With many years of experience, I’ve gained knowledge to guide my clients away from such negative outcomes. Many of these horror stories are born in myths. But other times, a couple chose a path filled with red flags that ended in a scam. If you’re thinking of pursuing adoption, it’s important to choose a legitimate route, which allows you to navigate the process smoothly and safely.
Four adoption warning signs
1. The birth mother has placed for adoption previously
Some couples look for birth mothers who have placed a child for adoption in the past, because those mothers know how the process works and what to expect on an emotional level. This can definitely be good for you, but you should still keep your eyes open for warning signs. For instance, if the birth mother’s personal and financial circumstances have improved since her first placement, a previous adoption might actually be a sign of risk. If she is in a better position to raise the child this time, she may be using her knowledge of how the system works to make money during this pregnancy.
2. The birth mother has an extreme sense of urgency
You should be concerned if the birth mother is rushing into and through the process. Most birth mothers are anxious to match with a family, but it’s a red flag if she’s rushing so quickly that she shows little interest in the process — with the sole exception of finances.
If the birth mother is in a rush to match with you quickly without being interested in the details of your particular family, you do not want to enter into an agreement with her. She is placing her child for adoption with a forever family, and she should want to know details about the future parents. She may tell you frequently of extreme drama in her life, with urgent and last-minute needs for funds. If you find this happening a lot, and she seems solely focused on finances, be wary of reaching an adoption agreement with her.
3. The birth mother doesn’t want other parties involved
Birth mothers who refuse to work with an agency or attorney are waving a huge red flag. If she says she wants to work directly with you, it’s usually because she wants to circumvent all the legality involved with the adoption process to get away with scamming the family in one way or another. Directly contacting the birth mother and trying to negotiate the legal aspects of an adoption with her can end badly for both of you. Involve some other entity, whether it is a lawyer or an agency. The birth mother may also say she wants a closed adoption. A few years ago this would have been normal. It can be a legitimate circumstance today, but this is a yellow flag. Almost all adoptions are at least semi-open these days. The less interaction the birth mother has with you via a closed adoption, the easier it is for her if she is scamming you.
4. The birth mother says suspicious things
Birth mothers know what adoptive parents want to hear. For instance, she knows many families want twins when adopting. If she says she is having twins without any solid proof of twins, she may be lying. Likewise, you should be suspicious if the birth mother says she found you online but cannot give you details about where, when or why she selected you. Often a supposed birth mother who is running a scam says she is stuck in another country, most commonly Cameroon, and claims she needs money for a plane ticket to get to the U.S. so she can place the baby with you immediately. If this occurs, she only wants to take this money and run.
Five tips for avoiding adoption scams
Despite those adoption horror stories, positive adoption stories happen much more frequently. Here’s how to get the best outcome for birth mothers, adoptive parents and the children.
1. Check the IP address of all online communications. Double-check that they match up with what the birth mother says about her location.
2. Work with reputable adoption professionals with a strong track record. Choose agencies and attorneys that have in-person interaction with birth mothers and try to meet her in person yourself.
3. If you advertise your desire to adopt online, do not have a potential birth mother contact you directly. Instead, have her go through your agency or attorney.
4. Double-check evidence. When you receive a proof of pregnancy, sonogram picture or photo of the baby or child, search Google images to see if a public image was used.
5. Never send the birth mother money directly. You want any monetary interactions to be handled through a reputable agency or attorney.
Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy, an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months. She is also the creator of Beyond Infertility, a community support site and online magazine geared towards families who have gone through infertility.