Easter House Adoption Agency

This page reveals the facts about Seymour Kurtz and his baby brokering (“adoption”) and related agencies and provides a forum for the victims of these agencies to share their stories. These include the following agencies:

  • Families by Adoption
  • Adoption Edition
  • Adoption World, Chicago, Illinois,
  • The Golden Link Foundation, Chicago, Illinois
  • Easter House, Chicago, Illinois, 5/5/1960 to present
  • Friends of Children, Atlanta, Georgia, 9/4/1973 to 1998
  • Birth Hope, Phoenix, Arizona, 3/26/1984 to present
  • American Friends of Children, Washington, DC, 6/24/1983 to sometime in the 1990s
  • Casa del Sur, Mexico City Mexico, 1973 to 1977
  • La Sociedad, Tlaxcala, Mexico, 1978 to ?

The Kurtz Network, 1960 to today

1960 or 1962: Easter House founded

According to the Lynn McTaggart, who interviewed Seymour Kurtz for her 1980 book The Baby Brokers: The Marketing of White Babies in America, Kurtz received his license to set up Easter House as a non-profit organization in 1962. However, state records show the date as 1960. McTaggart reported that Kurtz appointed the former head of the Illinois Department of Welfare (predecessor to the Department of Children and Family Services), Millicent Smith, as executive director. For thirteen years, he turned over all responsibility to Smith.

Kurtz began paying more attention to the agency in 1973, when Smith informed him that the agency might be forced to close, due to a shortage of babies. Kurtz said he promptly flew to Italy and Greece, looking for new sources of babies, but soon discovered that Europe had an even greater shortage of adoptable White babies than did America.

Source: McTaggart, Lynne. The Baby Brokers: The Marketing of White Babies in America. New York: The Dial Press, 1980.

1973 — 1974: Kurtz finds a way to “circumvent the laws and regulations of the entire world”

“Seymour Kurtz has come up with the perfect setup” ¦ Kurtz has found a way to circumvent the laws and regulations of the entire world,” said Lynn McTaggart..

He did this by setting up a series of corporations, each to handle a single, specific function in the adoption process.

He founded Casa del Sur in Mexico City to make the actual placement of babies; it opened in 1973. To obtain babies for adoption, Kurtz started an advertising campaign in Mexican newspapers and radio stations, with anti-abortion messages (“don’t kill your child”).
Also in 1973, he founded a nonprofit corporation called Tzyril Foundation, located in the same office as Easter House. The purpose of Tzyril was to “underwrite” Casa del Sur or any other adoption agency and to act as an advertising agency, referral service, and intermediary between inquiring couples and the Mexican agency. Couples paid service fees to Tzyril Foundation, rather than Casa del Sur.

Soon after incorporating Tzyril, Kurtz established Stichting Susu in The Hague, Holland, and planned for it to “communicate” the availability of Mexican babies to European clients. Because of the distance he had to travel to get it running, “the Dutch government’s lack of enthusiasm,” and the fact that it was “unnecessarily duplicitous,” Kurtz decided to let Stitching Susu “expire” by 1977.
Next, in 1974, Kurtz established Suku Corporation, a for-profit Delaware corporation, to handle the legal and immigration work involved in Mexican adoptions.

Finally, Easter House, by “agreement” with Stichting Susu and Tzyril Foundation, would handle the home studies of applicants who wanted to adopt Mexican children, as well as the adoption of Illinois infants.

“The brilliance of Kurtz’s convoluted setup”, said McTaggart, was that he had established a means by which his own organizations could collect all the money in an agency adoption normally disbursed to separate entities (home-study fees and legal fees, for instance). In addition, he had an American foundation charging a service fee that was considerably higher than the actual costs of a Mexican adoption.

“The other bit of masterminding in this framework was splitting up the work between foundations, which are not subject to state control, and agencies, which are,” said McTaggart. “In order to be attacked”¦ you must have all your eggs in one basket, you must be subject to the political jurisdiction and tyranny of any established government,” said Kurtz. “So what I’ve done is to get myself into several jurisdictions, I’m licensed and I’m not licensed. Where I’m not licensed, I don’t fall under regulation. It’s important to get out of one political jurisdiction.” “By planting himself in various jurisdictions, dividing cash flow and function between licensed and unlicensed organizations, and having his adoption finalized in Mexico, Kurtz set up a modus operandi that was not subject to the complete scrutiny of regulation of any court of social-services department anywhere in the world,” said McTaggert.

Nancy C. Baker gave a similar explanation for Kurtz’s convoluted scheme in her book, BabySelling: The Scandal of Black Market Adoptions, which discussed the relationship between Easter House, Tzyril Foundation, Casa del Sur, Stichting Susu, and Suku Corporation. “There seems to be no logical reason for this complicated structure, though at least one government agency thinks it may offer a unique opportunity for babyselling, hiding profits, and operating without any effective government regulation,” she wrote. “Adoption applications and funds are shuffled between foundations, agencies, and corporations” “and between the United States and foreign countries” “with an apparently needless amount of paperwork and confusion.”

An unnamed state government official told Baker “of fears that profits could be channeled to Suku Corporation as a way of getting around the non-profit status of Easter House and Tzyrul Foundation.” “He [Kurtz] has created such jurisdictional problems that no one can get their teeth into them. He’s all over the map,” the official said. Kurtz contended that his only motivation was to help couples adopt babies and “offer an alternative to abortion.”

