When it comes to adoption, Alaska has many strict and clearly defined laws. But there is one gray area that has adoption experts concerned -- the advertisement of adoptions in online communities like Craigslist.org.
Alaska statutes dictate who can adopt and where the adoption is finalized. But the laws on the methods through which the child is found are not so clear, which gives those with less than the best of intentions a wide-open forum.
Typically, you log on to Craigslist.org to sell a couch, a chair or maybe a cat. But what Channel 2 News found were kids.
Under what’s supposed to be a discussion forum on adoption, we found dozens of posts of children in need of homes.
Channel 2 responded to four of them. We got emails back from three of them; two provided photos of young children.
One was from a man who claimed to be a member of “Our St Laurence Parish in New York.” He attached in his email three photos of a baby he said had been abandoned by his mother, who’s a nun.
He also asked for $210, claiming it was a charge for the child’s birth certificate.
Experts say that’s a red flag because a new birth certificate is typically given after the adoption has been legalized.
What’s more, birth certificates in New York are $15 or $30, depending on if the birth was in New York City.
Another person replied with photos of a 4-year-old girl and an explanation (edited for clarity and grammar):
"I am giving her up for adoption because my biological son is sick with cancer and we need to help him financial wise to fight this cancer,” wrote the woman, who said she’s in Florida, in an email. “Please do not feel like I am discriminating between my biological son and my adopted daughter. We adopted her when she was just 9 months and she has been with us all this while.”
Lori Colbert is an Anchorage family law attorney. She’s worked on Alaska adoption cases for nearly two decades, but seeing advertisements for the adoption of children, she said, is a first in her career.
“This is crazy,” Colbert said as she read through the Craigslist posts and the emails that a Channel 2 News reporter had received.
“I would be very, very concerned about if there's some illegal transactions going on,” said Colbert.
The outright sale of children is illegal, she said.
One Craigslist post details a large payout to whomever adopts a baby orphaned after his parents were killed in a car accident.
“I would be really concerned that they're somehow trying to sell babies, because this one about the baby in the church talks about the $22,000 left in the account,” she said.
Channel 2 News learned there are no state laws prohibiting the advertisement of children for adoption.
According to the Alaska Department of Law, “there is no specific statute relating to online advertisements of this kind,” said Cori Mills, a department spokesperson.
Experts say that means private adoptions could result from a Craigslist post, but requirements must be met before the adoption is legalized.
“You'd have to do a home study,” Colbert said. “The state would have to approve you.”
There are also court, state and attorney fees, which could cost between $1,000 to $5,000.
Colbert said that’s the only money you should have to pay if the adoption is a legitimate and ethical one.
“There shouldn't be any kind of overt amount of expenses that are paid just so you can get a hold of the child,” she said.
As for the 4-year-old girl, Channel 2 wanted a video chat with her to determine if she existed or if the post was a scam. We never received a response.
Channel 2 contacted Craigslist to ask about its policy on discussion forums, where people are advertising kids for adoption or seeking to relocate a child into a good home. We have not heard back.
But the website does have a disclaimer to beware of scams and to flag administrators if you suspect abuse. Channel 2 did flag those posts.