(I’m converting our domain, rmcsquared.net, into our professional web site and moving all personal content to this blog. Eventually, I’ll have to figure out what to do with it and how to organize it. Until then, I’m just creating a series of posts with the .net content.)
We adopted through Adoption Network Law Center, located in Southern California. If you Google “adoption”, ANLC comes up on the first page of results. We thought that was a good thing. We learned too late, that although ANLC markets itself as an agency, it is operates like a facilitator. What’s the difference? In our case, the cost and the services received. This is what Robyn has to say to prospective adoptive parents who ask her about ANLC.
We heard glowing reports about ANLC. We signed with them in May 2005, after extensive research. At the beginning, we had only wonderful experiences with them. Our adoptive parent counselor was patient, gave great feedback, guided us in our profile book and pictures (while allowing us to make the final decisions). We had a potential match before we were done with our home study. Then another, but the mom went into labor early. Finally, we matched with a great young woman in another state.
Then, the troubles began.
The “Birthmother Counselor” was very difficult to get a hold of. She didn’t answer email, nor was she ever available when we called. We were not told that our son’s birthmom picked us, nor was she told that we had accepted the match. We tried to call to verify with the agency, but couldn’t talk to her until 5pm the day after the meeting.
At first, S wanted to deliver in another state, because of the requirements of her state’s courts. However, S then decided to stay in-state, but no one told us. When we finally got on the phone with Counselor, she couldn’t explain the situation to us very well. The county in which S lived doesn’t allow out-of-state adoptions. If S didn’t deliver in another county, we were not going to be able to adopt our baby. While I was trying to understand what this meant, Counselor said that another family she had worked with had an adoption fall through at the hospital, so, “see, your little problems don’t matter so much.”
I am not kidding. That’s what she said. I called her on it, and she asked me to forget she ever said that. But how do you forget that?
S was having trouble getting records from her doctor. He was anti-adoption, and even though S had signed a release form (of which ANLC had a copy), we still didn’t have a proof of pregnancy. We asked Counselor to step up the legal efforts to get the records. We also gave her our phone number, and said that if S asked for it, she could have it.
S called later that day, and we ended up talking for a total of 5 hours. We found out that Counselor had called her and told her that if we didn’t have the medical records, then we might pull out of the adoption. We NEVER said this! We were extremely angry. We also found out that Counselor had been telling us one story and S another. I reported Counselor to her supervisor and requested another counselor.
Counselor #2 never even gave us her last name or email address, and was never available via phone. At this point, S and I were communicating without the benefit (?) of ANLC.
Everything Counselor #2 said she would do, she didn’t. The social worker at the hospital never heard of us. S had to have an emergency C-section, and we were in the hospital for 19+ hours with no idea of what was happening. We were not allowed to go into the NICU, or even to see our son. No one at the hospital knew the adoption protocol. We called Counselor #2 at 3 in the morning, and asked her to call the hospital social worker and the hospital nursery staff so that we could see our son. When we asked what resources were available to us, she told us, “Our own inner strength and our faith in God.”
For this, we paid them $16,000.
Because S was exhausted from a badly managed labor and delivery, Jackson was alone in the NICU for at least the first 8 hours of his life, when S woke up and asked to see him. He was then alone again for another 12 hours. Counselor #2 never called the hospital social worker. Instead, she called S in the morning, told her that she had to change the hospital paperwork, and chewed her out over the phone. Max was there when she called.
Our lawyer was appalled by how ANLC worked, and even the California ICPC (Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children) office was suspicious of the fees ANLC charged. The ICPC work wasn’t included in the exorbitant fees, although the contract says it is, and we were anxious to go home. ANLC wasn’t returning messages from the CA ICPC office. ANLC wouldn’t help us with the ICPC unless we gave them another $1000. I finally lost it at one of the attorneys, told her how everything was royally fouled up, and how our son spent his first night in this world alone because of their mistakes. I told her we didn’t give them $16,000 for her to claim that the ICPC wasn’t her job.
She did the work.
Our total cost was over $30,000. Had we been more careful, perhaps we could have seen this coming. We asked and asked about “hidden fees” and were told that almost everything (except travel and birthmom expenses) was covered by the $16,000 we paid to ANLC. All that ended up being covered was the advertising and match. Everything else, we paid for out-of-pocket (except for the ICPC work I mentioned).
I had heard so many glowing remarks about ANLC. We knew it we be expensive, but we thought that the number of adoptions they do, the quick match time, and the legal and counseling resources were all worth it. In the end, we wondered why we even bothered to use them, because they did so little for us. They got us the match, and they let everything else drop on the floor.
In the end, we did adopt our beautiful baby boy, and we love him so very much. We thanked our adoptive parent counselor for helping us in the beginning, but the people we were handed off to just didn’t seem to care.
Never in a million years would we use ANLC again. We love our son dearly, and would not want another child over him. We figure that our role now is to serve as an example to others and discourage them from using ANLC.
Since the adoption, I have found many other people through the forums at adoption.com who have had even worse experiences. It seems that every time I share my story, the person sends me a message back telling me that he/she has received lots of comments like mine. I have been told about a birthmom who said that ANLC messed up the paperwork so that she could have taken the baby back if she had wanted to. Another birthmom who was active on the forums used ANLC to place her daughter, and ANLC was not forthcoming with the proper legal information.
ANLC treats expectant mothers and birthmothers unethically: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/115/RipOff0115152.htm and http://www.adoptionagencyratings.com/adoption-network.htm