Without warning, adoption agency closure impacts Connecticut’s hopeful parents


(WTNH) — Shannon Fredrickson and Dawn Sengstacken cover a wall in their West Haven home with pictures from their wedding day.

“I can’t wait to add photos of our child to this wall,” Sengstacken says to Fredrickson.

Shannon Fredrickson and Dawn Sengstacken look at wedding pictures. They say they hope to add photos of a child to this wall someday.
Shannon Fredrickson and Dawn Sengstacken look at wedding pictures. They say they hope to add photos of a child to this wall someday.

For this West Haven couple, the wait for a child has just gotten longer. After a decade of trying to have children, Fredrickson and Sengstacken turned what they call their last resort: adoption. But on January 31, the adoption agency they chose, Independent Adoption Center, sent an email. Along with hundreds of other families across the nation, Fredrickson and Sengstacken found out that the agency was declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In Connecticut, it is believed by the Department of Children and Families that this bankruptcy and closure is only affecting a handful of families.

As of Friday afternoon, that bankruptcy case still hasn’t been filed by the California-based company.

In an email addressed to their clients, the agency blamed the sudden closure on a changing adoption climate with “fewer potential birth parents” and “changing demographics.”

“All our hopes and dreams out the door just like that,” Sengstacken says while sitting on a couch in the couples’ living room.

Above their heads, a hand-painted sign reads ‘Dreams’ and ‘Imagine.’ But along with their dream of a child, Sengstacken and Fredrickson lost a lot more. They say they spent $20,000 over two years to pay for adoption procedures, from creating a website to studies of their home to fingerprints. “Yes, it has to do with the money but more so the time we invested, waiting and waiting.”

Fredrickson cuts in. “Hoping that you’d get that phone call. And now I’m not even checking my phone anymore.”

Independent Adoption Center told clients that through the bankruptcy process, they will have an opportunity to file claims for refunds. Fredrickson and Sengstacken plan to do so, but they don’t have high hopes for success to get their money back. “There’s five- to seven-hundred families that are wanting their $20,000 back and I doubt that money is in their account.”

Stamford-based adoption attorney Donald Sherer says that for parents like these, getting money back is often difficult, and unfortunately, probably means you won’t get your full share of what you put in.”

Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families said, in a statement, that they are doing everything they “can to help affected families who understandably are very upset.” They said that they will work to secure records or documents that may be helpful to families if they pursue adoption through another adoption agency. They also noted that they “saw no indications that the agency was in a financially precarious position.”

Shannon Fredrickson holds up clothing purchased for a future baby.
Shannon Fredrickson holds up clothing purchased for a future baby.

For Fredrickson and Sengstacken, they say it’s not about the money, but about the baby. They already have the clothes and the crib.

“This baby will be a Yankees fan in this house,” Fredrickson says as she holds up a baby-sized Yankees onesie.

This week is just a small delay.

“I won’t give up,” Fredrickson says. “I’m young at heart. The kid will have a hard time keeping up with me, you know?”

The couple is attempting to raise money to pursue adoption once more.

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