Being Pro Adoption Without Being Scammed
Adoption is an idea that rests in the heart of many couples, but fails to come to fruition for a variety of reasons. Sometimes fear holds them back. Hearing stories of fraud causes them to avoid taking those first steps.
Recent news articles have told the stories of families who have lost significant sums of money in adoption proceedings. In some cases, the expectant mother bilked them out of funds. In others, the agencies closed down after accepting payments.
Whatever the reason, it’s horribly discouraging to people who are trying their best to adopt and willing to lay out significant amounts of money to do so. The result is even more people who decide it’s not worth trying.
If you’re considering adoption and want to limit your financial risk, there are a few steps you can take. Due to all the variables, it’s impossible to risk-proof an adoption process, but you can put guards in place so you limit your potential loss and insure that you’re being good stewards of the finances God’s given you.
Control the Home Study Process
The first step in adoption is getting a home study. It is a written assessment of your home, history, and preparedness for adoption and will be necessary to file for adoption with the court. There is no way around this and a good social worker will actually help prepare you for your adoption.
Make sure you are getting the right home study. Home studies for foster-to-adopt, international adoption, and private adoption are all different. If you are going through a private agency, make sure you own your home study when it is over and if you choose to go to another agency, you don’t need to pay for the home study to be released.
A home study will cost you up front – there’s no way around that and someone is investing significant time in writing it for you, so they need to be paid for that – but once you pay for it, you should be able to use it elsewhere for a similar adoption rather than be locked in with one agency. Ask how many signed copies you will receive and if they insist that they don’t give home studies directly to families, go elsewhere.
Avoid Ala Carte Marketing Charges
Some agencies will offer you greater visibility in front of expectant moms if you pay a substantial fee up front. That’s a huge red flag – trust God to get you in the right spot rather than paying huge sums for websites or specific ads that highlight your family. Those dollars are very hard to justify.
Direct marketing, craigslist ads, even Facebook pages promoting your availability to adopt are more often invitations to being scammed rather than helpful in connecting with an expectant mother.
Be Careful About Early Matches
It’s not unusual for us to have an expectant woman approach us when she’s only 8-12 weeks pregnant, asking to see family profiles so she can choose a family to adopt her child. We are happy to help care for her in the process, but we don’t match expectant moms and adoptive parents until the beginning of the third trimester.
At match, most agencies charge estimated fees for the care of the expectant mom. Many states have relatively modest limits on those amounts, but some do not. A large number of agencies match early to collect those funds up front, knowing the expectant mother may or may not choose to go forward. If she chooses not to make an adoption plan, the expectant family forfeits those funds.
Once you are matched, you will most likely need to pay fees. Ask pointedly, if the expectant mother decides not to go through with her plan, what happens to those funds? Some of the fees will be unrecoverable (birth mother expenses) but your match fee should not necessarily be forfeited. Many agencies will offer you a credit on your next match. A few will offer a refund under unique circumstances.
In cases where families are not offered a cash refund, it does not mean they are been scammed. The agency has done all the work they were able to do in caring for the expectant mother, counseling, preparing you, etc. There is inherent risk in adoption that cannot be entirely mitigated, but that is true of any worthwhile pursuit.
Adoption is not easy or without pitfalls. Even so, it is a beautiful expression of the heart of God and a key part of standing for life. May the grace of God rest on those who say yes.
Randy Bohlender and his wife, Kelsey, have ten children, six which were adopted. They founded Zoe’s House Adoption Agency. He recently became the Senior Pastor of Hillcrest Covenant Church in Kansas City.