Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Monday, May 09, 2011

Formal Announcement

To all my readers:

I have now received official permission from the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (hereafter referred to as the MLSP) in Belgrade, Serbia to inform you of the events of the past several months.

In April of 2010, the family of Kaci was questioned in person by the MLSP when they appeared for the Ministry appointment to complete the adoption of their child. At that time they were asked about the involvement of Dr. Jasmina Jankovic in their adoption process, including questions about money paid to her. How they received information about the child, and other areas of Dr. Jankovic's involvement. At that time the MLSP informed Dr. Jankovic that she was to have no further contact with Kaci's family. In addition, the Velika Plana Social Center informed Ms. Jankovic that she was no longer allowed in their facility.

Over the course of the next year, although the MLSP suspected that Ms. Jankovic was continuing to facilitate adoptions in an illegal manner, they did not have substantiated evidence to confirm their suspicions, and no other families came forward with complaints.

As most of you know, during the in-country portion of my adoption process in Serbia, Dr. Jasmina Jankovic, doctor at the Zvecanska Street facility located in Belgrade, Serbia, acted as my adoption facilitator. (As she did for ALL the Serbian adoptions to US citizens, as confirmed today by the Serbian MLSP.)

During the course of my adoption, there were many issues brought to light including corruption, extortion, violations of privacy rights of children not legally available for adoption, and violations of Hague Convention regulations.  Children who were not legally available for adoption were listed on the website of Reece's Rainbow. Although it was discovered there was a girl listed who was not legally registered for adoption, the director of Reece's Rainbow, Andrea Roberts, told me she had "verified the status" of all the other children. At the time my adoption was completed Reece's Rainbow was informed of the questionable activity of Dr. Jankovic, but Reece's Rainbow continued to send families into her hands. 

At the end of my adoption process, I was questioned by the U.S. Embassy, and in February 2011 I was contacted by the MLSP Adoptions Unit requesting additional information, which was provided to them in the form of all email correspondence with Dr. Jankovic, along with copies of my adoption contract with About A Child, and written correspondence with Reece's Rainbow. During that same month the ministry informed Dr. Jankovic she was to have no further involvement in the adoption by a family currently in country. It was also discovered that most of the Serbian children listed on Reece's Rainbow were not legal orphans.

In May, 2011, I, along with Kaci, agreed to travel to Belgrade, Serbia in order to provide in-person testimony regarding the situations surrounding our adoptions. 

On May 5th, 2011, I had a meeting with Mr. Pete Marigliano at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. At the meeting I was informed of exactly what the Embassy is able to do for me as U.S. Citizen and adoptive families while in Belgrade, and what they are not able to do. The U.S. Embassy is well aware of my recent involvement with Cherish Our Children International, and how that organization helped me during my adoption process when it became clear that the situation in December had become an issue of my personal safety. In addition, the Embassy informed me that Dr. Jankovic had made an appearance before Embassy Staff, as well as staff from the MLSP to plead her case in the situation.

Today, May 9th, 2011, I along with Kaci appeared before the MLSP in a closed meeting. At this time we were informed that, based on their investigation, the MLSP has brought formal charges against Dr. Jankovic for violating Hague Convention regulations by conducting adoptions as an employee of the Serbian government, including but not limited to releasing private information of vulnerable children. There is also an ongoing investigation of other issues related to adoption, and a suit against her by the Zvescanska organization. These statements were signed and sworn to and subsequently entered into evidence for an upcoming trial against Dr. Jankovic. 

The MLSP has also verified that although Dr. Jankovic has announced that an official communication from the MSLP was released stating Serbian adoptions are closed - a statement which was supported by Reece's Rainbow although they never verified it with the ministry -  the statement absolutely untrue! The MLSP has never issued such a statement. Serbian adoptions have never been put on hold. Although families who have recently contacted the MLSP about their case, and told that no travel dates would be issued until after a certain date, there has never been a "hold" on adoptions. Because Dr. Jankovic was releasing information about children who were NOT legally available for adoption, the MLSP is now taking additional steps in the adoption approval process to assure that all children being presented are, indeed, legally free and available for International Adoption. These additional steps have added time to the adoption process.

