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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Truth


It has been an interesting summer to say the least.  I've tried to start this post about 10 times and I cannot even find the right words.  I want to start out by saying that even after what we have been through we still firmly believe that there is a need for adoption.  There are great agencies and orphanages out there - trying to do the right thing for the child AND families on both sides of the ocean.  There are parents who cannot raise their children for whatever reason.  There are children who need families to love them.

Update on Sweet "Nora" 

*Nora is not her real name, but instead what we had lovingly named her.

Good news first!  We are delighted to report that Nora is doing really well.  She lives with her aunt and cousin of the same age.  She just finished her semester at her private nursery school.  Nora turns 5 years old this fall.  Wait... what?!  I thought she had no family that could care for her and she was living in an orphanage?!  Yep, that is what we thought too.  Unfortunately, we have learned and experienced first hand that International Adoption in some countries can be full of unethical practices. 

The Story

As you know, we first contacted our agency last fall after seeing a child from Uganda represented by them as a Waiting Child on the Rainbow Kids website.  Rainbow Kids defines a Waiting Child as "real" and "available for adoption."  Furthermore, the site highlights that the agencies who have chosen to profile a Waiting Child have "invested incredible amounts of time and resources to advocate for these particular children."  We were told that the four year old little girl was in desperate need.  She was a double orphan living at Shared Hope Orphanage since May 2013 and that surviving biological relatives could not care for her.  We relied upon these specific and concrete representations made by the agency and began the process to adopt Nora. 


Despite the fact that we had not started our homestudy process, we went through the screening process with the agency.  Our application was delivered and we were selected as a prospective adoption family to be paired with Nora pending homestudy approval and dossier delivery.  We learned that the agency had an in-country facilitator on the ground in Uganda who was working on getting all of the paperwork and documentation needed as backup for the Uganda court and U.S. Embassy approval processes.  The agency provided a medical report, plus relinquishments from maternal grandmother and paternal uncle for Nora. 

After completing our homestudy and dossier paperwork, we submitted our dossier in April 2014.  We were told that we would be traveling very soon to meet Nora, so we started purchasing necessary items for her and planning our trip to Uganda. 

On June 12th, we found out that we would not be able to adopt Nora.  Our family was told that unbeknownst to anyone involved in our adoption, Nora was born into a Muslim family.  The Muslim cleric protested her adoption into an American family and her maternal grandmother withdrew her consent.  The agency advised that there was nothing else we could do.  We were also informed that a Muslim family was going to adopt Nora.

On July 8th, we received information on a few waiting children.  We decided that although it was very painful to go through a “failed” adoption, we still very much wanted to adopt a child who needed a family. 

On July 16th, we had a phone conversation with the agency to discuss our desire to hire a third party private orphan investigator (request was initially made a month prior with no clear response from the agency).  We provided many examples of stories of corruption we had recently heard about from talking with families who had used the same attorney and/or orphanage that the agency has partnered with.  We were reassured that all of the agency’s in-country facilitators were extremely trustworthy.   

On July 21st, we received an email saying that the agency would not allow us to do an orphan investigation.  The next day we responded saying that we had no choice, but to mutually agree to resolve the relationship with the agency and peacefully dissolve financial matters.   

On July 23rd, we received a phone call saying that we could in fact do an orphan investigation.  However, we were informed that the investigator would have to report directly to and work with the agency's facilitators.  Oddly, the waiting child that we had received information on the week before – was no longer available.  As a result of these conversations with agency personnel, we became increasingly uneasy with our relationship.  Therefore, on July 28th, we hired A Child’s Voice to do an orphan investigation in hopes of discovering the truth behind our “failed” adoption.  In less than a week, the orphan investigation proved that many of the details the agency told us about our “failed” adoption of Nora were blatantly false.

These are the facts stated below: 

