Making every effort to save adoptions

Date: 2009-07-30

By MICHAEL PEELING

CORNWALL -- The Minister of Children and Youth Services met with families left uncertain if their international adoption efforts would succeed in the wake of an adoption agency declaring bankruptcy.

In an interview with the Standard-Freeholder Tuesday, London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews explained the agenda for the meeting was to address the concerns of would-be adoptive parents who signed on with Imagine Adoption in Cambridge, Ont., which announced it went bankrupt on July 14.

"The most important thing is for us is to have a face-to-face conversation so they have a sense of where we are and what's happening," Matthews said. "There's not a lot of new information, but they need to know what is going on."

The ministry is responsible for licensing international adoption agencies such as Imagine, which matches children from Ethiopia, Ghana and Ecuador to Ontario families under the umbrella of Kids Link International.

"Our first priority is to make sure the kids in Ethiopia who have gone through the adoption process have their paperwork done and then get them home with their new families," Matthews said.

There are 22 kids who have been adopted, 12 of which have their paperwork completed. Seven of those children are now with their adopted families in Ethiopia at the transitional home.

Twenty four other children have been matched with parents, but there is still red tape to cut.

O verall, there are 400 families

affected, including 170 in Ontario, according to Matthews.

One of them is Carolyn Cormier, her husband Stephane Leclerc and their daughter Laura Marie of Glen Walter.

They've been looking into adopting an Ethiopian toddler for two years. Their file was sent to the African country on Dec. 25, 2008, to find a match, but they had not heard about a match by the time Imagine declared bankruptcy.

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Cormier said Monday she is optimistic after meeting with other families in the same situation and speaking with MPP Jim Brownell.

Matthews said it's "too early to tell" what will happen to files such as the Cormier-Leclerc's, but put a lot of stock in the efforts of the company entrusted with working out Imagine's unfinished business.

"I will say that BDO Dunwoody has been doing an outstanding job working towards keeping Imagine a viable organization," she said.

"It's a restructuring. Everyone's hoping they can make that happen."

Matthews said the ministry hasn't pulled Imagine's international adoption licence, nor does she see any reason to.

"We're doing what we can without lowering the standards we have for these agencies," she said. "It's important to maintain those standards. The agencies have to go through a rigorous process to meet them."

However, Matthews is concerned about the Waterloo Regional Police investigation into Imagine Adoption on fraud allegations. She wouldn't comment further because no charges have been laid.

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