Prior to their contact with me in February, 2011, the MLSP was completely unaware there were so many families currently interested in Serbian adoption. This has led to a high volume of emails and phone calls to the MLSP Adoption Unit, which they were not prepared to handle. Although they are trying their best, please be patient as you wait for responses from them.

There are currently approximately 40 children currently registered for International Adoption from Serbia. This information is available to families by contacting the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy Adoptions Unit directly.

The MLSP confirmed in our meeting that there are ABSOLUTELY NO healthy children being adopted out of Serbia. Also, although in the past some Roma children were registered for International Adoption, this is now a very rare occurrence as they are now being adopted by Serbian families.

The MLSP was appalled to hear that families were sending all of their financial information, including bank account numbers, social security numbers, level of income etc. directly to Dr. Jankovic. and that agencies and non-profit organizations in the U.S. were encouraging this practice of sending sensitive information to non-qualified individuals. They were equally shocked to hear that some agencies are telling families to carry large amounts of cash into the country to be handed over to their in-country facilitators. If you are working with an agency who has made such a suggestion, you are strongly encouraged to contact both the MLSP and the US Embassy with that information. It is reasonable that your ONLY expenses while completing your Serbian adoption would include:

Taxes for legal documents (birth certificate, passport, visa, etc.)
Translation fees of dossier and post adoption documents (with the going rate being approximately 8 Euro per page)
Lodging
Transportation
Translator fees
Food

In conclusion, the MLSP is eager to move forward with a 100% transparent adoption process. Any claims that were made by Ms. Jankovic that families cannot contact the MLSP directly, and the MLSP is to be feared, is 100% false. You can feel confident that the MLSP wants nothing more than to see future U.S. adoptive families complete the adoption process without fear, and instead only with joy as they bring their children home. The MLSP is now working jointly with the U.S. Embassy to insure a smooth process for everyone.

I want to encourage each and every one of you who have had similar experiences in your adoption process to speak up. Yes, there are children's lives at stake, but extortion and bribery taking place during international adoptions runs a line very close to child trafficking, something none of us want to be party to.

Lastly, I would like to thank those of you who have offered your support over the last four months, as we very carefully took each measured step to insure that future U.S. adoptive families do not experience the fear and/or extortion that we experienced.

I especially want to thank Dean, who one year ago wanted nothing to do with adoption, and suddenly found himself in a difficult place, watching me through skype during what were sometimes some very intense situations. Even through all of this he is eager to adopt again. Only God can do that.

Please feel free to distribute this blog post to any families, past or present, involved in Serbian adoptions.

13 comments:

Coleen said...

And here we thought you were just bringing Toothbrushes to children in need!!! You should be VERY proud of yourself for standing up and fighting for what is right! You have changed the lives of Children and Families in Serbia and here in the U.S.! Welcome Home! Kiss those beautiful Children of yours! (6 times)

Shea said...

God bless you dear friend!

Christine said...

Interesting! So glad to read that things went well!

Milena said...

I agree with Coleen. You are brave and you have done what is right.

Hevel said...

How very wonderful!

In the past I had the opportunity to travel in Serbia, especially the Hungarian speaking areas of Vojvodina, and having a large trunk for our car, I met up with a special ed teacher, who was working with ethnic Hungarian and Hungarian speaking Roma children living with disabilities. She worked with orphans, many of whom had active parents in their lives, who were working towards reunification (even if it meant moving north of the border to Pécs and Szeged) yet she found some of the children on various adoption websites.

If you don't mind, I'll translate your post to Hungarian and send it to her, she will be relieved to know that someone from the States has done so much for the improvement of the process.

You are a hero, Leah!

My Girls R Angels said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! You are a Champion, my friend! :)

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

Thank God that you got the positive outcome you were praying for, Leah! Strike another blow against the wrong, and hurray for doing adoptions in an enthical manner! Now . . . we will pray that more doors like this will open in other countries!

Charissa said...

Wow, Leah. I'm proud of you. I'm particularly stunned by Hevel's comment. It is a good thing you have done. You should be proud.

jenmark6 said...

