Testimony to US Senate on S. 682

Date: 1999-10-05

Mary Mooney, Founder,
Adoption Advocates of America,
Consumer Protection Network.

RE: S. 682

Senator Helms we would like to take this opportunity to submit
testimony for the senate hearing on bill S. 682.
Our organization started as a support group for families that had
experienced failed or difficult adoptions. We found that most of our
experiences were due to unethical and unprofessional adoption agencies,
lawyers and or facilitators. We all felt that our cases should have
been taken on by the Attorney General of our state. We all felt our
justice system failed us. Many of us had hired agencies licensed by
their state. This gave us a false sense of security. Many of us found
out that even if an agency is licensed by the state it does not mean
the agency is a good agency. We found that most state adoption
licensing divisions don't even keep up with complaints or even
investigate complaints.
Many agencies have broken criminal and civil laws, yet there is no
one to prosecute these agencies. The foreign adoption business is a big
business. We feel that many American agencies are taking advantage of
unsuspecting families that are often desperate to adopt a child. These
agencies know that they have the upper hand. They have the children and
their client's money; therefore they call all the shots. They know that
all they have to say is jump and the families will ask how high.
In light of the cases, which have been sent to you by some of our
members, grass-roots consumers of adoption services, we strongly
support S. 682. We believe your excellent legislation could be even
better if it included all or part of legislation introduced by
Representative Trafficant.
Mary Mooney.

Our Story:

We spent over 10 years of trying to adopt in North Carolina
through our County Dept. of Social Services and The Children's
Home Society. We completed a homestudy and followed all the
rules. Only after 2 years did we realized that it would be
almost impossible to adopt a child this way. We turned to
international adoption in May of 1995. We researched
international adoption and found it to be very popular and
there seemed to be many success stories. We looked all over the
US for an adoption agency. We wanted to deal with some one
local. Finally we found a licensed NC agency and felt very
happy with them. This agency made us feel that they would
personally be involved in every aspect of our adoption. They
assured us all would work out within 6 months and we would have
a healthy little boy in our home very soon. They showed us
pictures of cute children and assured us they had many children
to choose from.
What was supposed to be a wonderful experience turned in to
our worst nightmare. What seemed to be an organized agency
turned out to be very unorganized agency. Nobody seemed to ever
know what was going on, what papers we needed or when we would
travel. When we did travel to Russia the child was not
available for us to adopt. What we found was the US agency had
hired a very unethical and ``known'' adoption facilitator that
had a bad reputation all over the US.
The agency felt they had done nothing wrong. They would not
help us to recoup our money or would not even offer to assist
us in another adoption. Or worse, they did not even apologize.
We found the NC Adoption Licensing Division to be no help.
Local law enforcement was no help. The NC Attorney General
stated it was a matter to be handled by the NC Adoption
Licensing Division. The Licensing Division stated they have no
way of keeping up with complaints and felt it was not their
place or job to investigate complaints. They also stated that
since the adoption was an international adoption that would not
come under their care anyway. There was no one that would even
listen to our story.
Because of our problems I went to the Internet to seek
support. I found tremendous support and found many other
families that had similar problems through out the US. I
started a web page at http://www.ncplaza.com/aaguide/ to give
people a place to voice their opinions of their adoption agency
or worker. Since then I have had such a large response I moved
the site to a new address http://www.theadoptionguide.com. I
make no money from this site but spend countless hours E-
mailing with devastated families that are in need of emotional
support. I only wish I had the knowledge to give them the legal
advice they need.
State adoption licensing divisions do not have any legal
authority even if they had the resources to investigate a
complaint they do not have any authority to bring a law
complaint against an agency.
What I have seen over the years is adoption agencies open and
close at the drop of a hat. They close one place and move to
another state to open again under another name. Many agencies
change states and names often. Some agencies don't even try to
get licensed and are not found out unless a family reports
them. And if they are called on by state licensing division
they just close up and move to another state.
In our case we were lucky to find an attorney that would take
our case. We filed a law complaint against this agency for
fraud and unethical practices. After 2 years we settled out of
court. We never recovered any of the $7,800 that we paid to the
facilitator. As part of the settlement we are not allowed to
speak about this agency.
I have found that if a family is able to find an attorney and
they can afford to pursue legal action the agencies will either
settle out of court or the family will get a judgment against
the agency that is usually never paid. Sadly most of the
stories I hear have a very sad ending. Because these families
have lost so much money they do not have the money to try and
adopt again. Many have borrowed against their homes or from
family members. This could be avoided if the adoption industry
were more regulated and accountable for their actions.
With S. 682 you have the opportunity to reform the adoption
laws to protect innocent families.
Mary M. Mooney


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