QuoteReplyTopic: Adopted Girl "Re-homed" After Reporting Sex Abuse Posted: Mar 21 2014 at 2:55pm
an Internet forum where parents sought takers for adopted children they
no longer wanted, a teenager from Haiti was offered more frequently
than any other girl.
Starting at age 14, Nita Dittenber was passed among four families (like a damn slave) over two years through a practice called “private re-homing.”
In September, Reuters exposed an underground market in
which desperate parents use online bulletin boards to offer adoptees to
strangers, often illegally and with no government oversight. The
Internet forums, including the Yahoo group where Nita was advertised,
can enable abusers to acquire children easily; in one case, an Illinois
man who’s now in prison on child pornography charges took home a
10-year-old boy hours after an ad for the child was posted online.
In the last home where
Nita was sent, re-homing served a different purpose, Ohio prosecutors
contend. They say it was used to silence Nita and another girl in an
effort to conceal the repeated sexual abuse of children.
17 months – from early 2011 until July 2012 – Nita lived in the Ohio
city of Marysville with Jean Paul and Emily Kruse. Jean Paul was an
information-technology specialist with the Ohio National Guard. Emily
was a stay-at-home mother. The Kruses, who already had multiple
biological and adoptive children in their home, were the fourth family
to take custody of Nita in America.
Not long after she was
sent there, Nita says, the younger Kruse children told her they were
being molested by Jean Paul. Nita says she struggled for months over
whether to speak up about the allegations, fearing she’d be thrown out
of the house and sent to yet another set of strangers if she did.
“I didn’t want to get passed around anymore,” Nita, now 18, says in an interview.
reason: Kruse discovered that Nita had told relatives of the Kruses
about the abuse accusations. Prosecutors say Emily sent Nita away to
ensure the teen “would not be around to answer questions or participate
in the resulting investigation.” They say another girl – an alleged
victim of the abuse – was also threatened by Emily with re-homing unless
she wrote a letter saying her accusations against Jean Paul were “not
Jean Paul Kruse, 41, has
pleaded not guilty to 17 felony criminal counts, including raping two of
his daughters and sexually abusing another daughter. He and his
attorney didn’t respond to interview requests. Emily Kruse, 36, has
pleaded not guilty to felony charges of obstructing justice and
intimidating a witness. She declined to comment; her attorney did not
respond to questions.
Editor's Note:Today's story is part of a series of online and broadcast reports on adoption by Reuters and NBC News. Click here to read the Reuters version of this story. Click here to read the first five stories on re-homing from Reuters.
RE-HOMED LIKE A PET
Since the late 1990s,
Americans have adopted about 243,000 children from other countries. If
the failure rate of international adoptions is similar to the rate at
which domestic adoptions fail – estimates by the federal government
range from about 10 percent to 25 percent – then more than 24,000
foreign adoptees may no longer be with the parents who brought them to
No government agency
tracks what happens to these children after they reach America, and none
monitors how frequently children are transferred to strangers via the
Internet. But on a single online message board examined by Reuters—a
Yahoo group called Adopting-from-Disruption — a child was offered for
re-homing about once a week during a five-year period. Most of the
children were adopted from overseas. One was Nita.
After Reuters published
messages from the Yahoo group, Nita’s original adoptive aunt began
reading the posts. Reporters had removed names and other identifying
information. But Tammy Dittenber says she quickly recognized that some
of the messages were about Nita, based on details about her age,
nationality and state of residence.
says she knew that Nita’s adoptive parents – her in-laws, Tony and
Michelle Dittenber – had sent Nita to other families. But Tammy says she
had no idea how until she read the posts.
said, ‘Oh my God! All the puzzle pieces are coming into focus,’” Tammy
Dittenber recalls. “…I realized she had been re-homed the way you
re-home a pet.”
Nita Durand and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nita still speaks with
a trace of a Haitian accent. She says her birth parents were poor and
sent her to an orphanage when she was 9, hoping she would have a better
life than they had.
In 2009, Tony
and Michelle Dittenber adopted her and brought her to their home in
Nampa, Idaho, just outside Boise. Tony helps operate a food warehouse.
Michelle books flights for an airline.
was 13 at the time. She became one of nine Dittenber children, four
biological and five adopted, including Nita’s younger biological sister.
