Creditors band together to salvage bankrupt adoption agency

Sira Cotter, 2, sucks on her thumb while in her mother's arms in a line to register for a meeting. Sira and her twin, Kate, were adopted by Donna and David Cotter a little over a year ago from Ethiopia.

Families and businesses vote to forego financial claims to Imagine Adoption, in hopes of helping complete hundreds of pending adoptions

Jennifer MacMillan

Kitchener, Ont. —

From Friday's Globe and Mail


Some arrived clutching pictures of the babies they thought would be theirs by now. Others came with manila envelopes under their arms, full of papers detailing the thousands of dollars they had paid in the hopes of completing their families.

It was a creditors meeting like no other, as families and business owners packed a hotel conference room in Kitchener, Ont., to discuss what would happen to the remains of Imagine Adoption, an agency facing about $3-million in claims after it went bankrupt earlier this month.

In the end, the nearly 200 creditors unanimously agreed to put their financial problems aside in order to help couples like Jesse and Jeanette Martin, who are desperate to adopt twin girls from Ghana.

“We have photos of them and you can't look at them and say ‘it's too much bother,' ” said Mr. Martin, referring to the eight-month-old babies, Destiny and Grace.

“We can't walk away.”

The creditors voted Thursday to forego their financial claims and instead try to resurrect the agency and complete hundreds of pending adoptions. That would involve developing a plan to bring the organization back under a new group of directors, and seeking the approval of the province, which licenses adoption agencies.


Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Sira Cotter, 2, who was adopted with her twin, Kate, 2, from Ethiopia by David and Donna Cotter, of Waterloo a year ago, hangs from her mom's arms while waiting in the registration line.

The Waterloo Regional Police launched a fraud investigation into Imagine Adoption earlier this month after two members of its board of directors contacted authorities over their concerns about the organization's bookkeeping.

Director Alan Brown said a review of the agency's finances earlier this year revealed a string of unusual expenses, such as a $3,000 horse and a $2,700 saddle, a $13,000 weeklong hotel stay in New York, two trips to Disney World and renovations to the Cambridge home of executive director Susan Hayhow, which was recently mortgaged for $500,000 at a rate of prime plus 7 per cent.

The organization has just $500,000 in cash left along with approximately $150,000 in receivables and office equipment. BDO Dunwoody bankruptcy trustee Susan Taves said some creditors have offered to waive their claim to ease the burden on the agency.

Valerie Goodyear, wife of Cambridge MP Gary Goodyear, was an employee of Imagine Adoption and also heads Constant Energy, the company that was leasing office space to Imagine. She said she doesn't intend to collect the rent or salary owed to her by the agency.

“Constant Energy would hope that a larger portion of the monies owed would be received by the families as a result,” Ms. Goodyear wrote in an e-mail message. “For the same reason, I am not pursuing the claim as an employee of Imagine Adoption.”

Mr. Goodyear, a federal cabinet member, has said he had no involvement with the agency or Constant Energy, as dictated by conflict of interest legislation. The agency's board of directors has also confirmed Valerie Goodyear wasn't involved with the agency's finances in her role as co-ordinator of the African adoption program.

The meltdown of the Cambridge, Ont., adoption agency affected more than 400 families from coast to coast including Jason Humeniuk, who flew to Ontario from Vancouver to attend the meeting.

“It's so easy to get caught up in the blame and the anger,” Mr. Humeniuk said. “You could focus on that, but that's not why you get involved in adoption. There's a greater purpose.”

Imagine's executive director Ms. Hayhow and her partner, Andrew Morrow, went to Ethiopia shortly after the bankruptcy to assist with the operations of a transition home that cares for dozens of children that have been matched with Canadian parents.

BDO Dunwoody's Ms. Taves said she has been in regular contact with Ms. Hayhow since the agency shut down, and that Ms. Hayhow recently returned to Canada but did not attend the meeting. BDO Dunwoody has assumed control of the operations of the Ethiopian transition home, and says the children there are being well cared for.


Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre


7/31/2009 2:35:07 PM
With the greatest respect to all those who are very suitable appropriately motivated adoptive /foster parents...there is another side to this story that most of you will wish to discredit and or choose not to see.

Adoptive / Foster parents are parents who for one reason or another "decide to adopt", many are of whom are quite biologically capable of having children themselves but "choose" to adopt. Its those adoptions that raise red flags. Add in an agency with problems and you have multiple "red flags".

Society includes all sorts and unfortunately, not all adoptive children speak highly of their adoptive parents.

You don't have to go to far to "run into" adoptive parents, adopted children and view the frequent trail of destruction.

The fact is , this agency went bankrupt, and where there is smoke, there is often fire.

Parents who go bankrupt also have other life crisis problems that often goes with an inability to parent or extreme personality disorders that include "selfishness".

When White people, adopt a black child, there are often several reasons, one is cost, A "white" baby runs around $60,000 while a "black" baby costs around $20,000.

When money changes hands for children, there is a financial incentive to turn a blind eye, that is, fail to do a proper investigation into the applicant/s.

Ontario is a province with a long record of getting it wrong in child welfare. In Ontario, a judge can made a child a crown ward and an associate judge with her same sex partner can adopt the same child.

If you have the right contacts, know the right people, go to the right church etc, you can get your adoption process completed faster than someone with lesser "contacts" and "ins".

Adoptive parents are also very well organized, generally very wealthy and of course a high income and high intelligence are just two common factors in those who "choose" to adopt.

The bankruptcy of this agency is a red flag of other "possible" and "probable problems".



7/31/2009 1:20:23 PM
This adoption agency has gone bankrupt, thats the bottom line, thats a symptom , a warning sign of other very serious problems that we don't yet know about.

That means, on the balance of probabilities, that they took cash and literally handed out babies to anyone who "qualified".

It's therefore most probable that the adoption agency failed to appropriately screen applicants and some children have been placed into the care of wealthy selfish individuals who are entirely unsuitable to be adoptive parents.

Canada, a country where you can buy babies for cash.



7/31/2009 2:45:59 PM
This is in response "caring mother",
The agency owner's had "problems" with finances, they went bankrupt. Their paid staff both locally and abroad had "financial incentives. Not all applicants are "couples", they can be SINGLE or Same Sex, The Ontario Ministry of Children's Affairs gives an "ILLUSION" of going through rigorous screening before approving an adoption.

Anyone with money, a severe personality disorder, a gifted acting ability , can pass that "screening" that is almost guaranteed to ignore serious problems by those who present as "politically correct".

Its not just a story of greedy business partners stealing money. It has everything to do with NEEDY ADOPTIVE PARENTS who choose to adopt, often for noble motivations. My comments are not about those suitable applicants but the alarming number of unsuitable applicants who manage to get get past a very poor screening process that rarely ever makes any real effort to check out the applicant's sometimes works of fiction.