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Adopting a child should be a rewarding challenge, and for Mamie and Mark Johnson, that’s exactly what they enjoyed as they adopted 5 children and created a happy and cohesive family. But when Mamie and Mark agreed to adopt their sixth, their rewards quickly changed to frustration and anger as their new child proved to be disruptive, destructive, and dangerous.

The Johnsons did nothing to cause their only negative experience with adoption. They’re an amazing couple, and they’re strong advocates for adopting children from difficult backgrounds, which is exactly what they’ve done. All of the Johnsons’ adoptive children were born addicted, and all of them spent the first weeks of their lives going through withdrawal. Despite those horrible circumstances, the Johnsons were able to build a strong and loving family. All was excellent in the Johnson home until some social workers from Contra Costa County asked Mamie and Mark to adopt another child born to an addicted mother. The Johnsons agreed, social social workers violated California law by failing to make a full disclosure of the child’s background.

The Johnsons had specifically told the agency that they would not accept a child with a history of abuse.

Contra Costa County gave the Johnsons records that showed that the birth mother was homeless and had outstanding warrants for drugs, prostitution and theft, plus two prostitution convictions in 1988 and 1997. Those reports were not a deal breaker for the Johnsons because they did not indicate that their potentially new baby boy had suffered any abuse. At birth, the boy had tested positive for cocaine and he was placed in police custody. Subsequently, family members cared for him for 11 months. The report that the Johnsons received told them nothing of those 11 months or why the family members had decided to place him for emergency adoption.

So, believing that the boy had overcome his addiction and was emotionally stable, the Johnsons welcomed him to their home. They had high expectations, but their hopes quickly turned to disbelief as the new member of the family exhibited violent anti-social behavior. He was severely mentally ill, and he should have been receiving specialized treatment for a condition called Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

The yougnster displayed his illness by setting fires, by sexually molesting a classmate, and by engaging in violent outbursts that could have caused personal injuries in school. He clearly had problems, and it was just as clear to the Johnsons that the social workers had created a wrongful adoption by concealing the boy’s troubles.

The new child threw the Johnson home into turmoil, and created a huge financial liability to the family. California law places lifetime responsibilities on parents for their children’s support and severe consequences for parents for their children’s bad behavior: “Until a child is an adult or marries, his or her parents are generally legally responsible to provide for that minor’s support, including health care, and education.” California law is best in this quote from a publication by the Attorney General: “You may be held responsible for your child’s actions. If a child willfully defaces or destroys property of another, causes injury to another or causes the death of another, the parent or guardian having custody or control of the child may be held responsible, along with the child, for the willful act.”

The Johnsons brought suit in August 2008 against Contra Costa County for child dumping and for failing to tell adoptive parents everything about the child. Mamie, Mark, and all the Johnson children have suffered. The child with RADs failed to receive the treatment that he needed, and his life may be permanently altered by the county’s delay in not providing full disclosure and immediate medical care. And this incident may make other prospective adoptive parents wary of welcoming children into their homes.

Adoption fraud harms families and innocent children. It can bring huge financial responsibilities to families who do not receive full and honest disclosure about the children they’re adopting.

Our firm has secured the largest known recovery in the United States in an adoption fraud case, so if you or someone you know has suffered because of adoption fraud, contact me to learn if a highly qualified personal injury attorney can bring you justice.

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Richard Alexander