An Adoption Expert Offers Practical Advice to Avoid Pitfalls and Dispel Fears

Being Pro Adoption Without Being Scammed

Adoption is an idea that rests in the heart of many couples, but fails to come to fruition for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes fear holds them back. Hearing stories of fraud causes them to avoid taking those first steps.

Recent news articles have told the stories of families who have lost significant sums of money in adoption proceedings.  In some cases, the expectant mother bilked them out of funds. In others, the agencies closed down after accepting payments.

Whatever the reason, it’s horribly discouraging to people who are trying their best to adopt and willing to lay out significant amounts of money to do so.  The result is even more people who decide it’s not worth trying.

If you’re considering adoption and want to limit your financial risk, there are a few steps you can take.  Due to all the variables, it’s impossible to risk-proof an adoption process, but you can put guards in place so you limit your potential loss and insure that you’re being good stewards of the finances God’s given you.


Control the Home Study Process

The first step in adoption is getting a home study.  It is a written assessment of your home, history, and preparedness for adoption and will be necessary to file for adoption with the court.  There is no way around this and a good social worker will actually help prepare you for your adoption.

Make sure you are getting the right home study.  Home studies for foster-to-adopt, international adoption, and private adoption are all different.  If you are going through a private agency, make sure you own your home study when it is over and if you choose to go to another agency, you don’t need to pay for the home study to be released.

A home study will cost you up front – there’s no way around that and someone is investing significant time in writing it for you, so they need to be paid for that – but once you pay for it, you should be able to use it elsewhere for a similar adoption rather than be locked in with one agency.  Ask how many signed copies you will receive and if they insist that they don’t give home studies directly to families, go elsewhere.

Avoid Ala Carte Marketing Charges

Some agencies will offer you greater visibility in front of expectant moms if you pay a substantial fee up front.  That’s a huge red flag – trust God to get you in the right spot rather than paying huge sums for websites or specific ads that highlight your family.  Those dollars are very hard to justify.

Direct marketing, craigslist ads, even Facebook pages promoting your availability to adopt are more often invitations to being scammed rather than helpful in connecting with an expectant mother.

Be Careful About Early Matches

It’s not unusual for us to have an expectant woman approach us when she’s only 8-12 weeks pregnant, asking to see family profiles so she can choose a family to adopt her child.   We are happy to help care for her in the process, but we don’t match expectant moms and adoptive parents until the beginning of the third trimester.

At match, most agencies charge estimated fees for the care of the expectant mom.  Many states have relatively modest limits on those amounts, but some do not. A large number of agencies match early to collect those funds up front, knowing the expectant mother may or may not choose to go forward.  If she chooses not to make an adoption plan, the expectant family forfeits those funds.

Ask Questions

Once you are matched, you will most likely need to pay fees.  Ask pointedly, if the expectant mother decides not to go through with her plan, what happens to those funds?  Some of the fees will be unrecoverable (birth mother expenses) but your match fee should not necessarily be forfeited.  Many agencies will offer you a credit on your next match. A few will offer a refund under unique circumstances.

In cases where families are not offered a cash refund, it does not mean they are been scammed. The agency has done all the work they were able to do in caring for the expectant mother, counseling, preparing you, etc.  There is inherent risk in adoption that cannot be entirely mitigated, but that is true of any worthwhile pursuit.

Adoption is not easy or without pitfalls.  Even so, it is a beautiful expression of the heart of God and a key part of standing for life.  May the grace of God rest on those who say yes.

About Randy and kelsey Bohlender

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Randy Bohlender and his wife, Kelsey, have ten children, six which were adopted. They founded Zoe’s House Adoption Agency.  He recently became the Senior Pastor of Hillcrest Covenant Church in Kansas City.

We Must Prepare for Victory Over Roe v. Wade by Launching an Adoption Movement Now

For every strong conviction we hold or every hill we choose to die on, there is the potential that at some point, our critics will say something that makes sense and because they are so wrong about so many other things, we will turn a deaf ear to them.

It nearly happened to me regarding the issue of LIFE.

On January 22 of 2005, in the early months of the Bound4LIFE movement, I was standing in prayer at the base of the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision – a day that always brings out a lot of pro-life and pro-abortion advocates.

A member of Bound4LIFE prays while others protest.

A member of Bound4LIFE prays while others protest.

On the pro-life side, it’s largely a somber event. There are always a few with megaphones, but it’s not a party. It’s a collective realization that many babies have died and many more will as long as Roe v. Wade stands.

The pro-abortion crowd is usually much more animated. They chant incredibly vile things and and break into song from time to time. Their celebration of death seems more like the sidelines of a sporting event.

In that chaos, we prayed silently with Life Tape over our mouths. Our silence seemed particularly irritating to those on the other side of the argument. They’d frequently wander behind us and make horrible comments or curse at us, even though my children—then 12, 8 and 4—were standing right beside us. I watched out of the corner of my eye as a pro-abortion protester walked uncomfortably close behind my oldest son and screamed, “What are you going to do if you win? What are you going to do with all those babies? You don’t want them either!”

