Some thoughts from Executive Director Dewey Crepeau, an experienced adoption attorney, on recent news about the arrest of an adoption scammer.
A recent news article about the arrest of accused Indiana adoption scammer, Amber Jackson, is another reminder that all of the normal difficulties and troubles that one may experience in adopting can be compounded by the deliberate efforts of others.I guess in a fallen world we should not be surprised that any human endeavor, including something as beautiful as adoption, can be the subject of deliberate sabotage.
In the above listed news article, a woman is charged with multiple felony counts related to adoption scamming. Adoption scamming usually involves a woman who accepts money from someone with the intention of never placing a child. While this does not happen that often, it does occur often enough that experienced adoption agencies are usually wondering, at least initially, if they are dealing with a scammer or not. People who are new to adoption will occasionally ask me to discuss adoption alternatives with them. One of the definite advantages of going with an experienced adoption agency is that we are more attuned to scammers than an individual who is attempting to adopt on their own (especially for the first time) can ever be. The prevalence of scammers in today's society is one reason why our agency has chosen not to put our families’ profiles on an Internet site that is publicly accessible.
While most scams involve money, occasionally we hear of women who obtain some type of psychological satisfaction from scamming adoptive couples without asking for any money. They usually end the scam by claiming that they have had a miscarriage.
Prosecution of adoption scammers is relatively rare. Often the woman is really pregnant but has no intention of placing. However, that is difficult to prove as she can always claim that she simply changed her mind. If that is the case, and she only worked with one adoptive couple, most prosecutors are unwilling to devote the resources necessary to prosecute the case. In the above case, there were ideal factors that lead to prosecution. First, she was never actually pregnant and falsified medical records. That alone would probably be enough to lead a prosecutor to file charges if enough money had been scammed. Other additional factors in the above story was that the birth mother worked with more than one couple or agency which clearly shows an intent that she wasn't going to place with at least someone that she accepted money from as part of an adoption plan.
The best way to protect yourself from being scammed is to work with an agency. While some scammers are blatant and crude in their methods, some are very subtle and patient and content to get a little money at a time. It can sometimes be a judgment call even for an experienced agency to decide whether to work with some birthmothers who may appear to be possible scammers, and while we typically catch most before a match is made, sometimes scammers can fool even experienced professionals. The only good news is that it may be possible that if you do lose money you can attempt to reimburse yourself through the federal adoption tax credit. However, that is little consolation for your psychological and emotional damage that is left in the wake of an adoption scammer. If a prosecutor is willing to file charges, he must have a victim that is willing to come forward. While you cannot erase the pain of what happened to you, you may be able to protect others if you are willing to cooperate with the police and the prosecuting attorney.
One final word on scamming, it does occasionally go the other way. We have heard rumors of a couple who seem to delight in making themselves available as adoptive parents in difficult cases only to pull out later on leaving birth parents and the child in a very difficult situation. The bottom line is that there are those who would take advantage of anyone in a vulnerable situation, and it pays to protect yourself by seeking the advice of professionals who have less emotional investment than you do, and who may be able to save you both time and emotional distress.