Failed adoption devastates family, questions process
BATON ROUGE - A couple in Central has been trying for years to have a child. Their story does not have a good ending, but they've chosen to tell their story in the hopes that it doesn't happen to anyone else.
Dylan and Kristin David knew from the start they would have trouble conceiving. Over the years, there have been failed pregnancy tests, multiple rounds of IVF and a hysterectomy. Between that and all the hormones, the David's says it put a strain on their marriage.
"It was more emotionally draining that it was physically," Kristin said.
Two years ago, the David's turned toward adoption and settled on a lawyer to help them through the process. In 2015, they hired Michael E. Theriot, a Baton Rouge adoption attorney. Theriot, who has "thousands of successful adoptions" connected the David's to a birth mom in Shreveport who was a few weeks into her pregnancy with a girl.
Knowing there were no guarantees, including no paperwork or contract they dove in with the hopes of bringing home a child.
"At this point, this is the only option we had," Dylan said.
The process was expensive. The David's handing over check after check each month for lawyer's fees and about $1,500 a month to the birth mom. During the pregnancy, the David's went up twice for ultrasound appointments and heard the baby's heartbeat.
The couple named the child Abigail Grace. The David's said the big pieces were falling into place, but it quickly came crashing down. The birth mom asked for more funding. Miles away via text, she threatened not to tell or she'd find another family. Around Easter, there was news of a birth and the birth mom told the David's she's keeping the baby.
"The baby's gone, the money's gone," Dylan said.
It's a story Paula Davis, an international adoption social worker at Catholic Charities has heard before.
"There is no guarantee," Davis said. "Fairly regularly. I think there's lots of emotions that happen when adoptions happen."
Catholic Charities assists in about a dozen adoptions every year and works with women who are facing crisis pregnancy. It recommends adoptive families work with a mission-based and experienced agency, which includes a focus for the best interest of the child. And fees should be transparent.
"What is their fee schedule, when are those fees due, are those fees refundable and are they tied to a specific adoption," said Davis.
The David's say they've never seen a receipt or itemized report saying how their money was spent and divided up. In the end, they handed over about $26,000 to Theriot.
Theriot says there are no refunds. Private adoption is not a legal contract.
"The law says that the adoption not being done is quid pro quo for the money being given," Theriot said.
The David's wonder where the baby is. They have not heard from the birth mom.
Theriot hasn't either. "I've been wondering that myself," he said. "I have called around to agencies and attorneys that I know to see if anybody else has worked with her."
What's worse than that, is a baby girl the David's will never meet.
"I don't know that we'll ever have children, that's going to be a pill that's hard enough to swallow but we can't let this happen anymore," Dylan said.
Catholic Charities recommends adoptive families do their research, which includes talking to other adoptive families. Catholic Charities does not provide checks to birth parents. It helps women with living expenses on an as needed basis and connects them to community resources. Mission-based agencies provide counseling, preparation and support throughout the process.
If it's an agency adoption a woman can sign her surrender no less than three days after the birth of the child, but can sign at any point after that. If it's an attorney adoption, the birth mom can sign her surrender no sooner than five days after the birth of the child, not including the day the child was born.
The David's have filed a formal complaint against Theriot, who tells WBRZ he has filed a response to the disciplinary council.
The Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office is currently investigating and researching what it calls a "unique case." At this time, the CPSO says it's not sure a crime has been committed.