change the world badge

change the world badge


Child Psychology Blogs

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Thursday, June 30, 2011

That Lawsuit Again: Ronald S. Federici vs. A Crowd of Critics

Some readers may remember a lawsuit for defamation filed against me and a number of other people, part of which I attempted to describe at I have to acknowledge now that my guess about Ronald Federici’s complaint about me was quite incorrect. I assumed he was going to complain about my comments on his involvement in the Salvetti case, in which adoptive parents went to prison for withholding food from their son and keeping him locked in a room for months. When I appeared in Fairfax County, VA, Small Claims Court to answer his original suit, that was what I thought the issue was, and I never found out otherwise because the judge rather quickly found for me.

However, when, after several other legal moves, Federici brought suit again against me and others, I discovered that my comments about the Salvetti case were not even a point of concern--- and I presume that this was because the factual parts of my remarks were drawn from documents of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. (I would not have made the statements I did without that kind of evidence to back me up.) Instead, Federici had a number of complaints about things that had been said about him on the Internet, and as it happened not one of them had been said by me.

Now that sufficient time has passed from the dismissal of Federici’s suit in Virgina Eastern District Court (incidentally, the same court that dismissed a defamation suit against Paul Offit about a year ago), all the relevant documents are now posted at You can see in “Federici’s complaint” his attorney’s description of what was said about him, and you can look at the many copies of Internet material to see what actually was said. As I mentioned, there was nothing about the Salvetti case; presumably, it would have been too hard to argue that my remarks were inaccurate. By the way, if you look at the “update” on this case, please note that the recent granting of Federici’s motion was in response to his attorney’s request for a formal statement that the suit against the “John Does” was dismissed, as well as the suit against the named defendants. For anyone interested in this situation, a look at the Memorandum requesting that dismissal will be rewarding, as it reveals the attorney’s reasons for wanting to stop representing Federici.

The Dismissal Hearing Transcript posted at citmedialaw has some points that I found of particular interest. Federici’s lawyer made the following statement: “… they have even called and made complaints that Dr. Federici assisted in the--- in the killing of a child. And they have actually not only put this online, they have actually reached out to the Virginia Board [of Psychology] to actually make the same false complaints.”

I have several comments about this statement. The first is that nowhere in material quoted in the Complaint is any such claim made, by any of the defendants. One thing that is actually said is that some of the methods advocated by Federici are potentially dangerous and have been associated with deaths in a considerable number of well-documented cases. A second point made in that material is that Federici’s methods resemble those of a group of so-called Attachment Therapists some of whose members have been involved in child deaths.

No one among the defendants in this case has accused Federici of killing a child directly or of in any way assisting in such a killing. If any of us thought there was evidence of such a thing, we would not bother to tell his professional licensing board, but would go as quickly as possible to bring our evidence to the police. My own complaints to Federici’s licensing board, which I made some years ago, have to do with inaccurate representation of his professional credentials, which, interestingly, I see repeated by his attorney in the Dismissal Hearing Transcript.

The statement made by the attorney at the dismissal hearing seems to be based on faulty logic. If someone says I’m a clumsy parallel parker, is that the same as saying I’ve damaged other people’s cars and had my insurance rates put up? No, of course not, and to say that someone’s methods are dangerous is not the same as saying that he has directly or indirectly caused a death. Naturally I’m very pleased that the suit was dismissed, but there’s something in me that would have liked to see how an opposing attorney would have handled the claim that anyone had accused Federici of killing.

One question people have asked is who the John Does were. Of the ones I know anything about, most are people who commented online and used pseudonyms. Strangely, though, two were Mr. and Mrs. Salvetti, Federici’s clients who went to prison after their adopted son was found to have been denied a normal diet. Did someone think these people had commented on Federici’s methods? As far as I know, they have been completely silent about the advice they received from him. And, again as far as I know, they were not served with this complaint, any more than the Internet commentators were.

The fact is that this lawsuit was what is called a SLAPP suit: a strategic lawsuit against public participation. Its intention was to have a chilling effect on public discussion of the methods Federici advocates. Federici was asking for compensation of $300,000, plus treble damages under a Virginia law, plus various other odds and ends. I am sure that these amounts were not expected to materialize; the goal was, instead, to encourage mediation, and to demand, in exchange for dropping the suit, a promise not to mention Federici again. Some states have legislation that allows defendants to fight these SLAPP suits, but Virginia is unfortunately not among them.