Each of the adoptees is Haitian.
The Dittenbers and Nita
clashed from the start. Nita had “behavioral issues,” Tony Dittenber
says. Nita says she thought the Dittenbers were harsh and treated her
After the family tried
without success to get help from social service agencies, Michelle says
she turned to the Internet. She had read offers for children in the
online forums. “My first thought was, ‘How can people do this?’”
Dittenber says. “Then as I read through it and read people’s stories and
what they’d been through, I understood.”
In August 2010, Michelle posted a message on the Yahoo group Adopting-from-Disruption. Her profile name: idmomofmany.
have a 14 year old daughter I adopted from Haiti,” she wrote.
“Unfortunately we are needing to find a new family for her. Where do we
It was the first of
several times Michelle offered Nita on the Yahoo group. In her posts,
Michelle portrayed Nita as a “bully” with an “attitude of entitlement.”
The girl “lies” and is “manipulative,” she wrote, but “does love little
kids very much” and has “a soft spot for elderly people as well.”
time they transferred custody of Nita, the Dittenbers used a notarized
power of attorney document stating that Nita was now in the care of the
new family, Tony says. No social workers or attorneys were involved, he
says, and there was no official vetting of the parents taking in Nita.
says she did not know that she had been advertised on the sites until
her aunt read the Reuters report and told her about it. “I didn't really
know what was going on,” Nita says. “I had no clue about where I was
going to live and for how long.”
The first two families to take Nita — one in Ohio, another in Idaho — sent her back to the Dittenbers.
Then, Nita was sent to the Kruse home in Marysville. It was her third move in less than a year. She was 15.
It seemed like a good option. Michelle says that the first Ohio family who’d taken in Nita knew and vouched for the Kruses.
2008, the couple also had been profiled in a heartwarming story
distributed by the Ohio National Guard, headlined “Nine is enough?” The
article described how the Kruses happily scrambled to care for their
At the time, the
story said, the Kruses had five biological children – four from previous
marriages — and four adopted overseas. A photo showed a grinning Jean
Paul tickling one of the adopted children, a girl born in Liberia.
“We wanted a girl
because they have it so hard there,” the story quotes him as saying.
“They are often raped and molested from a very young age.”
weeks of her arrival at the Kruse place, Nita alleges, several young
girls in the home told her they were being sexually abused by Jean Paul.
She says she wasn’t abused herself but was terrified to come forward.
It took her about nine months to share the allegations with Emily, she
says. When she finally did, Nita says, Emily accused her of lying and
promised to put her on a plane back to Idaho if she told anyone else.
Nita kept silent for
another eight months. “I was like, ‘I’m not about to ruin this one,’ ”
Nita says. The stress of being sent from family to family was
overwhelming, she says, leading her to suffer from an eating disorder
and contemplate suicide.
in July 2012, Nita and two of the girls were visiting with a Kruse
family relative. Nita says she recalls feeling glum that day, burdened
by what the young girls were continuing to tell her. The relative asked
her why she looked so down. Nita told her of the alleged abuse, and then
the other girls told their stories.
The relative took Nita and the girls to see other family members, Nita says, and they went over the allegations again.
In court documents,
authorities describe what happened next: After learning that the abuse
allegations had come to light, Emily picked up Nita at a local hospital
where the teen was working as a volunteer. Emily then took Nita directly
to the nearby airport in Columbus.
“did not tell the child where she was going and did not permit her to
pack her clothing or other belongings,” prosecutors allege in court
documents. At the airport, they say, she ordered Nita to get on a flight
to Boise so that the girl couldn’t be questioned in any investigation
of Jean Paul. The move was so abrupt, they allege, that Emily didn’t
give the Dittenbers advance notice that Nita was heading back to Idaho.
Dittenbers were away on vacation at the time, so they asked Tony’s
brother and sister-in-law, Michael and Tammy Dittenber, to pick up Nita.
When Nita walked off the plane, she “looked lost and really confused,”
Tammy wrote in a police statement as part of the Kruse criminal cases.
“…She said she had nothing. No suitcase, duffle bag, carry on, nothing.”
Almost immediately, Michelle Dittenber again began offering Nita for re-homing.
