Arizona Pregnancy Help

Adoption Scams; Part 2: Adoption Entities

local adoption agency in Arizona

Speaker 1:

Welcome and thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption with Kelly Rourke-Scarry and me, Ron Reigns, where we delve into adoption issues from every angle of the adoption triad.

Speaker 2:

Do what’s best for your kid and yourself because if you can’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of that kid, and that’s not fair.

Speaker 3:

I know that my daughter would be well taken care of with them.

Speaker 4:

Don’t have an abortion. Give this child a chance.

Speaker 5:

All I could think about was needing to save my son.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

My name is Kelly Rourke-Scarry; I’m the executive director, president, and co-founder of Building Arizona Families Adoption Agency- a local adoption agency in Arizona, the Donna K. Evans Foundation, and the creator of the You before Me campaign. I have a bachelor’s degree in family studies and human development and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on school counseling. I was adopted at three days, born to a teen birth mother, raised in a closed adoption, and reunited with my birth mother in 2007. I have worked in the adoption field for over 15 years.

Ron Reigns:

And I’m Ron Reigns; I’ve worked in radio since 1999. I was the co-host of two successful morning shows in Prescott, Arizona. Now I work for my wife, an adoption attorney, and I can combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Unfortunately, agencies, attorneys, and professionals in the adoption world fraud families for monetary gain. Families are preyed upon because they’re vulnerable, want to become parents, and are in a position or depend on another entity to fulfill their dreams of becoming a family. For international adoptions, the Hague was implemented for the protection of the children and the birth parents, and the adoptive parents.

Ron Reigns:

So what exactly is the Hague? The Hague convention on the protection of children and cooperation and respect of inter-country adoption is an international treaty that provides necessary safeguards to protect the best interest of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents involved in inner country adoptions. The Hague convention was entered in the United States on April 1st, 2008. The goals of the Hague process are to establish safeguards to ensure that inner country adoptions take place in the best interest of the child and with respect for their fundamental rights, as recognized in international law, to establish a system of cooperation amongst contracting states, to ensure that these safeguards are respected and thereby prevent the abduction, the sale of, or trafficking children, and to secure the recognition and contracting states of adoptions made by the convention.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Regarding the Hague, so for international adoptions, you want to work with an adoption agency or an adoption attorney that is Hague accredited. Building Arizona Families is a local adoption agency in Arizona and we are currently Hague-accredited. That is something that we are very proud of. I think that the fact that we hold accreditation for international adoptions is another layer of us being audited and scrutinized by an independent source, which is good. You want to be transparent when you are an agency, an adoption entity, or an adoption attorney. You want everybody to know what is going on in your world so that they don’t have concerns, and so, as I said, it’s one more protective layer for a family.
So regarding domestic adoption, there are two adoptions, I want to say stories, but unfortunately, they’re nonfiction. So these are true stories. One of them involves Arizona, a former Arizona county assessor; the second is a woman out of the state of Michigan under the name of always hope pregnancy and education center.

Ron Reigns:

We’ve talked about this a little before; here’s an update. A former Arizona county assessor pleaded guilty to running an adoption fraud scheme that involved bringing pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the United States to give birth. Paul Petersen, 45 years old, was an adoption lawyer licensed in Utah and Arizona and an elected assessor for Maricopa county. Peterson pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent schemes and one count of forgery, all felonies in Arizona. He operated in an international adoption scheme in Arizona, Arkansas, and Utah, recording to the ladders office of the attorney general. In Utah, Petersen’s accused of running an enterprise to transport pregnant Marshallese women to the state for adoption. The women came from the islands in the central Pacific and were housed in residences he allegedly owned or leased. He transported or secured transportation for more than 40 pregnant Marshallese women to Utah between August 2016 and August 2019.

Ron Reigns:

A federal prosecutor said, “According to the documents, the defendant collected proceeds from each adoption in the form of fees, paid to him by adoptive parents in Arizona.” The scheme defrauded the state of more than $814,000, according to the state attorney general’s office. In December, his co-defendant, Lynwood Jennet, pleaded guilty over her involvement in the adoption fraud scheme. As part of her plea agreement, Jennet agreed to testify against Petersen. Jeanette is facing between two and four years in the Arizona department of corrections and is expecting to have a sentencing hearing in August. A sentencing hearing for Peterson has yet to be scheduled.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

We talked about this story when it first came out, which was disappointing; I guess it was my first response. In Arizona alone, the fact that he defrauded the state with more than $814,000 was heartbreaking.

Ron Reigns:

Not just that, yeah, it still strikes me what a black eye to the industry and make an, we’re trying to get everything even more above board than it’s ever been in the past and-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

More transparent.

