Friday, October 3, 2014

Guest Post: Sharing our experiences with AAS



Personal note from the author of this blog (Holly):  this post was written by a third party, which I am offering for educational purposes as well as to give these families a voice.  I welcome any response from AAS.


 *********************

The following story is a compilation of stories from multiple families who are currently adopting or have adopted children through the adoption agency AAS, written in the first person.  Due to the delicate matters discussed, names of the families are being withheld to protect the privacy and safety of the families involved, and so that ongoing investigations are not jeopardized. The information contained in this post has been shared by AAS clients.  The author of this post has taken reasonable steps to verify the truth of these statements, but as always, readers should do their own investigations of the information presented in this post. 

When we decided to adopt from the Democratic Republic of Congo last year, we were thrilled to find what we thought was an ethical adoption agency who really cared about both the children and their adoptive families.  The agency then called DRCAS, now known as Africa Adoption Services, or AAS had rave reviews from former clients, and its founder, Danielle Anderson, had worked at the US Embassy in Kinshasa.  DRCAS website led us to believe that Danielle created the adoptions unit at the Embassy, but given that adoptions were being processed there since at least 2001, this appears to be an exaggerated claim (Ms. Andersons employment status can be verified by contacting the American Embassy in Kinshasa at AEKinshasaConsular@state.gov or by telephone at 081-880-5847).   AAS is also run by an adoptive parent named Amy True.

As we moved deeper into our adoption process, we began to question some of the things that we initially thought were positive about AAS.  The agency was really adamant about only referring children who were true orphans kids who had been abandoned and who had no known birth family.  They also said that they did not work with orphanages, and instead got their referrals through social services.  We thought that was really great wed be adopting children who really needed to be adopted.  But the more we dug into this, we realized that these abandonment cases werent actually situations where the kids were true orphans  that many of these kids had known birth families, many of whom were found by the Embassy when doing investigations for visas or when families performed their own independent investigations (clients could pay AAS between $350 and $500 to perform an investigation which never seemed to reveal the existence of birth families or paperwork errors).  It seems to us that abandonment cases were only preferred because there was a higher chance of getting a visa (without birth parents to interview and to obtain consent from). Many of the cases had fraudulent or erroneous paperwork, which AAS charged adoptive parents to correct so that APs had to pay for their agencys mistakes (for example, charging $100 for fixing mistakes in the kids abandonment documents). Many AAS cases do actually involve known birth families; AAS recently informed their clients via email that many biological parents are revoking their consent and taking their children back because of negative news stories about American adoptive parents.  We also learned later that AAS claim that they did not work with orphanages to be false, as AAS received referrals from several orphanages including One Destiny, an orphanage that AAS later told us had been raided by the Congolese authorities.

The fees raised another huge concern for us.  Having done a fair amount of research into international adoption, we knew that paying lawyers or facilitators large fees to find children can be viewed as child buying.  The AAS fee schedule included a $1,500 fee to search for child which seemed a lot like a child finder fee to us.  AAS assured us that this wasnt a child finder fee, but a fee that includes the abandonment documents and commune approval.  They also claimed that the attorney only gets a $5,000 fee, and all of the other foreign service fees (totaling $15,180 at the time) went to third parties.  The foreign service fees were set out as follows:

FOREIGN SERVICE FEE                                  $15,180.00                 
            I.  LOCATION OF CHILD       
            Search Child: $1500                                                   
            Gift to the orphanage: $500                                       
            Preparation of Documents: $1000                             

            II. JUDICIAL PROCEDURE
            Judgment of adoption: $300                                       
            Supplemental Birth Certificate Judgment: $250                      
            Act of adoption: $100                                                            
            Birth Certificate: $100
            Costs and expenses: $1000

            III. FOSTER AND GUARDING
            Salary for foster mom: $1600
            Living expenses of the child (Pampers, milk, food, and medical):  $2400

            IV. OBTAINING PASSPORT AND OUT PERMISSION.
            Legalization documents at City Hall: $100
            Obtaining a passport to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: $450
            Slip obtained from the Ministry of Gender and Family: $450
            Child Visa:  $230
            Obtaining permission to leave the DGM: $200

            Attorney receives $5,000 for services.

