The recent news of a suspected adoption scam in Houston brings to mind these 5 pitfalls to avoid when trying to adopt.

Do-it-yourself adoption schemes (aka “private adoption” plans) are understandably popular with those looking to save time or money in the adoption process. We get why: the formal adoption process is unwieldy, costly, and overwhelming.

Do adoption “the usual way” and you have to go through counseling and caseworkers, pay substantial fees, and wait 6-12 months or more. Do it yourself and you can basically do just the bare minimum (ie., a privately-contracted homestudy) then call the shots yourself, for the most part.

Who wouldn’t want to simplify things and save money and be in charge of their own destiny? Why put up with adoption agency paperwork and a structured process if you can just find a willing match on Facebook, make all the arrangements via text or phone, put out a little cash to grease the skids, then show up at a hospital to pick up a baby after birth?

Here’s the thing, though: the adoption of any human being is meant to be a sacred exchange, not a business transaction, so cutting corners in that process is never in any child’s best interests.

Nothing Good Comes Easy

It was one of Abrazo’s (now-grown) adoptees who shared a TikTok video with us before Christmas. It had been posted by a hopeful adoptive couple who’d just landed at the Houston airport, captioned “on our way to pick up our baby boy!” (Was it one of Abrazo’s waiting families, she asked? We told her it was not. Our adopting couples are carefully coached to never be possessive of a child not yet theirs, nor to assume any placement is a sure thing before it happens.)

Greg and Breanne Paquin surely had thought their adoption dream was coming true. A young, telegenic Ohio couple, they found “Ingrid” online, in hot pursuit of a private adoption arrangement. They’d asked her to send a photo of her ID and a picture of her sonogram, then reportedly spoke with her daily for months, and forwarded her almost $10k “to reimburse her medical expenses.” (Note: Texas law prohibits gifts of value or direct monetary payments in the adoption process.) At some point, they reportedly did hire a Houston attorney, but apparently to represent their interests, not to to provide her legal representation nor preplacement counseling.

Strangely, it seems nobody bothered to actually meet with Ingrid before the birth. The Paquins flew to Texas for the due date, only to get stood up at the hospital. They ultimately ended up leaving empty-handed and heartbroken, unsure whether Ingrid was ever really pregnant. They’re now engaged in a press campaign to “warn others” (and presumably/hopefully find another expectant parent willing to actually place with them next time.) They’ve received ample condolences, prayers and well-wishes from their thousands of social media followers already– if only every couple who endure adoption disappointments got that kind of widespread support!? The Paquins, however, will undoubtedly succeed in becoming parents, in time.

Like so many would-be adopters nationwide, they just want a baby to love. With over 40 couples reportedly competing for every one baby placed for adoption nowadays, they were, like many, motivated to take matters into their own hands. They chose to go it alone, without an adoption agency involved to advise them of the red flags and pitfalls. They likely had no one cautioning them about naming a baby that wasn’t yet theirs; no caseworkers provided hands-on services to both the Paquins and to Ingrid. Our hearts go out to all adopting couples who suffer heartbreak when placement plans go south… and to prospective birthparents whose plans fall apart. It’s not easy, on either side, whatever the outcome.

A Starter Pack: 5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Trying to Adopt

The adoption process, like the fertility treatment regime, is not for the faint of heart. There are lots of ups and downs, and no guarantees, regardless of the outcome. For anyone who’s hoping to adopt, whether privately or via a licensed adoption agency, here’s a little free advice on what to do and what not to do…

5. Do not make direct payments to any potential birthparent, ever. (E-V-E-R.)

Never overextend financially. Any adoption plan that’s dependent on a cash-and-carry arrangement must be avoided at all costs. Children are not to be bought nor sold, and that’s the law everywhere in America.

4. Never cut corners. Use only licensed, reputable nonprofit adoption professionals.
You’ll need an ethical agency looking out for everyone’s interests, or at the very least, two qualified adoption attorneys and licensed counselors to represent both the adopting parents and the placing parents. Your professionals should verify proof of pregnancy and medical care. (Remember, ID photos and sonogram images can easily be stolen off social media or even purchased online, so don’t assume that getting pictures or videos via text or email constitutes due diligence.)

3. Avoid investing in long-distance adoption relationships without meeting in person.If you’re going to adopt across state lines, make the investment to meet face-to-face, and early on. Know who you’re matching with. Know the professionals you’re working with. You’ll sleep better and so will they… whether a placement ultimately results, or not.

2. Don’t assume any baby is “yours” before a legal surrender is completed.
Every adoption plan is always just that: a plan that’s subject to change, for whatever reason. And anyone who constantly assures you that plan could never change is either lying to you or lying to themselves. Be guardedly optimistic, yes! But remember: nobody else’s baby is yours before the ink is dry (and even then, remember: no adoption is complete until a judge issues the final decree.)

1. Remember: red flags are your friend.
If your gut is telling you something is amiss, pay attention. It’s a wake-up call, not to solicit empty promises, but rather to reassess. It means an adjustment of some kind is needed. Don’t ignore the warning signs in an all-out, desperate quest to make your dream come true.

An unsuccessful adoption plan, hard as this can be, is not the worst thing that can happen. Adopting the wrong child the wrong way is worse. Placing a child not intended for adoption is worse. Sometimes, the adoption plan that doesn’t work out is the very thing that leads to the plan that is meant to be. Follow the right course and you won’t go wrong. Heed these 5 pitfalls to avoid when trying to adopt and just see what miracles await you, in due time.

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