Randle Lee and his wife, Janell, are done trying to adopt a child in the United States. Their story is one of continued heartbreak. They have contracted with two attorneys and were promised a baby, only to remain childless. They now are looking internationally to fulfill their dreams of becoming parents. Some believe an easy fix to the law would prevent situations like the one the Lees suffered. Adoption advocates say attorneys should be required to meet the same qualifications adoption agencies must meet before being able to provide an adoption. That means counseling must be a part of the equation, both for the adoptive parents and the birth mother and father. Fees would be set ahead of time and known throughout the process. "A lot of adoption is the emotional desire to raise a child. Sometimes you throw logic out the window,” Randle Lee said. The Lees' experience was painful: First came a request for the Lees to buy tennis shoes for their birth mother's other children, since she couldn't afford them. They obliged "as a gesture of good faith,” Randle Lee said. The couple then learned that their birth mother wasn't regularly going to her doctor appointments because she did not have transportation. At that point, they bought her a car.
A change of mindThe ordeal came to a head Mothers Day in 2003, when Randle Lee and his wife went to the hospital to see where their baby would soon be born, and saw the car they had bought for the birth mother. The mother had given birth and left the hospital before the Lees were notified. The mother had changed her mind, they were told, and the baby they had dreamed about for years was gone. "At that point we were pretty much had,” he said. The Lees have an ongoing lawsuit against their attorney, who Randle says knew the woman had done this before yet did not disclose it to them. The mother later was sentenced to nine years in prison for child trafficking. The Lees are trying to recover some of the more than $30,000 they spent on attorney fees and birth mother expenses.
Add legal protectionsRandle Lee said he knows not all private attorney adoptions turn out badly. In fact, he thinks the situation could have happened through an agency as well. The system could be improved by some added legal protections for all parties involved — including the attorney, the adoptive parents, the birth parents and the child, he said. Randle Lee said he isn't sure attorneys who want to conduct adoptions should be required to be licensed through the state and ordered to meet certain minimum requirements. For most attorneys, adoption is not their primary business, he said, so if inconsistencies between agencies and attorneys were clarified, it would benefit all involved. "I don't know that you can ever protect people from their emotions,” he said.