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Adoption Agency Clients Left Hanging After Closure

August 24, 2000

VENTURA — Families who spent money trying to adopt a child through the now-defunct Adoption Services International may never see their investment again, county law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Unless clients can prove the Ventura-based adoption agency intentionally misled and defrauded them, any money paid on an international adoption could be lost, said Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Brose.

"It's somewhat similar to what happens when a health club closes," said Brose, head of the district attorney's consumer and environmental protection division. "People pay for a two-year membership, but the club closes in two weeks."

In such cases, consumers can sue for breach of contract, but it's extremely difficult to collect the money when a company has none to give, he said.

Meanwhile, indications that ASI was in financial trouble were apparent last month when it sent letters to client families asking for donations.

The agency closed last week, leaving up to 200 families in Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Ventura counties wondering where to turn to complete their international adoptions. Many families have already spent thousands of dollars and worry that the money will be lost and their adoptions delayed.

In its letter, ASI Executive Director Marilyn Adams wrote, "We are suffering the pangs of growth and need a hand."

Adams and other ASI officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Another adoption agency that worked closely with ASI, Journeys of the Heart of Hillsborough, Ore., said ASI was in debt about $100,000.

David Salansky, international director for Journeys of the Heart, said he believed ASI owed the government of South Korea between $50,000 and $70,000 for arranging adoptions. ASI approached Journeys last month to discuss a possible merger, but was turned down because of its financial liabilities.

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