We brought our son home in September 2007. We are eternally grateful to his birth mother and to our adoption professionals.
We made our decision to adopt in April 2006, signed with our agency, and began submitting paperwork and meeting with our social worker for the required pre-placement homestudy. During this time, we received advice from the agency as well as those in the adoption community that we needed to get our information out there. We did. By February 1, 2007, we were ready and waiting to match. After waiting just five months, I got a bit impatient. We contacted our agency, and discovered that we had only been presented to a handful of birth mothers, none of whom were interested in meeting us. The agency, a very reputable one, confirmed that they had not had much contact with new birth mothers during the first six months of 2007. I was growing impatient. I constantly searched for ways to improve our efforts.
I found numerous websites that accommodated my desire to get my information out there. During one of my searches, I stumbled upon the website of a local adoption facilitator. The website was phenomenal. The facilitator provided a list of birth mothers for whom they were trying to find adoptive families, and a list of adoptive families for whom they were trying to find birth mothers. The site looked very professional; the facilitator listed credentials that included having a Ph.D. I was impressed. We conducted a little research, and after just one meeting and several emails back and forth, we signed with this facilitator on Monday, July 9, 2007.
Aside from the barrage of fraud emails that we received monthly, mostly from overseas, a scammer got the best of our facilitator and us. On Friday, July 13, our facilitator received a call from a birth mother, Sheena Flores. Sheena was desperate to find a family. She claimed to be due in 10 days, and needed minimal financial assistance as well as a place to stay. HERE IS THE FIRST RED FLAG – scammers may contact you late on a Friday afternoon desperate for help. Because it is late in the day, and the situation is short on time, your representative (e.g., facilitator, attorney, agency) has little time to contact her physician to confirm pregnancy. SECOND RED FLAG – with Sheena’s due date looming, she was ready to match with us after having been told little about us. We met for coffee and though she looked like she might be pregnant (or simply overweight), she did not look like she was 39 weeks pregnant, which is what she was claiming to be. We were excited about this possible situation, but were cautious because some tidbits of Sheena’s story did not make sense. When it was time to leave, the facilitator went on her way, while we were left with the responsibility of “supporting” Sheena through the weekend. Our facilitator told Sheena that we would buy her some clothes for the weekend and put her up in a hotel until we could verify her pregnancy. Our facilitator told us that this was “normal” in situations like this. What did we know? I just remember feeling like something just was not right.
One scammer got the best of facilitator a few years back, so she had worked out an arrangement with a local ultrasound sonographer to confirm pregnancies. Luckily for us…we thought. Despite the ill-at-ease feelings, we proceeded. We took Sheena to Target where we spent $50 on clothing, and finished the trip with a dinner at a local restaurant. We spent the rest of the evening “getting to know” her. After a few hours, we offered to let Sheena spend the night in our guest room. We figured it was only for one night. After all, we were meeting with the sonographer the next morning. For the record, I would NEVER do this again and certainly do NOT recommend this in a case such as this. The whole night I practically slept with one eye open; something just did not feel right. The next morning, we went to breakfast, and then headed out to meet the sonographer. When arrived, the sonographer guided us into the room. Sheena claimed to get a call on her cell, and excused herself from the room. After about five minutes, the sonographer went to look for her. Sheena had bolted.
Later that day, Sheena called our facilitator from San Francisco claiming she got scared, but was now ready. Our facilitator, now very suspicious, told Sheena that she HAD to meet with the sonographer, and obtain records from her OB/GYN before we would proceed. We never heard back from Sheena.
I later searched Yahoo groups and found Sheena’s name dating back to 2006.
With Sheena’s memory in the not-so-distant past, I emerged myself in the adoption community. I wanted to share my story with as many people as I could to deter Sheena from doing this to anyone else. I joined online adoption groups and adoption forums, and put together a list of adoption basics for the adoption newbie.
In the end, I learned a very valuable lesson. Be patient. I count my blessings that we only lost about $100 not to mention the one night that she stayed in our home.
Note: I write for Adoption Under One Roof (www.ouradopt.com). I posted this blog on February 23, 2009.