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.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Commonwealth Adoptions International

What qualifies an agency to join National Council For Adoption? Is there any kind of vetting process that NCFA utilizes to screen out agencies that don't measure up to its allegedly high standards? Or does an agency qualify for membership by simply paying its dues?

Well, one thing we know for sure: Even though NCFA is a sponsoring organization of the Council on Accreditation (COA), and even though it gives its membership 25% discounts on "certain COA fees," COA accreditation is not a requirement for NCFA membership. And if you'd care to check for the COA accredited organizations throughout the US, you'll find only a tiny handful of NCFA members.

It appears that NCFA membership, in and of itself, "credentials an agency as a professional, licensed operation among its peers." From NCFA's website:

So are the agencies that join NCFA already corrupt and just manage to sneak in somehow, or do they become corrupted after they've been "credentialed" by NCFA? It's hard to tell, but one would be hard pressed to find a national organization with as many tainted members as NCFA.

To begin with, a count on its website in late August 2010 revealed it only had 58 member agencies, not counting satellite offices. So when agency after agency makes national headlines for their unethical - and even illegal - policies and practices, NCFA's credentials don't amount to much.

Commonwealth Adoptions International of Tucson, AZ, was one of those agencies. It was welcomed into membership by NCFA in the summer of 2006.

Two years later, Arizona's Attorney General Terri Goddard was filing suit against Commonwealth after it filed for bankruptcy, sticking prospective adoptive parents for $215,000 in unrefunded placement fees.

Attorney general seeks to get money back for families from adoption company
Tucson Citizen, Nov. 19, 2008
Local families that lost thousands of dollars when an international adoption agency went out of business have a chance of getting reimbursed.

State Attorney General Terry Goddard filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Commonwealth Adoptions International Inc., saying it violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act, according to a news release from his office.

Goddard said the adoption agency, which operated out of Tucson and three other locations, failed to refund nearly $215,000 to families when it closed July 31. The suit names the agency as well as its president, Marina Mayhew; its director of operations, Dawn Hill; and board members Jim Sellers, James Mayhew, Dan Bish and William Hundelang, the release said.
Commonwealth’s closure initially left 340 families, including 44 from Tucson, in the midst of the international adoption process in the lurch, said the Arizona Department of Economic Security, which handles adoption agency licensing.

Goddard said about two dozen Arizona families requested refunds when they never received the services promised by Commonwealth.
Refunds were denied, he said, for various reasons, one of which was the agency had pooled the money and used fees paid by one set of parents to finance adoption services for other families.

One set of prospective parents in Goddard’s lawsuit, who were not named, paid the agency as much as $11,200 for services that were never rendered, according to court documents.
Goddard’s lawsuit aims to prohibit the defendants from conducting future business in Arizona and to make monetary restitution for damages.The lawsuit says the defendants should be required to pay $10,000 for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, fully refund fees collected from each family that was defrauded and pay the state for all investigative costs and legal fees.

Commonwealth’s demise came soon after the agency was denied accreditation under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions.
The convention, designed to prevent illegal trafficking of children, set higher standards that agencies and parents had to meet for international adoptions. It went into effect April 1.

Tucsonan Tom Stevens and his wife took the agency to court in 2006 after their efforts to adopt a child from Colombia failed. Colombian authorities require an extensive psychological evaluation of prospective parents before any adoption is approved.

Stevens, 64, said the evaluation came back with statements that were not true, and he brought it to his caseworker at Commonwealth with the hopes of refuting the evaluation or getting it redone.
Instead, he said, the caseworker submitted it to Colombia, and the adoption process was terminated. The court awarded the Stevenses $1,100 in a partial refund of Commonwealth fees, records show.
– • – • – • – • –

Notice that the Stevens case was brought against Commonwealth the very year it became a "credentialed" member of National Council For Adoption - 2006.

Ponzi Scheme?

There isn't a whole lot of difference between the way Commonwealth dealt with its prospective parents and the way Bernie Madoff dealt with his investors: use the funds from new clients to pay the dividends/adoption expenses of previous clients. When the emphasis of an adoption agency is on finding foreign babies and toddlers for would-be parents instead of finding parents for U.S. children who need them – of which there is an endless supply, to say the least – the house of cards tumbles quickly when the supply of foreign babies dries up.

Quoting Arizona Attorney General Goddard from 'Everything Arizona,' on abc 15.com, 'State sues local adoption agency; couples lose thousands':
“Although they no longer could get children, they continued to open their doors and to take deposits from perspective (sic) adoptive parents,” said Goddard. Goddard says the agency lost its international certification. That certification allowed it to adopt children from overseas. No certification, yet it allegedly continued to take couple’s money.

“They knew to a fact that they weren’t going to provide these adoptive parents with children,” said Goddard.
By early fall, angry Commonwealth clients were swarming on the adoptionagencyratings.com website, sharing their horror stories and discussing with an attorney the possibility of filing a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit. As of this writing, I have been unable to learn whether a RICO case was actually brought against Commonwealth. However, if such a suit was filed, it would be the fourth such case filed against a member agency of National Council For Adoption.

More about those actions in future postings.


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