In a July 24, 2012, post on the Yahoo group, Michelle blamed Nita for the rupture with the Kruses.
last straw with the last family was her making allegations that the dad
in the family was sexually molesting all the kids but her,” Michelle
wrote. “…I would love to be done with her permanently.”
however, child welfare workers and police began to investigate the
Kruses. In August 2012, 10 children were removed from their home.
Later that summer,
police in Nampa, Idaho, interviewed Nita as part of the investigation.
Sgt. Don Peck says he never looked into how Nita came to live with the
Kruses. He says he had no reason to believe her custody transfer was
improper, despite an Idaho state law that prohibits anyone without a
state license from advertising children for adoptions.
Paul Kruse is scheduled for trial in May; Emily Kruse is scheduled for
trial in July. The two no longer live together, and some of the couple’s
children have been returned to Emily’s care.
Eventually, the Dittenbers sent Nita to Mercy Ministries, a Nashville residential treatment center for troubled girls.
December, Nita received a certificate for completing the program. In
her eight months at Mercy Ministries, she says, she recovered from her
eating disorder and regained a sense of self-worth, making friends and
bonding with staff.
Tony now say they regret their decisions to re-home Nita. Michelle
traveled to Nashville for Nita's graduation ceremony. For the first
time, Michelle discussed with Nita how she had used the Internet to seek
new families for her.
“I was like, I do
understand that you needed help…but there could have been murderers or
killers,” Nita says. “You don’t know those people. I could have been
Michelle says she told Nita that “she always has the option to come back home” to Idaho.
has no such plans. Today, she is living outside Nashville with Sandra
Booker, a nurse she met through church. With Booker’s help, Nita intends
to finish her education and “focus on the future.” Her ambition, she
says, is to return to Haiti and work with orphans.
a child is easy. No state or federal laws specifically prohibit it, and
state laws that restrict the advertising and custody transfers of
children are often confusing and rarely spell out criminal sanctions.
agreement among the 50 U.S. states called the Interstate Compact on the
Placement of Children, or ICPC, is meant to ensure that child welfare
authorities oversee custody transfers, review prospective parents and
account for what happens to children sent from one state to another.
Many law-enforcement officials – including police who investigated the
Kruse case – have never heard of the compact.
“I Just Felt Alone”
Even so, Ohio state
officials say prosecuting the Kruses for breaching the pact would be
futile. “There are no sanctions or criminal penalties in Ohio for
violating the ICPC,” said Benjamin Johnson, a deputy director of the
state’s Department of Job and Family Services.
handling the Kruse cases are now calling for state measures to address
re-homing, and other states have already taken action in response to the
Illinois, lawmakers held a hearing on the practice, and Colorado,
Florida and Wisconsin are moving forward with bills aimed at stopping
re-homing. “We need to protect kids who are literally being traded
between homes,” said Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who sponsored
the Wisconsin bill. The state senate passed the measure this week, and
it now awaits the governor’s signature. “This legislation puts Wisconsin
on the national forefront of addressing re-homing and attacking it head
on,” Kleefisch said.
At the federal level, a group of 18 Republican and Democratic members of Congress is seeking hearings to “identify ways to prevent these dangerous practices.” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, called for broad action
in a letter to Obama administration officials, writing that it was
“stunning” that “this practice of advertising children, usually over
state borders, does not seem to violate any federal laws.”
shut down the re-homing groups that Reuters brought to its attention,
saying the groups had violated its terms of service, and the Illinois attorney general is pressing Facebook
to explain how the social network polices itself. Reuters found that
adoptive parents also were offering unwanted children there on a private
page called Way Stations of Love. In a Jan. 21 letter responding to the
attorney general’s inquiries, Facebook said it had found “no evidence
of the type of Pages you described” but that “if people were discussing
the activity in closed Groups or in private messages, we do not know
about those communications unless they are reported to us.”
The problem is that the US are allowing people with 8 kids to adopt another child... that has to stop. If you have 5 kids, what makes you think you can handle another one? Those re-homing groups should be prohibited by law, those Americans are hurting those foreign children whom already went through a lot in their short lives and may end up in the child pornography industry thanks to as$holes who think they are the white knights those kids need.
Wow, it is so much going on in the US, I remember after the problem in Haiti all these white people were adopting black kids and I wondered, do they know how some of these kids were brought up, I'm not trying to be funny but different cultures are different. This is terrible.
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