Our Adoption Nightmare: Warning Signs When Planning to Adopt a Child

Joel Eisenberg

Adopting a child can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences, but due diligence is key.

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What follows is based on a personal journey.

My wife and I were older when we decided to have a baby. We married relatively late in life (I was 36, she was 43), and neither of us had been previously married or gifted with children.

We desperately wanted a family.

Some of our friends had stated being an older parent to a newborn was not fair, that as the child aged their parents would be older than others which could cause resentment and emotional issues. To be fair, my wife and I had discussed the issue, and came to the conclusion that if a child was born into a family that would be unable to offer care, love, and financial support, we would become that couple and take the chance.

We could not conceive naturally, and we proceeded to undergo fertility treatments in order to make that dream happen. While so many couples take parenthood for granted, my wife and I belonged to the club that needed help in that regard. We quickly learned that the global fertility business generated multi-billions of dollars yearly. Over a dozen years later, an October 2021 Yahoo Finance report illustrated the industry’s annual degree of exponential business growth since our efforts.

It was clear my wife and I were not alone, which became an inspiration.

See my prior NewsBreak article on this matter here: When Life Had Other Plans, and I Could Not Be a Father.

Our story continued. Fertility treatments, including two attempts at egg donation, did not take, and we elected to adopt. We hired an adoption attorney, who proceeded to check our references, credit, and other resources. We checked out, as expected, and were then given folders upon folders of expectant mothers and their genetic histories. The documents were complex, and comprehensive. Mental illness statements on the part of relatives or sometimes the birth mother herself were included, as were various physical ailments, ages of death of the mother’s parents (or, if still alive, their ages and any health issues), marital status, age, race, and other potential determinants.

One by one we eliminated various profiles from our discussions, until only a handful remained. Some of those profiled said they wanted younger parents only, and yet we were given their documents as they expressed an openness to changing their mind. From there, we chose our prospective child.

The woman was said to be happily married. Her and her husband were in their mid-20s. We were told by the attorney this was to be the couple’s second child, and they could not afford another. The pregnancy was reported as accidental, and the baby was due in six months.

An important note here: Adoption attorneys cannot guarantee the truthfulness of birth parent claims. They rely on medical information and reportage on the part of the individual or couple placing a child for adoption.

My wife and I contacted the parents. Like we had to with them, they also needed to check us out. We had several promising calls. Finally, we heard what every adoptive parents want to hear: They wanted us to adopt their child.

We agreed to meet in their home city in Utah. We had lunch, discussed our personal and business lives, and drove home soon thereafter. The father promised paperwork would be imminently sent to our adoption attorney.

And then, nothing. Days turned into weeks. Our adoption attorney said they had not returned his phone calls. Finally, two months later, he finally heard from them. In the interim, we returned to our profile stack. The attorney let us know the couple told him they were signing the paperwork, and were apologetic, saying they were held up by a family matter.

However, that would be their last communication. No paperwork was ever received.

My wife and I were heartbroken. The emotional toll of being so close, and yet so far away from attaining this very human dream was indeed akin to a nightmare. We accepted our lot, and elected to remain a childless couple.

But this was not the end of our story. We heard from our adoption attorney nearly a year later, and learned what had happened. Simply, the couple had no sincere plans to adopt their baby. We were told we had been conned. The husband’s father, an agent at one of the big film and television talent agencies, promised his son and daughter-in-law that he would pay them a monthly fee equivalent to a full-time job if they placed the child up for adaption. His reasons, according to the attorney, were laudable: The couple simply did not have the resources to raise another child, and he, as the future grandfather, to not want the child to be born into such a problematic environment.

Their religious beliefs precluded any other action, and so the couple underwent a charade where they would report adoption progress to the husband’s dad in exchange for the monthly payout. They would go through the process, but stop shortly after our first in-person meeting. When they stopped returning calls, they disappeared from his father as well.

The husband was eventually located by the dad, who pressed charges for extortion totaling over $50,000. A lot of drama, and two prospective parents with no other place to turn were left with broken hopes and dreams.

I tell this story because I strongly believe we should share what we learn to help others. Here are some things any prospective adoptive parent must look out for if undertaking this path:

1. Perform due diligence. Ask your potential adoption attorney the nature of their due diligence on any couple for whom they send profiles. If you do not feel comfortable with the answer, hire an attorney who is more involved in that regard.

2. Remain emotionally open. No adoption process is complete until final paperwork is signed and the child turned over. Any number of issues can arise throughout the process, and it is very easy to lose faith in that process if something goes wrong. Do your best to remain emotionally open during the journey.

3. Be scrupulous with your selection. Some adoptive parents act based on desperation. Never choose to raise a life simply because you can. Remember, a birth parent may well — based on your wishes — become part of your new child’s future. Be careful. Choose wisely.

4. Meet your commitment. I used to be a special education teacher. Many of my students were either adopted, or placed in foster care due to unfit parentage. It is from these environments that a large pool of older adoptees are awaiting new families. This is a lifetime commitment on the part of all parties. Meet that commitment.

5. Ask yourself if you are emotionally capable of raising a child that is not biologically yours. You will be teaching your new arrival your morals and values, and hopefully they will learn from your wisdom. But whether you are adopting domestically or from overseas, underscore the reality that the adopted child may not be innately like you. You may see things in your adopted child that is the antithesis of what you expect, and vice-versa. Sometimes, though, that may be for the best.

6. Think of the child. If you have any doubts as to your adoption journey, it is well-advised to reconsider until or unless you are ready. If you cannot do this for yourself, do so for the child who requires love and attention, not neglect.

As an adopted parent, your responsibility will change your life. Some of us will not succeed in the quest, whereas others among us will change several lives in the process.

I hope this piece serves those of you who need it. Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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