AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ashley and Brandon Falkenburg had their baby’s nursery nearly complete.
“We have a friend that gave us their infant car seat, my sister-in-law gave us our nephew’s bobby,” Ashley said.
The Austin couple and high school sweethearts have been trying to become parents for roughly five years now. “When we got married, we decided to try and have a family of our own and went through some very hard times getting there and we finally decided that adoption was really our calling,” Ashley said.
After doing heavy research, two years ago they started using IAC, the Independent Adoption Center, to make their dreams come true. “We looked at everything and IAC had been around 34 years, they had a good track record so that’s why we went with them,” Brandon said.
But then on Tuesday, with no warning, the Falkenburg’s journey came to end. They got the devastating news in an email.
“Reading something that, everything you’ve been working towards is gone,” Brandon said through tears. Ashley said, “All that energy, all that emotion, all of that is just gone in a single email.”
IAC shut down operations and filed for bankruptcy. The Independent Adoption Center wrote in a statement to its clients on their website, “Societal changes have created an environment in the United States where there are fewer potential birth parents than at any other point in our 34-year history of helping to create families. Simultaneously, due to changing demographics and the closure of international adoption programs, there are more hopeful adoptive parents seeking to adopt domestically than in any other time in recent history. The IAC has worked tirelessly to adapt to this changing environment, but the many efforts we implemented were ultimately unsuccessful. We therefore cannot sustain the agency any longer.”
The center says families affected by the closure will have to file a claim with a California-based bankruptcy court where the center is headquartered. The court will decide how much money — if any — they’ll be able to get back from the company.
Ashley and Brandon had to say goodbye to $15,000 in fees. “We had spent a year fundraising, because you have to X amount of dollars once you sign that contract.”
Now car seats, changing tables and a nursery will have to wait and the Falkenburgs say they are having to start all over again.
“Of course we are still going to adopt but this is just a setback, we can’t get the time back,” Ashley said. The couple has been updating family members and friends of their status on their Facebook Page.
Local adoption attorney Jennifer Cochran-Green has been flooded with calls this week from families wondering what to do next. She’s been trying to help clients get access to their files.
Cochran-Green recommends to prospective adoptive parents, before you sign the dotted line, meet with an attorney to review the contract with you.
“Many adoptive parents contract with agencies, they put down big down payments and don’t really have an understanding of what the contract really provides for. For example, if they’ve been waiting for a year and they feel they’re not getting any matches or any interest from birth families. What is their way out of that contract? There may not be one,” she said.
State adoptions in Texas mainly run through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services or CPS to either adopt or foster a child. Cochran-Green says it costs a lot less than going through a private agency, but wait times can be much longer.