The details, as promised. Commentary to follow. For now, just facts.
We signed on with One World Adoption Services, Inc. (“OWAS”) in November 2010 to adopt two kids under 4 from DRC. In October 2011, after being told that our referral would come soon since May 2011, we were sent a referral for two children (who we called Carolyn and Freddy) (who were said to be 5 and 3 – thus outside of our range). Their paperwork did not include any information about the biological family, except that the mother was unable to care for them, and the father was “unknown.” We asked a number of questions about their birth family and where the children came from and were told by our caseworker that she would look into it. We never heard anything further. We naively accepted OWAS’ word that this was all the information that we would/could receive from DRC.
[Sidenote: I said commentary would come later, but I lied. Never, ever, ever believe this from any agency. Information abounds. Just now I found the former orphanage director on Facebook. People. It’s 2012. Everyone has a cell phone. Everyone has an email address. Everyone has a computer.]
In February 2012, we passed court and received the parental authorization form. This was the first time that we ever heard that the biological mother would have to be contacted and actively relinquish her rights. Again we asked for information about her and her situation but did not receive any information from OWAS. On the request for birth certificates, for the first time, we saw the name of a third child (Katie) and asked for information from OWAS. We were then told that she was the children’s biological sister, who was raised with them and had been brought to the orphanage at the same time. Based on this, we can only assume that when we had previously asked OWAS for information about the biological family, they were not attempting to get that information. If they had looked into our questions, it would have been clear that the children had a sister in the orphanage.
We accepted the referral for the older sister not wanting to split up the siblings. At that time, we finally received the “intake form” that included a little more information about the biological family, again stating that the father was “unknown.”
In the spring/early summer of 2012, the woman running the orphanage in Kinshasa was fired due to allegations of corruption. This started raising our red flags. When she was fired, she took (at least) three children from the orphanage to her home. These children were later removed by the police, and she was arrested. (This relates later.)
We passed court with Katie in March 2012 but never received all of her documents or confirmation that her birth certificate or passport were ever requested (we pulled out at the end of August). This was concerning to us given the “shake up.” We never got a straight answer as to what was going on with Katie’s case and whether OWAS had the documents, whether they were in progress or whether they were missing/lost/stolen.
In April 2012, we filed I600s for Carolyn and Freddy. In June 2012, we received a request for evidence asking for more information about the mother’s situation. OWAS was never able to gather adequate documentation, so we had to withdraw the I600 in order to avoid a denial. Since we did not want to solely rely on OWAS, we hired another attorney in DRC to investigate.
It was at this point that the red flags became flaming red on fire flags. First, our investigation revealed that the address given by OWAS for the biological mother was incorrect and that no one by her name had ever lived there, and no neighbors had ever heard of her. Second, we then learned that Freddy was one of the children taken from the orphanage by the fired director, which explained why we had not received any photos of him for months while we did receive photos of the girls. We asked for an update on him but never received any information from OWAS. Finally, in another review of the documents, we saw that the biological mother had the same last name as the fired orphanage director.
In their attempt to respond to the request for evidence, OWAS told us that the biological mother could not be found and/or had moved. However, days later, we received an updated “certificate of indigence” that said, on its face, she had recently appeared at social services and testified as to her status. When we asked OWAS about this document, they told us that the officer had remembered meeting the mother (presumably a year before) and could sign the document based on her memory. This did not sit well with us and looked a lot like a fraudulent document to us.
Based on this series of events, we decided we needed to conduct our own personal investigation since there were too many red flags for us to feel comfortable proceeding. In August, we went to DRC. We met with members of the children’s birth family and quickly learned that our suspicions were, unfortunately, true. The documents that were used to support the children’s cases were all fraudulent. The children were the nieces and nephew o0 the fired director, who had falsely indicated that the father was “unknown” in order to complete the adoption. The mother and father are in a committed relationship, have other children and live about a 4 hour plane ride from Kinshasa. Because the documents were fraudulent, we could not proceed with the adoption.
