NAPERVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — A Naperville couple say they were blessed with full lives – and wanted to share their blessings with the children through adoption.
But their road to parenthood ended in a dead end — and not before costing them thousands of dollars and a piece of each of their hearts.
CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra shared the Strons’ cautionary tale on Wednesday night.
Phil and Anca Plaviciousu Strons live in an area of Naperville 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 sporting a matching crimson door and shutters. It looks like something out of a Hallmark movie.
Inside, you’ll find the loving couple who worked hard to hit all the right notes – and make their home a warm, welcoming home.
Upon arrival, Phil Strons will be happy to offer you a cup of coffee, while the sounds of Anca Plaviciosu Strons on the piano waft through every room. Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Für Elise” was the selection of choice when CBS 2 visited.
What more could you ask for in a place to rest your head? Well, it turns out the Strons want more – Phil pointed out that it felt like a big house for just two people.
“Since we don’t have any natural children, we could and should share all those blessings we received with someone who was not so lucky,” Anca said.
The Strons have decided to adopt, to give themselves and a child the experiences they crave.
“It would be nice to teach the kids to ride bikes, to expose them to new things – it sounds like there would be so much joy in raising a child,” Phil said.
The couple started their journey in earnest in 2019. Anca is originally from Romania, so they targeted that country — because she could ease the language barrier.
This led them to work with two agencies. One was Alliance for Children Inc. of Massachusetts, which is accredited to work with Romania. The other was the local branch of the America World Adoption Association, which was to do the homeschooling required for adoption.
The couple had what they saw as fewer demands for a child and hoped it would pay off.
“There was an initial expectation that within a year we would have kids at home,” Phil said.
Now, four years later, the Strons 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,” Phil said. “They didn’t seem to communicate well with each other.”
The two agencies also couldn’t communicate well with Phil and Anca, according to the couple. They described to us years of what they considered unnecessary delays while burning money.
The Strons say they were diligent in promptly paying and filing medical forms, background checks, proof of identity and other documents to agencies when requested.
“Any time we needed to provide the documents, we did it right away,” Anca said.
But when it comes to the couple’s home study, they allege America World Adoption dragged its feet and didn’t listen. When the home study was completed and officially filed with the Department of Homeland Security, the couple said it was inaccurate and wrong.
The couple highlighted and annotated parts of the document to show what was wrong – with the word ‘no’ appearing four different times in the margins of one page.
The couple specifically said they would not be willing to be adoptive parents of a disabled or special-needs child because of their age – but the home study summary repeatedly claimed otherwise.
One sentence read: “The Strons have considered their ability to care for a child with special needs, carefully considering their abilities, lifestyle and the needs of their other children.” This warranted an annotation of a sarcastic smiley on the document. The Strons have no children at all at this time.
There have also been delays with Alliance for Children – some of them COVID-related. But the Strons’ biggest concern came when the company also offered a country change.
“Alliance for Children came up with this proposal, ‘Hey, we did an adoption with Hungary, and they just let me know they had two girls,'” Anca said.
The Strons said yes to this proposal and quickly learned that this change would cost more. In emails with Alliance for Children, the Strons were under the impression that this adoption would cost $11,450.
In an email from the accounting department, they learned that the invoice was actually $22,000.
“Recently we’ve been trying to make payments on this extra money and receipts that didn’t make sense – and then we found out – oh no, it’s even more money than we thought,” said Phil.
The couple don’t believe it was an intentional deception, but the lack of a clear billing breakdown after so much time and money was too much. In October, they said they had had enough – ending their dream of the Hungarian girls and their working relationship with the two agencies.
Their bank accounts are still suffering.
“Well over $10,000, probably close to $20,000,” Phil said.
This was even after a few small partial refunds from agencies.
The Strons believe that the rights they have as customers were not respective. Phil noted that in a document from one of the agencies titled “Client Rights and Responsibilities,” the first item in a bulleted list is: “You have the right to quality professional service.”
CBS 2’s Saavedra asked him if he felt he got professional-grade service in the process.
Phil’s response was, “No, absolutely not.”
Now the Strons are four years older than they were when they began their ordeal, and they have less money. What hides behind their frustration is pain.
Saavedra asked the Strons if they still had hope that one day they could still teach a youngster to ride a bike.
Phil started crying.
The Strons knew this process would not be easy. The signs of what still hasn’t happened are everywhere – like an empty room they hoped to fill. There is even a basket of plush toys for a young child to play with.
“It’s a constant reminder that, in fact, our dream of adopting children didn’t come true,” Anca said as she and Phil stood in the room.
All the Strons want is for someone to make this room their own – inside this crimson door house, at the end of the cul-de-sac, in a great neighborhood. A place any child would be lucky enough to call home.
International adoption is a process where delays are common and caused by a number of people and bureaucracies involved. Still, we reached out to America World Adoption and Alliance for Children – but due to client confidentiality rules, neither spoke to us officially or unofficially about the specific experience of the Strons.