Eat the Rich (Before They Eat Their Imported, Adopted Young)

Via The Adopted Ones blog, a bedtime story for adoptees. Hang in there: the ending is happy.

Once upon a time, there was a very rich couple with four children of their own. They applied to adopt from China. Meanwhile, the wife gave birth to a fifth child (shades of Anita Tedaldi!). Then the husband got cancer. But their Chinese girl came home in 1996, and the very rich couple named her Emily. When their adoption finalized, they both signed

an adoption agreement stating that they would not abandon Emily or “transfer or have [her] re-adopted,” and that she would be deemed “a biological child,” according to court papers in the case. The agreement also stated that Emily had the right to inherit the estate of her adopted parents, who had established a pair of trusts for their children, as well as one meant solely for Emily.

In 1997, the very rich a’dad died. Very rich a’mom held onto Emily for six whole years until she saw an opportunity to ditch her on the woman who ran the school for special needs children Emily was then attending. A year later, the very rich lady punted Emily out of the family and into the arms of Spence-Chapin. Two years (!) after that, she was legally adopted by the school administrator and her husband.

Then rich a’mom’s lawyers sent New Mom and New Dad a letter informing them Emily’s trusts totaled $842,397. Ready to get angry?

[L]ater, they learned that a federal tax return valued Svenningsen’s estate at more than $250 million. The couple sued on behalf of Emily for a new accounting, but Christine claimed that Emily no longer had any rights to the estate since she was re-adopted.

Not only was she not entitled to the full amount, “ex-Mommy” said, she wasn’t entitled to anything because she was ejected from the family readopted. Readopted despite, you know, that thing you signed, Ms. Svenningsen. The judge did not agree, and he told you so, o-o-oh. So the least you could do would be to accept your failure with quiet dignity and grace, amirite?

I’m wrong. She appealed. On behalf of herself and her real biological children.

Quiet Dignity and Grace

And they lost, and Emily won.

Emily won against her “ex-a’mom,” who recently spent thirty-three million dollars buying islands, but who fought in court against shelling out a dime, let alone the rightful amount, to the daughter she promised to treat as a biological child forever. Emily won. Emily also lost. Such is adoption. The End.

To those of you who live outside AdoptoLand, this really happened. A woman passed a home study and said all the right things and signed all the right papers and paid all the right people and went through so so so much to bring a beautiful Chinese girl into her family. Then she ditched that girl and tried to deny her her inheritance over her dead husband’s wishes. A woman really did this. A woman who would no more miss the thousands or millions Emily is owed than she’d miss a stain removed from her carpet…which is more than she apparently misses or thinks about Emily herself. I can only conclude that Ms. S always found her “real” children more worthy than she ever found her adopted daughter.

It’s true I have no idea why Ms. S decided to get rid of Emily, but that doesn’t matter: Forever means forever. If those who tout adoption wants its critics to believe a thing they say, they need to call out the bad actors, and call them out hard. (I haven’t seen anyone defending Ms. S yet, but I’m sure someone will.) But they don’t. They didn’t with Tedaldi or Hansen or the Poeterays. Those who tout adoption need to stop circling the wagons to defend adoptive parents who do shitty horrible things and put the blame on children.

BTW, Ms. Ellen (author of article), the Svenningsens were not Emily’s “first family.” Not unless we’re growing little Chinese girls in Petri dishes now.

PS: Read Lauri Lee’s comment for more info.

ABC News story here.



Filed under Colonialism ROCKS!, Forever Family, You're going to Hell for this.

22 responses to “Eat the Rich (Before They Eat Their Imported, Adopted Young)

  1. Brent Snavely

    I wonder if “mommy” is burning right now…

  2. TAO

    Apparently you had the same reaction I did – but you have the words to explain. Well done!

  3. Gaye Tannenbaum

    Spot on as always!
    I haven’t seen anyone defend the ex-a’mom but I have seen lots of a-defenders who spout things like “would you rather she grew up in an orphanage?” whenever stories like this come out.

    • If this gets publicized enough and nobody defends her, it will simply be because we’ve finally gotten that angry at the super-rich…and about damned time.

      (Wonder when we’ll be angry enough to expect them to pay their fair share of taxes?)

