They spent about $12,000 on food, household items, moving expenses, on top of dropping everything to run errands for Chester and the birth father of the child the Hodgersons believed they would adopt.
But, Cory and Vanessa say they ignored their instincts when warning signs came up. They believe other couples in their situation do that same thing.
“Let me be clear, when I say adoption is not for the faint of heart, I mean because there is risk,” Vanessa said.
”If that’s something I can say to adoptive couples, it is ’guard yourself,’” Cory said, “And it’s hard to not be desperate. It really is very difficult.”
Vanessa said, ”Even though all these red flags go off in your mind, the desperation causes you to ignore those, rely on hope.”
As the Hodgersons revealed their desperation, they told us they believe they looked past warning signs. Additionally, they think adoptive parents give up a lot of control in the process. They’re forced to work with an adoption attorney selected by the birth mother. That attorney may have divided interests, so the Hodgersons believe an additional level of transparency is needed, even a mandate for full disclosure.
Vanessa and Cory say they learned things about the birth mother after the fraud happened -– that they believe would have kept them from continuing the process.
Other red flags the Hodgersons looked past, concern finances, and a funny feeling in their gut. During the first meeting once they were selected, the Hodgersons and Chester talked about money. Chester said she didn’t need anything, just her cell phone bill paid. She had a rent-free place to live. That soon changed, with Chester saying electric service had been shut down, and that she needed her own apartment. Vanessa says she knew it was a lie at the time, but didn’t want to rock the boat.
Months later, the adoption attorney received an anonymous voicemail, saying Candace was defrauding the Hodgersons. The Hodgersons and the lawyer confronted Chester with the voicemail. She said she’d never heard the voice before. Later, during the investigation by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Hodgersons discovered Chester’s attorney found out it was Chester’s aunt who made that phone call.
Despite the lack of honesty, the Hodgersons moved forward, hoping and praying their dream for a baby would come true.
Hope wasn’t enough to bring a child to these Florida State graduates, but they do have a great story about adoption.
For this Orange Park couple, the story doesn’t end with the crime or the punishment for the woman who deceived them.
In the past year, they’ve become a family of five. It’s because the Hodgersons investigated what happened in their case of fraud. It is one of the happiest endings there could be to a story like this.
”I love it, I absolutely love it,” Cory said.
The incredible disappointment led the Hodgersons to start over.
”We decided to go back to drawing board, how to become parents,” Cory remembered.
A question they hadn’t considered before, turned their world upside down again. This time, for the better. When the Hodgersons visited another adoption attorney, two brothers and their little sister sat in the waiting room. Their mom was there, giving them up for adoption.
”Vanessa lit up. I started sweating,” Cory said. “It's probably two miles from his office to Vanessa's office. By time we got there Vanessa was crying, saying she thinks this is what we need to do, apply for these three. I said, (laughing) I think you need a drink.”
What they both needed was to think on it, and pray, and find the courage to expose their emotions again. Once they did, they were parents in the blink of an eye.
Cory said, “We applied Monday, were selected Tuesday, met birth mother Wednesday, we met the children that Saturday, the following Saturday: they were ours.”