• Erica Rosi Tham

7. Is Adoption a Scam?

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Certainly, we prospective adopted parents are vetted so thoroughly, we could all become presidential candidates. Meanwhile, we're waiting, and the kids are waiting.

“Do you think is for real?” I asked my husband. “There are moments when I wonder if adoption has become a giant scam.”


“Well, they’ve taken a whole bunch of money—over $5,000 so far—and they’re keeping us ridiculously busy, so we don’t have time to miss the money. Isn’t that what scammers usually do?”

Philip’s puzzled, naïve expression did not comfort me.

“Never mind,” I said, reassuring myself. “I don’t really think that’s true. I don’t think so.”

I had recently completed my medical appointment but had been misinformed that the clinic had a notary on staff—which they did not. My health had been checked, but I did not have the letter I needed for my India dossier. The next step was to find a traveling notary to accompany me on a second appointment. I had never needed a notary’s services, so I emailed Jordyn, my Nightlight Adoptions contact, and she sent me a website, This was a list of all notaries by zip-code regions with phone numbers. Jordyn encouraged me to find a notary whose term expired in 1.5 to 2 years, in case of future delays.

After several phone calls and website visits, I became mesmerized by the yahoo results of a certain mobile notary who had replied to every comment.

Great work! Loved the timely service.

--Thanks so much!

It took her three days instead of one. Not at all what she promised initially. Very disappointed.

--So sorry you were disappointed. Will do better next time!

Reliable, dependable, great.


Big delays. She said she would come Monday, but she couldn’t actually come until Friday.

--That was a difficult week! Thanks for the feedback.

As a small-business person myself, I was inspired by her pluck. Not only did she have the patience to respond to every comment, she was obviously a real person doing business with real people. I gave her a call.

Several days later, she was sitting next to me in the doctor’s office while a young man in his early twenties tested my heartbeat. I had felt somewhat nervous before that, but when he placed the sensor on my finger, my heart jumped into its highest gear … I was scared that my young doctor might, for any unexpected reason, rescind her offer to sign my letter …

The young man’s face became tragically concerned, but he masked his apprehensions.

Dr. Desai arrived.

Nodding, wide-eyed, she said, “Blood rate high, heart rate high, but that could be because of the situation. Is that right?”

“Yes, I am a little concerned.”

“No problem. Do you have the letter?”

“Yes!” I produced it.

Within the next five minutes, Dr. Desai and the notary had performed their roles, and I had two notarized letters about my acceptable health.

Needless to say, my heartbeat calmed considerably.

“Perhaps we can talk,” Dr. Desai suggested.

“Sure. Now that the notary can go about her day, I’m all ears,” I said, reviewing, then placing my notarized letters into a folder and into my backpack. “Let’s chat about my health. What do you think?”

At home I celebrated my small victory with a movie and a bag of sugared chickpeas.

Unwisely, I decided to check my email.

Our residence history forms had been received. On these, we had listed every city and state that we had lived in, with complete addresses when possible. No, there was no time-limit. It was not only about where we had lived for the last ten years, but where we had lived at any time during our lives.

Upon receipt of our history forms, we were given forms for every U.S. state that we had lived in. For me, these were Virginia, Alaska, and Washington. For Philip, these were California and Washington. Each form had different content and requirements and fees. These forms would show that no state we had ever lived in had us documented as child abusers.

I still needed to tell my family and get started on the reference letters, but I felt depressed. How was it that at every turn, there were more requirements? Not only was each situation complicated, like the doctor and the notary, but apparently, some items on our list were just preliminary steps that led to additional items. How long would it take before we would see a child’s photograph?

There was nothing to do except take a deep breath and begin writing our personal information on the next series of forms.

I like writing poetry, and the following is a poem I wrote to express and work out my feelings during this phase of the process.

While Choosing to Adopt

I hear the crinkling leaves two yards behind my feet,

And I turn to see sunlight on the pavement,

The openness where trees and brush

Would have abounded

Had they not been cleared and put aside

for our new translation of civilization

And here, no one follows,

No one on the road.

Was it a memory or an angel

Deftly, conscientiously

sweeping old leaves to the roadside?

Was it a towhee or a squirrel?

I walk beyond the mystery,

The family memories in flapping shadows

And the exotic, overflowing colors no one follows,

No one on the road.

I walk in the craft of moving and sensing

Patterns of summertime branches

Lunging, as always, to and fro

Within the azure of unrelenting sky.

The children’s faces are like this.

Nearly seeing them, I continue

my meanderings forward

While yearnings pull against my feet.

Erica Rosi Tham

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