' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Illinois cracks down on sleazy adoption practitioner

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Illinois cracks down on sleazy adoption practitioner

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed an action against one of the sleaziest for-profit operators in the country, Adoption Network Law Center (ANLC) based in California. In spite of an Illinois law banning for-profit practitioners, clicking on ANLC's website brought Illinois residents directly to a screen offering "Help with an Unplanned Pregnancy in Illinois...or "Adopt a Newborn Baby in Illinois."

ANLC's website creates the impression that their service--offering "Free Confidential Assistance...24/7" is local. However. When I clicked on from my home in Portland, Oregon, I got "Help with an Unplanned Pregnancy...in Washington or Adopt a Newborn Baby in Washington." Is it because direct marketing by unlicensed practitioners is illegal in Oregon? Or are these folks are geographically challenged? I don't know.


Regardless of the state, though, the information is the same. I was quickly on sites offering "Unplanned Pregnancy Help," or "How to Adopt a Newborn Baby" and "Finding the Perfect Family for Your Baby." It's all very slick.

Jane
 "Unplanned Pregnancy Help" offers a "safe haven providing privacy and a place to avoid conflict" i.e. a place to hide from the baby's father and those pesky relatives who want to help you raise your baby. And this conflict-avoiding place is not a back room in a house on Shady Lane. It includes a "spacious living room, large swimming pool, and an extensive exercise facility." Next I was offered the opportunity to "Search pre-qualified waiting families for your baby,"  from which I could search for families based on ethnicity, religion, or geography. ANLC also offers "Financial Assistance" in addition to the comfy housing and "24/7 support. "We will always provide you with personal and confidential assistance." You bet they will! The moment a mother-to-be begins to waiver, they'll be right there.

ADOPTION INDUSTRY SLEAZE
The website does not, however, disclose who's behind the business. A search of California's Secretary of State's Business Registry shows two dissolved corporations with the name Adoption Network Law Center, Inc., both created in 2002. This first in Laguna Beach with Stephen Lamb as the registered agent and the other in Lake Forest with Richard Mowery as the agent. Both are California attorneys. A Google search didn't help me find the magicians behind the screen but did come up with "Our Awful Experience with Adoption Network Law Center" by adoptive parents, The Chittister Family. Their site in turn led to other complaints about ANLC including one in Ripoff Report from a first mother stating that, among other things, she was not told that open adoption agreements were not enforceable in her state.

Baby Tamia
Attorney General Madigan's action is possible because Illinois enacted The Adoption Reform Act in 2005, which requires adoption agencies to be non-profit corporations licensed by the state, bans unlicensed companies from advertising, contains a Bill of Rights for First and Adoptive Families, restricts fees, and establishes a toll free adoption-complaint registry.

The law was passed in response to the "Baby Tamia" case: a six-month old girl was nearly adopted by alleged drug-users in Utah after her birth mother, suffering from postpartum depression, gave the baby to a for-profit agency, A Cherished Child, doing business in Illinois through newspaper ads. "A Cherished Child" we discovered, is based in Utah, where adoption is a major industry. Linking on "A Cherished Child" takes us to "A [sic] Act of Love," a candidate for the 2011 Demons in Adoption Award. A [sic] Act of Love was responsible for illegally placing the children of fathers Ramsey Shaud, John Wyatt, and others for adoption.

We commend the State of Illinois (my home state!) for taking a tough stand on the adoption industry, but states can't fight this battle alone. Adoption Network Law Center may continue in business in Illinois by having Indiana or Missouri pop up when Illinois residents access its website, and convince would-be adopters and vulnerable pregnant women to come to neighboring states for its "services."

FEDERAL REGULATION NEEDED
It's common for the seamy adoption practitioners to operate across state lines, selecting "adoption-friendly" states and making it difficult for their victims to contest adoptions. The husband-and-wife team of attorney Raymond Godwin and Laura Beauvais-Godwin, operator of Nightlife Christian Adoptions, and self-described "devout Christians" are based in South Carolina, but snatch Indian children from Oklahoma. Victimized parents include Dusten Brown, who lost custody of his daughter when the U. S. Supreme Court eviscerated the Indian Child Welfare Act. Another Oklahoma father, Jeremy Simmons, is fighting the adoption of his daughter Deseray, also taken to South Carolina. About that case, there is some good news! Pursuant to court order, Deseray has been removed from the custody of the would-be adopters, Bobby and Diane Bixler, and placed in foster care. The Bixler's are in their 60's; their two adult children say they are abusive parents.

