DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa is moving to revoke the license of a Waukee-based adoption agency accused of breaking several provisions in state adoption laws and failing to adhere to a voluntary legal agreement reached with the Iowa attorney general's office in 2008.
The for-profit agency, Abby's One True Gift Inc., said an investigator's report is one-sided and is fighting the state's effort.
The Des Moines Register on Wednesday reported that the Iowa Department of Human Services decided to revoke the agency's license on Monday, after a state investigator outlined allegations, including claims that it coerced couples into contracts and encouraged adoptive parents to pay birth parents above legally allowable expenses to prevent adoptions from failing.
The company has filed an appeal, meaning it can remain in business while the case is decided by an administrative law judge.
The agency's attorney, Michael Ensley, said in a statement to the newspaper that it's still allowed and able to operate.
"We strongly feel that the appeal process will result in the rightful renewal of our license," he said.
Abby's took in over $1.2 million last year, making contact with about 1,350 birth mothers and adoptive families, according to state investigators. An investigator for the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals found 43 matches had resulted in successful adoptions; 39 failed and 29 were pending at the time of the yearlong probe ending in March.
"The agency consistently operated without due regard to the well-being of birth parents, adoptive parents and children," wrote the investigator, Dixie Dupey.
Ensley called the report "concerning and confusing."
"Unfortunately, the manner in which this was investigated did not allow for any opportunity to even review the issues," he said. "Rather, the only opportunity for a response was to answer questions from an investigator whose mind was already made up and did not provide a fair opportunity to be heard."
The report did not name those who made complaints to the state. Abby's will have an opportunity to address the allegations when a hearing in scheduled.
The Register said the Iowa attorney general's office has received 16 complaints about the agency since 2004, including one from a couple suing the owners for fraud. Robert and Jennifer Welsch of St. Louis said they were forced to return a Georgia newborn after the birth father objected to the adoption, court records show.
The owners of the agency, K.C. Gerlitz and Patricia Gerlitz, told The Register in an interview earlier this year that the birth father was dishonest in that case, which is scheduled to go to trial in late August.
Abby officials say in their notice of appeal that the state failed to approve or deny the agency's latest application for a license within the 90 days required by law. They said the state investigator also cited as deficiencies in its latest report practices that had been approved in past years' reviews.
If the state prevails in the case, Abby's will not be allowed to do business in Iowa.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com