According to this document, $10,180 went to various people other than our attorney (including $4,000 for foster care fees).  But where?  We knew from the US Embassy that an exit letter from DGM did not cost any money.  Why was AAS charging us $200 for it?  Where was all of this money going?  To bribes/expediting fees/wheel greasing?  We simply did not know, and our questions were never really answered other than with things like, Thats just the culture and Things are different in Congo.  When we asked for receipts, we were told that nobody in Congo gives receipts something we knew to be untrue from other families receipts from other agencies and some of our own experiences in Congo. We did learn that the search fees went to the attorneys who were supposedly only getting $5,000 for their services.  It turns out that ALL of our money was funneled through the attorneys, including foster care fees.  We dont know how much they kept on top of their $5,000 fee.  When we have questioned the amounts paid to the lawyers, we were told that the attorneys need to feed their children and support their families.  In a recent conference call, AAS informed clients that the attorneys are not responsible for verifying that the children are adoptable or that their stories are true which leads to the question of what exactly these fees were for, if not for the attorneys to do these things.

Once the suspension started in September 2013, we learned that we would be charged $500/month per child for foster care expenses, on top of the $4,000 that we had already paid per our contract (which was for 8 months of foster care per child).  We knew from this blog that the average monthly salary in DRC was only $50/month, but we believed AAS when they said that the money was necessary to take good care of our children.  Later, we found out from postings on online adoption groups that our childrens foster mothers were only getting $160 out of $500 to care for our children, and that the money was being paid directly to our attorneys who apparently did not provide an accounting of the remaining $340/month fee.  When families questioned this arrangement, the attorneys moved their children out of the foster homes where they had been living for over a year and refused to tell the adoptive families where the children were living.  We were told that we could not be in contact with foster families, and that communicating with them was not permitted.  AAS admitted that all of this was happening, and gave families permission to move their children to private foster care.

But when families tried to move their kids to private foster care, they ran into a problem the lawyers wanted more money to release the kids and the documents.  They claimed that they werent paid for certain months of foster care and although the families could provide proof of payment through cancelled checks and paypal transactions, the families were sometimes required to pay again for foster care.  The lawyers also demanded more and more money to release documents above and beyond what had already been paid or what was already due.  It felt like blackmail from these lawyers, and like AAS was playing a role in it although AAS insisted that it couldnt control the lawyers, and that they couldnt do anything about any of these demands.

Throughout the suspension, there were strong rumors of many AAS families getting out of the country through supposedly legal means despite the fact that the official position of the Congolese government was that no one could take their kids out of the country legally.  We were told that there was a loophole and that they could exit legally through Goma.  When waiting families would talk about who had reportedly gone through Goma (including members of AAS board), they were harassed and bullied by AAS told that the rumors would only hurt the families and the process.  Harassment and bullying is a common AAS tactic, with various methods Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, email, text message and phone calls used to intimidate clients into giving them information or answering questions. One example is when clients talked about their negative experiences with AAS, either privately or in small online forums, they would receive emails about how they are jeopardizing their adoptions and/or could face legal action.  If clients discussed with each other AAS families who had brought their adopted children home during the suspension, Danielle and Amy would call, text and message them repeatedly, demanding to know where they got this information.  These communications were particularly ironic, given that many clients had trouble getting timely reply emails or phone calls from AAS but when Amy or Danielle wanted to talk to you, they would contact you through every means available, repeatedly, until you answered. We all have multiple screenshots of these communications from Amy and Danielle.  AAS seemed to be particularly concerned with social media postings and rumors, apparently encouraging clients to take screenshots of other adoptive parents private adoption pages or postings on adoption ethics groups, and emailing clients directly to confront them about these postings.  These tactics fostered an atmosphere of fear and distrust among adoptive parents, and did little to contribute to actually moving cases forward. 

