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Adoptive Parents Beware
The wolf among us
July 01,2007 / Sue Anderson
Untitled Document

As the old adage says, "What you don't know can and will hurt you." In the world of international adoption, this may be especially true. For 12 years, The RainbowKids.com Adoption Advocacy Website has advocated for special needs and waiting children by the use of a photolisting, waiting child newsletter, email lists and community groups. Although it is impossible to meet, screen or endorse any particular adoption agency, the website does feel a responsibility to adoptive families and therefore has a strict policy allowing only licensed Adoption Agencies, who are watched over and accountable to state and federal authorities, as well as adoptive parents, to advertise on RainbowKids and/or photolist children. It is then imperative to any potential adoptive parent to thoroughly research the licensed adoption agencies before pursuing the adoption of any child.

Unfortunately, these safe-guards are not shared by any other large adoption website that features photolistings. "Yes, adopting a child is in every way a 'look before you leap' endeavor," says Martha Osborne of RainbowKids.com, the largest international photolisting of children. "But does that mean we should disregard the needs of these families who are touched by the online photos of children? Absolutely not. As an adoptee, adoptive mother, and child-advocate, I am appalled to see a total lack of self-policing by other websites that photolist children. It's a huge responsibility to advocate for these kids, but one that must be carefully and respectfully done for both the children and families."

Others in the adoption community seem to agree. After Vietnam closed to adoption (Vietnam has since re-opened as of 2007) due to a baby-selling scandal involving facilitators operating out of the US, Trish Maskew, executive director of Ethica, a nonprofit outfit that advocates for better international adoption laws, commented, "Your neighborhood health club is more heavily regulated. The industry allows unlicensed facilitators to work without oversight. The U.S. government refuses to act, and consumers walk into this blind."

Potential adoptive families need to understand the difference between an Adoption Agency and an Adoption Facilitator.

Adoption facilitator definition: An unlicensed for-profit company providing adoption services. Adoption facilitation is illegal in 20 states and is strongly discouraged to adoptive families. Adoption facilitators have no central licensing authority nor are regulated by their state. In addition, they are not required to provide pre or post-adoption education or support to families. Adoptive families are initially drawn to adoption facilitators because of the promise of low fees and short waiting times only to find out too late that they had been taken advantage of by an unscrupulous organization. Adoptive families are encouraged to contact the licensing departments of the adoption professional that they plan on using before they commit to a particular adoption program.

Adoption Agency Definition: An agency licensed by the state to prepare adoptive parents with pre- and post-adoption education, provide information on available children, perform home studies, complete paperwork, place children in homes, and perform other adoption-related functions. Adoption agencies can be for-profit but are most often non-profit agencies providing support and services to families and those children who remain in orphanages. Adoption agencies must comply with all state and federal laws, as well as the soon-to-be implemented Hague Convention on Protection of Children.

What can adoptive parents do to protect themselves?

  1. Contact the State Licensing Specialist and inquire about the agency or 'adoption professional' you are interested in.
  2. Don't fall in love with a photo.
    Know your facts first.
  3. Visit the website of anyone listing a child and look for information such as confirmation of 501(3)C (non-profit) status that most Adoption Agencies have.
  4. Visit JCICS, an international child welfare organization.
  5. Do not accept the term 'agency' to mean that an individual or organization is truly licensed. Facilitators will use this term on their website and in emails.
  6. Use the internet as a tool in adoption, but always be alert.

And remember what your mother always said, "Just because someone says it's true, doesn't mean it is." Any person, website, or organization can claim any number of things: that they are Christian, humanitarian, that they provide certain services or aid to children in orphanages, etc.

The truth is, MANY wonderful adoption agencies do act as charities and humanitarian organizations that provide amazing services and provisions to orphans throughout the world. They are lifelines of service and hope to families and children. It's up to adoptive parents allow themselves time to find the truth and embrace a safe journey through the journey that will unite them with a child.