Ron Reigns:

Yeah, making adoptions more open and understanding knocks you back two steps because of one lousy actor’s actions.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely and when I think long-term, I’m so grateful that the adoptions are not jeopardized. I’m so grateful for that, but I’m sad about the stories these children will one day hear. I am so sad for the adoptive families that have feared that something will jeopardize their adoption, and I’m heartbroken for how these birth mothers were treated. So the entire triad has all been painfully affected. The children are still babies and aren’t aware of their story, but this is now part of their life story. This is part of who they are, and that’s sad to me that this has happened.

Speaker 5:

They all benefit because, as you said, the adoptions did go through, and so they did benefit, but everybody suffered until recently, except for Paul Peterson. He’s the only one that kind of was like going through no suffering, just getting benefit after benefit, stealing from the state and the taxpayers, and just putting these women in horrific conditions, the whole thing, and he thankfully got caught. He is going to pay the price.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right, and I respect that he did plead guilty, but at the same time, that doesn’t right his wrong, and currently, he’s out on bail. So he bonded out, which I hope is wrapped up shortly, and the fact that his co-defendant, Lynwood Jennet, also pleaded guilty over her involvement, and as part of her plea agreement, she’s testifying against him. I think it will be exciting to hear what she has to say about what really happened behind the scenes. And hopefully-

Ron Reigns:

I do too. I wonder if this is going to be televised.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Wouldn’t it be a public record-

Ron Reigns:

I don’t know.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

If it wasn’t?

Ron Reigns:

Probably, I would like to see it through and-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right, and if not, I’m wondering if we can get ahold of the transcripts is what I’m saying-

Ron Reigns:

I’m sure we could-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

If it’s not televised.

Ron Reigns:

… As far as that goes, yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Because as I said, you and I have followed this from the beginning, the onset of this, and I would love to speak with one of the families. Maybe we can find one of the families willing to talk on our podcast about the impact on them and how they’re feeling.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So they haven’t done the sentencing, I guess there’s a sentencing hearing in August, but that has not been scheduled yet. For Peterson, it has not been scheduled yet.

Ron Reigns:

Okay, right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

As we learn more, hopefully as a community, we can bond together, and again, I think the key when you’re talking about fraudulent activity and scheming. All of this corruption is the opposite, which is transparency and letting everybody see what’s going on, and that’s what we need to collectively do in the adoption community and bond together to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. The second case we’re talking about is Tara Lynn Lee’s adoption scam.

Ron Reigns:

Tara Lynn Lee operated in Michigan under the always hope pregnancy and education center. The state of Michigan never issued a license to Lee on her corporate entities to facilitate adoptions. Supposedly, Lee repeatedly paired birth mothers with adopted parents from 2014 to 2018. She represented herself to adoptive parents as a licensed social worker with a legitimate adoption agency. Lee herself admitted on several occasions, she matched more than one set of adoptive parents to the same birth mother and matched adoptive parents with birth mothers that did not exist, were not even pregnant, or had decided not to place their child into adoption. Lee requested and received payment from prospective adoptive parents for these fraudulent matches. The indictment also states that Lee pocketed over $200,000 from fraudulent matches in 2018 alone, and I find this horrific again.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Also, adoptive parents with fundraisers that didn’t exist. Millions of dollars, the 200,000 was just in 2018. I mean, we’re talking big money.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

This, I would say, is another example of every adoptive parent’s worst nightmare because when you’re an adoptive parent, you have to put your faith and your trust in the entity that you’re working with. When you hear a story about somebody like Tara Lynn Lee, it’s crushing because it makes you think, okay, we will often get situations where a family who has a birth mother who has changed her mind, say, was she even pregnant and that’s when we pull her medical records and redact them. They see them along the way anyway. But like I said, you always, when you’re working with an agency or an adoption attorney, I think it’s essential to go and visit.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Like, we tell our families at our local adoption agency in Arizona, “Come visit us, come and meet the birth mom” as you’re going through the process because if this is not a successful adoption, you will be able to look back and know that we’re an agency. You will have seen our facility and, two, you will have met the birth mother and maybe attend a doctor’s appointment with her. You will be reassured that this is legitimate, and you won’t have to worry about the concerns substantiated regarding Tara Lynn Lee. The other thing is, is that when you see somebody face to face and you look in their eyes, and you’re talking to them, that gives you a very different, relaxing feeling than just always speaking to somebody on the phone or through email. Seeing somebody face-to-face is very different. So definitely, I encourage families. Now, what she did is nothing short of despicable is the word that comes to mind. I have no words on this, Ron; what-

Speaker 5:

You know, these two cases just hurt. It hurts your heart to know that there are people because adoption is such a beautiful thing. There are always bad people who will do bad things, no matter what industry it is, whether it’s the police adoption or a politician. Still, again, the black eye in these two cases hurts because we’re out here as a local adoption agency in Arizona focused on building Arizona families. Lisa and her law firm are out here doing this because we do have a passion for it, and we have a passion for helping the birth mothers, the adoptive families, and the children.