Case progress remains a major concern for us.  All of us have been in process for over a year, but many of us are nowhere near bringing our kids home even without the suspension. Many of us have found significant mistakes and errors in our court documents, requiring us to essentially start the process over again.  Others have seen absolutely no progress in their cases in months, and cannot get straight answers from AAS about what exactly is happening.  When clients complain about these items or even just ask for help, we are told that we are free to leave AAS and find another agency if we dont think that they are ethical or that they are doing a good job. They claim that complaints (including Hague complaints) and asking questions just distract them from doing work on cases. We were also told by a board member that Amy and Danielle were not being paid, and that they work harder than anyone else for us as though they were innocent victims in all that has happened, rather than the creators of this mess.

Over the course of the suspension, many of us have learned through independent investigations that our kids stories were false, and that they do have living birth families.  AAS has now announced that families who contact agency attorneys, orphanages or facilitators, or who engage third party providers (like independent investigators) without prior written permission will be in breach of contract and will have their contract cancelled with no refunds given.   It seems like AAS goal is to end as many contracts as possible, given that they have announced that when their contractual obligations are finished in DRC, they will close the program.  They have created a gigantic mess in DRC, and appear to be very eager to get out of it even if it comes at the expense of their clients and their adopted children.  AAS is apparently starting new adoption programs in other countries in Africa, including Niger and Uganda.

We are disappointed that we have been so badly betrayed by AAS, and we hope that by writing this, others will be made aware of their actions in DRC.  We have seen fraud, incompetence, bullying, harassment, corruption, and negligence in our dealings with this agency.  We are all too far into our adoption processes to simply walk away we are the legal parents of our children, these children rely on us for support, and we do not have enough money to pay another agency.  Our hope is that by raising these issues publicly, we can shed some light on the issues that may arise in the course of an adoption and perhaps save some families considering international adoption some heartache.





90 comments:

Benjamin L. Corey said...

Unfortunate that the author didn't have the courage to sign their name to this. Really disgusting, actually.

Suzanne said...

Thank you for posting this. It needed to be said.

What blows my mind is that nearly all of the genuinely well-intentioned PAPs who've found themselves in this mess are college/grad school-educated.

They have research skills. They have critical thinking skills. Yet for some unfathomable reason, chose not to apply to them to their adoption.

Why not google or call the Embassy in DRC to inquire if they're really set up some sort of specialized adoption unit? Or if the person who says she works there really does?

Why blindly accept 'DRC doesn't do receipts' as the DRC way? Without looking into it?

Why ignore all those State Dept warnings, the ones that date back as far as 2011, the 14-15 issued in 2013 alone, that DRC adoptions are a mess, that trafficking's a huge problem, that there's very good chance that adoptions will be shut down (temporarily or indefinitely)?

I get that people want a child. That they fall in love with a picture. That they're willing to do anything... ugh.

There were warnings about this. This mess is not a surprize. This mess, the financial incentive for unscrupulous Congolese folks to steal/traffic kids WITH families, so they might earn big bucks, was paid for by the very people (the well-intentioned PAPs) who wanted an ethical adoption.


Sandy Bequette said...

I came to this blog mistakenly thinking I would see a sign of hope. Instead what I see is called slander: Proverbs 6:19 warns: A false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. By naming names and providing unsubstantiated rumors, you reduce your comments to mere hearsay and foster discord and hatred. I understand as an adoptive parent that there is a need for transparency. However, think how much more powerful your post would have been if it had fostered grace, not hatred.

Suzanne said...

I think the word you're looking for is "libel" -- and it's incorrect in this case.

Congolese kids HAVE been trafficked, this lovely Belgian lady was recently been released from jail following being CONVICTED of trafficking:

http://bit.ly/1BDLQVi

Rachael said...

