Thursday, August 14, 2008


The Tuscon paper has delved a little deeper into Commonwealth Adoptions International. They have several complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau. If a prospective adoptive parent speaks out against them in any form or fashion it is a $5,000 fine. This is in the contract that prospective adoptive parents sign.

The COA can't comment of course. From what I understand of the issues, they have not been open about the relationship of the husband and wife on the board of directors on their tax forms. It also looks like she is not consistently charging the adoptive parents the same across the board. There is probably more to this. Interestingly, the prospective adoptive parents are not being told what is really going on. How can an agency that earned over $8 million dollars go bankrupt? What about those adoption coordination fees? There are numerous accounts across the board that are in limbo and have not been told anything. Then you add that this Raul Velez is transferring also to Gladney Adoption Center. I have heard quite a few complaints on this man alone.

Here is the story.

Tucson adoption agency to close; accreditation was denied
Commonwealth handles international cases; some families file complaints

By Dale Quinn

An international adoption agency based in Tucson plans to close, largely because it was denied the accreditation required by many countries to place their children with foreign families.Commonwealth Adoptions International Inc. will not accept any new families as clients, its president, Marina Mayhew, said Wednesday.The adoption agency, which has offices in Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas, as well as in Tucson at 1585 E. River Road, will transfer most of its existing clients to other agencies, she said.

Some families who are far enough along in the adoption process will be able to continue with Commonwealth, she said.The agency learned in July that it had been denied accreditation required by the Hague Convention — a treaty that governs international adoption, signed by the United States and nearly 75 other countries. The aim of the treaty, which went into effect April 1, is to prevent the illegal trafficking of children and to ensure that international adoption is in the best interest of the child.Families already in the process who have invested thousands of dollars are wondering what to do.

Two of those families have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau in Tucson in the past week, said bureau spokeswoman Kim States.In one of the complaints filed Aug. 7, the family, whose name was not released by the bureau because of privacy concerns, said they paid more than $22,000 in fees over the past 10 months, but they haven't received any guidance from Commonwealth about how to proceed with the adoption process or gotten any evidence of a refund.Commonwealth has left the family with no direction or "hope of adopting," according to the complaint.States said people should look into hiring a lawyer to examine their contract if the BBB is unable to resolve their dispute and Commonwealth refuses to refund their money.

Mayhew said she couldn't speak directly to the details of that complaint, nor could she say whether families who get transferred to another adoption agency will get refunds.

The recent complaints aren't the only ones for Commonwealth. In the past three years, five customer complaints against Commonwealth have been closed by the BBB. In four of them, the bureau found that Commonwealth made a good-faith effort to resolve the complaint but the customer still wasn't satisfied with the result, States said.

One was closed in February as disputed because both Commonwealth and the customer were fighting the terms of a contract that the BBB never received, States said. In that complaint the customer said Commonwealth was paid $2,000 and the agency then began switching between adoption programs, which violated the contract.

Commonwealth did make a partial refund of $500, States said.

Mayhew said Commonwealth was "unjustly" denied accreditation and the agency wasn't given a chance to correct the areas where it fell short. "We do not know or understand clearly why we were denied because reasons were not provided," she said.The Council on Accreditation and the Colorado Department of Human Services are the designated entities that monitor international adoption in the United States, according to the U.S. State Department. The Council on Accreditation was the one that denied Commonwealth accreditation.

Still, Commonwealth has no plans to try again to meet the standards, and its board decided July 31 to cease its adoption services, Mayhew said."It's very disturbing and upsetting to us to be where we are," Mayhew said.

The Council on Accreditation looks at a broad range of activities when it examines adoption agencies, said its CEO and president, Richard Klarberg. That includes staffing levels, how open the agency is with adoptive families and how well it relates with people in foreign countries. Because of confidentiality, I'm not able to comment on the specific reasons why they (Commonwealth) were denied," he said. The accreditation entity has the rights of children, their biological families and potential adopters in mind when it examines agencies, he said. We have reviewed 240 agencies — more, in fact — and of that number 18 have been denied," Klarberg said.

The loss of accreditation wasn't the only reason Commonwealth decided to close, Mayhew said. Guatemala, Nepal and Vietnam have stopped allowing their children to be adopted by American families, and other countries have tightened regulations, she said. Commonwealth could have continued to work with countries that haven't signed the Hague Convention, Mayhew said. But without the accreditation, "it just would have been too difficult to continue," she said.

● Contact reporter Dale Quinn at 573-4197 or

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