Oh, Baby Baby

There's a lot of money to be made in adoptions. Jennalee Ryan moved to Texas to continue doing that.

According to Jennifer, the disgruntled neighbor, Robert Hildreth, appeared at her door, red-faced and irate that her 11-year-old son rode his all-terrain vehicle on Hildreth's property, scaring his Friesian horses. (This had been a problem in the tony La Cresta subdivision for some time. The homeowners association had sued Ryan in 2000 for allowing her kids to ride motorcycles and ATVs on other people's lawns.) She let Hildreth address her boy, Sean, figuring he'd scold him. Instead, she says, Hildreth first punched Sean, chased him when he fled, pushed him to the ground and proceeded to kick him. A shocked Ryan called 911, but the cop was not interested in arresting Hildreth.

"Why? I'll tell you why," she says. "Because I was a single mother living in a house with eight children of all different colors, and I lived in a lily-white neighborhood and I was a strong woman and...I didn't march to the tune of everyone else's drum. It's very costly to think outside of the box. There's a price to pay."

So for some reason, after Hildreth beat the tar out of her kid, he successfully sought restraining orders against the Ryan household.

There's a lot of money to be made in adoptions. Jennalee Ryan moved to Texas to continue doing that.
Gandee Vasan
There's a lot of money to be made in adoptions. Jennalee Ryan moved to Texas to continue doing that.
Jennalee Ryan says she has a need to rescue children.
Mark Greenberg
Jennalee Ryan says she has a need to rescue children.

Hildreth declined to comment for this story, but his court petitions explain his side of the story. According to those records, friction arose between three of Ryan's sons and Hildreth's mentally handicapped son. So Hildreth asked the kids to no longer come to his house, and he notified Ryan. When the kids came over ten days later, Hildreth asked them to leave. Ryan subsequently appeared and threatened Hildreth's wife. This was followed a few days later by Ryan's three boys punching Hildreth's boy on the school bus. They continued to harass Hildreth's son.

Hildreth stated that he did confront Sean, but wrote that the boy "threw his chest into me. Surprised, I shoved him back, but Sean was left standing."

"They have repeatedly threatened my family and livestock/pets," Hildreth wrote.

But the highlight is Hildreth's explanation for why he included Ryan's seven-year-old boy (the one adopted kid who was not un-adopted) in his request for protective orders.

"[It] is simply intended to force the inattentive mother, Ms. Potter, to keep better watch of her young child and to keep him from coming on our property and getting hurt," he wrote. "[The boy] has shown up at our house (as well as others) unattended by anyone else (we are almost half a mile away) complaining of the treatment he was receiving by his brother, Sean: ‘Sean tied me to a tree with a chain around my neck and beat me with a stick.'"

Now, on to Utah.


Enacted in 1960, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children was designed to monitor interstate adoptions and ensure child welfare by making sure the "sending" and "receiving" states knew exactly where each child was going. Under ICPC guidelines, mothers must notify fathers of children intended for interstate placement.

Apparently, Utah adoption agencies weren't paying strict attention, because in 2001, the Utah Department of Human Services warned agencies it would put the smackdown on any outfit that worked with mothers who did not notify fathers.

Three adoption agencies filed suit in Utah, claiming that ICPC guidelines do not apply to expectant mothers. In 2004, the Utah State Court of Appeals agreed.

One of the suing agencies, Adoption Center of Choice, had previously gained attention for handling the adoption of the child of a Chicago woman who may have been suffering from postpartum depression.

Eula McNulty, 24 at the time, told reporters she wanted to put her seven-month-old son up for adoption, and responded to the Adoption Center of Choice's Yellow Page ad. The agency paid for her flight to its office in Orem, Utah. After McNulty approved of the adoptive couple the agency introduced her to, Adoption Center for Choice gave her $1,300 in cash and sent her back to Chicago. What should have been a smooth exchange of an envelope stuffed with cash for a kid gained notoriety when McNulty changed her mind, but was unable to undo the adoption. (The deadline for a mother and/or father to revoke consent for adoption varies among states, with the most common [15 states] being 72 hours. In Utah, it is 36 hours).

This brings us back to James C. Webb, the aforementioned insurance agent. Although Adoption Center of Choice is located outside Salt Lake City, it was created by and is owned by Webb. Webb's business address is also listed as the address for the Abraham Center of Life's California office, incorporated in February 2007.

Before his multifaceted insurance office was either of those entities, it was home base for A Heart of Gold Adoptions, incorporated in California in 1995 and since dissolved. A 2003 Yellow Pages ad for A Heart of Gold Adoptions lists a Web site and toll-free number that directs people to Adoption Center of Choice, never identified in the ad. While Adoption Center of Choice's Web site features people who are supposedly on staff, no names are mentioned anywhere. But a quick check of state records lists the executive director as GiGi Allred and the owner as James C. Webb.

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