Truth is an absolute defense to slander. By definition, a slander must involve a lie. Unless you have direct knowledge that any of this is a lie, then I would be careful about judging the testimony of another adoptive parent. I am an Congo adoptive parent (not with AAS), and I have heard these and similar heartbreaking stories from many parents, not just with AAS, over the past months. Because agencies tend to control with fear and intimidation, it is difficult for parents who are still waiting to speak out publicly. Many parents who adopt just want a child, and for those people it will be difficult to believe the truth if the truth lies in between them and what they want. But many more of us are missional Christians, who believed that what we were doing would change the life of a child who deserved hope and a future. I would argue that those Christians who want to do Christ's work on earth and then turn a blind eye to injustice and evil doings for the sake of fostering "grace" become little more that PR agents for the wrongdoers. It is time for us to take a stand, confess where we have contributed from blindness, ignorance, or fear, and demand accountability. These beautiful kids in this amazing country deserve nothing less.

kym said...

Thank you for writing about this problem. I agree with both the commenters, Benjamin and Suzanne.

That said, it looks like a huge mess, adoption in the DRC. Unfortunately, while I feel for the emotional heartstrings of these PAPs, they are very much responsible for getting themselves involved in these messes without critical skills (despite much critical thinking in their own professions). Why are they investing so much of their energy in a culture that is so "foreign" to them? If they don't understand or can't differentiate between truth and fiction, lies and deceit, in a foreign country with linguistic and cultural differences, then why are they insisting on adopting children from those places? It's like they are insisting on remaining ignorant, so that they can claim ignorance as an excuse for something they intuitively feel is wrong.

And while being empathic to their emotional roller coaster and being scammed, they are inviting this emotional roller coaster on themselves. No one is forcing them to pay tens of thousands of dollars without transparency, honesty, forthrightness, or understanding so that they can keep their hopes alive.

At some point, everyone has to look at themselves, their wants and needs, values and thresholds of morality. If someone wants to make a child's life better, tens of thousands of dollars could strengthen a whole community in a poor country and make many children's and families' lives better, as long as the money doesn't get all sucked into lawyers', agencies' and selfish desires. PAPs are ALWAYS in a position to decide whether or not to walk away from a sub-optimal adoption situation (albeit the choices might not be pleasant). Others affected by adoption don't have that luxury, adoption often isn't a choice for them.

PAPs have a responsibility to not continue with unethical adoptions that permanently sever and destroy other families when deceit and lies are at the center.

Shawny said...

Sandy- It seems you skimmed over the section that says there is multiple screenshots of these claims? There is no speculation or assumptions made there. Let me guess... you're a waiting parent with AAS who has been blinding drinking the kool-aid? Don't get me wrong, I really feel for all the parents who so desperately want their kids home and are stuck in this situation, especially those who were scammed and lied to by agencies. However these personal stories of agency corruption that we are all hearing in small groups whispered in the corners need to come to light and I respect these PAPs for speaking out and Holly for publishing their stories. Burying your head in the sand is also not "fostering grace", it's helping continue the cycle of corruption.

Rachael said...

While I understand where you are coming from, your response doesn't demonstrate a very nuanced understanding of the situation in DRC or the motives behind a lot of parents who adopt from there. The issue isn't how money would be best spent or whether the future of one child in an orphanage could be traded for a a well in another village. Many people who have worked in other relief and community-strengthening capacities in DRC have also adopted children. There are many, many kids who need many things. Lots of them are legitimately orphaned and have little hope of growing up in a permanent family, ever. Those kids matter and their futures matter. The issue is that the bottom line motivations of many adoptive parents don't match the bottom line motivations of the adoption agencies. Agencies will always, when allowed to get away with it, adopt out the kids who are most attractive to potential parents and easiest to access and get through the system rather than the kids who most need families. If things don't go according to plan, as in the last year in DRC, then the cracks really start to show. That is why I hope that brave parents who adopted for reasons beyond just "getting a kid" will lead the way in talking about corruption and pushing for change. There is a longstanding pattern of "boom and bust" among adoption agencies, they come into a country, ruin everything, and then push to the next country with a pilot program. What a shame and disservice to those children who really are orphans, and really do need families.

