Families consider bailout of failed adoption agency

Date: 2009-07-20
Source: thestar.com

Jesse McLean

Christine Starr thought she was days away from being matched with an Ethiopian child, the joyous conclusion to more than a year of paperwork and $20,000 in fees.

Then Imagine Adoption folded, putting the 39-year-old Toronto trauma counsellor's adoption in limbo.

Starr and about 25 other affected families met in a west-end condo yesterday to discuss ways of proceeding with their adoptions of children from Ethiopia, Ghana and Ecuador – including using some of their own money to bring the adoption agency out of insolvency.

The plan to acquire the six-year-old non-profit, based in Cambridge, Ont., would have the Ontario government match funds raised by the 400 affected families. A bankruptcy trustee will meet with creditors on July 30 to see if the plan is viable.

"We're exploring everything we can," said Starr, who helped form the plan. "The bottom line is we have to act fast. The children depend on it."

The Ethiopian government could cancel Imagine Adoption's licence at any time, ending any hope for the prospective parents to be united with the children, said Pat Convery, executive director of the Adoption Council of Ontario.

The parents created a steering committee to help members deal with government and bankruptcy officials. They hope to have a meeting with Deb Matthews, Ontario's minister of children and youth services, in the coming days.

Ministry spokesperson Kevin Spafford said the government is working to bring over 40 children already matched with Canadian families, who were left stranded in two transition homes in Ethiopia.

So far, 22 of the adoptions have been completed, and the federal government is working to fast-track the children's visas. The other 18 are still staying in the homes.

But that doesn't help those, like Starr, who were never matched with children.

"That's what is so tragic," she said. "We're talking about one of the poorest countries in the world, with six million orphans. These are children who are desperately in need of care, and here are all these families wanting nothing more than to help. But we're stuck."


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