By Jim Christie
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The abrupt closure and bankruptcy filing by a U.S. adoption agency has stunned hundreds of hopeful clients left struggling with the emotional impact and likely loss of thousands of dollars.
The non-profit Independent Adoption Center of Concord, California, closed on Jan. 31 and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Feb. 3. Clients said as many as 800 families may be affected, although the agency has not provided figures.
"In all our considerations of what could go wrong with adoption, this was never one," said Sharon Cohen of Austin, Texas, who made her last payment to the agency in December.
In a statement, the agency blamed fewer potential birth parents than at any point in its 35-year history.
"Simultaneously, due to changing demographics and the closure of international adoption programs, there are more hopeful adoptive parents seekingto adopt domestically thanin any other time in recent history," the statement said.
Independent Adoption Center's board president, Gregory Kuhl, acknowledged in court papers the hard feelings sparked by the agency's closure, and said families and birthmothers are getting potential referrals.
Kuhl could not be reached for comment.
Jason Aronne of San Diego said he had a hard time accepting the reason the agency gave for its closure. "They took in plenty of families in 2016," he said.
Aronne and his husband signed a contract with the gay-friendly agency in May. "It seems like half their clients were gay," he said.
International adoptions and unintended pregnancies have been falling, pressuring adoption agencies.
"We all sort of compare notes and have all seen the same thing," said Lisa Clark, executive director of Adopt International, an agency headquartered in San Francisco.
Stacey Green of Greenwood, Indiana, said she and her husband put $16,000 into trying to adopt through Independent Adoption Center - after $15,000 worth of unsuccessful medical treatments to conceive.
"I can't keep going into debt," Green said. "I don't want to give up hope, but unless we're going to get some money back somewhere, I don't think we can handle any more expenses."
(Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Dan Grebler)