Until mothers can bring lawsuits for the return of their children, the adoption industry has no financial incentive to assure that mothers are fully informed before consenting to adoption. While adoption agencies are licensed by state authorities, the penalty for coercion or fraud is loss of license, not undoing illegal adoptions. State authorities move slowly and corrupt adoption agencies often continue their wrongful practices for years before states take action.
Additionally, independent adoptions, where the parties are brought together by an attorney or a facilitator, may not be subject to state regulation at all.
Our reader KimKim points out that mothers should have an attorney before
they consent to adoption. True, true. Again, however, mothers likely lack the wherewithall to pay an attorney and adoption agencies often discourage mothers from seeking legal counsel.
Some states allow attorneys who arrange adoptions to represent both the adoptive parents (who are paying the bill) and the mother (who is not). Clearly a conflict of interest.
In other states, the prospective adoptive parents’ attorney arranges for the mother to have an attorney paid by the PAPS. The mother’s attorney is often more of a facilitator, making sure the adoption goes smoothly than an advocate for the mother. The only way to assure a mother's attorney is an advocate for her is to have an independent source of funds which brings us back to where’s the money to come from?
Extensive media coverage and public appeals can raise some money but it’s a poor way to run a railroad. Governments can’t help. They’re laying off teachers and shutting prisons to balance their books.
Here are some ideas:
Add a surcharge to the adoption petition filing fee, the fee paid to the courts by prospective adoptive parents when they commence a legal action to adopt a child. The money raised by the surcharge could go to a fund administered by the courts to compensate attorneys for mothers.
Require prospective adoptive parents and adoption agencies or facilitators to pay the mother’s attorney fees if the mother wins in court. State and federal laws commonly allow victimized consumers to recover attorney fees in cases involving the sale of securities, insurance, and other products where the parties have unequal bargaining power. Of course, laws allowing victorious mothers to collect fees should be a one-way street. Just as a purchaser of securities who loses in court does not have to pay the broker’s fees, a losing mother should not have to pay the PAP’s, agency’s, or facilitator’s fees.
Create a foundation to raise money. Awarding attorney fees won’t help mothers if the PAPs lack resources or hide their assets. And of course, corrupt child purveyors may simply close their doors and move to another state rather than pay a judgment for attorney fees.
A pipe dream perhaps but we’d like to see foundation create a Mothers Wall website. Mothers would pay a small amount; say $10, to place a few words on the Wall. If the Wall attracted perhaps ten thousand mothers, the $100,000 raised would be a good start to helping victims of adoption fraud get their children back. The Wall would also help inform the public and women considering adoption about the pain of adoption loss.