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An update on an intl adoption scandal

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  1. #1
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    An update on an intl adoption scandal

    A for-profit company called Amrex, founded by Sergey Zasyatkin (aka Serge Nichols) and Marina Zakharova (aka Mariz Bessette) a recently divorced couple born in Russia but now US citizens, operated for several years from Atlanta, GA as an "adoption facilitator" for agencies doing adoptions in Russia and Guatemala.

    What they did was not fully legal in these two countries, but because they claimed not to be actually doing adoptions, just providing in-country connections and translations, they had been "protected."

    Russian adoption requires that an agency have NGO (nor for pofit) status and be accredited by Russia itself. It is difficult to achieve these two statuses, so few agencies have both. Russia makes clear that agencies may not make placements from Russia without these statuses and that agencies which have accredited status are NOT to offer their accreditation to other agencies, but several accredited agencies do so, anyway, allowing other agencies under their "umbrella" (legal in the US, but not in Russia), which is what allows many small agencies to claim to clients that they do Russian placements. The problem is, that in order to do this, agencies and families have to perjure themselves in Russian court, claiming that their agencies are one of the umbrellaing accredited agencies (eg Frank, Beacon House, etc.) not the one that they have actually paid (of course the umbrella offerers get a kickback.) The other requirement for adoption from Russia is that accredited agencies maintain their own office and staff IN RUSSIA.

    OK, so Amrex formed contacted Beacon House and asked them to offer their accreditation umbrella to other agencies and use Amrex to get these adoptions done. Beacon House did not have a Russian office, but gave business cards to employees of Amrex (Russian relatives of Sergey and Marina) identifying them as Beacon House employees. Additionally, Amrex formed two agencies, Genesis in GA and Adoption Placement Inc in FL and worked to get them accredited in Russia. They were successful with API. Then they found 40+ other US-licensed agencies not accredited in Russia interested in taking advantage of the umbrella status to make placements from Russia.

    This past spring, API in FL lost its Florida license and its board of directors left. but the ED, Robert Kuschel, didn't notify clients and continued to take money, until one day in early September he just disappeared, taking a lot of money with him (a criminal investigation is under way in Plantation FL). Shortly thereafter, the board of directors of Genesis (including Marina) and most of the staff, jumped ship there, leaving one social worker with no administrative experience, Lindsay Kirk, to answer questions from clients and try to keep the ship afloat.

    On September 23rd, Amrex filed bankruptcy, to the tune of $2,800,000 in clients money, leaving the clients of the Amrex-using agencies completely in the lurch with all money already paid out, but either not referrals at all, or referrals lost, or a referral accepted on the first of two trips to Russia but no way to get back to Russia for the second required trip where the adoption is finalized and the child comes home or, in Guatemala, with the attorneys who run adoptions there unpaid and so unwilling to complete referrals or adoptions. The agencies are all just wringing their hands, claiming to be victims too. But the fact is that all of these agencies KNEW the rules in Russia, all KNEW they were using an unlicensed faciltator who had been in trouble before.

    Amrex, meanwhile, is in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee and the owners and former staff are under investigation by the FBI (hurrah!!)

    Some of these families have already gone to the media and there have been some local TV stories in Atlanta, Orlando, Portland, NYC.

    Several people who have been working in adoption for years are working to try to help these families. Today, we posted the following memo on FRUA

    Attention anyone using agencies on the list below for adoptions from Russia or Guatemala! Please pass this memo on to other parents and other email groups which may have parents who need this information!

    The following agencies all used Amrex to make all or most of their Russian/Guatelmalan adoptions and sent your money to Amrex, which is not just in bankruptcy, but has been put under the direction of a bankruptcy trustee, Jeff Kerr, who has identified that there will NOT be enough assets to resimburse the $2,800,000 in money owed adopting families for services Amrex did not fulfill. Amrex' owner is now under criminal investigation. Your agency is now responsible for reimbursing you or completing your services, below are steps to take if you used these agencies:

    1. AAA Partners in Adoption (GA)
    2. A Chosen Child (JCICS member)
    3. A Loving Choice (SC) (JCICS member)
    4. A New Arrival (JCICS member)
    5. Adopt Abroad (JCICS member)
    6. Adoption Access
    7. Adoption Avenues (OR)
    8. Adoption Blessings (AKA Tedi Bear) (GA)
    9. Adoption Covenant (TX)(JCICS member)
    10. Adoption Light (TX)
    11. Adoption Miracle International (MN)
    12. Adoption Placements Inc (FL)
    13. Adoption Services Worldwide
    14. American-International Children’s Alliance MA
    15. Beacon House (JCICS member)
    16. Bethany Christian Servs in Georgia (JCICS member)
    17. Building Blocks Adoption Service
    18. Carolina Hope (SC) (JCICS member)
    19. Cherished Children International (SC)
    20. Children of the World (AL)(JCICS member)
    21. Children's House International (WA)
    (JCICS member)
    22. Chrysalis House (CA)(JCICS member)
    23. European Adoption Consultants Inc.(JCICS member)
    24. Family Creations (FL)(JCICS member)
    25. Florida Homestudies and Adoption (JCICS member)
    26. Focus on Children (WY)(JCICS member)
    27. Genesis Adoption (GA)(JCICS member)
    28. God's Families (CA)
    29. Homecoming Adoptions (FL)
    30. International Adoption Guides
    31. International Children’s Alliance (CA (MD, VA, IL, DC)(JCICS member)
    32. International Family Services
    33. Journeys of the Heart (OR)
    (JCICS member)
    34. Kentucky Adoption Services (KY)(JCICS member)
    35. Lifeline of Hope
    36. Mary Kendall Adoption Program (KY)(JCICS member)
    37. Mississippi Children's Home
    38. Premier Adoption Agency (NV)
    39. Rainbow House (NM)(JCICS member)
    40. SEEK International (MO)
    41. Special Children (WI)(JCICS member)
    42. The Family Network (CA)(JCICS member)
    43. Tree of Life Adoption Center (OR)
    44. Worldwide Adoptions (SC)

