Future brightens for family looking to adopt

Date: 2009-07-29

IMAGINE ADOPTION: Couple more optimistic after Cambridge-based firm goes bankrupt
Posted By MICHAEL PEELING MPEELING@ STANDARD-FREEHOLDER.COM
Posted 10 days ago

A local family which signed on with a recently bankrupt adoption agency is more optimistic they may see a new child running around the house in the near future.

Carolyn Cormier, her husband Stephane Leclerc and their 10-year-old daughter Laura Marie are just one of an estimated 400 families shocked by Cambridge, Ont.-based Imagine Adoption declaring bankruptcy two weeks ago.

The Glen Walter family had been preparing to adopt a toddler from Ethiopia for two years by learning how to speak the language, cook the food and celebrate the country's customs.

A recent meeting in Ottawa and a meeting today with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services has them feeling better informed and hopeful solutions are being formulated.

"I realized at the meeting how many families in different stages of the adoption process have been affected," Cormier said of the meeting in Ottawa on July 20, which was hosted by one of those families. "I got a strong sense this is a resourceful group of families."

Several families have formed a committee called the Families of Imagine Adoption (FIA), which is chaired by a Toronto woman named Christine Starr still in the process of adopting an Ethiopian child as well.

FIA is meeting with Deb Matthews, Minister of Children and Youth Services, today for the first time since the July 14 announcement Imagine Adoption went bankrupt.

Some of the families were miffed when Matthews didn't attend a meeting with ministry bureaucrats on Friday.

The ministry has been working with BDO Dunwoody, the trustee which took over Imagine's business, to help the affected families.

Cormier hasn't been in contact with the ministry yet, but she has touched base with Stormont Dundas and South Glengarry MPP Jim Brownell. She said he has provided the family a lot of support.

Brownell said he has been relaying information to Matthews.

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"I'm so sorry this happened to these families," Brownell said. "I can't imagine what it would be like to be in this situation. It must be so tough. I know the minister wants to help out these families who want to help the less fortunate from other countries."

Cormier said there's "not a lot new, but things are in motion."

"I'm hoping we'll be able to carry on with the adoption process," Cormier said. "I'm much more optimistic that if something more can be done, it will be done. No one has said yet it can't be done."

Imagine is now being investigated by Waterloo Regional Police based on fraud complaints filed by members of the board of directors.

Imagine's executive director, Susan Hayhow, has been in Ethiopia since news of the bankruptcy became public. When she returns to Canada, police are eager to speak with her.

Waterloo police spokesperson Olaf Heinzel said a variety of people would be interviewed regarding the complaints, but could not say who would be questioned.

Questions from the agency's board about unusual expenses, including two high-end vehicle leases and, reportedly, a horse, also preceded the bankruptcy earlier this month, according to The London Free Press.

Heinzel said the aim of the investigation is to "make sure money at Imagine Adoption was spent properly."

No charges have been laid to date.

"I'm hoping someone just made a mistake; that they didn't do it intentionally," Cormier said of the investigation.

She will be headed to Kitchener on Thursday for a creditor meeting held by BDO Dunwoody to get a report on Imagine's affairs and appoint five inspectors who will represent the families after the meeting.

According to a statement by BDO Dunwoody, Cormier shouldn't expect to be compensated just yet for any of the $12,500 spent on the adoption process because of an ongoing accounting review. Cormier and Leclerc say they have no interest in getting their money back, they just want a child.

News that some adopting families already matched with children have been in Ethiopia completing the process is encouraging to the Glen Walter couple.

A donation of $100,000 from Yamana Gold Inc., a Toronto mining company, last week to the bankrupt company will ensure "the well-being of the 43 children in their transition home in Ethiopia," according to the BDO Dunwoody website.

"With this donation in place, we know the transition home in Ethiopia will continue operations until such time as the matched children are placed with their new families."

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