We adopted our daughter from Serbia nine years. Firstly, Dr. Jankovic was not our adoption facilitator. She had nothing to do with our adoption. 2) We have also been living overseas for the last five years. Both my husband and myself worked at the US Embassy there. I find it very strange that Embassy personnel would divuldge information of this nature about a foreign national to non-Embassy individuals.

Jennifer Harrington

Leah S. said...

Jennifer, there was nothing in that meeting that was classified information. All of the people who participated in that meeting have read this blog post. The embassy told us only what the Embassy is and is not able to do for US Citizens coming to Belgrade to complete their adoptions, and that Dr. Jankovic made an appearance to plead her case. Nothing more about it was stated, other than how many adoption related visas have been issued into the U.S. All other information came from the MLSP.

jenmark6 said...

I have worked in US Consulates. No one ever uses the phrase “plea their case.” This is true for everyone; from the lower level employees dealing with fraud and involuntary departures to the Consul-General. This would be a derogatory comment made about a foreign national. No way. He might have wanted to have Dr. Jankovic come in for an interview. This is very common in all countries participating in international adoption procedures. It is also very common for families to be interviewed about their experiences. This has been going on for over 45 years. We were interviewed in Russia, Ukraine, and Serbia. This helps the US Consulate know what is going on in this arena.
I was curious why you are not blogging about your concerns over US adoption agencies who are using Dr. Jankovic. If, what you say is true, than US agencies are putting US clients in an illegal situation- for the last eight years, no less.
Dr. Jankovic was not part of our adoption process. I have a hard time believing that the Ministry would say this. I know of another family, as well, who did not use Dr. Jankovic. (Their case does pre-date ours.) I also cannot believe that the Ministry would say that Dr. Jankovic is in violation of the Hague Convention. Serbia has yet to ratify this convention.

Jennifer

Leah S. said...

Jennifer, sorry it took me so long to post your comment. It was in my spam comment box and I didn't notice it there. Anyway, to answer your comments: I am not clear if Dr. Jankovic came to the Embassy to "plead her case" or to the Ministry. I know there were many meetings between both entities, so it's possible that was one that was together. To quote the Embassy staff we met with, "Dr. Jankovic made an appearance before embassy staff to plead her case". He didn't say where or when. It could very well have been in conjunction with the Ministry. And yes, US agencies were putting US clients into an illegal situation. Absolutely...for the last 8 years. You are more than welcome to contact the ministry yourself to verify this. No, Serbia is not yet part of the EU and yes, Serbia has yet to get there. They are working at it. Adoption is only a tiny piece of it. Still they cannot be part of the EU knowing these kinds of things are going on. Again, if you don't believe the ministry would say this, you are welcome to contact the ministry yourself to verify it yourself. email me privately at deanleah at comcast.net and I'll give you the contact information. I can only tell you what the ministry told us in the meeting. I cannot answer for any misinformation they gave us. You'll have to ask the ministry those questions yourself.

Leah S. said...

More to Jennifer: I forgot to say that it is obvious you are new to this blog, because since December I have been asking why agencies such as Reece's Rainbow and About A Child have continued to send families to Dr. Jankovic, even after the conversations I had with them during my adoption process. In fact, two or three more families adopted after me through Reece's Rainbow. There was a question of Dr. Jankovic's practices back in June of 2010 when it was discovered there were Serbian children listed with Reece's Rainbow who were not legally available for adoption, all of whom information was obtained via Dr. Jankovic. At the time the childrens listings were removed from the RR website while their legal status was "verified". Within a few weeks those children once again appeared on RR. With whom did they verify it? Certainly not the Serbian ministry, because the ministry would have demanded the information of all the children be removed immediately. (This was verified by the Ministry.) I know for sure that three of the Serbian children listed on RR not only were not registered for international adoption, but their parental rights were still intact. Still, I don't think RR nor About A Child realized that Dr. Jankovic was violating Serbian laws regarding adoption, however once my situation was brought to their attention in December, and Dr. Jankovic started making comments about money exchanged being "top secret", red flags should have been doing up all over the place instead of continuing to send families to her. Weather or not YOU agree with the information we were given at that meeting doesn't matter.