Speaker 5:

We, and so when somebody does this, it makes you angry. It makes you wonder how people get to that place in their life, where they’re like, well, because they have to know obviously that this is wrong, but to go, “Yeah, but I’m going to get a paycheck for it.” I’m with you. I have no words-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah.

Speaker 5:

Just frustration and anger, and that’s all.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah.

Speaker 5:

I mean, at least not to defend Paul Petersen, but at least he was providing actual babies that existed with families. I mean, this was just a.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

There was a result for the families, correct? Unfortunately, people suffered because of his choices.

Speaker 5:

They did.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

But I see what you’re saying, but that she was matching multiple people; I mean, this, the hair is raising on my arms, I, there are no words. So I would recommend when you decide the adoption is the path and the journey that you and your family are going to take, learn about the adoption entities, legal business name, along with any AKAs, their physical address, physical phone number, they’re licensed, who they’re licensed through, make sure that their license is current and valid, check and see if it’s ever been suspended, see who else they’re associated with, and accredited through. They need to be Hague accredited if you’re doing an international adoption. Again, it is advantageous for a domestic program to also have a Hague accreditation like our local adoption agency in Arizona; you know that another entity has scrutinized that agency.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So it’s not just a state license; it’s also at a federal level. You want to check and see if there are any lodged complaints, the outcomes of those complaints, see if they’re rated with the better business bureau, again, if they are licensed through the state, what that looks like. I know that in Arizona, we are one state where our licensing entity comes out annually, and we not only have to have an audit done through the accountants that we have to supply to the state, but we also have to have an independent auditor audit the account. So we’re double-audited. That is just a requirement of the state for any adoption agency. You want to read and understand the contract you’re signing, ask questions, and don’t rush through it. There’s a reason that at the bottom of every page, you should be initialing it because, one, that’s a protective barrier for you to know that the pages haven’t been taken in or out; one, and, two, you’re reading each page, don’t skim it.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I know sometimes, when we look at a thick contract, it’s much easier to glance down at it and see where you signed. We encourage the families at local adoption agency in Arizona to read what you’re signing. Look for transparency, ask those questions, check references of families who’ve used adoption services, get recommendations, go on Yelp and Google and look at the reviews. Be aware of current adoption scams. When adoption scams make the news, look into them and read about them, and choose somebody who is experienced. You do want someone where adoption is turning the wheel. In other words, you don’t want somebody where it is you’re a part of a pilot program and expect a smooth ride. If you want that smooth ride and that experience, then go with somebody who is tried and true. Suppose you find out that you have been scammed. In that case, you want to speak with a specialist, look at contacting an attorney, contacting the police department, filing a report, maybe contacting the attorney General’s office, and obviously, you want also to contact the licensing entity of the adoption person, personnel attorney agency that you are concerned about.

 

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

There is recourse; my dad used to say, “You can’t get blood from a turnip.” Hence, if you are, I know that there was an agency down in Tucson many years ago doing international adoptions, and they were doing some fraudulent activity. Many families lost a lot of money, which was sad because sometimes families have vested everything into an entity to try to become parents. When they lose that, they’re losing money, time, emotion, energy, and their dream at that moment. They may or may not get to a place where they can achieve it again or have the opportunity to achieve it again. So there are no words to say to somebody that has been scammed other than “As a professional in the adoption community, I’m sorry that happened to you. You’re not alone. Unfortunately, there are other people that have been in the same boat as you and know that from an ethical and above board agency, we’re doing everything we can do to make adoptions better for everyone”.

Ron Reigns:

Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption. If you’re listening and you’re dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and want more information about adoption, building Arizona families is a local adoption agency in Arizona, available twenty-four, seven by phone or text at (623) 695-4112 that’s 6, 2, 3, 6, 9, 5, 4, 1, 1, 2. We can make an immediate appointment with you to start creating an Arizona adoption plan at our local adoption agency in Arizona or click here for more information. You can also find more information about building Arizona families on their website at azpregnancyhelp.com. Thanks also to Grapes for allowing us to use their song, I don’t know, as our theme song. Birth Mother Matters in Adoption was written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by me. Please rate and review this podcast wherever you’re listening to us. We’d appreciate it. We also now have a website at birthmothermatterspodcast.com. Please tune in next time on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry; I’m Ron Reigns.

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