CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) --The shutdown of a highly-respected, Bay Area child adoption agency shattered the dreams of hundreds of would-be parents when it suddenly went bankrupt.
Now, the bankruptcy trustee is going after the directors to pay back the families.
The emotions run deep for those who longed to start a family and thought they were on track to bring home a son or daughter. But doors suddenly closed, leaving them without their money, trust, and most importantly, a child.
The baby's nursery is almost ready in Andrea and Brad Boca's Oakland home. They have little onesies, baby books and this handmade quilt. The only thing missing is their baby.
"I opened my email, and it was all over," Andrea said, recalling learning the adoption would not be going through.
"She called me on the phone," her husband, Brad, recalled. "She was hysterical. It felt like someone had died. She said, 'Oh, our future just died. That what it felt like."
Brad and Andrea, unable to conceive, pit all their hopes for having a child with the non-profit, Independent Adoption Center of Concord, known as IAC.
They took out a $15,000 loan to pay the fees, went through months of screenings, home studies, background checks and made a full-color brochure showcasing themselves to prospective birth mothers.
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They had just been approved, when the adoption center abruptly shut down in January. The bankruptcy crushed the dreams of more than 1,000 hopeful parents across the country.
Clients said they never saw it coming. IAC had boasted a 35-year record of success, never giving a hint of the possible shutdown.
Now, bankruptcy court trustee Marlene Weinstein is suing the entire Board of Directors and Interim Executive Director Marcia Hodges, who alone collected $181,000 in salaries in the months before the bankruptcy.
Board President Greg Kuhl declined an interview with ABC7 News.
But, in a bankruptcy hearing recorded by the court, Kuhl said he knew the agency was struggling.
"We were always successful in rebuilding, reinventing ourselves and rebuilding, and we thought we could do it again," Kuhl said in court.
Shane and Angela Stevens, from Livermore, went through five months of screenings, refinanced their house and scraped up the $15,000 to pay IAC in cash.
"We refinanced our house,'' Angela Stevens said.
Brad and Andrea remain incensed, they say, the agency took their final $2,400 in December, knowing IAC could go under in January.
Kuhl, in his court testimony, said the situation was heartbreaking.
"I don't want to sit up here and be callous," he said in court. "Can I sleep at night? No, I can't. I can't. I don't have an appetite ... Do I feel your pain? Yes."
Would-be parents wonder what happened to the $4.4 million in revenue IAC took in last year.
In her lawsuit, Weinstein criticized the Board of Directors, saying it failed the agency's clients.
"(They) failed to find options for fulfilling contracts with adopting parents, failed to cut overhead expenses ... and failed to use assets to make refunds to adopting parents," she said in the suit.
The Board Members' attorney did not respond to our request for an interview, but an attorney for Hodges said she, as interim director, isn't to blame since the agency was failing when she took over.
It's little comfort to would-be parents, who still hold out hope for bringing home a child.
"Our baby was not down that path," Andrea said, "our baby is somewhere else."
In one ray of hope, the state's Department of Social Services has taken custody of the adoption files for IAC clients in California. They include all the home studies, medical reports, brochures and personal information. For prospective parents, this means they can try to pick up where they left off.
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