Saturday, May 17, 2008

Teacher, Teacher Call On Me!!!

I know the answer to the question! See me sitting at my desk waving my arms in the air so the teacher will let me talk? Good grief, I have spent the last six years of my life combing Westlaw, Lexisone and Versuslaw studying up on domestic adoption fraud and looking for the legal opinions to resolve the mess my agency created in my life.

Do you think that domestic adoption has the same degree of fraud as international adoptions?
The short answer is yes, I do. Yes, I lived it. Yes, I plan to amend my civil complaint and allege fraud. Fraud with facts to support the tort as my former attorney should have long ago but was too fill-in-the-blank to do it.

The long answer, I really feel is a good way to do some legal education on some of the more well-known legal decisions concerning domestic adoption fraud. Which is divided into a couple categories. First are the cases where agencies use fraud to get the first mother's consent. Second are the agencies where they ignore putative father's rights. Third are agencies who promise happily ever after and don't deliver. Fourth are the wrongful adoption cases where agencies represent the adoptable children as healthy and mentally sound and they are actually quite ill children. The result is the adoptive family experiences unexpected and extraordinary medical expenses and ruined lives.

I also think this would be a good opportunity to explain the fiduciary duty of adoptions agencies and the higher level of legal duty that imposes on an agency entrusted to handle adoptions. It really shoots that "adoption has no guaranteed outcome" phooey to shreds when you look at the legal issues and gee, paralegal like me likes to talk about legal issues and educate in the process. I think a second post on the Crib just for breach of fiduciary duty is in order and I'll get around to it soon.

I think the Third District Appellate Court gives a great definition of Fraud under the Adoption Act in Illinois:

"Fraud, for purposes of the Adoption Act, is defined as 'anything calculated to deceive, whether it be a single act or combination of circumstances, whether the suppression of truth or the suggestion of what is false, whether it be by direct falsehood or by innuendo, by speech or by silence, by word of mouth or by look or gesture.' Regenold v. Baby Fold, Inc., 68 Ill. 2d 419, 435, 369 N.E.2d 858, [] (1977), quoting People ex rel Chicago Bar Ass'n v. Gilmore, 345 Ill. 28, 46, 177 N.E. 710 (1931). Where such fraud is proved, it vitiates all transactions touched by it. Gilmore, 345 Ill. at 46." In re Adoption of E.L., A minor, 315 Ill. App. 3d 137, 151, 733 N.E.2d 846, 858 (2000)"
Gee, that pretty much covers every paragraph in that falsified home study that the appellate court deemed defamation per quod and reckless, doesn't it? Write a home study addendum behing the PAPs back, don't tell them what it says for over a month and then not fully investigate the allegations and say so in the home study document? I think we covered suppression of truth, suggestion of what is false, direct falsehood, innuendo, speech, silence, word-of-mouth and other forms of dishonesty, with that little falsified home study that I still don't have case entries made during the time LSSI wrote it. How in the heck do you write a home study and not make a case entry? Hell, Kim Holder wrote case entries for phone calls where she got a busy signal but not one during a home study addendum? Go figure!

Incidentally, the agency in this case, In Re: O.S. that defines fraud under the Adoption Act was none other than Lutheran Social Services of IL. Uncanny, huh? LSSI told the first mother she could have visits with her child. LSSI was trying to terminate her rights to so an LSSI foster parent could adopt. The first mother worked her rear off to correct the problems in her life without any help from LSSI for years. However, LSSI imposed the condition mother could not tell the child she was his mother. Needless to say, the mother failed the bonding assessment and LSSI recommended the child be adopted by their clients. Court said nope! Appellate court remanded it and ordered the agency to give the first mom a fair and fighting chance. One of the few appellate cases I found where the court actually examined the social work methodologies of a child welfare agency in depth. More courts need to instead of just taking the social worker's testimony at face value.

There is also the Tina Olison case, also a LSSI adoption case. Tina was another first mom who rehab herself with no help from Lutheran despite being ordered by the court to give Tina services. Tina went above and beyond to get her child back. However, the LSSI foster mom was none other than now a Supreme Court Judge Ann Burke and her Chicago Alderman husband. Tina didn't have a chance.

