Since December 1998 we have interacted with many people who have successfully adopted from Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Romania.  The bulk of correspondence, however, has been with those who adopted from Russia and Bulgaria. We listened as families shared their torment at the hands of agencies and facilitators, and completely understood their anger — and pain.   Yet, we have all been made parents by the gift of adoption.

    Although we persevered through the very worst an adoptive family could live through, there is comfort in knowing we are not alone. 

    We thought that our treatment by BBAS was unique. We were wrong.

    Cyril’s death was a unique experience, but what others related to us about losing referrals without any explanation and then being told to keep quiet by their agencies was hardly a singular experience. After Cyril, we became clued in real fast and want to share the following with you.

    You aren’t going to read this information on adoptionforums.com, adopting.org, ParentsPlace, Fertile Thoughts or on APR or the EEAC Bulgaria list. This information comes from families who shared with us their torment. 

     The following is for your education as you search for a qualified adoption agency or are currently in the process of adopting from Russia or Bulgaria. Let nobody deter you from this goal, but go in with your waders pulled up to your eyes. You are doing the right thing by embarking on this journey.

    Unfortunately, your interests and rights are not being taken seriously by those to whom you are entrusting thousands of dollars.




    Get yourself “paper-ready”. By that I mean a completed homestudy and the beginnings of your BCIS approval. I came across these sites which tells you some of the documents you will need to adopt from Russia (You may need to be a member of the Independent Yahoo! Russian Adoption list to read the latter site)

    The documents are similar for Bulgarian adoption. And be prepared to update them during the course of your wait! Especially your medical and police clearance letters.

    Keep in mind your BCIS clearance can take anywhere from a month to four months, depending on which state you reside in.

    Got a notary? You are going to need one. After the documents are all notarized, you must then get them certified by the county where the notary resides. After they are certified in that county, the documents must be sent to your state’s Secretary of State for apostilling.  

    Some states don’t charge for this at all while some states used to charge $25 a document. Plan on spending time and money either traveling or mailing these to your state’s Secretary of State’s office or a satellite office (assuming that, like New York, they have one). You and they will get well acquainted in the months to follow.

    A “completed dossier” is one that includes your INS clearance and any and all documents that are required by the region in Russia or the Bulgarian government.  And that means all N/C/A’ed

I.                    RESEARCH THE AGENCY. Of course that woman or man you spoke to on the telephone was helpful and sincere sounding. Of course that literature with the happy kids who are at home is enticing. Of course those clients the agency gave you to contact were happy — do you really think they will steer you to the miserable fed-up clients?  

          Don’t go with them just because they appear so helpful and sincere.  That same agency who seemed so upfront and returned your messages in the beginning may all of a sudden become distant and uncommunicative when the adoption process hits a few bumps – or you slip down the chasm.

II.                  REMEMBER: YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR ADOPTION JOURNEY. When you are pregnant and are in your last trimester, we here in America sometimes plan out a “birth strategy”. We write down how we would like our births to go — where to deliver the baby, what doctor we want, who we want present and a plan when complications develop. WHY SHOULD YOUR ADOPTION PREGNANCY BE ANY DIFFERENT?


III.               This agency checklist was compiled by a couple who had a negative adoption experience at the hands of two corrupt women and a corrupt man in Mexico, all of whom were later prosecuted for violating U.S. immigration law and served time. 

          They were able to bring their daughter home, but the adventure their adoption became caused the man to become very active in fighting for parents’ rights. He outlines what procedures that you, as a PROSPECTIVE PAYING CLIENT, should go through when selecting an adoption provider. 

IV.              Connect with people on the Internet. Check out references at the following websites on various agencies:

The Eastern European Adoption Coalition’s Agency Listing:

The “short hand” for “bad experience” here is “contract terminated — contact for details”. Contact as many people as you can from that list and see how current and former clients answer your questions about their adoption experience.

NOTE:  The EEAC Agency Registry has been taken down which is unfortunate.  We do not know why it has been removed, for the EEAC has not published its reasons for doing so.

The Inter-Country Adoption Registry (ICAR) whose domain is registered to Amrex, Inc the Russian adoption faciliation service. Not as comprehensive as the EEAC’s. With ICAR, the registering families can place comments on the website about their adoption experience. NOTE: If it is an Amrex agency, you will see all sorts of glowing comments.  Read those for Genesis, Inc. and Building Blocks.

Kevin Koch’s Adoption From Russia website: I am not 100 percent certain about Mr. Koch, having had a run in with him regarding Building Blocks, but the site is useful if you contact him directly enquiring about agencies.   Our names are listed.  I only wish that more people could log their experiences on this website.  It is EXTREMELY useful.