Sources: Baker, Nancy C. BabySelling: The Scandal of Black Market Adoptions. New York: Vanguard Press, Inc., 1978.
McTaggart, Lynne. The Baby Brokers: The Marketing of White Babies in America. New York: The Dial Press, 1980.

1976: Kurtz attracts negative publicity; Mexican government shuts down Casa del Sur

On June 17, 1976, the Chicago Sun Times ran a story implying that Kurtz’s corporations had been set up in order to “conceal” money, that officials were inquiring into his convoluted organizational structure, and that their findings were being sent to the state’s attorney’s office, McTaggart reported. In August, the Excelsior, one of Mexico City’s largest newspapers, reported that “Senator Walter Mondale had seen fit to appear before a blaze of television lights and cameras so that he could personally accuse Seymour Kurtz of selling Mexican babies.”

Mexican authorities said in 1976 that Casa del Sur was engaged in selling babies, according to a 1985 article by Douglas Frantz in the Chicago Tribune. “News reports at the time quoted Kurtz as saying he sold Mexican-born babies to American couples for as much as $5,000,” said Frantz.

After all the adverse publicity, Kurtz told McTaggart, the Mexican authorities subjected Casa del Sur to a criminal investigation and then in early 1977 a thorough audit. Kurtz said that they didn’t find any criminal liability, but they nevertheless placed him in liquidation due to a technical violation: failure to report his accounting records on the official paper provided by the government. The executive director of the Mexican agency that performed the audit mentioned several other “omissions” and “deficiencies” and maintained that the violations were more than “technical,” although he said they didn’t have solid proof that Kurtz was concealing money.

Source: McTaggart, Lynne. The Baby Brokers: The Marketing of White Babies in America. New York: The Dial Press, 1980.
Frantz, Douglas. “Agency told to suspend operations.” Chicago Tribune, Section: Chicagoland; P. 3; Zone C. March 19, 1985.

1977: Kurtz attempts to open a new adoption agency in Mexico City; government twice rejects application

In June 1977, after Casa del Sur was shut down by Mexican authorities, Kurtz applied for another adoption agency in Mexico City, and the application was rejected by the board of the Junta. In November, the Junta received a letter written on Kurtz’s behalf asking them to reconsider.” They responded with a Spanish saying: “The board thinks it is the same cat, only it’s dirtier.”

Source: McTaggart, Lynne. The Baby Brokers: The Marketing of White Babies in America. New York: The Dial Press, 1980.

1978: Kurtz opens La Socieda adoption agency in Tlaxcala, Mexico, collects questionable payments from prospective adopters

After Casa del Sur was shut down and Kurtz’s application to open a new adoption agency in Mexico City was twice rejected, Kurtz founded a new agency, La Sociedad, in Tlaxcala, the smallest and reputedly the poorest state in Mexico, said McTaggart in her 1980 book on baby brokers. Although the agency was not licensed (there were no licenses for adoption agencies because there had never been any others in Tlaxcala before), Kurtz claimed to have received the authorization of several departments of the Mexican government, as well as the written permission of the state governor.

Kurtz insisted that his corporation papers would show that the agency was operating legally, but he failed to supply those papers to McTaggert, after repeated requests. “Kurtz’s deliberate haziness about what is going on in Mexico these days is significant in light of the fact that applicants to Tzyril pay their home study fee and three-fourths of their legal fee, or $1,537.50”¦, before they are assigned a child,” McTaggert said. There were approximately 25 couples who applied to Tzyril before Casa del Sur went into liquidation, and, two years later, they were still waiting for their babies. Yet Kurtz’s lawyers continued to collect legal fees up front from new applicants. Kurtz explained that those 25 couples were the “unfortunate” victims of the year-long changeover of agencies. he added that his new agency needed to have a large pool of waiting coupes because children were not placed with couples chronological order of application date, but according to which family best “matched” the child’s background.

However, McTaggert said, “even assuming that La Sociedad needs a batch of applicants from which to choose, it doesn’t seem logical that couples who applied in 1978 and early 1979 needed to pay for legal work when Sociedad, by Kurtz’s own admission, didn’t make its first placement until 1979”¦ If Sociedad approximates Casa del Sur’s rate of placement, collecting legal fees from couples now applying appears a bit unnecessary, considering that it could take the agency some seven years to satisfy just those 60 couples on Tzyril’s list when La Sociedad began making placements.”

Kurtz said that lawyers have a right to collect fees in advance of services and that Tzyril applicants signed a disclaimer, acknowledging that payment of the legal fee does not guarantee that they will ever get a child as long as Kurtz could demonstrate that he was handling some adoptions. McTaggert noted that, for just those 60 couples Kurtz admitted were waiting, Suku may have collected in gross fees close to $100,000”“all of which was entirely at the disposal of Suku’s sole shareholder: Seymour Kurtz.

Source: McTaggart, Lynne. The Baby Brokers: The Marketing of White Babies in America. New York: The Dial Press, 1980.

1979: Kurtz’s organizations investigated by New York State attorney general’s office

In July 1979, after receiving complaints from several disgruntled Tzyril applicants, the charitable frauds unit of the New York State attorney general’s office began an investigation of Kurtz’s various organizations, which was still pending at the time McTaggart’s book was written. McTaggert pointed out that New York would not be able to prevent couples from getting a child through Kurtz’s agencies, since adoptions were finalized in Mexico “where New York authorities have no control. “And even if the authorities in one state managed to close down one of Kurtz’s organizations, it would require a collective national (and eventually, an international) effort to put Kurtz completely out of business,” McTaggert said.

