Search the internet or scan the yellow pages of any telephone directory in South Carolina, and you will find several listings for something usually called an “adoption service provider.” Most of the “providers” are businesses that are located out-of-state, with no connection to South Carolina. Many, if not most, of the sponsors behind these ads fall into the category of “adoption facilitators.” This is the term used for a person or entity that is not an approved or licensed agency or attorney and that acts on behalf of a birth parent or prospective adoptive parent in connection with the placement of a child for adoption.
Adoption facilitators are known to charge high fees to prospective adoptive parents, often tens of thousands of dollars, with the promise that they will identify an expectant mother who is willing to place her child for adoption. At the same time, the facilitators also post ads on the internet and in publications across the country (including South Carolina), directed to women facing unplanned pregnancies, offering free adoption services. On the other end of the 800-number or online chat box will be a facilitator, who proceeds with a series of questions designed a gauge her interest in adoption and the characteristics she desires of a prospective adoptive parent.
This arrangement presents an opportunity for facilitators to be unscrupulous, dishonest, or simply unqualified. No regulatory body examines either the reasonableness of fees or the scope and quality of the services rendered. Facilitators need not hold a specialized license or have any formal training to hold themselves out as such or to provide “counseling” to the expectant mother. With no professional license in jeopardy, there is little to no accountability if the facilitator does not live up to its promises or the services are slipshod or worse.
In addition to facilitators, there are also attorneys and agencies, licensed in other states but not in South Carolina, that market their adoption services to expectant mothers in South Carolina through the internet and yellow pages. With no staff or physical presence in the state, the contact with the expectant mother is via long-distance telephone calls, not face to face counseling, offered over a period of time, where rapport and mutual trust are established.
The South Carolina Legislature Takes Action.
In 2010 the General Assembly took action to address this issue, and South Carolina code section 63-9-70 was added to the Adoption Act, making it unlawful for persons or entities to advertise that they will place or accept a child for adoption unless they are licensed in South Carolina. Advertising is defined to mean communication by newspaper, radio, television, or other print, broadcast or electronic medium that originates within South Carolina.
What You Can do to Make Sure Your Patients Receive Quality Services
Though it is now illegal for these unlicensed entities to advertise in South Carolina, many are still advertising in your local phone book. Many hospitals simply give the patient a phone book for a referral tool. However, in this way, the hospital is complicit with this illegality. A better practice is to create a referral list of reputable, licensed agencies or attorneys who you know will provide quality services to your patients.
We have licensed, experienced South Carolina based Social Workers available, 24 hours a day, who can meet in person to discuss the adoption option with birth parents. Our Adoption Counselors’ toll-free numbers are: 1-800-423-8373 (Upstate); 1-800-796-8373 (Low Country); and, 1-888-714-8373 (Midlands/Pee Dee).