Adoption is an emotional journey, and finding a pregnant mother who is interested in adoption is one of the most exciting and momentous parts of the adoption process. Unfortunately, there are some who take advantage of this emotional time for adoptive families. While they are rare, adoption scammers are out there and adoption scams do happen on occasion.
What is an Adoption Scam?
In an adoption scam, a woman will reach out to an adoptive family or adoption professional with no proof of pregnancy, with false proof of pregnancy or with no intention of actually making an adoption plan and will request emotional and financial support. Adoptive families may spend thousands of dollars covering her living expenses, only to discover later that they have been victimized by an adoption scammer.
Hopeful adoptive parents have heard horror stories about famous adoption scams, like the one revealed on Dr. Phil’s show in which the adoptive parents spent $40,000 preparing for twins that never existed. Fortunately, there are steps waiting families can take to protect themselves from becoming victims of an adoption scam:
- Choose a reputable professional – Couples who pursue an independent adoption are usually more susceptible to adoption scammers. These families must network and advertise on their own, and they will have to vet prospective birth mothers independently to gauge their intentions and commitment to adoption. Experienced adoption professionals provide counseling services and screen pregnant mothers, mediate contact between prospective birth parents and waiting families, and may even provide adoption insurance to financially protect families in the event of adoption fraud. Many adoption agencies also network with other adoption professionals to identify potential scammers and protect adoptive families. Working with a reputable adoption agency or adoption attorney can significantly reduce prospective parents’ risk of falling victim to an adoption scam.
- Get to know prospective birth parents – Whether you meet an expectant mother on your own or through an adoption professional, take time to get to know her. If prospective birth parents contact you directly and you are interested in moving forward with them, request that they speak to your adoption professional to learn more about the adoption process. If they are serious about making an adoption plan, they will be interested in learning more and receiving the services offered by your adoption professional. Keep in mind that the birth parents should also be interested in getting to know you and your family. An expectant mother should have plenty of questions for you — she will likely want to learn as much as possible about you as she determines whether you are the right fit for her child.
- Take notes – It never hurts to take notes about prospective birth parents, the progress of the pregnancy and your adoption plans. Make notes of any conversations that stick out. If you start to notice red flags, you’ll be able to refer back to these notes and find any inconsistencies that could indicate an adoption scam.
- Don’t transfer money directly – In most states, it is legal to financially support a prospective birth mother during her pregnancy, and adoptive families are often responsible for living expenses and medical costs throughout the adoption. However, all payments should be made through your adoption agency or adoption attorney. In addition, make sure you always follow all adoption state laws when making payments in connection with an adoption opportunity.
- Ask around – Most scammers will target more than one adoptive family at a time. Join online support groups and adoption forums, and keep an eye out for information about current and past adoption scammers. While a scammer may use different aliases and stories with different prospective families, you may be able to notice some patterns if you are the target of a serial adoption scammer.
While it is important for adoptive families to be aware of the possibility of an adoption scam and to know how to recognize the warning signs, it is also important to remember that adoption fraud is rare. Most expectant parents considering adoption are truly interested in doing what is best for their children. When in doubt, follow your instincts and consult an experienced adoption professional for additional help or information.
Adoption Scams in the News
The best way to prevent an adoption scam is to know what to look for. Here, find information about recent adoption fraud cases and other families’ experiences with adoption scammers.
- The Post and Courier – Stealing Hope
- Jezebel – A Ring of Scammers is Trolling Adoption Websites and Duping Desperate Couples
- NBC Nightly News – Families Duped in Adoption Scams
- A Heartbreaking Adoption Scam
- Iowa Family Falls Victim to Adoption Scam
- Ankeny Woman Arrested for Adoption Scam
- Deputies: Woman Took Money from Adoption Agency after Miscarrying Child
- Dirty Rotten Adoption Scammer: The Story of T.A.