Naperville, Illinois (CBS) – A couple from Naperville say they’ve been blessed with a full life – and wanted to share their blessings with children, through adoption.
But their path to parenthood hits a dead end – not before it costs them thousands of dollars and a piece of their respective hearts.
CBS2’s Mary Saavedra shared the Stronses’ cautionary tale Wednesday night.
Phil and Anca Plaviciousu Strons live in the Naperville neighborhood known for its schools, parks, and places for families. You’ll find their home at the end of a cul-de-sac – surrounded by trees, and a vermilion door and shutters to match. It looks like something out of a Hallmark movie.
Inside, you’ll find the loving couple who’ve worked hard to hit all the right notes – and make their home a warm and welcoming home.
When you arrive, Phil Strons will gladly serve you a cup of coffee, as the voices of Anca Plaviciosu Strons on the piano float through each room. Ludwig von Beethoven was a favorite when visiting CBS 2’s Saavedra.
What more could anyone want in a place to rest your head? Well, it turns out the Stronses want more – Phil pointed out that it looks like a big house for just two people.
“Since we do not have natural children, we can and must share all the blessings we have received with someone who has not been so lucky,” Anka said.
The Stronses decide to adopt, to give themselves and their child the experiences they’ve always dabbled with.
“It would be nice to teach the kids how to ride a bike, and to expose them to new things – it seems like there will be a lot of joy in raising a child,” said Phil.
The couple started their journey in earnest in 2019. Anka is from Romania, so they targeted that country — where she could ease the language barrier.
This led them to work with two agencies. One of them was Alliance for Children Inc. , from Massachusetts, and is certified to work with Romania. The other was the local chapter of the American World Adoption Society, which was to do the home studies required for her adoption.
The couple had what they consider to be fewer requirements for the baby and hope it pays off.
“There was an initial expectation that within a year, we would have children at home,” said Phil.
Now, four years later, the Stronses are sharing how wrong they were. Their goal is not to discourage adoption, but to share the realities of what can be a painful and expensive process.
“So we had these two agencies — and that in itself was a problem,” said Phil. “They don’t seem to communicate well with each other.”
The two agencies couldn’t get on well with Phil and Anca either, according to the couple. They outlined us years of what they saw as unnecessary delays while burning money.
The Stronses say they were careful to pay quickly and submit medical forms, background checks, identification, and other documentation to agencies upon request.
“All the time we needed to provide the documents, we did it right away,” Anka said.
But when it came to the couple’s homeschooling, they claimed America’s cosmopolitan adoption has slowed and hasn’t listened. When the home study was completed, and formally submitted to the Department of Homeland Security, the couple said it was inaccurate and wrong.
The pair marked and annotated parts of the document to show the error — the word “no” appears four different times in the margins of a single page.
The couple specifically said they would not be willing to be adoptive parents to a special needs or disabled child because of their age — but home study abstracts repeatedly claimed the opposite.
One sentence reads: “The Strons have taken into account their ability to provide for a child with special needs, with careful consideration of their abilities, lifestyle, and the needs of their other children.” This included a sarcastic smiley face caption on the document. The Strons do not have any children at all at the moment.
There have been delays with Alliance for Children too – some related to COVID. But the Stronses’ biggest concern came when the company offered a change of state, too.
“The Alliance for Children came up with this suggestion, ‘Hey, we did the adoption with Hungary, and they just informed me they have two girls,’” Anka said.
The Stronses said yes to the proposal, and they soon learned that this change would cost more money. In emails with Alliance for Children, the Stronses were under the impression this adoption would cost $11,450.
In an email from the accounting department, they learned that the bill was actually $22,000.
“Lately we’ve been trying to make payments for this extra money and these receipts that just don’t make sense — and then we find out — oh no, it’s more money than we thought,” Phil said.
The couple don’t believe this was intentional deception, but the lack of clear billing details after so much time and money was just too much. In October, they said they had had enough – ending their dream of girls from Hungary and working relationships with both agencies.
Their bank accounts are still hurting.
“Over $10,000, maybe close to $20,000,” Phil said.
This was even after some small partial refunds from the agencies.
The Stronses feel that the rights they have as customers have not been respected. Phil noted that in a document from an agency titled “Client Rights and Responsibilities,” the first item on the list of points is “You have the right to receive professional, high-quality service.”
Saavedra of CBS 2 asked him if he felt he was getting a quality professional service in the process.
Phil’s answer was, “No, not at all.”
Now, the Strons are four years older than they were when their ordeal began, and they have even less money. Beyond their frustration is pain.
Saavedra asked the Strons if they still had hope that one day, they might still teach a young man how to ride a bike.
Phil started crying.
Strons knew that this process would not be easy. Signs of what hasn’t happened yet are everywhere – like a completely empty bedroom they hoped to fill. It even includes a basket of plush toys that even a young child can play with.
“This is a constant reminder that our dream of adopting children did not come true,” Anka said, standing in the room with Phil.
All the Strons want is for someone to make that room their own–inside that house with the scarlet door, at the end of the cul-de-sac, in a big neighborhood. A place any child would be lucky to call home.
An international adoption is a process where delays are common and result from any number of people and bureaucracies involved. However, we have reached out to both the America World Development and Alliance for Children – but due to customer privacy rules, he will not speak to us formally or informally about his specific Stronses experience.