What You Need to Know About NCFA Member Agencies

The time has come to expose the foibles of member agencies of National Council For Adoption, the organization that makes the following claim on its website (since removed):

"For 30 years, NCFA has been the authoritative voice for adoption. Our research and education programs have led the way to promoting sound, ethical adoption policies and practices that have enabled children to find nurturing, permanent families through adoption."

Spotlighting a large number of NCFA member agencies on this blog does not imply that all NCFA members conduct themselves in ways that call to question their "sound, ethical adoption policies and practices." However, a whole is always equal to the sum of its parts – all of its parts.

The issues dealt with on this blog stretch far beyond ethical adoption policies and practices. They involve public trust, credibility, authenticity of purpose, and common human decency.

As you read the accounts of NCFA member agencies here, ask yourself how they reflect the "sound, ethical adoption policies and practices" touted by the trade organization that represents them before legislatures throughout the country.

Before we begin, however, I invite you to explore the origins of this organization. We need to begin with how adoption policies and practices relative to adoptee rights morphed from being deemed "sacred" to being deep-sixed to shield private adoption agencies from accountability and liability. In the process, what was "best for the child" became severely tainted by the business of adoption. And a business it is! A multi-billion dollar annual business!

NCFA was formed to protect, enhance and perpetuate that business.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Adoption House and Harlan Tenenbaum

Tenenbum's Deep Affiliation with National Council For Adoption
"Unparalleled Expertise and Integrity"

"...gentle hands-on approach and expansive vision of adoption, establish him as
one of the nation's foremost authorities on adoption today."

For a few years, Harlan Tenenbaum was a bright and shining star in the crown of National Council For Adoption. Among Harlan's other achievements and awards, he served as NCFA's legal advisor and helped to develop the federally-funded Infant Adoption Training Program (IATP), bringing NCFA a handsome $6.1 million grant "...to develop a national program curriculum consistent with the best-practices guidelines and implement a national training program based on that curriculum."

 . IATP's stated goal was:
To develop and implement programs to train designated staff of eligible health centers in providing adoption information and referrals to pregnant women on an equal basis with all other courses of action included in non-directive counseling to pregnant women.
Harlan subsequently served as an IATP instructor in Delaware.

He apparently represented NCFA's tenets well. Reviews of the training program by attendees reported:
Kelly McBride of Planned Parenthood of Indiana noted the exclusive and "constant focus on 'child-centered' counseling" and "how to inform clients that adoption is a 'good choice for the child.'" She said she was given "tips and techniques...about how to work against [women's] resistance, make them proud of their decision and convince them that adoption is a good choice." One family planning provider from Planned Parenthood of Collier Country, Florida, said she was told to repeatedly bring up adoption as an option, even if a woman says she is not interested. These examples border on coercion and clearly violate both Title X guidelines and principles of medical ethics.
Another key criticism was the negative lens through which trainers viewed clients. Marquardt noted that counselors were encouraged "to identify clients as deluded, not living in the real world, not being practical, participating in self- betrayal, being ignorant, and generally being unable to make good choices, unless...it's the choice the counselor would make for the client." He commented that such a negative view of the client is counterproductive, by preventing the counselor from establishing a constructive rapport with the client or aiding the client to make the choice that is best for her. 
Not only was Adoption House a  member of NCFA, but it was actually the stepchild of another NCFA member, Adoption Associates, Inc., headquartered in Jenison, Michigan. In a 1999 Adoption Associates newsletter, Accept Adoption, founder and president Richard Van Deelen boasts:

Van Deelen's history with NCFA goes back to at least 1984, when he testified, along with Bill Pierce, on behalf of NCFA in a Senate hearing. More about Adoption Associates in a forthcoming posting.

