This happened to the Voice of the Orphan staff while working with Heather Elyse. And when I first began questioning the account of the "raid" I found that staff and adoptive families simply couldn't conceive of a fellow Christian being so deceptive and emotionally manipulative.
I will call this situation the Summer of 2013 Fake Kidnapping and Rescue Raid. It was shocking to those of us who participated in communication about this at the time and continues to be a complicated situation to follow. Below are communications that should help you follow along.
In brief, Heather Elyse created a situation to plant extreme fear in the minds of the adopting mothers on the VOTO staff.
- She told us that many children had been taken by their birth parents who had been "raiding" the creche in groups to remove their children.
- She blamed this on a couple who had enough concerns to remove their child from the GHRM during the adoption process. (I have since learned other parents were told of "raids" happening to the creche by bio parents but were given little information except to blame adopting parents like Kim who had simply begun to ask questions of her daughter's relinquishment.)
- She told the staff that she needed money that adoptive parents had recently sent to Haiti for their adoption to "rescue" the children back in a giant raid on a fellow missionary.
- Instead of getting the legal authorities involved, Heather planned a "rescue" that involved hired police and a "middle of the night raid".
Below is the account that Heather gave to the staff, along with some very emotional emails and texts that played on their emotions. After reading a very convincing plea for help, you will hear the evidence to prove this “kidnapping” and “raid” never occurred. And for those of you who have heard of various "raid" stories this would be "raid" #3:
- First was the "raid" she accused adoptive parents and the Livesay family of conducting when they went to the creche with a judge and other legal entities to remove a child out of fear for his safety.
- The second "raid" was the bio parent raid where the bio parents were supposedly removing their children from the creche.
- The third "raid" is the one that she says SHE conducted on another mission to "rescue" her kidnapped children back.
Shocked? Confused? Keep reading....
Imagine that you are a parent who is being told your child is missing, kidnapped and hidden. Imagine the emotional trauma you would endure, and then ask yourself how someone who is supposed to be your boss or friend would have the ability to make this up and play on your emotions as you wait for your child to be found and brought back to safety when (s)he was NEVER MISSING in the first place! It’s quite concerning and disturbing, to say the least. That is what what happened to the staff who were working under Heather Elyse.
From: Heather Elyse <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Tim Rowe <email@example.com>; Michelle See <firstname.lastname@example.org>; S.H.(email hidden)
Sent: Tue, Jun 25, 2013 7:32 pm
Subject: Re: does the *** family
Then since they are still up---- and we just gave into the most ridiculous demands by removing pictures of a child that WE cared for and RESCUED for two years....---I would like to request that they take them down immediately TIM...... (she was referring to taking down pictures of the adoptive family's son from FB who had been removed from GHRM before this.)
....I am starting to wonder when we are going to FIGHT BACK.... this is ridiculous... I am sitting in misery IN HAITI trying to clean up a MESS that they created. I am not wanting to play "turn the cheek" with them anymore. I am not seeking revenge----but I am ASKING THAT WE START DEFENDING OURSELVES and OUR CHILDREN AND ADOPTIONS. (The only mess it was creating was finally allowing people to start asking questions and began exposing some of the lies and inconsistencies.)
FAMILIES have been DESTROYED.
S.H.- I don't think my plan is going to work---- it's going to cost us way too much---money that we do not have. (She was specifically mentioning the need for money to S.H. because her child was supposedly kidnapped and she was willing to pay whatever it would cost to rescue him back.)
I hope we are all prepared to DEAL with ANGRY PARENTS this week.
CHILDREN ARE STOLEN.....
WE OWE THOUSANDS AND I MEAN THOUSANDS BACK TO THESE PARENTS.....
I am ready to fight back. I am tired of sitting down allowing this nonsense to keep happening to us.
to: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
cc: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 8:12 AM
I hear you clearly Tim and I agree but...
I'm just a little weary ...
Sorry for my tone - but I have just had enough of this garbage from the enemy.
Maybe it's because I am sitting in Haiti with over 20 kids gone. My children and I had to move here for the summer just to defend our crèche and work and make sure no more kids get stolen. That's 20 adoptions ruined. That's 20 adoptions that need to be reimbursed. That's 20 times 12,000. Thats 20 adoptions that I hope the US staff is ready to explain to parents why their kids are missing. That's 20 adoptions that I am having to empty out my bank account just to go see if I can hire enough people to go raid where they are being held. I hate this corruption. I am trying to hold things together here but it's a mess here. I was summoned to go to a meeting at IBESR today. A.C. called just to find out it was a hoax and a lie. Wesmin said it was probably an ambush. I definitely don't feel safe here. Wesmin's reputation is ruined. He wants to quit. He has tried to quit on us like 10 times. We just had another MLJ family back out. We just had an agency drop us. They put a hold on our creche license and are not moving any adoptions through or accepting any new ones. They just conducted a huge investigation on the crèche. Our staff is weary. The community is starting awful rumors about us... Especially against our Haitian staff. Feeling a little overwhelmed that they have the nerve to ask for pictures to come down on my personal page. We rescued that boy. We had a bond with J.C. He lived with us for almost two years. Since birth until the day he was stolen from my personal apartment that they raided and trespassed. I just feel like we should in return request something like their story that is clearly about us down. That picture they posted of the huge binder is ridiculous and implies so much. (Heather is referring to the binder of evidence that another adoptive family took to mediation with some of the staff after removing their son and being denied their adoption paperwork.)
