By John Clark
Four hundred families currently working to adopt orphans from Ethiopia have many pressing questions regarding the bankruptcy process after the Imagine Adoption agency filed bankruptcy earlier this month.
For parents partway through or even just starting the adoption process, their worst fear is that the bankruptcy proceeding will derail their own efforts to adopt.
In a two-hour meeting with officials at the city and provincial level, families lobbied for the completion of their adoption procedures, many of which have already made matches between couples and children, some of which are simply waiting on paperwork to come through the High Commission based in Nairobi, Kenya.
"I still have more questions than answers and it still feels like Ontario knows everything and Alberta is doing nothing," Shawn Bertin, one prospective parent affected by the process, told the Calgary Herald.
Some good news came from a Toronto-based mining company, which has donated $100,000 U.S. to keep the orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia running until the children in the adoption process arrive in Canada to unite with their new families.
Still, time is not a commodity in great supply.
"We cannot be pushing through paperwork faster than normal because it could appear that we might be kidnapping children that should be staying in Ethiopia," said Anne Scully, who oversees domestic and international adoptions for Alberta Children and Youth Services.
Scully says she is working closely with her Ontario counterparts to keep the children moving through the system despite the filing.
More good news came in a release from Imagine Adoption's bankruptcy trustee company, BDO Dunwoody, which assured parents that as long as all regulations were followed, the company would manage all outstanding adoption cases to their conclusion.
"It's really about being effective. These parents have a serious problem and they need to advocate," Michael Greene, an immigration lawyer offering advice at the meeting told the reporter.
Greene believes that the families should be optimistic, given how clearly the government, bankruptcy trustee and immigration agencies wish to help.
The families have organized to fight for their cause.
They have formed Families of Imagine Adoption, based in Toronto, which plans to present Deb Mathews, Ontario’s minister of children and youth services with a plan to create a non-profit trust.
Each of the 400 Canadian families affected by the bankruptcy could voluntarily contribute $1,000, creating a "war chest" of $400,000.
Families of Imagine Adoption wants the government of Ontario to match that amount, giving the trust enough money to buy the agency out of bankruptcy and provide enough funds to manage their operation to conclusion.
Canadian police are investigating fraud claims against Kids Link International, which used the name Imagine Adoption in Canada.
The company was operating $400,000 in the red and with claims against them for $800,000.
Yamana Gold, the Toronto mining company that has pledged to help keep the agency running, became aware of the problem through Jodi Peake, their vice-president of communications, who adopted an Ethiopian boy last year.
CEO Peter Marrone said donating the $100,000 was an easy decision.
"My immediate reaction was the protection of the children, that the children were taken care of," Marrone told the Herald.