Heart to Heart Adoptions; Andy and Melissa Moore; The Taking of Ja’Meka

Oh look.  How could it be? Another father’s rights being trampled on by a Utah adoption agency.  Who would have imagined?

Can you taste the sarcasm?

If this is your first time visiting the dark underbelly of the adoption Interwebs, you may not understand.  Utah is infamous for it’s unethical and immoral adoption laws that virtually give fathers zero rights to their child.  Often times, adoption agencies will move moms to Utah to deliver their babies if they know a father will not consent to an adoption or voluntarily terminate his own rights.  This is because it really takes an act of God to retain your rights as a father, in Utah, due to their archaic, unethical laws that continue to be practiced due to heavy lobbying from Utah adoption agencies such as Heart to Heart Adoptions.  No “pesky” father will get in the way of making that buck off that baby in Utah. Better believe it.

Some representatives in Utah have made attempts to change the laws but, alas, all were thwarted.  Why would anyone who profits off of adoption want to make it harder to get those babies?  In fact, a class action lawsuit was brought against the state of Utah due to their unconstitutional laws by twelve fathers.  It was, of course, dismissed. The whole state of Utah is corrupt to the very core when it comes to adoption and father’s rights.

Read about the father’s who initiated the federal class action lawsuit against Utah.

So it was really no surprise, unfortunately, when I heard about Johnny. 

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Johnny with his daughter, Ja’Meka, at the hosptial, when she was born.

Johnny is a father to a beautiful little girl named Ja’Meka that was born on October 18, 2016 in Georgia. Ja’Meka’s mom, while heavily medicated (having had a tubal ligation the previous day) and under duress, on October 19, 2016 was driven to two attorney’s offices by Bonnie Lin Hilton of Heart to Heart Adoptions based out of Utah.  The first attorney’s office was closed, due to being later in the business day.  The second attorney was open and it was there that Ja’Meka’s mom agreed to waive all her rights in the state of Georgia, in regards to her child and the adoption, and instead go by Utah law. She also terminated her parental rights.  Georgia law doesn’t have any waiting period to do this.  It can be done a minute after the baby is born. It was just Ja’Meka’s mom, Bonnie Lin Hilton, the attorney and a notary (Lucinda S. Hand) – signing away her rights while she was medicated recovering from giving birth and a major operation the day before. Let me say that again.  Ja’Meka’s mom signed legal documents that waived her rights and protections under Georgia law and terminated her parental rights to her child a day after giving birth and having a major operation while medicated on opiates. Bonnie Lin Hilton of Heart to Heart Adoptions in Utah arranged this.

Johnny was not aware this was transpiring.  Heart to Heart Adoptions claims that they weren’t aware of who the father was. This is a blatant lie, however. Johnny actually drove Mom to the hospital with labor pains was at the hospital!  There are pictures of him holding his daughter. Regardless, Putative (biological) father law in Georgia is found in Section 19-8-12 of the Georgia Code. This statute requires that a father be given notice and informed of pending adoption proceedings involving his child if one of following conditions is met.:  1.) If his identity is known. 2.) If he is registered on the putative father registry. 3.) If the court finds that the father has either (a) lived with the child, (b) contributed to the child’s support, (c) made attempts to legitimate the child or (d) provided support to the mother during the pregnancy.

Johnny’s identity was clearly known. Ja’Meka’s doctor even checked her vitals while in Johnny’s arms.  Johnny cared for Ja’Meka while her Mom was sedated from the tubal ligation.  While he was not yet on the putative father registry, he had made attempts to legitimize her and provided support to her mother during the pregnancy.  According to Georgia law, notice should have been given to Johnny that his child was attempting to be put up for adoption and he would then have thirty days to legitimize his child – a legal process in Georgia which gives a father rights to his child.

None of this was done and his child was gone the day after her birth.

While Ja’Meka’s mom was tricked into waiving her rights and protections under Georgia law, Johnny did not agree to waive his rights and protections and was very vocal that he did not want an adoption to take place.  His daughter was born in Georgia and all of his rights as well as Ja’Meka’s remain INTACT. 

As much as Heart to Heart Adoptions would like to try to ignore these facts.