Randy Bohlender with his wife Kelsey. Their family of 10 children include six adopted.

Randy Bohlender with his wife Kelsey. Their family of 10 children include six adopted.

It is the ultimate in irony that pro-abortion folks accuse pro-lifers of being uncaring. I have found the opposite to be true. I’ve watched pro-lifers give generously towards young women in need. Even so, we have far to go in properly preparing for winning the battle in court. If abortion were stopped tomorrow, we are not prepared for the wave of children that will be born. These children would be born into family situations where due to economics, misunderstanding, or brokenness, parents would have preferred death over life. Now that same stressed out, reluctant parent is faced with caring for a child that they really would have preferred not to carry. Some will get a glance at that baby and have a deep change of heart. Others will not.

What does preparing to win look like?

Since that day, we have considered the words of that critic, “What if you win?”. What does it look like to prepare for the overturning of Roe v. Wade? If we get what we’re asking for, what do we do with the aftermath?

We need to commit to praying through the victory and beyond. The wave of intercession that has risen over the years regarding Roe v. Wade will need to continue in order to care for the thousands of babies that will be born daily once abortion is abolished. Parents who have prayed and prayed for a child realize that once that baby is born, the prayer meeting continues. The church has an intercessory commitment to those babies, and it doesn’t stop at birth.

Randy Bohlender along with staff outside the adoption agency he founded, Zoe’s House.

Randy Bohlender along with staff outside the adoption agency he founded, Zoe’s House.

We need to become pro-child. We know what a pro-life movement looks like when the children are unborn, but what does it mean to be pro-life when that life is born and beyond? We need a corresponding response of families who actively pursue adoption, both through private and state channels. Some ask, “Why private adoption when there are so many in state care that need families?” Many of those private adoptions help children escape the possibility of foster care later. My family has privately adopted six. They were all on their way to foster care if the Lord had not intervened and had someone not said yes to LIFE.

We need to focus on resources for children and those who parent them. In our charity and in our politics, there must be room for providing for children and families in need.

My efforts in adoption are directly related to my belief that life is precious, and that one day the child in the womb will be protected in our nation. That firm belief drives me to prepare for victory with the same fervor that we are fighting the battle at hand.

When My Mom Was Violated and I Was ‘Unwanted,’ Adoption Revealed God’s Perfect Love

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your Book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

I always knew I was adopted. I remember my parents sitting me down and explaining it to me. I remember crying myself to sleep thinking, You aren’t my real mom and dad. I remember the rejection and hurt I felt.

They loved me so much and wanted to help me deal with this flood of emotions, but they didn’t know how it felt. They couldn’t. They knew where they came from. I didn’t.

Photo: Augusto Serna /    Flickr

Photo: Augusto Serna / Flickr

This internal struggle continued for years. Little did I know that I only knew part of the story. I was a senior in high school when I found out: my birth mother had been raped.

I have imagined the scenario over and over again in my mind—how my birthday almost didn’t happen. A young woman is picked up for a date and night on the town. Her boyfriend is charming, persuasive. The night was going well, and then things took a turn for the worse. They called it date rape.

Nine months later, here I was. Born to a woman who didn’t want me—didn’t even want to know if I was a girl or boy. Unloved, unwanted, yet saved from the unthinkable violence of abortion, which is somehow totally accepted in our society.

I remember staring out my mother’s car window thinking, You’re a product of evil; you were never meant to be. How the enemy has a way with words.

For years, I lived with those nagging feelings, those hating thoughts—feeling like I was somehow predestined for something horrible because that’s how my life began. I was pathetic, or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.

Photo: Aftab Uzzaman /    Flickr

Photo: Aftab Uzzaman / Flickr

I’d have good days, weeks, months… but it always came creeping back. Thinking back on that day, I can vividly remember what my mom so casually stated and how Satan was turning truth into lies. I wasn’t telling myself that I wasn’t meant to be, the enemy was telling me You weren’t meant to be—anything to bring me down and question my life’s purpose.

Who can imagine being raped and then finding out she is pregnant with the rapist’s child?

I remember as a high schooler, justifying how an abortion would be somehow acceptable in the case of rape—I mean, how could you expect a woman to carry a child that was conceived under such horrible and evil means? Oh wait, that could’ve been me… I was questioning everything: my self-worth, even my existence.

Thoughts of suicide came and went. I never acted on it and always shrugged off the thought of doing so. It wasn’t until I sought God’s voice in my life that those thoughts began to disappear.

Little did I know God was calling me to Him. He wanted me? It couldn’t be—He doesn’t know about me, where I came from… “Yes, Ashley, I want you,” I opened my Bible to Jeremiah 1:5:“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

He knows me, He created me, He loves me. You see, I wasn’t a mistake. God knew what was going to happen the day I was conceived, and He had a plan greater than anyone could see. At a more fundamental level than even my adopted parents could imagine, my Father revealed the significance and purpose He imprinted on my life.  

