The Ball in Our Court
“Well if you told me you were drowning,
I would not lend a hand.
I’ve seen your face before, my friend,
But I don’t know if you know who I am ...
Well I was there and I saw what you did,
saw it with my own two eyes.
So you can wipe off that grin.
I know where you been.
It’s all been a pack of lies!
Well I remember,
I remember, don’t worry ...
How could I ever forget?
It’s the first time, the last time we ever met.
But I know the reason why you keep me silent so ...
No you don't fool me ...
The hurt doesn’t show,
But the pain still grows,
It’s no stranger to you and me.
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life ...”
With Anguel home safe and sound, we unleashed our fury. Nothing anymore could be used to hold us back. It was our time like it would never be again.
During my month’s “maternity leave” from work, we set plans in motion that we had made over the summer.
day after we returned from Bulgaria, we emailed Mary Mooney of the Adoption
Guide to give her permission to post Cyril’s story. Accordingly, the
information that we had sent the ODHS in February 2000 appeared on Oct. 6,
2000 as the “Story of the Month.”
On Oct. 12, seven days after returning home with Anguel from Bulgaria, Daniel sent the following letter to Richard J. Marco, Jr., putting on paper sentiments which he had harbored ever since hearing my defeated sobs on Sept. 2.
He didn’t even tell me he had written it up and sent it out, so determined was he for it to be entirely his own voice, the voice of a man who had so recently felt so powerless to stop his and his wife’s suffering at the hands of Mr. Marco’s client:
October 12, 2000
Mr. Richard Marco
Marco, Marco and Bailey
52 Public Square,
Medina, OH 44256
Dear Mr. Marco,
As per your letter of September 8, we have traveled to Bulgaria and returned with our son Anguel. The information you gave us was accurate and useful, and we look forward as per your wishes to many happy years of family with him.
You are correct in stating that issues remain between Building Blocks and ourselves. Much of what you said warrants reply.
Firstly, I would ask if Building Blocks or Mrs. Hubbard intends to pursue any criminal action over the phone calls my wife made in an extremely distressed state of mind that was due in no small part to the toll the wait, far lengthier than originally represented to us by Mrs. Hubbard one year ago, took on her. If not, I see no purpose in bringing them up except to continue a disturbing pattern of petty emotional harassment that has characterized our dealings with her since we filed our complaint with the Ohio Department of Human Services in February. In point of fact, I would consider adjectives such as those you chose to use better served on your client.
I would also differ with you about your interpretation of our relationship and what it entailed as far as communications and obligations during the Bulgarian adoption process.
In March of this year, we were informed by you in writing that, due to the aforesaid complaint to the ODHS, our relationship had to be considered adversarial and thus communications between ourselves and BBAS were to be handled through your office rather than directly, beyond routine developments in the Bulgarian adoption process.
We assumed that we would be receiving, through your office or yourself, the same kind of information that Denise Hubbard routinely passes on to her clients. This includes her travel plans so that clients may know when they can and cannot contact her.
Such itinerarial information is most commonly disseminated through the electronic newsletter sent to all clients via electronic mail. We received it prior to our trip to Russia in November 1999 and indeed shortly thereafter, but it is my understanding that Cindy Courtright, the BBAS employee responsible for it, had to leave for health reasons around that time and it was temporarily discontinued.
Through some apparent oversight on BBAS’s part, when publication of the electronic newsletter resumed in the springtime, we were not made part of the distribution list. In fact, we were never told that it had been resumed.
Thus we were not aware, nor could we have been aware, of Mrs. Hubbard’s travel plans in advance. Hence it was our assumption that, if you were accompanying her on those trips, that we would be similarly informed in the same fashion as all other BBAS clients.
As for your email address, I believe your anger over its use is barred by the doctrine of laches. We had on several previous occasions sent email to that address with the understanding that you, as “AttyMarco” (an alias, found on the “cc:” line of an earlier email from Denise Hubbard, to which this email address purportedly your wife’s was attached) were reading them. Hard copies of the same emails were sent to you in letter format by US mail, and no objection was ever raised.
