"I didn't want him to fail," said Anne Marie. "I would be constantly mediating between him and the rest of the world. My husband became bitter. He would say, 'You know, you have other family besides Chad.' "
In the winter of 1995, Anne Marie, always policing her son, picked him up after school and was driving him home past snow-covered pastures and well-tended horse barns. "I said, 'Chad, you're doing so well. You're on the high-honor roll, you have friends, but still you don't seem happy.' " Chad watched Anne Marie for a while as she drove, unable to speak. Then he did. "I can't be happy," he said quietly, "until I know what happened to my real father."
That February, Anne Marie wrote another letter to the adoption agency, asking for help. Three months later, the agency in Korea responded. A mistake had been made. The woman the agency thought was Chad's mother was not. They had located Chad's father, now a ginseng salesman in Chinju, and he missed his son terribly. The agency refused to include the father's address but agreed to act as a go-between for the families. A price list for forwarding and translating letters was enclosed.
"It was unbelievable, a bombshell," says John. "For five years, we had begged for information, only to be told that Chad's memories were wrong. Now it turns out they were right. What could we do?"
Anne Marie sets her mouth with anger when she talks about that day. "A child is not a rubber ball that you can reshape."
Tim Sutfin understands the Ostrowskis' anger. But, he says, according to his records, Chad's father was willing to give him up but had left the task to his girlfriend. It was the girlfriend, Sutfin claims, not Eastern or New Beginnings, who gave Chad's last name as Kang instead of Park. Both agencies took her word over that of the 7-year-old child.
For Chad, the news was all the proof he needed. He quickly wrote a letter, in English: "Dear Dad," he wrote, "this is your son, Yong Seong." He told his long-lost father about his sports activities and asked about his brothers and sisters. After a few months, he got back a carefully worded letter from his sister. At the time of his adoption, the family had been scattered, she explained. "Don't resent your father for what he did," she wrote. "We will always be family. But stay in the U.S. and get a good education."
For the Ostrowskis, those letters marked the beginning of Chad's plunge into darkness. The fighting at home veered out of control. Punished, he would be sent to his room, where he would systematically vandalize his bedroom furniture. He punched his walls so hard they were dented.
"One time I woke up from a nap to hear Chad pulling down his bookshelves, throwing chairs at the wall," recalls John II. "My mother had gone into his room, and he was screaming, 'Don't tell me what to do! You are not my real mother.' I put my pillow over my head and thought, 'I can't believe this is my life.' "
Between imbroglios, Chad would try to come up with practical, if adolescent, solutions to his inner turmoil. If he improved his behavior, would Anne Marie and John let him become a foreign-exchange student? Would they let him spend a year in Korea?