Adoption by Gentle Care; A History of Unethical Choices

AGC a COlumbus Ohio Based Adoption Agency with a bad reputation

How Much Damage Must be Done in the Name of Adoption Before it is Enough?

In the last 7 months since my phone first rang on my birthday in April and I heard for the first time, the story of Carri  Sterns and Baby Camden, bits and pieces of the shocking history of Adoption by Gentle Care has come across my radar. I personally am rather tired of having to explain to people that Carri and Camden’s case is not an isolated incident, but rather only part and partial of a long history of poor choices made by a greedy and unethical agency who has made it their business model to use, and abuse or ignore when it suits them,  the current Ohio adoption laws to their personal advantage.  What happens normally is that these stories, or other not isolated incidents, do not get told in a public forum. They go under the cover of secrecy in adoption and no one is any wiser of the injustice happening. Until, that is, someone like Carri comes along and refuses to give in to the bullying, the intimidation and the threats of silence. We do not hear about the other stories because, and I cannot stress this enough, putting this whole nasty mess out for the public consumption and fighting on this level, in the courts, with the much needed funds for attorney fees piling up, and no end in sight is really more than most people can handle.

However, if we look closely, if we bother to account for all the grumblings, if we are not so easily able to dismiss “just that one experience,” then I think it is clear that for Adoption by Gentle Care, this is not their first rodeo by any means. This is how they do the business of adoption and, truthfully, I know that there are MANY other agencies that are guilty of the same abuses.

But let’s just look at Adoption by Gentle Care’s History since 1985, shall we? I will take the easy way in and begin with the last contested and overturned “Adoption” By Gentle Care:

2007- 2010 Grayson Vaughn and Adoption by Gentle Care

Before Carri, Adoption by Gentle Care already had their name in the media with what will forever be known as the “Grayson Vaughn” case as it went all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court. (http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/pdf_viewer/pdf_viewer.aspx?pdf=670621.pdf)  Adoption by Gentle Care  knew that a father wanted his child, but they ignored that the father had established his rights because they had what THEY CHOOSE to consider a legal “surrender” taken by a “father”.  When in fact, IF they were doing their job’s properly and believed that truly, “a Permanent Surrender must be held sacrosanct,” it would also mean that they made a PRACTICE of being extra careful in taking relinquishment consents.

I can say truthfully, beyond a shadow of a doubt that they clearly, like in Carri’s case, choose to ignore not just a clear red flag, but a huge bright red fiercely waving red flag, that said, no, you do not have this child’s father’s consent to the adoption. How can I say that? Here are the original surrender documents in the case of Grayson Vaughn.  Please not that the “birthfathers’ surrender  on page two states that HE IS NOT THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER. But, since Joran Bocvarov was MARRIED to the child’s mother, he was considered LEGALLY a parent, THAT was “good enough” for AGC to choose to go forward with the adoption placement; ignoring the right of the true father, the position they were putting the Vaughns in to be hurt, and of course, the actual child.

adoption by gentle care permanent surrender grayson vaughn birthmother

adoption by gentle care permanent surrender grayson vaughn NOT the biological fatherr

And so , yes, despite this clearly a surrender that should NOT have been taken and used in any adoption, Adoption by Gentle Care tried to go forward with adoption. The current director, Trina Saunders was even held in contempt. The Agency and the proposed adoptive parents tried to claim the Father Ben Wyrembeck abandoned and did not support the mother during her pregnancy so his consent should not be needed. This case would languish in the courts for 3 years before ” Grayson Vaughn” was rightfully returned to  his father Ben.  If you want to read more, just Google it. It was all over the media.

Ben Wyrembeck later did take Adoption by Gentle Care to court and because they settled, we do not know what the outcome was. I am sure that the settlement for damages had a  secrecy clause in it. I beelive that it was after the Grayson Vaughn case that the giant American Adoptions had to come and bail AGC out monetarily. I  have not been able to find out when exactly nor what the arrangement is, but there is a connection between the agencies as the internal emails of the American Adoptions Gentle Care reminders show us.

