Last Updated: Sunday, July 19, 2009 (CBC)
Groups of prospective parents trying to adopt overseas children through an Ontario adoption agency that declared bankruptcy last week met Sunday to figure out what to do.
About 50 people gathered at a downtown Toronto condo to share their frustrations and discuss potential solutions after Cambridge, Ont.-based Kids Link International Adoption Agency, which operated under the name Imagine Adoption, went under July 13. For the last two years, the agency had helped Canadians adopt children from Ethiopia, Ghana and Ecuador.
Other parents met Sunday in Ottawa and London, Ont., as well as in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta.
"We really need the whole group behind us to get good answers," Andrew Cooksley said at the Toronto meeting. He and his wife Jana are trying to adopt a child from Ethiopia.
'The money for us is not the most important thing. The most important thing is giving families their forever family.'—Catherine Bruce, would-be adoptive parent
The $15,000 in adoption fees the couple and others had paid evaporated last week when Imagine Adoption's board of directors failed to approve its latest financial statements and the not-for-profit agency filed for bankruptcy.
But the would-be parents' primary concern isn't getting their money back, but ensuring their children arrive safely in Canada.
"The money for us is not the most important thing. The most important thing is giving families their forever family," said Catherine Bruce, who was at the Toronto meeting.
As many as 400 Canadian families who are waiting to find out when they will be matched with their adopted children are listed as unsecured creditors in the documents, posted online through bankruptcy trustee BDO Dunwoody.
The trustee must also sort out the future of some 40 Ethiopian children already matched to Canadian parents and living in a transition home in the country's capital, Addis Ababa.
Arnaka Rowan recently flew to Addis Ababa to check on the two children she's awaiting approval from the Ethiopian government to adopt.
It's "definitely financially, a little bit, challenging," said Rowan, who says she won't leave without her adopted children.
Officials say they'll fast-track visas
Kevin Spafford, a representative for the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, told reporters after the meeting that provincial officials are working with federal immigration officials to fast-track visas for 22 completed adoptions in Ethiopia.
A lawyer from BDO Dunwoody was at two transition homes in Ethiopia to ensure the yet-to-be-adopted children were being treated properly, he said.
Children's Minister Deb Matthews was in Newfoundland and could not attend the meeting, he said.
While the majority of parents at the Toronto meeting were in the process of adopting children from Ethiopia, other Imagine Adoption clients across Canada have been trying to adopt kids from Ghana, Zambia, and Ecuador.
Most of the Toronto-area parents had not reached the stage where they had been given the names, faces, and biographies of their children.