I mentioned above that the documents are posted on Let me take a moment here to praise the Citizen Media Law Project. I’d put their badge up here if I could figure out how to do it! This group, which is hosted by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, provides services to people who run into difficulties when posting legitimate material on the Internet. I e-mailed them on a Sunday and first thing Monday morning had an answer. Within a day, I participated in a conference call with the group and told them what I most wanted, which was a contact with a Virginia lawyer knowledgeable about defamation and Internet issues. They quickly provided me with the name of Josh Heslinga of Richmond, with whom I arranged for an hour’s consultation at his regular fee-- and the work he actually did must have taken about 5 hours and was enormously helpful. Because Josh was at some distance from the court in question, he suggested several other attorneys, and I found excellent representation at Cochran & Owen of Vienna, VA. All of this went smoothly because of the input of the Citizen Media Law Project-- without them, I have no idea how I would have found an attorney I trusted in a state at some distance from my home.


  1. I strongly second your recommendation of Harvsrd's Berkman Center and their Citizen Media Law website, which have been invaluable resources throughout this ordeal. I am also highly appreciative of our excellent legal counsel, which is key for anyone who finds themselves in such a situation. Asking for dismissal on the grounds of failure to state a claim in addition to jurisdiction was especially appreciated, since we got rulings regarding the claims themselves which are very valuable to have on record. Even though unfortunately Virginia, as you mentioned, has no anti-SLAPP legislation, our legal team at Cochran & Owen was able to deal with this in the most efficient manner possible for the best outcome we could have hoped for, given the current law. Removing the case to Federal court where the case truly belonged given the amount of damages asked for and multiple states of defendants, was an especially brilliant move that never would have occurred to me.

    Here is a website for a campaign to pass anti-SLAPP legislation at the Federal level:

  2. Ron Federici adopted Russian children but he is a traitor. It protects the killers in court that torture and kill Russian children. He is not worthy to be the father of Russian children. He partner crimes against Russians children in the United States. He wanted to come to Russia and "treat" Russian orphans. Russia will not listen to traitors and sadists.

    1. Dear Mihail-- thank you for your comments and opinion of Federici. As I understand it, it's true that he would like to be involved in Russian decisions about adoption and treatment of orphans. His published work certainly advises child-rearing practices that many of us would describe as torture.

      However, in the interest of accuracy, I think the three adopted children whom Federici brought to the U.S. (as opposed to those who remained in their homeland) were Romanian by birth rather than Russian. I may be wrong about this, and of course it makes no real difference in terms of the appropriateness of his methods, but I believe this is the case.

      I notice that you say he "wanted" to come to Russia. Can you tell anything about the present plans for that visit, which I think was to have taken place next month (November, 2013)?

  3. Dear Jean Mercer,

    in Moscow planned a very "respectable" event on "family policy" - International scientific-practical conference "Mental deprivation of children in difficult situations: Educational technology of prevention, rehabilitation, maintenance." Conference will be held in November 2013 in Moscow at the Moscow City University of psychology and Education (MGPPU) under the auspices of the Department of education of the City of Moscow ( . From the program, it follows that there will discuss a wide range of issues related to the "prevention of child abandonment," "sotspatronata", "medicine adoption" (ie, coping with deprivation of orphans)
    And in the information material about the conference, please visit MGPPU ( and "psychological News Agency" ( ) is given list specifically "invited participants from the United States."

    Among those expected "guests of honor": Ronald Federechi (Ronald Federici) - known adherent of "alternative therapy", entitled "Attachment Therapy" ("attachment therapy") associated with the death of Russian foster children in the US (http:/ / www.childrenintherapy. org / pr ... s / federici.html).

    Russia has almost no supporters of Ronald Frederichi methods. Cooperation is unrealistic and impossible. Even if among the Russian psychiatrists have the small number of supporters of child abuse ..... they will not have the opportunity practice in Russia. Of course that the conference does not imply an opportunity to learn from the experience of child abuse. I can not give you the exact information but I assume that the conference will have a scientific poznovatelnyh character .... but may be charged. .
    .................................................. .........................................
    Thank you so much for caring for the fate of Russian orphans.
    Michael Konyuhov .........

  4. PS. Ronald Federechi fathered two children in Russia (Elena and Nicholay).
            There are reports that Ellen was hit hard by the dictatorship of the adoptive father.

    1. No he didn't father us. We were adopted in 1994 by him.

    2. I think there is a confusion of language here-- Mihail probably meant "adopted" when he said "fathered".

    3. However, if this is really the two (or more) of you writing, everyone would like to hear more from you!

    4. For Elena.
      I agree with you .R.Federichi was not the father for you. He was an experimenter.
      The family was supposed to be his calling card for the success of advertising its methods. He needs to successfully rear (family). He will try to create the appearance of a successful family relations. This should not bother you. Always there for you will be good people who understand you and sympathize with you. Good people are always more quantity than bad people. It is necessary to return good for good. Heavy life circumstances create a strong people. Everything that does not kill us makes us stronger ,

    5. I wish it were true that everything that does not kill us makes us stronger, but I don't think that's the case when the victim is very young and vulnerable.