    If you are at the PPR stage, your PPRs must still be completed. Contact your agency and ask them for their plan for assisting you in filing these forms. You should NOT have to pay any more money for this service!! (The agencies may, or may not, be able to get their own partial refunds from the bankruptcy settlement, but it is your AGENCY which now owes you service or reimbursement.)

    If, however, you have not had a referral, have made a first trip and subsequently "lost" a referred child, have made a first trip and accepted a child but are waiting for trip two, etc. the amount of money and/or services still due you is substantial. Again, it is the responsibility of your agency and/or the agency under which your agency "umbrellaed" (illegal in Russia!) that is now responsible for either providing an immediate full reimbursement and return of your dossier and other documents to be used elsewhere OR to delineate a plan for PROMPTLY giving you the service for which you have paid. Please take these steps:

    1. Contact your agency and ask them to give you, in writing, their plan for quick reimbursement or services. If the written plan sounds reasonable, a few of the 180 clients involved in the Amrex debacle may decide to be patient with their agencies.

    If the agency refuses to put the plan in writing for you, and/or if the timeline for completing that plan does not feel reasonable to you, that should raise a red flag and you should consider taking all of the applicable steps below, as your agency has not just acted illegally (in Russia, but not in the US) but certainly unethically in not following Russian law...

    2. If your agency is a member of the Joint Council on International Children's Services (noted in the list above) contact jcics.org and file a formal complaint about both your agency AND the agency under which it umbrellaed (Beacon House or Adoption Placements Inc.)

    3. File a formal complaint with BOTH the attorney general's office (find state AG websites through the National Association of Attorneys General at http://www.naag.org/) and the adoption agency licensing office of the department of family services (find the contact info in the child welfare information gateway directory at http://www.childwelfare.gov/nad/index.cfm) in the state in which your agency is located and in the state in which the umbrellaing agency is located.

    4. File a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau in both of the states mentioned above.

    5. Some families may want to follow the lead of several families who have already done so and contact consumer protection reporters at area TV stations or newspapers in their home area and/or the home area of the agencies involved.

    6. Families who have decided to file a civil lawsuit against their agency and the umbrella-owning agency may find it helpful both emotionally and financially to do so with groups of other parents using the same agency. Several families on the Yahoo group are already doing that, and will happy to either link you to other families or share their experiences with you.

    The one thing that it is simply not practical for you to do is to just sit there passively and wait for your agency to figure out a way to solve this huge financial problem. This problem has been brewing for many months, but has been open and on the table for public discussion and problem solving for over two months now. That should have given all agencies enough time to notify all families affected and put together a plan for solving the problem. Your agency owes you a practical written plan with a time line attached to it and they have been given enough time to come up with such a plan. If they cannot provide one, you will know for sure that other steps need to be taken to protect your family, its ethical obligations, and its financial assets!

    Please pass this memo on to other parents and other email groups which may have parents who need this information!

    That's the SHORT version of this ongoing mess. You will see even more media attention soon!

    Pat Johnston
    Infertility and Adoption Educator/Author
    Member of a widely adoption-expanded family

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  3. #2
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    Pat just to let you know Robert Kuschel originally worked for Homecoming Adoptions which was the agency we used. I knew this was coming because two woman that used my agency have already been interviewed by a Florida newspaper. This just makes me sick. I'm so grateful that my son is home with us.
    Mom to Shawn 2/6/05
    Home from Guatemala 11/17/05
    Ovarian Cancer Survivor
    Praying for Mateo

  4. #3
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    Thanks to Pat for posting this info for parents adopting from Russia and may be caught up in this mess.

    Also didnt know that about Homecoming either. You always have to keep your ears and eyes open in this business!

    Mom to 5
    2 girls and 3 boys

  5. #4
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    Thanks for the info - I think most of us EE adopters are pretty familiar with this - it has been going on for some time...it is just now going public. Lot of $$ owed to PAP's and lots of heartbreak - a friend of mine is one of them.

    FRUA has had lots of info for quite awhile now - and adoption . com too -

    THANKS FOR THE PPR'S INFO - SO IMPORTANT - PLEASE EVERYONE SEND IN YOUR POST PLACEMENT REPORTS ON TIME - with the new rules (268) being signed into law etc - PPR's are going to make or break agencies and the wh ole adoption industry. Remember for Russia adopters - PPR's must be in the region at the MOE office BEFORE your anniversary. So get your reports into your agency 1 month before it is due. ALSO REMEMBER - what is required by Russian law is that reports at -

    *****6 months, 1 yr, 2yr, 3yrs ****. DON"T FORGET to TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!!

    Hugs to all involved with this mess - I pray you can get thru this and your children will come home soon!!

  6. #5
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    Thanks for bringing this topic up. It is a sad reminder of how whenever large sums of money are involved that the worst of human nature emerges.

    Russia Mom (did not and knew not to use an AMREX affiliate way back in 2000) and China Mom (2005)
    Adopted from Russia and China

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