I am sorry if the content of the email in question caused some unpleasantness between you and your wife, as has been rumored. This difficulty could have been averted by advising us in a more timely fashion as to its incorrectness.
Far more troubling in this context, to me, is your complete elision of the underlying issue which prompted this email: the August 21 post to the Families for Ukrainian Adoption Web site, in which an unidentified poster described our tragic experience in Perm briefly but accurately. I was moved to ask whether BBAS was adequately protecting our confidentiality, an asset of its clients which it claims to value highly and in fact has gone to extraordinary lengths, at times, to protect.
The fact that your letter mentions nothing at all about it only serves to reinforce the misgivings expressed in that email about BBAS’s ability to preserve such confidentiality and corresponding language in the release we have been asked to sign in exchange for a refund of fees expended on our attempted Russian adoption. I will deal with those issues below.
All this would be rather trivial had it not been for your next paragraph.
“It is unfortunate that you continue to raise an adversarial relationship with Building Blocks Adoption Services, while continuing to use those services. Had you had such a problem with them then perhaps you should have terminated the adoption process at some time in the past.”
Each time I read this I am, without fail, appalled (to say the least). Even now.
Mr. Marco, it has apparently slipped your mind that there was a third person involved in this process with a heavy investment in its successful outcome, who was not a signatory to any contract. It never slipped our mind even though we had not seen him for a year.
Yes, we did have a problem with BBAS’s services (services only in the legal sense). And no, we chose not to terminate those services because for us, it was about a son, not maintaining harmonious business relationships (this should be obvious by now).
In fact, as you may or may not be aware we did explore the possibility of continuing Anguel’s adoption through at least two other U.S.-based agencies and a Bulgarian lawyer. We were told in no uncertain terms that we had to dance with the girl who brung us, that the orphanage in Burgas dedicates particular children to clients of specific agencies or facilitators and that relationship is not changed midway through the adoption process for any reason. If you are aware of this, your comments are not only disingenuous but obnoxious.
In any event, the outlook on the part of you or your clients unmistakeably implied by the quoted statement speaks volumes about where BBAS and Denise Hubbard’s interest in adoption truly lies, and confirms our darkest suspicions. Anyone who thinks like that should not, in my opinion, be even allowed to have children, much less help others adopt them.
Does BBAS share this philosophy with all its clients, or just the unhappy ones? Perhaps the latter have already figured it out for themselves, but, as the unhappiest of BBAS’s many unhappy clients despite our successful adoption from Bulgaria, I imagine we were accorded the rare privilege of a glimpse of the unadulterated truth.
For what that’s worth, thanks.
Fortunately, my good humor returns upon reading the next sentence, where you petulantly assure us that BBAS will not provide any services for us after the conclusion of the adoption.
As you should know, that’s an empty threat … in fact, it’s not even a threat. If you are referring to postplacement reports, there are none required by the Bulgarian government [Dan was wrong about this, to be fair. But only this]. If you are referring to assistance with obtaining US citizenship and residence for Anguel, it was always understood, under even the friendliest of terms, that that was our responsibility.
In any event, after our experience, it should scarcely come as a surprise to you that we would refuse those services if they were offered to us.
And at long last, the time has come when I can speak with certainty regarding the release.
We are not adverse to signing such a document, but we find two elements of the proposed release unacceptable.
First, $9,500 is not nearly enough money to compensate us for not only our expenses but the pain and continuing anguish we have experienced as a result of watching a frail infant die, however quietly, in front of us. I would expect to see at least $20,000 as a ballpark figure.
This does not have to be in one lump sum. We can be very flexible concerning a payment structure and schedule.
Second, the confidentiality clause is poorly worded at best and ill-advised at worst. I have also previously detailed my severe reservations about BBAS’s ability to abide by these provisions and the circumstances that gave rise to them.
