... and Denise’s Betrayal
Wirtz was described in The Plain Dealer’s March 11, 1997 article as a native of Romania. The
article went on:
She said that, in the seven years before she joined Caring Choices, she oversaw hundreds of adoptions of babies from Romanian and Russian orphanages to American couples. But she never performed a foreign adoption for Caring Choices.
“I never had a chance,” said Wirtz, who claims she didn’t receive a single paycheck from Caring Choices during her six months of employment at the agency.
“The families really don’t deserve to go through this, and the children deserve better. It’s very disappointing,” Wirtz said. “The orphanages in Eastern Europe are beyond full. There are thousands of children available on a daily basis who need to be placed with families, and I could have done it. I just needed parents to adopt them to.”
Sure enough, Simona had been on her way to finding parents to adopt some of those thousands of children in orphanages in Eastern Europe. Even if she had to do it herself.
13, 1996, Simona, her husband Carl and a man by the name of Dennis
“Gornastaed” (i.e. Gornostaev) set up an adoption agency called Sarah’s
Hope Adoption Agency, Inc. Our own
Russian contact for Cyril, Dennis Gornostaev (whose address was shown to be in
Upper Montclair, N.J. (a later incorporation document would list an address in
another nice suburb in that state, Summit), was listed as a trustee to the non-profit
organization to be known simply as “Sarah’s Hope, Inc.”
Sarah’s Hope Adoption Agency, Inc. filed articles of incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and was chartered on that same day, allowing them to do business as a corporation.
It was not the first such move Wirtz had been involved with. A month earlier she had been the incorporator for another adoption agency, Family Ties, which counted her husband as a trustee and gave their then-home in Fairview Park as its principal place of business.
(This outfit, we suspect, was intended to take over the domestic operations of Caring Choices once it crashed and burned; but like Sarah’s Hope it never seems to have gotten off the ground).
to the articles of incorporation, the purpose of Sarah’s Hope Adoption Agency,
Inc. was “to provide financial support to foreign adoption agencies; to
provide international adoption or child placement services; and to facilitate
and coordinate the adoption of such children as shall come into the care and
custody of the corporation.”
Thus Sarah’s Hope was not a full-fledged adoption agency. It did not have certification from the State of Ohio’s Department of Human Services, and was merely an unlicensed, non-profit corporation that could provide information on where adoptable children might be located, but not actually refer a specific child to a client. If this sounds to you like a very gray area, you’re right.
what Sarah’s Hope and Simona Wirtz were was Adoption Consultants/Facilitators.
She could not bill herself as an adoption agency, which possibly led to
some problems in placing Russian children with American families.
Not very long after this, however, Sarah’s Hope ran into trouble.
Boehm, as we told you, fired Wirtz very early in 1997, having, one would guess, learned of the new entity’s existence.
Then, on Feb. 10, Caring Choices, apparently feeling that state regulators breathing down their necks and several client lawsuits weren’t enough to worry about, sued Wirtz in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
The plaintiff alleged bad faith and breach of contract, claiming Simona had taken employment at the agency solely for the purpose of stealing clients and starting her own international adoption agency, seeking $10,000 in damages. This charge would be particularly ironic in light of what Denise would later appear to have done to Simona.
(You’d think that, with his own agency under legal and regulatory siege at that point and less and less likely every day to actually complete an adoption, he’d have put the parents and children’s welfare above his own and just let go of the whole thing; but like so many other adoption agency founder/directors, Ted Boehm knew what adoption was really about. Besides, it seems from court records that he and his companies were no stranger to litigation, and within a year his wife initiated a protracted, messy divorce battle that seems to have ended with him moving to the Jersey Shore. Simona told us that he also had drug and alcohol problems, and may have served some jail time for threatening his estranged wife).
Simona responded by countersuing on April 30, reiterating her claim that she had never been paid for the entire six months she had worked for Caring Choices (again, a claim that Denise would make against her later). To represent her, she hired the husband of one of the board members of Family Ties.
