I have been waiting for years to write this entry. With the anticipation, you’d think it would flow from my fingertips like water over Niagara Falls. But alas, no. I don’t even know how or where to begin, but I feel compelled to share it somehow. At first I wanted to write it because I was angry–this was going to be the best, worst customer service review known to all of personkind. I’ve mellowed a little bit because I can write this with the comfort of knowing I never ever have to deal with this company again. Still, I feel compelled because it’s an honest account of some of the behind-the-scenes goings on of our adoption journey. I want to share it openly so that other families who might be considering adoption can read about our experience as they try to decide on the agency/facilitator that’s right for them.
So here it goes…
The woman on the other end of the phone line had wanted to hear my story of infertility. So I’d told her as I’d choked back tears. My story was not unlike many other women who struggle with infertility, but it was still MY story. She’d said all the right things. She’d acknowledged how painful and difficult the whole infertility experience must have been for Frank and me. How exhausted we must’ve felt. How uncertain the next steps on the path to parenthood must have seemed. I’d felt like she had really listened. Like she’d really gotten it.
Then she’d told me that the average wait time for an adoption match with their center was 4 to 13 months.
Wow!! Super fast!!
She’d explained their procedures. She’d highlighted all the wonderful services they provide to waiting couples. The price tag was huge, but it had sounded so worth it.
Truthfully, in the back of my head, I’d just heard “4 to 13 months” echoing over and over. We were getting older and had been trying to start our family for years. We were so ready to go!
I’d told Frank, “This is it. I found the agency I want us to sign up with to find us our baby.”
It was April 2010 when we’d signed up with Adoption Network Law Center in California (ANLC as they are sometimes better known in adoption circles). I’d turned my Type-A personality into high gear and we’d powered through contracts and adoptive parent forms, and hurriedly Fedexed documents and lots of money across the country. We’d started gathering old photos and taking new ones to submit for our online adoption portfolio. We’d started drafting “Dear Birthmom” letters that would accompany our online pictures. We’d found a local agency that would help us fulfill our home study requirements here in Maryland.
Side Note: The home study process, in a nutshell, is the biggest and most frustrating pain in the ass I’ve ever encountered. Sitting on a toilet seat covered in broken glass would be less of a pain in the ass. Anyone who’s been through it and is reading this blog entry, is certainly nodding their head in agreement. And don’t even get me started on having to pay to renew it each and every year. Annual fingerprinting? Ummm, I’m pretty sure my fingerprints don’t change! Sigh.
By the time everything was completed and in order, we were adoption ready by mid-July. We’d waited as the months ticked by. The leaves had fallen from the trees. We’d eaten turkey…decorated our Christmas tree…celebrated a new year…and then thawed out as flowers had begun to bloom again.
On July 13, 2011, I was driving friends to Dulles airport when my cell phone rang. It was Frank. He’d told me that ANLC called and a birth mother had picked us. Oh, the adrenaline rush! I’d almost wrecked the car. I’d needed to speed my ass back home, but instead sat in D.C. style rushhour. When I’d finally gotten home, we’d called ANLC to hear all the details they’d collected on this birth mother so we could decide if it was the right fit for us. They’d given us the night to sleep on it, but were adamant that we had to make our decision by the next morning. It was an incredible amount of pressure and a difficult decision to make, particularly because there were some drugs involved and very limited information available to us.
We’d decided to go for it…and then…almost immediately…it had started on a downward trajectory right to hell in a splintery, feces covered, lie-soaked, hand basket. During the five weeks that followed our decision to pursue the adoption match, we’d written another check to ANLC for a large number with lots of zeroes, started providing support funds to the birth mother through a lawyer, and had to deal with some pretty bizarre and irrational behavior from both the birth mother and her boyfriend. I’m pretty sure I went from 15% gray hair to 35% gray hair and developed a minor ulcer during that time.
Without detailing all of what happened (because it’ll all be dramatically reenacted in the to-be-titled Lifetime: Television for Women story of my life once they identify a leading lady with the chops to play the role of me), you can read the headlines to get the gist:
And this my dear readers is also about the time that our relationship with ANLC really took a nose dive into the poop tank. I’d begun “super sleuthing” my way around the inter webs to try and give myself some peace and figure out how this had all gone so wrong…
That piece of work and her boyfriend (and you have no idea how hard it is for me to not let loose on a profanity-laced tirade of names that more accurately sums up what I think of these pieces of human trash) had criminal records that could fill a 3-ring binder. Had ANLC disclosed any of that information? No.