  4. So much for a forever family….and they have the nerve to call adoptees the “bastards” huh?

  5. Lauri Lee

    Obviously this woman had to ditch her adopted child before she remarried because she would have ruined the aesthetic of her bridesmaid/daughter photographs by not being freaky blonde and matching… Evidently this woman is an “artist” whose excuse for buying islands is “They’re like little pieces of art. I get to put my brush to them.” and likes to daub furniture “with bright fish and other nautical themes.”

    More photos of the smugs who evidently wanted to keep it in the bio as much as mommy…

    The special needs school Emily was sent to hardly seems worth mentioning as special needs (given the implications people read into those words when it comes to intercountry adoptees being the most needy of needy) since, for all we could guess she may have been suffering from depression and anxiety which would be highly understandable in her situation.

    BTW, good for Emily, she is indeed special!

  6. Wow! The bridesmaids at that wedding appear to be cringing and/or bookin’ it out of there as fast as they can in those getups.

    And that family… It’s wrong of me to say I find them insipid-looking, but I do.

    I’m not surprised about the school. “Special needs” has a very broad definition when it comes to adoptees, after all.

    “…[W]ithin the foster care and child welfare systems, a child or youth with special needs has a factor or condition (uniquely defined by each State) that may involve any of the following:

    Ethnic or racial background
    Membership in a sibling group
    Medical, physical, or emotional disabilities
    Risk of physical, mental, or emotional disability based on birth family history
    Any condition that makes it more difficult to find an adoptive family

    “These broader definitions of ‘special needs’ may be used to determine eligibility for Federal financial assistance for adoption of children and youth from the U.S. foster care system.”

    Good for Emily indeed. Thanks for posting those links, Lauri Lee!

    • Lauri Lee

      Yeah, it’s probably also wrong of me to refer to them as freaky blonde, but that is one hyper-homogenous bio-look! BTW, I CAN tell which one is the boy…

      I really hate that term “special needs”, it tells you nothing but alludes to being able to refer to something.

      “In December 2003, Christine placed Emily at the Devereux Glenholme School based upon a diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder. The staff at Devereux did not concur with that diagnosis. Petitioners worked at Devereux. Maryann states that after Emily was enrolled at Devereux petitioners would often care for her on weekends. In 2004, Christine informed Emily that she was going to surrender her for adoption … It appears that Emily has thrived living with petitioners.”

      Petitioners are Emily’s second adoptive family.

  7. I am glad for Emily that she won, and why am I not surprised that her “special need” was a trumped-up diagnosis of RAD? What a creepy family she escaped.

  8. T Laurel Sulfate et al, there is an article in the NY Times today titled “We Found Our Son in the Subway.” People in the Comments and on facebook are gushing and weeping and proclaiming over and over that it is the most beautiful story they have ever read. What a lucky boy! What a wise and brilliant judge, who on what appears to be a whim proposed that the man who found the baby become his adoptive father. The judge was working on a *hunch* that the guy would be a good dad–what a genius! I sputtered on facebook that the dads have totally violated this child’s privacy by sharing the private and intimate details of his life in the freakin’ NY TIMES…I wish people would stop passionately weighing in on the subject of adoption when they know NOTHING about it.

  9. TAO

    New article and it gets worse…she adopted another and gave him up in between…

    • Lauri Lee

      Why doesn’t that surprise me that much? And how awfully cynical I must have become to write the previous sentence…

      I do love this comment from the story (that has a pic of Christine with “The Child Collector” across it – she seems better at collecting islands that kids though) on

      “I feel for this woman. When your spouse has cancer, it is not uncommon to do crazy things just to get by. Some spouses start blogs. Others research alternative medicines. This woman just happened to adopt Asian children she didn’t really want. It is all part of the grieving process when a loved one has cancer.

      I had a loved one that had cancer. I found myself doing the strangest things. Some nights I would stay up all night scrap booking, other nights I’d roam the streets killing stray animals. It was all part of the process. It is easy for us to sit in judgment of a woman who just adopts willy nilly, but what would you do?

      I remember one night I was grieving so bad I stole an ice cream truck. I drove that thing around until I found a handsome family and, to be honest, I abducted them. Would I have done that if my loved one wasn’t seriously ill? Probably not. Even today when I bring that family food and then lock them in the small room in my basemt I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. But in the end, I am grieving, and there is no right or wrong when it comes to that. Now that Robin (Robin Roberts the newscaster) is back on the air, I am starting to feel better.

