Buyer’s Beware

LINK> Elle magazine has an article – Inside America’s Adoption Fraud Industry – by Sarah Green. Stories like those shared in that article are not new to people involved in adoption related communities. And generally speaking, the internet has brought not only more contact for many of us with family and friends, plus a wealth of information we may not have encountered otherwise, but also the danger of being taken in a scam. If you are thinking of adopting this way, do read the article for examples of red flags and safe ways to proceed.

One couple in the story spent dozens of hours and thousands of dollars perfecting every detail for their baby’s homecoming — from building and furnishing his nursery, to stocking frozen breastmilk and baby supplies. Arriving in Houston Texas, instead of a baby they met disappointment. Meeting with their lawyer on a deserted restaurant patio, “All I can remember is our lawyer sitting us down and opening with, ‘I think this is a scam. I’m so sorry’.” Deep down, they knew he was right.

Sadly, this deception is not uncommon. America’s public adoption industry includes high infant price tags, often years-long wait times and a frequent lack of autonomy. This has prompted thousands of couples to look into alternative resources, such as social media, in order to take personal control. In America, privately-handled adoptions are not outlawed as they are in many other countries. This unprecedented shift towards reliance on a federally unregulated market has created the perfect breeding ground for scammers wanting to exploit hopeful adoptive parents.

Social media adoptions represent a significant trend where prospective parents and birth mothers locate each other independently, with little or no professional assistance. Only 18,300 babies are voluntarily relinquished for adoption annually, yet over a million American families hope to adopt each year — this translates to 55 families vying for each adoptable infant. In 2022, adoption ads have sprung up all over Instagram and TikTok, featuring strategic hashtags and polished profiles of eager couples promoting themselves as the perfect parents for any available newborn. 

The scale of adoption fraud has not been quantified. There are no publicly available statistics on the prevalence of this crime. One FBI investigator believes that adoption fraud is as prevalent as any other financial crime. There are also elements of shame and hurt that prevent victims from admitting what has happened to them. It appears to be an under-reported crime.

Social media has allowed this type of criminal activity to transcend state borders. Whatever legal or procedural safeguards a state imposes, the internet can render them meaningless. This makes it nearly impossible for victims to pursue legal action. However, a Georgia state law passed in July 2021 made both adoption fraud and deception illegal. If someone allows you to expend money on a reasonable reliance of a false adoption plan, it is now a prosecutable offense.

There is even a Facebook group dedicated to LINK> Ending Adoption Scams. Their ever-growing list of known scammers has become an invaluable resource for countless prospective parents.

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