Independent Adoption Center Goes Belly Up Without Warning

Yesterday and today, without warning, hundreds, maybe thousands, of prospective adoptive parents checked their email and found that the adoption agency they had been working with (see: paying) was no longer in business. Some were near the end of the adoption process and already have children in their homes and are just waiting on finalization, some had just began the process and didn’t have too much invested quite yet, and others were somewhere in between. When they went to their website at http://independentadoptioncenter.org/ they found this:

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When you click on the links entitled “News Release” and “To Our Families” you get this:

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Independent Adoption Center boasted 34 years of agency experience helping to facilitate over 4300 adoptions in those 3 and a half decades. They were fully licensed in California, Georgia, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, and Texas. They were HUGE.

There’s a few key sentences you should pay attention to.

“The IAC has worked tirelessly to adapt to this changing environment, but the many efforts we implemented were ultimately unsuccessful.”

The “changing environment” referred to is in reference to the lack of “potential birthmothers” that is cited earlier. Just how did IAC work tirelessly to procure more “potential birthmothers” to meet the demand of the clients they took on.  Apparently WAY too many clients as well. As one birthmom friend said, this being the agency she worked with while pregnant and after giving birth, she was coerced and pressured by IAC beyond belief, ultimately relinquishing her child even though she didn’t want to.

“As everything will be under control of the trustee and the court, IAC will not be involved with determining how any remaining funds in the account are utilized.”

So this wasn’t something that just popped up yesterday. This has been in the works for some time if there is already a trustee for their chapter 7 bankruptcy. Then why weren’t families warned? Why was IAC still accepting PAYMENTS at least FIVE days ago? If you know you’re in the process of filing for bankruptcy, why are you drafting people’s bank accounts for payments of services you know you won’t be rendering because you’re shutting down? ALL THE WAY DOWN.

Calling their lines gives you an automated message pretty much telling you the same thing that is shown here. Emails have gone unanswered. As I said earlier, their website is all but gone, their Facebook page has disappeared.  They’ve gone off the grid as much as one CAN go off the grid, filing bankruptcy and leaving people in the lurch.

(I’m getting to a point, I swear I am)

Hopeful adoptive parents with home studies through IAC are no longer valid. The home studies they paid for are worthless and they have to start again.

Hopeful adoptive parents that have been making payments? Same thing. That money is gone.  Wait for something to come in the mail from the courts to prove your claim against the “estate.” If there’s anything left to claim that is.

Hopeful adoptive parents who already have a child in their home but haven’t finalized? Their states don’t care that their agency went belly up. The law still says a certain number of home visits must be conducted by a licensed agency for a judge to grant finalization.

Adoptive parents and first parents who have already utilized this agency and finalized? The records will probably be sent to the state making it even HARDER for an adoptee to access them.  Making it even harder for a first parent to access them. Furthermore, some adoptions were only open in the capacity that IAC was facilitating all contact as a third-party. Those first parents and adoptive parents have NO WAY TO FIND EACH OTHER TO CONTINUE CONTACT. (So much for that open adoption IAC promised)

Lots of sensitive information and documents are in the hands of IAC and many people are wondering what will be done with that. IAC failed to talk about that in their “News Release.” This isn’t sensitive information like where someone works.  We’re talking FBI background checks and medical records.

Let’s not forget that promised “lifetime support” to first families and adoptive families. Just another way to bring in business, get the goods, and turn a profit. Obviously that “lifetime support” is no longer available to those it was promised to.

Where am I going with all of this?

A couple of days ago I wrote an article about an agency administrator as an admin in an adoption support group.

I received a lot of support and a lot of backlash.  As a matter of fact, I receive a lot of backlash all the time from hopeful adoptive parents and adoptive parents alike. Here’s my point.

The adoption industry SCREWS you too.  They don’t care. If they aren’t making money they DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU. They will leave you in the lurches, close their doors, and tell you to see ’em in court. Do you NOT understand how important reform is? Don’t you know WHY adoption costs what it does? This adoption agency went bankrupt. BANKRUPT. And not a word was spoken until the day before they shut their doors totally cutting off all communication with their clients. They were still collecting payments until days before. They were still going through the motions making their clients believe everything was okay. It’s the same thing they do to expectant moms.

