Monday, March 16, 2009

Voices of the Victims of Focus on Children Utah's Samoa Scam

PEAR is giving to voice to the victims of FOC Utah: below is the first statement, from Elizabeth Muenzler, Adoptive Mother of a trafficked child.

Many thanks for your invitation to write a statement on your blog concerning the recent Focus on Children case. We are the parents of one of the children involved and after having been vilified in some circles for appearing and making a statement at the sentencing hearing, it’s nice to actually be “asked” to comment on this case and our disappointment with the outcome.

We were one of the few families who advocated for jail time in this case. For me, jail time was a no-brainer. After reading the indictment two years ago, there was no way I thought that they weren’t going to jail for a very long time. And yes, I know that they aren’t “hardened criminals,” ready to attack people on the streets. And, I realize they have many children of their own. And that they done many good things too, through their adoption work. But, does that really “justify” them not going to jail? I consider myself a good person. I have children. I’ve done good things in my life. But if I went out and robbed a bank tomorrow, I bet I would go to jail. And rightly so.

My faith in the Justice System in this country has been greatly reduced by this case. I hope the tax payers don’t spend the $10 fine per count all in one place. The defendants probably spent more on their lunch that day than they had to pay to get out of court. Unfortunately, more than anything in this process, I have learned that the Justice System isn’t for “justice.” It’s for “resolution.” And sometimes…the bad guys do win.

However, regardless of the spineless outcome, we must go on and continue to fight. It’s now time for organizations like this one, to spearhead a cry loud and clear that changes need to be made. And soon. No other child or family on either side of the ocean deserves what they got in this case. And things like the definition of “an orphan”, or the definition of “abandonment,” which could have easily been defined with a good dose of common sense and a handy Webster’s Dictionary, should never have been fodder for defense attorneys to “make their case.” (Defense attorneys, who, by the way, mentioned during the sentencing that their defendant had “suffered the most” in this case.)

Count us in to begin to work with you, side-be-side, until all of those in the adoption world who think they can continue to hurt innocent children and families, realize we are watching. We will change whatever needs to be changed to ensure that no one ever has to go through what our family has gone through ever again.

As for our family, we move forward now and not backward. We’ve been in contact with our daughter’s birthparents are working on establishing that relationship. We will continue to make sure that they are a part of her life and that she knows who they are. Once she is an adult, we will support any decision she makes in terms of her relationship with them.

My statements at the hearing last month were full of the anger, hurt and betrayal that our family has felt throughout this tragedy. Some criticized me for it. It’s hard for people on the outside looking in to know what it’s like. But saying our comments then, and outlets like this blog, have helped healed us. It gave our daughter a voice in this process. And gave us a chance to someday show her that we did everything we could to help bring them to justice.

Thank you for this opportunity and for everything you do to help clean up the adoption world. We look forward to joining you on this journey very soon.

Elizabeth Muenzler

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

PEAR Winter Newsletter, March 2009

Winter Newsletter, March 2009

From the Board

We are pleased to formally introduce our two newest Board members, Pamela Veazie and Kim Kennedy.

Pamela Veazie joins the board as both our Membership and Post Adoption Services and Support Chairs. Pam believes that adoption preparation for prospective parents and post-adoption support for health issues is completely inadequate. The lack of insurance coverage for many therapies and lack of affordable educational remediation that targets language loss are two issues not being addressed. Additionally, Pam feels there needs to be a clear, holistic multiyear pathway of healthcare steps to heal internationally adopted children. Pamela is currently a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her youngest was internationally adopted from Moldova in 2005 at the age of two and a half. She has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Purdue University in 1994. Her professional experience includes clinical research and project management of women’s health products at a large pharmaceutical company and development of training materials for clinical research professionals, doctors and nurses. Over the past four years, Pam has become owner of two online adoption support groups and moderator for three others.

Kim Kennedy joins the board as a general member. She comes to PEAR with many years of experience as an advocate for adoption reform. She and her husband have adopted internationally and know both the joys of successful adoption and the tragedy of adoption scams. They have a special interest in open adoptions and adopting children with special needs and are particularly concerned about the lack of regulation for adoption service providers as well as the illegal procurement of children for adoption. Kim has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology from Hope College and a Master's degree in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan. Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom she taught middle school and worked in community development. Kim has volunteered with non-profit organizations dedicated to improving adoption practices, spoken publicly on ethics in adoption, written for Adoptive Families magazine, facilitated adoption support groups, and volunteered with her local foster care agency.

New Search Engine on PEAR Website

We are pleased to announced the creation of PEAR's Adoption Ethics, Corruption and Reform Search Engine located on our website. PEAR board member Karen Holt has been busy uploading, indexing and updating this search feature to help the adoption community in researching these issues. Our search engine can be accessed by visiting our website: It is located in the upper right-hand side of the webpage.

Adoption Agency Licensure, Regulation, and Oversight Project

PEAR is currently in Phase I of a study on the licensing, regulation and oversight of adoption agencies. The purposes of this study will be to better educate prospective adoptive parents, expectant mothers and the general public on the role of adoption agencies, to ensure best practices in adoption, to find appropriate avenues for resolving conflicts among agencies and clients, and to establish the groundwork for a model system that adequately protects the entire triad. In Phase I, we are researching the current laws and regulations governing adoption agencies with the assistance of the Miller Center for Public Interest Advocacy at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. PEAR is indebted to Ms. Lynn Long and Ms. Karen Wilson, both second year law students at Dickinson, for conducting the research into statutory and regulatory state law. We are hoping to complete this phase of the study in early May 2009.