That’s probably why Melissa and Andy Moore of Boise, Idaho are purportedly hiding out in Utah. They live in Idaho, have Ja’Meka, and can’t return home because their ICPC paperwork is not complete. They cannot get cleared.  They have not met the requirements to take this child from her home state of Georgia into Utah as prospective adoptive parents. Ja’Meka’s father’s rights were never terminated.  They remain intact.

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Andy and Melissa Moore, couple holding Ja’Meka illegally.

And just for fun, here’s Andy Moore’s grown daughter, Jessica Mawhiney, congratulating her stepmom and dad for procuring this infant. The post is now deleted or made private, as is Melissa’s Facebook profile.

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I guess when you unethically and illegally take someone else’s child you kinda have to hide. Andy’s profile, for now, is still active.

So who is behind Heart to Heart Adoptions?

Founded by Donna Pope and Mary Anne Holmoe, Heart to Heart Adoptions is a “smaller” agency in Sandy, Utah.  When looking at their form 990’s as a non-profit, it appears they don’t make too much of a profit at all.  In fact, they’ve claimed to be in the red for at least one year, losing money.  Now, I can’t say for sure, but Duncan Wright is a board member with Heart to Heart, according to their website and their taxes. I also found Duncan Wright as the owner of a non-profit in Sandy, Utah called “Rotary International.” It claims it has zero income and is a social welfare organization with an affiliation of being a subordinate in a group ruling. A quick Google search will bring you to this page, Sandy Rotary. When you go to the members page, Duncan is listed last and described as:

“Duncan Wright
Club Treasurer

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Duncan Wright has worked for Wells Fargo Bank since he graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in Finance in August of 1985. He was a Branch Manager of several branches prior to working in his current position as a Relationship Manager in the Wells Fargo Business Banking Group. He has worked in his current position for 20 years. He has served as Chairman of the Board of the Sandy Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the Chamber Finance Committee. He has served as the Sandy Rotary Club President and currently serves as the Club Treasurer. He is also a member of the Sandy Honorary Colonels.”

Marney DeVroom is also listed as the Chairman of Heart to Heart Adoptions.  She is also the founder and owner of Spectrum Academy in North Salt Lake City, Utah. According to their form 990’s they are doing a little better financially.  After salaries, expenses, and revenue, they profit just above $700,000 per year. What’s interesting about Spectrum Academy is, they have med182a366ical forms for their students on their website. This is a school that consists mainly of pupils on the Autism spectrum from grades K-12. A private, non-profit charter school.  Of about 36 forms for various different conditions, there is a pregnancy form. While that in and of itself isn’t TOO unusual, the wording at the beginning is.  And give that the founder, director and owner of Spectrum Academy is also the Chairman of an adoption agency, well, let’s just say skeptical cat is skeptical. As an afterthought, Marney is also some sort of counsel for oil companies.

 

The wording is:

“- Three-quarters of a million teens between 15 and 19 become pregnant each year.
– Very few teens who become mothers plan on doing so. Out of all teen pregnancies, 82% are unintended. Teen pregnancy accounts for 20% of all unplanned pregnancies annually.
– Two-thirds of teen pregnancies occur among teens 18-19 years old and teen mothers account for 11% of all births in the US.
– Out of all teen pregnancies, 57% end in birth. Another 14% end in miscarriage.
– Nearly a third of pregnant teenagers choose abortion.
– Black teens have the highest teen pregnancy rate.
– Teens who become pregnant are less likely to attend college
– US teen pregnancy rates are higher than those of other developed countries.
– Teen pregnancy rates declined between 1991 and 2005 but are on the rise again.

Statistically the obstetric hazards for adolescents and their infants include increased
mortality and morbidity rates. Health care priorities for the student include promoting the optimal physical / emotional well-being of the student, concern for fetal well-being, providing information and review of available options, assisting student in positive adaptation to new and changing roles, encouraging family / partner participation in problem-solving.”

This is on a page called “Pregnancy Care Plan” and asks for a medical release for Spectrum Academy to have access to any pregnant student’s medical records. Why would a pregnancy care plan have the above information stated? Why would a school need access to a student’s medical records. There is also a form for Asthma. My daughter has Asthma.  I have never once been asked to release her medical records for her school to have full access to at any time.

