LIFE

Young Woman Emotionally Manipulates Hopeful Mother-To-Be In Harrowing Adoption Scam

by Angela Andaloro

New Jersey freelance journalist and lifestyle blogger Jeannine Morris Lombardi has always wanted to adopt.

After she and husband Joe Lombardi married in 2014, she was prepared for adoption to be the next step of their love story. It would take five years — and a horrible experience with an adoption scam — but Jeannine and Joe got their wish. The couple adopted daughter Amaya Jo in April of this year.

While Amaya is truly the joy of their family, the road to bringing her home was an extremely complicated one. Jeannine discussed her story and its heartbreaking twists and turns with People.

Jeannine opened up about how they decided on adoption after their one biological child was stillborn at 32 weeks. She also discussed how they decided on private adoption instead of working with an agency. Jeannine revealed some truly harrowing tales from the journey, including that a number of women posing as birth mothers tried to manipulate her throughout the process.

Jeannine Morris Lombardi has always wanted to add to her family through adoption. The freelance journalist and lifestyle blogger had never imagined how difficult that journey would be for her and husband Joe Lombardi.

The couple pursued private adoption for five years before bringing home daughter Amaya Jo in April of this year. Jeannine describes the baby girl as “the most perfect piece of our family” but acknowledges the difficult road to bringing her home.

Jeannine and Joe experienced a devastating loss when their first and only biological child was stillborn at 32 weeks. The couple determined that adoption would be right for them after the loss. The process would be lengthy, however.

Jeannine and Joe decided to pursue private adoption, which is an expensive and arduous process. It can still be shorter than working with an agency, which can take up to seven years, according to the Adoption Center.

Jeannine and Joe obtained an attorney to guide them through the process but quickly learned that they’d be largely responsible for finding a birth mother themselves. They launched a website dedicated to the cause and created a separate email address and phone number to use.

Jeannine also used her Instagram presence, where she had nearly 30,000 followers, to reach out to potential birth mothers. “The thing is, when you do a private adoption, you’re the ones dealing with the [expletive],” Jeannine told People.

“We went through six months of speaking to 16 different women — or so we thought — trying to figure out who was serious about it,” Jeannine revealed. There were even scammers preying on parents hoping to adopt.

“She contacted us saying she was 16 years old,” Jeannine said of one young woman, Ashley. “She sent us pictures throughout her pregnancy of her and her bump. We knew about the weight she gained, we knew that she craved ice cream.”

“[Ashley] was always crazy,” she continued. “But we thought we were dealing with a troubled, bipolar young girl who was in a really difficult situation, and we had compassion for her.” Ashley and her boyfriend continued the farce for four months.

After seeing a story about an adoption scam by a woman with a similar handle, Jeannine recognized that she was falling victim to scam. She wrote a blog post detailing it called “The Adoption Scam on the News Happened to Us.”

“Ashley never asked for money or anything at all. All she wanted was our time and emotional investment,” Jeannine wrote. “We watched her bump grow and would get updates on how she was feeling and the baby was doing. Sonogram pictures filled our texts and late night calls with her would last up to three hours. It was like she held us captive.”

While there were others with untrue intentions that they’d been in contact with before Ashley, the manipulations Ashley performed weren’t as obvious. “There’s one person who got to our hearts and made us cry all the time and it was Ashley,” she noted.

“She told us her boyfriend was in jail and that he abused her. She told me that her mother committed suicide in front of her and that her father was never around. I felt bad and I just wanted to be there for her.”

After avoiding so many different steps that would have legitimized the process, Jeannine and Joe recognized this wasn’t going to be the real deal. “She just kept making up stories. She would lead us on,” Jeannine explained. Ashley and her boyfriend continued their harassment for months.

Fed up, Joe and Jeannine turned off all their adoption-specific lines of contact, despite being in contact with another potential mother in Arizona.

Thankfully, the Arizona mother reached out to the couple’s lawyer. “We ended up flying from Miami to Arizona to go get our daughter that weekend,” Jeannine says. “It was insane that as soon as I let everything go and said, ‘I’m not doing this anymore,’ Amaya was born.”

While everything worked out, they did acknowledge that if they had to do it again, they would have gone through an agency and saved themselves the heartache. Thankfully, their heartache is done.