Here is the story.
State Sues Adoption Agency -- Lawsuit Alleges Tukwila Company Misled Dozens Of People In U.S.
A Tukwila-based adoption agency that specializes in finding homes in the United States for Eastern European children has been sued by the state for allegedly misleading couples seeking adoptions.
In a lawsuit filed yesterday in King County Superior Court, Aloha Adoption Services Inc. is accused of misrepresenting its success rate for placing children with adoptive parents, for failing to provide medical records for the children and for inadequately staffing its office to handle the demand for children.
"This alleged misrepresentation added untold anguish to the emotional commitment couples make when seeking adoptive children," said State Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "An adoption service should only promise what it can deliver."
Attorneys for Aloha vigorously denied the state's charges and vowed to fight them in court.
"We intend to take our story to a jury and tell people what we've done. We are not a fly-by-night sort of outfit," said James Nelson, attorney for Aloha, conceding that some mistakes have been made. "We're placing a lot of children. But we cannot eliminate all the risks from Eastern European adoptions."
Aloha was founded in 1990 in Hawaii and opened its second office in 1992 in Tukwila. Both the state and Aloha agree that the company has found homes for at least 70 children - although the state says Aloha improperly claims to have successfully found homes for more than 100.
Not getting what they paid for?
In the lawsuit, the state cites examples of couples paying thousands of dollars to adopt children only to find the country's doors had closed to foreign adoptions, or that the children had severe, undisclosed medical problems, or that the children had been reunited with their birth mothers.
Sue Meyer, from a St. Louis suburb, said she contracted with Aloha in early 1992 and was told she would have a child within nine months.
In September, she said, she was told she would be able to adopt a child from Croatia and was told the adoption was imminent. Pictures were sent. The family was thrilled.
Seven months later, after spending $5,000 but with still no child, Meyer said she discovered Croatia had banned the adoption of healthy children.
Meyer said she asked for her money back, but has heard nothing from Aloha since April.
"For seven months we had grown to think of her as our child," said Meyer, who has since adopted a baby from Guatemala. "It was very, very traumatic to lose her."
Complaints from around country
Dean Owen, spokesman for the Attorney General's office, said there are more than a dozen people from around the country, including two from the Seattle area, who have lodged complaints about Aloha.
Nelson, Aloha's attorney, believes the company has cooperated with the state in trying to satisfy the concerns. He said, for example, the company already has hired more social workers to help with pending adoptions.
Douglas Walsh, the state attorney handling the case, said a proposed settlement with Aloha collapsed when the two sides could not agree. He said he sent a letter yesterday to every Aloha client advising them of the lawsuit.
"It is not our intention to close them down," Walsh said. State officials say the lawsuit should not prevent any pending adoptions involving Aloha.If found liable, the company could be fined up to $2,000 for each violation