Letters

Johnston relates the story of "Laura Reed" and states that Reed and her husband sent the agency their W-2 forms, their marriage license, copies of fertility testing, even a copy of Laura's Pap smear--and that the agency "turned them down." A CAFCA member agency has spoken with Laura, who is distressed that she was misquoted. She never sent these items to the agency, nor did she and her husband follow through with their application. Consequently, they were not "turned down."

Johnston refers to one agency director with a great deal of education and experience as a "rarity in the industry." If Johnston had bothered to interview other members of CAFCA, she would have found that this is untrue. There are many experienced individuals working for licensed adoption agencies in the state of Colorado.

Even more disturbing than the errors mentioned above are the factual errors in Johnston's article concerning Colorado law. Johnston quotes attorney Pamela Gordon as stating, "According to Colorado law, the birth mother can't relinquish until two weeks after giving birth." This is untrue. Nowhere in the statutes does it state that a birth mother must wait two weeks. Johnston further states that "by law, relinquishment counseling must include at least three face-to-face meetings with the birth parents." Nowhere in Colorado law is this stated. Johnston also makes the astonishing assertion that "the law establishes a six-month window after adoption during which the birth mother can change her mind about giving up her child." This is blatantly false. The birth mother cannot change her mind after she has gone to court and legally relinquished her rights. This generally occurs two to four weeks after the birth of the child.

We have addressed only a few of the errors in Johnston's article. We feel that it is vital to provide the public with accurate information about adoption, rather than a misinformed, distorted and incomplete picture.

Margaret Booker, adoption committee chair
Colorado Association of Family and
Children's Agencies

The major accomplishment of Michelle Johnston's "Adopting an Attitude" was to induct Westword into the ranks of those daytime talk-show hosts, screenwriters and national weeklies who bathe daily in the stench of yellow journalism. The inaccuracies, exaggerations and overall lack of integrity of this article were extensive.

The article laments the fact that private agencies handle most adoptions in Colorado and suggests that a system of attorneys and social workers is better. Well, that system existed for more than a century in this country. Does anyone remember the orphan trains? Do you remember when unplanned pregnancies resulted in banishment from hometowns to "unwed mothers' homes"? Do you recall the myriad stories of abuse because there were too many children and too few adoptive parents? That was the system that existed under the guidance of lawyers and county agencies, in the absence of private adoption agencies.

In its effort to malign private agencies, the article inaccurately reported that Small Miracles charges $15,000, when in fact its average fee is far less and its sliding-scale fees begin at $3,800. The article also stated that Small Miracles had "high preapplication and application fees" which were the subject of a complaint. Had the author inquired, she would have learned that Small Miracles' pre-application fee is $25 and the application fee is $390.

As your article correctly states, Small Miracles is the fastest-growing private child-placement agency in Colorado. What the article missed, however, was why. Had your author asked to review copies of agency evaluations by our birth parent and adoptive-parent clients, you would have seen a favorable rating in excess of 94 percent.

We are skeptical of the article's suggestion that state qualifications for leadership roles in child-placement agencies are too lenient. For example, the article failed to report that Small Miracles' executive director, an adoptive parent, holds more than thirty credit hours in behavioral science and practiced law for sixteen years with a focus on domestic relations and adoption. The article also failed to report that Small Miracles' child-placement supervisor is a licensed professional counselor with a master's degree in psychology and more than twenty years' experience in teen pregnancy counseling and education.

Incidentally, our disruption-reclaiming rate is not even close to the 15 percent you reported. Our rate of 3.1 percent is one of the lowest among larger agencies.

Clearly, as with most privatization of governmental functions, Colorado's system of child-placement agencies works more effectively, efficiently and fairly than the alternative. We don't have the Baby Jessica or Baby Richard cases here, and no one wants them. We have few problems, because the private system works well for Colorado.

Jeff Lavenhar, executive director
Small Miracles

Editor's note: The letters from Adoption Option, the Colorado Association of Family and Children's Agencies and Small Miracles raise a number of issues, several of which merit either response or clarification.

--Joley Cole told Westword that more than $10,000 of the $12,000 it cost her to adopt went to her adoption agency, not to lawyers.

--According to the latest edition of How to Adopt in Colorado, a handbook published by Colorado Parents for All Children, most--not, admittedly, "almost all"--Colorado agencies cite an age cutoff of forty years. While many agencies say they are flexible in age requirements, people familiar with the process say older parents often end up at the bottom of the waiting list, making adoptions a practical impossibility.

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