CHRISTIANSBURG (WSLS 10) – It was a long way home for one Montgomery County family, as they fought for four years to bring back their adopted daughter from Ethiopia.
Tom and Whitney Blaszak went to Ethiopia for the first time more than four years ago on a mission trip.
They said adoption was the last thing on their minds, as they were just in the process of starting their own biological family.
However, all of that suddenly changed, when a six-year-old girl named Tigest walked in, climbed in their laps and stole their hearts.
They said they knew they had been sent there for one reason: to become her mommy and daddy.
That process turned out to be much longer and harder than they could have dreamed.
The Blaszaks’ first adoption agency quit on them after a year. The agency said if another family qualified for Tigest before the Blaszaks did, it would give Tigest away to whoever was first in line.
Their second agency, International Adoption Guides, was busted by U.S. federal prosecutors for fraud.
According to federal court documents, IAG was bribing Ethiopian leaders to get kids who were not actually orphans, and adopting them out to unsuspecting American families. IAG workers targeted deaf children, used personal bank accounts to avoid detection and had orphanages forge documents. They even asked some adopting parents to personally deliver bribes for them, with the instructions to keep it discrete.
When that agency went down, the Blaszaks lost $8,000 they had saved up of the $35,000 they needed to adopt. They were unaware of the fraud until investigators stepped in and uncovered the truth. The family was heartbroken at the news, and had to start fundraising again from scratch.
Ethiopia temporarily shut down adoptions to the U.S. in light of the scandal.
When adoptions reopened, the family turned to a third agency.
“There are no final no’s,” said Whitney Blaszak. “We have had a lot of no’s, a lot of impossible things. But here we are.”
In July, they finally welcomed Tigest Sophia Hope Blaszak into their home as their legal daughter.
Three top executives at IAG pleaded guilty to fraud charges. They are all scheduled to be sentenced in South Carolina district court in August.