God takes bad situations and makes something beautiful. I am a child of God! His adoption is beautiful, secure and astonishing in its glorious design. I am here to share God’s good news and plan for your life and mine. I am alive—not by mistake, but by His grace.

We must all remember that God has a plan for our lives. We may not see it or even understand what it is. All we can do is daily seek His face and His will. We must not get discouraged when we feel like the world has turned its back on us, it has!

But God hasn’t turned His back on us. God was, and still is, in control. Because of the circumstances surrounding my conception and birth, I have had the amazing opportunity to minister to others by speaking out against abortion and sharing the love of Christ to those who are recovering from it.

I am daily reminded that God’s plan is perfect. I am blessed to write and speak of what He has done in and through me! Praise God for His heart revealed in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

About Ashley Lawton

Ashley Lawton is a writer, photographer and Christian speaker who loves to shares her pro-life testimony. She and her husband, Asbury, raise their two lovely children in Greenville, South Carolina.

“If You’re Pro-Life, Be Pro-Adoption”: A Waiting Adoptive Mom Reveals a Powerful Truth

It’s a story too horrific to believe. This week, a 16-year-old teenager gave birth to her baby alone in her bedroom and then threw the newborn out of the second story window.

After telling her mother what she’d done, media outlets reported that the infant’s grandmother ran outside to try and save the baby—but it was too late.

A 16 year-old killed her baby by throwing the newborn from a second story window (Photo: Benjamin Josar /    Flickr   )

A 16 year-old killed her baby by throwing the newborn from a second story window (Photo: Benjamin Josar / Flickr)

My shock and horror turned into crying…soft, at first, followed by loud, uncontrollable sobs. I found myself on the floor of the room containing nursery basics.

It won’t be complete until we get the call that we’ve been matched with an expectant mother who has chosen us to place her child with us as an adoptive family. Here is where I wail and lament over the death of this baby girl and over my own empty womb and empty arms.

This moment rushed back to me last night when I heard Governor Mike Pence speak passionately on the sanctity of human life at the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate. “God says, Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you,” he stated, quoting Psalm 139.

“I sought to stand with great compassion for the sanctity of life. The state of Indiana has also sought to make sure that we expand alternatives in health care counseling for women, non-abortion alternatives,” he continued. “I think if you’re going to be pro-life, you should be pro-adoption.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his wife Karen have sought to craft pro-adoption state policies (Photo: Gage Skidmore /    Flickr   )

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his wife Karen have sought to craft pro-adoption state policies (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Waiting for an adoption placement is hard. Stories like this tragedy of a baby thrown out a window make it even harder. Of course, this isn’t about us. It’s about a helpless, innocent baby whose own mother went through labor and delivery, only to end her life moments later.

It’s about a 16-year-old, a teenager—really, a child herself. She was going through this experience alone and, likely not knowing what else to do, panicked and acted irrationally. I am furious with her. But in my fury, I am also furious with others in her life.

What was she taught about sex? What was she taught about the risk of pregnancy? Or prevention of pregnancy? Did she turn to someone when she found out she was pregnant, or did she hide this? If the former, were they supportive (even if at first upset)? If the latter, why?

What about her teachers? Her friends? Is she alone responsible? I don’t think so. The baby’s father is responsible. Her parents are responsible. While the 16-year-old is the most responsible, she is not solely responsible.

This story is heartbreaking. I can’t help but think about the fact that this 16-year-old was able to conceive, while I cannot, and regularly beg God for a child—or for the desire to be removed from my heart.

I think about how I would have gladly taken in that baby girl, and my eyes swell with tears once again. Yet, other than being angry, horrified and heartbroken, what can we do?

Clearly education of the next generation is lacking. While school condom distribution programs are seen by some as a solution, research shows these programs actually increase teen fertility rates. And research on the medical risks of many contraceptive methods is beginning to pile up.

Teen sexual activity can be costly—not just for teens, but also for society (Photo: Chinny Buraga /    Flickr   )

Teen sexual activity can be costly—not just for teens, but also for society (Photo: Chinny Buraga / Flickr)

Here are three steps to be fully informed, then engage in our spheres of influenc

First, we can be a part of spreading pro-life messages to students through organizations such as Students for Life—they even have a chapter at Harvard University.

Second, we can encourage our school districts to utilize sex education programs that emphasize abstinence and developing character traits, shown to be the most effective way to reduce teen sexual activity.

Lastly, we can get involved in local pro-life ministry such as reaching out to women (in love, kindness, and compassion) who are going into abortion clinics or by volunteering at crisis pregnancy medical clinics.

There are many ways that we can be involved, but the most important is prayer. We are facing a grave evil, but Jesus Christ will be victor in this and all battles.

About Dr. Laurel Shaler

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Dr. Laurel Shaler is a Chair at Liberty University in the Department of Counselor Education and Family Studies. She is a former social worker for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Laurel writes on the intersection of faith, culture and emotional well-being at She and her husband, Nick, are in the adoption process; follow along with their journey via Facebook. They live in Lynchburg, Virginia.