Saturday, January 22, 2011

Scamming Birthmothers versus Legitimate Birthmothers

My husband has compared me to a giddy teenager whenever we get contacted by a birthmother. As much as I’d like to think he’s exaggerating, and that I’m much more calm and collected than he gives me credit for, his assessment is pretty accurate. Whenever a birthmother takes the time to contact us it’s like I’m momentarily transformed back to high school. I’m suddenly sixteen years old again and I just heard that someone wants to know if I’ve been asked to the prom yet. I squeal in excitement and my first instinct is to rush to the phone to call up my best friends and share the news [because when I was a teenager it was in the days before texting or e-mailing & we actually used phones to “talk” to each other]. Maybe I haven’t been asked to the prom yet as this melodramatic scenario plays out in my mind, but that’s not the point. The point is that someone out there is wondering if I’ve been asked yet and the anticipation of being asked and the speculating about who the interested party is and the daydreaming about what dress I’ll wear and how I’ll do my hair is half the fun. Because other than high school graduation, what single event is more important in a teenage girl’s life than her Junior Prom, right?

Similarly, what single event is more exciting to a hopeful adoptive couple than being contacted by a birthmother?

Unfortunately, one scam is all it takes to replace any feelings of excitement on the part of a hopeful adoptive couple with mistrust towards any potential birthmothers. I know this because my husband and I have been scammed- more than once. Many other times we’ve been contacted by birthmothers and didn’t even bother responding back because there were just too many “red flags” about the situation, such as:

-Using a different name than their e-mail address contains

-Sharing information that seems just too good to be true, such as:
  • Reporting to be pregnant with twins (Two for one!)
  • Finding out the sex of the baby next week or next month (What adoptive couple wouldn’t want to stay in contact to find out?)
  • The due date being around Christmastime (How exciting!)
-Giving inconsistent information

(Stating different due dates, or conflicting facts about the pregnancy or birthfather)

-Tales of financial hardship: “I can’t afford to raise this baby”

-Tales of emotional hardship: “My parents kicked me out when they found out I was pregnant and I have nobody to turn to for support.”, etc.

-Unwillingness to come into an adoption agency or work through a lawyer

-Contacting adoptive couples by way of a generic form letter

I’d like to write about the last four red flags in a little more detail, because they are the ones I’ve most commonly encountered. Sometimes it can be hard to find the balance between giving someone the benefit of the doubt and detecting dishonesty, especially if you happen to be sympathetic and caring by nature. Unfortunately, my compassion or concern have slowly been chipped away to the point that each time we are now contacted by a birthmother I have to ask myself “Is this a legitimate birthmother who is contacting us because she is truly interested in placing her child with us?” OR “Is this just another scam?”


“I am due on such and such date. If you’re interested in learning more call me or e-mail me.”

Granted, I can’t begin to understand what a daunting task it must be to choose a family to be the parents for my child when there are so many capable possibilities to choose from. However, one thing that turns me off is when I’m contacted by a birthparent- legit or not- through an impersonal and vague form letter. Perhaps the situation is, in fact, real, but as with our first adoption, I would much prefer to have a birthmother entrust us with the sacred responsibility of raising her child AFTER she has done some serious and most likely heart-wrenching soul-searching & decision making. It would be nice to know that as part of that decision-making process a birthmother has contacted us because she’s actually looked over our profile and found something about us that gives her a reason to consider us as adoptive parents in the first place as opposed to contacting all possible prospective adoptive parents from a list and then waiting for the first one to respond or give her some attention

One thing our caseworker suggested to us in dealing with such contacts is to respond back with the following question:

What is it about our family or our profile that stood out to you?

It may seem kind of self-centered, but if the birthmother doesn’t respond back then we know that she isn’t necessarily interested in our family, but is probably just looking for any prospective adoptive family to respond. I may be slightly disappointed if I don’t get a response back, but not when I consider the fact that I would much rather that any birthmother who is truly considering placing a child with us does so because she believes we could be the right family for her child.


“I can’t afford to raise this baby”

When I hear of a birthmother wanting to place a child because she can’t “provide financially” for the needs of her child I am torn between what to think. My first reaction is “Wow- that’s really sad." Yet the cynical part of me thinks “This person probably isn’t even pregnant if the first thing they mention is not having enough money. They’re just trying to make a buck by playing off of the emotions of a couple who would give anything for a child.”

Poverty can definitely be a factor in not being able to raise a child, but if it is the only reason for placing a child for adoption, then I think the birthparents need to be aware of resources available to them, such as WIC, food stamps, subsidized day care, government housing, etc.

I think the most frustrating thing about birthmother scammers is that for every scammer out there who makes a mockery of an adoptive couple’s highest hopes, there’s an honest girl or woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy who is trying to make the hardest decision she’ll ever have to make and if she does get up the courage to contact a prospective adoptive couple they may not take her story seriously. . . Especially if her situation happens to resemble any of the “red flags” of birthmother scammers.

It is very possible that a woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy has some TALES OF EMOTIONAL HARDSHIP to share: (Doesn’t everyone go through hard times at some point in their life?)

“My parents kicked me out when they found out I was pregnant and I have nobody to turn to for support.”

“My boyfriend/husband just walked out on me.”

“I was raped.”

To ensure that any birthmother contacts aren’t just “emotional scammers” but are legitimately looking to make an adoption plan for their child I ask the following question:

Where (or whom) are you turning to for support- family, friends, clergy, adoption agency, etc.?

I ask this question because I think it’s VITAL to ask any woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy about her support system, regardless of if she decides to place or parent. If she is serious about making an adoption plan for her child then hopefully she’ll have the maturity and courage to seek help from reputable adoption professionals. Even if she doesn’t end up placing her child- or if she ends up placing with an entirely different family- she can seek help and support from a caseworker or counselor during what surely must be a difficult time.


If a prospective birthmother contact becomes hesitant about working with an adoption agency or handling an adoption through the proper legal authorities, then I can’t help but figure she’s just in it for money or attention.

Legitimate birthmothers, on the other hand, realize that making an adoption plan isn’t solely about them, nor is it about pleasing or disappointing an adoptive couple, or doing what’s most popular or easiest. Such birthmothers seriously consider all of their options and are willing to do anything- no matter how difficult- out of pure love for their child.


Unknown said...

Great post! Sorry that you've had to deal with this. I can't imagine anyone trying to contact us directly. My reply to anyone would probably to contact our agency or attorney.

Anonymous said...

heh. Our son's adoption broke nearly every rule you posted. His birth parents were too high on drugs to form complete sentences, or be bothered enough to see who they were giving their toddler to.

Meg and Ken said...

I feaking hate scammers! I hate them because they have changed they way I handle contacts too. I hate that they have done this to legitimate and scared,loving expectant moms. They don't deserve to have me be cynical and question their intentions, but I do. I do the same things you do, to try and weed out the scammers. And unfortunately can spot them right away. I may have passed on something real because I never responded, because of red flags, but I can't handle getting taken advantage of again. So again....I HATE scammers!
Good post Mary!

-C- said...

I was contacted by zillions of scammers. I always replied "why did you like us specifically?". One way I always knew it was a scammer is that they would always basically offer me the baby in the first email! Not knowing me at all!

Lisa said...

This is great info. Although we have already adopted 4 times, this is our first time "looking" for a birthmother. Thanks for sharing the info!

- Lisa