RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Licensed adoption agencies in North Carolina are crying for help.
On the heels of one Wake County agency's sudden closure, a director of a similar agency says they all face an uncertain future because of the rise of online - and unregulated - adoption centers.
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"Babies have become commodities," Donnas Kinton, Executive Director of Amazing Grace Adoptions & Orphans, told ABC11. "What (adoption) then becomes is a business transaction."
Kinton, who founded Amazing Grace nearly 20 years ago, says licensed agencies like hers are struggling to stay in business because pregnant women are choosing to give up their babies through independent facilitators. With fewer babies to pair, agencies such as Amazing Grace have fewer families paying to complete the adoptions, which keep the agencies afloat.
"When I first started, we were pairing 20 babies with forever families every year," Kinton said. "Now a good year is 10."
There are 42 licensed adoption agencies in North Carolina, including 11 in Wake County (tied for most with Mecklenburg). They must use licensed social workers and meet strict standards of care and communication. Kinton says adoptions can take up to 18 months to complete and cost roughly $28,000.
Independent facilitators, on the contrary, have no common standards; they're usually done online and set up by an attorney who represents the expectant woman and another attorney who represents the adopting family. Indeed, the adoption process could go a lot quicker, but the cost is exponentially greater - as much as $100,000, according to Kinton.
RELATED: ADOPTION CENTER CLOSURE LEAVES WOULD-BE PARENTS WITH HEAVY HEARTS, LIGHT WALLETS
She adds that adopting families are vulnerable to adoptions that may not follow all legal protocols, plus there is a danger to the pregnant woman with no guarantee of the health and wellness of the new baby's home.
"We have social workers who we know have gone into these homes. If you have a mom here and the baby is going, say, to the state of Utah, we don't know if anyone has gone into the home."
Though the reasons are unconfirmed, the licensed Independent Adoption Center in North Raleigh closed earlier this week after filing for bankruptcy.
RELATED: PROSPECTIVE PARENTS STUNNED BY ADOPTION CENTER'S CLOSING
A former employee told ABC11 that the agency was working with 84 families statewide, including Thad and Valencia Harris.
"We're just trying to push on as best we know how to continue making our dream come true of growing our family," Valencia Harris said.
The Wake Family Law Group has received several calls from folks looking for legal guidance related to the IAC closing.
For more information on adoption visit:
Foster Child Adoption in North Carolina