  5. Dear Jean Mercer
    Fortunately involvement and treatment of Russian orphans by Ronald Federici in Russia is impossible. Russian law prohibits primknyat corporal punishment and torture of children. Ronald Federici methods should be regarded as a gross violation of the rights of children and ill-treatment.

     " Moscow is planned for the I International Scientific and Practical Conference" Psychic deprivation of children in difficult situations : Educational technology of prevention, rehabilitation, support . " The conference will be held in November 2013 in Moscow at the Moscow City University of Psychology and Education ( MGPPU )

     Among those expected " guests of honor " : Ronald Federechi (Ronald Federici) - known adherent of "alternative therapy ", entitled "Attachment Therapy" (" attachment therapy " ) associated with the death of Russian foster children in the U.S. (http://www.childrenintherapy .org / pr...s / federici.html). "

    In Russia, an active anti-propaganda "Attachment Therapy". I think it makes no sense to worry about. In Russia already visited Nancy Thomas . She came and went quickly .
     I hope that this comment will reach you because the moderator will ban my comments. However, I want to express my recognition and gratitude for your participation in the rescue of Russian orphans. Your name is well known in Russia . You first notice of our government to the humiliating position of a terrible Russian orphans in the United States .

    There will be other conferences and they will focus on cooperation between the U.S. and Russia . This conference aims to show what is done in Russia to rescue orphans. Charlatans have to know that their methods condemn and reject in Russia .

      Michael Konyuhov .

    1. Dear Mihail-- thank you for your comments and this information. I do the moderating for this blog, so your posts will be published unless they seem to me to be defamatory.

      I should point out that Federici denies that the treatment he advises is Attachment Therapy, but a point-by-point comparison with his published work suggests that they are very similar. Like his colleague David Ziegler, Federici advocates restraint only after a child is already showing distress, rather than systematic provocation, and I suppose that is the rationale for his claim that his method of restraint and control is not the same as Attachment Therapy.

      Thanks again for your comments--

  6. Dear Jean Mercer

    I'm not a theorist, I mnogoie years of practice, I work with kids. I noticed that the children show aggressiveness in certain cases. 1. if the family violence is the norm of behavior and corporal punishment to a child.
    2 . Aggressiveness is a way to survive in the children's team. The child is not popular among children and tries to resist external pressures. almost always other children deliberately provoke him, and they are the source of aggression child,. 3 . neglect in the family. The child feels superfluous and unnecessary in the family .. He can not tolerate the indifference (like all Russian children), and in various ways has attracted the attention of parents. Let the curse but do not ignore. And the scandal process delivers baby is the same fun as a fishing trip. Because he is young and full of energy but my parents after work tired hungry and exhausted. The ultimate goal ... assault and battery and provoke resentment and then to take sympathy and apology. The goal is achieved. Attention won.
    But this is my personal observation. Typically a backpacking children do not show aggression but rather demonstrate friendship and mutual assistance. Sovmestnaya work to strengthen friendly relations and prevent aggression. No labor assignments alone but it is a collective work with a common attractive target. For example to clean the rink of snow or building a snow slide to ride on a sled .. . Consistency and permanence requirements have a good effect. But I 've never seen that violence has given a positive result. Of course, if Dr. Federici has a desire to lead an endless war and agree to spoil their nerves ..... then it is a good method. Or this doctor wants to turn a child into obedient slave. Why do I need a broken funky baby? This child will not have the respect of their peers. Even the girls would despise him. It is a big pleasure for the payment of foster mother .
    .................................................. .................................................
    Maybe for a child from an orphanage. American family is too peaceful place? There's nothing going on. No traffic. There is no emotion. It's very boring. I could be wrong but I do not zamechad that our children really want peace and quiet. They want to change impressions and different activities.


    Michael Konyuhov .

    1. Dear Mikhail-- thank you for your comments. I don't think Google Translate has given all your meanings exactly correctly!

      As I understand it, you seem to be saying that a child from an orphanage might be used to more excitement and activity than an American adoptive family could provide. Would this not be equally true of adoptive families in Russia, Sweden, or elsewhere?

      I certainly agree that working with other people, adults or children, is fun and beneficial in many ways. Tedious work alone is miserable for anyone, but especially a child with a limited sense of time and a sensitivity to isolation.