The medical release on the pregnancy care plan reads as follows:

“AUTHORIZATION / INFORMED CONSENT / MEDICAL RELEASE
1. I have reviewed and am in agreement with the Health Care Plan and I authorize school officials to provide my child with health care services in accordance with this plan. I understand that my student’s health information will need to be shared:
A. To benefit the student in terms of health maintenance and academic progress.
B. When necessary to accommodate the safety and well-being of student and staff.
C. With the discretion of the school nurse to determine what is shared and who should          know.
2. I understand that consent for sharing of health information will remain in effect as long as my student is enrolled in Spectrum Academy and may be revoked at any time in writing by parent / guardian.
3. I understand if clarification of the health information is needed, my signature authorized the school nurse to contact the medical provider and authorized the medical provider to release information.”

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Hmm.

Donna Pope, the President and Founder of Heart to Heart Adoptions. Let’s be clear.  She is not a licensed social worker.  She is a former respiratory care nurse. She is also the one who was engaging with Johnny in the comments section of his review on Facebook of Heart to Heart Adoptions (which has now been disabled). Heart to Heart does have an active license as an adoption agency that will expire, if not renewed, in 2017.

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Bonnie Lin Hilton, social worker that facilitated all of this. She does hold a current license in the state of Utah as a social worker. She does NOT hold a current Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) license for the state of Georgia – where she was conducting herself on behalf of Heart to Heart Adoptions. img_2038Her current license in Utah is an endorsement license.  In other words, she transferred her license from the state of Tennessee where she apparently worked for an organization called “Adoptions Plus” which I can find virtually no information about, besides the fact that her license as a social worker was tied to that organization and the address of that organization was 2211 Berrywood Dr., Knoxville, TN, 37932.  It wouldn’t be going out too far on a limb to assume that Bonnie may have been trying to run her own adoption agency but failed. hope-zettler Interestingly, Bonnie is also listed on the Heart to Heart Adoption agency website as Hope Zettler, LCSW.  I am stumped as to why this is.  But I think it further proves the deception of Heart to Heart. Was Bonnie Lin Hilton once going by Hope Zettler?
Appears that way on the website. For the record, I found no LCSW license for any Hope Zettler in Utah or Georgia.

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Last, but not least, when Johnny was pleading with them to return his baby, via the comments of his review on Facebook, Donna admitted that the paperwork of relinquishment was incorrect (possibly fraudulent as times were entered incorrectly – on purpose??) and was dismissive to Johnny.  She also either lied, or was unaware that Bonnie knew that Johnny was the father as he was clearly at the hospital. The exchange is painful to watch.

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Another man, Michael Ash, has a similar story to Johnny’s with Heart to Heart Adoptions. His daughter was also taken for adoption without his consent or permission using the same fraudulent and unethical practices that Utah and Heart to Heart are notorious for.  You can read his story here.

So where does Johnny stand?

I’d like to reveal our hand but I think it’s in the best interests of Ja’Meka and Johnny to keep that a secret.  The best thing you can do right now is to show your support of Johnny. A Facebook page has been set up to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on. He’s going to need all the support he can get.

Please head on over to BRING BABY JA’MEKA HOME and show your love  and support for Father’s Rights!

Finally, this is a message to Heart to Heart Adoptions, Donna Pope, Bonnie Hilton, Melissa Moore and Andy Moore.

This is NOT the story you want following you around. We will not stop.  We will not rest. Ja’Meka is Johnny’s daughter and she rightfully belongs with him. You cannot go to Idaho because you’re in violation of ICPC. No court is going to grant your adoption once they find out you have violated this. Furthermore, this is not your child. How are you going to look at yourselves in the mirror knowing you stole someone else’s child? How are you going to look that little girl in the face (if the rare rare chance that you actually get to keep her comes to be, which is doubtful) and say, “Oh, we ran with you. Your Dad wanted you but we wanted you more.”

