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.

Taken At Birth

We do not have commercial TV or streaming service in my home, so I have not seen this series, though I know this is what happens.  Today, I read a rational question about adoptions – I don’t know why after this, birth certificates don’t have a place for natural parents and adoptive parents on them? Doesn’t make sense why we haven’t evolved our legal system to preserve people’s identities.

At least that.  Better yet – no false identities.  No falsified birth certificates.  No loss of genetic connection, which is what I think this person’s comment indicates.  Can there not be a “new” kind of birth registration that acknowledges the reality ?

TLC shares this about their series – In 1997 a shocking story made headlines. Thomas Hicks, a small town Georgia doctor, illegally sold more than 200 babies from the back door of his clinic. Jane Blasio has been trying to uncover the mysteries of the Hicks clinic for over 30 years. She is joined by Lisa Joyner and Chris Jacobs as they try to bring closure to those stolen babies desperately searching for their true identities and birth families.

In fact, the ’90s were a time for shocking revelations about adoption as Georgia Tann’s scandal from the 1920s to 1950s re-emerged in the national consciousness.  And by late in that decade, sealed adoption records became accessible in some cases such as in Tennessee for Tann’s victims.  In 2017, that allowed me to obtain my mother’s adoption file, though it had been denied her in the early 1990s, she never learned that she could have gotten this file while she was yet alive.  It is a sadness because she would have seen a photo of her mother and learned alot about the true circumstances of her adoption.

The comment I shared above had some more thoughts.  “I was shocked at the empathy and benefit of the doubt given to the Adoptive Parents. I think I would consider them kidnappers if I was coming in from the outside to help track down the truth. It definitely showed me more of what Hopeful Adoptive Parents will do when they are desperate for a child.  I also am just heartbroken for these families and the adoptees. Felt like in episode 2, you finally get to hear a testimony of just how devastating this is for them.”

The only good thing I can say about this increasing awareness is that it is a good thing.  Reforms and changes are likely to be encouraged as more people learn the truth about the impacts of separating babies from their natural mothers.