Sunday, September 8, 2013

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

Shortly after we began working on our dossier for adoption I was told by Heather that I could only get into IBESR if my homestudy was altered or modified to remove my bio children. 

The document alteration took place at Heather's apartment in Haiti after I arrived with my homestudy and dossier. 

I knew that other families contracted with Voice of the Orphan were asked to do this also and were assured it was fine on the Haiti side. Heather said that she was the “only one doing ethical adoptions in Haiti”.  (I don’t know why I listened to her words instead of seeing her actions.)

Heather told me that she could only get a certain number of dossiers in IBESR before they closed in May for the summer of 2012 and mine wasn’t one of them, so the dossier didn’t get accepted until Sept. 2012. 

During the summer I was asked to become part of her (Voice of the Orphan) staff to help Heather with “Intervention Cases”. These are cases where families had paid for adoptions with other organizations but had never been submitted to the government.  I was told that Heather would complete one of my adoptions for $8k and I could work off the other one.  That seemed like a great option and I was willing to work to help other families while seeing through our adoption as well.  (She has since tried to charge me for thousands more and since I submitted my resignation she has accused me of trying to get a free adoption from her. However, I absolutely worked many more hours than the cost of my second adoption.)

Fall of 2012 I spent many hours, day and night, working with multiple families that had turned their dossiers over to Heather Elyse after having failed adoption attempts with their own orphanages. I went to Haiti that fall and got to see Giving Hope Rescue Mission's main creche plus another building where she was “hiding kids”. I was told that this other location had to be kept a secret because the original creche kept getting “raided” by bio parents and/or IBESR (the Haitian adoption authority).  

At the time Heather said she was doing everything for the safety of children. I truly believed Heather was everything she said she was and began to feel like we were close friends which made it very difficult for me to believe anything negative about her. I didn’t question her even when things seemed a bit “off.”  

In the summer of 2012 Heather informed us via facebook that two children from the Giving Hope Rescue Mission creche were murdered. I did not get any further details until the fall of 2012. You can read more about this story here. Hearing that story from Heather was the first time I began to feel concerned and suspicious about what was going on at the crèche. I have worked in Haiti off and on for a long time and know that culturally, while children may die of neglect or lack of food, it is rather unheard of for families to violently murder their children.  The various, very different, versions of the stories she told also raised red flags for me that it was not true. But I couldn't understand the logic behind making up this story.

In February 2013 I made another trip to Haiti. During that time Heather shared with me incredibly serious concerns about the Haitian adoption liaison (who also acted as creche director) she was employing, Pierre Wesmin Garcon. (According to witnesses in Haiti Heather is now married to him - though they may deny this.) The stories were about abuse, death threats towards Heather, threats to destroy adoption documents, the halt of all adoption processing between November-February and additional information that would definitely prevent an adult man from working with children if he lived in the U.S. Heather told me that Wesmin was blackmailing her and she had no choice but to keep him employed. I kept thinking she would find a way to distance herself and the program from him but never saw any effort of that and in fact noticed the opposite...more authority and responsibility being given to Wesmin. (He was promoted from an "adoption liaison" to "creche director"!) 

As a staff we were approving wire transfers to this man via Heather and I became more and more concerned.

Shortly after I visited in February and was feeling my own red flags about Heather, Wesmin and the Giving Hope Rescue Mission creche a family that had been part of the program for about a year, Jeremy and Amanda, went to Haiti to take custody of their son. 

The story we, as Voice of the Orphan staff, were given about this situation was that the family had “raided” the crèche. The dramatic explanation by Heather (who was not in Haiti at the time) was so horrifying and traumatic that I was furious with Amanda. But knowing that I had hand carried her dossier to Haiti the year before and had never seen her act irrationally, I went right to her to find out why she and her husband took their child.  I can't say I believed her right away (because Heather had painted such a terrible picture) but I kept asking questions. What I was hearing from Heather about the incident and what Amanda was saying about it were completely opposite and I just really wanted to know the truth. In the months that followed I obviously realized exactly why Amanda and Jeremy did what they did and have learned that many of the stories and versions of “emergencies”, including almost all details surrounding Amanda’s “raid” on the creche we were given as staff were wildly exaggerated or even completely made up!

My own personal adoption issues started when I realized in February 2013 that all the intervention families that had transferred to Giving Hope/VOTO were not being helped and had even been lied to about the progress made on their adoptions.  

I was devastated because I had done everything I could to help them and then passed on their dossiers for Wesmin to try to submit to IBESR. After 7-8 months of NOTHING for these families (not submitted to IBESR which is the first key step in any Haitian adoption) I asked that they get their dossiers back.

The parents, along with another adoption liaison, 2 different lawyers, an orphanage director and IBESR worker ALL stated that they had not been put through "Pre-IBESR" since 2011 (these dossiers had expired when we got them so to get them in formally to IBESR and the adoption system they had to go through Pre-IBESR again in 2012 which should have been our job).

I messaged Heather to tell her that the intervention cases had not been through Pre-IBESR and that I was worried about them. They were my responsibility and I had grown to love each of these families.

I was assuming the best and that she just didn't know that Wesmin had been lying about processing the paperwork. But instead of calmly asking for clarification or engaging in a conversation with me Heather became very angry at me, forwarded my email to Wesmin (which infuriated him) and since then my adoption really hasn't moved.  

At that time (early spring 2013) I had been told I was out of IBESR and courts (we had an adoption decree and were legally our children’s parents) yet from then until now (Sept. 2013) I still had never been submitted to MOI which is the last step before passports are produced.  

I have multiple text messages telling me that Wesmin had my dossier, which meant I’d be moving to the next step.  But after every text I would later be told my dossier was “stuck” with a Haitian attorney who had previously been fired and then was inexplicably hired back. The stories surrounding this attorney, Guerdine Jean-Juste, were ridiculous and far fetched. I began to believe that I might never see my dossier again.

To be continued...