Heart to Heart – you’re on my radar. You’re on a lot of people’s radars now. You’re business doesn’t seem to be going too well, either. I’m not sure how the IRS, and proper licensing authorities will feel about the dirty dealings you’ve been conducting. I highly suggest you get your stuff together and conduct legal and ethical adoptions instead of stealing other Father’s babies for profit by ignoring their rights.

To all of you involved with this serious miscarriage of justice – RETURN JA’MEKA TO HER FATHER.

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For the Fathers

For the fathers who were never made aware they had a child, this one’s for you.

For the fathers who fought like hell to keep their children but the adoption industry won out, this one’s for you.

For the fathers who felt they had no other choice, this one’s for you.

For the fathers who were tricked, coerced, or lied to, this one’s for you.

For the fathers who were accused of horrible things so that the industry could obtain your child, this one’s for you.

For the fathers who are still fighting a David & Goliath battle, this one’s for you.

For the fathers who are about to embark down the path of hell but don’t know it yet, this one’s for you.

To the overlooked, under-represented, swept under the rug fathers out there, I see you. I hear you. Happy Father’s Day. This one’s for you.

A Look at the Laws: Termination of Parental Rights for Fathers and Mothers – Who Does It Protect?

When we talk about domestic infant adoption, who do the laws, which vary by state, really protect? Do they protect the biological or expectant mother? What about the alleged or assumed father? The prospective adoptive parents? How about the child in question? There are fifty states, plus the District of Columbia, within the United States. Each state has their own laws and rules that are governed under more broad federal laws. While most states follow the same general guidelines, some states are uniquely different. Let’s take a quick look at the general practices from most states.

Generally speaking, the most accepted standard of practice, and laws, state that a mother cannot sign a consent to adoption or termination of parental rights unless 72 hours (3 days) has passed from the time of the baby’s birth. Most states allow for no revocation period but do allow for the consent to be challenged if duress or coercion can be proven. Some states don’t even allow for the revocation of consent if duress or coercion can be proven, but most do. In regards to the alleged or assumed father, most states will only consider his rights if he has jumped through a series of legal hoops to acknowledge he wishes to retain his parental rights. Putative father registries are the most common hoops to jump through but many states also require that he show proof he had been financially supporting an expectant mother during her pregnancy in order for his rights to not be terminated against his will. Note that no state anywhere in the country requires a mother to show she has supported herself during her pregnancy in order to safeguard her parental rights (as it should be).

The only time a child would be considered the legal father, in regards to an adoption, would be if the mother and father were married at the time of the birth or if the father signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, and had it notarized (which can only be done after the birth of a child and the mother must consent to this). Even if the husband of the mother is not the biological father of the baby, because they are married he becomes the legal father, no matter what.

These are the general guidelines and rules but, as you will see, not all states are the same and every one of them has their own spice mixed into the batter that will eventually bake the cake called “adoption.”

I’d first like to take a look at some of the more “adoptive parent friendly” states that are out there. This is putting it nicely, though. Let’s start with Utah, shall we?

Adoption Laws in Utah

In Utah, a putative father is defined as a man who had a sexual relationship, with a woman, which will/has resulted in the birth of a child. A father need not sign consent to terminate his parental rights in Utah as they will be terminated for him if he does not jump through the following hoops:

– Petition the courts in Utah, no matter what state he may live in.

– Sign an affidavit stating he is willing, able and capable of providing for and taking care of a child. The affidavit must also include a plan on how he is going to go about caring for the child as well as agreeing to pay child support and all incurred expenses surrounding the pregnancy and birth of the child.

– This “Notice of Commencement of Paternity” must be filed PRIOR to a mother signing consent to terminate her parental rights.

And how long after birth is a mother required to wait before she can voluntarily terminate her parental rights? 24 hours. Yes. One day. Once she signs, any petition a father may file is considered INVALID. His rights are terminated with the stroke of her pen unless he is extremely proactive and resourceful, which is sometimes impossible to do.