The birth father had posted information on Facebook that clearly indicated they were not living in Joplin, Missouri at the time of the tornado. Huge red flag. Had ANLC caught that? No.
After the tornado hit, and after she had contacted ANLC about developing an adoption plan, the birth mother had done a “man on the street” style news interview (an actual video was available online) with a local ABC affiliate in Missouri where she lied and misrepresented herself, as well as admitted that she didn’t want to give her child up for adoption. Had ANLC used Google or any other search engine to find this interview which I’d found in about 12 seconds? They had, but they didn’t disclose it at the time because they didn’t think it was relevant.
I’d thought these details were supposed to be shared; the result of the kind of leg work and decent vetting processes some of our $23,000+ of ANLC fees was supposed to support. Apparently not.
Months later, in March 2012, I’d found myself at a conference that was being held about 20 minutes away from ANLC’s offices in California. I’d scheduled a visit. I was angry and disappointed, but still hopeful that a baby would find his/her way to us. They’d refused to acknowledge any wrong doing. They’d said they’d done due diligence. They’d said they’d not felt the need to disclose criminal records because they don’t want to discourage waiting families from moving forward with a match because of minor criminal activity if they feel the birthmother is likely to commit to the adoption process. They would only say that our fraudulent match was one that “fell through the cracks.” It was an hour of excuses and I’d left the offices feeling like “THIS IS BULLSHIT!” They’d come across as used car salespeople who’d been playing Russian Roulette with not only my and my husband’s emotions, but with our bank account, too. Still, I’d tried to remain hopeful that they would certainly do better by us in the future–how could they not, right?!
But then, our case manager didn’t call as often (we often had to seek her out for updates), but when we did hear from her, it was like a broken record:
“Your profile was viewed XX number of times this month. We sent your profile to X number of birth moms. Please know I am thinking of you both and hoping for your miracle to happen soon.”
It had really, like REALLY, started to sound disingenuous.
We went for nearly 2 years without any real interest. I was devastated. I was guilt ridden– I’d felt like I’d made a terrible decision to use ANLC and dragged Frank into with me. We’d watched new couples pop up into the online directory of waiting families and get picked quickly while we’d just waited. In spring of 2013 we had a few possible matches, but they hadn’t panned out.
Then, more silence until Spring of 2014.
As you all know, our little miracle finally happened! After four long and painful years, the joy of our lives finally found us in May 2014! But that wasn’t all smooth and easy either…
The ANLC employee who was positioned as our facilitator once our successful match with our son’s birth mother was made nearly ruined the entire process. Her job was to facilitate–to bring us and the birth mother together. Then she was to allow the local adoption agency and attorneys in the state where our son was born to do their jobs to carry out the adoption plan. Instead, she continued to stick her nose in and insert herself, telling us at one point she was going to play “the bad cop,” and we could be “the good cops” and act like we didn’t know what she was doing as she tried to manipulate our son’s birth mother into admitting she’d lied about something (it was later revealed that no lies had been told). It was all so ridiculous and created so much stress and confusion. Finally, as I was holding my son in my arms in the hospital with less than 24 hours remaining before the legal paperwork could be signed, she called and said to me, “This adoption may not be able to move forward.” She then began the process of creating a legal hiccup that might have jeopardized our adoption plan with the birth mother had it not been for the attorney who basically told her to stop all communication because she was over-stepping her boundaries and didn’t know what she was talking about.
You might be wondering, “Well, if everything is so great and you have your family, then why are you still complaining?”
I don’t want to complain, but I also don’t want others to needlessly go through what we did. I take full responsibility that we were very eager to become parents and likely had on blinders. But I also truly believe that ANLC is more concerned with making money and pushing moral and ethical boundaries to create adoption matches than they are with doing right by everyone involved. In my estimation, they are a company that operates within the premise of the end justifies the means, and their financial processes allow them to take what many would consider to be unjustifiable risks. I also firmly believe that the hallmark of a good company is not how well they do in their successes, but how genuinely and effectively they work to rectify failures. No one is perfect. Bad things happen. But ANLC doesn’t seem to want to do anything more than take their fees, make excuses and throw couples back into the mix to see what happens the next time. There are tons of online reviews about the company that will speak to their failures and shortcomings.
I just wish I’d not been so easily persuaded by their sales pitch and glossy marketing. I have relearned the lesson that if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
I know there might be some who say that ANLC is the best thing that ever happened to them and the greatest adoption facilitation group on the planet. To those people I say, I am so glad that you had such a wonderful experience and that it was smooth and easy and positive. However, for those who didn’t have the great fortune of that type of experience, I also say, consider yourself VERY LUCKY!