adoption related issues with people – as there are so many rumors and myths that seem to be taken at full fact.

One of these myths is that sick children are being pushed on other countries/families. Families have the RIGHT to decline any child they are matched with. Wonderful groups of physicians, specializing in Internationl health issues, exsist to help families translate/diagnose/interpret the medical files that are shared with them regarding their “referral” (a matched child). In fact, the child I was first matched with, I declined for reasons that are very personal to me.

I am sympathatic to any family who discovers a medical issue with any of their children. But let’s face it — there are no certainties even with birth, that a child will be 100% healthy.

14 05 2010

Thank you again for your comments, Amy.

While it is true theoretically that adoptive families can decline any child, in the case of my relative and his wife, they traveled to China and were totaled unprepared for what they encountered and learned subsequently. As the article that I cited above stated:

Because children can be superficially charming and their disabilities are invisible, their problems often get blamed on “bad parenting.”

Also, I know for a fact that the medical problems were never disclosed to my relative and his wife. And yes, it is true that there are no certainties with American adoptions, or any child, but at least the issues are not intentionally hidden.

14 08 2010

You are spot on with your post! Many of these families are being set up for failure and yes the outrage and fingerpointing at the family who cracks is nothing more than theatrics. Who is really to blame here? The Russian orphanage knew full well that this boy had severe mental and emotional issues and sent him packing to the US for a single mom to deal with. Then they fake outrage when she sends him back.

We adopted our daughter from China several years ago when the program was stable. We tried a second time but things had changed dramatically. We were told a six month wait and each month the wait time increased until it was eventually past 4 years and still growing. China had changed their agenda but didn’t tell waiting parents, although I believe agnecies knew and kept silent while still signing up new clients. They were focused on placing special need children to Americans. Their plan was to sign people up promising short wait times and then run the clock out on waiting families and entice them to switch to the special need program. Many people who were emotionally exhausted from staring at an empty crib for years, financially exhausted from renewing paperwork each year and feeling hopeless at the prospect of ever bringing home a child switched to the special need program. Some adoptions have worked out well, others, not so much.

Also, China is slipping some special need children into the non-special needs adoption line, the line that is currently 4.5 years long. Parents in this line have decided that they are not equipped to handle a special need child and have decided to wait it out for a healthy child to parent. The children slipped in tend to have neurological issues, hard to spot in an infant child.

Our personal experience is that we waited 4 years in the non special need line. We received a referral for a child listed as healthy. The specialist reviewed the file and due to growth measurements and head circumference measurements told us the child has a high risk for a cognitive impairment as her head circumference was at least 3 standard deviations below the mean. We were told that perhaps the measurements were wrong and the child could be fine or maybe she will beat all odds and be fine or the child could have mr or somewhere in the middle with a cognitive impairment and the dr. could not tell us how mild or severe it could be. We were devastated. We felt lied to and tricked. I have seen this pattern play out time and time again.

We avoided Russia initially because of their known reputation of deliberately referring difficult children who are victimes of fetal alcohol abuse to American families.

In 2004 there were about 9,000 adoptions from China, about 10% of them were special needs. Today there are about 4,000 adoptions from China with 60% being special need (and that’s only what they admit to). I would say an additional 10% are special need children slipped in through the non special need line. So about 65-70% of adoptions from China are now special need.

I have reported the adoption pyramid scheme to the FBI and State Department and they don’t seem to care. I have contacted reporters but they only like to sensationalize stories and report about the outrageous woman who returned her child. I have even written my congressman, no one seems to care. So American families are on their own and the adoption world is becoming more and more risky. It is no longer about creating successful families, it is about money, lots and lots of money and placing the most difficult children to unknowing parents.


14 08 2010

Thank you, Jen, for your comments.

What you portray is consistent with the article above, but enhances it and embellishes on what was written, and brings the tragic consequences home to the reader in ways that words alone do not suffice. You have gone the extra mile, each and every time, and you are a real hero for doing so.

None of this should happen to you or any other American adoptive parent. It is ruthless and callous handling of both children and needy parents who only want to do the right thing—which is to provide nonstop love to a healthy child, or to a special needs child if that is their choice.

As I wrote in the conclusion of the article above:

On the bright side, my relative and his wife ended up adopting one child from China and another from Vietnam. Both children are enormous blessings, and there is love abounding.

To see the smiles on the two young people who were adopted by my relative and his wife, and to know the love between the four of them and what the two young people have accomplished in their lives already, is truly awe-inspiring and a gift from God. If only this were true of each and every adoptive child and parent.

Next, one of your comments warrants emphasis:

The children slipped in tend to have neurological issues, hard to spot in an infant child.

This is what China tried to do in the case of my relative and his wife. It goes beyond neurological issues and involves other hard-to-spot health issues; and it is criminal, yet law enforcement in the U.S. seems to be doing nothing to prevent it from happening. And then, American adoptive parents are blamed.

