HOME » Adoption: Exploring Adoption
Guides to Adoption: Credentials and Qualifications by Patricia I. JohnstonLast Updated: October 28, 2007
For the century since adoption has been part of a legal system, there have been people willing to try to take advantage of birthparents and adoptive parents for their own gain. The rise of the Internet has, however, created opportunities for the rapid escalation of scamming throughout the world.
Fraud takes place when an individual or a business intentionally misrepresents itself or a situation to another for personal gain. Most adoption frauds take the form of exorbitant fees charged by service providers, fees charged for services that are never rendered, coercing birthparents to sign away parental rights, vital information being withheld from adoptive parents by intermediaries about a potential adoption or a particular child, etc.
A facilitator advertising prolifically on the Internet posted pictures of “available children” and their descriptions. Prospective adopters responded in droves. Upon response, each would-be parent was asked for a several thousand dollar deposit to “hold” the child while the family gathered paperwork and submitted it to the facilitator to begin proceedings.
By chance, two hopeful parents participating in the same chat group suspected that they were expecting to mother the same child! After talking at length on the telephone with one another, they confirmed that this was indeed the case. They began spreading the word and found four other hopeful adoptive parents holding the same paperwork about the same dream child.
They went to local police, who, upon confronting the facilitator, advised these clients and many others that there were no children at all. She had been posting pictures cut and pasted from other sources. Most of their deposited funds were already gone.
Your best protections against fraud are
· Knowing what the law in your state (or any state in which you intend to adopt) says about what expenses you can pay, how fees can be determined, and from and by whom consents must be taken
· Understanding that if it sounds amazingly fast, simple, or cheap, something is wrong
· If adopting Intercountry, paying close attention to the US State Department’s frequently updated web pages about current issues in adoption in that country
· Working with professionals who are local to you (Many readers will completely ignore this advice, wanting to “increase their odds” or “work with a bigger source,” and that’s fine. Just know that it is harder to protect yourself when working outside your own state.)
· Using service providers who are directly associated with the source—the orphanage in the sending country, the expectant parent, the foster care agency—rather than service providers who “partner” with others or who are not licensed or accredited themselves, but subcontract with those who are
· Carefully checking the reputation and credentials of any service provider you hire (Check with the Better Business Bureau in their location and in your location. Check with their state’s Attorney General’s Office—have they been sued? If so, what was the outcome? Check with the appropriate licensing entities about complaints and resolutions--the agency licensing bodies in each state in which an agency claims to be licensed, the bar association for attorneys.)
· If working with an expectant parent not in your location and an agency, attorney, or facilitator not located in the same city as the expectant parent, insisting on proof of pregnancy from a physician with whom you and the professionals can speak by telephone
· Listening critically to everything you are told by an expectant parent, a social worker at an agency, or an attorney and asking careful questions about anything which seems odd, vague, or contradictory
· Comparing the adoption laws and regulations between several states (or between several countries if you are doing incountry adoption) will give you a clearer sense of how the most child-centered processes are run
· Understanding the “rules” of any sending country you may use and using service providers who follow those rules carefully (for example, some countries do not allow the Internet posting of photographs of available children. When a service provider posts pictures of children it claims are available for adoption from that country, something is probably wrong. You are in danger of experiencing a “bait and switch” situation.)
· Never agreeing to lie or to misrepresent in any way to a court or to a government official anything about yourself, who you are working with, or what you have paid and to whom
Scams are a bit different from frauds, and they seem to fall into two categories: emotional and financial. In some cases the two are combined.
Emotional scams are run primarily by people who are emotionally unbalanced. Most often they pose as expectant parents considering an adoption plan. They are seeking attention and sympathy, and look for it among the most vulnerable. They visit the websites on which hopeful adopters post their profiles, and then make contact, inventing a story about an untimely pregnancy and a difficult life. Would-be parents are especially at risk for being taken advantage of by an emotional scammer because they have often waited so long to become parents that they are feeling desperate—willing to do anything to adopt. Hopeful adopters spend hours taking collect telephone calls and offer almost unlimited emotional support to these needy people. An adopter-to-be can be strung along for many weeks or even months because she doesn’t want to believe that anyone would be so cruel as to pull off a con like this.
Many of these emotional scammers have several families on the string at the same time, allowing their scenarios to play out with each until their “pregnancy” should have come to birth. At this time many of these women can successfully convince would-be adopters that the baby has died, causing yet another devastating loss to a family who wants nothing more than to parent a baby.
You may have viewed a Dr. Phil Show segment on adoption scamming in which a
She had used several names for herself, but virtually the same story about being pregnant and unable to raise a child. She spent hours on the telephone getting sympathy and support for her sad story. Eventually she agreed to meet one mother-to-be in
Emotional scammers also seek attention from churches and charities working to prevent abortions. Volunteers may spend hours on the telephone with them, “convincing” them not to end the pregnancy, but to parent. The charity offers baby items, short-term financial assistance and more to mentally unbalanced people who have refined a highly successful emotional game.
Financial scammers have grown more and more bold. They include “facilitators” who collect deposits and “birthparent expenses” that go straight to their own pockets, as well as Internet offers to place children through independent adoptions from fake orphanages and charities in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. People adept at reading headers and other Internet codes can tell whether these emails originate in the country they claim to represent, and most do not. Still, the proliferating numbers of offers such as these which are being made to families running profiles on the Internet only proves how successful they can be to the scammers.
Foreign financial scammers are incredibly bold. They troll the Internet picking up email addresses which are adoption related. I get emails several times a week from people claiming to be missionaries, most often in African nations, who are working in villages ruined by war or famine. They seek my help “as a good Christian” in finding homes for dozens of babies and toddlers needing to be rescued from fighting, poverty, or malnourishment.
When followed up, these scammers direct that money orders or bank transfers be wired (often to a third country) in care of a fictitious church or orphanage. When the money arrives, the email contact stops, cell phone contact (usually to temporary disposable numbers) ends.
Now, careful, logical thinking would tell most people to think twice about all of these kinds of contacts. But people seeking children are in crisis, and they want—even need—to believe that their quest is possible and probable. They are vulnerable to being defrauded or scammed when logic fails them and they follow their hearts.
The best protection against scam artists is to work only through reputable adoption professionals, who have been trained to recognize potential fraud and can, because they have less emotion invested than you, be more objective and critical of suspicious contacts. However, know as well that even agencies and attorneys can be and have been scammed by unscrupulous people! If you decide to distribute your profiles to be posted in public places, to buy newspaper advertising, or to post an online profile on one of the dozen or so sites that would be happy to sell you space, your risk of being taken advantage of will be cut if your contact information is directed to the office of your chosen adoption professional. If you can’t bring yourself to take this simple step, preferring to direct contacts to yourself, keep these things in mind.
· Expect that a woman who is really pregnant and is seriously considering adoption should be willing to provide you, your agency, or your attorney with medical proof of a pregnancy and contact information for a confirming physician.
· Be wary of anyone who is unwilling to meet you face to face.
· Be concerned about an expectant parent who refuses to accept medical attention or counseling you are prepared to pay for.
· Ask careful questions of an expectant mother working with a professional service provider far from her own home turf. Scammers frequently do this to avoid having to “meet” anyone.
· Beware of people who are contacting you on behalf of someone else who is pregnant. If after one or two phone conversations you still are not put in contact with the “friend,” suspect that this person may not exist.
· Never send money!
[Print Version] [Send to Friend] Pages (3): « 1 2