Do you think that an agency that acted as unethically with their bankruptcy as they did acted ETHICALLY when dealing with expectant mothers? Not a chance. There is a HUGE uproar in the adoptive parent/hopeful adoptive parent community over this. Yet, most of you look away when people like me say “Hey! This agency is bad! This industry does this! They aren’t ethical!” I’m just an angry bitter birthmom. But when it happens to you – oh the shame!

You’re fooling yourselves if you think that IAC is an exception. Independent Adoption Center is not an exception. They just happened to be one of the larger ones to conduct themselves this way. Smaller agencies are closing all the time leaving similar destruction in their wake.

Furthermore, with the awakening of those of us who were tricked or coerced, the creation of Saving Our Sisters, and the endless hours dedicated to TRUE reform and protections of expectant parents and their children, agencies like IAC will no longer have a place in today’s society.  We’ll make sure of that.

I’ll leave you with Independent Adoption Center’s Form 990 from 2014 tax year. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how a “non-profit” with $2,262,074 in NET assets goes belly up in 2 years.

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In Loving Memory of Gwendolyn Archard

On August 26, 2016 I heard the news that a dear first mom friend of mine was no longer with us. The previous day, beautiful Gwen had decided that the pain was too much and bowed out of this circus called life. Just before her decision, she deleted dozens of her first mom friends. I am assuming she did not want us to know what had happened. We found out anyway.

Shock, sadness, and despair ripped through our online communities. We searched frantically for an obituary, in the days to come, but none was to be found.

A few days ago, Gwen’s brother, the only family that Gwen really felt she could rely on, posted publicly of her passing. He didn’t indicate any formal funeral, but it was clear other non-traditional arrangements to honor her memory had been made.

Today I write to honor Gwen and her life inside our private world, the world of first moms. Gwen was an activist, a warrior, she dedicated her life to fighting injustices. Gwen had Cerbral Palsy but she didn’t let that stop her. As a practicing criminal defense attorney and disability rights champion, Gwen was thrust into another arena, unexpectedly. And she fought there, too. Side by side, with other first moms, she fought against the injustices and coercion in the world of adoption.

You see, Gwen wanted her son. A beautiful little boy she named Atticus. However, upon his birth, Gwen was threatened with foster care and CPS if she did not relinquish her rights to her child. One particular nurse made it abundantly clear to Gwen that her disability would mean her child being forcibly removed and lingering from foster home to foster home while she fought for her right to parent him.

Because Gwen loved Atticus more than life itself, she was coerced into believing this nurse, and others, and relinquished Atticus for adoption after his birth to spare him the perceived pain of living in foster care.

Gwen believed fighting for her son was not in his best interests because she was not good enough for her son. She was made to believe this.

While Gwen’s case is an extreme, it is the same concept of almost all domestic infant adoptions. It was easy to target Gwen because she had a disability to use against her as an excuse for why she wasn’t good enough. Almost every woman considering adoption has to be made to believe the same thing for a successful adoption to ensue. Maybe they don’t have a visible disability. Maybe they are poor. Maybe they have an anxiety disorder. Maybe they aren’t married. It’s all the same, the message that’s received. You aren’t good enough for your child, they deserve better.

Gwen would have made a fantastic parenting mother. Like everything she did in her life, I imagine she would rock at it. She was an amazing person and the world has suffered a huge loss with her passing. Atticus, her son, has suffered the most tremulous loss.

People say that adoption isn’t trauma. They say it’s a beautiful thing. They don’t recognize the aftermath that can follow for first moms and many adoptees. When presented with stories like Gwen they will say, “See, it’s better her son was adopted. Look what happened. His mom was mentally ill.” To which I say, NO. Nothing in Gwen’s life, prior to the loss of her son, indicates any mental illness. Instead, Gwen’s death can be blamed solely on adoption. She lost her son. A mother LOST HER SON. It’s enough to make anyone not want to live anymore, to throw in the towel, to give up. The pain can be so suffocating, at times, that death seems like the only reprieve.

Atticus last saw his mother as a newborn in the hosptial. Gwen did not get her “open adoption.” She was left to use non-traditional means to get glimpses into his life. I am happy to have been a part of that, to have given her a little bit of comfort in her too short life as a first mom. The pictures brought her great joy, but they also brought her great pain. To see her son, her baby, not living the life she wanted for him, with her. Such is the life of a first mom.

I’m hoping that one day Atticus can find this post and know how much his mother loved him, how hard she fought for him, and how devastated she was without him. I hope he knows how much he was WANTED and loved.

In closing, I will share with you some private thoughts from Gwen that she posted, over the last year or so, in our private group. The admins agreed that Gwen would want this. No one can hurt her anymore so there’s nothing left to lose.

We will be your voice now, Gwen. We will watch over Atticus and make sure he knows your story.

We miss you. We love you. Sleep peacefully and free from the pain of this world.

-Your first mom sisters

“Atticus is 2 today.

The birth announcement I never got to make:

Atticus Kitwana Mulupi, Born July 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm.  4 lb 1 oz, 17′ long.  I love you, baby boy.”

“Happy 3rd birthday, Atticus Kitwana Mulupi.  I love you more than you will ever know.  I am more proud of you every day.”

“I think my issue is that my son’s adoption was very coercive.  I “picked” the AP’s, but only because I was told he would risk being taken into foster care if I didn’t have a family for him when I left the hospital.  I’ve always sensed that they look down on me because I have a physical disability.”

“I had been threatened with foster care right after birth, simply because I have cerebral palsy.  That is the ONLY reason why I got involved with the adoption lawyers in the first place.”

“Been feeling isolated lately.  Dealing with crap about how my disability made me feel like I had no right to ask for any help with Atticus….I’ve been to like 4 different counselors since relinquishment and none of them really understand that aspect.  I just want to be told I have the same rights as others and that nobody’s judging me for what I can and cannot do.  I don’t want to burden anybody but a counselor with this crap.  Not sure who else to talk to.”

-Gwendolyn Archard

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My Adoption Memoir – Whispers of Grace

A little over a year ago I began to write the first book in a series of memoirs that I intended to release. I entitled this series, “Whispers of Grace.” The first draft was pretty horrible. I wanted to gain honest feedback and constructive criticism so I released the draft for a few short days and listened to everyone’s thoughts. Since then I have been working to polish this my story and today I can finally say it has been re-released.

What’s different about this version compared to the last version?

It has been heavily edited so grammar and typos are obsolete. Whereas the first draft consisted of about 27,000 words, the final publication has just about 42,000. There were moments in the book that needed to be expanded on and explained in greater detail and that is what I have done.

What is it about?

I’ll include the synopsis here for you:

How do you hold onto a whisper? How do you carve out a path through the echo of what could have been? These are the questions that haunt Julia’s life. Take a heart-wrenching journey with Julia as she shares the memories of her pregnancy, birth and subsequent relinquishment of her child.

“Whispers of Grace” is one woman’s true experience in modern day adoption. When Julia finds herself pregnant for the fourth time she feels as if the world is closing in on her. With no options Julia and her boyfriend, Justin, decide to give their baby up for adoption. Unlike the movies Julia has seen, however, her personal experience, in today’s world, is not what she expected at all.

Walk in Julia’s shoes through the pages of this haunting memoir. From the decision to pursue adoption to terminating her parental rights and the aftermath that follows, Whispers of Grace will put you inside the mind, heart, and soul of an expectant mother left with no choice but to give her child a life where she will never be her daughter’s mother.

“Whispers of Grace” is the first in an upcoming series that follows Julia in her experiences in living life as a birthmother. Book one focuses on the pregnancy, birth, and relinquishment. It answers questions many may wonder but are too scared to ask. How does a woman choose adoption? What plays into that decision? What is it like to work with an adoption agency? How are adoptive parents chosen? Unlike the many books written about the notorious “baby scoop era,” this memoir is an intriguing look into a new generation of birthmothers that ushered in a new generation of so-called “open adoptions.”

While names and certain details have been changed to protect identities, this is my story as I remember it.

How can I read Whispers of Grace?

The good news is it’s free. Yes, FREE. Well, kind of. It will be offered exclusively through Amazon for the next 90 days and if you have a Kindle Unlimited account you can read for free. If you don’t have a Kindle Unlimited account don’t worry. Amazon offers a free 30 day trial. Just remember to cancel it before your 30 days are up! This book should not take you 30 days to read. It is a novella, coming in at just around 172 pages in e-book format. If you don’t care to sign up for Kindle Unlimited you can always purchase, and own, Whispers of Grace for $3.99 – yours to keep.

Right now I’m watching to see how well this book does. It’s my hope that proceeds will be substantial enough to contribute a portion of the earnings to family preservation efforts and SOS.  And by substantial I mean more than 5 people read it. (My expectation of “substantial” isn’t too high).

If you’d like to read or purchase a copy of Whispers of Grace you can head on over to Amazon by clicking here: Whispers of Grace

If you’d like to show support on this memoir’s Facebook page, and get updates when new books are released in the series, go ahead and click here: Whispers of Grace Facebook Page

Legally Enforceable Open Adoption Contracts in the United States

*Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and nothing in this article should be substituted for legal advice. I highly suggest any expectant mother who is considering adoption to retain her own legal representation who understands adoption law in the state that the adoption will be finalized as well as the state she lives in. This is my interpretation of the laws and my opinion based on my own research and the stories I’ve heard from others who have open adoption contracts that are supposed to be legally enforceable.*

Legally enforceable open adoptions are a fairly new thing. There are lots of questions about them from adoptive parents, expectant parents, and birth parents. These “legally enforceable” post-adoption contracts can vary widely from state to state. When an expectant mother hears that she resides in a state that has legally enforceable open adoptions usually she has a sense of security in believing that the adoptive parents of her child will not be able to “trick” or “fool” her into relinquishing her child to them by making promises they don’t intend to keep. She may also feel that if the adoptive parents change their mind about the type of contact they want, she is legally protected. On the surface this is what it appears to be. I’d also assume that adoption agencies, attorneys that represent the prospective adoptive parents, and facilitators would not go into great detail about how exactly the law would work. I’d like to take the time to do that here.

I heard one story of a first mom who lived in a state that had legally enforceable post-adoption contracts. This was just a fact. When she asked about it she was told, “Yes, our state has legally enforceable open adoptions.” However, she had no legal representation of her own and found out, after her open adoption was closed and she sought relief, that the law in her state required the open adoption contract to be entered with the final decree of adoption. Because she wasn’t part of the court hearing for finalization, she had no idea if this had happened. Because she had no legal representation, representing HER ALONE, she was unaware that the law was written this way. She did have a post-adoption contract that had been worked on between her, the agency, their attorney, and the prospective adoptive parents, it just wasn’t legally enforceable in her state because it never went before the court.

I heard another story about a mom who DID have her post-adoption contract entered correctly making it “legally binding.” When visits never happened and communication was cut off as soon as her child was relinquished, she pursued the legal channels put in place to enforce the contract. She put up a lot of money in attorney and court fees to be told, by the judge, that she relinquished all parental rights and if the adoptive parents didn’t feel it was in the best interest of their child to have visits then that was their right. The judge then rewrote the post-adoption contract, taking away all direct contact or communication with her child, and only enforced a yearly update.

There was another mother who lived in a “legally enforceable” state where visits and all communication had stopped after three years. When she sought to enforce her agreement she learned two things. 1) She didn’t have anything near the financial resources to even begin the process (as most first parents don’t) and 2) she couldn’t even start the process if she wanted to because she didn’t know where the adoptive parents now resided since their communication drop coincided with a move to a different state in which they didn’t disclose.

It’s important to remember that post-adoption contracts are a very new area of law and there aren’t a lot of cases to set precedent yet. Really it’s up to the judges or mediators involved to determine the outcome of a contested contract, if the first parent can come up with enough money to begin the process. It’s also important to remember that post-adoption contracts are not the same as “custody” or “visitation” agreements you’d see in traditional family law that involves two parents that are not together. You do not retain any parental rights once you have relinquished a child for adoption. They have been terminated. No amount of legally enforceable open adoption laws can change that. No amount of legislation to make more open adoptions stay open can change that. You will not be fighting in court for your “right” to visit your child. You will be fighting to have a contract enforced. This is contract law mixed with adoption law (like I said, new territory). Almost always, a judge has the right to alter the contract, change things using his best judgment, or void it altogether. So, while “legally enforceable,” they are also “legally voidable.” Since there are no parental rights intact, an adoptive parent could argue that they feel a continued open adoption would not be in the best interest of their child. They could argue they simply feel that the constant “hello” and “goodbye” is not something they feel their child is emotionally prepared for. They’d probably get contact stopped, or greatly reduced, just based on that alone. Their child, their call. If there has been an ongoing relationship between the child and the first parents for a number of years it may not be so easy as a relationship has been established and the courts may find it detrimental to sever that relationship altogether. However, it would have to be a well-established relationship with frequent visits and a solid relationship. A relationship like this is most likely facilitated by adoptive parents who are very open-minded, educated, and “get it.” Those adoptive parents who choose to facilitate an open adoption at that level are probably not likely to break an open adoption contract to begin with.