      Anyway, just trying to say that there are different stages and ways to grieve. We shouldn’t judge.

      P.S. Hey, Robin, if you’re reading this.”

      It seems to be winding people up but I thought it was hilarious! Scrapbooking is such a sinister pathology…

  10. TAO

    Lauri Lee – I can completely understand doing things your wouldn’t do while grieving…although generally, I would think it would be impulsive versus a long drawn out, major paperwork, medical screening, interviews, waiting to be referred a child, waiting for travel dates, travel. At the same time…what was the social workers excuse, or the agencies excuse, for approving the second adoption? We are constantly told how grueling the process is to ensure the parent(s) are ready to parent…don’t you think they should have tweaked to something hinky?

    • Lauri Lee

      I should have linked to the page so you could see the context.

      The Child Collector’s excuse for her actions were:
      “”Maybe I should not have gone to China. Everyone advised me not to continue with the adoption, but I just wanted things to go on as planned. My world was falling apart. My husband had cancer. Somehow I thought if I stuck to the plan, everything would be okay,” she said.”

      The parody commentator MauryCompson was taking the piss out of using grief as an excuse.

      And yes, you do have to wonder about the social worker home-studies, and post-adoption follow up. I suspect people saw money, and it blinded them. Perhaps Mr Svenningsen was a more compelling PAP than Mrs S turned out as an AP, seems to have been his idea to adopt, and perhaps they did not divulge his cancer prior to finalising the adoption. The second adoption happened after Mr S died and before Mrs S did the short sharp shrift outta the house to Emily. Perhaps, still blinded by money, and under the delusion the first adoption was a success the agency etc proceeded to remain uncritical of this family. I tend to think that adoption screening and home-studies is a joke. I would like to see the percentage of families that actually failed, because something is so wrong with this system that they either have to be passing just about everyone, or they are failing to hire psychologists who can compile surveys to profile those who aren’t suitable.

      Christine Svenningsen seems to have some aspects of a signature transracial adoptive parent abuser (large bio family, adoption out of “charity”, the only things that might be missing are religious fundamentalism and homeschooling). The current articles have brought out that she punished Emily for not obeying house rules by making her sleep in a tent for a week and subsequently taken to hospital for being covered in insect bites, and that she made her eat separately.

      There has got to be an easy way to profile this kind of personality. Like asking:
      How many bio children do you have?
      As a parent are you a disciplinarian, or are you a clean freak, or have any other control based issue?
      Do you feel moved by either God, your church, or your spouse to adopt?
      Do you believe it is a charitable thing to give a needy child a home?
      Do you intend to homeschool these children, or ship them out to a boarding school?
      Do you expect unconditional love from a child you adopt?

      I’d be failing PAPs left right and centre.

      • TAO

        Lauri Lee – no worries – I would be failing many PAP’s as well I am sure – but yet anyone will state that the homestudy proves they are fit…no in Washington State – they are JUST putting in legislation to require that how they intend to discipline be included in the homestudy (of course the AP senator feels it isn’t necessary and an intrusion for PAPs). If the fact that it is 2013 and it wasn’t required before – isn’t facepalm worthy I don’t know what is. Perhaps if they start doing that they won’t have to do any more studies into the spike of adoptees deaths (or severe abuse) on a regular basis (the report was distressing to read to say the least, that sparked the study).

        I didn’t read the gawker – I read about the second adoption after her husband died in the NY Daily News but it too had the discipline as well.

      • Lauri Lee

        Wow! Discipline was only broached this year!? [I guess the Williams and the Trebilcocks were a bit hard to ignore]. So, I take it, that the home-study content decided by the state?

        Oh, the other question I would ask is: Do you think attachment therapy has any merit? And hand anyone who answered yes, a Go To Jail card – do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

        The Gawker article is just derivative of the NY Daily News one, just no one commenting on the Daily News was as entertaining as Maury.

  11. Oh hey look! Ms. Svenningsen is now known online as someone “who gave up the daughter she adopted from China and then tried to cut the young girl out of her deceased husband’s $250 million estate”


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