Your comments, Jen, and the time you took to write them are much appreciated. If only they could be read far and wide by American adoptive parents, and acted on to prevent more heartaches in the future. Thank you again so much.

14 08 2010

I just read Amy’s post and wanted to comment. I agree that it sounds heartless to talk about the costs of healthcare versus helping a child in need. I struggle with that myself. However, to speak candidly and to step away from emotion I can see and agree with Timothy and he has a very important point. Our helathcare system is fragile and nearly bankrupt as it is. One woman posted on a board commenting how thankful she is for her insurance. Since bringing her child home they have incurred about $250,000 in medical bills with more to come and the familiy has only had to outlay a couple of thousand. Well they may be okay financially and not receiving government assistance, but someone is paying for it, ie the insurance company, ie, Americans in increased rates etc. Our school system is fragile. These children will need many services and therapies in school as well as in the healthcare system. In a sense these foreign countries are weakening us by sending their special need children overseas to let our healthcare and school system deal with the problem. I know from an emotional standpoint these are difficult things to say, but from a practical standpoint they must be considered. China’s government is very wealthy. It is the US that owes them $800 billion dollars not the other way around. The fact that China does not take care of their orphans is absolutely terrible. If each child costs our insurance industry/medical system a million dollars then it adds up very quickly to really make a siginificant dent in our system. The same is true for the schools. It may seem like small potatoes but it does add up to major dollars.

This is all about politics and money no doubt. If a child has a special need and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs then why is China charging Americans high fees to adopt a special need child? If it were truly about the children then why are they making so much money from Americans who are paying orphanage fees to take a special need child off their hands who would cost them a lot of money to care for? China and Russia make more money off this than you would realize. Add up what they make from the adoption, the boost to the economy when people travel, what they save in health and education services. And if you add what it costs for the US to service the children you are quickly in the billions. I think the adoption community is actually paying back a signifcant portion of the debt we owe China.

I have written this to my congressman and the state department warning them of this cost to America and how these countries are fooling people. Again, there isn’t much interest. Actually, the State Department is part of the problem if not most.


14 08 2010

Thank you again, Jen. It is a scandal of enormous and tragic proportions that must not be swept under the rug. Potential American adoptive parents must be warned of the risks involved; and the U.S. government must take steps to stop such practices, which are tantamount to selling defective products to Americans. The media must wake up and realize that American adoptive parents are not to blame; and that the costs to this country now and in the future are staggering.

As economic problems increase during the balance of this decade, in the U.S. and globally, American families cannot afford the required medical care alone, and our already-overburdened medical system cannot afford it either. As harsh as it might sound, it would be more prudent to shut down the adoption process, at least from some countries, until these issues are addressed fully and completely. The tragic effects on American adoptive families, who must shoulder the medical and emotional costs alone, far outweigh the public policy benefits of keeping our borders open to fraudulent adoption practices by foreign countries.

I could not agree with your comments more, all of them, Jen. Again, you are a hero! 🙂

14 08 2010

Thank you Tim, I really appreciated your post because it made me feel like some people really do understand what is happening and do not judge us harshly. Amy is right that families always have the right to decline referrals, but that suggests it is an easy thing to do, or that there is no trickery involved and the whole responsibility lies with the family. We did decline the referral. And although I understand the game, I will always feel like it was a human failing on our part. To say one can always just turn down a referral so flippantly fails to recognize the heartache and the damage it causes to families going through that. It’s been a hard year. We thought for 4 years we had another child coming into our family. Our daughter was 2 when we started the process for the second, today she is 7 and has been waiting for a baby sister for 4 years who now will not be coming home. That dream is over. We dismantled the nursery and sent toys to local charities, each one with a memory of where it was purchased and the happiness of that day waiting in anticipation. It has been 10 months since we declined and I’m still in grief therapy. I was lucky enough to hire an organization to inquire about the child. It gives me peace to know she was adopted by a family willing to take the chance on her. They are the true heroes. I hope everything is going great for all of them. In our case we were not offered a new referral. We were told that China said the child was healthy and we were to accept the referral given or leave the program. We left the program. But before that, we had spent countless tears and numerous hours through the night and into the early morning on several days glued to the internet researching all the possibilities that could happen if we moved forward with the adoption. We only had a few days to make a decision and the days my husband and I spent sequestered in our office with only the computer to help us was torture. We knew no one could help us and tell us what to do and that this was a decision only the two of us could make. After 4 years of waiting for a referral for a healthy child we were blindsided. At the same time there were a few families who were in China posting on message boards begging for help and contact info for specialists as they suspected that the child they were presented with had some major issues that were not disclosed. We were terrified that this is what was going to happen to us. At that point it was no longer about turning down a referral for a child but that we had reached the end of our rope and our boundary had finally been crossed. We no longer wanted to do business with China as we had zero trust in their program and with our agency. We felt that we had done everything we were asked to do even as new rules came into place during the course of the 4 year wait. We paid every increased fee, invested tens of thousands of dollars in good faith, renewed every document, met every new requirement put in front of us. We were lied to at the begining when they told us the wait was 6 months. It took 4 years and now it was China’s turn to deliver and they put us into a horrible position by referring us a child who had a great potential of having a cognitive impairment to include the higher than average risk of mental retardation based upon abnormal measurements.

