03 Oct 2011

The Author

Author of the award-winning book Finding Fernanda. Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. Redux Pictures photographer. Read more here.


Florida Family Files Lawsuit Against Celebrate Children International; Alleges Misconduct

Adoptive parents Jeanna and Michael Malota filed a lawsuit on September 21, 2011 against Celebrate Children International (CCI), the adoption agency in my book, Finding Fernanda. The Malotas have accused CCI of false reporting, saying that the agency had hidden the fact that one of the children they offered to the Malotas had “extensive special needs” and will require “a lifetime of extensive treatment.” The child, referred to by the initials “LM” in the court filing, is said to have been offered in adoption as a healthy child.

The suit goes on to say that “LM” was hospitalized after displaying “violent and aggressive behavior,” and that the child has been removed from the Malotas’ home. According to the suit, both children’s adoptions have been “halted.”

Specifically, the Malotas have accused Celebrate Children International of violating Florida Code Rule 65C-14.028, 65C-14.029, 65C-16.002(7), 65C-16.002(9), 65C-16.036(2), 65C-16.085(2)(a).

Read the court filing about the lawsuit here: http://findingfernanda.com/documents/malota.pdf

Update 10/3/2011, 11:40 AM EST: The Florida Department of Children and Families say that they have never been made aware of this case– meaning that the Malota family has never filed a complaint with them.

Update 10/5/2011 11:30 AM EST: Celebrate Children International has not responded to questions about the suit.

Richard Filson, attorney for the Malota family, told me that he’s currently involved in two other lawsuits against adoption agencies that are very similar, both based on alleged negligent representation and a failure to disclose information.

One of these suits, he said, involves the adoption agency Florida Home Studies and Adoption. Coincidentally, that’s the where Sue Hedberg, the director of Celebrate Children International, worked before starting at CCI.

Filson also explained to me that the Guatemalan foster parents (cuidadoras) who cared for the child in question had expressed concerns about his/her medical condition prior to the culmination of the Malota’s adoption. He also said that both children’s adoptions were disrupted after they immigrated to the United States. He said he wasn’t sure had happened to them, or where they are today.

The kids could have ended up in state foster care, or perhaps with another family. I’ve requested an interview with the Malota family.



  1. wish I could talk with this family to let them know that a report to the State of FL would be very helpful even at this point in showing a pattern of ethics issues that seems to keep coming to light with this agency

  2. Adoption of foreign children, especially older children comes with consdierable risk. All five of mine and my 3 grand children adopted from CCI as well as a huge network I am a part of have no issue what so ever with the competency of CCI.

    I have 2 special needs bio kids. Who do I file a law suit with about that? After all my prayers for ehalthy children were answered as I wanted.

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