Edwardsville couple accuses adoption agency of conspiracy

Andrea Dearden Sep. 17, 2010, 4:10am

An Edwardsville couple is suing a local adoption agency for more than $850,000, claiming the company's employees conspired against them.

Patrick and Stacey Stufflebeam filed the lawsuit against Lifelink International Adoption Services Sept. 7 in Madison County Circuit Court. Also named in the suit are three social workers employed by the adoption agency, Carol Kramer, Patricia Radley and Ann Wieczorek.

The Stufflebeams say they first went to Lifelink in 2008 to discuss the possibility of an international adoption. The couple says they were advised they were best suited for a China program and told it would take no more than two years to have a child placed in their home.

A year later, the Stufflebeams say they again met with Lifelink representative Carol Kramer and were told it would be at least two more years until a child from China could be placed in the couple's home.

Knowing they wanted to adopt a child sooner, the Stufflebeams say they asked to be moved to Lifelink's Korea adoption program. They say Kramer told them that change would cost the couple several hundred more dollars.

The Stufflebeams say, in January, they were told the fees they had already paid toward the China adoption program would be transferred to the Korea program. Knowing that, the Stufflebeams claim they paid the agency an additional $400 for a home study with the expectation of moving the adoption process forward.

One day after being told Lifelink would waive additional fees, the Stufflebeams say they received a call from Kramer to inform them the agency would not continue processing the couple's adoption application until they paid $6,400.

The Stufflebeams argue the demand for more money made the adoption financially impossible and caused them severe and extreme emotional distress. Kramer's conduct was "extreme and outrageous and beyond all possible bounds of decency," the lawsuit reads.

The Stufflebeams accuse Lifelink International, Kramer, fellow social worker Ann Wieczorek and supervisor Patricia Radley, of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. They accuse the defendants of conspiracy, claiming the women worked together to force the couple to pay multiple program fees.

The Stufflebeams also accuse the social workers of malpractice for making false statements and the adoption agency of breach of contract. The couple seeks a minimum of $850,000 in damages.

Patrick Stufflebeam is an attorney and is representing himself and his wife in this case. Attorney Jeffrey S. Hebrank is also representing the couple.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 10-L-926

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