Adoption reform bill set to launch a year after passage

Relates to:
Date: 2007-11-26

By DAVID RYAN Register Staff Writer

A bill inspired by the downfall of a Napa adoption facilitation firm has yet to take effect almost a year after it became law.

SB 1758 -- which became law in January 2007 -- placed new restrictions on adoption facilitators, requiring them to post a $25,000 bond, undergo social work training and criminal background checks, and register with the state. Previously, adoption facilitators needed only post a $10,000 bond and obtain a business license to operate.
But bureaucratic systems to track adoption facilitators are still being put together, state officials say, and they need more time to work with the Department of Justice and state licensing agencies to set up a registry of approved adoption facilitators -- although not much more time.

"We are moving forward with implementation, we have a process in place for the background checks once we receive criminal history from the (Department of Justice)," said Shirley Washington, a spokeswoman from the California Department of Social Services. The department is responsible for carrying out SB 1758. "We are hopeful that the Web site registry will be up on the Web by the end of the month."

Washington said the department is also slated to propose a new law in 2008 that would seek to establish a place where the public can contact the state and find out if a particular adoption facilitator followed the law.

In 2006, testimony from adoption attorneys, adoption groups, Napa police and others convinced state lawmakers to pass SB 1758 and make it tougher for adoption facilitators to scam would-be adoptive parents.

Napa Police files submitted as court documents last year showed Yunona USA had scammed more than $1.1 million from 118 couples and families across the United States, promising to connect them with foreign orphans but either switching promised children at the last minute or dropping out of contact.

Two years ago Napa police began investigating Yunona USA after police received a complaint from a woman who alleged the company took thousands of dollars of her money with no sign of working to connect her to an orphan. The resulting investigation triggered a civil lawsuit filed by Napa prosecutors, who won a $368,000 default judgment against Yunona USA President Ivan Jerdev. Jerdev fled to Russia in 2005 shortly before police began investigating his firm, but Russian news agencies reported in 2006 that Jerdev had been arrested by Russian authorities on corruption charges.

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