PLAN Adoption to close Dec. 31
By Starla Pointer
Plan Loving Adoptions Now, the McMinnville-based adoption agency that has changed the lives of nearly 4,500 children over the past 34 years, will close its doors Thursday, Dec. 31.
Changes in international adoption led PLAN workers and board members to close the agency, according to Margaret Nice, executive director.
In 2009, about 12,700 children from other countries were adopted by U.S. residents. As recently as five years ago, twice that many children were being adopted internationally each year, Nice said.
U.S. couples still want to adopt, although the number has declined slightly because of the poor economy, she said. But other countries have become less willing to let their children leave and U.S. immigration laws have become more strict. Add to that some humanitarian organizations and individual advocates also support the idea of children staying in their birth countries.
“In a perfect world, we would agree with that,” said Judy Elkins, director of PLAN’s international program. “But it’s not a perfect world; Third World countries just can’t provide for all their children.”
She and Nice, who both have adopted PLAN children from foreign countries themselves, also balk at the idea that adoptees lose their culture and history when they come here. PLAN encourages its families to teach children about their native culture, and many return to their homeland as adults.
“If you do adoption right, it’s a positive, positive thing,” Nice said.
PLAN, which also has dealt with domestic adoptions, is one of more than 60 U.S. adoption agencies that have closed this year, Nice said. Most of those have been involved with international adoptions and many have been around for decades, just like PLAN.
But while the McMinnville agency is closing, its domestic programs will continue through another agency, the like-minded agency Christian Family Adoptions of Portland. All the families it has been working with will still receive service, Nice said.
PLAN will transfer its records to CFA next week. Six of PLAN’s staff members also will join CFA, including two social workers, a birth parent counselor, an adoption processor and the directors of PLAN’s two domestic adoption programs.
“It’s a very orderly process and I feel positive our children and families will be well taken care of,” Nice said. “We’ve had 34 wonderful years. It’s not like PLAN is closing from a position of weakness; we’re closing from a position of strength.”
PLAN announced its plans to parents earlier this month, but didn’t go public with the news because of concerns about international adoptions that were still in process.
“We can’t risk our kids,” Nice said.
Specifically, she said, they wanted to make sure that 2 1/2-year-old twins would be allowed out of Liberia, an impoverished country in Africa where PLAN has been working since the mid-1990s.
Nice said she and Elkins were concerned that government officials in Liberia might learn, via the Internet, that the McMinnville agency was closing. This might have led them to refuse to let Victoria and Victor leave the country.
That would have been heart-breaking for the waiting adoptive parents — and devastating to those children’s lives, Nice said.
Victor and Victoria and all of the children PLAN has placed will continue to receive follow-through from Christian Family Adoption. But the Liberians might not have understood that, Nice said.
Just three days before Christmas, she and Elkins received wonderful news: The twins had been granted VISAs and cleared to leave. They will be escorted to the U.S. soon by a PLAN worker and the Liberian foster mother hired by PLAN to care for them for the past two years.
It probably will be difficult for the foster mother to part with the twins, Elkins said, “but her mother’s heart knows they’ll have such a better life” as adopted children in the U.S.
Over the years, Elkins said, PLAN has worked with some of the neediest children in Liberia, Siberia, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Haiti and Mexico.
As in the case of Victoria and Victor, it’s often been a frustrating process that has taken a great deal of paperwork and patience, Elkins and Nice said. PLAN workers have become adept at working with two governments in each case — the home country of the child and the U.S. government, as well.
“Waiting and dealing with governments never gets easy. You just have to hang in there,” Elkins said.
And through it all, Nice added, the purpose has kept them going. “At the heart of it are the children,” she said.
In addition to international adoptions, PLAN has placed many children from the U.S. They have included newborns, whose birth mothers decided not to keep their babies; children from poverty stricken areas; and children from Oregon’s foster care system.
In 2008, PLAN also partnered with California-based Nightlight Christian Adoptions to arrange adoptions of embryos created through in vitro fertilization, but not used by the biological parents.
With the closing of PLAN, employees who aren’t going to Christian Family Adoptions will be out of jobs.
That includes Elkins, who has been with the agency for 34 years, first as a volunteer and, since 1991, as international program director. She said she plans to focus her volunteer efforts on a PLAN-started school and feeding program in Liberia, which is now operated by the Adondo Foundation.
“If children are fed today and given a basic education ... they’ll have a future,” she said. “There’s such great need there, yet they are so full of hope.”
Nice, the agency’s second-ever director, also will be out of a job. She isn’t sure what she will do next in her career. She took over in 2005 after the retirement of founding director Ann Scott, who led the agency for 30 years.
Scott and her husband were one of the four couples who started PLAN in 1975. Each couple had adopted an orphan from Vietnam. Concerned about the many children still desperately in need of help, they joined forces to create an international adoption agency.
PLAN’s website includes a statement from Scott, who talks about her travels to numerous countries to work with orphanages and government officials.
“These experiences have been rigorous as well as heartbreaking, because I met so many children who pleaded with me to take them home. Knowing that I couldn’t help all of them was painful, but I have had the joy of helping find families for thousands of them,” writes Scott, who adopted 16 children herself over the years.
PLAN originally was headquartered upstairs above Boersma’s fabric store. In recent years, it occupied — and still will, through Thursday — a building on Booth Bend Road near Highway 99W.
The building was marked by a large sign reading “Plan Loving Adoptions Now.”
“The day after we called all our parents to announce we were closing, I came to work and the sign was on the ground,” Nice said.
By sheer coincidence, the sign blew down in a windstorm, causing some chuckles among the PLAN staff, and a little serious thinking, too.
“We decided maybe it was a sign from God,” Elkins said.