Source: McTaggart, Lynne. The Baby Brokers: The Marketing of White Babies in America. New York: The Dial Press, 1980.

1980: The Kurtz network expands, Kurtz claims to function as “his own government”

During interviews with McTaggert for her 1980 book, Kurtz told McTaggart that, in addition to setting up La Sociedad, he was also organizing the Adoption Foundation of the Americas in Greenville, South Carolina, and had taken charge of Friends of Children, an already existing agency in Atlanta, Georgia. He added Adoption Workshop Centers in New York, funded by the Tzyril Foundation, to help couples find babies to adopt. AWC offered counseling to couples on adoption as well as the names of various organizations from which they might get a child, one of which was Tzyril. AWC also had a “Mothers in Need” program to provide counseling to pregnant girls on their alternatives to abortion, one of which was Easter House. One of the AWC counselors was also employed by Easter House to perform home studies of couples who applied to any of Kurtz’s organizations.

Kurtz had created “his own adoption hotline for referring natural mothers, his own referral service for [people who wanted to adopt], his own advertising agency, his own headquarters for applications and finances, his own suppliers to make the placements, his own service for home studies, plus his own corporation to handle the legal work,” McTaggert said. “I function,” Kurtz said, “as my own government.”

Source: McTaggart, Lynne. The Baby Brokers: The Marketing of White Babies in America. New York: The Dial Press, 1980.

1983 — 1986: Friends of Children charges high fees, finds children quickly for people who wanted to adopt

In a report filed in 1983 with the Arkansas Human Services Department, Friends of Children said it charged $14,000 to arrange to find a child for a qualified family. The fee included a $1,500 deposit (of which up to $300 was refundable) for an initial study of the people who wanted to adopt. The report said the agency had a deficit of $8,418 in 1981 and a deficit of $81,322 in 1982 because Friends president Seymour Kurtz said his fees were too low to cover the costs of adoption. But by 1985, the agency was operating with a $2.1 million budget and $110,000 in excess funds. A Little Rock woman who had inquired about adopting a child from Friends said the company told her she could adopt an infant within one year for $18,000.

Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock), May 12, 1986.
1984: Kurtz’s chain under state and federal investigation, CNN reports

On September 8 and September 9, 1984, CNN aired an investigative report, “Adoption: The Kurtz Network.” CNN reporter Sheila Hershow reported on “a high-priced, controversial and growing chain of adoption agencies” led by Chicago lawyer Seymour Kurtz. The chain had been under state and federal investigation for allegedly bilking hundreds of dollars from couples who never received children as promised; providing counseling in states where officials said such activities violated licensing laws; and for alleged mail fraud, said CNN.

Couples who want to adopt but are unwilling to wait five or 10 years for a child to become available through state agencies will pay thousands of dollars for a healthy baby, CNN reported.

Source: PR Newswire, September 7, 1984. Contact: Paul Wojeck of CNN.

1985: Easter House told by state of Illinois to suspend operations

In March, 1985, state authorities in Illinois told Easter House to halt operations, charging that the agency placed children for adoption in states where the agency was not licensed and that it took money for adoption services that were not performed. “It is determined that (Easter House) has failed to maintain minimum licensing standards” ¦ and that the continued operation jeopardizes the health, safety, and welfare of the children served,” the order said.

The state had refused to renew the agency’s license in January 1981 and administrative hearings on the refusal had been continuing ever since.

An editorial in the Chicago Tribune stated that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had been trying to revoke the license of Easter House since 1981. “It’s time to end the legal maneuvering that has kept this disreputable adoption agency in operation and close it permanently,” the editorial said.

The editorial noted that the department had charged Easter House with a dozen violations of state laws and regulations intended to protect children, mothers, and people who wanted to adopt. Gordon Johnson, director of the department, reportedly said that Easter House had “solicited and taken fees from couples eager to adopt infants although there was little likelihood of finding an adoptable child for them.” The department also charged that Easter House had failed to make required financial records available and had illegally placed children with out-of-state adopters.

“Easter House already has continued to operate for more than four years after the Department of Children and Family Services refused to renew its license in January, 1981”“and for almost a decade after newspapers began raising questions about its high fees and methods of finding and placing children,” the editorial stated. But court appeals had allowed Easter House to stay open. “Enough time has been spent on legal moves,” the editorial concluded. “The Cook County Circuit Court should uphold the state agency and shut down Easter House without further delay.”

Sources: “Shutting down Easter House.” Chicago Tribune. Section: Editorial; Pg. 12; Zone C. April 13, 1985, Saturday, Sports Final Edition.
Frantz, Douglas. “Agency told to suspend operations.” Chicago Tribune, Section: Chicagoland; P. 3; Zone C. March 19, 1985.

June, 1986: Easter House wins lawsuit against state of Illinois

A jury in the United States District Court found Illinois state officials guilty of conspiring to injure Easter House. The court awarded Easter House $200,001 in damages.