A related question to fraud is ethical in nature. Is it fraudulent to recruit PAPs to a domestic program when the agency does not have an equal number of maternity clients to provide children for the PAPs, for example? Is it ethical and/or fraudulent not to tell domestic PAPs on a waiting list the program is on hold due to a shortage of pregnancy clients needing adoption placement services?

For a clue, read article:
LSSI admits they recruited PAPs with a lousy ratio of maternity clients. It was on the front page of the paper and if Kim Holder said it and the newspaper quoted her, I suppose she is telling the truth. Would have been nice if she told the truth to us in February 2002 and not waited until December 2003. We were recruited by LSSI in September 2001 and the domestic program went on hold about a month before our home study was finished in late January. All Kim Holder told us is we "had to be patient since things are a little slow". We decided to network with other agencies who need AA PAPs and they welcomed us into their agencies, but LSSI objected strongly to us networking.

According to
LSSI's fall newsletter, another PAP lingered for two years in the domestic program before they sent the PAP to Bulgaria, where she had a failed adoption. Then they sent that PAP to GT. Five and a half years and three countries to complete one adoption and LSSI brags about Kim Holder being a compassionate caseworker? Go to page 17 of the PDF for the story.

Very strange how LSSI decided to publish their summer newsletter just before oral arguments on the appellate case on November 5, 2007, isn't it? And to publish their next newsletter bragging on an adoption Holt actually handled a few days after the appellate decision was released. Kim Holder's contribution to that adoption was pretty minimal. So what she wrote a home study? And actually wrote one that pleased her PAPs? Again, not your usual timing on the newsletter release, is it?

I've got a ton more of appellate decisions for wrongful adoption, putative father's rights, duress in obtaining the consent of the birth family. One of these days, it ought to make a dandy law review article. It will be a chore to write but worthwhile.

NEW Question for Contributors

Do you think that domestic adoption has the same degree of fraud as international adoptions?

New Tool Installed

Introducing Snap Shots from

I just installed a nice little tool on this site called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.

Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.

Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Adoption Partners News Article

Many families are eager to adopt children from other countries and give them a loving home.
But some families who used an adoption service in the Upstate said they never got what they were promised.

WYFF News 4's Tim Waller talked to a Stacy Bernstein of Peekskill, N.Y., who said Adoption Partners of Simpsonville took her money and failed to deliver.
Bernstein said that she lost more than $11,000 to the agency, but more than the money, she said she believes she has lost the opportunity to adopt a 4-year-old Guatemalan girl named Ingrid.

Bernstein said that Adoption Partners told her that Ingrid would be her child once an international adoption was finalized.

"It's horrible. It's horrible. I look at this and I see her as the 13-year-old American New Yorker that I envisioned her as, that I know she's never going to be," Bernstein told WYFF News 4.

Bernstein said that Ingrid's adoption started to go bad when Adoption Partners told her that Ingrid's birth mother had two identification cards, one of which might be fraudulent.
"Then I was told, 'well, it'll be fixed any day now.' " Bernstein said. "Any day now became months and months. Any day now still hasn't come."

The Better Business Bureau said that Adoption Partners of Simpsonville has gotten complaints from across the country.

Tim's Looking Out 4 You report on international adoptions will air Thursday on WYFF News 4 at 5.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What I've learned

My opinion on adoption has always been, What a wonderful way to form a family. I grew up with cousins who were adopted, there was never any "difference" in our family who was a biological member and who was adopted. It was just another way children joined the family. I was pretty young when I first got the idea to adopt, deciding that I would wait until I turned 35 and see where my life was (husband? career? home?) then. As things worked out, I filled out the application for my first adoption agency on my 35th birthday.

That first agency was a summer hosting program. I was dreadfully unprepared for the experience, and blamed myself for much of what happened. Years later, as I learned more about adoption preparation, I put some of that blame on the agency that didn't prepare me. I've done A LOT of research since then. My first bit of advice to a potential adoptive parent is to read everything you can get your hands on about raising children, attachment and bonding, and raising children who were adopted. Some of the stories will scare you to your core, but they are essential reads. I'm now of the philosophy that it's better to know just how bad things can actually be (and know that there's STILL worse out there), so that I can prepare myself and be happily surprised when things aren't quite as bad. I want to be the best parent I can be for my child, and that means having a roadmap for when things aren't picture-perfect. Remember that children who have been relinquished, abandoned, or taken away from their first families might have experienced severe trauma that can affect every aspect of their lives. I want to believe that love will save all, but now I realize that there will be some tough times on that road to salvation.