    2. Dear Jean Mercer

      I apologize and regret that I can not accurately express their thoughts. Google-translator distorts the meaning and I'm understanding it. I've noticed that the most successful adoptions make Italian and Spanish families. They quickly found a common language with our children. Of course the problem with the adaptation of children exists in all countries and in Russia too. But these countries do not want to cause a child to love adopters. It is very strange zvuchmt "make love." This is barbaric. Everyone knows that the children of the orphanage are not angels but these children are particularly pathetic. people are more forgiving and they are more careful because these children are very sensitive and vulnerable. Video Vlozhaniya therapy session produced a shock in the Russian audience. I also do not believe that the Russian children torturing and killing kittens and puppies. I have 20 years working with these children. The problem is to get rid of the dogs and cats that are constantly brought to the children's home and hide under beds. I do not understand what is happening in the United States. What is happening to our children in the U.S.? They are very happy when leaving. Why is happiness turns to anger, hatred and despair. I saw a video where Russian boy swinging from side to side, howling and shouting threats. WHAT IS IT? WHY? This behavior has a prisoner in solitary confinement after the verdict, and the loss of hope of release. Why are these children have acceptable behavior on a ranch in Montana? They are together. They have the ability to speak the native language. They see the beautiful nature (it resembles nature of the South Russian landscape. Several Russian pictures and attributes and children calm down. Yes it is a bin (according to Astakhov) but the kids did not want to return to foster care. So we need to let get a good education. I do not see any other problems. Education and health services and can be quiet for these children. I think the reason is that the adoptive parents are trying to convert children or ignore the previous life of the child. so you can not. more strongly and rapidly forced assimilation, because it will be the stricter stronger opposition. I think that if you can not be a mother or a father ... then we should try to be a senior partner and learn mutual respect and understanding .. adoptive parent and the child must learn to respect and understand each other and then the adoptive parent may claim to love. You can not say that these children are not capable of love. This is a lie .. Because almost all children have relatives and often visit their relatives or come to visit the orphanage .. Educator, nurse, pets .... children have experience of affection and love. This is not a Romanian orphanage in 1990 . Romania has had children's concentration camps. Why Russian children compared with Romanian orphans in 1990 ? 's not fair. I see other problems.

    3. Dear Mikhail-- Please don't apologize. I should be the one to apologize for my ignorance of Russian. I just wanted you to know that I couldn't understand everything you said.

      I wish I could answer these questions.If I could, perhaps I would be able to solve some of the problems.

      I think the goal of being the "senior partner" and learning mutual respect and understanding is an excellent one, far more achievable than "love", however that would be defined. What's more, such a partnership is much more in line with real attachment theory (not therapy) than the idea that older children can come to depend on parents as infants and toddlers do.

      You also make a very good point when you say that orphanage systems are different from each other and that Romania in the 1990s is not Russia today. In fact, it seems to me that people who act if those institutions are the same put themselves in the position of rejecting famous boarding schools like Eton and Harrow. The details of the place and the ages of the children are all-important in any evaluation of an orphanage.

    4. PS

      Now every Russian adoptive parent must complete school adoptive parents. This is a prerequisite for potential adopters. Adopting a child is a big responsibility.

      School adoptive parents.

    5. This is true in the U.S. too-- the question is, what is taught in these schools? The curriculum could be helpful, or it could be harmful.

  7. I am sure that the experience of attachment therapists teach in these schools will not. In any case, we will fight against the anti-scientific methods.

    1. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the U.s. schools, at least not with any confidence.

  8. do not know what system of education and training in schools Eton and Harrow . I guess there's good and bad points . I know that in Russia a century of experience of cadet schools for orphans. It is very old , but successful experience. Students of these schools became the elite and the pride of Russia for many years. Regardless of the social and economic system. Destroy these schools ? It will be a crime against children and the state.

    Thank you for taking the time to listen to me . Thanks again for the protection and care of Russian children.

    Regards, Michael .

  9. Dear Jean Mercer

    I want to give you an idea. You may not like it but I think the idea is not bad . It is necessary to study the experience of successful adoptions and merge into a single phased program . It will be a guide for adoptive parents .
    1.etap . a) The first meeting date in an orphanage.
                    b) a farewell to the home , leaving the country .
                    c) arrival in the U.S., familiarity with the family and home.

    Stage 2 a) Honeymoon. familiarity with the rules of the family.
                     b) a schedule of the day, mode .
                     c) the distribution of household responsibilities.

    and so on.