The jury found that three employees of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services conspired with a former employee of Easter House, Millicent Smith, to violate Easter House’s constitutional rights when they: unlawfully refused to renew Easter House’s license for several months, during which time they removed and kept Easter House’s active files; diverted Easter House’s mail; and unlawfully placed a baby with an unsuspecting client of Easter House. The jury also found that the defendants created and licensed a new adoption agency, calling it Easter House Adoption Agency Inc. (for profit) with the intent to divert the business and property of Easter House to their new agency.

Smith, who was no longer operating an agency, told The Tribune in 1976 that she quit Kurtz’s operation because she became concerned about his expansion into the international baby market.

An article at the time noted that, in addition to directing the adoption agency Easter House, licensed in Illinois, Connecticut, and New York, Kurtz also directed the adoption agencies Friends of Children, licensed in Georgia and Arkansas; Birth Hope Adoption Agency, licensed in Arizona; and American Friends of Children licensed in Washington, DC.

A news report said that Easter House had been under state investigation for more than a decade. The award stemmed from the state’s suspension of Easter House’s license in 1974. The award was not related to subsequent actions by the state, including its efforts as recently as 1985 to close the agency on charges it was operating improperly.

Seymour Kurtz had filed the lawsuit in 1976. Lawyers for the state employees said they would appeal the case and seek to overturn the damage award. Kurtz was pleased with the verdict. “They were determined to destroy Easter House and they got caught,” he said. “For two years they did a lot of very wrong things. They were absolutely arrogant and autocratic in the use of their power.”

Sources: “State officials liable in conspiracy to harm adoption agency.” Business Wire. Distribution: News Editors. Contact: Easter House, Chicago, Seymour Kurtz. Dateline: Chicago. June 18, 1986.
Possley, Maurice. “Easter House wins harassment lawsuit.” Chicago Tribune. Section: Chicagoland; Pg. 9; Zone C. June 19, 1986.
September, 1986: Easter House charges high fees to couples who want to adopt quickly

A September, 1986 article in Crain’s Chicago Business described Easter House operations. Seymour Kurtz said that the company spent $500,000 a year on national advertising. As a result, his combined agencies several in Illinois, two in Connecticut, and one in Atlanta placed 239 babies in adoptive homes, 110 of those through Easter House, in the past year.

Each infant was delivered within nine months of the adopting couple’s registration and cost a minimum of $18,000, the agency’s standard fee. interstate adoptions could cost more, when extra transportation, medical, and out-of-state licensing costs were involved.

In contrast, other adoption agencies charged about $5,000, the article noted. But other agencies didn’t deliver the babies with the reliability that Easter House did. Through many other agencies, couples could adopt racially mixed children, older children, or children with disabilities, quickly and inexpensively. But Easter House provided White infants. Kurtz expected to place 400 infants in 1986, and his goal for 1987 was 500 infants.

“Many people question his motives, are dismayed at his prices, and rue his methods,” the article said. Nonetheless, couples seeking to adopt knew that if they qualified and paid the price, they had a good chance of getting a healthy White infant through Easter House.

“Couples seeking to adopt a baby enter a bizarre substratum of the US economy,” the article said. Even the most savvy of educated and wealthy professional couples are shocked to learn about the economics of the baby market.

Source: Pesmen, Sandra. “Bizarre sector of the economy awaits adoptive couples here.” Crain’s Chicago Business. Section: Options; Pg. 27. September 1, 1986.
1986: Friends of Children denied license renewal in Arkansas due to failure to comply with regulations, questionable practices in other states

Friends of Children had a one-year temporary adoption agency license in Arkansas. When the agency sought to renew its license, the Department denied the request, citing a series of failures to comply with regulations, as well as questionable practices in other states. Allegations included:

  • the agency charged fees for services it didn’t provide in other states
  • a caseworker from the agency tried to arrange the adoption of an Arkansas baby without a license
  • two families, one in Michigan and one in Missouri, complained that they paid up to $1,500 each to Friends of Children while the agency was not licensed in either state and that the money was not refunded to the families even though they adopted no children
  • a Friends caseworker in Florida was arrested for allegedly arranging an adoption without a Florida license.

In two 1984 Arkansas cases, Friends arranged an adoption when the mother was pregnant but before the agency was licensed. When the children were born, the agency was still unlicensed and the children were left unclaimed at the hospital for several days.

The agency had been denied licenses in Florida, New Jersey, and Connecticut, according to Arkansas state records. Inquiries by the Arkansas Department of Human Services to 11 states produced reports of misconduct or noncompliance in Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, Connecticut, and Missouri.

A Human Services Department official said at an administrative hearing that Friends had not complied with an agreement to establish an Arkansas office and hire qualified staff.

Sources: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 9, 1986.
Anne Farris, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, AR), May 12, 1986.

Friends of Children denied licensed in New Jersey, caseworker arrested in Missouri

In New Jersey, Friends of Children was refused a license, and in Missouri the adoption agency dropped its application after police arrested a caseworker in 1984, in a sting operation for running an unlicensed child-placement agency, according to a 1987 article on Kurtz’s adoption network.

Source: Michele Galen, “Baby Brokers: How far can a lawyer go?” The National Law Journal, February 9, 1987.

1986: Arizona denies Birth Hope a license after lengthy investigation

In 1986, the Arizona Department of Economic Security denied the agency a license after a lengthy probe of accusations that the agency had committed fraud and placed undue pressure on mothers and people who wanted to adopt.

