Now for the rest of the story begun in Part I.
The story of the rejected and abandoned Russian orphan haunted “48 Hours” reporter Troy Roberts after he bid the girl farewell in the Russian hospital. He wanted to know what had become of her, and tried to track her down over the years, with no success. Then, after more than two decades had passed, Caralee reached out to him and they arranged to meet once again.
That supposedly homicidal little girl who was diagnosed as incapable of love now lives in North Carolina as Sabrina Caldwell. She is 33, happily married and has four young children. Roberts met with her near Sabrina’s home, and he spoke with her husband as well. Sabrina explained that she was depressed and even suicidal when she was with Crystal and Jesse, who she felt were more interested in her younger brother than her. When she was falsely accused of trying to kill Joshua, whom she says she loved, she told Roberts she “wanted out.” She agreed that she tried to kill him. She made up the claims that she was hallucinating. When she was abandoned by her adoptive parents in Moscow, she said she felt like she was in jail, but now believes she was partially responsible, since she had agreed to her parents’ version of events and lied about hallucinating.
Then again, she was just a child at the time.
After two months in the mental hospital, Nina Kostina, who had helped arrange her adoption, rescued Sabrina and brought her back to the United States. Three years later she adopted by another family in North Carolina. n 2008, Sabrina volunteered for the non profit Mercy Ships, spending two years providing medical care to the poor in Africa. That led to a job at a hospital when she returned to North Carolina. Two years later, she fell in love with fifth grade teacher Phil Caldwell, whom she met through her church. Before she would agree to marry him, she made him watch the “48 Hours” episode about her first adoptive parents. He told Roberts that he was stunned at what she had gone through. They were married in 2014, and now have three daughters and an infant son. Sabrina Caldwell has never been diagnosed with any mental or emotional illness, and takes no medication for such disorders. Incredibly, Sabrina says she holds no grudges or ill will against Crystal and Jesse when she was a child. she told Roberts. “Putting myself in their shoes,” she told Roberts, “I would have probably done almost the same thing.”
Although “I wouldn’t take a child back,” Sabrina said. She forgives all of it now. “I have an amazing husband … I have amazing kids. But if I didn’t go through what I went through I wouldn’t have that.”
Well. That’s pure moral luck. She just as easily could have ended up living on the streets of Samara, or dying in a mental hospital. Her adoptive parents washed their hands of her, and if they cared what became of their one-time daughter, they didn’t care enough.
There is one more wrinkle to this story, which Troy Roberts revealed at the end of his 2021 update on the little girl who had made him cry all those years ago. The experience made him obsess about adopting an older child, and he finally did it when he was over forty, still single, and still thinking about Caralee. He adopted a pre-teen boy who was living on the street with his mother and her other children. She had sought a family to adopt the boy because she could not care for him. At the end of the program, Troy’s son, now an all-American young man who is still amazed at his good fortune, spoke movingly about his life in the United States.
Roberts tried without success to find the Dr. Brian Kennedy, the doctor who had diagnosed Caralee as being capable of murdering her brother. Crystal and Jesse declined to be interviewed on camera.
1. The couple that abandoned that troubled, confused young girl in Russia should not use the fact that somehow her life turned out well to justify or rationalize their despicable conduct. But they will, of course.
2. Sabrina’s grace and willingness to forgive is remarkable and inspiring. I wonder if she would have been able to reach that point if events had been less fortuitous. I wouldn’t rule it out. She to be a remarkably perceptive and positive individual.
3. How much damage do psychiatrists and psychologists like Dr. Kennedy do every year to overly-trusting families and their children? A great deal, I believe.
4. One hero of this story is Nina Kostina. An adoption she set up turned out to be a disaster for the child, and she resolved to try to repair the damage, and did. That’s accountability. That’s caring. That’s making the extra effort to make right a situation that is wrong, whether it is your fault or not, because you can.
5. The effect of the sequence of events on Roberts, and the way it changed the life of a young boy so many miles from the U.S. and Russia is a marvelous example of chaos theory in action. The results of human conduct have unpredictable ripples. A terrible act pf parental betrayal set in motion forces that saved one life and enriched many more.
6. In the abortion-happy culture that “pro-choice” activists seek, Sabrina, Robert’s son and Joshua might have been snuffed out in their mothers’ wombs. Troy Roberts might not have a family; Sabrina Caldwell’s four children would not exist. it is far too hard to adopt children in the U.S.—trust me, I know—and this is why couples go to China, Russia and Africa for adoptions. Our system was allowed to rot after Roe; if, as I fervently hope, there will be more babies who make it to live births as a consequence of Dobbs, it is urgently required for adoptions to be encouraged, more easily obtained, and accepted.
You can watch the “48 Hours” episode here.