"We paid the money. She said if we didn't pay her the money right away, we would lose her," recalled Helene.
What followed was heartbreaking. The adoption fell through the facilitator never returned calls.
"Devastating, it's very upsetting," described Helene.
"I think she took more than advantage of us she violated us," said Dan.
"She" is Adrienne Lewis. CBS News obtained a videotape of Lewis, who does much of her business cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet. Lewis is an unlicensed adoption facilitator who brokers deals between adoptive parents and the birth mothers of waiting children.
"It's not like I was looking to adopt, I was just sitting here one day and it was there," said Kimberly Backman, an adoptive mother.
"It was cruel, it was cruel what she did," said Kimberly.
According to Backman, Lewis abandoned her in Tijuana with an adopted newborn baby girl. The child had no papers and Backman had no idea if the adoption would hold up in the United States. "I didn't know if they could deport her; I didn't know if she was legal," she said.
CBS News contacted Lewis, but she refused to be interviewed about the allegations against her, saying only, "I have no comment, because I am not unethical."
No one knows for sure how many adoption failitators operate in the U.S. or how many are in cyberspace. But what is clear is most of them are unlicensed and laws governing their activity vary from state to state.
"Being totally unregulated you could end up working with someone who is unreputable," warns National Council For Adoption President Patrick Purtill. "I wouldn't do anything like that over the Internet. It's foolish and the folks who are doing it are showing a level of naivete that's astounding," he said.
When couples like the Kirlins try to find a government agency that will take their complaints about a facilitator, "You go down every avenue and the door is slams in your face," said Helene Kirline.
In fact when the Kurlines' lawyers filed suit against Lewis, they tipped of the San Diego District Attorney to many other complaints against her. The response: a letter saying there was nothing the DA's office could do.
The response was the same in Louisiana, where adoption facilitating is illegal. CBS News found a stack of allegations of fraud and deception against Lewis there. But the state licensing board would only say Lewis is under investigation.
"I question whether there was ever going to be an adoption," said Dan Kirlin.
The Kirlins won a $20,000 judgement against Lewis, but they've never seen a penny. What still haunts them most is not knowing whatever happened to little Irena, the child they still consider a part of their family.
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