“I consider this the grand baby-selling scheme,” said Robert S. Segelbaum of Phoenix, the assistant attorney general who investigated the case.

“This is the typical case where their only interest is grabbing the child and selling it for $16,500,” added Segelbaum. A letter to Kurtz amending the denial of Birth Hope’s license charged that the adoption agency “committed fraud, caused duress, and engaged in undue influence in the placement and solicitation of adoptive parents.”

The Arizona attorney general office’s written charges against Birth Hope included:

Coercing mothers to surrender their infants by isolating them from family and friends, denying them counseling, and enticing them with generous living allowances and luxury vacations. When they change their minds, Segelbaum said, the mothers were “dropped like hot potatoes.”
Misrepresent ting its state licensing and federal tax status; and
Violating federal unemployment insurance laws by failing to file quarterly wage and contribution reports and not supplying its employees with W-2 and W-4 tax forms.

In one case, the attorney general’s office claimed, Birth Hope offered to send the mother of two toddlers on a $1,000 Hawaiian vacation and to pay the father’s $652 rent and make car payments in order to induce the father to terminate his parental rights.

Kurtz defended his operations and vehemently denied he was engaged in baby selling.

Sources: Galen, Michele. “Baby Brokers: How far can a lawyer go?” The National Law Journal, February 9, 1987.
Stanton, Kathleen. “How Much Is that Baby in the Window?” Phoenix New Times (Arizona), August 30, 1989, Section: News Shorts, p. 30.

1986: Kurtz featured in law journal article on baby brokers

Galen named Seymour Kurtz as “the most controversial” of three well-known adoption attorneys whose methods are somewhere between ethical and illegal, “where laws are cloudy and professional ethics are fuzzy.” The article described Kurtz as “a charming yet litigious Chicago-based attorney who heads a multi-state adoption network attacked by regulators and prosecutors nationwide for alleged tax and licensing violations, excessive fees, and coercive adoption practices.”

“Attorney Kurtz, to many experts, illustrates the [adoption] laws’ weaknesses,” Galen said. At the time of the article, Kurtz was running four adoption agencies: Chicago-based Easter House, Atlanta-based Friends of Children, Phoenix, Arizona-based Birth Hope, and Washington, DC-based American Friends of Children.

In licensing hearings and independent investigations, Galen reported, “growing numbers of state adoption officials and attorneys general are questioning Mr. Kurtz’s motives.”

Source: Michele Galen, “Baby Brokers: How far can a lawyer go?” The National Law Journal, February 9, 1987.

1987: Woman’s World reports on “the baby brokers”, including Kurtz

“Children have ceased to be handled by commendable, charitable institutions and have become commodities in a multimillion-dollar business,” said a New York judge in the 1987 Woman’s World report on “the baby brokers.” [Note: Charitable institutions that handled adoptions in the past were not always “commendable.” Maternity homes frequently imprisoned pregnant girls and forced them to surrender their babies for adoption against their will.]

“Traditionally, adoption was a way to find homes for babies, said Jeff Rosenberg of the National Committee for Adoption. “Independent adoption is the reverse, it’s a way to find babies for homes.”

Seymour Kurtz founded a private chain of adoption agencies, Woman’s World noted. Kurtz’s agencies gross $4 million a year nationwide and were expected to place 300 to 400 babies in 1987.

Source: PR Newswire, “Woman’s World Aug. 25 Issue Goes on Sale Week of Aug 17.” New York, Aug. 14, 1987. Contact: Gerry Hunt, features editor of Woman’s World.

1987: Birth Hope issued Arizona license after signing agreement

Birth Hope appealed the denial of its Arizona license and was issued a license in 1987 after signing a settlement agreement. Under the agreement, Birth Hope agreed to submit records on fees for audit by a third-party auditor and reduce the fees if the auditor deemed them excessive; to submit records of any loans by the agency to mothers; and to comply with agency guidelines for counseling parents whose children are adopted.

“There’s no doubt that within the adoption-agency community there were feelings that the settlement Birth hope was able to get was not fair,” said Paul Matte, an assistant attorney general who also represented the Department of Economic Security.

Source: Stanton, Kathleen. “How Much Is that Baby in the Window?” Phoenix New Times (Arizona), August 30, 1989, Section: News Shorts, p. 30.

1987: Court in Nassau County, New York rejects $16,500 “placement fee” charged by the Birth Hope

A New York couple adopted a child from Birth Hope, which was licensed in Arizona but not in New York. The agency charged the couple medical expenses, and other expenses, including clothing costs, birth certificates, housing, and living expenses. In addition, the agency required a service fee of $1,500 and a placement fee of $15,000. The couple petitioned the court in Nassau County, New York to review the reasonableness of the fees. The court approved the medical expenses and other expenses that related to the adoption, but did not approve the $16,500 placement fee because it was not a proper reimbursable adoption expense. However, the court did not have jurisdiction to order the agency to repay its fee to the couple that adopted. The court said that until it received an adequate response on the propriety of the fees charges or until Birth Hope became an authorized agency in New York, the court would no longer accept petitions for adoption from the agency.

Source: In the Matter of M.G., an Infant, Surrogate’s Court of New York, Nassau County, 137 Misc. 2d 623; 522 N.Y.S. 2d 822; 1897 N.Y. Misc. Lexis 2635, December 16, 1987.

