I have been a member of a mixed adoption support group for a couple of years by the name of “Domestic Adoption Support Network” on Facebook. The group was apparently created by a man named Tim Elder and recently added an admin by the name of Melissa Kay Robinson (or just Melissa Kay or just Melissa Robinson).
This is the story of why I am no longer a member in this particular group, along with many other adoptive parents, adoptees, and first parents. This is the story of an intricate network to market adoption and mine expectant mothers under the facade of a “support” group. I can quite honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like this during my time in adoptionland. It’s very cunning yet quite alarming. If you don’t have some time to read I suggest you save this story for another time, but do save it. It is not only worth the read, it would be negligent if you didn’t.
Hold onto your hats as we pull the curtain on “Domestic Adoption Support Network” and show you what is really going on.
Boasting over 5,000 members on Facebook, Domestic Adoption Support Network describes itself as:
Within the “FILES” section of this group (if you are a member you can read these, if not you’re out of luck so I’ll share here) you will find the “RULES.” They read as follows (with my own commentary in italic):
GROUP RULES: This is a domestic adoption support group which is moderated by Tim Elder of InfantAdoptionGuide.com, Tawnya Wallace McPhetridge, Andrew Finch and Melissa Kay Robinson.
Facebook Support Group Rules of Etiquette: We are a community that has come together because of our mutual interest in domestic adoption in the United States. As we all know, adoption is an emotional topic that can bring strong feelings and emotions. This support group is a safe place to share our joys and concerns and to learn from each other. This requires trust and respect, so here are our group rules.
1. This is a closed group. The information in this group should not be shared with others. This includes sharing snapshots of private messages and comments. (whoops, hope they don’t kick me out. Oh! They already did when I discovered what they were doing)
2. Understand that all members of the adoption triad are welcomed and represented here – birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents. We also welcome adoption advocates/workers. Please act accordingly. (They mean all members of the triad are welcome as long as they don’t challenge the positive adoption facade)
3. PLEASE OBSERVE positive adoption language (Google the term to learn more). DO NOT use the abbreviation ‘BM’ when talking about birthmothers. While you may not understand or agree, this can be offensive to birthmoms. (Except this abbreviation is used a lot in this group and arguments frequently break out by people insisting they should be able to use it if they want and admins don’t do anything about it half the time – I’ve never seen someone booted for consistently violating this rule)
4. No personal attacks. No name calling. Period. It is OK to disagree with someone, but do it respectfully. Remember to re-read your words to make sure they don’t feel like a personal attack. It is NEVER acceptable to put down another person or call someone a name. Ever.
5. Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve. Someone can disagree with you and it isn’t an attack on you personally. They simply disagree. No need to take offense.
6. Assume people have good intentions first, unless they prove otherwise. If someone is being rude and had bad intentions, report this to the admins.
7. Stick to the facts when posting about an agency or professional. Report only your own experience – no second hand knowledge. (And this is the subject matter of this post. Remember this rule everyone. It’s totally okay to post second hand knowledge as long as you’re saying something good about an adoption agency, but if you heard something bad about them – even from your best friend who you talk to everyday – LOOK OUT)
8. Group administrators reserve the right to: delete any post they feel is in violation of these guidelines, shut down comments on any post and remove members who do not adhere to the guidelines. (And delete they do. Anything that might make them or an agency or adoption in general look bad. Even first hand knowledge)
9. Sharing of adoption pages vs direct advertising. While we encourage links to adoption pages and the sharing of personal insights into agencies, useful products, etc. this forum is not to be used for direct advertising of any form. If there are questions or concerns, please notify the admins of this group and we will handle it.
10. We want to keep this forum free from fundraising solicitation posts – offers to host parties and links for people to purchase your tshirts, mugs, etc. I will make 2 documents in the files section where you are free to add your services & your fundraisers if you would like. If someone asks a question about fundraising you may, in the comments, like to ideas you’ve done etc – but not as original posts. We don’t want this group to become overrun with these sorts of posts. There are other FB groups that focus on fundraising that you can join.
