NAPERVILLE, ill. (CBS) — A Naperville couple say they have been blessed with a fulfilling life — and they wanted to share their blessings with children through adoption.
But her path to parenthood hit a dead end — and not without costing her thousands of dollars and a piece of her heart.
CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra shared the Stronses’ cautionary tale on Wednesday night.
Phil and Anca Plaviciousu Strons live in a Naperville neighborhood known for its schools, parks and places to spend family time. They find their house at the end of a cul-de-sac – framed by trees and with a crimson door and matching shutters. It looks like something out of a Hallmark movie.
Inside you’ll find the loving couple who have worked hard to find the right tone – and make their house a warm and 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 float through every room. Ludwig von Beethoven’s Für Elise was the pick of choice when CBS 2’s Saavedra was visiting.
What more could you ask for 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.
“Having no biological children, we could and should share all of these blessings that we’ve received with someone who wasn’t quite so fortunate,” Anca said.
The Stronses decided to adopt to give themselves and a child the experiences they long for.
“It would be nice to teach kids to ride bikes and expose them to new things — it sounds like there are so many joys in raising a child,” said Phil.
The couple started their journey in earnest in 2019. Anca is from Romania, so they targeted that country — as she was able to overcome the language barrier.
This led them to work with two agencies. One of them was Alliance for Children Inc. from Massachusetts, which is accredited to work with Romania. The other was the local branch of the America World Adoption Association, which was tasked with conducting the home studies necessary for adoption.
The couple felt they had fewer requirements for a child and hoped that 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 Stronses are sharing how wrong they were. Their goal is not to prevent 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.”
According to the couple, the two agencies were also not able to communicate well with Phil and Anca. They outlined for us years of what they considered unnecessary delays while burning money.
The Stronses say they have been diligent in quickly paying for and submitting to authorities medical forms, background checks, ID proof and other paperwork when requested.
“All the time it took us to provide the documents, we did it right away,” Anca said.
But when it came to the couple’s home study, they claimed America World Adoption was delayed and not listening. When the home study was completed and officially filed with the Department of Homeland Security, the couple say it was inaccurate and false.
The pair marked and annotated parts of the document to show what was wrong – with the word “no” appearing four times in the margins of a page.
The couple specifically said that because of their own age, they would not be willing to be adoptive parents of a child with special needs or a disability – but the home-study summary repeatedly claimed the opposite.
One sentence read: “The Strons have assessed their ability to care for a child with special needs, taking careful consideration of their abilities, lifestyle and the needs of their other children.” This warranted a sarcastic smiley face annotation on the document. The Stronses have no children at all at the moment.
Alliance for Children has also experienced delays – some related to COVID. However, the Strons family’s biggest concern came when the company also proposed a change of country.
“Alliance for Children came up with this suggestion: ‘Hey, we did an adoption with Hungary, and they just let me know that they have two girls,'” Anca said.
The Strons family said yes to the proposal and quickly learned that the change would cost more money. In emails with Alliance for Children, the Strons were under the impression that this adoption would cost $11,450.
In an email from accounting, they learned that the bill was actually $22,000.
“Recently we were trying to make payments for this extra money and these receipts that didn’t make sense — and then found out — oh no, it’s even more money than we thought,” Phil said.
The pair don’t believe this was deliberate deception, but the lack of a clear billing breakdown after spending so much time and money was too much. In October, they said they’d had enough – ended their dream of the girls from Hungary and their collaboration with both agencies.
Their bank accounts are still suffering.
“Well over $10,000, probably close to $20,000,” Phil said.
This was the case even after some small partial refunds from the agencies.
The Strons family does not feel that their rights as clients are being respected. Phil noted that in a document from one of the agencies entitled “Customer Rights and Responsibilities,” the first item on a bulleted list reads, “You have the right to professional quality service.”
CBS 2’s Saavedra asked him if he felt he was receiving professional quality service in the process.
Phil’s response was, “No, absolutely not.”
Now the Stronses are four years older than when their ordeal began, and they have less money. What lies behind their frustration is pain.
Saavedra asked the Stronses if they still had any hope that one day they would still teach a teenager to ride a bike.
Phil started crying.
The Stronses knew this process would not be easy. Everywhere traces of what has not yet happened – like a whole empty bedroom that they hoped to fill. It even has a basket of stuffed animals for a small child to play with.
“It’s a constant reminder that our dream of adopting children didn’t materialize,” Anca said as she and Phil stood in the room.
All the Stronses want is for someone to make this room their own – in that house with the purple door, down a cul-de-sac, in a great neighborhood. A place any child would happily call home.