While we were there, we also learned that Freddy had been back living with his grandmother for a number of months after he had been removed (while we were paying monthly orphan support for him). While in DRC, we met the children’s grandmother, and while she is not rich, by any means, we could see that she had some means to provide. The children have been returned to her, and we are very glad for that. Their grandmother loves them, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best situation for them.
When we met with OWAS upon our return, they confirmed that we could not proceed with an international adoption where there are two known, living parents (not to mention fraudulent documents). While we had hoped that they would work with us to resolve our situation, they refuse to refund any of our money.
These are the cold hard facts. We have many other suspicions about further corruption in DRC and adoptions, and I will post my commentary another time. Thanks for following our journey. We are down, but not out!
There’s no easy way to say it. This adoption process has come to an end. I will post the details soon because they are important, but for now, just the emotions.
If you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve had some ups and downs over the past 4-5 months so it wasn’t altogether surprising when we learned that we could not complete the adoption. Not surprising, but heartbreaking. While the sobbing has ceased, the pain remains. The dull achy reminder that those faces are not ours to hold. We will never kiss those beautiful feet that we stared at for months. We will never hear those sweet voices calling for “Mommy” and “Daddy.”
Ah, but we have been so mightily blessed. What a privilege to love! What a joy to know that your heart can love someone you’ve never met. Our hearts have been broken for what breaks the Father’s heart, which has been a daily prayer of mine for so long. The Father loves the little children, and we got to taste his sweet love for us and them. We were able to feel the Father’s passion to fight against injustice and for truth. We prayed for a mission, for a calling, for a life-changing experience, and we got one. It wasn’t the one we thought we were getting, but it was the one He had prepared for us.
What does James mean when he says to count it all joy when we face trials? I thought it meant that we were to buck up and be happy because even when life is hard, God still loves us. No, it now means that we sing through the weeping, and we smile through the tears. It’s not about ignoring the pain or looking at the bright side. It’s seeing the beauty in the ashes. It’s seeing Him on a bloody tree. It’s ugly and heart-wrenching, but it’s so beautiful and full of hope and joy.
I’ve so enjoyed my first week off! I’m calling it the honeymoon phase because we haven’t yet felt the financial hit. So far, just fun.
What did I do all week? Read, began Season 1 of Downton Abbey, long walks, yoga, some cooking and cleaning, and lots of painting. I started on Tuesday by saying that I *might* want to re-paint the apartment. DH has been begging to repaint for years, but I always say no because it’s so much work and costs money. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, he was hauling paint cans, rollers and brushes up from the basement “just in case.” My fate was sealed. So far, all I’ve accomplished is painting the hallway and half of the dining room. Hoping to finish the dining room today. I am actually really enjoying the physicality of it after 4 years of sitting behind a computer. My shoulders are sore, and it’s nice to actually accomplish a project. Plus, it feels cleaner without actually cleaning!
We finished the 7 fast. As I think I said before, we did not finish strong. But, God was very faithful in answering our prayers in their weakness. All of the families we did the fast with had some crazy life transitions happen at the end (some good, some bad, some both), and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence at all. I really believe God has been preparing this group for something amazing, and we are already seeing some of that fruit. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that our faith has been tested and challenged and come out stronger on the other side.
At the beginning, I wondered whether there would be any lasting impact of some of the reductions we made. I can say that there certainly have been. We are spending less, giving more (time, talent and treasure), using what we have, and most importantly, praying and seeking God more regularly. Space has been created. There’s no way I would have had the courage to quit my job without the fast. It’s really been the culmination of the fast for me. I had been praying all year that God would break the idols that ruled my heart – security, comfort, approval, money, and that He would show me where He wanted me to go with my life. He has done a mighty work. Don’t get me wrong – the idols are still there, but He has shaken them and shown me how weak they are compared to Him.
Right now, I feel like He’s shown me where He doesn’t want me to go. I can’t say that I have clarity on the path ahead, but I’m not sure God ever really provides that. He wants me to get out of the boat even though it looks like I might drown if I do.