'Domestic Terrorist' Matt Shea In Poland, Adopting Out Ukrainian Babies. That's Fine, Right?
In one of the weirder sidebars to the humanitarian disaster in Ukraine, former Washington state Rep. Matt Shea — who in 2019 was named a "domestic terrorist" in a legislative report, for participating in armed standoffs with federal agents — has turned up in Poland. He's at the center of what appears to be a scheme to send Ukrainian children to the USA for adoption. Or maybe he's a big humanitarian hero who's helping rescue the children from the fighting, who can tell?
Either way, Shea is currently holed up in a writers' retreat / boutique hotel in a small Polish town with 62 Ukrainian children and two adult caretakers he says he rescued from an orphanage in Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city that Russian forces have been destroying in a frenzy of war crimes, and nobody seems to know quite what he's planning.
The best that can be said right now is that local authorities have checked on the kids and verified they're being well cared for, and that the US State Department is aware of the situation, so it's unlikely any kids will be sent out of Poland for adoption in the US any time soon. That's good, because at the moment, it's not at all clear what Shea is up to, and his story keeps changing.
As the Seattle Times reports, Shea's original plans to have some or all of the children sent to America raised red flags among child welfare groups and local Polish officials:
But international agencies say, with the chaos and confusion of war, now is not an appropriate time for international adoptions from Ukraine. And Shea’s presence, and the lack of information surrounding the American group he’s with, has raised concerns among some residents of Kazimierz Dolny, the small Polish town where the children are staying at a hotel-guesthouse.
“I asked him many times, ‘What are you going to do with these children?’ and he told me that it’s not my business,'” Weronika Ziarnicka, an aide to the mayor of Kazimierz Dolny, said of Shea. “I got the feeling in my gut that something’s wrong with this guy; he didn’t want to tell me his last name.”
Shea said on a Polish TV show that he was in Poland to help out a nonprofit called "Loving Families and Homes for Orphans," which he described as a "hosting organization that hosts Ukrainian orphans in America with Ukrainian families with the intent that ultimately that ends in adoption," and how could anyone object to that?
Why, the group even has a website that doesn't actually work! Just to check whether there was an archived version, Yr Wonkette checked the Wayback Machine and found only an automated message, from yesterday, that the "domain was recently registered at Namecheap.com," which shows that somebody's at least trying, huh?
The Seattle Times notes that while "Loving Families and Homes for Orphans" registered with the Texas secretary of state in 2018, it's not actually registered as an adoption agency — neither with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, nor with "the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, the group that oversees American agencies involved in international adoption."
Oh, but the group did register in Florida last month, so that seems entirely legit!
Oh, and then there's this: Pacific Northwest journalism nonprofit Range Media reports it was unable to find any IRS documents indicating that Loving Families and Homes for Orphans is registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, which would be seriously weird for any group doing international adoptions. Maybe they should have looked into whether the group is a subsidiary of The Human Fund.
In a Facebook post, the mayor of Kazimierz Dolny, Artur Pomianowski, said he had visited the kids and confirmed they're safe and being taken care of. He noted that local police and a Polish NGO were investigating as well. The Seattle Times also reports Pomianowski said the kids wouldn't be allowed to leave his town "without consent of the authorities." And that sure sounds like a good idea!
“I do not know what Matt Shea and his friends are doing here around children,” Pomianowski said in an email. “Mr. Shea and his friends have given us some contradictory information and, for that reason, it is difficult for us to trust them.”
The alleged charity claimed in a Facebook post that it is "in direct contact with the governments of Ukraine and the United States," and that its mission is "supported by the highest levels of politicians, international and local church leaders as well as dozens of companies from Ukraine, the USA and Poland," although as Range Media points out, the Facebook post didn't back up those claims with a shred of evidence.
A State Department spokesperson didn't tell the Seattle Times whether the agency was in contact with Loving Families Really Actually a Charity, but did point out that all international adoptions can only be done through groups with proper accreditation, which in Loving Families' case it has not got.
The State Department spox also pointed out that, in life during wartime, not all kids in orphanages are necessarily eligible for adoption:
“It is not uncommon in dangerous situations for parents to send their children out of the area, for safety reasons, or for families to become separated during an emergency,” the State Department spokesperson said. “Even when a child’s parents have died, children are often cared for by other relatives. Also, many children living in orphanages in Ukraine are not orphans.”
Yes, that even applies to children you personally brought out of an orphanage like a hero.
Disturbingly, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports that Shea appears to have been planning, at least originally, to adopt two of the orphans himself. In a March 8 Facebook video, Shea said he "could hear machine guns firing in the background as he talked to his 'prospective daughters,'" and Joanna Stefańska, a Polish cancer therapist working with Ukrainian refugees, "said the State Department told her Shea himself had started the adoption process for two Ukrainian orphans."
The paper says an email from the State Department Office of Children’s Issues confirmed that the situation was under investigation, and that the US Embassy in Warsaw would be notified.
Shea, for his part, has made a great show of playing the victim in all this, because only Russian sympathizers could possibly criticize his work as a man of God:
He addressed the controversy on a Polish church YouTube channel “Against the Tide TV” which was founded by far-right Polish pastor Paweł Chojecki. Shea has appeared on the show in the past.
“There are lies and rumors that somehow we want to sell these children. The most outrageous, I think, was that we wanted to sell them for organ harvesting or something like this,” he said during a March 10 broadcast. “This is Russian-style propaganda and only Russian-style propaganda could turn a rescue mission of orphans to a resort-style facility that has basketball hoops and a soccer field. We’re even coordinating horse therapy which is for trauma. It also has medical care, psychological care. Only Russian-style propaganda could turn something that good into something that bad.”
Basketball hoops! Nothing could be more American. Besides, since the controversy arose, Shea now says no children will be leaving Poland. Does ... does that include his new daughters? If so, lucky them!
And if he says so, you can trust him. If the adoption thing doesn't work out, maybe Matt Shea can join other American evangelicals at the Polish border, yelling at Ukrainian refugees to find Jesus and get saved.
We're sure everything will turn out OK for the kids, eventually — at least now that Shea is being watched closely.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.