Thursday, September 5, 2013

Kim's Story: Money does not replace a child

Fear- An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Truth- The quality or state of being true.  That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

Fear keeps people from telling the truth. 
For over a year I have been afraid of losing the opportunity to adopt a child that our family has come to know and love. I have stayed quiet in the face of contradictory and inconsistent information given to me by the staff of Voice of the Orphan and Giving Hope Rescue Mission because of fear – fear of angering the person who “controlled” our adoption pursuit and who controlled the placement and care of our child. 
Through our adoption journey, which began in March of 2012, I have met other adopting families who are also silenced through fear.  
Today I am choosing to step outside of fear and to share our truth. Some of you reading this will be shocked and some will be angry.  Some will identify with my words and some will deny my experience.  This is my truth, my experience and my reality.  I share not to create additional turmoil, but because it is the RIGHT thing to do.  It dishonors the Lord to stand idly by while lies are perpetrated in His Great Name.  God is truth; whereas satan is the father of lies.  You may choose to label me ”crazy” or believe that I don’t “wait well” (one of Heather Elyse's commonly used phrases) but I can no longer allow fear to keep me silent.
My husband and I felt led by God to adopt from Haiti in 2012. (We have previously adopted internationally, so we were not new to the process overall.)  After searching we found Giving Hope Rescue Mission's online presence via Heather Elyse. Giving Hope Rescue Mission and its partner, Voice of the Orphan, appeared to be a wonderful “Christian agency”, with beautiful children living at a creche in Haiti. 
We did not fully understand who the entities were that we would be working with – there was Voice of the Orphan (VOTO), Giving Hope Rescue Mission (GHRM), Room for Grace (an organization collecting our monthly adoption support payments) and after signing on other entities appeared via the same people: Haiti Justice Project and The Landon Project that all seem to be interrelated and designed to raise funds for Heather Elyse's work in Haiti.
At the time we signed our adoption contract Giving Hope Rescue Mission, under the leadership of Heather Elyse, operated as a part of the larger Voice of the Orphan organization.  According to both GHRM and VOTO, VOTO was a licensed adoption agency.  (Voice of the Orphan was not in fact licensed in Indiana or anywhere that we know of as an adoption agency in 2012 – they did receive licensing in June, 2013.)  Although we signed a contract with Tim Rowe, President of Voice of the Orphan, our primary contact was with a woman named Heather Elyse, who we understood at that time was the vice president of Voice of the Orphan and the founder of Giving Hope Rescue Mission. 
We were asked by Heather Elyse to adopt a little girl and a little boy from Haiti in April, 2012. (After being matched, our adoption of the little boy fell through when Heather told us that he was deemed "unadoptable.") 
We met and fell in love with our little girl, R, and sent an initial payment of $12,000 to Voice of the Orphan.  We also began sending $300 per month to care for R (and we sent money for the care of the little boy we were matched with who was later deemed ineligible for adoption) via Room for Grace a pending non-profit that raises funds for Giving Hope Rescue Mission (Heather is/was the President of Room for Grace.)
We did not receive any documentation on either child – no formal match, no lab results, no social history, no birth certificate.  As we have learned more through this adoption experience we recognize that when a family is seeking to adopt a child in Haiti they should expect to receive a number of supporting documents. Between April 2012-July 2013 we did not receive any of those documents.  Despite some concerns about this lack of documentation or information we continued to pursue the adoption of little R. We, in good faith followed our contract and paid our monthly fees.
I kept my increasing anxiety at bay and enjoyed meeting R in person, loving on her and having her fall asleep on my lap cradled against my shoulder.  But by my second visit with R in November of 2012, I could not understand why the basic information on R’s history had still not been shared.  Having adopted previously, we knew that it was important to have as much information about her as possible.   We began to be more vocal with our request. We asked for general information on our daughter.   We asked about her birth parents, the story of her relinquishment, her medical history, and we requested documentation showing what had been accomplished in our adoption process thus far.   
We were not given any of the information we asked for but were told that we had exited IBESR (a large first hurdle in the Haitian adoption process) and had a “decree." This meant that R was officially our daughter and carried our last name. This little girl that calls me “mama”, that I have visited 3 times, that our other children pray for as their sister, was officially our daughter this past spring! The joy in our hearts was incomparable.  We were asked to send $3500 for passport processing (a fee higher than had been originally stated), but we were happy to pay the increased fee.  This was supposed to be the end stages of our adoption prior to bringing R home with us.
