HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A Kailua-Kona woman fell prey to a mainland adoption scam. In March, Angela Frost flew four thousand miles to Iowa - to meet with a young woman who said she was pregnant.
It turns out she wasn't.
It became a rollercoaster ride of emotions for Frost and her family, and she wants to make sure it doesn't happen to others. Frost and her husband have seven children of their own, but they yearn for more. "I love being a mom!" Foster says, cheerily.
They wanted to do an independent adoption and posted on the registry website Parentprofiles.com. Frost soon received a text from a woman named Alex Snyder from Ankeny, Iowa. Snyder claimed she was 27 weeks pregnant and interested in giving up her baby. Within a week, Frost was on her way from Kona to Des Moines.
"She totally looked pregnant, and she kept showing me her belly," explains Foster. "Like pulling up her shirt, telling me she felt the baby kick. You know, I just took her word for it."
Looking back, Frost admits her emotions trumped her gut instinct. She caught Snyder in several white lies, but she ignored them. And one minute, the young woman wanted Frost to be the adoptive mother, the next, she'd change her mind. Finally, Frost went to her apartment to check on Snyder. She says Snyder seemed high on drugs and/or alcohol - so Frost called 9-1-1. An ambulance took her away and once at the hospital, a nurse approached Frost, saying, "I'm not even sure she's pregnant."
Frost says, "And that's when I said, 'Oh, yeah, she is'. You know, and she was in the hospital, and so I'm telling her all the stuff ... that she was checked out, and I believed her (Snyder), you know. All the stuff she told me, I believed."
It turns out Alex Snyder is actually 25 year old Tracy Bess, and Iowa news outlets report she's done this to at least 10 other couples. Bess was arrested last month on unrelated charges.
The non-profit adoption agency, Hawaii International Child, warns hopeful parents about red flags.
"Anyone who's working independently as a birth mom would be a concern to me," says HIC executive director, Kristine Altwies. "Anyone who asks for money up front for their expenses without being part of an agency process. Anyone who doesn't provide you with full disclosure about who they are." Altwies also advises prospective adoptive parents to get references; access to the birth mother's medical records, if possible; and criminal background checks. She says birth mothers can work through reputable adoption agencies, at no cost to them.
Altwies also advises would-be adoptive parents to try to go through reputable, licensed adoption agencies, churches, or organizations. For those who want to go the independent route, "It's just very, very risky. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true."
Tracy Bess reportedly never asked for money from these families. By all accounts, she was simply seeking attention, but her victims claim she's an emotional scammer. For her part, Frost is very forgiving. She says she was in shock, at first, but holds no animosity towards Bess.
If you'd like to find out more about the adoption process, the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services has extensive information on its website, www.childwelfare.gov/adoption.