Let’s look at what I call the “Utah Strategy.” The Utah Strategy involves an agency, who has learned that an expectant mother is having doubts that the father of her baby will consent to the adoption, moving that mother, unbeknownst to the expectant father, into the state of Utah to live for the duration and remainder of her pregnancy. She is counseled not to tell him she is there. Why? Because this will assure his parental rights will be terminated, per the law above. The Utah law states that any baby born within Utah borders automatically makes that baby’s biological parents subject to Utah laws in regards to adoption. If you are a father and the pregnant mother of your child disappears to Utah, without telling you, how in the world are you to ascertain your parental rights according to Utah law? You don’t. And that’s why so many father’s are losing this battle with Utah. Utah is the most unfriendly state in regards to the rights of biological parents. It doesn’t stop with fathers however. Let’s take a look at mothers.

As we went over before, a mother can sign her rights to her child away, permanently and irrevocably (since Utah has no revocation period) 24 hours after giving birth. 24 hours isn’t even enough time to recover from a hard night out on the town let alone bringing another human life into the world, especially if that mother ended up having a c-section, which is pretty major surgery. Before a mother would even be able to be safely discharged from a hospital, she is able to sign her rights away. Even worse, if extreme duress was placed on the mother or even blatant coercion from an adoption agency (threats or promises of gifts) her consent to terminate her rights is IRREVOCABLE. Only two states do not allow for consent to be revoked in at least some circumstances. They are Utah and Massachusetts.

Alabama Adoption Laws

Like Utah, Alabama requires alleged or assumed father’s to sign up with the putative father registry. Unlike Utah, however, Alabama allows a putative father to register and safeguard his rights up to 30 days after the birth of the child. Now here’s where it gets a little tricky. If the expectant mother allows for it, and agrees to sign her rights away before birth (oh yes, in Alabama a mother can terminate her rights before the baby is even born) then the putative father can “legitimize” the child. This means he will become the child’s legal father, before birth, regardless of the marital status between him and the mother. By doing this a father has fewer hurdles to jump through, in court, later on. However, most women who have made the “choice” to give their babies up usually won’t be on board with facilitating a father in fighting this. In other words, registering with the putative father registry, in Alabama, will only make you aware of court proceedings in regards that child’s adoption. It does not make you the father, legally, and gives you no rights whatsoever. It only gives you the right to fight for the rights you should have automatically had.

As I was saying, an expectant mother, in Alabama, can voluntarily terminate her parental rights to her child before the child is born as long as it is done before a probate judge. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry when I learned a probate judge (not a regular judge which is required after the baby is born if a mother wishes to terminate her rights) needed to be present for TPR. Probate. Think about that for a while. Back to what I was saying…

An expectant mother, in Alabama, can terminate her parental rights while she’s still pregnant. As in before a person even legally exists. Yes, people exist before they are born, technically, but legally there is no person. No birth certificate. They haven’t even been born. Now, to Alabama’s credit, a mother, for any reason, can revoke her consent up to five days after the baby is born.  But I do wonder how many agencies tell her this and I also wonder how successful any woman may be in actually achieving this. If the mother calls the social worker on day four and says, “I’ve changed my mind, I want my baby back!” and the social worker decides to ignore her for a couple of days does this count? I actually have a birthmom friend that this happened to. Her rights were terminated anyway.

Adoption Laws in Wisconsin

Oh the great state of Wisconsin. Even though pretty much all laws governing termination of parental rights for a domestic infant adoption SUCK, Wisconsin is probably the most “natural parent friendly” state in the Union. Of every state, it has the longest waiting period and strictest requirements in order for a voluntary termination to take place. A court hearing is needed for termination to even be considered. A court cannot even be petitioned to get the hearing until after a child is born (no legal person exists = no hearing can be filed for – take note Alabama). This hearing can take anywhere from a week to thirty days to get. It is usually more like 2-3 weeks. During this time a parent can bring their child home with them or choose for the state to place the baby in foster care while still retaining all legal rights to that child. The hearing will consist of a judge asking a series of questions and then determining if he/she will allow for the termination to be signed. If the judge feels that any form of duress or coercion is present, he will not allow for it to be signed. There is no revocation period in Wisconsin but this is probably because of how long it takes to actually terminate parental rights.

Like Alabama, and most states, Wisconsin has a putative father registry. Unlike Alabama, however, rights will be terminated 14 days after the birth of the baby or 21 days after he has been notified, by an agency or attorney, that they intend to terminate his rights if he does not respond. Again, same old song and dance when we are talking about fathers and their rights when it comes to adoption.

