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Couple deny allegations that led birth parents to halt adoption
Saturday, November 29, 2008
By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Michael and Kathy Kravas attended the doctor's appointments and looked
at the sonogram pictures of the baby they planned to adopt. They met
the birth parents and spent hours talking and visiting with them.

They even helped to decorate the nursery.

But on June 1, the day the new addition to the Kravas family was to go
home with them, the bottom fell out.

The birth parents changed their minds.

When the Kravases found out why, they were dumbfounded.

They learned from a family friend that employees at the adoption
agency they had been working with told the birth mother that Mrs.
Kravas had four felony convictions on her record. And that Mr. Kravas
didn't want a baby, but a dog.

Neither is true, and the Kravases have filed an 18-page federal
lawsuit against Private Adoption Services Inc. and its executive
director, Carolyn Mussio, and her daughter, Terri Mussio, who is a
social worker there.

The lawsuit alleges fraud, negligent infliction of emotional distress
and breach of fiduciary duty.

An attorney who represents both the Cincinnati-based agency and the
Mussios would not comment on the case.

In a court filing answering the lawsuit, the defendants deny all of
the allegations.

The Kravases, who live in Penn Hills, were too emotional to talk about
the situation, but their attorney, Michael Robic, said it has
devastated his clients.

"I think that whole series of events has crippled them emotionally,"
Mr. Robic said. "And then to have to explain ... it's just been a

Mrs. Kravas has lost more than 20 pounds since the adoption fell
through, and she continues to take antidepressants.

The lawsuit alleges that the agency and the Mussios "intentionally
thwarted the adoption" and "orchestrated a scheme to have the baby
adopted by another family in exchange for the promise of more money
than the defendants had charged the plaintiffs."

The Kravases, who went through a required home study, were to pay
$8,000 to facilitate the adoption. The lawsuit also says that the
couple was expected to pay the birth mother's insurance deductible for
the birth.

When asked by the Kravases why the adoption fell through, Carolyn
Mussio told the couple that the birth mother had changed her mind and
that she felt no connection to the plaintiffs.

She didn't mention to them any statements about felony convictions or
wanting a dog. Mr. Robic said Mrs. Kravas does have an arrest in the
past for shoplifting an item less than $4 that was handled by a
district judge. That was revealed during the Kravases' background
checks, and the birth mother was aware of it, Mr. Robic said.

When the couple spoke to Carolyn Mussio, she told the Kravases that
she still might be able to find them another baby within a month.

"Carolyn also took this opportunity to tell the plaintiffs, for the
first time, and contrary to prior statements, that she, Terri and PAS
were not working for them, but for the birth mother," the lawsuit

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption
Institute, a policy, research and education organization, said it's
essential that an agency work for both sides.

"Good, ethical practices entails serving everybody's needs and means
acting purely transparently in all regards," he said.

Mr. Pertman was concerned that people might look at this example and
think that all adoptions work this way.

"It's an aberration," he said. "The consequences are much bigger than
to the parties themselves."

Private Adoption Services is not licensed to do business in
Pennsylvania. Therefore, the company should "absolutely" not have been
working with a couple here, said Stacey Witalec, a spokeswoman with
the state Department of Public Welfare.

"In my seven years here, I've never heard of an adoption agency doing
business without a license," she said.

Her organization will be in contact with its Ohio counterpart to
initiate an investigation.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services was unable to pull
specific records on Private Adoption Services and could not answer how
long it has been in business, or if there have been any complaints
filed against it.

It is rare for an adoption to deteriorate in the way the Kravases'
did, Mr. Pertman said.

There are approximately 130,000 adoptions each year in the United
States. Of those, about 15,000 are infant adoptions originating from
this country.

In infant adoptions, birth parents typically change their minds about
50 percent of the time at some point through the course of the
pregnancy, he said. But if professionals are involved in the
facilitation, it happens less often. And usually, if there is a
breakdown, it happens long before the baby's birth.

The Kravases are seeking money damages from Private Adoption Services
and the Mussios.

"We're not seeking to undo this adoption," Mr. Robic said. "My clients
were adamant about that. They don't want to put anyone else through
something like this."

Paula Reed Ward can be reached at pward(a) or
First published on November 29, 2008 at 12:00 am