Black Market Babies Seeking Answers Through Facebook


"My grandmother picked me up from the hospital and she was probably the only one to meet my birth mother," Bernstein said. "My birth mother had said I think my daughter is going to a very nice home because that's a very nice blanket."

Along with kinship, members of the Facebook group trade tips on how to search for their biological families.

"I believe my natural mother would be frightened to contact me for fear of persecution," Bernstein said. "In any closed adoption, not having a birth name to start with is an obstacle in itself. It [being a Fenichel adoptee] adds more barriers because unlike an agency adoption, should any of my birth family seek to contact me, there is no one for them to tell that to and relay that message to me."

For Resources and More Information About Searching for Birth Families or Adoptees,Click Here.

Seymour Fenichel "Ringleader" of Adoption Scam

Fenichel, who was also a rabbi, worked with Childhaven to facilitate private adoptions for often wealthy, Jewish New York couples.

The ring encompassed at least 21 states and Canada. In the last four years of its operation, up to 160 birth mothers were involved. They would travel from across the country to stay in homes in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. The women were paid at least $2,000. Appleton said that she was paid $8,000.

Couples who were adopting would pay up to $36,000 for a child.

At the time of his arrest in 1989, Fenichel was described by then-New York Attorney General Robert Abrams as the ringleader of an operation that "preyed on the emotions" of childless couples.

"I saw grown men and women cry… individuals not able to have a child spent a lot of time and money to have a child and when they got close, the rug was pulled from under them and the baby was sold to the highest bidder," Alfredo Mendez, a former assistant attorney general who helped prosecute the case, told

"Then you have birth mothers and the conditions they were under, the threats, allegations, being forced to give up the baby," Mendez said.

Fenichel would arrange for the babies to be picked up in sometimes bizarre places, like parking lots.

Lois Kaufman and her husband at the time, Steve Gralla, were one of the couples who enlisted Fenichel's help. They adopted two babies in the 1970s.

Kaufman, now 63, met Fenichel through her father in 1972.

"They were both religious men and so maybe they knew each other from the Jewish community as well as them both being lawyers," she said.

Desperate to have a child, Kaufman, her husband, her parents and in-laws met with Fenichel.

"He said it could take up to 18 months," Kaufman said. "He said he will only give a baby to us if the baby is formally converted so that it will be Jewish."

While she found that request odd, she agreed. Kaufman's father and mother left for a cruise the day after the meeting. Sadly, her father died on that cruise.

"Mr. Fenichel found out that my father passed away and he called me and he said to me that because my father died, he's going to move me up on the list and I would get the very next boy and he wanted it to be a boy so I would name him after my father," the woman said.

Within five weeks, Kaufman and her husband were flying to Miami to pick up their baby boy. They paid Fenichel $8,000 and named him Saul after Kaufman's father, like Fenichel had requested.

Lois Kaufman and her husband adopted two children through Fenichel in the 1970s. (Courtesy of Beni Cunningham)

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