Saturday, September 7, 2013

Shasta's Story: Truth will set me free (Part I)

As I write this I am fielding phone calls and messages from multiple families who are concerned that by sharing my story and concerns about Giving Hope Rescue Mission I will somehow cause problems for their adoptions. As the moderator and founder of the Adopting from Haiti forum (with close to 900 members) and previously on staff and leadership with Voice of the Orphan, my story will cause a lot of discomfort for Tim Rowe and Heather Elyse but I have to stop living in fear and share the truth. Truth which I believe will set a lot of people free.
This past spring of 2013 there were several blogs and discussions circulating in the Christian adoption community about “ethical adoptions” and “red flags”, some very specific to Haiti. I actually got angry with them because I had my own fears that my adoption could or would be jeopardized. I could see the director I worked for, Heather Elyse, definitely raised red flags according to the descriptions on the ethics blogs but I didn’t want to believe that Heather was doing something wrong. I didn’t want to believe that after knowing and loving my two children for the past 3 years their adoptions might be in jeopardy.
I was told the missionaries from one of those blogs had “turned in my case” and that this would hurt my adoption. I was angry (and I chose to believe this despite my intuition that it was a ploy to keep me distrusting) and for a while this prevented me from seeing what was really happening. I have since learned that Heather Elyse is under multiple, active investigations due to both the Haitian and US governments own evidence of wrongdoing. Any action taken by them is not because we are sharing our stories but because she has broken laws. The governments goal is not to keep families apart but to help legitimate orphans connect with their families. 

My heart and desire is to do what’s right and be a part of what is right so I could not ignore the truth for long.
As you read please know this is my heart.

I can understand the fear that adoptive families in process are feeling. I have been there with you. Many of you have leaned on me during the ups and downs of your adoption. I hope that even if you can't support me you will respect my decision to go public.
Because of my experience I find it hard to know who to trust and who really does have pure intentions any more. I can only say that my life speaks for my character. In all of my life I have never tried to harm or deceive people and if you go looking in my past you will find that I am an open book and the life I live is very accessible as are the people in it. I have nothing to hide, no secrets, no aliases, no multiple, unverifiable stories of life events.  

I know my name is now being used to scare adoptive parents by telling them I'm turning them in or trying to disrupt their adoptions (in my opinion this is because I was formerly on staff with Voice of the Orphan and therefore have access to a lot of information) as I’ve been told this directly. The reality is I had access to very few families dossiers (the adoption paperwork that includes a lot of personal information) or stories and I don't need to "turn in" any one as I know the government is already doing investigating and they are quite capable of finding the truth. My goal in coming forward with my experiences is to help families be able to complete their adoptions despite the fact that many families have been lied to and misled.

I know there are some out there who are scared and I am so sorry for the emotional game that is being played with you.  Know this…. Everything I have said and done is to help orphans, adoptive families and biological families that really want their kids.  My speaking the truth of my experience is not going to stop your adoption.  If Heather Elyse, or if you are with someone else, your director or agency or crèche/orphanage has done something wrong then it is their actions that will affect your adoption, not the fact that it was brought to light or that people are speaking out about it. 

Here is my story, one I never thought I would have to write.  I don’t understand why I’ve been put through all this but if God put me here to help stop Heather from hurting more kids and families then I accept that.  I don’t like, in fact I HATE it, but I accept it.

Part I
I began going to Haiti in 1998 with my summer camp staff.  We went for several summers and made a few more trips over Christmas and Spring breaks.  When I moved on I continued to go to Haiti on my own to help support friends I had made there.  Shortly after I got married in 2002 I took my first team to Haiti with my husband and that led to me starting a non-profit to take teams on mission trips to Haiti.  In 2003 we started a non-profit and have been leading short term teams ever since and have a well established scholarship program that puts over 100 students in school in the community where my kids live in their orphanage.  Our integrity has led to a well developed relationship with the ministry there and a majority of the families in that area.

In 2010 I watched in horror as the news began spreading about the catastrophic earthquake so 2 weeks later several of us headed to Haiti to check on my friends.  They were okay but were told of an orphanage in Cabaret that needed help.   In March of 2010 we took the first of many teams to serve in Cabaret and I quickly fell in love with all of the kids there.  As we continued to go every few weeks I soon became very attached a little boy who was a snuggler like my son back home and a spunky, out-going girl who reminded me of my very creative daughter. The kids had been living in an orphanage for a long time. Since 2010 was focused on basic restructuring nothing could be done for adoptions but as the doors to adoptions started opening in 2011 I began searching for ways to bring these two children into our family. 

In Nov. 2011 on one of our trips to Cabaret I was introduced to Heather Elyse and her fiancé, Steve Kelley.   She told us she was able to do adoptions in less than a year and had finalized a lot of successful adoptions already (now we know that "many" was a huge exaggeration.)  I was so excited to work with her because I wanted my kids but also because she seemed to be doing so much to help others by charging what appeared to be significantly less for adoptions and even offering to help others who had been scammed in their adoptions. She was very outspoken in situating herself as a leader in Haitian adoptions. I was drawn to her and didn't believe I had any reason not to believe what she told me about herself, her work in Haiti or experience with adoptions.

I went home and began working on our dossier (all the legal paperwork needed for an adoption) and flew it down in April 2012.

To be continued...