My second adoption agency, that adoption was for me. I wasn't looking to "save" a child, and I made the difficult decision to be a little selfish with the type of child I requested. My second bit of advice to potential adoptive parents is to be completely honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle. All children come will a distinct personality, every child is completely different, and there's no such thing as a "perfect" child. If you know that you will not be prepared to parent a child with a stated special need, DO NOT let an agency try to convince you that the child will be fine when he/she is in a stable home. (For many children, special needs are correctable over time and with the proper treatment and supervision. Be 100% honest with yourself because that time may be much longer than you were led to believe, and the situation may be more stressful than you could have ever imagined.)

I chose my second adoption agency because of the director's personality. Someone recommended this agency (a person I "met" online, on a list of adoptive parents), I contacted this agency and several others, and felt that this director was the most sensitive. She was compassionate, she seemed to understand everything I was saying and was anticipating my needs and concerns. She was friendly and I really thought she was always looking out for the best interests of the potential adoptive parents and the children. "What a great job she has," I thought. "She gets to help unite children and parents!" My third bit of advice to potential adoptive parents is to get A LOT of feedback before selecting an agency. One person isn't enough, especially if it's a person who hasn't completed an adoption yet (things can go horribly wrong at ANY point during an adoption process). Join e-mail groups that are country-specific and ask about the agency, check out forums like and ask about the agency, search for blogs by clients of the agency and see what people are posting. (Hint about - feedback must be done in private, but you can get an idea of someone's experience by looking at the timeline of their process.) You will hear good and bad about every agency, and it may be tempting to brush off the bad experience as an isolated incident. If you're questioning the bad feedback, just ask yourself what YOU would do if you were that parent. (In my case, would you have given up the referral of a child who already fell asleep in your arms and your trusted agency promised the problem would work itself out any day? For how many days would you believe the problem would work itself out? At what point would you give up on that child? And what would you expect the agency to do when you finally said, "Enough is enough?")

My fourth bit of advice is to remember that adoption is a BUSINESS. Even the best agency, the most ethical directors, the most compassionate social workers, this is still their JOB. There are some out there who really are in this business for the "right" reasons (the children), there are some who have lost sight of the right reason, and there are some who just take advantage of the situation. In my opinion, the middle group is the worst because they truly believe they are doing the right thing and that the potential adoptive parent is completely out of line. As a potential adoptive parent, you are entitled to everything that is outlined in your contract, you are entitled to be treated with respect, you are entitled to timely communication with your service provider, and you are entitled to know the truth about the legal process you are paying for. If an agency director chides you for asking a question or for inquiring about your process, this is NOT acceptable as this is their JOB. You are a paying CLIENT, they are not doing you any favors by helping you process an adoption. Do not be intimidated by an agency director who can't be bothered to treat you with respect. If your hairdresser dyed your hair blue but you only asked for a trim, you would probably find another hairdresser, right? And you might even demand a refund, or file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, right? Why should you expect any different from the company that you've paid money to help you form your family? Surely your family is more important than your hairstyle!

My last bit of advice to potential adoptive parents is to keep your eyes open at all times. If you think the agency is lying to you, they probably are. If something doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. The Internet is a wonderful way to connect with others. Create a separate e-mail, not tied to any blog or list or anything that your agency knows about and give NO distinguishing information about yourself through this e-mail. Use it to follow up on those things that aren't quite adding up. Hopefully, you'll find out that you're just worrying too much. But if not, if you're one of the 5% of adoptions that are like mine was, you'll be happy for the anonymity. Five percent may not be a lot, but if it were YOU...

