Friday, November 16, 2007

US Agency Investigated for Forgeries in Russian Adoptions

Children's Hope International is an adoption agency based in Missouri with offices in Missouri, Arizona, California, Illinois, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington that did over 700 international adoptions last year. It is being investigated by seven states after authorities discovered that two employees were allegedly forging official documents being sent to Russian authorities.

The forgeries were discovered in July, when authorities in Arkansas received correspondence from Russian adoption officials, seeking additional information. However, the adoption officials in Arkansas had no record of the initial correspondence that prompted the Russian letter.

A few days of research revealed that the letter from Arkansas was really mailed from the offices of Children's Hope International. A wide search was conducted, and eventually, Children's Hope International's director, Dwyatt Gantt, admitted that ten documents were forged, affecting 7 states.

However, during a meeting with Tennessee adoption authorities, Gant is quoted as saying the forgeries went on for years, and were "widespread."

--from KSDK Newschannel 5's online report
According a TV news report, two Children's Hope International employees who worked out of the Missouri office, Mareda Eckert and Sue Ellison, had allegedly been copying the official letterhead of authorities in several states, writing the documents that Russia required, and then forging the signatures of the appropriate state officials. The documents would then be sent to Russia as some of the official paperwork required to complete a Russian adoption. It is unclear if the improprieties also included the use of notarization on these documents. Dwyatt Gantt's official statement about the affair, printed on Children Hope International's website would seem to imply that it might. Gantt there states that "two employees...were found to have mishandled paperwork which included the wrong use of notaries."

According to news reports, the documents involved "were used to assure Russian authorities that any children sent here would be properly care for."

The alleged forgeries involved documents made to look like they had come from officials in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas.

Investigations in these states, some ongoing, have included hearings to determine whether CHI should lose its adoption license in these states and to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued.

The two Children's Hope International employees involved were fired a month after the alleged forgeries were discovered.

International Children's Hope Director Dwyatt Gantt has chosen to downplay the seriousness and significance of the forgeries. On a TV interview he stated that the alleged forgeries were, "foolish and misguided, but not malicious--not self serving on [the employees'] part."

In addition to Gant's official web-published statement, "A Message from Children's Hope International" on the affair, Children's Hope International has also sent out letters seeking to reassure current and former clients, and delineating what CHI had to done to alleviate the situation:

"As a result of Children's Hope being upfront and proactive, we have been assured by Missouri DFS and all states where investigations are complete, that we have handled this in the correct manner, and we have been ensured this will not adversely affect our work in these states."
He assures all that "this matter is already nearing resolution," stating that only two states have yet to put the matter to rest: Kansas and Illinois.

But according to news reports, things may not yet be as resolved as Gantt would have them be. In Missouri where CHI is based, a local TV station reports:

Missouri adoption regulators knew about the forgeries in August, after calls from other states. However, after an investigation, it was decided that Children's Hope International would not be sanctioned, and would keep its license.

Susan Shelton, a manager in the state Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services, said on October 25, that police and prosecutors had not been contacted to investigate the forgery. However, on October 30, Shelton's bosses decided to contact police about the case.

That occurred after Missouri State Senator John Loudon, a Republican from Ballwin, started asking about what happened. Loudon is a long time adoption advocate, who is concerned that the forgeries could affect future adoptions of Russian children. Loudon wants a full investigation, and says Missouri must come clean with the Russians.
As for Russia....Russian authorities are already on edge with the American adoption of Russian children. Russians are concerned about:
  • A long string of cases in which Russian adoptees have suffered abuse and even death--14 Russian children killed to date--at the hands of American adoptive parents
  • The Masha Allen case in which a US adoption agency placed a Russian five year old with a pedophile and then failed to check up on her for nearly five years (fabricating one post placement report and doing another by phone) so that the child was abused for five years and became the unwilling "star" of illegal child pornography (Masha's photos are among the confiscated images in at least 50% of child pornography prosecutions).
  • The failure of many US adoption agencies to take seriously Russia's post adoption reporting requirements
Keeping Russia open to Americans for adoption has become an increasingly politically difficult and unpopular feat within Russia and the Russian government. This new problem can not help US-Russian adoption relations. But, so far at least, Russian authorities have restrained themselves:
Russian authorities are aware of the forgeries, but have not reacted in any way.
Perhaps they are waiting to see just how seriously America takes the corruption of adoption--whether we will see that wrongdoing is taken seriously and whether wrongdoers are investigated, sanctioned, and punished--all as a deterrent for future misconduct.

Or, instead, whether the aura surrounding international adoption will once again whitewash and downgrade all wrongdoing into an easily excused mush of well-meaning mistakes and oversights and sniveling explanations.....I mean really, it doesn't really make that much difference anyway, does it...I mean we're talking about saving orphans here....

What wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else and that would be stringently punished once again passes into relative insignificance in the glow of the absolute good that is adoption.

Would that those who excuse such indiscretions and corruption could see that each time such things are excused and passed over, it weakens international adoption further and makes clear that is it lacking in character, ethics, and accountability. International adoption will eventually be killed by such failing to take seriously these problems.

It will be a truly awful thing if Russian adoption closes because Americans refuse take adoption corruption seriously. If any children in the world are truly in need of adoption, it is the adoption eligible children languishing in Russian orphanages.


Adoption Agency At Center Of Investigation; KDSK News Channel 5; St. Louis, Missouri; 13 November 2007

Adoption Agency At Center Of Investigation; KDSK News Channel 5; St. Louis, Missouri; 13 November 2007

Explanation from Children's Hope:
"A message from Children’s Hope Director," Dwyatt Gantt, 14 November 2007


  1. We adopted, through CHI, from Russia and worked with Sue Ellison. I can only tell you that our experience was first rate, that CHI did as good a job as you can do and that I would still highly recommend CHI. Having know Sue I hope that there are additional facts in this case that have not come out yet, she's a good person and was extremely helpfull in our adoption!

  2. Apparently the explanation for the forgeries on CHI's website has been pulled... it's not at the link provided, and a quick scan of their site didn't turn it up. CHI is a very highly regarded agency - this is very disturbing news indeed. I hope the full facts come out soon.

  3. Looks like this incident hasn't prevented Russia from awarding reaccreditation to CHI. Gotta keep the rubles flowing??

  4. Illegal adoptions in Texas. I am concerned about three Russian children who were adopted by a family in Texas. These children are being abused and I have not been able to get any authority to help them. I am wondering who I can contact.

  5. Anonymous: IT wouldn't matter where the children were adopted, they are now American citizens and as such protected by our laws. Contact the local child abuse hot line or your local police.