"What's up with that?" - Adoption costs & fraud

Kristen Bowman and her husband always wanted a baby.

When adoption became their only option. they looked to Facebook. "We created a page, and we met a woman out of Mississippi.," says Bowman.

After several meetings with a potential birth mother, the Bowmans were told they had been selected as the adoptive parents.

The Bowmans bought furniture to set up their nursery. They even came up with a name for the baby.

"We talked to her for a couple weeks, then we all of a sudden stopped hearing from her. So I went and did some research online and found out that she was scamming people. We were the third person in her scam," Bowman explains.The Bowmans contacted law enforcement in Alabama and Mississippi, but were told there was nothing they could do.

They now wonder why adoption fraud is not illegal.

Drew Whitmire, an adoption attorney in Birmingham says, "It actually is fraud, and it is illegal. But it's in the criminal code, it's not in the adoption code. There is a section that says if you persuade someone to part with their property 'your money' then you have committed a fraud."Whitmire has worked with adoptions for thirty five of forty two years practicing law. He says fraud does happen in adoptions. and it can be prosecuted.

Whitmire's advice to couples looking to adopt."One of the major things I would tell any of these couples is, get a local social worker. Or an attorney to get you one in the area where the 'mother' is. Get somebody in the beginning to interview the mother, see what she's like. To see what kind of person you're dealing with," explains Whitmire.{} The Bowmans say they have contacted several adoption agencies since then.

Their other concern is the high costs. "We've called different places and the prices range between the lowest is $25,000 and have gotten quotes up to $53,000," Bowman explains."I'd say it's worth the money spent to know there's a contract between you and the agency. That says, this is what we are responsible for and here are the true risks," says Anne Baldwin with Villa Hope international adoption.

Baldwin says the costs provide a variety of services and that each birth parent may have different needs.

"That's going to include the agency you're working with, your home study, social worker fees. Many of the domestic agencies help them get on insurance if they don't have any, take them to doctors visits, interview them and of course, help match the family," says Baldwin. "It's a legal process. I think that's what families sometimes don't realize is that a lot of those fees are going toward the legal part of the process," says Herbert Newell with Lifeline Children's Services.Newell says costs help buy peace of mind. "What a family wants to know is their birth mother has been cared for that she is making a wise choice and doesn't feel coerced into this. To do that, you need to go to a reputable attorney, a reputable agency, who is going to care for that birth mother," says Newell.

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