    By all means, hook up with fellow adoptive parents on the Internet.  I am sick of having this incredible resource downplayed by the adoption industry.

    Get on APR.  Get on FRUA.  Get on the EEAC Bulgaria list or the topica Bulgaria-Adopt list.  Lurk and post on www.forums.adoption.com, adopting.org,  Fertile Thoughts, abcadoptions.com and any other Internet forum you can post to. 

    Of course, www.forums.adoption.com is a joke. Posts are summarily deleted due to negative content about agencies who actively advertise on the site, but they are worth a gander in the beginning.   www.forums.adoption.com has a new policy where posters cannot say anything about their agency - either good or bad.  Instead, posters have to place their comments in a Private Message or Private Email to one another.

    Sometimes posts and posters are blocked from the APR and Bulgaria lists at the discretion of the list administrator.

    Ask publicly about an agency and see what private and public responses you get.  Leave your email while doing so. Then see what sorts of plants spring to life as the seed you have planted take fruition.

    (We also suggest you set up, at least at first, an email address at a portal like Yahoo! or Hotmail, the better to protect your identity. Some agencies may blacklist you before you even get in touch with them if they remember your name from the boards ... which they do monitor regularly!)

    If you happen to see an “Anon” post or a person using an odd name like “Taken Advantage Of,” “Victim,” “Anon This Time” or just plain “Anon” don’t think that these people are some sort of troublemakers.  

    Very often, they are genuine posters. But they post anonymously because they fear retaliation by their agency. Agencies HATE IT when clients step forward and say who they are using or if they had been taken. Clients have been threatened by agencies for going public. 

    Also be leery if you see somebody touting a particular agency left, right and center. Nobody should tout their agency until after their child is home.  

    Sometimes, the agency has its clients tout its services to drum up businesses to the unsuspecting. See how Denise Hubbard operated when she was setting up BBAS.

    Your agency may even tell you not to post on the Internet.  Reread what BBAS sent to its Bulgarian clients on Oct. 4, 2000.  

    And they will use every excuse in the book as to tell you why you can’t post things or share your adoption journey. If you want to find out about urban legends and false spam reports, go to snopes.com. 

    You will receive more help, education and handholding from your fellow adoptive parents than you will from an agency employee. If it weren’t for our fellow adoptive parents, Daniel and I would not have had the strength to bring Anguel home. It was our fellow clients and those people we met out in “cyberspace” who held our hands for us, cried with us and supported us as the months dragged on. 

    You may not have much in common with one another out in “meatspace” — different world views, political views, religious beliefs, and even parenting philosophies, but understand one thing: adopting from Eastern Europe is a uniting force.


    “We have many infants and toddlers available for immediate placement.” — “immediate” may mean a month or a year or it may mean they have no infants available at all.  They should not be using the immediacy of a baby or toddler to lure you in. This is the HARD, emotional SELL.

    “Our agency is a Christian agency.” Your fellow “Christians” usually are in it for the same thing as those non-Christians: the cash. If an agency claims it is a “Christian”  (or “Mormon” or “Jewish”) agency it does not automatically mean that they have the best interests of the children or their clients at heart. 

    It doesn’t even mean that your donations will be going to any orphanages in country. Or that they even know a darned thing about the countries they are placing children from. Or even have personal contact with the facilitators in-country.

    “The cash that you bring to the orphanage and any donations for orphanage relief that you make go directly to the orphanage. No bribery at all. Looking around at Cyril’s orphanage, we had to wonder about that. Chances are that “orphanage donation” portion of your “International Fee” are going directly to the facilitator or his “boss” in the region.  

    Not too much will make it to the children who reside in the orphanage. Parents have reported traveling to orphanages that many children have been placed from and still finding malnourished kids, little donated clothing and understaffing. Sure, some kids get something, but it isn’t reaching all the children. Some agencies and orphanages perhaps, but for the most part, it’s a bogus claim.

    “Our reps in Russia/Bulgaria/wherever are reputable and well respected.  Maybe yes, maybe no.  

    What are the names of these reps?  Who are they working for?  How well “connected” are they?  Are they working for Amrex or the Frank Foundation in Russia?  Charity or Milena Kouzva in Bulgaria? How much does your agency know about these reps — how they operate, who they are giving YOUR money to? How are they connected to the orphanages? Chances are they will treat you well when you travel, but who are they really working for? You, the agency or themselves?

    “We are available 24 hours a day!  We are here to hold your hand throughout the adoption process! You can do your own handholding. It doesn’t take a genius to use email or the telephone to answer questions about paperwork.  YOU CAN FIGURE THE PAPERWORK OUT ON YOUR OWN!