I am only feeling this way because these lives whom We raised are probably experiencing a lot of trauma today.
.... Trying to count it all joy as I face persecution... But it's getting difficult when I see the amount of damage they have caused.
... And my heart simply grieves for the following.
(Names of children who she claims were kidnapped, removed to protect their family and identity)
Sent from my iPhone
After these emails, the staff communication included:
- "White people" had gone to the bio parents and picked up all the "missing" kids in white vans so in essence, "kidnapped" them.
- She said at that time she did not know the location where these kids were taken, but was sending one of her sons "out as bait" to gather information and find the location. Later she said she found out the location and it belonged a missionary who "didn't like her" and was friends with yet another adoptive parent who "was out to get her" and this was all part of a conspiracy against her.
- The only adoptive parents that I know of who were informed their child was missing/kidnapped were the 2 parents on staff but some parents were told that "raids" were going on and kids were being taken.
- One staff member was only told a couple days before the " rescue raid", while the other was led to believe for 2 weeks or more that her son was kidnapped.
- She told the staff she needed money to pay a private police force to go and "rescue" all these kids to which there was a lot of hesitation but Heather made it appear as if it was a last chance effort to save them. One of the moms whose son was missing was ready to remortgage her house in an effort to save her son.
On the evening of June 26th, around 11pm, the staff had a conference call in which I participated. Heather was in Haiti texting her assistant everything that was happening during the "rescue raid". She claimed they went in 2 busses because there were so many kids to rescue. She sent names of children as they were "rescued", however, not all of them were rescued (I'm assuming these are the kids that were possibly actually taken by their bio parents).
During this time Heather gave accounts to her assistant and said things like, "The police have gone in, they're bringing out kids that aren't mine. I have A, B...oh my gosh, they're bringing sick kids onto the bus and I have to send them back, these aren't our kids! I heard shots. One of the girls has blood on her. Maybe it's not hers (leading us to believe one of the police was shot in the "rescue") ....." VERY emotional and dramatic, especially for the 2 prospective adoptive mothers who were led to believe their children had actually been kidnapped and were in the middle of all that chaos.
At the very end of the raid one of the staff member’s little boy had not been rescued. Heather said that they had to leave and did not even check to be sure her own son, the one used for bait, was safe. As they were pulling away she said, "My son C.E. just came out running out of the mission with B.C. (the missing child) in his arms". It was a very climatic ending with both moms rejoicing that Heather had risked her life to save their children.
At the time I felt in my gut this wasn’t true but since Heather was so good at convincing people to believe so many of her outlandish lies (just see the emails above) who would think to question the legitimacy of them? I knew that without concrete evidence there would be no way to prove my “gut instinct” or discernment, so I didn't say anything about my feelings. I still don’t understand her motive and can only assume it was either/both an attempt to get money for the “rescue”, or to create psychological trauma with her staff to keep them loyal to her and for her to continue to be “their hero”.
When I first started trying to gather evidence, there were things that just didn’t make sense:
- There originally was another list of “missing kids”. But when Heather arrived to Haiti the list changed and grew and she said the missionaries didn’t know the kids names and had the wrong kids listed as missing. I believe that some of the kids were in fact taken by their bio parents (which is very concerning in itself: Why are so many bio parents continuously attempting to or succeeding at taking their kids back? This is NOT something that most orphanages or crèches in Haiti deal with when their kids are all legitimate orphans.)
- If the kids were legitimately GHRM children, why wasn’t she using IBESR (the Haitian adoption authority) to have them get her kids back since that would be legal and free? Also, why would they choose to have a very traumatic rescue over using authorities that would simply walk in and demand the kids back. In that more logical event Heather would have taken her kids back peacefully without traumatizing them even more.
- Heather told the staff that a birth mother of a child at the creche had been the one to organize all the birth parents taking their kids back. I found this to be an incredible feat considering the fact that these parents were spread out that area and it was difficult enough for the staff to find and work with them for the adoptions, much less a very poor mother who was sick and could not afford to raise her own child. At the time she said all the kids were from the same area, however, that doesn't match up with background information known to some of the adopting parents.