As it presently stands, it would enjoin us from pursuing the means that may be necessary to obtain Kirill’s death certificate and autopsy report (no, we have not forgotten those issues. We believe those documents would be of interest to BBAS as well, as was expressed to us by the agency’s primary Russian facilitator at that time). We also could not discuss his death, its circumstances and its effect on us, even with our own family members, without breaching.
More to the point, it is our knowledge and belief that the events of Nov. 25, 1999 are common knowledge among persons and agencies involved in Russia, and that a version of the incident has inevitably emerged in unofficial channels which unfairly distorts the events of that night and places the blame upon us. Should that version come into greater public knowledge, we would find it impossible to clear our names under the proposed confidentiality language. Certainly this, too, would be an area where we and BBAS have the same interest.
At the very least, “negative information” should be changed to “false and disparaging information.”
To save your valuable time, I have enclosed a draft copy of the release amended to reflect the two changes explicitly outlined above. I trust a veteran of the bar such as yourself can draft language accommodating our other concerns.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration in reading this letter.
For the record, our offer was snidely rejected.
However, we learned much later of a possible curious side effect of this letter.
A couple of weeks later, on Oct. 30, Denise wrote to Cynthia Marco, informing her that she was terminated. This was filed with the state as per regulations, and thus included in the documents we received.
There are many implications of this maneuver, which we discussed here, under the odd nature of BBAS’s directorship
Daniel may also have been perceptive about possible trouble in Marco paradise, as four years later they dissolved their marriage.
Daniel, not letting Mr. Marco have the last word, sent the letter below in response.
Make no mistake, we fired the first shot. Since that time, this “agency” has maligned us privately to clients by calling us “mean and hateful” and “crazy” and posted horrible things about us on FRUA from hard-to-trace America Online accounts.
Half-hearted attempts by happy clients, using Denise’s tired arguments about
adoption, have not been able to save BBAS and what’s left of Denise
Hubbard’s reputation. Especially since Denise continues to lie to clients
about the health of the children in the referral videos she distributes.
Along with the following letter, Daniel enclosed the copy of the English transcription that Hudson Neva made of the video we shot of Cyril in Perm.
At no time has this agency, Mr. Marco or any other entity connected to BBAS responded to this. To think that Emily, Denise’s own daughter, could well have come from the same place!
October 31, 2000
Mr. Richard Marco
Marco, Marco and Bailey
52 Public Square,
Medina, OH 44256
Dear Mr. Marco,
Thank you for your most recent communication to us, your letter dated Oct. 19. Your response to our very reasonable offer, and your cowardly refusal to address the other issues in Daniel’s letter, served to further confirm our judgement of Building Blocks — that you and your client continue to be interested only in protecting yourselves regardless of the effect that has on your clients or the children you place, in fact even to their detriment. You refused to address even those issues that would be of concern in any business relationship, much less one as fraught with emotion as the adoption of a child from a foreign country.
We are nonetheless in agreement in considering discussion on the matter of the release closed at this point in time.
Since the release was first offered to us last February, we have scrupulously avoided all public discussion of our Russian experience, trying to live within its terms (however vague) as a gesture of good faith. We now see that that good faith was misplaced from the outset.
As a result, we consider ourselves free to speak about this affair with whomever we choose, in whatever forums we choose, in order to protect our interests and gain closure in the still-difficult matter of Cyril’s death. Any efforts by Building Blocks or yourself to prevent us from doing so will be resisted with all legal means.
All the same, I believe you have not fully considered the effect your decision to refuse to negotiate more equitable terms could have on Building Blocks’ ability to continue to provide adoption services.
I direct your attention to the enclosed document, a translation of the transcript of a conversation in Russian that took place at Dom Rebyonok No. 2 in Perm on Nov. 19 of last year, the day we were taken there to see Cyril for the first time. It was captured on video we filmed, and very little of the conversation was translated for our benefit at that time.
