Heartbroken Families Demand Answers After Adoption Agency Abruptly Closes: \'I\'m Never Going To Have A Child\'

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Eric and Aki Cunningham talk about moving forward after the recent abrupt closure of Independent Adoption Center, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. Jenna Watson/IndyStar

Aaron and Rebecca Ewert always wanted a large family. The Martinsville couple, along with their two sons, were working with Independent Adoption Center in Indianapolis before it closed.(Photo: Photo by Paige Bramlett)

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For 10 years, Aaron and Rebecca Ewert saved and dreamed.

The Martinsville couple kept a change bucket in their laundry room, squirreled away work bonuses and deposited a portion of each paycheck into an account so they could one day adopt a child without taking out a loan.

Along the way, Rebecca Ewert said she suffered 10 miscarriages and gave birth to two sons, now ages 10 and 7. Having the boys only reinforced her and her husband's desire for a large family.

By December 2014, the Ewerts had raised enough money, and they started the process with the Independent Adoption Center's Indianapolis office. Like nearly 1,900 other families involved with the center, they nurtured hope of finding a child to love.

But that hope shattered Tuesday when Independent Adoption Center abruptly closed its offices throughout the country. After the Ewerts went through nine contacts with birth mothers and one foster care adoption, all of which fell through, the agency's closure felt like "the final nail in the coffin" of growing their family.

"We’ve had 20 chances of being a family and we’ve been through a lot," Ewert said, referring to the miscarriages and unfulfilled adoptions. "I’m not going to lie. … Every loss is a death in our hearts because we didn’t get what we were hoping to have."

The California-based nonprofit announced it would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and permanently close. Ewert said she found out on Facebook.

The agency's closure affects 1,886 adoptions that were in various stages of the process, said David Perry, spokesman for the Independent Adoption Center. The organization emailed 1,886 adoptive families and 1,456 birth mothers to let them know and offer resources.

Some families told IndyStar they'd spoken to employees earlier in the week and were given no indication anything was wrong. Some families had already paid tens of thousands of dollars.

Perry declined IndyStar's request for an interview with the organization's executives. In a statement, the organization blamed the closure on fewer birth parents, changing demographics and the closure of international adoption programs. The center said the bankruptcy court will determine how much, if any, refunds will be paid to its clients, some of whom have paid more than $20,000 for adoptions that haven't happened.

Some advocates mourned the loss of the adoption agency because it emphasized open adoptions and did not exclude adoptive parents based on age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, religion, race or ethnicity.

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Kimberly and Andy Arndt adopted a daughter through the Independent Adoption Center. They were trying to adopt again when the center abruptly closed Jan. 31, 2017. (Photo: Provided by the Arndt family)

Tell City residents Andy and Kimberly Arndt said they were drawn to the Independent Adoption Center for those reasons, and because it offered resources and counseling to birth parents.

The couple adopted their daughter, now 6, through the center in 2010. It was a great experience, so the Arndts returned to the agency 2½ years ago when they decided to adopt again. They were warned that families adopting for the second time wait longer than those adopting for the first time.

The Arndts last contact with the agency was an email this past week letting them know they needed to update their paperwork. There was no indication anything was wrong.

Kimberly Arndt, 39, said she spent the next day at work alternating between tears and anger. She and her husband, 36, said the loss was more than financial. It feels like a loss in the family.

"I still have a trust that God will pull something out of this," Andy Arndt said. "I don’t know what it is yet."

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John Mooney and his husband, Chris Lacey, had already paid $16,000 to the Independent Adoption Center before it abruptly closed Jan. 31, 2017. (Photo: Provided by Chris Lacey)

South Carolina resident Chris Lacey said he and his husband, John Mooney, feel "completely deserted" by the agency. They'd paid Independent Adoption Center about $16,000.

Kristin Baldock said she and her husband, David, also had already paid nearly $16,000. The Fortville couple chose the center because it offered a six-month payment plan.

She said they are concerned because sensitive information, including copies of their financial information, medical records and home study, are sitting in the Independent Adoption Center's Indianapolis office. She also questioned the organization's reason for closing. She said employees were trying to convince them to pay additional money for a program that would increase their visibility with birth parents.

Baldock said she does not believe local employees knew what was coming. The 40-year-old said she's grappling with shock and anger over the situation.

"You’re just completely blown away," she said. "You don’t know how to respond. All we want is to have a family, to be able to raise a child and spoil a child and do all the things that parents do. You’re just super excited. You kind of feel like it’s all been taken away."

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Eric and Aki Cunningham have been trying to become parents for 12 years, most recently paying over 11,000 dollars to Independent Adoption Center. After the center abruptly closed this week without notice, they and others hoping to adopt were left in the dark waiting for answers. Eric and Aki pose for a portrait at the library in downtown Indianapolis, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017.  (Photo: Jenna Watson/IndyStar)

Indianapolis residents Eric and Aki Cunningham signed with the center in October 2015. They, like the other families interviewed by IndyStar, said they chose the agency after extensive research.

The couple had tried to conceive for more than a decade before turning to adoption. They say they paid more than $11,000 to the agency.

Eric Cunningham, 38, rejected the organization's explanation for its closure. He said it gave an "institutional answer that tries to remove responsibility from those at the top." He said the center should have at least allowed parents access to their paperwork.

"I could have understood that more," he said, "but they kind of shut the door and ran."

Neither Cunningham nor his wife, 44, could wrap their minds around the closure. They so badly want to be parents.

"We both just have a sense that we sort of have this love between us and a love for the world and the way we engage with it," he said. "And that’s something we want to be able to share with a child, to help them be able to enjoy the world and engage the world and all the joys that it can offer."

Cunningham said he and his wife intend to push forward with adoption, either through another agency or finding a birth parent on their own.

Others, including Rebecca Ewert, are less hopeful.

"Adoption can be very beautiful, a very amazing thing for your family," she said, "but it also can be one of the worst hells you can go through. It is not for the faint of heart. If it’s easy for you, awesome. It’s not been easy for me at all."

Ewert said she's not sure they can find the strength to start again from scratch.

"For us, it’s more than the IAC shutting down," she said. "It’s the final chapter. We’ve lost so much and hurt so much. I’m not saying we’d never adopt in the future, but, right now, it’s feeling very slim."

Call IndyStar reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski at (317) 444-6135. Follow her on Twitter: @IndyMarisaK.

Read more about adoption:

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Source : http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2017/02/04/adoption-agencys-closure-shatters-hopeful-families/97415938/

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