Thousands of foreign-born children are adopted by American parents each year, and experts say most of these adoptions go smoothly as once-abandoned children and their newfound parents cleave together to become a family. Foreign-adoption horror stories, the ones that make the news, are the exceptions to the rule. Mentally impaired kids -- those suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome or those with catastrophic emotional damage -- are palmed off on eager would-be parents whose love and financial resources are quickly tapped out. Every year, a handful of parents of these difficult and sometimes dangerous children essentially throw up their hands and return their adopted children to the care of strangers. Officials at New Beginnings insist that is what happened with the Ostrowskis.
"From our records of our counseling sessions with the Ostrowskis before they returned Chad to Korea, it was clear that their intention was to sever ties with their son," says Tim Sutfin, executive director of New Beginnings. "Once they took Chad back to Korea, they took his passport and his green card in order to ensure he never came back."
The Ostrowskis angrily deny that assertion. They say they allowed Ki Joon Park to take back his son in order to give the boy a chance to live the life he ought to have had all along -- not as Chad Ostrowski but as Yong Seong Park.
"People ask me, how could you give up your son," says John Ostrowski, wiping away tears. "But they don't understand. We love Chad. We felt we had to act to save his life. Any parent would have done it."
John and Anne Marie Ostrowski seem like the kind of well-to-do, good-looking couple you'd find on the sidelines of a suburban soccer game. They live in a big wood-frame house on a tailored country lane in the heart of post-and-rail northern Westchester County -- a place where bridle paths can be better maintained than back roads. Theirs is one of the newer homes on a subdivided estate; it's spacious and light and modern, surrounded by manicured beds of perennials and dogwood, apple, and plum trees -- gardening is Anne Marie's passion. Tall and solid, John Ostrowski speaks with the steady deliberation of a man who knows his mind. After 22 years of marriage, John still inclines toward his wife when they talk, and there is something about the Ostrowskis that makes you think of two teenagers on a date.
John has made a good living as the operations director of a New Jersey-based real-estate trust. Throughout the house there are snapshots of the family on the beach during their annual vacation in Cape May, from winter trips to the Caribbean, of Chad and John II with Mickey during one of the family's eight trips to Disney World. In most of the pictures, Anne Marie, then an executive at Marine Midland bank in Rockland County, looks tanned, happy, and slightly hassled, like any mother of two on vacation. John II has a carefree smile. As a boy, Chad also grinned at the camera. Later on, he would only scowl, typically adolescent and moody. The Ostrowskis' photo album reflects an average family. But Anne Marie knows that those pictures tell only a small part of the truth about their life.