I know in my heart that each and every one of us waiting to become parents through adoption will know the joy of holding our baby. It is just a matter of when it will happen. Like many of you, my process has been long and filled with all kinds of unbelievable bumps and moments of hope. I have never experienced such a roller coaster of emotions!
There is no question that the adoption world is changing now that social media plays such a prominent role in our lives. Adoption connection sites like Adoptimist are creating new possibilities for families and expectant parents. But they are also creating new expectations and challenges. Adjusting for these challenges and developing awareness helps us all maintain a healthy and realistic approach to adoption.
Like many of you, I have been scammed. Twice. For nothing more than my undivided attention. It is heartbreaking, devastating, confounding, cruel, and soul reaching. Before I stepped into the world of online adoption profiles, I had never heard the term “Emotional Scamming”. I had been educated on red flags and financial scam tactics, but the concept of someone feigning pregnancy to receive attention, emotional support and/or personal connection, honestly, never even occurred to me. When it happened the first time, I sought help for navigating the next time I was contacted. When it happened a second time, I realized there were things I could do to prevent this from happening to me or anyone else in the adoption community. I hope that by sharing the lessons I have learned I will be doing something to to make the adoption experience positive for everyone.
First contact: Be warm, welcoming, and open. AND immediately loop in your agency, attorney and/or social worker. Have them request pregnancy verification and begin options counseling with the expectant mother. If she is serious, she will submit paper work. A woman who really wants to make a plan for her baby or who truly needs support, will make sure it happens. If she does not want to do these things after a few calls or texts, disengage - as hard as that is.
If you are comfortable, list your adoption counselor’s, agency, social worker or attorney’s contact information of your profile. Not your own. All first contact goes to my agency for screening. You are paying them to protect you. Take advantage of it. They are the experts and not as emotionally involved as we are. They can filter out scammers better than we can.
If you want to have first contact, set a time frame for yourself. How many phone calls, texts or emails are you willing to engage in before paperwork and pregnancy verification are submitted? One of the tricky aspects of social media sites is that it sets up the expectation of direct contact with prospective families before the expectant mother has talked to professionals. She may think you can just make an arrangement between in the two of you without understanding the legal requirements. She has to speak to and/or meet in person an adoption professional before any match can go forward.
Take pause if the expectant mother is very knowledgeable about adoption. Unless she has placed before, most people are not familiar with all the legalities and processes. I know I wasn’t! An expectant mother who knows a lot about adoption has likely either spoken to an adoption professional, has placed before, or has engaged a family falsely. If her situation is one of the first two, she will be willing to talk to your agency or attorney.
If she sends you an ultrasound, do a reverse google image search! Save the image in your files, then drag it into google images search bar. If the image is on any website anywhere, Google will find it. This happened to me, both times. I found the images on Ob-Gyn and other sites. I even had one person forge her name on the ultrasound, when I took a closer look it was clear the fonts were different. Be prepared to disengage if you find she has sent you public images. It is easy to make excuses, but the reality is she is not being truthful.
If contacted through Adoptimist, post an inquiry on the family discussion board. It is a good thing when an expectant mother is talking to more than one family and trying to find the best match for her situation. It is not a good thing if her stories are inconsistent or if she has been contacting families over a period of time and the pregnancy has not progressed. This community has helped me recognize red flags, thank you.
Be suspicious if the expectant mother does not want to talk on the phone, FaceTime, Skype, or meet in person. It is understandable that everyone is nervous and self-conscience, if she is not ready to meet with you, she must meet or speak to your adoption professional.
If you experience an emotional scam, block calls, emails, texts, and postings. No one has the right to continue to abuse your attention. Be kind to yourself and seek support from trusted friends, family or a counselor. It can be hard for your loved ones to watch you go through such heartbreak and cruelty, they will want to protect you, but they may not understand the complexities of adoption. Consider sharing your story only with the people who will encourage you to stand up and try again.
I am sure there are other lessons and considerations, if you read this and have more to add, please do! The more we share and support each other, the easier this journey will be! I wish you all the very best in your journeys to parenthood!