If you’re a prospective adoptive parent, you’ve got a lot to worry about. Do I tell my employer I’m adopting? Do I want a baby shower, and, if so will anyone throw one for me? Are we going to be scammed?
Wait . . . what? Scammed? That could never happen to us. We’re way too savvy to fall for a scam.
Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Until it happened to us.
We had a legitimate match with an agency that we found through a referral service, but that match fell through. The agency social worker was terribly apologetic, and told us that she would call us directly if she found another expectant mother who might want to match with us. About one month after the first match fell through, we were matched with “Jasmine.”
Jasmine was looking to place both her 2-year old child and unborn baby with different families. She said she was unemployed and just couldn’t handle parenting. She sent proof of pregnancy to the agency. She was asking for what we thought were reasonable expenses. It all started well enough. But then, the requests for more and more money came in. Her electricity was turned off. Her water was going to be turned off. We finally decided enough was enough, and told her no more money. She stopped contacting us and she stopped contacting the social worker. It was only then that the social worker actually thought to call the doctor’s office to confirm the proof of pregnancy. The doctor’s signature on the paperwork was forged. Jasmine was not a patient there. Chances are, she wasn’t even pregnant.
What are some signs that you might be a victim of an adoption scam?
1. Money. If all the expectant mom ever wants to talk (or text) about is money, chances are this is a scam. Money should never go directly to an expectant mom. It should go to the third-party providers. You have to decide how much you are willing to put forth for expenses. This money cannot usually be refunded to you, unless you can actually prosecute the woman for fraud.
2. Meeting. If an expectant mother does not want to meet with you, along with either a representative from your agency or an attorney, this could be the sign of a scam. She might just be exploring her options at first, but if, after several weeks, she still doesn’t want to meet with anyone official, that’s a red flag.
3. Proof, or lack thereof. If an expectant mother does not provide proof of pregnancy, she might as well not be pregnant. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. While she shouldn’t be turning over her lifetime medical records, she should sign a medical release stating that your agency or attorney can contact her health care professional’s office to obtain specific records relating to her pregnancy. Then, make sure your agency or attorney actually calls the health care professional. Bonus: If she doesn’t want to give you a medical release because she doesn’t want her doctor to know she’s thinking about adoption, that is also a red flag.
4. Secrets. If an expectant mother is hiding her pregnancy or hasn’t told anyone in her life that she’s even considering adoption, this is a red flag. Please note: My daughter’s mother did hide her pregnancy from the general public, but her closest family member, as well as her doctor, knew she was considering adoption. She doesn’t have to tell the world, but she should have told someone close to her, plus her health care professional.
5. Blatant obviousness. Some prospective adoptive parents have simply searched for an expectant mother’s name, found her public Facebook account, and discovered that she has announced she’s very excited to become a mom. One woman on a group I frequent found pictures of the expectant mom’s baby shower. While most scammers aren’t this brazen, it never hurts to do a quick social media search, just in case.
6. Group posts. If someone posts in an online forum that he or she is looking for a home for an unborn or existing child, this is most likely a scam. Do not text, call, or email these people. If the forum allows it, you can post a reply directing the poster to a real adoption professional. Honest people do not offer their children up like litters of kittens.
Expectant mothers, or women pretending to be pregnant, aren’t the only ones who scam prospective adoptive parents. Adoption professionals, or people posing as adoption professionals, can too.
Look out for the following warning signs:
1. You get an email from someone you’ve never met from an agency you’ve never heard of telling you that they desperately need parents for babies or children.
2. An adoption professional quotes you a large fee, which you decide is unacceptable to you. At a later date, the professional calls you and states they’re having a “special” and the fees have been reduced.
3. The adoption professional guarantees that you will have a baby in a specific, usually short, amount of time, or reports that none of their matches ever fall through.
There is a line between optimistic and gullible. You want to be on the right side of it.