Steller: Tucson couple in adoption scandal speaks out

2013-09-20T00:00:00Z 2013-09-20T13:11:30Z Steller: Tucson couple in adoption scandal speaks outTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Yes, Nicole and Calvin Eason are living in Tucson.

Yes, they have kids — three living with them in their long-term hotel rooms.

No, none of it is anybody else’s business.

Those are the answers I got Thursday to the questions I posed in last Friday’s column about the Tucson couple and their role in “private re-homing” adoptions. That’s the disturbing phenomenon in which parents who have adopted a child but regret it use informal Internet connections to find new parents for the child.

In various states, the Easons accepted kids from adoptive parents who couldn’t handle the children they had adopted — 11 times, Nicole said Thursday. But during an hourlong conversation at a Tucson Denny’s, Nicole Eason insisted that none of those children was meant to stay with her family permanently.

Rather, she said, they were giving the adoptive parents a “respite,” a term used in the adoption world.

“It gives the parents time to mellow out, chill, take away from everyday stress. It keeps the kids from going into the foster system or being re-homed when that’s really not what needs to be done,” Nicole Eason said.

Three adoptive parents who handed over a child to Eason told Reuters, in a series on private re-homing published last week, that they considered the hand-over permanent.

Calvin Eason remained largely quiet during my interview with the couple. But Nicole angrily criticized Reuters reporter Megan Twohey for what she said was unfair coverage.

“She was trying to get the story to go one way. And, dude, it doesn’t lean that way. You can only bend a tree so far,” she said. “She’s trying to say I was taking them in for good illegally. For one, that’s not true. For two, it is not a violation to do a respite.”

Talking with Nicole Eason, I couldn’t decide how much to believe. For example, she insisted that in 2008 she only took in Quita Puchalla, a Liberian girl living with her adoptive parents in Wisconsin, as a respite. But then the Easons moved from Illinois to New York, bringing Quita with them, and Nicole said she planned to keep the girl until she turned 18 in six months.

Is that really a respite?

To explain why she has been so interested in adopting and caring for kids, Eason said she grew up in Florida without a father and with a mother who was absent and working much of the time. As a result, she was mothered by a variety of other women, the same way she’s trying to help out the adopted kids, she said.

“I have seven moms. Did they commit a crime? No, I just call them ‘Mom,’ ” she said. “Personally, I would love to take in a hundred older kids who can’t get adopted.”

She denied the implications of the Reuters stories that sexual abuse took place in their home, and the accusation that her biological kids had been taken away from her. I checked with Arizona’s Child Protective Services, and it said it has no information on the family.

But Reuters quoted Massachusetts court records and reprinted a 2002 police report from South Carolina saying that an officer removed one child from the Easons’ home there, and that Massachusetts had taken away another child.

It’s not true and nobody’s business, she insisted. When I told her I think society does have an interest in keeping children out of the homes of people who’ve proved to be unfit parents, Eason disagreed.

“I don’t care if I dug a basement and buried a hundred kids there. Who is in my house is none of your business,” she said.

“I think that would be my business,” I said.

She held firm.

“No,” she responded, “it wouldn’t.”

Only authorities armed with a subpoena will get past her door, she said.

Contact columnist Tim Steller at tsteller@azstarnet.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter

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