Let’s start by looking at one of the group “owners,” Tim Elder. According to his LinkedIn page, he doesn’t have any kind of formal adoption training. He isn’t technically an “adoption professional.” It just states under the “also knows about” section, “adoption.” He got his degree from DeVry University in Chicago. Being from Chicago, myself, I know that doesn’t mean much and it’s a for-profit technical school that advertised heavily on the television. My childhood and teenage years were inundated by these cheaply made, annoying commercials. Even by his own admission he isn’t a professional. He has a little “book” called “7 Steps to Domestic Infant Adoption” and in the very beginning he states, “I am not an adoption professional. Any advice or resources given in this guide are based on my opinion, research, and experience.” Yet he feels he is enough of a “professional” to also advertise and conduct his own “podcasts” called “Infant Adoption Guide” and run a “support” group on Facebook with thousands of members representing many different walks of life within the adoption community.
What exactly is Tim’s qualifications in adoption? Oh, he’s an adoptive father. He’s got some adopted kids that he adopted when they were infants. While he would certainly be a valued opinion to other prospective adoptive parents trying to navigate domestic infant adoption, this hardly qualifies him to coach and navigate the many complex aspects, psychologically and otherwise, aspects of adoption in a support group. He even sells an e-book on Amazon for his “Infant Adoption Guide” that you can buy for 99 cents! In fact, if you head on over to his website you can get his four FREE e-books for subscribing to his mail list as well as get his free videos!
To Tim’s credit, at first glance it doesn’t appear he is making a WHOLE lot of money off of adoption (although I could be very very wrong). But he is making, at least, some. I subscribed to his email list to see what comes through and I’m pretty sure I’m going to get third-party advertisements that he is compensated for. If I’m wrong then I’ll apologize but considering that Bethany Christian Services pops up as one of his “new” sponsors it’s a safe bet there are several and they are all in the business of profiting or making a living off of domestic infant adoption. And let’s not forget that a “sponsor” is someone who pays you. Tim profits from adoption.
Edited to add: It appears Melissa’s agency, Chosen Child, was or is a sponsor of Tim’s adoption venture.
Bethany is one of THE largest adoption agencies in the United States
I could go on and on about Tim
, and while I take issue with what he’s doing there is a bigger picture. He is part of that bigger picture and that is why I’ve given you some information about him but we must move forward to get to where I’m taking you.
Let’s talk about new admin, Melissa Kay Robinson. Melissa is the admin of this mixed group yet she is only connected to adoption in the capacity that she once owned her own FOR PROFIT adoption agency (now defunct, not sure why) and is currently the administrator for the adoption agency Chosen Child Adoption Services. According to her LinkedIn profile she holds a LCPA (social worker). She has no mention of her now defunct FOR PROFIT adoption agency on her LinkedIn page as past experience. I also find it interesting she is a member of the American Pregnancy Association considering she makes a living finding babies for people who want them. It’s also laughable to me that her LinkedIn profile says: Causes Melissa Cares About and “Children” is the only thing listed. Hmmm. I digress.
In addition to being an adoption agency administrator, Melissa also runs her own business doing home studies for people. In other words, she gets to decide if a home should be approved for adoption or not. This business of hers is called “Texas Adoption Assistance” or “Adoption Family Services” as its official name is known. Her business completing home studies for hopeful adoptive parents, according to Manta, employees two people, herself and someone else, and has an annual revenue of $83,000. Her bio on the Texas Adoption Assistance website is almost (if not) identical to her bio on the Chosen Child Adoption Services website. The beginning states:
“Melissa initially became interested in adoption when her best friend became pregnant in college. The friend made an adoption plan and asked Melissa to help her select the adoptive parents. Ultimately, this mom decided to parent when it came time to place the baby in the arms of the adoptive parents. She witnessed the hardship of this mother trying to do the best for her baby by making a responsible life plan, as well as the struggle she endured raising him as a single parent. Her personal encounter with a birth mother inspired Melissa to commit her professional career to assisting those in unplanned pregnancies. This was 25 years ago and Melissa has remained involved in adoption in some way since this time.”