    “All our babies are healthy. Commonwealth used that one on me when I contacted them after Cyril’s death in Russia.  

    Why make this claim? Children in orphanages will be delayed when you first meet them. They will not be the same people after you bring them home. Stating to prospective clients: “All our children we place are healthy” is an outright LIE. Again, you are being “sold” on their program. 

    Too many agencies tell their prospective clients that line — “All the kids that come home are now healthy.” 

    “We have a beautiful child right here who desperately needs a family!  S/he’s a real cutie!  Whose best interests is it suiting if somebody is tossing a child at you that you know nothing about? The child’s interests? The agency’s interests?  Your interests?  

    Never be sold. Go in with your eyes open, especially the referral of a child they are tossing your way without even having evaluated your homestudy — or asked about your preference.


    This is our biggest pet peeve. You are not ready to receive a referral until you get your homestudy done! Read the stories we have about BBAS families whom this was done to.

    What if your homestudy comes back with a negative recommendation? You won’t be able to adopt the child anyway! 

    They toss a referral at you without an agency approved homestudy just to keep you in the pipeline. You can wait for your homestudy to be completed and then you can worry about your referral.



1.    The Biological Family “re-claiming” the child. Just because you have chosen to adopt from Russia or Bulgaria doesn’t mean that you have escaped the prospect of a member of the child’s biological family coming back to the orphanage and taking the child back. This does happen and there is no way of preventing this. Until the court case is successful and the judge proclaims the child yours, having your name, the child can be reclaimed by its biological family.

2.    Facilitators “shopping” children to different agencies. This happens in both countries. Let’s say that a facilitator has given an agency a child to place or that you have identified a child from a photolisting. If the agency doesn’t “place” the child with a family after a certain amount of time goes by, the facilitator or facilitation service can turn around and give the child’s referral to another agency. This happens in both Russian and Bulgarian adoption.  This is what we believe happened to Linda Wright’s referral Yekaterina.

3.    Facilitators who are operating illegally by giving out referrals that are not legally available for adoption. It has happened. Facilitation is a cutthroat business in Russia and Bulgaria. Never forget that.  Each child referred is money in their pocket.

4.  The Agency loses its facilitator or changes facilitators while you are in process.  This can cause delays in your adoption.  It can cost you a referral.  It can even cause the agency that country's adoption program.  This happened with Cambodia and Vietnam when those countries shut down.  Agencies lost their facilitators, clients lost their children or had a terrible fight ahead of them to bring them home.

5.      Agencies getting “priced out” of a region by competing facilitators for large agencies or facilitation services. It happened to one agency’s Vladivostok program. The agency didn’t have proper connections in Primorsky Kray, and before they knew it, their five year old Vladivostok program was a thing of the past (but as soon as the agency signed on to Amrex, they were right back in the game). If the agency gets “priced out” of a certain region, they may keep stringing you along for months, having you change regions or even countries, lest they lose you and the money that you are bringing them. Nor will they admit it to you, for fear you will tell their competitors.

6.      Child is NOT what you were expecting. This is an entire website of its own. My advice: go with your gut instinct. If the child you have seen on the video tape or traveled thousands of miles to adopt has too many issues that you as a family cannot handle, do not adopt the child. If you adopt them and both you and they get in over your heads, it is a detrimental relationship for all involved. Nothing is more disconcerting than an adoption that fails. Kids with severe problems just don’t heal themselves. Sometimes all the love, attention and drugs in the world can’t “heal” or “save” a person who has been damaged early on.  Or that you are the family to help that person out. Not all adoptions from Eastern Europe end in happy sunshine endings. That is the side of the story that has long been shouted down whenever it is brought up.

7.      NEVER RELY ON WHAT ANYBODY AT THE AGENCY TELLS YOU ABOUT THIS REFERRAL. The agency and its personnel are interested in getting the child placed and cashing YOUR checks. They are NOT concerned about the child. That is YOUR responsibility. Go armed with knowledge and your eyes open.  EDUCATE yourself!  Let there be no more Cyrils.



    Begin taping telephone conversations at the first hint of trouble. Most lies will be told to you on the telephone and not in email, the better to establish deniability. It is much more difficult to say something was promised if it is not in writing, and relies on one party’s word against another.

    Before you do get your tape recorder rolling, check your state’s laws. New York and Ohio have “single-party consent” laws which means that one caller can be taping the telephone call without the other party’s knowledge or consent. (Maryland, however, does not; as Linda Tripp famously found out).

    This site will inform you what the laws are in each state.  Cover your butt before you start taping, because that agency is doing the same exact thing.  Know the law and the parameters within which you can operate.