After the two parties spent most of a year mainly filing and arguing motions to extend the time allowed to file and argue motions, they settled the case out of court in May 1998, just as BBAS was let loose by the state of Ohio on unsuspecting parents. Basically, Simona told us, Boehm and Caring Choices had no case, and she did.
Dennis J. Kaselak was Sarah’s Hope’s “legal counsel.” In June 1998, he would incorporate his own foreign adoption entity with Dennis Gornostaev called I.A.C.S, Inc.
This would be for the benefit of placing Russian children with Building Blocks Adoption Service. Dennis J. Kaselak worked closely with Simona Wirtz. His office address was the same address that appears on Sarah’s Hope, Inc.’s letterhead in 1997.
One of the families who adopted a baby with Simona Wirtz’s help were the Hubbards of Medina, although we don’t know whether they had signed up via Caring Choices or with her directly.
If the latter, the
experience with Caring Choices may have been what she based
her EAC tale of woe
on. It is even possible the Hubbards themselves may actually have lost money to
Mr. Boehm. At the same time, though, there is no record of her or them having sued him
or his agency that we could find.
they had been among the last victims of Caring Choices, it would only have made
sense that they would have paid the extra money and signed up to do an adoption
with Simona and her fledgling adoption consultancy. Either way, the
important thing is that it was Simona who brought Emily Hubbard to her new
Either way, the important thing is that it was Simona who brought Emily Hubbard to her new mother.
it’s all too obvious to us how Denise Hubbard became acquainted with Dennis J. Kaselak
and Dennis Gornostaev to begin Building Blocks through Simona Wirtz and
are interesting similarities between the two companies’ documents. When we received a
copy of Sarah’s Hope’s initial welcome packet, we were somewhat surprised at
what we saw.
A welcome letter, whose letterhead states “Sarah’s Hope, Inc.” — a non-profit organization. The
business address for “Sarah’s Hope, Inc.” is none other than Dennis J.
Kaselak’s office address in Cleveland. Simona Wirtz’s signature is on the bottom of the letter, and her title
is “Adoption Consultant”. Of
note is the typist’s signature: “SW/dlh” (dlh — Denise L.
Hubbard, as Simona confirmed)
Preliminary Application — the same exact one that BBAS used
Physical Examination Sheet for the PAPs.
List of Documents Required for the International Adoption, similar to the
one that we received when we signed up with BBAS in March 1999.
Net Worth Statement — almost identical to the ones we had to fill out
with BBAS throughout Cyril’s adoption
Simona Wirtz, Adoption Consultant Agreement. Two pages of what Simona
Wirtz duties were to the PAPs. Included
are one set of fees: Consultant fee of $2,000 (non refundable).
The rest of the document lists what the “Adoption Consultant” does or
doesn’t do for the PAPs during the adoption process.
Adoption Consultant Agreement — (contract).
The fees for Sarah’s Hope/Simona Wirtz were $15,000 and were spelled
out in the contract as follows (and I will note that some of the language in
this contract is the EXACT language that was in the original BBAS contract that
we signed in March 1999). Engagement
Fee: $5,000, Identification Fee: $5,000 and an Orphanage Fee of $5,000 due prior
to the departure of the international country.
the Caring Choices fiasco, there was some confusion in the State of Ohio and
elsewhere regarding what exactly “Sarah’s Hope” was. It was apparently enough that Dennis J. Kaselak mailed and faxed the following letter to Mary
Reasor, coincidentally the ODHS licensing specialist who’d written
the report that damned Caring Choices, on July 18:
response to your recent inquiry concerning Sarah’s Hope, as counsel for the
corporation, please be advised that Sarah’s Hope is a non-profit, incorporated
in the State of Ohio for the purpose of facilitating and assisting licensed
adoption agencies to complete international adoptions.
The sole purpose of the corporation is to provide humanitary [sic]
support to foreign orphanages and to facilitate foreign adoptions in the eastern
block countries. It is not our
intention to hold Sarah’s Hope out as a licensed adoption agency nor does it
intend to provide placement services which would fall within the statutory
requirements of the Ohio Revised Code. The
corporation has no intention of participating in domestic adoptions or to
conduct the affairs of a typical licesnsed adoption agency which includes
conducting homestudies and placing children for adoption.
there may have been some confusion concerning the status of Sarah’s Hope as a
result of printed information or verbal communication.