Now that we have paid to have this done, we can see why. Leaving aside the effect some of these passages will have on prospective adoptive parents who have not yet chosen an agency when they see them in subtitles on 60 Minutes or 20/20, are previous clients of Building Blocks who have adopted from that particular orphanage aware of some of the medical information discussed by the director that may well apply to those children? How will they react when they learn this? We don’t know; it’s not our problem (although, as you well know, it could have been).
This is just one of many pieces of documentation we have in our possession to support our account of misrepresentations and malfeasance by Denise Hubbard and Building Blocks. And, by the way, it is far from the worst.
You’re welcome to keep the money you promised us. You and your client are going to need it.
If there is anything else we can do to be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We meant what we said. We have followed through.
BBAS, Denise Hubbard and the adoption community at large have never seen anything like us.
we’re not losing too much sleep. May many more of you speak up and go
public. You have the RIGHT to do so.
We also mailed out our Bulgarian translations to both the Ministers of Health and Justice in Sofia. At the time we believed this to be largely a symbolic gesture; happily, it would later turn out to be more than that.
We again sent a complaint to the Ohio Department of Human Services’ regional
office in Cleveland detailing our mistreatment by both Denise Hubbard and the
esteemed Richard J. Marco, Jr. Denise hadn’t violated any state rules,
We mailed a copy of our Bulgarian “docket” to the US Consulate in Sofia,
Bulgaria, naming names and pointing fingers.
We listed our names under “Building Blocks Adoption Services” on both the ICAR site (see the VERY LAST ENTRY under “Russia”) and the EEAC Agency Registry sites and also Kevin Koch’s “Adoption From Russia” site.
And that was just the beginning.
I have been very steadfast in slamming Building Blocks any time I see somebody asking about the agency. I have come out on various forums and told people to stay away from BBAS out of Medina, Ohio.
Other people have sent me the names of people who have inquired about BBAS from
the EEAD and the EEAC Russian, Romanian and Bulgarian listservs. In the
words of Denise Hubbard: “Elizabeth Case is everywhere on the Internet.”
Almost immediately, we got a “hit” from a post I placed on Oct. 22, 2000 on adoption.com from a Mr. William Rand, of Canton, Ohio.
He had an interesting story to tell. It appeared that his brother-in-law and his wife (whom he did not name) had all of a sudden taken up the idea to adopt a little Bulgarian boy.
Denise Hubbard and a woman named “Chrissy” (Chrissy Varley, “Adoption Assessor” for BBAS? Or Christine Marando, a social worker she hooked up with later?) had visited the brother-in-law and wife.
Somehow, Denise and Chrissy roped these people in with an immediate referral of
a little boy and glowing reviews of the child’s health.
Mr. Rand said to me, “I am an older person. I don’t trust anybody really, so when I saw my brother-in-law jumping on to this without asking any questions, I got onto the Internet.
“This just doesn’t sound right, and
I don’t want to see them taken by anybody. They are just doing this blindly
— as a matter of fact, they are running off to Cleveland to get their
passports so they can visit this child in a few weeks.”
I asked Mr. Rand if his BIL had the video of the child reviewed by a doctor who specialized in these sorts of things; he said they had not. “In my opinion,” he told me “the child looked rather sickly.”
Neither the BIL nor his wife knew anything about Bulgaria, its culture or its language. They just fell in love with the referral and were going on blind faith that the child would be healthy and that he would be home within the year.
They didn’t understand the Bulgarian adoption process, the timeline business,
what ministries their dossier would travel through or have any ideas about
post-institutionalization issues. Like so many others entering into an
International Adoption, they just jumped without looking, trusting the agency
and what they were being told.
Mr. Rand said that was why he had contacted us when he had seen my negative comment about BBAS over on adoption.com. He didn’t trust the international adoption process and just had a bad feeling about his BIL’s situation.
I don’t know if he relayed our information on to his BIL for we have never
heard back from him and due to the MTX.A virus, we have lost his email address.