Chapter Forty-Nine

Another Dead Baby?

    Cyril’s story hit The Adoption Guide on Oct. 6.  On Tuesday, Oct. 31, (yes, Halloween!) we received the following heart-stopping email from a family we will not name who lives in a large midwestern metropolitan area.

    The lady had come across The Adoption Guide and immediately came upon our Cyril’s story. Her email was simply entitled “Building Blocks”

Dear Daniel and Elizabeth:  We too lost a baby.  One week before we were to travel to meet our 8 month old son, we received a telephone call from Denise that the baby had passed away from SIDS or a brain aneurism.  We had paid Dr. Downing to do a full evaluation of the baby.  His report was glowing.  He said the baby was outstanding. 

My husband asked Denise if anything like this ever happened before.  She replied, “Of course not!”  Now, I know that anything can happen, but we never got a death certificate or an exact cause of death.

48 hours, they had two new referrals for us.  Denise said both babies looked fine to her.  One of the babies was obviously not fine.  He couldn’t hold his head up, and on the tape they are speaking in Russian which I had translated, that the baby had central nervous system disorders.  So we accepted the other referral.

Now I am nervous that maybe there is more to the story on the baby we did accept, what else is she not telling us or is oblivious to.  We are waiting to travel to pick him up in the next 3 weeks.  What advice do you have?  Was the child you eventually adopted from Building Blocks or did you use another agency?

Please understand that I am not trying to pry.  I am afraid.  We have 3 other children we had to tell that their brother died.  My son is so confused and I well, you know what a nightmare this is even more than I.

Either Denise just doesn’t recognize a sick baby when she sees one or she is dishonest.  … they have all of our money and we’re waiting to travel.  Thank you and please feel free to email or call.

    Now, I don’t have to tell you the impact this had on Daniel and I. 

    We felt physically sick.  My God, another dead baby.  

    From Russia. With Building Blocks.  And Amrex as their facilitators.  And Denise LYING again about the health of children!  

    Hadn’t anything been learned?  Anything?  Why was history repeating itself? 

    How awful for this woman and her family.  How truly, truly awful.

    Daniel emailed her back with our telephone number; within minutes she called and spoke with him on the telephone. I was able to talk to her myself later that week.

    According to Daniel, when she first called, she was frantic. If her husband, an attorney, found out about any of this, she said, he would go straight through the roof (we can understand, believe us). Like Daniel, she wanted to make things work despite the mounting distrust.

    The family were embarking on their second Russian adoption.  They had originally intended to use the same, small agency they had before, but it soon became obvious that that agency wasn’t going to be able to deliver for them this time.

    So, they instead compiled their dossier and sent it — completed — to Amrex in Alpharetta, Ga.  

    The Amrex organization in turn, turned them over to Building Blocks who were, by this time, “umbrella-ing” (a practice later determined to be in violation of Russian law) full-time for Russian adoptions. Amrex and the various photolisting sites were children were pictured was the way most clients were being filtered to BBAS.   

    Since her husband did not surf the Internet — he was far too busy at his job —  she hadn’t informed her husband about our story when she came upon it. 

    She had taken the initiative on her own to contact us without her husband’s knowledge.  She felt that he would be very upset if he were to read about another dead baby with Denise, since Denise had literally lied to them about babies dying she had placed.

    The child that allegedly died in the orphanage had been reviewed by Dr. Downing, who said he was in good health (BUURRRP!). 

    This particular child had been passed on by a previous visiting American couple; they rejected the referral based purely on the grounds that his bioparents were allegedly tall and that he might not fit into their family (supposedly; again, this came to them via Denise so its credibility is as suspect to us as her claim that Anguel wasn’t light-skinned enough for the couple purportedly considering him before us).

    So the referral, in the Yekaterinburg region, was passed along to the family, who happily accepted. 

    Oddly, the video appeared to have been shot by the family who had rejected him — they could hear the people talking in English about the baby.

    Daniel and I suspect that the baby didn’t die, but was rather sold to another facilitator.  During that time, an Amrex facilitator in the Yekaterinburg region was doing some illicit things, and there were others who later got in touch with us after going to that region only to receive cock-and-bull stories about what had happened to their referrals. 

    They, too, suspected someone with more money had come forward and the child they thought was theirs had been diverted.

    However, the woman believed the baby really did die, and was heartsick that she could get no information whatsoever from the agency about the child’s death.

    Denise allegedly told her that the baby died from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and then changed the story twice — first saying that the baby had choked to death, and then that the baby had a brain aneurysm. The lady also asked Wendy Stamper if they would get an autopsy report; Wendy told her that they might be able to get one (Ha!).

    Upon receiving the video referrals of the two different children in a one-visit region of Russia, she had the video looked at by, we believe, Dr. Jerri Jenista.  

    When she told Denise that Jenista had reviewed the video, Denise took umbrage because she felt that Dr. Jenista was too negative when reviewing medical referrals. She said that she and Jenista didn’t get along – or some words to that effect.

    Several months later, when we were reviewing this story, we decided to call Dr. Jenista herself — a week before Daniel had the opportunity to meet her in person at the first Hague regulation meetings — and ask her about this. 

    She had no idea, had never heard of Denise Hubbard or Building Blocks.

    It wasn’t the first time Denise had cast aspersions on a particular independent international adoption specialist’s abilities when it concerned one of her agency’s referrals ... readers will remember her response when Daniel passed along Dr. Adesman’s “yellow flags” about Cyril. 

    Nor was it the last, as another client’s story will show. (And remember this is coming from a woman with no real health-professional credentials whatsoever).

    The lady told me that they did have some doubts about the referral they accepted, but would travel anyway to adopt the baby.  I told her that they were doing the right thing, and I encouraged her to adopt the baby. 

    I also said that if the baby was too sick to demand another referral right then and there. It has been done before by other people adopting in Russia.

    Amrex, Inc. doesn’t like its clients going public about coming home with stories about rejected babies, sick babies or no babies at all. It’s not very good for business.  

    In July 2001 I emailed the family to see how they were. The lady responded with the following:

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you so much for your email and kind thoughts. Yes we
have a new addition to our family. We went to [Russian Region] in January. The Amrex people in Moscow and [Russian] region really were outstanding, everything was handled quite efficiently, we even came home 4 days early much to the surprise of Wendy at Building Blocks who informed our travel agent it was impossible we couldn't possibly be back in Moscow so soon! Maybe it was because what had happened to us earlier or maybe it was just luck but everything went really smoothly.

Our son was 10 months old when we brought him home in Jan. He is doing very well. Has had 4 months of physical therapy and is now walking full steam ahead. Now I’ll probably be starting speech therapy, but other than that he appears to be developing and thriving. The orphanage in [Russian region] had more resources than some of the others, he was well fed, had 8 consistent caretakers, 4 during the day and 4 at night.

How are you doing and how is your son. I bet he is beautiful! I would've
chosen Bulgaria but they have restrictions on the number of children you may already have. What a journey this was. I think back on everything as you must also. You lose a child and than gain one. Not many people understand what we have been through…

Wow, I have rambled on, but as you  know most  people don't quite know
what to say or how to respond when  and if they hear the whole story. So
please feel free to to do the same with me. Thanks  again, I   appreciated
all of the support before and the follow-up now. Best Wishes to you, Dan and your son.

    Thankfully, this story has a happy ending for all involved, especially for the child that was brought home. 

    It still does not absolve Denise, however, of her continuing duplicity over medical findings.

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