Illinois can reform its adoption laws and go to court to enforce them but in many states, reform is unlikely. Thanks to the lobbying of LDS adoption attorneys, Utah hasn't fixed its laws in spite of horrific abuses by the adoption industry documented in the Salt Lake City Tribune. Raymond Godwin received an Angel in Adoption Award at the recommendation of former South Carolina Senator James DeMint, which ought to make anyone who is nominated for this award leery of joining its ranks. It is clearly by and for the adoption industry.

Trying to control sleazy adoption practitioners through state laws is kind of like playing Wack-a-Mole; Con-artists open up shop in one state when they are shut down in another. Anything short of federal legislation is unlikely to stop vultures like ANLC, A [sic] Act of Love, the Godwins, and others. We've seen this scenario before. When the Great Depression hit, it became apparent that state laws regulating the sale of securities and banks were ineffective. Congress enacted laws in the 1930's which worked well until Congress weakened them in the 1990's, laying the ground for the recent Depression.-- jane

PS: Thanks to one of our readers for calling our attention to the Illinois legal action.
PPS: The only reason we can think of for A [sic] Act of Love to use so obvious a grammatical error in their name is so that the business would beat out all other adoption sites in alphabetic listings.
PPPS: Convicted child sex offender Jerry Sandusky was also an Angel in Adoption although we understand he has been stripped of his award.
____________________________
SOURCES
Illinois files 'historic' lawsuit against for-profit adoption agency
Adoption Law Center
Adoption Network Law Center -- Facebook Page
Governor Blagojevich signs legislation establishing Illinois as national model for adoption reform
Our Awful Experience with Adoption Network Law Center
Ripoff Report
Second Indian Infant Whisked to South Carolina for quickie adoption
Raymond W. Godwin
Nightlife Christian Adoptions
Baby Deseray removed from the Bixler's Custody in South Carolina

FROM FMF:
How the Internet is changing adoption
Vote for your favorite Demon in Adoption!
Adoption in Utah: No place for birth fathers
Utah: Sewer Pit of the Adoption Industry

The Baby Thief by L.J. Sellers is a novel we stumbled on (but have not read). To our mind it certainly looks like a promising read. It is a detective novel, Sellers is a popular writer (who lives in Eugene, Or, the setting of her books), and this book has a lot of Amazon reviewers who read here.  This is from an one reviewer, Gina Gilmore: "In this book, Sellers addresses the issues of egg harvesting and cults. I really don't want to say much more in fear of giving away the plot - but if you think the idea of stealing and/or arranging to buy another woman's eggs in order to resell them to a couple desperate to have a child, just take the time to research the topic - you'll be amazed and appalled by what is going on out there." Well, we might be horrified, but we won't be amazed.


The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry
by Mirah Riben "Expose of the privatization of the adoption industry; the indistinguishable line between gray and black market; the scams and rip-offs; exploitation in both domestic and international infant adoption markets where the children are the commodity and prices are set based on quality (i.e. age, race, health)while 143,000 children linger in foster care. Extensively researched and documented inside report of the lack of regulations that allow anyone to call themselves an adoption "professional" and arrange adoptions. Questions whether the money can be removed from adoption and return it to a service which puts the best interest of children first instead of simply allowing anyone who pay - including pedophiles - to "adopt" a child." --Amazon. This is chock full of facts and figures. It is too bad that it never has gotten the attention is rightly deserves. 





15 comments :

  1. This reminds me of the sleazy companies that I tried to avoid working for as a trucker and how the government finally forced regulation nationally on that industry and why the federal government must step in. Agencies that skirt the law in one state can just relocate. Powerful attorneys and lobbyists can suppress for or advance the worst laws intended for a young girl or woman at her most vulnerable time of life.

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  2. Thank you for drawing attention to Illinois' efforts to stop interstate baby brokering, with your report about Adoption Network Law Center. One correction, however: ANLC is NOT an adoption agency. Although ANLC falsely advertises its "adoption services" throughout the United States as if it is a licensed agency, it is not. Its $16k fee reportedly does NOT include the legitimate adoption agency services and legal services that are necessary to complete an actual adoption. Caveat emptor!

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  3. I believe ANLC are facilitators.

    Facilitators are evil as far as I'm concerned.