So what I’m seeing here, reading between the lines, is that Melissa’s friend got pregnant at an inconvenient time and almost bought into the whole “your baby deserves better” thing and at the last minute came to her senses, breaking those poor PROSPECTIVE (Melissa fails to use the word “prospective” when telling her story. They are already adoptive parents in her eyes) adoptive parents’ hearts. Melissa then watched a single mother struggle so she decided to dedicate her life to “assisting” those with unplanned pregnancies (but I see “convincing them adoption is best”). Notice Melissa also calls her “friend” in this story a “birthmother” when she isn’t and never was. She makes no effort, whatsoever, to avoid language that could possibly be considered coercion, when counseling expectant moms considering adoption, but she’s the administrator of an adoption agency. Anyway, this is just what I’m seeing when I read this. It isn’t very well written so perhaps that’s not what it means but given her lack of education in today’s world of adoption about coercion and using correct labels for people (expectant mother vs. birthmother, hopeful adoptive parents vs. adoptive parents) to avoid coercion I will say that I think my gut is right. Melissa doesn’t advocate for what’s best for families. She advocates for what’s best for her pocket-book. Melissa doesn’t pay her bills without adoption. Adoption doesn’t exist without healthy infants to give to people willing to pay tens and thousands of dollars for them. You do the math.
Let’s take a closer look at the adoption agency Melissa heads. Chosen Child Adoption Services is a non-profit adoption agency that is under the umbrella (for non-profit status) Promiseland Ministries who run the Hannah House Maternity Home in Texas. Their website states:
“Promiseland Ministries, Inc., exists to reach out in love to women, mothers, unborn children and families in need, providing a safe place to live, meeting physical and emotional needs, offering educational and financial opportunities, and working to build and strengthen families according to God’s word and for His glory. Our organization was started in 1999 by Glennis and Gary Woodall, who have 20 years of experience in helping pregnant women in need. We now operate Hannah House Maternity Home, which houses up to five women at a time, and Maryhannah House Aftercare Home, which houses up to four women at a time. In August of 2008 we opened The Chosen Child Adoption Services in Allen, Texas.”
How convenient. A “maternity home” that functions as a residence to “help” pregnant girls and also opened up their own adoption agency to
sell adopt out infants for tens and thousands of dollars. And Melissa Kay Robinson heads the adoption agency as the administrator (remember this is in addition to her $83,000 dollar a year personal business selling home studies to hopeful adoptive parents).
Now, here’s the kicker. I don’t know exactly how much Melissa makes with Chosen Child since they are under Promiseland Ministries as a non-profit. Her specific salary isn’t listed on the Form 990 because of this. Again, how convenient. Feel free to visit the hyperlink to view the Form 990 yourself to see how much Promiseland has in assets and what their profit margin is.
Just a thought. I wonder if Melissa recommends her own business conducting home studies to hopeful adoptive parents that come to Chosen Child. Did I mention she admins a group of over 5,000 people connected to adoption that has many expectant mothers considering adoption within the group and controls the content of what is shared in that group by silencing those who dare say anything bad about adoption?
That might explain why Melissa advertises her adoption agency on multiple Facebook pages.
Oh, and I almost forgot how Chosen Child Adoption Services had a case that went already to the Supreme Court (against them) for (surprise surprise) adopting a baby out without the father’s permission. READ THAT HERE.
Where was I? Oh there’s just so much to tell you.
So the other night someone asked how American Adoptions was as an adoption agency in that support group, Domestic Adoption Support Network. Lots of comments came in. Many from people who adopted using their services and had great things to say about them. Some adoptive parents chimed in about a friend who did not have a good experience as an expectant mother when she changed her mind about adoption. Melissa was sure to chime in and let everyone know that ONLY FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE IS ALLOWED WHEN TALKING ABOUT ADOPTION PROFESSIONALS. Yet, when people were saying “my friend used them and said they were great” Melissa had nothing to say. Apparently that was allowed. And asking her to clarify the rules or enforce them equally ended with people getting kicked out of the group or chastised. When I pointed out that Melissa was adminning a support group where her only connection was as the former owner of a for-profit adoption agency and the agency administrator of Chosen Child my comments were deleted and I was removed and blocked from the group. Enjoy some screen shots of what Melissa, the “adoption professional” has to say within this group.
(Remember, this was in response to someone asking about American Adoptions. An adoptee who is also an adoptive parent responded telling the story of a friend whose child was almost lost to them because of American Adoptions)
THIS IS AN EXPECTANT MOTHER CONSIDERING ADOPTION IN THIS GROUP
And here is an example of a totally different thread, a “positive” second hand review of an agency and nothing was “policed” and this comment remains to this day.
