Mum, 20, gives baby away for $8,000
She will turn 21 in December. And she recently gave away her baby in exchange for $8,000.
Caly (not her real name) insists it was not for monetary gain. But she admits the money will come in handy as she and her husband are in financial difficulties.
She made this clear in several online advertisements she posted in May: "My husband and I are putting our 5-month-old daughter of mixed blood up for adoption due to financial constraints and also because we are not ready for a kid.
"We are looking for a sincere couple to adopt her as soon as possible for a small adoption fee as costs are getting almost impossible to cope with.
"Please understand that we wouldn't be asking for any fee if we didn't really need it as we feel bad enough for having to do this, but our situation is quite dire financially."
About two weeks after the ads appeared, a reader alerted The New Paper, saying: "We are just worried that it may be child trafficking or (the) baby may be sold to (a) paedophile."
When TNP, posing as a prospective adopter, contacted Caly, she replied in an e-mail at the end of May, saying: "I have already found a couple to adopt my baby girl and have given her away this week."
In a meeting with TNP last week, Caly agreed to talk about the adoption.
The baby was born two months after Caly married her husband last September. They were not financially ready for a child and the timing was wrong.
She had asked for the small adoption fee because "we had a lot of bills to pay off".
Caly said: "We never accepted nor asked for any money with the intent of selling our child.
"We love her a lot but we were not financially able to provide her with all that a child will need."
The highest offer was $10,000, but the deal didn't go through. Caly said: "They wanted her as a companion for their adopted daughter. That didn't seem right to me."
Just as she almost changed her mind about the adoption, another couple approached her.
"They had contacted me before but I didn't reply to them. They were persistent and tried again. I knew they were serious. So I thought it was fated."
They gave Caly $8,000 and paid for the "legal paperwork". Caly stressed that everything was above board. "The adoption was handled legally and the whole process went through the legal channels," she said.
But she admitted she had not approached any of the agencies accredited with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
TNP understands the adoption may not be legal.
An MSF spokesman told TNP: "Prospective adopters will have to abide by Section 11 of the Adoption of Children Act and provide the Court with the details of any financial transactions involved in the transfer of the child."
Caly claimed the adoption was handled by a lawyer from a firm in Toa Payoh. But TNP checks show the firm she mentioned does not have a branch in Toa Payoh. She would not reveal the lawyer's name.
She said: "At first, we wanted to give my baby up for free because there were only three (inquiries). I told my husband, just give up for free.
"But I pitied him because he is the only one working. I thought this is the only way to get money. I thought even $1,000 or $2,000 would help."
Her husband, 25, who runs a business selling mobile phone accessories, declined to be interviewed.
Caly admitted telling the couple that she and her husband had financial difficulties.
"I told them, 'It is fine if you don't want to help, you can take her for free. If you can help, please help,'" she said.
Asked if it was difficult to give away her baby, Caly said: "Actually, I wanted to give her up since I became pregnant but I didn't want to abort because it was a life.
"But in the hospital, after you give birth, you see your kid. She is still my daughter.
"She is very cute and a very quiet girl. Very different from other babies. She didn't cry or make a fuss. But we really didn't have a choice."
Her mother-in-law was furious to learn of the adoption.
"We didn't tell her and when she found out, you can imagine how upset she was. In the end, she forgave us."
Caly has not been in contact with the adoptive parents since the adoption. She declined to put us in touch with the couple.
She said the money had helped to clear some debts but "things are still not easy".
"We are still living with my mum-in-law. And I intend to return to my studies."
She is very cute and a very quiet girl. Very different from other babies. She didn't cry or make a fuss. But we really didn't have a choice.
Couples go online to adopt babies
More childless couples are turning to online forums to look for a baby. Dozens of posts on adoption can be found on various parenting websites.
Some women cited cost and the ease of mind as factors for taking their search online, reported The Straits Times.
One woman, who had e-mailed Caly after seeing her online post, told The New Paper that she was prepared to pay up to $15,000 for the baby. But Caly did not respond to her e-mail.
Dancer Jackie Othman, 38, said: "I am too old to have my own child and even if I could, I've always wanted a baby girl."
Another childless couple who had been keen on adopting Caly's baby said they wanted to avoid the long process of adoption.
The married couple of 11 years have given up trying for a baby after three miscarriages.
The wife, a 40-year-old car sales manager who wanted to be known only as Dawn, said: "My Dutch husband and I didn't mind having to pay some money - anything below $20,000 is reasonable for us."
They recently placed ads on one parenting website and three online classified forums, instead of approaching adoption agencies accredited with Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) or a commercial agent.
Dawn said: "The length of time (from five to seven months) from application to approval is too long. And this does not include the briefing we have to attend."
Since 2012, prospective adopters must attend a Pre-Adoption Briefing before identifying a child or beginning the adoption process.
An MSF spokesman said: "The steps in the adoption process are meant to prepare the prospective adopters for adoption and safeguard the interests of the child."
Dawn said: "I can understand the rationale behind that, but we just don't have the time."
Since their online ads appeared two weeks ago, Dawn said she has received about eight offers.
But only two women have asked for money.
Use proper channels: Ministry
Caly did not approach any agencies accredited with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF)to put her daughter up for adoption.
She also asked for and accepted money without making any application to the Family Court during the process.
The New Paper understands that what she did may not have been legal.
A spokesman for MSF said: "Adoption is governed under the Adoption of Children Act (ACA). The Family Court is the authority that decides on adoption applications, and prospective adopters must initiate and complete the legal process in adopting a child."
Without the legal process, any voluntary placement of a child with another family would be considered an informal care arrangement, rather than an "illegal" adoption.
It is against the law to pay the adopted child's biological parents. Under the Children and Young Persons Act, offenders can be jailed up to five years, or fined up to $10,000, or both.
The MSF spokesman said: "The ACA prohibits any payment or reward to the biological or adoptive parents for the adoption of the child, except with the sanction of the Court. The Court requires the prospective adopters to provide details if there are financial transactions in obtaining the child."
MSF-accredited agencies, such as Touch Family Services and Apkim Centre for Social Services, "offer counselling for the birth parents, as well as facilitate the adoption process and match the child to suitable adopters".
Ms Gloria James, a lawyer with Gloria James-Civetta & Co, said: "Asking for monies would make the adoption 'transaction' illegal, as parties are not supposed to exchange payment.
"Even if no monies have been exchanged, the paperwork must be filed in court. Without a formal adoption, the status of the child (who the child belongs to) would become an issue."
In Caly's case, Ms James said: "The child could be ordered to be returned to the natural parents. If they are not capable of taking care of the child, MSF can put the child under foster care."
How do I file for adoption?
Apply to the Family Court through a lawyer or in person. Refer to the State Courts of Singapore - Adoptions for the legal process.
How long does it take to process an adoption application?
Between five and seven months from application to approval from the Court.
How much do I have to pay the child's biological parents?
Section 11 of the Adoption of Children Act (Chapter 4) prohibits any payment or reward to the biological parents for the adoption of the child, unless it is allowed by the Court in Singapore.
If any cost is incurred in the transfer of the child, prospective adopters are required to provide itemised breakdown of the cost and justify it with supporting documents and receipts.
For more information, go to www.adoption.gov.sg
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of children legally adopted last year, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development.