The Wahls:

Punished for reaching out


    Besides ourselves and the Corrigans there were other mistreated clients out in BBAS Bulgarian adoption land. This story is about a family whom we have chosen to call “Wahl.”

    During the summer of 2000, I attempted to reach Mrs. Wahl by email, but she never responded. We are relating this story because we feel that they were undeservedly made the scapegoat of Denise Hubbard’s paranoia. Other BBAS Bulgaria clients kept me abreast of their situation. 

    From what we know of Mr. and Mrs. Wahl, they are good and kind Christian people who in no way deserved the treatment they received from this adoption agency. They too were lied to about their children’s timeline. 

    Mr. and Mrs. Wahl were taken in by Denise. During initial contact with Denise, she told Mrs. Wahl that “none of the [Bulgarian] children had any detachment problems or delays due to their stay in the orphanage”. 

    Mrs. Wahl knew this was not the case, for she had been studying up on it knowing full well that orphanages cause delays. 

    Nonetheless, she gave Denise the benefit of the doubt. They went with BBAS and received an immediate referral for two children — a boy (1.5) and a girl (2.75) from the orphanage in Kurjali, Denise’s first orphanage hook up.

    The Wahls visited in December 1999 and from there, the wait escalated. She reported that the agency was “a bit touchy” when it came to answering questions, especially the on-going paperwork questions.  

    Again and again, while their paperwork languished in the MoH, they were told by Denise to “relax” and let the Bulgarian system work its way through. They were given short, curt answers to their questions and were told that everything was “fine” when in fact, there were some problems.  

    They felt that Denise was operating under partial knowledge of the process, and chalked that up to the fact that BBAS Bulgarian program was relatively new. Kinks to work out and the like.  

    They were also given the four-to-six-month timeline for their son and daughter’s adoptions. When they visited their children in December 1999, they felt that Valeri was not as good as other agencies’ facilitators due to the fact that he continually spoke through a translator.  

    She also mentioned that they were never able to speak directly with Mr. Dobrev (somebody I hadn’t even met) while other clients from other agencies were given this opportunity straight away.  

    Mrs. Wahl tried to put these things off to Denise’s faux “positive attitude” that she liked to portray, the “don’t worry about it and don’t ask too many questions” front she put up when the clients got aggravated.

    They didn’t get very many updates, and for Christmas, they received only one weight update and a photo of one of the children and a 30-second video of the other.  Maybe the orphanage director in Kurjali wasn’t as kind as Dr. Sabrutova had been in Burgas.  It all depended on their attitude towards these things.  

    And it was through Mrs. Wahl that I indirectly learned that an unknown BBAS family had indeed gotten the luxury of making another trip to Bulgaria. She mentioned the fact that this unknown couple did not have the transportation and attention as they did on the first trip, and that the trip was an expensive one. Yet more proof that Denise had lied to us when she said it wouldn’t be possible for me to visit Anguel in March 2000.

    By July 2000, the Wahls had a second courtdate because the homestudy agency’s license had expired on their dossier. Nobody caught it in time until the judge in Sofia looked over it. He then requested an entirely new license from them, which they scurried around to get, causing more delays.

    The Wahls posted very infrequently on the Bulgarian adoption lists. When they did, however, asking pertinent questions about the wait and MOH, MOJ and court case questions, they were slammed down by Denise in private email, much like Sue and Rob Corrigan would later be.  

    So, when Wendy Stamper sent out the “Denise is having gallbladder surgery” email on May 12, 2000, WITH EVERY SINGLE PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE BBAS client’s email address on it (save Daniel and Elizabeth Case, Matt and Mary Hutchinson and John and Ashley Ellington), Mrs. Wahl sent the following titled email “Bulgarian Adoption” to those listed as recipients (and since we were never on it, we never got this) on the same day:

      Hello to all!

Forgive me for getting your addresses from Wendy’s e-mail!  However, I want to offer something to you: I am aware of several families that are adopting from Bulgaria and also specifically the Mother and Child Orphanage in Kurdjali.  We have been writing back and forth and have been received quite a bit of support from the experiences.

I am interested in communicating with anyone else that is adopting from Kurdjali, or is in the same paperwork stage as we are.  Our paperwork is in the Ministry of Health now and has been there since Jan. 24th.

As I stated, I am already in contact with many families, however, hearing more stories couldn’t do anything but help this horrible waiting period.

If you are interested in sharing, let me know.  I fully understand that some people wish to remain anonymous and will not contact you further if that is the case.  We are waiting on two children, X and Y who are now 1 ½ and 3 respectively.  We visited in December.

Thank you, Mrs. Wahl  

    I don’t find anything offensive or intrusive in this. Do you?

    Here is a woman reaching out for support from her fellow clients. Some clients did respond to this, some didn’t.  

    Why Denise, Wendy or Sandi didn’t connect Mrs. Wahl with other Bulgarian clients is beyond me. The doctrine of secrecy and “client confidentiality” ruled the day at BBAS, and did much to hurt and isolate their own clients from the TRUTH.

    The BBAS Electronic Newsletter that Sue Corrigan forwarded on to me contained the following, pernicious paragraph, aimed directly at Mrs. Wahl to silence her.

    Ask yourself: why is this SOP at BBAS?  Did Mrs. Wahl deserve to be hurt so publicly in this fashion? Perhaps Denise should have blamed her “sister” Wendy for the screwup in the first place, as any competent and ethical businessperson should have (assuming, of course, that she genuinely was concerned about some of her clients’s privacy). Wendy obviously didn’t know how to send a group email out correctly to cover her ass.


