Adoption parents invited to bankruptcy meeting

Date: 2009-07-18

By Robin Summerfield

Families swept up in the bankruptcy of a Canadian adoption agency working overseas will meet with the trustee at the end of July in Kitchener, Ont.

The meeting is the first time creditors, including adopting parents, will face bankruptcy officials since rumours about Kids Link International and Imagine Adoption began circulating a week ago.

In a brief e-mail sent to the Herald on Friday, Imagine Adoption's co-owner Sue Hayhow declined an interview, but said: "I'd love to share my story, but my priority right now is focusing on the needs of the children here in Ethiopia."

She vowed to reach out when she's "at the point of getting the message out there."

Hayhow and another co-owner, Andrew Morrow, arrived in Africa on Monday.

"In some ways I'm happy that she's focusing on the children, but it doesn't take two of them to focus on the children. She really needs to answer for what she's done," said Shawn Bertin, an Imagine Adoptions client in Calgary.

Bertin, 37, had no plans yet to travel to Kitchener, but vowed to attend if Hayhow was going to be there.

In documents posted Friday on the agency's website, trustee BDO Dunwoody asked creditors to come forward to register claims against the agency, which arranged adoptions of children in Ethiopia and Ghana. About 400 families in Canada were clients with the agency. An average international adoption costs about $20,000.

In Calgary, a meeting has been scheduled by the International Adoption Families Association for July 25 at Brentwood Co-op at 9: 30 a. m.

"They need to vent a little," said Wendy Robinson, owner of Calgary-based Christian Adoption Services, whose agency had several families working with Imagine Adoption to adopt from overseas.

Parents have banded together online to share information, raise money and demand answers. More than$3,000 was raised by one group to care for the children at the transition home in Addis Ababa.

Another fund, The Ethiopia Project, has been started in Calgary to raise money to help cover the cost of the adoptions in limbo. That fund is being administrated by Christian Adoption Services.

In Alberta, there were 64 families working with Imagine Adoption when news of the looming bankruptcy broke.

Six families had legally adopted their children, but were waiting for Canadian immigration to issue visas or passports to the adoptees for travel.

In April, Canadian Citizenship and Immigration halted eight of the agency's adoptions in Ghana after officials closed a Canadian-run orphanage "over concerns that children were taken from their parents and put up for adoption," ministry spokeswoman Karen Shadd wrote in an e-mail.

That orphanage, called Hands of Mercy Christian Outreach International, is based in Fort Erie, Ont.

The owner, Deborah Mac-Quarrie, told Mercury News Services she and her husband have done nothing wrong.

rsummerfield@theherald. canwest.com

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