Late November 2008, 20/20 aired a special entitled, From Russia With Love — Dealing With Difficult Adoptions. Mike and Tanya Mulligan shared their Russian adoption story.
The couple adopted Margarita and her sister Elena from Russia when they were 11 and 8 years old in July 2004. Soon after the couple adopted a 4-year-old little boy named Sasha, also from Russia. They renamed him Slater.
The Mulligans were very open with the difficult behaviors they deal with on a daily basis as they attempt to parent children with multiple diagnoses. They are even going forward with a lawsuit as they feel their adoption agency was less than honest regarding the needs of their children.
Many judged the Mulligans after seeing the 20/20 special. However, there were still more that seemed to understand the family's struggle. I felt there was more to this story and was interested in finding answers to the questions that floated around the Web. So, when I received an email from Mike and Tanya Mulligan, I was extremely excited.
I was right, there was more to the story. According to the Mulligans, 20/20 interviewed with the family for 30 hours and had access to 4 years of video provided by the family. It was originally going to be a 15 minute segment, but grew into an hour long special.
I spent 3 hours on the phone with the Mulligans. I could hear the activity of their family in the background. I listened as Elena stepped into the room to tell her dad goodnight and enjoyed the couple's excellent sense of humor. Here are some things I learned from the Mulligan family:
Foster Care to International
Carrie Craft -"Why did you choose to adopt internationally instead of through the foster care system?"
The Mulligan’s shared that while living in California; they had gone through foster parenting classes and were licensed foster parents. But after some soul searching, Tanya felt that she was not up to working with birth families and the coming and going of foster children.
Tanya -“I didn’t want my home to have a revolving door. Once in our home, I wanted the children to feel that this was their home.”
The Mulligans became interested in international adoption after seeing an ad. The couple stated that the adoption agency only had positive things to report about the children in Russia who were in need of homes. The Mulligans feel that the children were marketed to them. The couple was told that the children of Russia were just in unfortunate circumstances and want loving homes. They were also told that the children in Russia have no trouble bonding and were really great kids.
The True History
The adoption agency told the Mulligans that the girls came from a loving family, that dad had died and they were so poor that mom couldn’t do it on her own anymore and had to place the girls in the orphanage.
Tanya - “The only part of that story that's true is that dad died. It was reported that dad had drowned, mom started drinking and became a prostitute."
Tanya told the story of when Elena told her adoptive grandma that she didn’t understand why mom(Tanya) didn’t have 2 jobs, because Russian mom had 2 jobs. Elena then went on to say that Russian mom sold bus tickets during the day and had 37 boyfriends at night. “She sells sex,” Elana explained to her new grandmother.
Tanya chuckled after retelling this story during our phone interview. “All mom could say after that is, ‘do you want ice cream on your pie.’”
Tanya learned that when birthmom couldn’t care for her children, she placed them with her mother who seemed to be resentful of the children being in her care. Grandmother used to beat Elena. It was also reported by the girls that grandma used to beat their baby brother with a cane. They do not know if the little boy lived or died.
According to Tanya the sisters were a part of a program that places Russian children into American pre-adoptive homes for two weeks during the summer. Margarita and Elena were a part of this program prior to being adopted by the Mulligans. The adoption agency would not allow the Mulligans to speak to the woman who kept the girls. They later learned, that the woman felt that Margarita was too mean to the other children. She further described Margarita as jealous of the other children and mean to Elena when Elena got attention.
Slater came to live at a Russian Children’s Home with forty-four other children at the age of four after neighbors heard a child crying for several days in an empty apartment. In Russia, it is not allowed to put "father unknown" on the birth certificate, the named father doesn’t exist. Mother died at 27, and no cause is listed on the death certificate. That information is not required in Russia.
Slater told the Mulligans that his bio dad shot himself in the head. They wonder if this is true and if it is, did he witness the shooting.
Carrie Craft -"I think many people were upset by the video that was shown on 20/20 of Margarita’s melt down, especially since it was reported that the girls had only been home for less than a week. If that time frame was true, why did you choose to videotape her behavior? Did you ever consider that perhaps she was grieving and confused by new surroundings?"
Tanya -"The tantrum that was shown on 20/20 went on for 3 hours. It was a week into being home. We tried to hug her, rock her, to comfort her. I showed Margarita a book of pictures with Russian words showing – sick, headache, cold, sad, angry. I pointed to the pictures and tried to ask her what was wrong. Margarita took the book and ripped it up. Margarita hit, kicked, kneed Mike in the groin and spit on us whenever we offered comfort. When Margarita’s behavior started to upset Elena, I took Elena out for a drive to comfort her. Mike picked up the video camera because he didn’t think anyone would believe us that this was 3 hours later. It was also a protection to him since he was home alone with Margarita."
They contacted the adoption agency for support. They were told, “No one else is having this problem. You just need to try harder. You’re the only one having this problem.”Language Barrier, Finances & Adopting Again
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