2004 Baby F, Adoption by Gentle Care and Ignoring Father’s Rights

When the biological father and Mother separated and the mother relinquished the child. The father however, did not sign away his rights.   AGC went ahead with trying to place the child for adoption knowing that the father certainly wanted his child. This case went to appeal known as Adoption of Baby F 2004-Ohio-1871. The reason this case went to appeals is because Adoption by Gentle Care still felt the court erred when they said the father needed to consent for the adoption to move forward. Adoption by Gentle Care tried to claim that the father abandoned the mother and did not support her during the pregnancy. The appeals court affirmed the original ruling that an adoption could not take place unless the father consented for an adoption. He did not.  Needless to say, the adoptive family was devastated when the child was returned to the father.

Again, this is a case where Adoption by Gentle Care ignored the rights of a birth parents and put the adoptive family and the child at risk for a failed adoption.

2000 Alison Witezman Vs Gentle Care

2000 Alison Witezman Vs Gentle Care

I don’t have any clear documentation on this case, but it seems that the adoptive family fostered/ adopted a disabled child from Adoption by Gentle Care in 1999 and later sued them in 2000. One could assume that it was about information about the adoption not being truthful. According to this article, the family paid Gentle Care 7 thousand dollars for Allison.

2004 CHRISTINE SOBISKI

While AGC was not named in the above case, Adoption by Gentle Care was the placing agency for an child’s adoption where the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services had removed another child who as placed with the same family due to an instance of domestic abuse in the foster/ adoptive family home. While the above documentation is the final result of the foster family suing the county agency for damages for removing the child, what is still of interest is that apparently AGC did NOT remove a child form a home where the county found removal necessary.

Just kind of makes me wonder what their motivations were for keeping a child in a home that was deemed unsafe by the DCFS, but then again, that also makes me ask about the Carrolls.

1992 The Death of Chloe Carroll

Chloe Carroll was a medically challenged baby placed with the Carrrols who already had other adoptive children. Then, one of them died. Now granted AGC did ask for this child to be returned after the first death, but I have to wonder WHY would this baby had been placed with this couple when again, Children Services was trying to get children removed from this home?  Granted this is an adoption horror story with multiple children dying.  Sadly, Chloe also died while in AGC’s care and AGC refused to discuss it. .. citing confidentiality.

1995-2001 Baby Boy Sam or Baby G and an AGC Offshoot Adoption By Choice

Florida’s Adoption By Choice ( ABC) was started in 1990 as a branch of an Ohio agency, Adoption by Gentle Care. With extensive Yellow Pages and billboard advertising, it quickly became the busiest agency in the Tampa Bay area, sometimes handling more than 100 adoptions a year according to this article.

Now you might think me a bad person for counting this case in there, but  this also helps document a pattern. Again, the Baby Sam case took years and made headlines as both Florida and Alabama courts were involved. And again, this was started as the agency was happy to ignore the rights of a father to his child and go forward with the adoption endangering, yet again, the emotions and moneys paid of the hopeful adoptive parents and the trauma of the child due to a failed adoption, disruption and transition. And in the end, this father and the adoptive parents went ahead and both settled with the agency for damages  and I will assume there is a condition that they can never speak about the case again.

I will say though that this copy  of an article now in the Pound Pup Legacy archives “Agency leaves trail of broken adoptions” by reporter Stephen Nohlgren   is well worth the time to read as it talks about all the same issues back in 1998. Eventually Debra W. West,  who is truthfully, the counterpart of AGC’;s Trina Saunder’s today, the director of Adoption by Choice ( ABC) was arrested for fraud in 2008.

Cases in Franklin Country Ohio Against Adoption by Gentle Care

GENTLE CARE CASE HISOTRY

There does not seem to be any information on the above, but clearly there are more than few times that people had to bring AGC to court for any number of unknown reasons:

  • 2000: In the Matter of Infant Baby Boy Pender and Adoption by Gentle Care

  • 1996: In the Matter of Terri L United sand Derrick Untied and Adoption by Gentle Care

  • 2005: Laura Williams vs Adoption by Gentle Care Inc.

  • 2011: Kerrie Obert Indv vs Adoption by Gentle Care Inc.

 

2001  Adoptive Parents file Ohio Attorney General Complaint

There seems to be t least two other times where complaints about  Adoption by Gentle Care resulted in investigations by the Ohio’s Attorney’s General’s offices.  While Carri’s complaint is under the charity division and hence, not public, these other two examples are on the public record.

The first one was an adoptive or foster  parent who had paid for training as part of the non refundable contract fees and was seeking reimbursement. I believe as the country offered the same classes for free? At least that is what I can see form it. Not a big deal by itself, however, the second complaint No. 277526 IS very relevant in this pattern of unethical and harmful choices made by Adoption by Gentle Care.