  1. First of all, the agency did in fact have a case before that had failed.  We actually have spoken to this family many times over the past month.  The agency had proof that information provided to them by the in-country coordinator in this case was fraudulent and still did nothing to improve the process.  Instead, the agency discouraged us from doing a third party orphan investigation.   
  2.  Nora’s family did not ask for help; instead the director for Shared Hope Orphanage approached her family.  Her grandmother was told that an American family wanted to “sponsor her” to attend his school.  Luckily, Nora had a semester left in the private nursery school that her aunt had paid for and her family wanted her to finish it. 
  3.  We were told that Nora arrived at the orphanage in May 2013, but the truth is she has never stayed at the orphanage.  The orphanage director himself admitted this fact to us.  Nora is a double orphan, but she lives with her maternal aunt.  They live in a proper house that the aunt is renting.  The family is sustaining itself well.  They are more than happy to care for Nora and never knowingly consented to her adoption as they don’t see a need for it.   
  4. When our dossier was submitted, the agency’s in-country representatives tried to take Nora from her family to go to the orphanage.  She still had a week left in her other school.  It was at this time that the family was told in order for Nora to attend the school they were required to consent to adoption.  All of Nora’s extended family strongly objected and the adoption fell apart.  
  5. The agency's in-country coordinator was fully aware of these details and helped orchestrate the deception.  He met with Nora’s family, provided us with pictures, took her to the doctor, etc.  The agency's in country coordinator obviously failed to adequately explain our family’s intentions when he provided Nora’s family the information and pictures that we sent January 2014.  The agency told us at that time that we had the grandmother’s blessing to adopt Nora.  Obviously, that was not the case. 
The agency failed in its required industry standard for due diligence.  If the agency had
taken the time for their own investigation, our family could have been saved from insurmountable heartache.  Instead, the agency acted in a grossly negligent (and potentially fraudulent) manner and repeatedly ignored red flags.  Based on the facts provided above, this was not international adoption, it was child trafficking for the financial gain of a few individuals.  Nora never met the definition of a “Waiting Child” as represented, and it is clear that the agency’s facilitators are engaging in severely suspect and questionable behavior in Uganda.  

Placing Agency

After researching international adoption for 3 years, we chose a small agency because they had a "waiting child" that needed a family.  This choice was made after doing extensive research - interviewing the agency, contacting families who had used them for international adoptions in other countries, our homestudy agency did a background check, we reviewed their tax return to see if they were involved in re-uniting families and financially stable, etc.

The Director of this agency is an adoptive parent and started the agency 25 years ago.  Our caseworker has worked for the agency for 20 years.  We were reassured that the agency had done over 3,200 domestic and international adoptions and that in-country partners were very experienced in Ugandan adoptions.  We conveyed our desire to ensure that everything in our adoption was done ethically through numerous phone calls and emails with the agency.  The agency told us that they had no reason not to trust the in-country coordinator, attorney, or orphanage.  Our family was to be one of the “pioneers” for the agency’s Uganda program.  There was just one case ahead of us that was progressing successfully.  We were also told many times that the agency did not have any referrals or adoptions in Uganda that had “failed.”   

It all sounds legit doesn't it?  We thought so!  It turned out to be far from that.  We have dissolved our relationship with our placing agency and thankfully received reimbursement for the money paid to them.  Honestly, we are not sure what all the agency knew about the lies their in-country coordinator was telling them.  But, ignorance is no excuse.  This agency should not be facilitating adoptions in Uganda.  They are not willing to take the necessary steps to protect the children or their clients.  They made absolutely no apologies for what they put our family through.  

How We Are Doing

We have great peace in knowing that Nora is where she belongs - with her first family, the ones God chose for her.  They love her, want to raise her, and have the ability to do so.  We offered to help with her education costs and they graciously declined.  Our family firmly believes that children should be raised by their biological relatives in their culture if possible.  When that is not possible, adoption is an amazingly beautiful blessing.  Children deserve a mom and dad that love them, a safe place to live, and enough food to eat.  They definitely should not grow up in orphanages.  

We plan to take as much time as we need to pray about what our next steps should be.  Chuck and I are so cautious.  We keep asking ourselves - how could this have happened?  Undoubtedly, we have and will continue to grow from this journey.  Maybe this happened because God has something else in store for us?  The money we raised for our adoption is in our savings account.  We will either use it to bring a different child into our family or will donate it to a worthy cause that serving orphans.  

Thank you for your continued prayers.

4 comments:

  1. God bless you and thank you for sharing your story.

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  2. thank you for sharing. If you felt brave enough, it would be helpful for other prospective adoptive parents to learn the name of this unethical agency so they can avoid them. (Though I think ALL agencies in Uganda, DRC and Ethiopia do this exact thing. It is RAMPANT. Your family is not alone in this at all, sadly. Still the name would at least steer people closer to the truth and away from more human trafficking. ) Hugs and prayers to you. There are more kids adopted that don't need it than any prospective parents realize. Your voice here is so needed and appreciated.

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  3. Wow, I do not know you guys and I am not even sure how I made it to this blog. I had this exact same thing happen to me as well. Through the same orphanage. I spent 7 weeks in Uganda before finding out the truth they had tried to hide from me. I ended up coming home alone. I will be praying for you guys! It is a tough road to walk...

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  4. I'm so saddened to read your story! Thank you for your honesty and transparency. Would you be willing to share the name of this agency with me? I have a friend who is researching ethical agencies for their hopes to adopt from Uganda. I want to warn them of this once. My email is thalexander@msn.com. Thank you! Hannah

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