Adoption Scams – How Can You Avoid Them?

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Just this week alone, two different adoption scam articles popped up in my inbox – this one and this one. At least the second landed someone in prison – sometimes a bit of justice is served. These unfortunate incidents (and a nudge from a new friend), inspired this blog.

According to Wikipedia, Adoption fraud, also known as illegal adoption, can be defined as when a person or institute attempts to either illegally adopt a child or illegally give up a child for adoption. Common ways in which this is done include dishonesty and bribes.

Being scammed is a huge fear of many who embark on the already emotional and confusing world of adoption. Yes, adoption scams happen, but instead of approaching the process afraid of adopting at all, educate yourself, so you can make the best decisions for your family.

I googled adoption scams and came up with a ton of great resources, some of which I will share with you in this post. There are 3 different types of adoption fraud:

1. Birthmother or Expectant Mother Scams
2. Adoptive Parent Scams
3. Adoption Professional Scams

Birthmother scams are the most common, where typically, the “expectant mother’s” motivation is money.

Ways to avoid birthmother scams:

  • If you are identifying the expectant mother (emom) on your own, right off the bat, make sure she gives you contact information. You would never, in any other situation, believe someone who told you, “don’t call me, I’ll call you,” and this is no different.
  • Never give money directly to the emom. ALWAYS go through an attorney or agency. If she refuses to work with your attorney or agency, run!
  • Ask for the doctor’s records to prove pregnancy. If she hasn’t seen a doctor, maybe offer to take her in order to get proof of pregnancy and hopefully begin her on prenatal care.
  • After there is a match, offer to go out to meet her in person…do not offer to bring her to you. If she doesn’t show for the meeting, or other appointments, I’d be pretty leery to believe any story she has as a reason.
  • Make sure her story is consistent every time you speak. If she is talking to multiple people with different stories, she may have a difficult time keeping it straight. This is what happened with this adoption scam.

Adoptive Parent Fraud mostly has to do with intention and honesty.

Ways adoptive parents might scam an expectant mother:

  • Promises the sun, the moon and the stars to an emom, which may include a very open relationship or money to support her, without any intention to keep their word.
  • Purchases very expensive or elaborate gifts for the emom.
  • Not treating the emom with respect.
  • Coercing her into adoption, even when she is still unsure of them and/or the plan.

Adoption Professional Scams revolve around legitimacy.

Here are some things to look out for to make sure your adoption professional is acting lawfully:

  • If looking at agencies, make sure they are licensed.
  • Adoption facilitators are illegal in many states, so make sure if you are thinking about using a facilitator, you know what your state’s laws are. In California, facilitators have to be bonded, so ask.
  • Make sure the adoption professional can answer all your questions about the process…or whatever other questions you might have…and are willing to spend that time with you.
  • Most adoption professionals (if not all) will have some sort of contract for you to sign – make sure you read everything and understand it.
  • If someone promises that you will have the baby of your dreams very quickly, it may just be too good to be true. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but nobody can make promises like that. So listen to the language used.

Most importantly, with any situation, is to trust your gut! Many times, you will just know if something doesn’t seem right. Listen to that inner voice.

For further information, here are two other articles I thought were great ones on looking out for warning signs – one by Hal Kaufman, for the National Council for Adoption and the other from adoption.com.

If you are working with an adoption agency, you may feel the most comforted to choose an agency with a solid, long-standing reputation that has successfully completed many placements. You can find this out in a few ways: 1) Get personal recommendations from people who have already adopted from the same agency and same program within the agency; 2) Check out the Better Business Bureau for information; and 3) Ask them! Put together a list of questions and spend time interviewing the agency.

One last thought worth mentioning. I talk with clients all the time about building a team (might include your agency, family members, social worker, adoption consultant, a doctor, attorney, etc.). You spend time building your team to support you in various ways through this journey. Keep your team close to you at all times…even if you’ve been matched…or are considering a situation. Your team is not only there to support you emotionally, but many times can be another set of eyes and ears for you. They aren’t emotionally involved and will often notice things that you don’t…or don’t want to.

These lists are not to scare you away from adoption. Adopting a child is a wonderful way to grow your family. It’s a wake-up call to educate yourself and trust your gut throughout the process.

If you’d like to continue this conversation or get more educated on the adoption process and your options, contact me to sign up for a free 45-minute information session.

Until next time,

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