Back to Harlan Tenenbaum

Something was out of synch between the achievement/award persona projected on his and his step-parent agency's websites and that of the one that managed Adoption House. Adoptive parents and prospective parents had little good to say about either Harlan Tenenbaum or his agency. A good example is the fiasco at a 'Babies R Us' store on 'Adoption Day' 2007. 'Nightmare!' describes the arrogance and total insensitivity of this man and the effect his behavior had on one prospective adoptive couple.

On the website Adoption Agency Ratings, Adoption House drew an average of one star out of a possible 5, with allegations of unexplained additional fees, "emotional blackmail," inept agency counselors and more.

More telling, however, is what happened in the summer of 2008, as described by shocked Adoption House clients:

Some couples did report being notified of the agency's closing, but missing in those cases was any explanation for it. In the coming months, other clients made vague references to a possible explanation. From a comment added to the Adoption Agency Ratings website:

By September, Joint Council on International Children's Services, of which Adoption House was a member, noted that the agency was closing.

By February, there seem to have been previous discussions about Adoption House's troubles, as revealed in this posting:

Whatever the reason, Harlan Tenenbaum has not renewed his membership in the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. (Notice that listings on the grievance decisions page "may or may not be related to any Grievance matter.")

So the "Angel in Adoption" who proclaimed himself to be "one of the nation's foremost authorities on adoption today," and who served as legal counsel to National Council For Adoption is no longer even an adoption attorney.

So what is he doing today?

He is now an "Executive Coach and Leadership Development Consultant" for JCris Consulting Group, apparently a virtual entity, since it lists no brick-and-mortar address on its website.

Notice on his bio how he minimizes his role in his previous enterprise, Adoption House. His info, which one would assume he wrote - or at least approved - states he "was asked to serve as the CEO of a non-profit adoption agency..." Granted, his mother probably asked him to serve, but contrast this with the bio blurb he furnished for the Angels in Adoption Award he received in 2001: (bold print added)

Harlan S. Tenenbaum
Rep. Michael N. Castle
Harlan Tenenbaum is an “Angel” and worthy of the Congressional Coalition’s Angel in Adoption Award. The child of an adopted mother, Harlan learned how important it is for each child to be brought up in a loving family. Together, he and his mother have opened an adoption agency in Wilmington, DE, called Adoption House. Adoption House is a non-profit, full-service adoption agency that handles domestic and international adoptions. Harlan serves as managing director and his mother, Leah, serves as its Executive Director.
Notice how he lists himself as "managing director" in the Angel award, while on his present job bio he "was asked to serve as the CEO" of (an unnamed) agency.

Is there a reason Harlan Tenenbaum has divorced himself from past affiliation with Adoption House? If so, why? Inquiring minds want to know.

One thing we do know is that one of NCFA's bright and shining stars somehow took a fall. And in doing so, it seriously sullied yet another piece of NCFA's integrity and credibility.


  1. Perhaps his mother no longer sees him as 'forever family"?

  2. Adoption Associates was involved in a major adoption fraud case involving Guatemala as I recall - see my article for Decree Why the Federal Government Must Regulate Adoption for details.

  3. Jay Wolf (347) 924-9612
    7025 Yellowstone Blvd,
    Forest Hills, NY 11375-3164

    I googled the phone number on the JCris website and this is what I found. Jay Wolf's name appears at the bottom of the JCris homepage.

  4. Maureen: Thanks for the reminder - in time to include it in my Adoption Associates post. I had forgotten about the Bryant Gumbel piece. I just found a reference to it on the TV Guide website, and I just contacted CBS to see if it's possible to get a transcript.

    Mandy: This pretty well nails it, doesn't it? It's a virtual operation, probably run out of the guy's apartment. At least that's the way it looks from the Google maps street view. Thanks for checking it out.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. The reason 'rico' got this comment and others on this blog deleted is that he is a spammer for his advertising business. One of the sites he advertised was promoting adoption agencies.

  7. The social worker that worked for Deb West Virginia s Nancy Nagelhout & she has a FB Page! She was part of all the scandals