I can assure you that if there is any misleading communication Sarah’s
Hope will take whatever steps are necessary to bring it within full compliance
of the law. If I can provide any
further information, please feel free to contact me directly.
He seems to be referring, in the opening paragraph, to a letter sent to Sarah’s Hope in May advising it of what it could and could not do in Ohio without a license.
this meant is that Simona and Sarah’s Hope didn’t do homestudies or
placements; they were a gray area as far as the State of Ohio was concerned. It wouldn’t take a genius
to find out how to move from gray area into white area by becoming certified as
an agency by the ODHS under the laws and regulations of the state of Ohio.
for some reason Simona Wirtz and her nascent agency (the lawsuit, perhaps?) was unable
to, or did not do, this. There is no record that they ever placed a single
child, nor were we able to locate a single former client, and the corporation
quietly passed into legal oblivion after the requisite five years when no one
Dennis Kaselak and/or Dennis Goronstaev, however, wanted back in the international adoption racket. And if Simona couldn’t get them there, they’d find someone else.
duties, other than hopeful adoptive parent, had Denise Hubbard performed for
Simona Wirtz and Sarah’s Hope?
according to Denise, she did nothing. Her employment application for the
position of BBAS’s temporary director
doesn’t mention it, and indeed lists her then-current occupation as
And indeed, she may have been, her ownership of the agency, prominent placement of her name and “Executive Director” title on BBAS’s website and regular contact with clients via phone and email notwithstanding.
But according to Simona, Denise did a little work for her. Perhaps she had even helped Simona look over
the clients’ paperwork. Denise
claimed many duties while working for Simona — from designing Sarah’s Hope’s
website (which Simona laughs at) to handling Simona’s paperwork — but exactly what remains unclear
remember also that she claimed on the same document to have been working at
Medina General Hospital for a full year later than hospital records indicate she
actually did. Was her work for Simona — near the ruins of a collapsing, dubious
adoption agency — something she wanted to keep a secret?
It certainly may have resulted in some additional questions from ODHS. Around the same time, ODHS expressed concern that an agency that was possibly shutting down at that time may have been trying to resurrect itself through a license granted at the same time to its founder’s mother.
That didn’t happen in that instance, but alarm bells might well have gone off if it ODHS learned that Denise had formerly worked for Simona — and possibly by association, Caring Choices. The state might have wanted to subject the application to very strict scrutiny, to make sure Building Blocks was not the second coming of Caring Choices (it is, actually, but not in the literal sense).
And it certainly would have had a very good reason.
In an Oct. 1 letter to Mary Mooney, ODHS licensing specialist Caral McDonald said:
I mentioned Sarah’s Hope Inc. (Simona Wirtz) as a facilitator advertising on the Internet. I mentioned this corporation is not licensed [emphasis in original] to participate in adoptions in Ohio. As long as Sarah’s Hope/Simona limits her activities to locating available children, no license is required. Ms. Wirtz is available as a consultant for a fee of $2,000 or her corporation can be engaged for a fee of $15,000. I have enclosed some of Sarah’s Hope’s literature for your perusal.
I also wanted to make you aware of Wirtz’s connection with Caring Choices Inc. (Ohio). I have enclosed a copy of a feature article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer about this now-defunct agency. It is worth noting that Attorney Dennis Kaselak, currently counsel for Sarah’s Hope, was one of the incorporators of Caring Choices, and Simona Wirtz is his former employee.
ODHS has been reported to have officially revoked the license of Caring Choices although the agency has been out of business since the article appeared in the local newspaper. Dennis Kaselak has expressed interest in getting an Ohio license for Sarah’s Hope; but, when the revocation of Caring Choices is confirmed, Kaselak will be barred from participating in adoptions in Ohio for two years. [emphasis ours]
What the practical implications of such a ban are, we don’t know. The paragraphs quoted above seem to suggest that such a connection, even with him involved only as legal counsel, would be enough to deny the license.