Phase II will explore current systems for resolving conflict, making formal complaints and overseeing the work of adoption agencies. Phase III will analyze the efficacy of the current system, and propose improvements that will better protect the adoption triad. For further information on this project, please contact Gina Pollock: rmprhp @

Post Adoption Services Project

PEAR is pleased to announce that our Post-Adoption Service Project is underway. The first phase of this project is our Observational Survey of Adoptive Parents on Success, Satisfaction and Types of Post-Adoption Services. The survey is currently available through a link on our website: To date, we have received responses from over 300 adoptive families.

This project has three main goals: to identify Post-Adoption support that PEAR can provide to fill in the gaps that currently exist, to lay the groundwork for a joint clinical, randomized study with a larger, well-established adoptive parent organization, and to demonstrate PEAR's commitment as an organization dedicated to wholly supporting adoptive parents. Our hope is that this project will lead PEAR to work with other organizations to provide a comprehensive “healing roadmap” for adopted children and their families. For further information on this this project, please contact Pamela Veazie: PharmGirl13 @

Call to Action Vietnam

In November 2007, PEAR launched the Call to Action: Vietnam in response to increasing concerns within the adoption community over the ethical problems surrounding adoptions from Vietnam. Throughout the following year, PEAR has offered support and resources to families with children adopted from Vietnam who are facing the difficult realization that their adoptions may have been corrupted. We also continued to monitor the situation and have offered our perspective to the JCICS, and our government officials in Washington and Hanoi. For further information on Call to Action: Vietnam, please contact Karen Moline or Margaret Weeks at reform @

Hague Issues

PEAR continues to monitor the transition to the Hague Process by following developments in agencies and approve persons, the applicant process, and the handling of complaints against Hague accredited agencies. Of particular concern are the current practices of umbrellaing, mergers, and employee/board sharing by Hague and non-Hague accredited agencies.

On March 6, 2009, three board members and two regular members of PEAR will travel to New York to attend the New York Law School's Sixth Annual Adoption Policy Conference cosponsored by the Center on Adoption Policy. The focus of the conference is International Adoption, the United States, and the Reality of the Hague System. PEAR highly recommends that triad members participate in this conference and lend voice to a process which we believe discounts the voice and experience of triad in matters of policy creation, attendance is free. Further information can be found at:

For additional Information on our Hague related activities, please contact us at pearadopt@

Adoptee Access to Records

PEAR continues in its work to support the right of all adoptees to full and complete access to their birth information. We recently joined forces with Cal Open to support legislation allowing unconditional access by adult adoptees to their original birth certificate in California. Our official Policy Statement on Open Records will be published this month. For further information on PEAR's work in support of Adoptee Access to Records, please contact us at

Adoptive Parents Bill of Rights and Prospective Adoptive Parents Bill of Rights

PEAR has been busy refining versions of a Prospective Adoptive Parent Bill of Rights and an Adoptive Parent Bill of Rights which respect the rights of adoptive parents, families of origin and adoptees and ensures best practices in adoption and post adoption services. Our Prospective Adoptive Parent Bill of Rights is near completion and our Adoptive Parent Rights is in committee for a redraft. For further information on these projects, please contact Kim Kennedy at pearadopt @

Coming Soon...

International Adoption Statements
PEAR has been closely monitoring international adoptions for many countries. We are very concerned with information and reports coming from adopting families, adoptees, the US Department of State, and local media concerning adoptions from India, Nepal, Ethiopia and China. We will continue to closely monitor these country programs and hope to publish formal statements on our findings and concerns in late March/early April 2009.

In the Spotlight

Tidbits of information, resources and articles worth pursuing in the fight for ethical adoptions:

Focus on Children - 5 Defendants Sentenced on February 24, 2009.
~PEAR would like to express our profound disappointment in the sentencing of the owners and operators of the Focus on Children adoption agency. We believe the U.S. government had a real opportunity for justice in this case, but that justice was not served. Our government could have sent a powerful message to the adoption community that procuring children for adoption, misleading families of origin and lying to adoptive families is wrong and will be punished. Unfortunately, we do not believe the sentence given was proportionate to crimes committed. Five years probation is nothing compared to the lifelong effects all members of the triad will experience. Our sincere sympathies go out to all of the families, both in Samoa and the U.S. and we commend the families who chose to speak out about their experiences. Our organization will continue to advocate for improvement of regulations and enforcement of laws that promote sound ethical adoption practices. We hope for a day when all parents who seek to adopt can trust their agencies to place children honestly, ethically and legally. During the month of March, we will be offering FOC Samoa clients the opportunity to express their perspective and feelings about the issues they face on our blog. FOC clients interested in participating may contact Gina Pollock at rmprhp @

Ethica’s Webinar Series:
PEAR is pleased to support Ethica’s first webinar series for prospective adoptive families. The webinars will explore issues surrounding adoption fraud, how to choose an agency, and the implications of adopting from a "Hague" country. Upcoming webinars include: Webinar 2: March 18, 7-8:30PM EST "From Good Samaritans to Convicts - How to Choose an Ethical International Adoption Agency" and Webinar 3: April 8, 7-8:30PM EST "The Hague Convention 1 Year Later: Successes and Drawbacks" Space is limited so please register early. For more information, visit Ethica at

PEAR is a 501(3)(3) non-profit corporation registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. All of our services and resources are offered free of charge and are prepared, maintained, and updated by an all volunteer board and staff. We hope that you will consider assisting PEAR’s activities and goals by making a donation or becoming a member. For more information on how to do this, please visit our website:

Gina Pollock
Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform
Make a Difference - Join PEAR Now!
526 N President Ave
Lancaster PA 17603

BE the change you want to see in the world. - Gandhi