And when I say POLICING I mean POLICING. Every since Melissa was promoted to an admin in this group she spends her free time commenting warnings to any person who dare say anything negative about adoption. She also sends you messages. Here is what I wrote in regards to the original thread in question. (It’s also what got me booted and blocked by Melissa)
Then other admins chimed in.
It just goes on and on and on and on.
And then she blocked me so I just logged into my other account and messaged her what I really thought. Don’t say I didn’t give her the chance to defend herself.
But what does Melissa think about the discrepancy in the enforcement of the group rules? You know, policing people who share negative second hand knowledge but not “positive” second hand knowledge? I would dig through hundreds of screen shots but just trust me when I tell you that she feels that only second hand positive knowledge should be allowed because it doesn’t “hurt” any adoption professionals. Negative second hand knowledge should NOT be allowed as it may hurt adoption professionals. Seriously. That’s what she said. I’m not joking. But I thought she was just “going by the rules.” And as you can see, because I shared the group’s rules, nowhere does it distinguish between negative second hand reviews of adoption “professionals” and positive reviews of adoption “professionals.” You’re just not allowed to do it.
To some people this may seem petty. But it points to a larger picture. It points to a picture of being censored from telling the stories, even if you know the person personally that they happened to, that shows the tactics adoption agencies and attorneys will go to in order to facilitate an adoption. There are women in there who are considering putting their babies up for adoption and comments are being deleted and the ugly side of adoption, and which agencies to avoid quite frankly, are is being censored. Is that really giving someone an “informed” choice? Of course it isn’t. What in the world would these admins in this “support” group have to gain by not allowing these stories to be told? Well, I think I’ve made it very clear why Melissa has a problem with it. I’ve never seen policing like she has done in that group. It’s quite Gestapo.
Remember Tim? We talked about him a little bit in the beginning. In another thread totally unrelated to the subject of this post he talks about his podcast. Notice the reference to American Adoptions. The subject matter of this post and the extreme censorship of anyone saying anything bad about them or their ethics.
Hmm. In another comment someone talks about how American Adoptions has their own Facebook group.
So I visited this group and found this:
And I quote:
“If you have adopted or are adopting through another agency or are just beginning the research phase, I would suggest joining the Domestic Adoption Support group.”
Well, this explains a lot more why no one was allowed to talk about the horrible things American Adoptions have done. Is American Adoptions a sponsor of Tim Elder’s Infant Adoption Guide? Are the two groups working with each other? What exactly is going on here?
Where does this leave us? In a TERRIBLE breach of confidentiality and trust. Support groups should be for support. Not for adoption professionals to police. Not for people to potentially mine expectant mothers to exploit them to make money in their adoption profiting business. Not for adoption professionals to snoop and change tactics in order to better coerce mothers based on the stories shared in these support groups.
Anyone who chooses to remain within this group should be warned. Everything you say, every story you share, every detail you divulge about yourself can be used against YOU or someone else. Someone very vulnerable.
I always get so irritated when I hear hopeful or adoptive parents complain that there are too many “bitter” first moms or adoptees out there. Can you understand WHY after reading this? These people don’t care about kids or families. They care about making a living off of adoption. They care about helping other people get what they want – a new baby – even if it hurts someone else. These people SHOULD NOT be adminning or running any kind of support group that involves expectant mothers or adoptees AT ALL. These people should NOT be guiding hopeful adoptive parents. These people are the epitome of everything that is wrong in the land of adoption. The reform that is greatly needed is because of people like this. If you can, in good conscience, remain active or supportive to this group you are only encouraging this behavior.
May I suggest a different mixed group? One that welcomes EVERYONE’S experiences?
Try Adoption Perspectives: A Triad Community
There’s even a former admin from Domestic Adoption Support Network as an admin in here. She left after noticing many of the things I pointed out in this blog.
In the meantime, I implore you to share this so others are aware. Shoot, even try to join it on principle alone to seek out those expectant mothers who are being told half-truths. That is the only possible reason I could ever see to stay within this horrid group.