In April 2013, a full year after first meeting R, I become increasingly concerned as I still had no hard copy documentation of our adoption or her background. I became concerned that there was some issue causing delay on our case that had not been disclosed.  
I made a written request that another legally licensed adoption agency be permitted to complete the final stages of our adoption, a plan that Giving Hope Rescue Mission had told us was an option. When I made the request formally it was denied by Heather Elyse.
And still no papers or answers were provided.  
I was then ignored so my husband and I hired an attorney in the U.S. to make an inquiry with Tim Rowe/Voice of the Orphan regarding our case. Prior to that our communication had been with Heather and we were very confused. We thought that going to Tim would help to clarify the situation.  We truly have not known where to turn because of how enmeshed the organizations are with people in dual roles and yet each organization and the staff seem to push accountability onto the other organization.
As I continued to ask questions, I had other adopting families behind the scenes advising me that Heather Elyse was telling people that our adoption “was canceled” because I had made them mad.  
I became very worried and we asked for the location where R was being cared for and this information was withheld, although IBESR in Haiti requires that children’s whereabouts be accounted for.  It truly baffles me that any entity would “hide” the location of a child from parents who have completed this much of an adoption and have adoption decrees.
We continued to be ignored for many weeks until August 2013 when I received this email from Tim Rowe who is the President of VOTO:
“Although I was having the attorney send a letter to your attorney but (sic) I wanted to write a short response to this email. We are in the process of sending out a refund on your case in the next few days. In my conversations with Giving Hope, it is my understanding that the birth mother has revoked her consent to the adoption and taken custody of R.”
Four days later we received a check from Voice of the Orphan for $15,500 (our initial adoption fee plus passport fee.) On the letter enclosed there were two sentences: 
"Dear Mr. and Mrs. Williams: Enclosed you will find a check in the amount of $15,500.00 for the full refund of your adoption. We appreciate you going through Voice of the Orphan. Thank you for your hearts for adoption and we wish you all the best."
Please note, we never asked for a refund, but certainly view the refund as an admission of error on the part of Voice of the Orphan. 
We have no proof that R’s biological mother has reclaimed her, where she is or even if she was ever legally eligible for adoption. We have no proof that our adoption took place. Given that Heather Elyse had previously slandered her other clients to us calling families who questioned her program "crazy" and had threatened to cancel adoptions, it was our opinion that she simply chose to cancel ours rather than provide the information we asked for.
Please go back and reread the sentences that were sent to us - Two sentences.   
Money DOES NOT replace a child.  
We are supportive of a biological family reclaiming a child and parenting their child(ren).  We are not selfish parents who care only for ourselves. But after 16 months in the adoption process we do believe that proof of R's reunification with her biological mother is a reasonable request.  After the inconsistencies in information and the rumors that our adoption was being cancelled for reasons other than R being removed by her biological mother, it is only natural that we want to KNOW R is safe.  
But instead we were offered two generic sentences and no explanation, no sympathy, no compassion.  Had I remained silent would this have happened?  Would our adoption have ever come to pass?  Is R really with her biological mother?  Was our adoption ever going to happen? We are haunted.  I cannot answer any of these things, but I can say without any doubt that no family should be too scared to ask questions during an adoption. No family should be scared that asking questions would lead to the cancellation of their adoption. Truth and transparency are vital.
There are many more details to tell.  And I believe that TRUTH will come out.  This, my friends, is just a small part of the whole story.  There are others who have stories to share and these are coming.  There are others who are finished hiding in fear.  
Please pray for our family as we navigate through this time. God is with us, He is leading us, and I know He loves us! He will make the crooked places straight. He is lighting the way and opening doors that seem closed. Adoption is spiritual and we must be equipped not only in the physical realm, but the spiritual as well. We know that God is also with R wherever she is today.
Telling our story releases me from fear. Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25
If you are struggling in fear for your adoption right now, please know that there are others who will walk with you during this time.