Adoption is an emotional journey which can be the culmination of a couple’s dream to have a child. Sadly, this emotional vulnerability means that adoption scams are popular. While rare, adoption scams do happen, so you need to be aware of the warning signs.
The Signs of an Adoption Scam
In a typical adoption scam, a woman will make contract with a family looking to adopt. They may also scam an adoption agency. Adoptive families can spend thousands of dollars while supporting the non-existent birth mother only to discover later that they’ve been tricked into giving up their life savings by a scammer. In order to prevent this from happening to you, here are some musts in the process:
- Choose a Professional: The people most at risk of scams are potential parents undertaking independent adoption, as these prospective parents need to network and advertise themselves. This puts them in the spotlight for potential scammers. Those without the help of an adoption agency will need to vet the birth mothers themselves, which can be tricky. An experienced adoption professional will be able to reduce this risk, as they will offer advice and be able to screen potential birth mothers before the potential parents become further involved. Adoption agencies will be able to protect clients from scammers, thus reducing risk.
- Get to Know the Birth Parent(s): Take the time to get to know your birth mother, either through meeting via your networking or your agency. Where possible, meet face to face and encourage them to speak to an adoption professional before proceeding further. A genuine birth mother will usually wish to utilize this path to clarify her own questions. A scammer might be avoidant since they don’t want to be caught. A birth mother or birth parents should want to get to know you and should ask questions about how you intend to raise and care for their child.
- Take Notes: Don’t be afraid to take notes or keep an adoption diary. Keeping a record of the adoption process and your interactions with the birth parent(s) will help you keep you organized and focussed on the present, meaning you’re more likely to notice any red flags that could indicate an adoption scam.
- Never Directly Transfer Money: It is completely legal in most states to support the birth mother through her pregnancy and postnatally. However, if financial support is requested, you should never directly transfer money to the birth mother. Instead, make payments through your adoption agency or attorney as a secure middleman. This will help keep your money safe and will also ensure, should a scam be revealed, a clear paper trace is kept for the authorities to investigate.
- Keep a Network: Join Facebook groups and other adoption communities. This will help you steer clear of and be updated on adoption scams. Most scammers will target multiple families at a time, so you may find that someone else in your area is adopting from the same woman and the scam will be foiled in time to prevent you and others from falling for it.
While adoptive parents should definitely be aware of adoption scams, it is also important to put things into perspective. Adoption scams are rare. In general, most families are able to trust their instincts when it comes to birth mothers and agencies. Just remember, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Utilize the proper channels to ensure transparency and to have a healthy, happy adoption experience.