It is also imperative for these same good adoption agencies, adoption advocates, and organizations to speak out against unscrupulous operators who walk among us, and refuse to support or associate with those websites or venues that knowingly promote adoption facilitators. Children and families suffer in our silence.



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Readers Comments  (17 Comments)  View All Comments
Our family was adopting from Guatemala and unfortunately were notified by the FBI a year and a half later (and $25,000 too) that our child that we had received pictures of monthly was not even matched to us. Our hearts were broken...but not our spirits. We brought our child home 6 months later....and adopted again...and we will not allow the corrupt individuals to dim the hopes of families and children who need homes! - Laura
We found our daughter on a photolisting websight. The agency was licensed. The USCIS is taking them to court but that does not get our funds back, but does not bring home our child! Fraud is fraud. The agency has lost their license but we lost our child and our funds through their deceptions!- Anonymous
I fell in love with a photo in May 06. I signed with the agency listing her. More than a year later, I was told my dossier was in country and my travel date was very soon. Wrong! My agency was indicted for fraud and child trafficing, and shut down. They kept my money and my dossier was still in their office. Now, I'm starting all over. I learned not to fall in love with a photo. I hope others can learn from me in some way.- Tiffany
It is all about the $ even with some reputable agencies. We used an agency that was more concerned about a large number of adoptions, rather than good homes. We were misled that the in-country rep had met our daughter. She told us our child could speak 2 languages, was potty trained, etc. When we arrived, our daughter was 3 1/2 with the development of an 8-12 mo. old. We got her home & found many severe disabilities. We are adopting again, but no thru the last agency.- Leatta
Very well written. I am a grandmother to 2 little girls adopted from China. My daughter used one of the agencies that has sn children on your site. Loving grandmother to 3 beautiful grandaughters.- Joyce McAngus
Bottom line: If an agency or anyone else is not helping the kids left behind in orphanages then I really can't see using them. Read between lines folks: it's about the $.- Brenda D.
Strong stance, one that I appreciate hearing. Thank you, Sue, for standing up for all of us. I read your blog regularly and learn much from your writings.- Candice Proctor
I would like to say that I have experienced both sides of this coin. Twice we used an agency, once a private attorney in the US, and once a facilitator for the Ukraine. Did we get our child home from the Ukraine? Yes and no. We chose a child from a photolisting (not on this site) and had the child switched to another child. Did it cost much more than quoted? YES. Too many families keep quiet after the adoption is complete. I am pleased to see this topic being brought out into the open. - Lewis Sansibar
Excellent, thought-provoking article. It is very, very important to research your agency before signing on with them. Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau, and also with the State. International adoption is too expensive in and of itself to make the even more costly mistake of choosing an unethical agency! - Marie Carmenati
Great article! However, just because an agency is licensed it doesn't mean they are a good agency. There are agencies on ethical sites that are currently in BIG trouble for their actions...adoptive parents really do need to beware!- Anonymous
Why is it that adoption agencies do not speak out against unlicensed people? And when is our government going to do something about it?- April
Sue: You said in this article: "Unfortunately, these safe-guards are not shared by any other large adoption website that features photolistings." Would one of those sites start with a 'P' by any chance? - LJ
Good to see Rainbowkids taking on some difficult subjects this month. - Casey Pendelton
Our facilitator, whom we believed was an adoption agency, made us sign an agreement that we would not post on the internet yahoo groups. We lived in fear of angering them and were told if we refused our referral, it would be "many many months" before we were offerend another child. We accepted the loss of thousands of dollars and switched to a GOOD and REAL agency! As the article says, Beware.- Angela P
There used to be a website for rating agencies run by someone named Mary..what ever happened to that? It was a great resource. Now there is nothing out there that lets parents truly share their experiences online. - Stacy in PA
clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. No one else will speak up, Sue. I'm so glad you are doing so!- nameless
I work for a TRULY good adoption agency, and I know what this author is saying is fact. The truth is this: most of the facilitators are lawyers and if you speak against them, they'll throw a lawsuit on you for no reason. Parents, beware.- Anonymous
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