    If your state not have the single-party consent, begin every telephone conversation with your agency with the words: ”THIS CALL IS BEING MONITORED TO ASSURE QUALITY CONTROL ASSISTANCE.  THE ENTIRE CONVERSATION IS BEING TAPED.  TODAY IS _______ AND I AM SPEAKING WITH ________ FROM ___________.”  

    Let them know that the tape recorder is rolling. And then see what they do.

    And above all else, go on the Internet. Name names. Take a stand. Every time you post, say who you are with your email. This is the most powerful tool you have. 

    Say what your problems were with the agency or the reps in the foreign country.  Nobody else will do it for you.  

    And if you don’t stand up, how will you know that you aren’t alone out there?  Chances are, if the agency treats its clients like slaves, others are or will be treated in the same exact way. 

    How do you think we located the families whose stories we have outlined here?  The best places to do this are on FRUA, Russian Adoption Yahoo! list and on Dr. Downing’s site. APR and the EEAC Bulgaria list are much more regulated and controlled.  Your posts might not make it past the list administrators if they are too negative.

    Place your names and contact info on the following websites (yes, we are repeating ourselves here, but it is very important to use these resources):

The Inter-Country Adoption Registry (ICAR): 

 Yes, this is registered to Amrex.  BUT the one great part about this site is that you can say as little or as much as you want about your adoption experience.  AND it is invaluable for getting the word out about your experience — even if it was a good experience. It works both ways.

The Eastern European Adoption Coalition registry:

The biggest and the best.  That is how we found Mary Hutchison.  One word of caution, however, you can’t list any details — good or bad.  The “shorthand” for “bad agency experience” is: Contract Terminated — Contact for Details or even: Lost Referral.  Again, if you don’t use the resource, than others will get suckered in. Or, if your experience was good, get the good word out. Again, it works both ways.

Kevin Koch’s Adopting From Russia site:

It’s at least worth adding your name and experiences to. Russia only.

    HAVE YOUR COMPLAINT  TRANSLATED AND SENT TO THE APPROPRIATE GOVERNMENTAL BODIES IN THE FOREIGN COUNTRY. Daniel and I did this for both Bulgaria and Russia, and got some concrete results.  

    If you want to nail them, nail them where they least expect it — in the reps’ backyard. Remember when you tell your story, name names. Name prices. Show evidence of corruption if you have it. Tell why you had a bad experience. 

    And don’t buy the claptrap that you are “hurting adoption” by standing up and saying something.  You are hurting nobody but those who don’t care about the children they are leaving behind and the funds that we are shelling out. Don’t get stung by that “hurting adoption” guilt trip that waiting families and agencies lay on you if you take a stand. If nobody speaks up, it just keeps happening over and over and over again.  

    We’ll fill you in on one thing — it ain’t cheap to get this stuff translated! In fact, it cost us well over $1,000 to get the bulk of our Bulgarian information translated. But in the end, that was money well spent.

    Report your experience to the consular section at the U.S. embassy in the country in question.  

    Again, name names, dates, events, prices and include as much in the way of photocopied documentation as you can.

    Don’t stand up and say — “well, we had a bad experience, but we can’t tell you with who or what agency we used.” If you don’t name names, costs, and the agency, the entire exercise is a waste of your time as well as that of whoever reads it.

    Report your experience to the agency’s state licensing commission or whatever oversight body there is (It varies from state to state). 

    My only caveat on this is that the state has no control over the agencies running foreign adoption programs, due to the twin demons of much of the adoption taking place overseas, and the regulatory agencies being busy enough monitoring domestic adoptions in their own states. But they do still have the responsibility of oversight and the power to discipline.

    If you are expecting any disciplinary measures to be taken, it won’t be on your complaint alone.

    Legal action: Good luck.  This is difficult to win, especially in medical situations. largely since the agencies are still allowed to make you sign waivers before you leave that release them from liability for any “undisclosed” medical conditions. 

    It always goes back to you as the adoptive parent. We had Cyril’s information reviewed by three attorneys. (One charged us $1,000 for two hours of consultation). 

    All three said the same thing: we had no case for Cyril’s death because we didn’t get the second video reviewed and we were the ones who said yes yes yes to all of his bad medical conditions. However, all of them felt that there was some cause regarding our treatment over Anguel’s adoption. 

    The only way you can win an action against an agency is by teaming up with your fellow clients and proving ongoing and repeated malfeasance.  

    And don’t think your fellow clients, even if they have been taken, are going to jump at the chance to file a lawsuit with you. 

    It is costly, time consuming and emotionally draining. (and if any one of you out there has a story where a family won against an agency, please share it. As of September 2002 only one family has gotten past the agency’s motion for summary judgment, and even then they found a generous settlement preferable to going to trial even though they found undeniable evidence of fraud).