Please note, we as a family need to honor each other’s privacy.  When you receive an e-mail with other names and e-mails on it, please check with the office prior to contacting that person.  We are happy to be the go-between in helping you to obtain contact with each other.  Also if you need to chat with someone, we are willing to talk with the family member and obtain permission to give out any personal information.  Some parents are happy to express their adoption experience; others do not want to be bothered.  We need to honor this.    

    So, blame poor Mrs. Wahl for wanting to reach out to her fellow clients. And if the recipients of this email did not want to respond or reach back, they didn’t’ have to. There is something on your computer keyboard called a “delete” button which many use daily.  

    And who was fool enough to ask anybody at that office to connect them up with other clients? Just so Denise Hubbard could keep a wider control on us by seeing who was in contact with who? 

    “We need to honor this.” Yeah, right.

    The more you read it, in fact, the more offended you become. “We as a family ...” Huh? Since when did paying Denise Hubbard thousands of dollars to get the short shrift from her about a child half a world away you thought you were the only people who cared about make you part of a family? (Actually, it does, but not a family that you consider Denise Hubbard to be part of).

    My husband also finds the stated use of the privacy of others to justify BBAS’s heavy-handed censorship of its clients “Orwellian in the extreme.” After all, it was BBAS itself that had sent out the email with all its addresses.

    The summer of 2000 was a long one indeed for Mr. and Mrs. Wahl (as it was for us). They didn’t post on the Internet. They waited, waited, waited for their children to come home.

    On July 11, their first court date, the judge declined to hear the Wahls’ case. It appears that the judge would not hear the case because their homestudy agency’s license had expired. Another date was set for the 24th.

    Mrs. Wahl posted to the list on July 25:

This will be short, as I am shaking too much.  Our court date was denied, due to the faxed paperwork we had.  It is rescheduled for Oct. 2.  We are so very disappointed. Thanks to all your prayers.  We will need them to make that date.

    This time, BBAS had not been able to get their paperwork out of the Bulgarian Embassy. The judge hadn’t accepted the faxed copy of the homestudy agency’s license. 

    Of course, this would all never have happened if someone at BBAS had been sharp enough to keep in mind the expiration date on the homestudy agency license when the dossier had originally been submitted.

    The Wahls continued to interact and support other clients who were in the process.

    Then, on Oct. 3, the following was posted to the EEAC Bulgaria list out of pure frustration and desperation, while we were ourselves in Bulgaria picking up Anguel. It had been forwarded to us at the email address of the hotel in Bulgaria we were staying at, by (who else?) the Corrigans:

          Dear Everyone:

I am very upset right now. Our 3rd courtdate (July 14, 24 Oct 2) did NOT pass. The judge had some problem with the case and it is scheduled for Nov. 20! Over another month. I can’t stand it! We saw them for the first time last Dec. (paper ready) and I just can’t believe we are going to have to be without them for the holidays. I just can’t express how sad I am. What can I do? I feel helpless and zapped of my strength. So far, I kept telling myself God would see us through and I know that’s true, but I ache so badly right now. We have waited 8 years for children and I want to see them grow up while they’re still young. Help me out here.

Sincerely, Mrs. Wahl

    How BBAS responded privately, I will never know.

    However, the day that we left Bulgaria, we made it a point to ask Mr. Kamenov about the Wahls’ court date. He told us that the attorney and the judge allegedly didn’t get along, and that is why the Wahls were having so many delays. From his tone, we got the impression it was indeed a difficult situation which he felt bad about not having resolved.

    When we got home, we sent this information along to Sue Corrigan to forward on to the Wahls.

    Unfortunately for the Wahls, the response from BBAS was cruel. The powers that be in Medina didn’t appreciate Mrs. Wahl’s public post about court date delays, even though at no time had they mentioned the agency, their facilitator or the Bulgarian attorney.  

    So, another bizarre and hurtful email missive was sent out to all BBAS Bulgaria clients (again, save Daniel and Elizabeth Case and the other blacklisted individuals) on Oct. 4, 2000, the day before we returned from Bulgaria with Anguel. We refer to this as the “lurking Bulgarians” email.

    Upon receipt of this email, poor Mrs. Wahl was beaten into submission, so to speak, by BBAS. In total despondency, this was the last post she was to make to either of the Bulgarian adoption email listservs, as if she had anything to apologize for:

            Dear Everyone:

I want to caution everyone that the intention of my post about our court dates was not to say anything negative about Bulgarian adoptions.  I really enjoyed Bulgaria.  Their people are wonderful (our escort and translator are fabulous) and I am anxious to share their heritage with my children.

It is just that I am upset not to have my children with me and thinking of them in the orphanage all this time just tears me apart.  We only hope that their case moves along soon.  Thank you for your support.

      Mrs. Wahl (waiting on X and Y)

    Other BBAS clients she had been quietly corresponding with ceased to receive emails from her. She simply disappeared.

    I learned indirectly, from another client from another agency, that the Wahls had one more court date after the one scheduled for Nov. 20. 

    This one finally went through. Mr. and Mrs. Wahl came home with their two children on April 14, 2001. They have later reported a difficult beginning, but now that the kids have been home for a while, things have settled down and they are adjusting as a family.

   Their children’s names were featured in an issue of the BBAS Newsletter, which for some reason, we began receiving during the summer of 2001.

    I wonder if they attended that year’s BBAS picnic

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