    Reading the "birthmother" and adoptive parent FAQ pages of any facilitator creeps me out:

    http://www.adoptionconsultantsinc.com/BPCAQ.html
    http://www.adoptionconsultantsinc.com/AdoptParFAQ.html

    In regards to the "birthmother page", one can see that an "adoption plan" is an "adoption contract".

    See the answer from "Jillian" on this Yahoo questions page.

    http://ca.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111028190053AAg4wGp

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Anon and cdcbc,
    Yes, ANLC is a facilitator, not an agency. I've changed the sub-heading.

    ReplyDelete
  5. From one of the links above, and bears repeating here, written by a first mother:

    Absolutely horrendous in terms of cost and in terms of how they treat expectant mothers.

    They harassed me for two weeks after I told them I was going to parent my son. They put pressure on the potential adoptive parents to keep calling and calling me to ask how i was going to be a successful parent. They offered me no resources or advice in terms of choosing parenting over adoption. The "councilor" they paired me with was an idiot. She kept sending me profiles of couples that where SO outside of what I was asking for....I could just tell they where the couples that had been on the wait list for a long time so they were pushing their profiles more....even though they where not even close to what I was considering.

    They are not even an adoption agency. They are a facilitator. Which means they can bend around state laws even worse then regular adoption agencies.

    Please take your money and your (hopefully) decent ethics somewhere else. Like foster care...where children really do need homes and expectant parents are not harassed for their newborns.
    Source(s):
    23 year old mother of a two year old son...who I almost gave up for adoption thanks to some very poor contact from ANLC. Did I mention I am engaged, graduated from college over a year ago with two bach. degrees, am in my third semester of law school? Does not sound like someone who should have been encouraged to give her child up for adoption?

    2 years ago

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  6. They are really manipulative. I remember when I filled out a pregnancy 'crisis'website a few years back (as a 'young pregnant woman') while researching adoption and I started getting private (secret ) emails, drop packages (w/pictures and letters from wanting couples) and phone calls from someone who 'really cared' about my 'problem'. In fact, the 'professional' never suggested I tell my family but implied rather that she would help me. In my perspective, as a caring mother, they use manipulative sneaky tactics to obtain and secure babies.

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  7. While I think this is a step in the right direction, it really leaves me more confused than ever about the laws concerning adoption. The last sentence of the main article quotes a representative from The Cradle, an adoption agency in Illinois. Their website contains much that I would consider coercive, but I guess that is ok because they are a nonprofit agency? Also, to me, having a comment from an adoption agency in the article just made it seem like they were complaining about the competition.

    I surrendered my daughter in Illinois through a private adoption. I believe that this is still completely legal as well. What is the difference between a "facilitator" and a random lawyer handling an adoption? Unless I am missing something, there is absolutely no oversight of private adoptions. I certainly feel like there was much that was unethical about the adoption of my daughter but it was completely legal. I am thoroughly behind eliminating the coercion from adoption, however it seems that although the articles tout this as an advantage, the only real issue that Illinois has with them is that they are a for-profit business.

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  8. Good point Eileen,
    I agree that sleaziness in the adoption industry is not limited to facilitators. And yes, licensed adoption agencies are motivated to get rid of facilitators because they are competition.

    There are some differences, though, between facilitators and agencies. Agencies are regulated by the state and they state can put them out of business if they commit fraud and so on. I must say from what I've heard, though, states are not diligent in enforcing their own rules.

    Licensed agencies must be non-profits (although they can pay big salaries to their top employees), have licensed social workers on staff, and so on.

    Adoption attorneys, like all attorneys are licensed by bar associations which can punch their tickets if they misbehave.

    Facilitators are not licensed by any governmental entity. The people behind ANLC, though, are California attorneys. I don't know if any of their clients have filed complaints against them Their CA Bar website shows no discipline which can be made public against therm. Even if the CA Bar took their licenses, however, they could continue to arrange adoptions although they might have to change the name of their business.

    We definitely need tougher adoption laws in the US, but at least Illinois is going in the right direction.

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  9. I understand and agree that the adoption industry needs more regulation. However, I don't think the federal government would be a good way to accomplish that. How can you witness the Veronica Brown case and CHIFF, and still believe that federal regulation is a good idea? If anything, getting the feds involved would open the floodgates and bring back the bad old days.

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  10. The past few posts have been really interesting, not just for their content but for the discussions they have engendered.

