NAPERVILLE, Illinois. (CBS) — A Naperville couple say they have been blessed with fulfilling lives and they wanted to share their blessings with their children through adoption.
But their path to parenthood hit a dead end—and not before costing them thousands of dollars and a piece of every one of their hearts.
Marie Saavedra of CBS 2 shared the Strons’ cautionary tale on Wednesday night.
Phil and Anka Plavicius Strons live in the Naperville area known for its schools, parks and family fun. You will find their house at the end of the cul-de-sac – lined with trees, with a red door and matching shutters. It looks like a scene from a Hallmark movie.
Inside you will find a loving couple who have worked hard to hit the right notes and make their home warm and welcoming.
When you arrive, Phil Strons will gladly offer you a cup of coffee, while the piano sounds of Anka Plavichios Strons are carried through every room. Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” was chosen when CBS 2’s Saavedra visited him.
What more could you want in a place where you can relax? Well, it turns out the Stronses want more—Phil remarked that it was a big house for just two.
“Because we don’t have children of our own, we could and should share all of these blessings that we have received with someone who is not so lucky,” Anka said.
The Strons decided to adopt in order to give themselves and the child the experience they craved.
“It would be nice to teach kids how to ride a bike, introduce them to new things – it looks like there would be so many joys in raising a child,” Phil said.
The couple started their journey in earnest in 2019. Anka is from Romania, so they targeted this country as it could overcome the language barrier.
This led them to collaborate with two agencies. One of them was Alliance for Children Inc. from Massachusetts, which is accredited to work with Romania. The other was the local branch of the World Adoption Association of America, which was supposed to provide home schooling for adoption.
The couple had what they considered smaller demands on a child and hoped it would pay off.
“Originally, we were supposed to have kids at home within a year,” Phil said.
Now, four years later, the Stronses are telling how wrong they were. Their purpose is not to discourage adoption, but to raise awareness of what can be a painful and costly process.
“So we had these two agencies — and that in itself was a problem,” Phil said. “It seems they didn’t communicate well with each other.”
According to the couple, the two agencies also couldn’t communicate well with Phil and Anka. They scheduled us for years of what they considered unnecessary delays, burning money.
The Strons say they tried to pay quickly and file medical forms, background checks, ID and other documentation with agencies upon request.
“All the time we needed to provide documents, we did it right away,” Anka said.
But when it came to the couple’s home study, they allege that America World Adoption was procrastinating and not listening. When the home study was conducted and officially filed with the Department of Homeland Security, the couple said it was inaccurate and incorrect.
The pair highlighted and annotated parts of the document to show what was wrong – the word “no” appeared four times in the margins of one page.
The couple specifically stated that they would not want to be foster parents of a child with special needs or a disabled child because of their own age, but the home study summary repeatedly stated otherwise.
One sentence read: “The Parties have considered their options for caring for a child with special needs, carefully considering their capabilities, lifestyles and the needs of other children.” This required a sarcastic emoji annotation on the document. The Strons don’t have children at all now.
There have also been delays with the Alliance for Children, some of them related to COVID. But the Strons’ biggest concern came when the company also introduced changes to the country.
“Alliance for Kids came up with this offer: ‘Hey, we did an adoption in Hungary and they just let me know they have two girls,'” Anka said.
The Strons agreed to this proposal and quickly realized that this change would cost more money. In correspondence with Alliance for Children, the Stronses were under the impression that this adoption would cost $11,450.
In an email from accounting, they learned that the bill was actually $22,000.
“Recently, we’re trying to make payments on this extra money and these receipts that didn’t make sense, and then we find out, oh no, that’s even more money than we thought,” Phil said.
The couple don’t think it was a deliberate deception, but the lack of a clear bill breakdown after so much time and money was too much. In October, they said that they had had enough – their dream of girls from Hungary and their working relationship with both agencies had ended.
Their bank accounts are still suffering.
“A lot more than $10,000, probably around $20,000,” Phil said.
This was even after some small partial refunds from agencies.
The Strons feel they have the rights they have because the clients weren’t respected. Phil noted that in an agency document entitled “Customer Rights and Responsibilities,” the first item on the list of items is “You have the right to professional quality service.”
Saavedra of CBS 2 asked him if he felt he received professional service in the process.
Phil’s answer was, “No, absolutely not.”
Now the Stronses are four years older than they were when they started their trials and have less money. There is pain behind their disappointment.
Saavedra asked the Strons if they still had hope that someday they would still teach the young man how to ride a bike.
Phil ran to cry.
The Strons knew this process would not be easy. Signs of what hasn’t happened yet are everywhere, like a whole empty bedroom they were hoping to fill. It even has a basket of plush toys for a small child to play with.
“It’s a constant reminder that our dream of adopting children didn’t really come true,” Anka said as she and Phil stood in the room.
All the Strons want someone to make this room their own – inside this house with the crimson door, at the end of the cul-de-sac, in the big neighborhood. A place that any child would be lucky enough to call home.
International adoption is a process in which delays are common and are caused by any number of people and bureaucracies involved. However, we contacted both America World Adoption and Alliance for Children, but due to client privacy regulations, neither spoke to us either formally or informally about the Strons’ specific experience.