This is from an adoptive father telling his side of the story:

adoption by gentle care screwing adoptive parents too

“In December 2000, after several emotionally straining but unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy thru artificial insemination, my wife & I decided to apply for acceptance into the domestic infant adoption program with Adoption by Gentle Care.

We were informed of our acceptance into their program in March 2001. After a lengthy process of completing/submitting piles of personal records and attending classes & seminars to comply w/ internal agency and state regulated requirements, then submitting to a detailed home inspection/study performed by one of the agency’s licensed social workers, Gentle Care informed us that we had finally become eligible for an actual adoption placement in the last quarter of 2001. We then waited, and waited….. and waited for the call to come that announced we had been matched with a birthmother willing to give her child up for adoption. That call didn’t arrive for another 16 months. We then waited approximately another 2 months for the child, Sydnie, to be born.
Upon the birth notification by the adoption agency, we abruptly left our respective places of work & rushed to the hospital in Sandusky over 200miles away. We stayed there for two days, visiting with and bonding with Sydnie, waiting out the legally required post-birth period before the hospital could allow anyone other than the birth parent(s) to take her home.

However on the day of Sydnie’s official release, when the agency was having us sign the appropriate legal paperwork for their release of Sydnie into our care, Gentle Care notified us that the birth father had registered with Ohio’s Putative Father Registry and that we would be required to sign a document stating our knowledge of such and would thereafter release Gentle Care from any liability for making this placement. Gentle Care caveated this release stipulation by verbally stating we should not be concerned as they had been made aware that the birthfather was in prison and therefore the likelihood of him being able to prevent the adoption was about nil to none.

From our perspective, after waiting two years for an adoption in addition to all the unsuccessfull child-bearing trials, not to mention holding & bonding with Sydnie for 2 full days at the hospital, there was really no choice on the table in our minds. Sydnie was our little, baby girl and we were taking her home. And so, we signed everywhere the agency asked us to sign and brought Sydnie home with us to Dayton, OH.

It has now been over 2 years since that day of placement and despite a number of court hearings, appeals, and a substantial amount of legal counsel fees that continues to grow, we still have been unable to adopt Sydnie. We’ve also been notified through our own legal counsel on a number of occasions that we have a lengthy, expensive legal battle ahead of us and there is no guarantee we’ll ever be able to adopt Sydnie.

We have also since discovered that Ohio’s Department of Job and Family Services has found that Adoption by Gentle Care was noncompliant w/ Ohio’s statutory code when they placed Sydnie since they knew that the birth father had registered w/ the Putative Father Registry. Thus, per the department, Sydnie should have never been placed with us or anyone else for that matter (aside from the birthmother, birthfather, or their respective families). We have discussed this issue with the adoption agency several times and have requested that our adoption fees and legal costs be reimbursed since we still do not have a finalized adoption and we assert the agency should never have put us into this situation to begin with.

We also wish to prevent this type of scenario from happening to other emotionally vulnerable couples wishing to adopt. To this day (3-14-2005), the agency has not responded to our reimbursement request. It is further understood that although the agency submitted a corrective plan of action to the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services to prevent this sort of problem in the future, this department asserts that the agency remains in a noncompliance state because the agency has yet to implement and fully follow the corrective action plan.

Satisfactory Solution: We wish to be reimbursed the full costs we paid in pursuit of our adoption of Sydnie, including legal costs, the sum of which amounts to approximately $35,000.”

So again, we have Adoption by Gentle Care choosing to place a baby with an adoptive family, opening them up to huge legal risk, and ignoring the possible damage to both family and child while ignoring a father’s rights. Please note the bolded areas where, again, we see the possible motivation of AGC to release them  from any liability and how they pretty much openly lied to this adoptive family about the legal risk.

Adoption by Gentle Care Reviews on Yelp

So again, not court cases, but opinions of two birthmothers about the care they received from AGC do exist on Yelp.

In  2006 ( maybe, this is guesswork) Maria M, who reviews on Yelp quite a bit and is sometimes praising businesses in her reviews and sometimes not, says this about Adoption by Gentle Care in her 3/14/13 review ( she is talking about her medical bills in collection years after giving birth):

“I called Adoption By Gentle Care, and they explained it was too late and they were no longer legally bound to pay for the hospital bills. I even contacted the adoptive parents (it was an open adoption) and explained the situation- after all, they have the child, maybe they would help me with the cost of delivering the baby? But the mother told me that they only moved forward with the adoption because I was supposed to be covered by Medicaid.  My insurance company won’t accept claims that are older than one year.