The majority of adoptive parents aren’t “evil” people who set out to break a first mom’s heart, but rather are ill-advised, ill-prepared, or uneducated. They also don’t care to change these things about themselves and only see adoption in the light they choose to.  The most vulnerable first moms/expectant moms, the ones most at risk of an adoption closing, are the ones in the first 5 years into their journey as a first parent. Relationships aren’t well-established yet.

Many states will require mediation before going to court to seek relief of a violation of your open adoption contract. This means that you (and any other party on the contract, such as a first father), and the adoptive parents will be required to sit through a series of “negotiation,” so to speak. A mediator will play “referee.” You will try to come to an understanding and agreement outside of the courts. Sometimes you’ll be required to pay a fee to the courts for the mediation – which is usually split evenly between both parties. Each state has its own individual laws, but usually after a series of about 3 sessions if no agreement can be settled on it will go to the courts and a judge will decide.

What are the consequences for adoptive parents who violate an open adoption contract? No state says an adoption can be reversed or nullified if the post-adoption agreement is not followed. This means that you cannot challenge an adoption because the “legally enforceable” post-adoption contract has been violated. I can find no codes that specifically state any consequences, punitive or otherwise, for adoptive parents that have been ordered, by a judge, to resume the post-adoption contract as it was entered.

28 states currently have “legally enforceable open adoption contracts.” Many of those are only for in-family adoptions and relate only to grandparents.

For a review of each state’s post-adoption contract laws please CLICK HERE.

If you take the time to read some of these laws, you will see that all of them allow for a judge to use his discretion when it comes to enforcement or challenging the original contract.

There are many things to consider when considering adoption for your child. Regardless of your state’s laws any number of things can arise. Even in states with legally enforceable open adoption laws, the jury is still out, so to speak. There are so many things that have not even been addressed. For instance, what if your child is re-homed? While rare, in domestic infant adoption cases, it can happen. Will your legally enforceable contract be upheld in a court of law if your child is put up for adoption by the original adopting parents? Most likely, not. If you are relying on a legally enforceable open adoption as the terms of being able to go through with relinquishment are you prepared to fight the adoptive parents if they violate the contract? Do you have the financial means to do so?

In review, as stated in the disclaimer, I advise any expectant mother who is thinking of an adoption plan to seek independent representation.  This advice is not limited to post-adoption contracts, but for everything surrounding the legalities of adoption. Don’t rely solely on an adoption agency, attorney representing the prospective adoptive parents, a facilitator, or charitable organization to fully inform you. This is something you must actively seek to do on your own.

You’re Too Controversial

“You make some good points, but you’re too controversial.”

The people who ran the underground railroad were controversial.

Elizabeth Smith Miller was the first woman to ever wear pants. Huge controversy.

The people who hid Jews from the Nazis were controversial.

Rosa Parks was arrested over the controversy she started.

Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated because he was too controversial.

Jesus Christ, himself, is probably one of the most controversial people who ever lived. They crucified him.

When people tell me my blog, my words, my cause, is too controversial I feel nothing but gratitude. That means I’m making a change in the world. I’m making people think. I’m doing something.

Those who sit on the sidelines to avoid upsetting anyone aren’t doing anything for positive changes in this world. In fact, they’re part of the problem. They want to avoid controversy and confrontation so much that they actively bring others down so as not to get dragged into it.

I’m an activist. I’m not here to make you comfortable. I’m here to make you uncomfortable, to bring you outside your comfort zone, in hopes that it will move you to join my cause.

You’re either actively helping my cause, standing by, in support, of what I’m trying to do, or you’re in my way. Choose wisely. I run fast and hard and if you’re in my way I will bull right through you. And, most likely, you need me more than I need you.

I’m not doing this for glory, fame, notoriety, or money. My drive is the passion I feel for those that will come after me. Those who had no one like me. Nothing can stop that drive because the motivation comes from a place of deep pain and the only healing is to keep going, keep climbing, keep fighting.

“You’re too controversial.”

And you’re in my way. This train doesn’t stop.