Most of the people who arrange adoption programs are good, sincere, honest, hardworking individuals whose first goal is to help kids to be placed in good homes and with happy families. But there are a few whose goals aren’t so honorable and while many others are well intentioned but can’t do their work competently. And there is no way tell them apart only by appearance or voice alone. After all, if they appear scary and evil, or clumsy, they wouldn’t be very good at ripping people off, right?
Many scammers can act as attorneys, agencies, or anyone who is peripherally involved in adoption process. Never presume that a Bar membership or agency license infuses its holder with honesty and goodness.
Here are some signs an agency may give you problems in the future:
• The agency asks for a complete up-front fee, before you see the birthmother or the child.
• The agency requires immediate payment of special funds and implies that the failure to pay on time as a sign of your lack of commitment.
• The agency immediately promises that everything will be completed in three months or less. A good agency won’t make promises after performing a series of interviews and analysis.
• The agency appears to withhold important information.
• The agency is evasive on certain questions.
• The agency promises that all their children are in perfect health. Any experienced adoption agent will tell you that they find unhealthy children once in awhile.
Common adoption scams
There many things scammers can do to attract families interested in adoption. These are a few major scam tactics to watch for:
Avoid any agency that immediately asks for some money up front, especially if the agency hasn’t introduced a birthmother or child to you yet. Frequently, fraudulent agencies will use your money right away, instead of putting it safely in an escrow account. They will use any excuse to demand for more money, it could be special fees, birthmother funds or others.
You shouldn’t pay more than one thousand dollars up front unless you have seen the birthmother or the child. Also, make sure the agency agrees to a contract in writing, although it won’t prevent a rip off. But at least, it spells out important terms and conditions and you’ll know what to expect. Call the state licensing authorities to know whether the agency is in good legal standing and you will know if there is any complaint have been made against the agency.
International adoption fraud
International adopters are often vulnerable to financial scams. Some fraudulent agencies may even charge up to $25,000 (not including accommodation and airfare) to adopt children from foreign orphanages. Expensive up-front payment, even for a child from a distant country is not acceptable, the child is already born and he lives in a state institution, so there should be no hospital costs or prenatal care you should pay. Find referral for trusted, local adoption agencies and find an agency that has been in operation for at least 3 years and shows a positive local track record. Newer is not always better when it comes to seeking adoption services on other countries. Sometimes a new country has just begun allowing adoption, and a reliable track record system hasn’t been established yet. In most cases, choose well-established international adoption services to minimize your risks.
An adoption agency offers an especially adorable, hard-to-resist child to would-be adopter but warns them it could be very expensive. The agency asks for a fee and promises to help the adopting family complete the process. In the meantime, the agency claims that another family (which usually doesn’t exist) is willing to pay larger fee and a few extra. The agency will give the child to the fictional family before the adopter can reply. They will make up an elaborate story to silence the adopter and allow them to keep the fee.
If an agency tells you that the adoption can be costly, find the reason why. It could be caused by expensive medical bills or other rational reasons. Ask for the bills, call the hospital and other institutions mentioned in the bill for clarification. If it appears that the fees are not reasonable, find another agency. If your adoption process falls through, the fact that the child suddenly isn’t available doesn’t ring true. Avoid the agency immediately and if you have paid an up front fee, consider it as a bad luck, because there is almost no way to get your money back. Alert the state Bar association, licensing bureau, District Attorney’s office and the State Attorney.
Inducing guilt is a very powerful way to scam innocent adopters. If you refuse to take a miserable little infant, the adoption agency might say that she’ll have to go to orphanage or foster care. Fraudsters will target adoptive parents that look very soft-hearted. (One of the most famous cases is when many Americans adopted Romanian children back in 1990’s, after the media spread the news of terrible conditions in Romanian orphanages.) Some compassion is definitely good but try to balance it with an old-fashioned common sense.
The expensive-adoption tactic is often combined with the guilt trip. For example, the agency may tell you that the sick child have incurred huge medical bills that the agency wants you to pay. Your response should be to require medical information of the child and cross-check it with the hospital. If the child appears really sick, ask the agency can record all medical expenses. See the doctor and ask whether it is really necessary to charge $1,000 for monthly physical examination? If the child is treated in a seemingly disreputable hospital, then it could be an elaborate scam, run and don’t look back! One common aspect of international adoption scam is the lack of medical information and the arranger seems reluctant to obtain any or say that they can’t do it according to a local law (there might not be such a law). Although the agency declines to provide information about details on prenatal condition or the child delivery, there is no reason that they should withhold the child’s latest health status. If you’re interested with a three-year-old girl in another continent then a paragraph or two is simply not enough.
Many women who say they are considering adoption really are expecting to get an adopted child and often very sincere. They are sometimes targeted by scammers who say that they know a pregnant woman with unwanted child or who has financial difficulties. The pregnant woman may come to the adopter house, tell about her sad life stories and promises to allow the child in her womb to be adopted after the delivery. The pregnant women may ask for a few thousands dollars to pay for existing medical bills and you’ll never see her again. Even when you have an intense desire to adopt a child, don’t allow it to overwhelm your common sense. You shouldn’t give any money an intermediary or any pregnant woman directly. Tell the pregnant woman that you’ll take her to the hospital and pay the bills yourself, but if she refuses, you should be suspicious. You can also ask a professional, such as a social worker or an attorney to deal with all financial matters. It is very difficult for many adopting parents to reject a troubled, pregnant birthmother; even so any financial request should be regarded as inappropriate or even illegal.