Watching for red flags


International adoption can be risky endeavor with shadowy agencies, heartbreak

Kirsten Stewart
The Salt Lake Tribune

When Walt Webster signed up with Focus on Children last November to adopt two Kazakhstani girls, the Utah adoption agency neglected to mention it was under criminal investigation.

Four months later, the agency's owners were charged with violating immigration laws to bring Samoan children into the country. Webster remained oblivious.

It wasn't until he received an e-mail from a sister agency, Focus on Children of Wyoming, offering to take over his adoption that "alarms went off." He jumped on the Internet, found news of the federal indictment against the Utah agency and realized "there goes my $1,700."

The Florida computer tech isn't a fan of big government, but wishes someone would have alerted clients. Now he wants to know if anyone has investigated ties between the agencies. "Why should I trust this group in Wyoming?"

Industry regulators in Utah and Wyoming give no straight answers and federal officials won't talk. The absence of authoritative information is frustrating for families contemplating international adoption. It also signals larger problems with the enforcement of adoption laws when agencies work overseas.

It's a problem of special concern for Utah, where two adoption agencies have recently come under scrutiny for allegedly tricking birth families into relinquishing their children: Focus on Children in Samoa, and Legacy International.

Pound Pup Legacy