There are many types of fraudulent acts targeting unsuspecting individuals, but perhaps the cruelest involves the fraudulent adoption of children.
Adoption fraud, also known as "wrongful adoption," refers to any form of intentional misrepresentation or illegal act by someone during the adoption process for the purpose of personal or financial gain. Perpetrators of adoption fraud can include adoption agencies, facilitators, birth mothers and, in some cases, potential adoptive parents.
Typically, in adoption fraud cases, the adoptive parents claim that they were wronged by agencies which failed to provide them with a child's full background information -- thus depriving them of the opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether to adopt. In other cases, adoptive parents are "scammed" by online birth mothers who promise the adoption of their babies to more than one family in return for financial support, travel expenses, and other pregnancy-related costs.
Most states do not have laws aimed specifically at punishing adoption fraud. Instead, these states punish adoption fraud as a felony charge of theft by deception -- punishable by fines or jail time (up to 20 years in prison in some states.)
Other states, such as Indiana (which has an adoption deception statute), make it a misdemeanor for a birth mother to accept adoption-related expenses from more than one prospective adoptive parent or agency, or to accept money when they have no intention to give up their child. Under these laws, prospective adoptive parents may sue the birth mother for more than several times the amount of expenses paid.
Browse through a collection of adoption laws by state.
Adoption Fraud Examples
There are many types of adoption fraud cases. Generally, adoption scammers target unsuspecting adoptive parents through some act or form of deception with the hopes of personal or financial gain.
Examples of adoption fraud might include:
It is a good idea for anyone seeking to adopt a child to pay attention to warning signs that may indicate attempts of adoption fraud. It is also important to know that a "red flag" or potential warning sign does not always mean adoption fraud is taking place. Instead, warning signs should be used as a sign to conduct further research into the person or organizations you are working with -- hopefully before any money has passed hands or expectations have been confirmed.
Below are some common warning signs to look out for during the adoption process:
Adoption Agency or Facilitator Red Flags
Potential Birthmothers Red Flags
What to Do If You Believe You Are a Victim of Adoption Fraud
Adoption fraud is a serious matter that takes an emotional and financial toll on its victims. If you suspect fraudulent adoption activity, you may wish to report the potential violation to your local police department, the FBI, state attorney general office, or National Fraud Information Center.
Have You Been Defrauded? Talk to a Lawyer Today
If you or someone you love has personally been affected by adoption fraud -- especially after the exchange of money has already taken place -- you may wish to speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney in your area who can discuss your legal rights and actions you may take. Contact an experienced family law attorney near you for some peace of mind.