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Claar Foundation and Lisa Novak

I first made mention of Claar and Novak in my May 7th entry, News- Adoption agencies under fire (Colorado) without going into much detail. By way of introduction, I’ll quote the article I was blogging at the time:

(Speaking of the few CO agencies that actually bothered to report employee salaries to the state audit,)

Of the 14 agencies that did, the Claar Foundation reported paying the highest annual salary: $169,350.

Claar’s director, Novak, has been charged with two counts of theft and one count of fraud, and the agency has closed. She was accused of taking thousands of dollars from prospective parents but never completing adoptions. A preliminary hearing is scheduled May 19 in Boulder.

This Longmont Times Call article, Adoption theft hearing will resume Friday, goes into a fair amount of detail about that hearing. I’d advise you just go look at the full article to get a real feel for how this went down, but this will give you the gist of it:

Boulder County Judge Care Hoye Enichen stepped in several times to calm tensions between Novak’s attorney Lance Goff and witness Jaspal Singh as the man testified about his troubles with the Claar Foundation and Novak.

At one point, Goff asked if Singh understood he could not “purchase” a child.

“This is not a purchase, sir,” Singh told the attorney, obviously upset.

Novak, a former Erie trustee, is facing charges of theft and check fraud. She is accused of taking money from hopeful adoptive parents who used the Claar Foundation to try to adopt children from other countries. Singh’s testimony came during a preliminary hearing on one of the theft charges. The hearing is scheduled to continue Friday.

Singh, 32, told a Boulder judge that he and his wife, 61, spent two years and more than $61,000 to adopt a Guatemalan boy through Lisa Novak at the Claar Foundation agency, but that process was riddled with mistakes, mounting unexpected fees and unfulfilled promises.

Novak and her husband Marty Claar often shook their heads or smiled at Singh’s testimony. Enichen warned Goff that Novak’s “incessant” comments to him were distracting her from Singh’s testimony.

The Rocky Mountain News in its piece Ex-trustee in court over adoption fraud, explained the heart of the Novak defense:

Novak’s lawyer, Lance Goff, said the Singhs’ contract explicitly refused to guarantee successful adoptions. He suggested that it was the Singhs who bumbled the adoption bureaucracy.

Which is to say, yet again, Prospective Adopter, the watchword when dealing with agencies is “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware. Flowery promises from agencies mean nothing, watch what you’re signing, and forking over cash to the tune of $61,000 with nothing to show for it pretty much means you may well be boned.

But again, this has yet to go through the courts, and Novak defense aside, I’m willing to bet there’s a heck of a lot more to it than that. In order to keep the Singhs on the hook, no doubt certain things WERE promised or at bare minimum given the full appearance of promises. (So stay tunned kiddies, this promises to be quite the show.)

After that initial hearing, the judge ruled the case against Lisa Novak can go forward. (See for example the Tribune’s piece, Woman could stand trial in adoption fraud case.)

See just when you thought I’d finally be doing an entry on domestic adoption, we’re back to Guatemala YET AGAIN! Because at the heart of the Claar foundation charges are of promised Guatemalan adoptees who never materialized, the money for such also appears to have ‘disappeared.’

Lisa Novak of Erie is accused of failing to deliver on adoptions promised to two families through an orphanage in Guatemala. The families say they never got their money back. The 48-year-old Novak was charged with two counts of felony theft and one county of felony fraud.

So why Guatemala, why are we always back here again?

The short answer is that Guatemala was a ‘quick and easy’ compared to some other ‘sending countries.’ In light of its reputation, it was then easy to bilk potential adopters with the lure of a Guatemalan adoption purely based on the reputation of how ‘probable’ such would be.

The word was out, on the street on the net, adoptions from Guatemala were relatively easy, restrictions were more lax, they went through relatively quickly, and the supply of Guatemalan kids up until very recently appeared endless. Guatemala was the second largest market for American adopters.

As for Novak, she’ll be entering her plea in a June 20th court date. She is currently free on bail.

One Response to “Claar Foundation and Lisa Novak”

  1. Baby Love Child Says:

    Also be sure to see this May 11, 2008 New York Times article entitled “New Rules and Economy Strain Adoption Agencies

    “In some cases, the closings have come without warning, leaving people without the thousands of dollars in fees they paid to an agency or the child they had thought would finally be theirs.

    They have also led to lawsuits and criminal investigations, as some struggling agencies have apparently turned to more desperate business practices to stay afloat.”

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