The Rise of Adoption Fraud and How to Protect Yourself

Take these 8 steps to protect yourself and your family.

Guest Writer August 01, 2019
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Strength. Trust. Love. No matter what side of the adoption process you find yourself on, these qualities are as important as the air we breathe. Birth mothers find what must be a staggering amount of strength within themselves to choose what they feel will be a better life for their unborn child. This strength comes from pure love. Adoption is a brave and selfless choice. These birth mothers place an incredible amount of trust in a family to raise their child.

Like birth mothers, hopeful adoptive families require an inner strength of their own. They have a desire that is housed deep within their souls to parent and realize that family ties are built of love not just biology. These adoptive parents are vulnerable and would do just about anything to connect with a child that is meant to be a part of their family. This vulnerability does not represent weakness; in fact, it’s just the opposite. Being vulnerable means that adoptive parents show up and devote 100 percent of themselves to the adoption process and the birth mother even when the outcome cannot be controlled. At any time, the birth mother can change her mind and decide to parent which is, of course, her right. But this also shows that being an adoptive parent is a powerless journey that requires trust as well, and taking this chance takes strength and courage.

About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. Some sources estimate that there are about 2 million couples currently waiting to adopt in the United States — which means there are as many as 36 couples waiting for every one child who is placed for adoption. Two million couples in the U.S. alone are waiting to adopt. These couples will likely do almost anything to bring a child home to love. I know because I’m one of those hopeful adoptive parents. In hindsight, I will admit I knew very little about the risks and was blind to some of the acts of desperation (on all sides) in the industry.

This trust and desperation throughout the adoption industry has, unfortunately, led to a rise in adoption fraud. Most unsuspecting adoptive families think it cannot and will not happen to them and are left with countless emotionally and financially debilitating effects. Admittedly, that’s what we thought too until a few months ago when my family fell victim to an emotional adoption fraud that rocked our world. Knowledge is power, and this article is meant to arm you with information and warning signs. Hopefully, our story will help protect other adoptive families from suffering through the same experience.

Astonishingly, there are women out there who pose as loving birth mothers only to prey on the vulnerability of adoptive families and viciously steal their hopes, dreams, and money. This is what happened to us when we tried to self-match with a birth mom in an independent adoption. It’s difficult to sum up the story in a short narrative, just as it is hard to put into words the devastating impact this has had on our family.

When a supposed birth mom reached out to us in September 2018 after seeing a website profile I had created, she roped us in with her lies and deceit and made us believe that she had chosen us to adopt her unborn child. The extent to which the birth mom took this lie was uncommonly cruel because this “birth mom” wasn’t even pregnant. At any moment she could have set us free of this lie by telling us she had changed her mind and was going to keep the baby, and although this would have hurt, we could have picked up the pieces and moved on with trying to connect with a different birth mother. BUT this birth mom chose to keep her lie going all the way to the end of November when she went so far as to check herself into the hospital where we had flown out to and were waiting for the baby she had promised to us to arrive. Why did she check herself into the hospital we were waiting at when she wasn’t even pregnant? Just to see the emotional pain it caused us? This was seemingly her only motive. She never asked, and we never paid her a single cent. Not long ago, she was interviewed by a local news station in which she admitted to never actually being pregnant at all. This woman wasn’t pregnant when I spent money to fly out to visit her for the first time in early November, or when she had my family fly out for the premature birth of the baby girl at the end of November. She wasn’t pregnant when she had us worrying about how much pain she was in from her “contractions,” or when she told us the baby was coming early so the doctor had to give her medicine to help mature the baby’s lungs. This birth mom wasn’t pregnant when she told me the baby weighed 5 pounds 2 ounces, or when she sent photos of blood in the toilet and told me it was her “bloody show.” She wasn’t pregnant when she called me screaming on the way to the hospital, and I literally coached her through labor. She wasn’t pregnant when she told us she had given birth in the ambulance and to meet her at a local hospital with a NICU. When I was standing there waiting to hold this hopeful baby daughter in my arms in the NICU with my husband and my 6-year-old son in his new “Best Bro” shirt we had bought him to welcome his new sister, this birth mom wasn’t pregnant at all.

