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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How Reliable Is A Home Study? Amber Garrott / Amber Jo: Example Of Its Flaws

*Update: In a shameful attempt to disguise who she is, assumedly because of this blog post, Amber Garrott has changed her profile picture and name on Facebook. She is now “Amber Jo” and her profile can be found HERE.*

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When an expectant mother relinquishes her child for adoption she is assured that she is giving her child a “better” life. In America, every family that adopts a child must obtain an approved home study from a licensed social worker or case worker. According to the government site Child Welfare, the home study has 3 purposes:

• Educate and prepare the prospective family for adoption

• Evaluate the capability and suitability of the prospective family to adopt

• Gather information about the prospective adoptive family that will help a social worker match the family with a child or youth whose needs they can best meet (applicable to adoptions in which public child welfare agencies are involved)

For private or domestic infant adoption, a home study can be conducted through a private social worker, not a licensed state worker (think foster to adopt).

Because of the home study process, expectant mothers are assured that every step has been taken to assure this is a suitable and capable home for their child. It is often what is given in lieu of an expectant mother conducting her own research into the family. Most expectant moms don’t have the luxury (or aren’t given the chance) to inspect a prospective adoptive family’s home, obtain their social security numbers or other information to run a background check, obtain medical information from a doctor who provides a physical to assure the prospective parents are in good health, or to interview friends, neighbors, or family members to get a feel for what kind of parents they would be. The home study is supposed to take care of all of this.

How reliable is a home study?

Certainly home studies are very thorough. The technical aspects assure that there are no obvious red flags. Home study criteria will vary from state to state, agency to agency, social worker to social worker. While some things are requirements in every state, such as a background check, other things go above and beyond the minimum requirements and are instituted by the person or organization conducting the home study. A huge component of passing a home study will rely on the judgment of the social worker conducting the home study. This person will get a feel for the family and make a recommendation based on information they have obtained from family and friends, home visits, and the general feeling they get from the prospective adoptive parents. Regardless of all of this, however, home studies are not iron clad or fool-proof. Social workers are human beings and, let’s face it, some just aren’t good judges of character. Also consider that while someone has no history of abuse or neglect, it does not mean they don’t have the potential for it once they are charged with the care-taking of raising another human being. Yet, the home study is the expectant mother’s assurance that their child will be raised in a suitable and capable home.

I am not asserting that all adoptive parents are abusive or neglectful. In fact, I’d say that the majority are not. Just as the majority of natural parents are not. However, according to studies, adopted and step children are more likely to be abused by their adoptive or step parents because of a psychological phenomenon known as the “Cinderella Effect.” This study asserts that biology naturally inclines one to not abuse their own offspring. In reported cases of child abuse, according to the National Center for Health Research, 85% of abuse victims were abused by a biological parent and 1% were abused by an adoptive parent. While those numbers seem to scream that it is safer to be adopted, that knee-jerk reaction would be false. You must take into consideration that less than 2% of the population is adopted while 98% of the population resides with at least one biological parent. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all cases, maybe not even most, of abuse and neglect are actually reported. These statistics back up my assertion that most parents (adoptive or natural) do not abuse or neglect their children.

Biological parents don’t require a home study to keep their children, so why should adoptive parents be held to a higher standard?

If we are talking about placing a child in a permanent home, as a conscious decision, it is of the utmost importance to make sure that child is in a safe, loving, capable, home. Many children who are adopted have already come from situations of abuse and neglect and those children who are adopted at birth, as a conscious decision made by an expectant parent, should have the same standards applied to their living situation if they are not to stay with their natural families. An expectant parent, facing a crisis situation, does not likely have the resources to investigate a family of her choosing to make sure they are safe for her child.  For those mothers who didn’t have the luxury to choose a family or who were forced to give up their child, they didn’t even know who to investigate to begin that process. The home study is supposed to be the golden crown. The thing that assures everyone that this child will have a “better” life and be loved, cherished, and protected.

So why do we keep hearing about abused adoptees ? Because it’s not fool-proof. Because it is subject to the expertise of social workers and their judgment of character. Because it is flawed. Unfortunately it is the best we can do. Because of that, expectant parents that are considering adoption should know that it is not fool proof so they can make a sound and informed choice about the fate of their child. When contacting an adoption agency they will be reassured that the families they are shown are all safe, competent, loving and have an approved home study!!  They are not told that home studies are not always concrete and that they can only cover so much territory.