1988: Friends of Children denied license in New York due to refusal to explain high fees

Many of the family and surrogate court judges in New York refuse to approve adoptions from several out-of-state adoption agencies “ including the Georgia-based agency Friends of Children, which charges up to $18,000 in fees apart from medical and legal expenses “ because they refuse to explain their high fees.

Source: Newsday, November 1, 1988, Tuesday, City Edition, “Tightening Loopholes; Adoption reforms made law.” Series “Lisa’s Legacy,” by Carol Polsky, p. 4.

1988: Appellate court upholds award to Easter House

A federal appellate court upheld all but $10,000 of the $200,000 judgment awarded to Easter House after the jury found it was the victim of harassment by state officials and a former employee.

Kurtz said he was pleased by the ruling, but an assistant Illinois attorney general said the state would file for a rehearing before the appellate court.

Source: Gorman, John. “Adoption agency’s award OKd by court suit charged harassment by state.” Chicago Tribune. Section: Chicagoland; Pg. 3; Zone: C. July 12, 1988, Tuesday, Sports Final Edition.

1988: Easter House charges $20,000 for babies

“Furthermore, agencies that reach out to unwed mothers rarely lack for babies. Consider Easter House, a controversial Chicago agency that Illinois welfare officials are trying to shut down. While the typical adoption agency performs no more than 12 infant adoptions a year, Easter House completes 300 “” despite charging $20,000 each. While critical of its emphasis on finding healthy white infants for wealthy white parents, Richard Pearlman, head of Chicago’s Family Resource Center, a private adoption agency, nevertheless finds much to praise about Easter House. It runs big ads in the Yellow Pages, the first place unwed mothers look for help. It also offers a 24-hour phone line and dispatches caseworkers to a new mother’s bedside within hours. Many traditional agencies don’t answer the phone at night or on “

Marlys Harris, “Where Have All the Babies Gone? They’re trapped in our failed adoption system, beyond the reach of couples who plead to give them homes.” CNNMoney.com, http://money. cnn.com/magazine s/moneymag/ moneymag_ archive/1988/ 12/01/84832/index.htm, December 1, 1988.

1989: Easter House denied tax-exempt status

In Easter House v. United States, 848 F. 2d 78 (Fed. Cir. 1988), the Federal Circuit denied tax-exempt status to the non-profit Easter House on the grounds of inurement of private gain and excessive commercial purposes. The chief executive officer was paid $60,000 a year for part-time work, and the agency collected large fees and accumulated profits.

Source: “Exempt Organizations.” The Tax Lawyer, Summer, 1989, 42 Tax Law. 1273, Section: Annual Report: Important Developments During the Year.

1989: Judges in three New York counties will not accept any more adoption petitions from Birth Hope

A 1989 Phoenix New Times article titled “How Much Is that Baby in the Window?” described Birth Hope’s history of legal and regulatory problems. The agency had “the worst history of legal and regulatory problems among Arizona agencies, records show,” the article said.

“Birth Hope was among the several adoption agencies owned by Seymour Kurtz that was “targeted by state regulators for straining the limits of the law,” the article said.

At least two complaints within the past year had named Birth Hope. Both were from mothers who accused the agency of providing inadequate grief counseling after they surrendered their parental rights.

The article noted that judges in three counties in New York — New York, Ulster, and Nassau Counties — had said they would not accept any more adoption petitions from Birth Hope because it had charged excessive fees and failed to meet other requirements of New York state adoption law. Birth Hope was required to return $15,000 fees to several couples because it could not document that the fees reflected actual costs.

Source: Stanton, Kathleen. “How Much Is that Baby in the Window?” Phoenix New Times (Arizona), August 30, 1989, Section: News Shorts, p. 30.

1989: Kurtz censured by the court

In 1989, Kurtz was censured by the Illinois Supreme court for not fully informing people seeking adoptions about his links to the various agencies. A Chicago Tribune article reporting on the incident described Kurtz as “the controversial head of a network of adoption agencies.”

Sources: Grady, Bill, Merrill, Goozner, and John O’Brien. “Liberal holds open courthouse door.” Chicago Tribune. Section: Business; Pg. 3; Zone: C; On the law. August 1, 1989, Tuesday, North Sports Final Edition.
Grady, William. “9 lawyers disbarred, 15 disciplined.” Chicago Tribune. Section: Chicagoland; Pg. 1; Zone: C. March 31, 1989, Friday, South Sports Final Edition.

1990: “The practices and actions of Birth Hope are reprehensible and unacceptable” says court in New York

A couple adopted a child and paid a total of $16,500: $15,00 to Birth Hope, with offices in Arizona, and $1,500 to Easter House, with offices in Illinois. Because the citation mailed to Easter House was retuned as unclaimed, the inquiry was limited to the fees paid to Birth Hope.

The couple who adopted paid $15,000.00 to Roger Kessler, the director of Birth Hope, but he did not explain what services or expenses were included in the $15,000.00, not did he provide any statement of the expenses paid by Birth Hope to or on behalf of the mother. The court approved medical and care related expenses totaling $3,750.84, plus $1,600.00 for four home studies. The court denied the balance of $9,649.16 and ordered Birth Hope to return that sum to the petitioners.

The court also stated that the Birth Hope placement agreement places the responsibility of legally terminating the rights of the parents on the people who adopt. In this placement, Birth Hope placed the child without the consent of the father or the termination of his rights.