It’s also interesting that Kaselak seems to have changed his tune about making Sarah’s Hope a licensed agency in the five months since he had written Carol Reasor. Perhaps someone wasn’t moving fast enough for him. Or he was trying to curry favor with a former boss.
Denise’s work with Simona, and the collection of her documents for Emily’s adoption, did not in any way make her an “expert” in the field of International Adoptions.
She did, however, tell ODHS, when she began to ask about certification for BBAS, that she
had been facilitating adoptions for a year. Is this true?
wouldn’t have been difficult for Denise to set up shop as a licensed adoption
her work with Sarah’s Hope, she would have acquired the in-country connections, the
partial knowledge and the cutthroat competitiveness to create BBAS at
was acquainted with Richard J. Marco, Jr. an attorney who had registered other
corporations with the Secretary of State’s office in Columbus (how this
relationship began, we don’t know. We would like to). It was fairly simple for
him to register Building
Blocks Adoption Service, Inc. as a non-profit corporation in December 1997.
She had a Russian facilitator all lined up in the form of Dennis Gornostaev. She was perhaps working closely with Dennis J. Kaselak at his offices and saw how Dennis Gornostaev operated in receiving referrals of children from Russia.
In fact, it wouldn’t at all surprise us if one of the Dennises had suggested to her at some point that she explore setting up her own agency.
She may have been
working with closely with interested clients of Sarah’s Hope, and realizing it
would be easier to place children with a state license, Denise decided to team
up with Dennis, Dennis, Rick and a few others to get Building Blocks up and
connection to Jim and Carol Wilson of Adoption Specialists, the homestudy
agency, would be beneficial to her in getting BBAS up and running with the ODHS. We wondered — had Carol
Wilson written up the Hubbard’s homestudy for Emily’s adoption? Is this how
Carol Wilson and Adoption Specialists became involved with Denise Hubbard?
after having worked out her own adoption, would have been well-versed in the
paperwork involved in a Russian adoption. Once
you’ve gone through the process of compiling a dossier, it’s very easy
to walk other people through it (which was, and is, really all anybody on the
side of the Russian adoption process is needed for as a practical matter).
likely having her own desire for a girl after three boys, intrinsically knew how
easy it was to lure prospective clients in with the promise of a quick, cheap
adoption from Russia. The children,
after all, sell themselves to willing families.
had an affinity for dissembling, especially when it came to reviewing referral
videos sent to BBAS clients. And as Dennis
Kaselak later observed, she
also had an affinity for telling clients what they wanted to hear about their
adoptions and not what
they needed to hear.
In a Sept. 14, 1997 email to Mary Mooney, Denise Hubbard herself would explain her relationship with Simona and Sarah’s Hope. There was word going around on the Internet that Sarah’s Hope and Simona Wirtz were not licensed and thus should be avoided for an adoption.
Caral McDonald herself seems to have fueled this by posting this information under her own name and stating her ODHS affiliation. In the letter to Mary Mooney quoted above, she goes on to say that Dennis Kaselak had threatened to sue her and ODHS for slander over certain unspecified public remarks.
Also alluded to early on is another charge mentioned in McDonald’s letter ... that Caring Choices’ now-invalid license was still being presented to Russian authorities (in Volgograd, interestingly enough) to complete adoptions.
Read what Denise says carefully.
Just to clear a few things up for you. I handle all of Simonas paperwork, she is not using a false license. ALL of her paperwork states adoption service, organization and INC.
Simona got hooked up with a gentleman by the name of Ted Bown (unsure of the spelling). He was with Caring Choices. He was taking money from clients, not providing children, paying off officials in the local gov’t and never paid Simona for her work. She has gotten the shaft truly she has. This guy is being convicted on charges. Simona was cleared along with the agencies attorney and the other coordinators. She started Sarah’s Hope to provide the other families who never got their children from Caring Choices and she did it for FREE.
She is a very nice, sweet lady and tell all of her clients, through seminars, documents etc…that she is not licensed. She has successfully placed over 200 children from Russia, Romania, Ukrain, Latvia, and Moldavia. [NOTE: See BBAS’s current website. You will see the very same reference to placements] She charges almost next to nothing for these adoptions.