I am, by no means, judging parents who suffer from mental illness, or other issues. Some of these parents do very well with the right support system in place. However, if you want to give your child a “better life” then you probably wouldn’t want to consider someone with a mental illness or addiction problem raising your child. Especially if your reasons for giving your child up, in the first place, were because of your own addiction struggle.

 Meet Amber Garrott

Amber engaged with a first mom in a forum that had nothing to do with adoption. A first mom expressed her regret about the adoption of her child when the adoptive parents failed to follow through on promises made and, after 11 years, still had not told the child she was adopted. Amber felt the need, as a proclaimed adoptive parent, to dismiss this first mom’s lived experience and correct her.

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In addition to being dismissive and correcting the first mom, Amber also seems proud that she has cut contact off with her child’s natural parents. I certainly understand keeping children away from people, no matter who they are, who are unhealthy, but the way Amber presents herself and her story rubs me the wrong way. I couldn’t figure out exactly why until I began reading more of her comments.

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In response to the first mom taking issue with her proudly proclaiming she cut off bio parents.

You certainly do, Amber. I don’t disagree. But I still sense something is amiss.

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Well, that’s a low blow. I’m not sure why Amber didn’t expect what came next. A mother expresses her grief and regret and, right away, Amber decides she needs to defend adoption instead of sympathizing. Then she adds insult to injury if you read between the lines.  It’s a common scenario. All first moms are either saints or sinners, depending on what you’re talking about. You’re a “selfless, brave, saint” for giving your child up to have a “better” life or you’re a dirty sinner for not taking responsibility and parenting your child.

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6 months sober before relinquishing, then 3 months after relapse. Hmm. Maybe the trauma of relinquishing her child was too much to bear ? I’d like to also point out that Amber has pictures of her and her child’s first mom as recently as 6 weeks ago on her Facebook page. *EDIT – Amber has contacted me and asserts her pictures with whom she calls her “babysmomma” are not her child’s first mom. She has also now deactivated her Facebook page.* First mom, in one of them, looks like she’s sipping on something intoxicating.   Way to go, Amber!  If your child’s first mom is an addict then why are you feeding her margaritas ?

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Another low blow. I’m sure there’s more to the story that’s not being told, too. But not by the first mom. Amber is ALWAYS honest and open with her child’s first mom. Remember that.

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Because if an adoptive parents breaks promises it must ALWAYS be the first mom’s fault.  Because they would never just do it because they’re insecure or had no intentions of keeping promises to begin with, right Amber  ?

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And here it is.  Straight from the horse ‘s mouth. This is in response to the first mom saying her child has no idea she’s even adopted. YOU LOSE THAT RIGHT TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT WHEN YOU SIGNED YOUR RIGHTS AWAY. Remember that when you’re considering adoption.

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I thought agencies and attorneys were supposed to protect those expectant mothers, no ?They’re supposed to help them make an “informed” choice. Let’s see what else Amber has had to say about herself.

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A “smidge ” domestic violence ? She couldn’t stop herself ? Holes in the wall from her ? Son needs to go back up for adoption ?  Yet she has the nerve to judge other women, including her child’s first mother. This is what passed a home study.

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But I thought her child’s first mom was the drug addict ?

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Her husband had her put on a 72 hour psych hold  ? She should win mother of the year ! This child is surely getting a MUCH better life than he would have with his first mom.

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Let’s revisit her reasoning for cutting off the first parents. She had good reason, remember ?  She’s very honest with her child’s first mom. Maybe Amber should consider cutting herself off – with good reason. Did you catch that her husband’s a cop ? Is that how she passed a home study ? Is that why she gets away with it ?  The only “police department” page that Amber has liked on her Facebook page is that of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana.

I will reiterate, I am not claiming that all or most adoptive parents are abusive, drug addicts, or unstable.   What I AM saying is that expectant parents, considering adoption, need to understand that, like Amber said,  you should educate yourself a little better before making such a life-altering decision. I sure know that if I knew that my child could have got parents like  Amber, I would have run the other way.

INFORMED CONSENT is NOT what agencies, social workers, attorneys, prospective adoptive parents, the media is giving you.  Anyone whose livelihood relies on adoption (see, their job, their income) is not going to give you these ugly details. It is up to you to decide if you can live with this risk – if you’re okay with this being the potential outcome.  Your child, unfortunately, can’t decide for you. They have no choice at all.