    I know there was some vehemence expressed against those who advocated foster adopting in response to the previous post about using Facebook to scout for a "birth mother." It is because of what is clearly inadequate oversight of private (especially infant) adoptions (at least Illinois is making a dent in addressing the problem, which is great) that I have no hesitation about pointing to the foster system as an option for someone who is considering adoption. I say this as a suggestion, not as a requirement nor necessarily the best avenue for all prospective adoptive parents.

    I have adopted from the foster system and, in my experience, received a tremendous education that shifted my focus from my own wants to the needs of the children and what was in their best interests. Of course there are dysfunctionalities in the system, of course you must not expect that you will just "get a child" and all will be well, but that doesn't happen anyway. You cannot just seek out the foster system and expect that a child will be handed to you. In fact, you are far more advised about a child's best interests and about your own ability (or not) to handle specific problems before an adoption can happen. There are safeguards in place that reduce the likelihood of unnecessary or improperly matched adoptive placements. Again, reduced likelihood does not mean a guarantee that all is right with foster adoption but, in my experience, it is a considered approach that does not occur at all in private placements.

    So, I will continue to suggest to my prospective adoptive friends that they should "look into" whether adopting from the foster system might work for them. I started out this journey like most of them: to "get" a baby after years of infertility. The whole issue of a child's best interests was revealing to me. I do not see any evidence of a child's best interests being considered in private adoptions. It is all about what the adults want.

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  11. It always strikes me that the advertising and counselling that many adoption practitioners undertake must surely be breaking cerain advertising and social worker codes of ethics. Wouldn't it be great if we could find some way to sue them so that they are foced to change the way they advertise to women and to change the way they counsel women? A piple dream, I know.

    Also, this is totally unrelated to this post but this new movie with Judi Dench in it sounds pretty good:

    http://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/440495/Philomena-review

    Back story:

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/sep/19/catholic-church-sold-child

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  12. These "crisis pregnancy centers" offering "free testing" are the ultimate misnomer. I had an experience with one of these in 1995 during a pregnancy scare. The woman there was highly critical of me when I inquired about abortion should the test become positive and forced to watch an anti-abortion film. What a way to be supportive of an 17-year-old in high school, who came for a pregnancy test expecting "caring." Geez. Anything "Christian" and "pregnancy" in the same sentence should be avoided like the plague.

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  13. cdcbc wrote: "It always strikes me that the advertising and counselling that many adoption practitioners undertake must surely be breaking certain advertising and social worker codes of ethics. Wouldn't it be great if we could find some way to sue them so that they are forced to change the way they advertise to women and to change the way they counsel women?"

    I thought our readers might be interested in knowing what information social workers are required to give mothers considering adoption. Below is what what Oregon rules require. Failure to comply would not nullify an adoption but should result in some penalty against the adoption agency. It would be up to a separate state agency which licenses social workers to sanction the worker.

    Oregon Rule: 413-215-0401 Information regarding support and resources needed to parent a child.
    (B) Information regarding options within adoption and the consequences of
    each option, including the possibility of a birth parent continuing contact
    with the adopted child and the adopting parents after adoption, the
    variables and options for such continuing contact, the desire of the child
    for continuing contact, and the availability of mediation to resolve issues
    involving contact.
    (C) Information regarding grief and loss inherent in adoption.
    (D) Information regarding the effects and permanence of adoption.
    (E) Information regarding availability of or referral to appropriate support
    services. The availability of these services may not be made contingent
    upon the birth parent's decision to select adoption as the plan for the child.

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  14. My husband and I had 2 failed adoptions with ANLC in the past year. ANLC requires a fee that is supposed to be for post placement "adoption services" including counseling to both the birth mom and adoptive parents as well as monitoring the birth mom's health conditions which they did none of the above. Additionally they did not inform us that if we accepted a CO adoption opportunity we would have to pay the legal fees and adoption agency fees in advance and both were non refundable. Then their most unethical action was when the birth mom tried to blackmail us after the baby was born stating we had to give her more money to get the baby. Our ANLC liaison said we needed to give her the money because many birth moms hold adoptive couples hostage. My husband and I did not accept the bribe despite ANLC's encouragement.

    Glad to see IL is taking action on the adoption laws. I will continue to pray that other states and government agencies start acknowledging that the child's interest in not being protected under the existing laws.

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  15. Anon,
    I encourage you and your husband to file a complaint with the agency in your state which licenses adoption agencies. This is probably your state child welfare agency.

    I also suggest you contact your legislator and your Congress person. They need to pass laws outlawing outfits like ANLC.

    ReplyDelete

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