What if?

There are so many “what ifs” that can be asked in every law about terminating parental rights. What if the mother is married but he isn’t the biological father? What if she knows the biological father would never consent to an adoption so she never tells him she is pregnant and for every legal purpose uses her husband?  What if an expectant mother disappears so that the father cannot find her and his rights are terminated? What if he finds out later but only after it’s too late, which is what would be the case in Utah. Shouldn’t a father’s rights to his child always be intact regardless of what some state law says? Why is there no recourse for him?

What if a mother has been convinced that adoption is definitely what she wants to do? Promises were made, a rainbow picture was painted. With the euphoria of birth comes all these emotions. Love for the prospective adoptive parents and a sense of loyalty to fulfill their dreams. What if these raging hormones within her body are telling her one thing but, later, her heart will say another? It certainly takes more than 72 hours for a woman’s hormones to balance out after birth. What if a mother is on painkillers when she is signing consent? In Utah it wouldn’t matter. NOT IRREVOCABLE FOR ANY REASON.

Who do adoption laws benefit?

I asked a question at the beginning of this article. Who are these laws benefiting? If this was truly about doing what is “best” for a child then why is there such a rush to terminate the rights of parents. Why does it have to be done before birth or within hours after? It should be quite obvious to anyone reading this that today’s adoption laws, are tailored to help adoptive parents. Greatly. They are the beneficiaries of these laws. If it is so important to attain a consent to adoption from biological parents within hours after birth then why does adoption work in Wisconsin without this practice?

Not only do these laws not help fathers, they actually hurt them. The states that allow for almost zilch in the way of fathers’ rights are carving a path for agencies and attorneys to convince vulnerable and naive pregnant women to victimize the father’s of their children. Fathers and prospective adoptees benefit the LEAST from these laws. If adoption is about finding a home for children who need them then why are we passing laws to make sure that we create orphans that “need” homes by removing their original families from the picture as quickly as possible and sometimes without choice. Families who would otherwise be safe and loving. Because there is a DEMAND for newborn babies. And to meet this demand laws had to be enacted. How did the laws get enacted? Follow the money. It is these large, powerful and RICH groups and organizations that have lobbied our government for years. And how many adoptive parents do you think are in positions of power to continue to facilitate laws like this? Justice John Roberts, the deciding vote in the Veronica Brown case, is an adoptive father. Don’t you think his status as such was a huge conflict of interest in that case? Take that one example and multiply it by thousands.

What can you do?

You could read this, forget about it, go on with your life. Or you can start writing your congressmen, senators, governors, or even The President of the United States. Tell them what you think about all these laws that protect adoptive parents but do essentially nothing to protect anyone else. Get involved, donate money. At the end of this blog post I will list a few very good organizations. If you’re an expectant mother, don’t sign anything until at least 30 days has transpired. Be up front about it. Give yourself time to let your body heal. If there is a father in the picture, keep him in the picture. How would you like it if someone took your child away against your will? Whatever you do to others DOES come back to you two-fold. If you’re an expectant father – REGISTER WITH THE PUTATIVE FATHER REGISTRY. I cannot tell you how important this is. Even if you think your relationship is great with the mother. Even if you think she would never give your baby up for adoption – DO IT. I have heard of cases where the mother never even mentioned adoption but went ahead and did it anyway. The father had no idea.

We’ve come to a point in this country where we are no longer tolerating the current oppressive practices, in regards to adoption, that have been used for so many years. The great adoption experiment is failing. The subjects of that experiment are now grown ups and they are speaking out. With the beginning of these adoptees finding their voices a new era was invented. The great experiment of open adoption. And now we are speaking out. It’s all just a big experiment with people’s lives. Ethics should be THE most important thing in adoption. How can we expect agencies, attorneys and prospective adoptive parents to behave ethically if our laws don’t even reflect this sentiment?

Organizations to Donate To or Become Involved With 

American Adoption Congress

Concerned United Birthparents

Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform (PEAR)

The Alma Society

Musings of the Lame and Claudia’s domestic infant adoption reform bill

Saving Our Sisters – S.O.S.