Because of Birth Hope’s failure to obtain consents to the surrender and placement of the child for adoption, the finalization of the adoption was delayed for two years and additional counsel fees were incurred by the people who adopted. The father’s rights were terminated through the efforts of an attorney for the people who adopted.

Birth Hope assured the adopting couple that it had legal custody of the child when in fact the rights of the father had not been terminated, the court said.

“The practices and actions of Birth Hope are reprehensible and unacceptable to this court,” the court said. “They are not consistent with the conduct and practices of agencies authorized to place children for adoption in New York State.” Birth Hope had been notified on February 21, 1989 that the court would accept no more petitions involving the placement of a child by Birth Hope. “This policy is reaffirmed,” the court said.

Source: “Unauthorized Agency Is Curbed on Fees Reimbursable Under DRL; Matter of Anonymous, Surrogate’s Court, Surrogate Brewster.” New York Law Journal, Section: Court Decisions, P. 21, January 22, 1990.

1990: American Friends of Children sued for failure to pay rent

The plaintiff said that American Friends of Children vacated the premises it was renting, leaving unpaid rent and real estate taxes of $10,363.71. The lease showed that the following were approved as subleasees:

Easter House, an Illinois non-profit corporation
Friends of Children, a Georgia non-profit corporation
Birth Hope Adoption Agency, an Arizona non-profit corporation
Birth Promise Adoption Agency, a Connecticut non-profit corporation
Pregnancy Guidance Center, a District of Columbia non-profit corporation
Adoption America, a to-be-formed non-profit corporation
a to-be-formed non-profit school involved primarily in the training of social workers and counselors, and
any other non-profit corporation or organization with which Mr. Seymour Kurtz is affiliated as an officer of director.”

The case was settled and dismissed with prejudice.

Source: Franklyn C. Nofzier vs. American Friends of Children, case number 90ca004134, obtained from the DC Records Center.

1991: Judge rules Friends of Children coerced father into signing adoption form; infant returned to teen parents

Fulton Superior Court Judge Leah Sears-Collins ruled that Friends of Children coerced the baby’s father into signing an adoption consent form and that “the agency suspiciously prevented the parents from seeing their son until after their 10-day grace period to change their minds.”

The judge said that since the baby had not been placed with an adoptive family, the battle was mainly between the parents and “an adoption agency seeking finality in order to make, what appears to be, a quick and handsome profit from the placement of a child in an adoptive home.” “This isn’t a used-car transaction,” the judge said. “This is a human being.” The judge concluded that the agency used “irresponsible and careless threats” in coercing the 18-year-old father to sign adoption papers.

Testimony during the case showed that the agency received at least $25,000 for each healthy White infant it placed.

The parents set up an appointment on Feb. 13 to see their baby for the last time, which was within the 10 days they had to change their mind, the couple’s attorney said. “But Friends of Children rescheduled the appointment until Feb. 18, when they were outside the 10 days.”

The mother was asked to sign surrender papers for adoption the day after her son’s birth when she was “not in mental and or physical condition to understand what she was signing,” the suit said. The father signed the release papers after being told he would be responsible for any medical bills and other expenses incurred by the mother and paid by the adoption agency if he did not sign. The father testified that a caseworker from the agency told him that his baby would be “in peril” and he would be responsible for about $1,300 in medical expenses if he did not sign the adoption papers.

The mother said, “I couldn’t understand why all these people were not willing to give my baby back. The only thing I could think of was they wanted the money.”

Reporter Jane Hansen commented, “The case should never have gone to court. It did because the market for babies is so lucrative and unregulated in Georgia that the adoption of healthy White infants now borders on baby selling. Desperate couples and single adults wait up to six years to adopt a child. If they go through a private agency, they’ll pay as much as $17,000 for a foreign infant  $25,000 “˜plus some incidentals’ for a healthy White one from Friends of Children. But this agency guarantees quick and efficient service. Dealing almost exclusively in White infants, it pays a $4,000 refund if a baby is not found for an applicant in nine months.”

Hansen concluded, “There’s a lesson here. Someone other than those who profit from adoptions “ lawyers and agencies “ needs to take a closer look at Georgia’s laws. It’s time adoption was stripped of its profit and returned to its original intent: finding children the best possible homes.”

Sources: Sandra McIntosh, “Infant returned to teen parents in custody dispute; Judge: Father coerced into signing adoption form.” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Local News; section A; page 01. April 16, 1991.
Sandra McIntosh, “Judge blocks contested baby’s adoption; Teen parents, agency pursuing custody battle,” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Local News, section B, page 01. March 23, 1991.
Sandra McIntosh, “Adoption agency coerced parents to give up baby, suit claims. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Local News; section F; page 4, February 21, 1991.
Jane Hansen, “Make adoptions a non-profit affair,” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Local News, Section B, page 01, April 20, 1991.
Joan Sanchez, “Teen-Age Parents Walk Out of Courtroom with 2-Month-Old Son,” The Associated Press, Domestic News, April 16, 1991.

1991 – 1995: Friends of Children sued eight times in Fulton County, Georgia, range of allegations

A Virginia couple sued the Atlanta adoption agency, Friends of Children, Inc., claiming they paid it $4,000, never got a child, and were denied a refund they had been promised in case of failure to get a child. This was the latest of several disputes involving Friends of Children Inc. to go to court during the past five years. From 1991 to 1995, Friends was the defendant in eight other cases in Fulton State Court.,

A dispossessory for not paying rent did not lead to an eviction action. The agency had since changed addresses.