And while I do understand this evil plan, I still feel like a failure and that I let God down by not having enough trust or faith or strength to be able to deal with whatever issues the child may have. I still feel this even though I know this is what China hopes for and counts on. They play on people’s emotions, pull on their heartstrings and count on them succumbing to the guilt.

You will never convince or be able to warn the adoption community. I’ve been around the boards long enough to know this. I won’t try because the wounds are still there and I don’t want to be judged for turning down a referral. The adoption community has some of the harshest critics. Some will even say you are evil and accuse you of wanting a perfect Gerber baby and then bailed when it didn’t happen. Others do not want anything to change for fear of rocking the boat and having the program close. You see, for some this is their only chance to become a parent. They are willing to wait and take their chance of getting through with either a mild special need they can handle or that they will get a turn in the non special need line and get lucky with a healthy referral. They still have a small chance of becoming parents and having a successful adoption. If the programs close, they have no chance. They will guard and protect their place in line and defend their agencies with all their might. They will viciously attack anyone who threatens their chance of having a child. I understand their hurt, but I also won’t allow them to throw salt in my wound either so I avoid the subject. This is why many people with negative experiences will avoid posting about it.

I really appreciate your post. It was very helpful for me to read it and I’m glad I found it. Thank you.


14 08 2010

Thank you again, Jen.

First, you stated:

I will always feel like it was a human failing on our part. To say one can always just turn down a referral so flippantly fails to recognize the heartache and the damage it causes to families going through that.

Yes, I understand. While you might feel that “it was a human failing on [your] part,” which is perfectly understandable, neither you nor your husband failed or are to blame in the least. You two did the right thing; and hopefully your decision-making process can be of help to thousands of other American families—as well as to families abroad—who are encountering similar problems and heartaches. Both China and Russia are wrong, and cruel, to foist sick children on unsuspecting adoptive parents. This is criminal, like selling defective products to Americans and peoples of other countries.

Second, you stated:

[T]he days my husband and I spent sequestered in our office with only the computer to help us was torture. We knew no one could help us and tell us what to do and that this was a decision only the two of us could make.

I will repeat: you two are heroes, whether you can accept that fact or not; and hopefully your decision-making will help countless others.

Third, you stated:

I still feel like a failure and that I let God down by not having enough trust or faith or strength to be able to deal with whatever issues the child may have. I still feel this even though I know this is what China hopes for and counts on. They play on people’s emotions, pull on their heartstrings and count on them succumbing to the guilt.

You and your husband were not and are not failures; and you did not let God down. Indeed, God has been working through you, providing guidance and meaning to experiences that might otherwise seem unjust and unfathomable. When time permits, please pick up a copy of Rabbi Harold Kushner’s excellent book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” and take time to read it.


Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not thank you again for your insights, as painful as they may be; and for sharing your wisdom and that of your husband with others. You two are a very special and loving couple, and your young daughter is very fortunate to have you as her parents. May God continue to bless all three of you now and forever.

29 12 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Cruel, Sinister, Demonic, Narcissistic Despot and Demagogue, Russia’s Putin, Bans Adoptions By Americans

Putin—a “smoother” version of Stalin, who cares only about his power and survival—has been using American adoptive parents as pawns and playing with the emotions of those who have been waiting for Russian adoptions, which only a truly sinister person like him does without a conscience.

It is part of a larger geopolitical chess game, which tragically the adoptive parents are caught in. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

The adoption ban was included . . . to retaliate for a new U.S. law aimed at punishing . . . Russian human-rights violators. That law was named for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison after exposing . . . a $230 million fraud perpetrated by senior Russian police officials

. . .

Russia is the No. 3 source of international adoptions for the U.S., after China and Ethiopia, according to State Department data. About 70,000 Russian children have been adopted in the U.S. in the last two decades, though the flow has fallen to just under 1,000 annually in recent years.


Russia, China and other countries have been cruelly foisting “sick” children on U.S. adoptive parents for many years. Indeed, both Russia and China have used the U.S. as a dumping ground for their sick children, and Americans have paid dearly for it. Until Russia addresses its own problems, all adoptions from that country should be banned; and the same thing is true of China. Enough is enough!

See (“Problems With Foreign Adoptions”); see also (“Russia’s Putin Is A Killer”) and (“The Silent Voices Of Stalin’s Soviet Holocaust And Mao’s Chinese Holocaust”)

There are plenty of kids who can be adopted here in the United States. They are in foster homes and elsewhere; and the kids are searching for a real home and stability, and someone who loves them.

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