- While Heather was telling the staff that (Amanda - story coming soon) was responsible for the bio parents taking their kids and that K.M and V.C. were responsible for taking the kids from the bio parents, she (Heather) was telling other adoptive moms that the raid happened because of Kimberly (who has already shared her story here). So she not only lied about the event but then lied about other adopting parents and missionaries to slander their name and reputation.
- I also found it amazing that some of the missing kids didn’t have living birth parents (or at least that's what some of the adopting parents were told). So how did they end up “missing” in all the birth parent “raids”, if there was no one to get them?
With all these questions in my head I began trying to find out about this person being blamed and I wanted to figure out if the details and description of the Mission location matched up with what we were told.
- I found out that the person who supposedly organized picking up the kids in white vans from their bio parents and hiding them (and ran a very small mission in Port au Prince) wasn’t even in the country at the time.
- I went to Haiti and went to the mission to see it myself and saw that the alley leading up to it was very narrow (see photo below). So narrow that the van had to back down just to be able to get out. There would be no room for two busses or vans anywhere near the mission and it would be impossible for it to go unnoticed by neighbors or the other ministry located right next door.
- The actual mission was TINY. There was no place for more than a couple kids, much less over 20! No one living in that area ever saw a group of children being kept there nor did they ever see busses or a police force on their road or entering the mission.
- This mission gets medical visas but does not house or take care of multiple “sick” kids so there would never be any “sick” kids to bring out mixed in with Heather’s kids during the rescue.
- Heather stated their guards fired the shots as if there were guards and a security wall, however, there is no wall and no need for security because it's really nothing more than an office and very small apartment.
- This ministry is located in PAP, not anywhere near the GHRM but the timeline Heather gave was inconsistent for the time it would take to get there or the idea of sending out her son as "bait".
- I suggested immediately after the raid that we send some staff and counselors to help the kids debrief and talk about their experience. I wanted to hear it from the kids to see if it really happened but was told the Nannies would be dealing with that. What?! We have kids who were abandoned or dropped at a creche who were then taken back by their bio parents who were then taken by strangers in white vans and then held in a new location away from everything they knew then woken up in the middle of the night with men with guns and they nannies are going to "counsel" with them?!
- And, since I’m sure a rebuttal from Heather would include the idea that there was a “safe house” closer to the crèche where the kids were kept, I wanted to note that in addition to the fact they don’t house sick kids (and that was very much a detail that was mentioned multiple times by Heather) that even IF they did, it would be even more illogical to move the sick kids (that are so sick they require very difficult-to-get medical visas to the US) away from a mission they had in Port Au Prince, to a secret location that wouldn’t be set up to meet medical needs.
However, even with all this “evidence” I did not feel I would be able to convince the staff it was a lie, since Heather is so good at covering up the things she does. I had already "gotten in trouble" several times for trying to verify information we were told and was told that "I didn't need to verify, I needed to trust her (Heather) completely", that I "wasn't loyal or a good friend" and that I was "wrong for ever questioning her integrity". I have continued to provide evidence to the VOTO lawyer on various situations and events like this and he has continued to only accept Heather's versions of everything without asking for any other information.
As I continued to “dig” what I found confirmed everything I believed about this “rescue raid” and gave me the evidence I needed to prove it was all a LIE.
- During the week of the “raid”, when the kids had supposedly been kidnapped for a week or more already, there were short term and long term missionaries at GHRM. Several of those at GHRM that week were not informed that the staff had been told of 20 missing children who had been "kidnapped" from their bio parents. They also didn’t realize that many of the kids they were taking pictures of while they were there were kids that were supposedly “kidnapped” during that time. Those photos and testimonies provided digital time stamps and evidence that proved they were at GHRM and NOT kidnapped and in hiding somewhere. Which means this "rescue raid" was ALL MADE UP.... A LIE.... NOT THE TRUTH!
I don’t think I would have pursued seeking the truth on this, except for the fact that I listened to the anguish in the voices of my two friends who truly believed their children were gone, kidnapped, and had to be rescued by force by police with guns. It made me sick to my stomach to know that someone was purposely hurting them in the most damaging way…. through their kids. Who does that? Who tells their closest friends their kids are missing for weeks when they aren’t? Who makes up dramatic and traumatic details to a raid that isn’t even happening in an effort to emotionally torture someone? I thought I knew that person, but I don’t know the Heather Elyse that is capable of that and if nothing else that has been said about her, and if all the other evidence mounting against her is not true (which I believe most of it is), then I would still have nothing to do with her after this one event because someone who is capable of manipulating a situation and people like this and then, even with all the evidence, try to dispute it, is not someone I want to ever deal with again or watch anyone else have to deal with.