Ethically, it doesn’t seem right that the adoption agency misled me in my insurance choice. It also just seems wrong that even though they aren’t legally bound to assist with bills after one year, they would still allow a teen (who couldn’t afford to give birth to a child and raise him) to be stuck with a $13,000 medical bill.   I had the c-section because I was encouraged BY THEM to set a date to be induced (only 3 days after my due date). This adoption agency encouraged me to do so to allow the adoptive parents to schedule their flight from California in order to be there when the child was born. In case you aren’t familiar with the risks of inducing a birth rather than letting it occur naturally, this means the risk of a c-section increases dramatically.

So 36 hours after being induced, I was told I had no choice but to have an expensive, life-altering surgical cesarean when the induction didn’t work (which is very common, but I did not know this at the time). And I am still paying this medical bill. I understand that much of this had to do with my ignorance and lack of responsibility, but also THEY PROVIDED ME WITH THE WRONG ADVICE THAT HAS LEFT ME IN DEBT EVER SINCE, AND THEY MOST DEFINITELY DID NOT CARE ONE OUNCE FOR ME ONCE THEY MADE THEIR MONEY FROM MY CASE.”

What is repeated? Having a mother move up her due date with little regard for her wellbeing. Carri also moved up her due date a week. Misleading a mother about risks and realities and then dropping her after they get what they want.

Then there is Sarah who posted her Yelp Review in March of this year, just weeks before Camden was born. Sarah’s review is not seen unless you click the “not recommended” link below Maria’s.

“I am a birth mother and I ignorantly used Adoptions by Gentle Care for the adoption of my child. I would NOT recommend ANY birth mother deal with this agency without an attorney because they promise help and support in many areas but as soon as you turn your child over to them they won’t even answer the phone.

They don’t tell you that they charge every adopting family for the cost of birth and delivery for the child they are adopting but the urge the birth mother to get on Medicaid and that means the state covers the cost and I have still have unpaid bills that the state didn’t cover and the agency REFUSES to cover years later!

The agency promised to help me get housing and transportation and just to generally help me get back on my feet, and I later found out that they told the family that adopted my child that they had to pay for these things for me and the family gave the finances to do so and they didn’t help with anything, they gave me a few gift cards and said thanks for the baby that you thought was being given to a loving family but instead we sold your baby! Tears”!

Birth mothers that are looking to put your child up for adoption, like I said before, get your OWN lawyer and NEVER deal with Adoptions by Gentle Care!

Ohh and my caseworker that dealt with adoption actually quit halfway through my case and I found out a year later that she quit because she found out that the agency was tricking birth mothers out of their baby’s by promising to help them with bills, counseling and other financial matters and when we would turn our baby over then the agency would cut all communication with us and tell our case worker to stop contact also! BEWARE BIRTH MOTHERS! OUR CHILDREN are nothing more than a PAYDAY to Adoptions by Gentle Care!”

The Unknown Family Hurt By Adoption by Gentle Care earlier in 2014

We also know of another birth family that felt exploited by AGC, but they could not fight the agency and have refused to come public. It sounds like they had tried to find help to get their child back, but were not in the position to be able to fight and have gone into hiding. I can only wish that they, too, would share their story even anonymously.

How many other hopeful adoptive families, birth families and children have been hurt by the practices of Adoption by Gentle Care? Sadly, we will probably not ever know the true body count. Like I said, we only hear of the case that have managed to fight to some degree, but for everyone that there is, there are countless more who just did not have the recourses or the will to go further.

But when I read about all the stories we d know of and then thinking about what happened in Carri’s case, it reads like a bad checklist of what NOT to do. Yet, Adoption by Gentle Care has chosen to act this unethically before and they have done it again. The finial question remains; when will they allow Carri to Bring Camden Home and who is going to stop them from hurting more children and families? Or tell me again abut how they are a “good” agency?

When will Adoption by Gentle Care be held responsible for their gross misconduct in the name of adoption?

Share on Facebook

About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

Want to Change the World?

Sign Up for the Adoption Army! "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead