An American family adopted Russian-born Dmitri Stewart at the age of three. But the young Dmitri never really felt like he fitted in with them. And when his adoptive parents later had kids of their own, he knew for certain that he wasn’t wanted. In fact, the family had turned to the internet to find somewhere to dump the son they’d adopted.
Dmitri’s life began on the outskirts of Moscow in Russia. Yet although he was living in an orphanage, Dmitri was not alone. With him was his older brother, Andrey. Then, sometime in the late 1990s, an American family adopted the two boys and moved them to Florida.
According to Dmitri, though, the family relocated to Fife, Scotland, in 2004 after Dmitri alleged that his adoptive parents – William and Victoria Stewart – had physically abused him. Although the claims were never proven, the relationship with the Stewarts was apparently a difficult one.
His dad also claimed that Dmitri was distant and would often lose his temper. And the strained relationship within the family contributed to Dmitri, by now a teenager, acting out. “[I was] drinking and stuff, and I got into trouble,” Dmitri subsequently told the Daily Record. “They thought I was too out of control for them.” At that point, too, his adoptive parents had three biological kids of their own.
Dmitri, however, saw his behavior as being typical of teenagers in the area. His relationship with the family had nonetheless virtually disintegrated by the time that he was 13. In fact, he and his brother, Andrey, were moved into their own apartment in nearby Dalgety Bay and only saw their dad a few times each month to get money and groceries.
“It was so hard growing up with them because they treated their own kids a lot better,” Dmitri explained. “They would say things like, ‘I wish we had never adopted you.’ It was hurtful and didn’t make sense while I was young. It made me angry.”
Deciding that he no longer wanted Dmitri in the family, William then began looking for ways to get rid of him. And with earlier run-ins with the authorities still etched in his mind, William turned to the internet for help. That’s when he found a group on Yahoo called adoption_disruption.
The adoption_disruption group was dedicated to a practice called “private re-homing.” Its intention, at least in the eyes of William Stewart, was to help out parents having difficulty coping with their adopted kids. The group claimed that it would provide assistance in finding those children new homes when their parents could no longer cope.
And it was via adoption_disruption that William was put in contact with Nicole Eason. Nicole and her husband were seemingly desperate to raise children in their Danville, Illinois, home-school. She claimed that they had been approved as suitable foster parents by the authorities in Illinois and that the couple had fostered before.
William Stewart had, however, never even met Nicole or Calvin Eason before he sent Dmitri to go to live with them. Moreover, he had never seen any paperwork affirming their suitability as foster parents, and he had never visited their home. His choice was based purely on the recommendation of an adoption_disruption moderator called Megan Exon.
Megan Exon claims that she had the best of intentions. In fact, she said that she got involved in moderating adoption_disruption after her husband spotted an ad for a Taiwanese boy aged four who was being given up just for having unusual ears and large feet. She believed, then, that the kids deserved better, and as she’d recently taken in a child herself, she wanted to help in any way she could.
“We were just introducing people,” Exon later told Reuters. However, the then 41-year-old mom from North Carolina was neither an adoption specialist nor a social worker. “The only thing we facilitated was bringing people together,” she added.
Exon had spotted Nicole’s posts in the adoption_disruption group and even spoken on the phone with her. She felt no reason to suspect that Nicole was anything other than a keen wannabe mother who ran a home-school. And so she put William Stewart in touch with her.
When William and Dmitri arrived at Nicole’s Illinois home in March 2007, however, a different story began to emerge. “It was really decrepit,” William later told Reuters. He also said that he “was really torn” about abandoning Dmitri in that place.
Dmitri remembered that the cinder-block house was nearly entirely bereft of furniture, with unwashed dishes stacked up in the sink. And even more disturbingly, none of the bedrooms had doors. According to Dmitri, Nicole explained to him that this was because she liked to watch him sleep.
Far from the home-school that he had expected, Dmitri said that in fact he never attended school at all. Instead, the then 14-year-old stayed at home smoking cigarettes that the Easons supplied him with. And there he remained for the next month, along with an eight-year-old girl the couple had taken in.
Within a matter of weeks, however, the Easons had a knock at the door – from the police. Lynne Banks, a regular in the adoption_disruption group, had come across Nicole’s profile. And something didn’t sit right with her, so she alerted Megan, who called the authorities.
When the officer decided that nothing inappropriate was occurring, though, Megan took matters into her own hands. She and a friend, with their own kids in tow, drove ten hours to the Eason house and wouldn’t leave without Dmitri and the eight-year-old girl. Despite being reluctant to come at first, Dmitri eventually relented after the promise of a hamburger.
As the true story of Nicole’s background emerged, it was revealed that all of her claims in the adoption group were bogus. In fact, she wasn’t allowed to foster kids because she had previously been married to a pedophile. Wracked with guilt, Megan began to try to put the situation right. She took in the girl, while Dmitri stayed with her friend from the Yahoo group.
Megan ended her involvement with the adoption_disruption group and took steps to legally adopt the eight-year-old girl herself. And after seeing out his teenage years in a legal foster home in Georgia, Dmitri remains in the state close to his brother, who arrived there when the Stewarts returned to the U.S.