Adoption Agency Research Questionnaire

I created an Adoption Agency Research Questionnaire to assist PAPs while they are gathering information. I wish I had asked more questions and spent more time on the research and information gathering part of our journey. I hope this helps PAPs avoid some of the pitfalls along the way. Permission is granted to use for personal purposes only. Click the title of this post to download this document. Thanks! :) Dawn

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NY Times Article

This article is about the many agencies going out of business and the difficulties they are having getting Hague Accreditation. It mentions Waiting Angels, Claar Foundation and Orson Mozes (Adoption International Program, Inc. co-owned by Christen Brown.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Join the Chorus

This Mother's Day, Join The Chorus with Ethica

On this Mother's Day, the adoption community will celebrate and honor first and adoptive mothers for the love and care they've provided to their children. These mothers might be blocks or oceans apart, but connected through a desire to ensure their children's well-being and futures. We at Ethica, ask that you help contribute to their legacies by supporting ethical adoptions, practices, and policies.

Our work reminds us that motherhood through adoption has its challenges and sometimes, heartbreak. Unfortunately, adoptions can be tainted by questionable practices and the victimization of vulnerable members of the adoption triad. When problems arise, families and their advocates approach Ethica for guidance and assistance. Their stories speak for themselves:

- An American mother calls, seeking help to recover her child, whose "adoption" she never consented to.
- An anthropologist calls after interviewing ethnic minority Vietnamese women who are desperatelysearching for their children. They had been given as little as $31 USD as “poverty alleviation support,” promised that their children will be returned to them in several years, and that until then the orphanage will provide for them. The children have been internationally adopted without their consent.
- A family is stranded in Guatemala, abandoned by their adoption agency in the midst of new policy changes that essentially close adoptions while the country centralizes its process.
- A young woman adopted from Eastern Europe, and then left in the U.S. foster care system, wonders if she is a citizen since she has no immigration paperwork and needs to apply for federal assistance.
- Adopted children in an African orphanage tell their prospective adoptive parents about being sexually abused. As a result they are denied food, and the orphanage threatens to stop their adoptions.
- An adoption agency uses a bait-and-switch tactic, offering children to prospective adoptive parents despite not having the appropriate paperwork or histories, then switching the "referral" in-country.
- A Christian missionary group questions if their donations are being used to care for orphans as the poor conditions persist.
- Families report giving "donations" of $5-7,000 to Vietnamese orphanage directors in order to complete their adoptions. And yet two months ago, Ethica was asked to provide blankets and formula for babies dying from unusually cold weather....

Ethica receives 50-80 inquiries a week from adoption triad members in crisis. Over the past 6 years, we have assisted over 8,000 children and families, often advocating for them with the U.S. Department ofState, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and state attorney generals. Currently we are actively assisting over 200 children and families in the U.S., Guatemala, Vietnam, Liberia, Haiti, and Nepal.

In the United States, in addition to answering many questions and supporting individuals through difficult situations, we have conducted a review of state adoption laws. We have testified in person and in writing on adopted people'srights to their birth records. We have worked on cases involving the informed consent of first parents.

Our work involves human rights issues such as the trafficking of children into adoption. We have carried out several successful humanitarian aid projects to Liberia and Vietnam.

It is essential that Ethica continue to assist families in crisis and expand our advocacy initiatives. Ethica is the only truly independent adoption advocacy organization doing this vital work. Ethica represents all members of the adoption triad, and has no competing financial interest. To maintain our independence, we do not acceptmonetary support from anyone who places children for adoption.

Please consider joining our campaign, "Voices for Ethical Adoption." As an Ethica supporter, you are aware of the ethical challenges in adoption and the need to make ethics a priority. We need your voice. Our goal is to raise $20,000 in 15 days so that we can meet the increasing demand for our services. Unlike adoption agencies, we do not receive funds from placing children for adoption, so we rely on the community's goodwill and support.

A $100 donation allows Ethica to administer our humanitarian efforts for 1 month.

A $250 donation allows Ethica to train a state adoption regulator on adoption fraud and need for adoption consumer protection laws.

A $500 donation can keep the Ethica phone lines open for 1 year.

A $1,000 donation can cover Ethica's office rent for 4 months.

Thank you for your past and continued efforts to promote a dialogue on ethical adoptions!

Linh Song, MSW
Executive Director
Ethica, Inc.