Couples Believe Adoption Agency Promised Them Same Child

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Twelve couples hoping to adopt a baby girl believe an adoption agency may have promised all of them the same child -- a charge the adoption agency denies.

Two of the couples told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" that they and others thought they were adopting a baby girl, and each family was waiting desperately for the day she was born.

Holly Longino took medication to produce breast milk and filled her refrigerator with hundreds of ounces.

"[A woman at the agency] told us that she was 99.9 percent sure that this was our baby," Longino said.

Longino started an online journal detailing her preparations and frustration when she was told the baby wasn't coming.

Soon, Stacey VanMarkwyk, another woman who was promised the same child, found Longino's writings and noticed they shared nearly identical experiences.

"It all came together when I got home," said Jon VanMarkwyk, Stacey VanMarkwyk's husband, of his wife's contact with Longino, "and Stacey said, 'I just felt like I was talking to myself on the other line.'"

The VanMarkwyks say more than 12 other couples were promised the same baby by Kerry Long, owner of Barren Blessings.

"It seemed like it was the answer to our prayers," said Stacey VanMarkwyk.

"As long as the birth mother didn't decide at the last minute to pick someone on her own, it was our baby," Longino said she was told.

They are now filing suit and wonder whether that child even existed.

R. Lee Wellborne, Long's attorney, denied any wrongdoing.

"The baby existed," Wellborne told ABC News. "Yes, the mother existed, and later on the mother changed her mind about what route to go with the baby."

Thomas Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption, called the situation cruel.

"The feelings that people go through when they are adopting a child, or trying to adopt a child, [are] very intense," Atwood said, "and it's … the cruelest kind of thing to play with those dreams in a fraudulent way."

The couples say they're heartbroken and angry.

"There is nothing that she could say to me at this point to tell me why it was okay to tell 11-12-13-and-growing number of families that they were all going to go get this kid," said Jeff Longino, Holly's husband.

How to Protect Yourself

Adoption experts say such situations are rare, but there are ways that you can protect yourself if you're looking to adopt a child.

Use licensed agencies.

First, look for licensed adoption agencies. They have to meet government regulations and face regular reviews. Reputable agencies should be able and willing to provide you with numerous references. Call other parents that have worked with the agency and ask about their experiences.

Review the agency with your state government.

Every state has some form of office that licenses adoption agencies. They can tell you whether an agency's license is current and whether they have any complaints against them.

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