So while she never came out and asked us for money, we spent thousands of dollars on flights, lodging, and rental cars. We spent money on preparing for a new baby in our home. But, it’s not just the money; she asked for our faith and our trust, and then she took our hopes and dreams. We went into this process with our whole hearts and gave ourselves freely. To us, it was worth it because she was making a dream that we have worked towards for 10 long and hard years come true. But she was never even pregnant at all. She did it all intentionally knowing that she held the power over us with the promise of completing our family which she knew would fulfill our greatest desires.

There are no words to describe the pain and long-lasting effects that this trauma has caused my family and me.

Despite all that, we have been through and the emotional pain that we are in, we have not given up the dream of adding another child to our family. We have so much love to give, and we know there is another child out there that is meant to be a part of our family.

If your dream is to add to your family through adoption, persevere. Family is worth the fight, but please be careful. Take extra precautions, especially if you decide to self-match. Adoption fraud can happen as an emotional or financial crime and is, unfortunately, more and more prevalent these days as rising adoption industry costs make hopeful adoptive families take to the internet, as we did, to complete their families.

Here are 8 steps you can take to help protect you and your family:

(Editor’s Note: The following section is almost identical to a part of an article the guest wrote for the Adoption For My Child website [which contains more about her story].)

1.  “Watch for red flags and trust your gut!! This is so important and equally difficult. When signing on with an agency, they will instruct you to tread lightly with these birth moms so you don’t push them away. This is totally understandable, as this is the hardest decision they will ever make. We excused a lot of the red flags we saw and just wrote them off as being the stress from the decision to give up a child. Now that we look back, we should have trusted our gut and walked away when something didn’t feel right.” It’s so hard to let go of the hope invested in this dream but the pain from adoption fraud is worse. I know, I’ve lived it.

2.  “Confirm the pregnancy! Sadly, there are very few laws that help to guide and protect adopting families. This is still a grey area, but try to confirm the pregnancy any way possible (such as through a lawyer/social worker who is in contact with the birth family, speaking to the birth family’s doctor, attending appointments, etc.). Some agencies provide verification and/or proof, so ask before you sign with them.” This is something our lawyer wasn’t aware of, but most worthwhile adoption attorneys should be able to help with this.

3.  “Do your homework when picking an agency. Be sure to check what states they work in, and read reviews. There is a difference between an adoption agency that will walk you through the process of working with the birth family from start to finish, and an adoption marketing agency, who will post your picture and information for potential birth mothers. Chances are very small that you will be able to get your money back once you sign with the agency! So…

4.  “Know what your money is paying for! Before signing with an agency, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and read the fine print. What exactly is your money paying for? Adoption agencies charge a lot of money to couples who could already be drained of finances due to infertility treatments, etc. Also, keep in mind that…

5.  “You may be limited to who you can work with once signing with that agency! Change needs to come to the adoption industry! Once couples go through the difficult journey of picking an agency, they may be limited to working with just that …[agency's] lawyers, birth families, social workers, etc. You don’t want to miss your chance of finding the adoptive child that belongs with your family because they work with a different agency whose fees you will also have to pay.

6.  “Guard Your Heart! Adopting families are vulnerable, as they have so much love to give to a deserving child. They have gone through a long, hard process of paperwork, home studies, etc., to bring home their missing piece. Do not be in such a hurry to adopt that you forget to protect yourselves during a very vulnerable time. It is worth the extra time it will take to make sure you are protected. Not everyone is who they say they are! DO YOUR HOMEWORK! VERIFY THE PREGNANCY!

7.  “Seek a lawyer/social worker/agency’s guidance BEFORE giving any money to a birth mother!

8.  “Join FB Adoption Scam groups and search for the birth mom’s name, and/or ask if any other HAP’s are working with her!! I wish we had known these existed before our adoption journey began!” They are an amazing resource!

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Laura Trayte has always wanted to be a mother. When finding out she couldn’t conceive naturally ten years ago, she began her career in infertility, adoption, and now is a survivor of adoption fraud. Her soul-filled desire was to have a family, and she has devoted every fiber of her being to this quest for the past decade. Now, she’s a mother of a six-year-old miracle from five rounds of infertility treatments, and a hopeful adoptive mom who has a story to share, lessons to teach, and is on a mission to help others who desperately want to add to their families and to change the laws which govern the adoption realm. In addition to being a ghost writer, blogger, teacher, and graphic designer, she is currently writing a book about her journey with infertility and adoption. You can join her infertility and adoption support community, Family 4 All, on Facebook.

Laura Trayte

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