Avoiding Adoption Scams

If you have been researching adoption, you have probably heard a few horror stories along these lines: A birth mother contacts a prospective adoptive family and says she wants them to adopt her unborn baby…but she needs money. Thousands of dollars later, she disappears. You may have heard about the “birth mother” who was never actually pregnant, or the one who took money from multiple families, promising the baby to each of them.

First of all, know that these adoption scams are extremely rare. Most birth mothers are honest and trying to do the best thing for their babies. Second, know that there are ways to protect yourself from adoption scams. I’ve listed them below.

  • Work with an experienced adoption attorney or agency. Most qualified adoption attorneys and agencies keep an ear to the ground regarding what’s going on in the adoption community, so they will know what the latest scams are. Choose a lawyer who practices adoption exclusively, and don’t be shy about calling him or her if you feel a birth mother seems suspicious.
  • Know your state’s laws about payments to birth mothers. Every state has strict rules about what an adoptive family may pay to a birth mother, in order to protect both the birth mother and the adoptive family. Educate yourself about what expenses you may pay for a birth mother in your state. If a birth mother asks you to pay for something that is not permitted, explain to her that it’s not legal for you to do so. If she insists, that’s a red flag.
  • Beware of requests for money or help. One thing all adoption scams have in common is that the supposed birth mother at some point asks the adoptive parents for something, usually money. Usually these scammers are taking money from multiple families at once. In one adoption scam I know of, the “birth mother” asked families if she could live with them for several months! Be aware of your state’s laws about what adoptive parents are legally permitted to pay for and give to the birth mother, and when in doubt, call your attorney.
  • Beware of birth mothers who are reluctant to go to prenatal appointments or counseling. If a birth mother refuses to get prenatal medical treatment, it could be because she is not pregnant at all! If your adoption attorney is experienced, they will get the name of the birth mother’s treating obstetrician and her appointment dates. The same can go for refusal to attend adoption counseling, which can also be a red flag of a birth mother who may change her mind at the last minute.
  • Beware of birth mothers who won’t share any information. It is normal for a birth mother to wish to protect her privacy. However, there is a certain basic level of information that anyone who is serious about making an adoption plan will be willing to share. Don’t work with a birth mother who won’t give you her correct address, telephone number, and the name of her treating doctor for the pregnancy.
  • Stay connected to the adoption community. If there is an adoption support group in your community, join it. In such groups, adoptive families and prospective adoptive families share stories and information. If someone has been the victim of a scam, they can quickly and easily sound the alert among other adopting families.
  • Have you ever encountered an adoption scammer? Post your experience in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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