    If you give clear guidance for every 3 months of life, a foster child in the family ? With age , The national , individual features ?
     If the family could get a personalized program of action on a certain area of time? Probably could have avoided many of the pitfalls .

    1. This does sound like a good idea-- always providing that the information was accurate and based on understanding of development rather than ideology.

      But you mention this in connection with successful adoptions. Do you think there is any helpful research on successful adoptions, that could be used to guide new adoptive families?

    2. By the way, it's my understanding that Federici's name did not appear in the final program of the conference mentioned earlier. I don't know whether he attended or not.

    3. Treating Attachment Disorders,
      From Theory to Therapy

      Karl Heinz Brisch

      I think it will be useful for our children.

  10. I warned. I'm not a theorist. I know that in Russia there are many successful adoptive families. I know that in the US successful adoptive families much more than lame. Should look at the end result. Family is successful if the child is able to realize themselves and successfully socialized. (education, work, family.) The basis must take John Bowlby's attachment theory. and the theory of multi-level attachment Gordon Nyufeld. . Perhaps it is necessary to develop a system of education based on research designed these scientists. Maybe in the US there is a new development based on humanistic principles, but not on a desire to destroy the child and then rebuild? I do not see the disaster fatal if the child has experienced the tragedy in the family and in the country. There were revolutions and wars, but children grow up to become good people regardless of experienced dramatic events. I asked you what I otomu dumyu you better know what modern isldovaniya can be used in work with foster children. I can only be confident that the responsibility lies entirely on the adoptive .. A child should not carry otvetstvetstvennost for family relationships. The adopter must create the conditions for the emergence and strengthening of mutual understanding, respect, friendship and love.

    1. The research suggests that there are many successful adoptive families and many adopted children who do very well, and it's quite possible that the actions of those successful families could provide guidance for new families who would then also be successful. Unfortunately, the problem is not just to give good information to adoptive parents, but to overcome mistaken beliefs and ideologies that mis-guide them. I think we could create effective programs for people who wanted good information, but I don't know how we overcome beliefs that contradict or distort that information. This is the real problem, in my opinion.

  11. In Russia there is a successful experience of recovering of affection. This is based on the creation of a joint activity in extreme conditions. But that's if you want to quickly make contact with the children and get the trust and relationship in a short time. Director Kowalewski 's home, Archpriest Andrei Voronin practices for children hiking. In a very short period of time there is a relationship, mutual responsibility, friendship,

    Therapeutic community foster parents "Kitezh" collaborative practice role-playing games to strengthen ties, mutual understanding and friendship. Dmitri Morozov (historian and educator) for several years by this community of foster families. There, too, the successful results of the work with difficult teenagers.

    But it extreme.

    . Usually use art therapy, sports, nature, work, religion for the restoration of successful children.

  12. I told you that Russia will not learn from Federici. Even a speech about it was not at the conference. Guests was listening to speeches about the experience of the British Board of the creation of Foster Families. Problems of development of the personality of children are in the orphanage for longer than 18 months. The ways of rehabilitation support and socialization of children. talked about the training of new professionals capable of conducting rehabilitation work with children. Emphasis was placed on identifying and developing strengths (successful) characteristics of children and the applicability of these qualities to confront difficult situations. That's it. no attachment therapist does not even opened his mouth and the words did not. That's what I assumed from the outset. Everything is under control.

    1. Certainly, strength-based programs seem to work best, and I am sure the Voronin program focuses on children's strengths.

      Mikhail, you will notice that I didn't post two of your comments. No doubt your statements are true, but if I post them, I will be responsible for their content, and I'm sure you can see that that could lead to problems!

    2. You asked whether the child from the orphanage misses with a foster family. "As I understand it, you seem to be saying that a child from an orphanage might be used to more excitement and activity than an American adoptive family could provide."
      This can happen in any family. It depends on the temperament of the adoptive parents but not nationality.
      Very good about this phenomenon tells Aleksadr Gezalov. He is a graduate of the orphanage . Gezalov Alexander, Author of book "Salt childhood." He often says that orphans are living in an orphanage in Imitativi world. This world is very different from the real world. It is wrong that a child has five holidays a week, an endless stream of visitors (volunteers) and gifts. This does not happen in the family. This is not normal. The child gets used to live in the artificial world where all feel sorry and give him chocolate and do not make demands. The child gets used to be a dependent and does not feel gratitude and even joy of gifts. These children can be unbearably boring in the family. I think that Gezalov. rights. At the orphanage, the planning of the program permanently or holidays, or guests, sponsors or volunteers come to entertain. I think that a child can get bored at home, It can even be very bored if no brothers and sisters or adoptive advanced age