Q: I’ve been hearing about adoption scams involving birth mothers. What kinds of things should we know about as prospective parents?A:
First, you should know that scams are extremely rare. However, on rare occasions when a scam occurs, typically a genuinely pregnant woman will work with several prospective adoptive couples at the same time and ask all of these adoptive couples for prenatal and/or living expenses. Another rare type of scam involves an alleged birth mother who is not actually pregnant, but attempts to exploit prospective adoptive parents for living expenses. Q: Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves from these scams?A:
Yes; there are several things prospective adoptive parents can do to avoid being scammed by an adoption agency, an adoption attorney or a birth parent:
1) Check your resources very carefully and ask for references.
2) Ask a lot of questions. A good attorney or agency will welcome tough questions.
3) Involve your attorney to protect your rights from the very beginning.
4) Make sure any agency you’re working with is in good standing with the state’s licensing division. You can also check the Supreme Court of Ohio's website to make sure the attorney is licensed and has not been sanctioned: www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/AttySvcs/AttyReg/Public_AttorneyInformation.asp
5) Try to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the birth parent.
6) Be aware that faked ultrasounds may be purchased online. Let your lawyer order any birth parent medical records directly from the doctor rather than allowing the birth mother to order them.
7) You may ask the birth parent to submit to a drug screening, as well as a criminal background and employment check, but be careful. Most birth parents are not criminals and do not want to be treated as such. A face-to-face meeting can prove invaluable, both for gauging the birth parent’s character and mitigating any negative effects of the screening process.
8) Prospective adoptive parents also can learn about a birth parent through the Internet (e.g., by checking Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
9) Make written notes about any conversations you have with a birth parent. Also, provide all information to your attorney.
Q: What should we do if we realize we’ve been the victims of a scam?A:
Contact your attorney immediately, stop making any payments, stop payment on any outstanding checks and report the scam to the local authorities.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Thomas Taneff, a Columbus attorney who concentrates on probate and adoption law and has served on the Ohio Adoption Commission.