Chapter Seven



    October wore on into November. Our impatience with not getting a referral had now been replaced with impatience with not getting a court date.

   There was some rational ground for concern about this delay. It seems sort of quaint now, in hindsight, but as 1999 drew to a close you may well remember there was great concern about something called Y2K … the effect of failing to properly reprogram computers so they could handle the four-digit date rollover.

   In Russia, where computers were generally more archaic than their American counterparts, this meant that the U.S. embassy had decided it would close all consular services in the middle of December … and not reopen until after the Russian holiday period ended a month or so later.

    Any adoptions completed during that time period would thus be faced with a delay. Thus, the later our court date came, the longer we might have to wait even after it was over to come home with Cyril.

    Maybe Denise was aware of this anxiety. But probably not. In any event, as the month began, she said we should ask for a second video.

    This struck us as a nice gesture but possibly ill-advised. With so much still unsettled in the adoption — I mean, we didn’t even have a court date — we didn’t think it wise to seem like pushy Americans who expected these people thousands of miles away to wait on us hand and foot. 

    We would see him in person soon enough anyway, if all went well. Another video would be nice to have, but we didn’t need one. It might even just serve to remind us of how badly we wanted the reality of Cyril in our lives, not just another video clip.

    We explained all this to Denise in email. She was taken aback, not the understanding sort of reaction we’d come to expect.

    Perhaps, from her perspective, this didn’t jibe with the people who, several weeks earlier, had been asking for a sonogram video on the advice of a doctor (the same sonogram video, of course, that she’d suggested we didn’t need to worry so much about although she did promise to make the request). But if it did, she never brought that up.

   Instead, she argued, we ought to want it as a keepsake (Which, ultimately, it was).

   We didn’t quite see the point here either. We already had the first video for that.

  Nonetheless, we didn’t want to cause a fuss, and it certainly couldn’t have hurt, so we made the request sometime in October, via email, which she then presumably forwarded on to the people in Russia. And then we went on to other things.  


    Eventually, more things finally began to happen.

    On Oct. 27, Wendy called and asked if she could fax us something (we receive faxes on our computer’s fax software, and we only have one phone line). It turned out to be our formal invitation to visit Russia, from (we thought at the time) the Ministry of Education (upon later inspection, it turned out to be from the “TAKAR” company, the facilitators in Perm).

    This was good news, she said, and she wasn’t kidding. An invitation to visit is required of anyone seeking a Russian tourist visa, whether adopting a child or not, and the specified dates of Nov. 20 through Jan. 20 suggested strongly to her that our court date was likely being set, and that quite likely it would be very soon, before the end of the year and maybe even before the end of the month (she was right).

    We were encouraged, but we’d believe it when we saw it. After getting the fax, we printed it out and began the process of preparing our visa applications, which for some strange reason had to be (at that time) mailed all the way to the Russian consulate in San Francisco even though there was also one in New York. We had to do something to keep busy since so much was now out of our hands.

    We still needed our court date, however, so we could let the consulate know when we planned to be in Russia.

    Another thing sent our way by BBAS to keep us occupied during these last frenzied few weeks before going to Russia is worth recounting here, as it becomes more important later.

    Prior to our receiving our court date, Denise, out of the blue emailed us and asked us to list our adoption experience with BBAS on something called The Inter-Country Adoption Registry (ICAR).  

    It is allegedly a “ fully automated”, independent registry system. All one needs to do is merely pick one’s agency from the suggestions, one’s country of adoption and then chose a password to type in various information about the agency and the adoption.

    ICAR is a lovely agency registry site. Unlike EEAC’s registry, you can give some details of your experience with your agency, and chose to share other information if you so desire. EEAC’s site merely lists the agency, your name, your email, gender of the child, country and when the adoption was (or wasn’t) completed (Not that it isn’t useful as well).

    Of course we did what Denise asked us to, and made note of the fact that the adoptions hadn’t been completed yet. This drew a puzzled return email from the then-site operator … apparently the registry was only meant for completed adoptions. Denise told us to go ahead and list our adoption as if we’d finished it, even though we hadn’t — not legally, not really.

    This is significant for two things.

    First, Denise had pretty much asked us to fib a bit for the greater good of her agency. We didn’t complain because we had no reason to believe at that point that this was anything other than a routine Russian adoption and would eventually be completed. 

    But, we later learned, it wasn't the first time and wouldn’t be the last time Denise would put her clients up to doing her marketing dirty work.

    It also was the first indication that Denise was ending her professional relationship with Dennis Gornostaev and was then connecting with Amrex, a somewhat secretive Atlanta-based Russian adoption facilitation service that, while not doing any adoptions itself, nevertheless exploits the benefits of its middleman’s role to the hilt.  

    It has been much criticized by advocates for international adoption reform, but its role here is marginal. Certainly they cannot be blamed for the way BBAS treated us (although that is not the case with some of the other clients who have tales to tell ...).

    In fact, according to BBAS’s board minutes, they had apparently signed up with Amrex sometime in September. They couldn’t facilitate our adoption, but we were certainly available for Denise to use for their mutual promotional purposes.

    Early in 2000, as our own relationship with BBAS deteriorated, Daniel found the registration information for 

    We were shocked to read the results: ICAR’s domain was registered to Amrex, Inc. If you read through the site carefully, you also will see that the fonts and page design are similar to those that Amrex uses on its own website.  

    Also, you will note that if you search under Russian adoptions for the Amrex-affiliated agencies Genesis, TediBear (which has since switched to the Frank Foundation, and then recently back to Amrex) and Building Blocks, most the people listed give glowing, positive, flawless reviews of their adoption experiences. 

    For comparison, try typing in “Holt” and “South Korea” and see what you come up with. Two adoptions, both completed years ago. Two. (as of Feb. 19, 2002)

    If you don’t grasp the significance of this, consider that Holt International pretty much invented the concept of an international adoption agency as we know it today way back in the early 1960s, when Harry Holt and his wife starting placing Korean orphans in American families, which they still do even today. If any search on that site should return hundreds of listings, it’s that one.

    Yet agencies like Genesis and TediBear, both of which were small operations that had only been doing Russian adoptions for a few years, were well-covered. Just a coincidence, we guess, that those two at the time handled everything on the Russian end through Amrex.

    But we learned the best last. Near the bottom of “Contact Us” is an acknowledgement that Amrex had “generously donated the domain name:, graphics, scripts, and promotional space on Yahoo, etc.” Ha!

    So, is ICAR a marketing tool for Amrex? We report, you decide ...

    (In fairness, ICAR does seem to maintain some independence from the agencies Amrex serves. They have never taken our reference down, despite its unequivocally negative tone, nor that of some other dissatisfied clients of BBAS).

     Today we surmise Denise was repeating the pattern of having all her satisfied clients tout her on ICAR’s site and also on the EEAC Agency Registry site.  

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