B.C. families devastated by adoption agency's bankruptcy

Date: 2009-08-04

The collapse of Imagine Adoption has left about 80 B.C. families in the lurch

By Darah Hansen

Barbara Insley with her daughter, Makeda. Barbara was working with Imagine Adoption to bring a second daughter home from Ethiopia when the adoption company went bankrupt.

Barbara Insley with her daughter, Makeda. Barbara was working with Imagine Adoption to bring a second daughter home from Ethiopia when the adoption company went bankrupt.
Photograph by: Handout, Vancouver Sun

Vancouver lawyer Barbara Insley thought she knew well the perils of international adoption when she ventured to bring home a baby girl from Ethiopia last fall.

This was to be Insley’s second adoption from the African nation, a little sister to her 20-month-old daughter Makeda, whose adoption was completed in May 2008 after nearly nine months of patience and paperwork.

Insley knew from experience to expect the unexpected.

“But,” she said, “you are never told that the unexpected is going to come from Canada.”

The bad news came in June: the Ontario-based adoption agency Insley had hired had filed for bankruptcy.

The collapse of Imagine Adoption, also known as Kids Link International, has left about 400 Canadian families in the lurch, some of whom, like Insley, had paid the agency up to $20,000 in up front fees.

In B.C., the bankruptcy has affected as many as 80 families.

“For a lot of people, this is their last chance to parent a child. It’s really heartbreaking,” said Insley.

The financial affairs of the agency — which include allegations that client money was inappropriately spent, a charge Ontario regional police are investigating — are now in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee, BDO Dunwoody.

Some relief was offered after creditors voted unanimously to back off their financial claims and allow the organization to continue operating. Five people, representing affected families from across Canada, were appointed to oversee the restructuring process.

Families have been told it could take a month or more before they learn if all the outstanding adoption files will be completed.

Insley said she’s been told the organization has about $500,000 in its bank account, while parents and other creditors are owed about $3 million.

“They have a pretty significant cash shortfall which is going to have to be cleaned up before it (the company) can go forward,” she said.

A Facebook page, showing 764 members, has been created to foster support among families waiting for answers.

Meanwhile, BDO trustees eased fears earlier this month after gaining assurance through Ethiopian officials that 43 children waiting at Imagines transition home in Addis Ababa are in good health and will continue to be cared for, thanks to a $100,000 donation from a private U.S. firm.

The company said in a media release it continues to work toward completing any pending adoptions, “where possible.”

A spokeswoman with B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Families said the government is also working with its provincial counterparts in Ontario, as well as with federal officials, to determine what options may be available to help families complete the adoption process.

Insley said efforts being made to sort through the mess are enough to give her hope the daughter she has dreamed of may yet arrive safely in Vancouver.

“Right now, there is a ray of light,” she said.

Imagine Adoption was one of two agencies in Canada licensed to facilitate adoptions in Ethiopia.

Roberta Galbraith, executive director of the Canadian Advocate for the Adoption of Children, said her agency continues to operate and that the Ethiopian program remains open.

However, the agency is reluctant to take on imagines clients.

“I don’t want to see the program overwhelmed,” Galbraith said.

dahansen@vancouversun.com

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