Birth Mother Adoption Scams and How to Avoid Them
by Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption
“My husband and I are considering adoption but are afraid of being scammed.”
This is a common fear among hopeful adoptive parents. Unfortunately, some people out there will prey on the hopes and dreams of a couple trying to adopt. It is important to protect yourselves from this financial and emotional pain.
Working with a professional adoption agency is one of the most effective ways to protect yourselves from adoption scams.
Benefits of Working with an Adoption Professional
At Lifetime Adoption, our Adoption Coordinators have extensive experience working with birth mothers. They ask probing questions and understand the red flags to look for which indicate possible adoption scams.
Adoption Coordinators work very closely with birth mothers. They get to know them and are there to walk them through the adoption process. They offer professional and peer counseling and help them connect with resources, such as medical care and transportation services they may need in their hometown. If a birth mother needs items such as maternity clothes or labor bags, their coordinator will provide those items.
Sometimes, a birth mother will need help with some expenses during her pregnancy. Your Adoption Coordinator will advise you to have any and all expenses disbursed through your adoption attorney.
Every state has its own specific laws that must be followed when providing assistance to a birth mother. Those expenses, such as rent, utilities, and other necessities, are generally paid through your lawyer. Payments are made directly to the landlord or company that is owed.
In addition to confirming a birth mother is serious about an adoption plan and working with her to ensure her needs are met, your coordinator will help you form a healthy relationship with her. Your interaction with the birth mother is an important aspect of a successful adoption journey, and your coordinator will assist with this.
Your Adoption Coordinator will help create a hospital plan for the delivery and work with you and the birth mother to create a Post Adoption Contact Agreement if desired.
Adoption has many different moving parts. Hiring an adoption agency that knows all the ins and outs of how the adoption process works is an invaluable asset. In addition, the experience and tools that your Adoption Coordinator has at her fingertips will help protect you from scams and ensure your adoption journey goes as smooth as possible!
Common Types of Adoption Scams
In the middle of the night, you may receive a call from a woman you don’t know. She has put off her decision to place the child for adoption until the last possible moment. She is in the hospital and going into labor. This is possible and I have seen it a number of times and these women turn out to be excellent birth mothers.
Usually you can verify her situation by asking the name of the hospital, her doctor and so on. Then you can verify the information with a phone call to the nurse’s station in the maternity ward.
Some homeless birth mothers are legitimate and will need help. You will want her safe and, if your state laws allow, you may need to provide her with an apartment during the pregnancy and help set her up with a food bank, social services, state medical plans and other services. Ask your adoption professional to verify the birth mother’s story before spending any money.
Attempted fraud on the Internet is not what it’s cracked up to be. Yes, fraud does exist and that’s why one must be careful. But the numbers of big adoption scams the perpetrators actually pull off are few. Over the years, in the hundreds of Internet adoptions we’ve completed through our center, when adoptive parents are formally matched with a birth parent, the success rate has been about 95 percent. That makes Internet adoption as safe as any other method. It’s infuriating to me that con artists try to take advantage of those of us who are vulnerable because we are desperately trying to build a family through adoption. I know from personal experience that it’s easy to let emotions take over. We follow our hopeful hearts instead of thinking with our heads when offered a situation that seems too good to be true. We desperately want it to work out, so we allow ourselves to believe that the person promising us a newborn baby is trustworthy. Stay alert to adoption scams! Read the following types of adoption scammers to avoid unnecessary heartbreak.
A birth mother who does not want to give you contact information and insists that all communication be by e-mail could be a scammer or an unwilling participant in a scheme to get money. She may not even be pregnant. Question closely any prospective birth mother who contacts you directly and prefers to talk and work only through you. She may be afraid because an adoption professional will see right through her. A woman who is sincere about placing her child should be willing to provide you with specific contact information and to talk with your adoption professional.
Be extremely cautious of the birth mother who flatters you, saying things like, “You are so cute,” or “You are the perfect couple.” Her charm is her way of luring you into a sense of security before she makes demands for money. After the birth, she may evade signing over her rights. She cancels appointments, promising to sign the papers next time. She’ll have your money but she may never consent to the adoption.
The Puppy Dog Sale
The most obvious form of fraud involves supposed birth parents who accept money from an adoptive family knowing that they will never place their child for adoption. They may promise the child to several families, collecting money from each.
In a common scam known as a puppy dog sale, the birth mother places the child in the care of a prospective adoptive family. A few days later, she calls unexpectedly to demand more money, knowing the family has bonded and is likely to pay. The next day she calls back, saying she’s changed her mind and wants the baby back. She then takes the child to her next victim.
It’s rare, but I have seen it; fraud not for money, but for attention or to inflict harm. Most of the perpetrators are not birth mothers at all. In need of psychological help, desperately lonely, they want someone to talk with intimately and know they can find emotionally fragile adoptive parents who will care deeply about them and stay on the phone when they call. Their victims are manipulated into longing for the child. Sometimes they will taunt and harass the adopting couple with stories about a threatened miscarriage or a change of heart about the placement. The game lasts only until they are asked to document the pregnancy or to meet in person.
About the Author
Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., is a nationally recognized authority on adoption. A Certiﬁed Open Adoption Practitioner, Caldwell is the founder of Lifetime Adoption Center, LLC., established in 1986. Caldwell has assisted in over 1,800 successful adoptions. She was one of the ﬁrst adoption professionals on the Internet.
Caldwell’s life work has been dedicated to educating and helping birth parents and adoptive parents through teaching, speaking, and resources and as a radio talk show host.
Author of a number of award-winning books, Caldwell has more than 225 media credits to her name, including: Larry King Live, ABC News, NBC’s The Today Show, CNN Headline News, CNN’s The Campbell Brown Show, CBS News, NBC News, KGO Newstalk Radio, CNN’s Black in America II, MSNBC, Fox, PBS, BBC, Dr. Laura, and is widely sought for print articles and speaking engagements.
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