How to Avoid Adoption Scams

by Laura Christianson

A woman pleaded guilty of using her infant twins as bait in a nationwide adoption scam. The woman, age 20, and her mother, scammed five prospective adoptive couples by offering to allow them to adopt the twins if they paid for medical and other expenses.

Officials estimate that the woman and her mother were given more than $17,000 during the scam, which continued until the babies were born (and placed into foster care). The young woman and her mother face a maximum sentence of 20 years for each charge. To make matters worse, the young woman’s husband also faces five counts of theft by deception. He’s currently serving a 2-year sentence for another theft, and will be tried when he gets out of prison.

While adoption scams are uncommon, prospective adoptive parents should take precautions, especially when doing an independent adoption. I know several prospective parents who have received calls from “birth mothers” (women faking pregnancy) who found their listing on the Internet or in a newspaper ad and tried to con the would-be parents, requesting housing, food, clothing and payment of medical expenses.

The prospective parents, who imagined that the “birth mother” was legit, were tempted to provide what she asked for. When they consulted with their adoption professional and learned that the situation was a scam, they were crushed. Although adoptive parents know they need to “guard their hearts” during the adoption process, it’s hard for them to prevent themselves from getting their hopes up.

Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that providing money or services to birth parents is illegal in some states. All prospective parents should work closely with a reputable adoption social worker and adoption attorney (or a licensed adoption facilitator or agency). Adoption professionals know the law in their state and in the birth mother’s state. They are almost always aware of the scams that are currently circulating. Although the con artists may use different names when scamming different people, their cover stories are nearly always identical. When adoption professionals hear a suspicious-sounding story, they will warn the adoptive parents.

Parents-in-waiting should contact their adoption professional whenever they have contact with a potential birth parent. Remember, the adoption professionals are a parent’s advocate — adoptive parents pay them to be the objective voice and to determine whether a situation is right for the adoptive parent(s) and for the birth parent(s).

If a “birth mother” contacts you, be wary if she seems unwilling to receive free pregnancy counseling or to visit an adoption professional, who will collect a medical history and ensure that she is receiving prenatal care. Be especially wary if she requests any type of monetary support. Protect yourself and don’t give away anything until you are absolutely certain that all parties are pursuing the potential adoption through the correct legal channels.

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Steve Callaway May 20, 2011 at 12:40 PM

Prospective parents should always consult with an adoption attorney at the beginning of the process just to be made aware of the laws and legalities related to adopting a child. A little bit of discovery can prevent the majority of issues later on down the line,

Thanks to the internet, another option prospective parents have is the ability to do a background check on the birth mother and see if she has been involved in criminal activity, has active warrants or has been incarcerated in the past. Intellius is one of the better services and the $11 paid to obtain these records can give some peace of mind regarding who you are dealing with.

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