For couples who can’t have their own children and are trying to adopt, there’s nothing more exciting than finding a match – or more heartbreaking when an adoption falls through. It’s even worse to discover that you’ve been scammed by the person you thought would help bring a new child into your family.
Unfortunately, adoption scams are more common than you might think. Like many victims of fraud, people who fall for these scams are emotionally vulnerable. They’ve often struggled with infertility and are willing to believe anyone who gives them a glimmer of hope about having a child. They’ll do anything – including give up their life’s savings – if they think it will help them get a child sooner.
Here are a few common ways people prey on prospective parents:
Adoption agencies ask for exorbitant upfront fees. Most prospective parents understand that there are fees involved with the adoption application process. However, some agencies will charge tens of thousands of dollars up front, even if the couple hasn’t matched with a birth mother yet. They will repeatedly ask for more money and even make you think you’ll move up the waiting list if you pay more, but they ultimately don’t care about finding you a child. They may keep you waiting for years, just to keep collecting your money.
A pregnant woman promises her baby to multiple couples. While most pregnant women who are giving their baby up for adoption truly want to find their child the best home, some are looking to game the system. It’s very easy for a birth mother to contact several different couples, promising her baby to each one. She will develop relationships with all of them, and get them emotionally (and financially) invested in her and her baby. Then, when the “due date” arrives, she disappears.
A “birth mother” pretends to be pregnant to get attention. In some cases, a woman isn’t even pregnant when she reaches out to a couple claiming to be an expectant mother. This “emotional scammer” lives for the thrill of manipulating you, and will likely share a sob story about her pregnancy and circumstances to win your sympathy. If you don’t figure her out along the way, she will likely lie and tell you she miscarried the baby that didn’t exist in the first place.
Avoiding Adoption Scams
Before you fill out any paperwork or hand over a check, do your due diligence and conduct some research on the adoption agency you’re using and the prospective birth mother. A Google search for online reviews and news articles might reveal a history of shady practices or poor management at the agency. A public records search of the birth mother could potentially turn up lawsuits, bankruptcies, or even just troubling social media posts that speak to her character and ethics.
“Check out [the birth mother’s] social media pages, check out their criminal background information, Google them, find as much information as you can,” Erin Komada, an adoption attorney, said in an interview with ABC 27.
Never give money directly to a birth mother; all financial arrangements should be handled through an agency, a social worker, or an attorney who can verify that the mother is actually pregnant and using your money for legitimate medical expenses. You should also plan to meet the birth mother face-to-face before she has the baby, if possible. If you want some extra protection during the adoption process, you can always consult with a family law attorney who specializes in adoption cases.
When it comes to adoption, it’s best to know up front who you’re dealing with. You’re better off walking away early if you don’t have a good feeling about an agency or a birth mother, rather than investing a lot of time, emotions, and money in someone who will let you down in the end.