The agency was sued by BellSouth Advertising & Publishing Corp. for not paying an advertising account and ordered to pay BellSouth $63,111.
Nynex Information Resources Company sued over an advertising bill, and the agency was ordered to pay it $16,059.
Budget Travel Inc. sued the agency for $34,431, and the case was dismissed without prejudice.
Emanuel County Hospital sued it for not paying medical bills totaling $9,604 for the delivery of a baby born whose mother had agreed for the baby to be adopted. The suit was dismissed with prejudice.
Premier Travel Inc. sued the agency asking for $21,147 in unpaid bills, and the suit was settled.
A business called Commerce Clearing House Inc. sued, claiming it was owed $2,622, but the case was dismissed with prejudice.
In 1991, a teenaged couple sued to revoke its consent to the adoption of their child through Friends of Children (see above).

Source: “Couple Got No Adoptee, Wants Money Back,” Lolita Browning, Fulton County Daily Report. December 30, 1996.

1995: Easter House charged with violation of Indian Child Welfare Act; baby returned to mother

In 1995, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota filed a petition seeking to invalidate the adoption of a three-month old infant boy. The parents had planned to put their son up for adoption because of financial problems, but then changed their mind after he was born. After returning home from the hospital with her son, the mother signed the consent form and reluctantly gave her child to Easter House after repeated calls from the agency. She changed her mind within hours. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law, was passed in 1978 to protect the rights of Native American children, who were being removed illegally from tribes and reservations and being placed with White families. The law says that a Native American mother can’t consent to an adoption until 10 days after the birth and that she can revoke her consent anytime before the adoption is final. Under Illinois state law, however, a consent to adoption is irrevocable after 72 hours. The mother had told Easter House that she was an American Indian, but the agency did not follow ICWA procedures and refused to help rescind the adoption.

“They told me I could change my mind,” she said. “I felt betrayed.” The agency’s lawyer said the agency acted legally.

The people who were going to adopt the boy agreed to give him back because they said they did not believe that protracted litigation in Illinois courts would be in the best interest of the child.

Sources: Jeff Flock. “Native American Woman Sues to Revoke Adoption,” CNN, Transcript #1084-6. Section News: Domestic. Show: News 10:26 pm et. January 3, 1995.
“In Circuit Court,” Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, January 26, 1995.
Andrew Fegelman, “Adoptive Couple Agree to Give Up Infant.” Chicago Tribune, Section Metro Northwest, Pg. 4; Zone NW, February 2, 1995.
Lou Ortiz, “Mom Sues to Reverse Son’s Adoption; Indian Child Welfare Act Cited.” Chicago Sun-Times, Section News; P. 14, Wednesday, Late Sports Final Edition.
M.A. Stapleton. “Adoption dispute ended in best interests of child. Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, P. 1, February 1, 1995.

1997: Friends of Children sued for sexual harassment of an employee, plaintiff awarded damages

According to court records, the plaintiff, a married adoption case worker in her 30s, was employed as a caseworker by Friends of Children. Seymour Kurtz was the agency’s president and his wife was plaintiff’s supervisor. Plaintiff was required to carry a pager and respond to all calls. Plaintiff began to receive pages from Kurtz, who allegedly made sexual comments and advances, requesting oral sex, etc. Plaintiff attempted to avoid the advances. When Kurtz told her that her salary would be reduced from $38,000 to $15,000, she retained an attorney. Kurtz stopped contacting her and reinstated her salary. She was awarded $125,000 in compensatory damages and $150,000 punitive damages. The verdict was capped at $50,000, plus attorney fees and back pay. Kurtz successfully avoided attempts to serve him and the case proceeded against the company only.

Source: Leslie Morgan v. Friends of Children, Inc. and Seymour Kurtz, Verdict Date: October 10, 1997.

1998: Friends of Children goes bankrupt

“In business for 12 years, Friends of Children had gained a word-of-mouth reputation as a high-priced agency that could deliver,” according to the article. Friends of Children’s loss of a sexual harassment suit had put it out of business. The contract of one couple who wanted to adopt through Friends of Children said that the adoption process would cost $32,000 for couples in Georgia and Arkansas, and more elsewhere. The wife said, “from word of mouth, for this amount of money you were basically guaranteed a child in eight to 12 months.” By comparison, Bethany Christian Services charged $10,000 to $16,000, depending on the couple’s income.

Source: “Agency’s Bankruptcy Clouds Outlook for Adoptions.” Top to Bottom by Tim O’Reilly, Fulton County Daily Report. February 13, 1998.

1998: Easter House charges $45,000+ to adopt White babies

“Whoever handles them, adoptions in the over-$50,000 range almost always involve American-born white infants. While most are independent placements handled by lawyers, a few agencies market themselves by at least hinting at results. Easter House, a Chicago agency, notes in a letter to prospective parents that those approved this year have waited an average of 34 days to be offered a baby. The agency charges $45,000, “plus some incidentals.”

Laura Mansnerus, “Market Puts Price Tag on the Priceless.” New York Times, October 26, 1998. http://www1.chapman.edu/wilkinson/socsci/sociology/Faculty/Babbie/e211/BiblioFiles/Mansnerus_1998.htm