A La Mirada-based organization that provides family and children services worldwide is suing a woman who once sought adoption placement services from the nonprofit group, alleging she has defamed them with more than 1,000 “false and disparaging” social media posts.
Bethany Christian Services Inc. brought the suit Friday against Valerie Garcia, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as an injunction preventing her from repeating the allegedly defamatory posts, some of which have been copied and attached to the complaint.
Garcia could not be reached for comment on the Los Angeles Superior Court suit, which says posts that she has published on Yelp.com have targeted employees of Bethany’s La Mirada location in an alleged attempt to disrupt the group’s client relationships in California.
Bethany Christian Services was founded in 1944 and provides faith-based support services to families around the globe, including adoption, foster care and refugee assistance services, the suit states. Expectant parents who believe they are not yet prepared for the challenges of parenthood can receive family and parental counseling, according to the suit.
Garcia, then 17 years old, sought Bethany’s adoption placement services in 2006 and the child she was carrying was placed with an adoptive family, the suit states.
Garcia, who “never volunteered for Bethany or had any other official involvement with the nonprofit,” began posting “false and disparaging” comments about the organization on Facebook, and Instagram in 2019, according to the complaint, which states that the number of posts exceeded 1,000 as of the filing of the suit.
“It appears her defamation stems from her perception that Bethany provided her illicit pregnancy counseling during her adoption process and intentionally violated all adoption protocols during that process,” the suit states.
Under the username “underagebirthmother,” Garcia has called Bethany’s adoption services a “scam” and accused Bethany of “fraud,” as well as “illegal adoptions and predatory behavior,” “intentional reproductive abuse” and “repeatedly continuing to violate state laws and unnecessarily separating families for their predatory adoption scams,” the suit states.
Other posts have accused Bethany of being “cheaters,” of “adoption fraud,” and of “false marketing claims,” according to the suit, which says Garcia has also created several YouTube videos to “spread her defamatory speech.”
“None of Garcia’s claims is supported by a shred of credible evidence or support and each of her accusations is false,” the suit states.
Garcia’s alleged defamation “goes to the heart of Bethany’s credibility in the adoption services field,” risking “the complete destruction of Bethany’s ability to achieve its mission and provide faith-based adoption assistance to those in need,” according to the complaint.
The community of adoption service organizations depends on a shared trust, making a provider’s reputation critically important because referrals and recommendations are central to a provider’s ability to connect with individuals in need of its services, the suit states.
Recently, prospective adoptive parents who had initiated proceedings to adopt a child through Bethany’s services ended their involvement with the organization, citing Garcia’s allegedly false statements as the thrust for their decision, according to the suit.
“While Bethany had hoped that the positivity of their message and their unblemished track record of providing honest, faith-based adoption services around the globe would overcome this one false voice, Garcia’s relentlessness in spreading her deception has established the need for legal intervention,” the suit states.
Garcia’s alleged defamation will “irreparably harm Bethany if unchecked and with that harm will come harm to thousands of children that Bethany places with loving adoptive families every year,” the suit states.