My adoption is costing me $6,500, so how can she be bad? She loves children and families.
Carol [ McDonald] has a hard on for her (pardon my French) since the very first day that I was looking into agencies. She [Caral] cut her down for being to good to her clients and she [Simona] just seemed to good to be true.
Carol has a problem, could she have been paid off previously? I do not know, I cannot jusdge, but why does a lady working in Foster Services care so much about one woman doing a good thing. My husband is in Law Enforcement, we checked out ever single employee with Sarah’s Hope, she was a Christian woman, and I feel really sorry for people like Carol. She needs to get a life. That is my opinion.
Just for your info. I received my daughter’s Medical yesterday. She sounds wonderful. She was Born on April 1, 1997. She weighs 4.5 lbs (premeeie?) 14 in. long and healthy.
This was moms fourth child, she is a single parent with three little ones at home, dad wants nothing to do with this child.
We should pick her up the 1st of Oct…
Also, Simona is doing the Russian program for three licensed agencies (it is legite, I saw the paperwork). So they feel comfortable with her. Thank the Lord for God for good people. I know you to would get along, she has the same loving, caring heart that you have. And you both are doing this for the same reason. The children.
Thanks for reading.
Have a Good and Blessed Day!
Later we found that she had posted similar praise for Simona to Mary Mooney’s website in late July:
I cannot say enough about this agency and the facilitator we are going through for our international adoption out of Russia. Simona Wirtz of Cleve. started this agency last year ... Her and her partner, Dennis G (I cannot spell or pronounce his last name, he is from Russia) work very closely together to provide all the families with professional, personable care ... We are blessed to have found this agency ... Facilitators, Consultants, Coordinators and everyone else who is involved in the adoption process are very special people. I do not know how they do the work they do. It truly is a gift from God. If you would like more info call [phone number] or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I or they will be glad to help.
Her line of bull hasn’t changed in six years. Yet, three months later, Simona’s name would, as we’ll see next chapter, not even be mentioned in the Hubbard household. How does one go from being a champion of children and families to persona non grata?
Simona was as puzzled as we were when we told her about this, but had an idea what might have happened. Basically, Denise was as shifty a client as she was as a director, at least when the other person involved in the transaction was honest and aboveboard.
In late 1997, with her pickup date for Emily approaching, Denise was constantly complaining that she didn’t have any money and wouldn’t be able to afford to fly to Perm and get her daughter. Simona went out on a limb and called a friend who worked for Delta, who herself went out on a limb, called in some favors, and got the fare completely waived for Denise and her husband.
After she had returned in December with her long-desired daughter, Denise sent Simona a brief email thanking her for making the adoption possible ... but not mentioning the plane tickets at all, which, as we said, Simona had really worked hard to get.
When Simona went down to Medina to check up on her former employee and her new arrival, Denise would not let her in the house. Without even opening the door, she told the woman who had gotten her her daughter that she was not welcome.
We weren’t surprised to hear this. Denise manufactured the dispute as a way to better justify, to herself if no one else, starting her own agency behind her boss’s back — Simona had no grudge against her at the time. Whatever it was, Simona has the unenviable distinction of being Denise Hubbard’s first victim.
It’s also interesting that Denise suggests that her husband used his law-enforcement privileges to check out “every single employee of Sarah’s Hope.” If this meant the most obvious thing, using Ohio’s statewide LEADS (Law Enforcement Access Data System) computer data base, he was breaking its rules.
LEADS is to be used only for official police business, and usage is closely monitored. There have been several small-scale scandals in the state regarding various departments and the improper use of the network.
(And like it would have been that difficult for Gary to check out the employees of Sarah’s Hope ... after all, he was only married to one of them. Then again, no one knew her better than he did.)
By the time Emily came home,
Richard J. Marco had already filed BBAS’s incorporation papers with Ohio’s
Secretary of State’s Office. Listed
as trustees for were the following
persons: Denise L. Hubbard, Gary Hubbard Jr., The Rev. David Shortt and Kimberly
BBAS received its incorporation certificate from the State of Ohio on Jan. 15, 1998.