Anonymous said...

Oh sorry . . . forgot that facebook counts as scholarly research . . . my bad.

Karen said...

Benjamin and Sandy, it's people like you, sadly, who are the reason anonymity is needed. What's actually "disgusting" is defending an agency without disclosing that you are one of their clients. Wouldn't you say? Are you or are you not with AAS?

That, and the unethical, unscrupulous and scum behavior of the adoption agencies who threaten PAPs and APs who speak up about corruption and trafficking. (Yeah, it's call 'shoot the messenger.') These families have made it clear they have already been victimized by this agency and have proof of it, and they certainly don't need to be harassed further by this agency or by any clients who may have fallen for their spin.

Danielle and Amy are, doubtless, more than welcome to refute all of the allegations right here in the comment section. Their board members who allegedly smuggled out their children - which if true is a grotesque display of hypocrisy and a criminally selfish mindset, and those wretches have no business being affiliated in any capacity with any business involving children - can show this blog the proof of the legitimacy of their paperwork that magically appeared to be legal when DRC said no such paperwork is forthcoming. Kindly show the exit stamp in their passports showing where they left DRC. They would be doing a tremendous service to all the waiting PAPs who would love to avail themselves of allegedly legal "loopholes" so they can get their kids too.

No one wants to believe their agency might be duplicitous. It is extremely hard to believe and it's hard not to wonder why you made the choices you did after the fact, when you went into the process with a full heart of love and a desire to give a needy child a home. People who traffic children for profit are beneath contempt, however. I actually think a lot of them are either pathological narcissists or sociopaths, because they flat out refuse to admit wrong-doing even when they're caught.

Over the years, I've also heard every excuse in the book for explaining away unethical behavior by unethical agencies. It's PAPs who are mad they didn't get the child they wanted. It's the facilitators. It's the lawyers. It's out of our control. It's just how it's done. It's not true. You have to have faith. You are a sinner with impure thoughts. If you're a true Christian, you need to pray. It's misinformation. God chose this child for us and God is never wrong. We prayed and prayed and we know we're doing the right thing. We know our agency is ethical. You're ruining it for everyone else. You already have your kid, so shut up. What you said is so untrue that I can't be bothered to deal with it. You're all just haters. I don't care.... And my personal favorite: Satan did it. Sure he did. He paid off the locals and he created bogus paperwork and he charged inflated fees and he told you how to smuggle because, ya know, children deserve families. Every time I see an agency or a PAP evoke Satan, I wish nothing more than for Torquemada to be reincarnated so he can give them a real mouthful of Satan. Give me a freaking break.

So a big thank you is owed to Holly and to the families who had the courage to speak up, knowing they would be insulted and challenged. They have an awful lot to lose. Everyone tainted by unethical agencies does.

scooping it up said...

Thank you to those who speak up. I am appalled by the first comment: What is disgusting is the agency that is closing up shop after their good run of extorting money, and are going to do make the same mess in other countries. We should be disgusted by stolen and coerced children. Not people who report it. Grow up.

scooping it up said...

And Karen ROCK ON.

Anonymous said...

The first paragraph explains why the writer left out names. To identify his/herself would be to risk their entire adoption!

Karen said...

Thanks, Scooping! I would just like to add, FWIW, that this kind of unethical adoption behavior is not unique to DRC. I think one of the huge problems with IA is that information-sharing that tackles the tough stuff can be difficult to believe even though it is not difficult to find. Nearly every other country that has shut or slowed considerably to IA has done so primarily because corruption was out of control. Lobbyists like BEB or deranged denialists like professional sycophant Elizabeth Bartholet will deny it, but Guatemala, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, India, China non-SN, Haiti etc. have all been plagued by tragically similar scenarios. Look at the case of Mary Mooney - back when I started looking in IA at the end of 1999, she ran a website devoted to adoption ethics. And now she is going on trial for IAG's crimes in Ethiopia. Bottom line: support groups like the big DRC one on Facebook that censor messages and cater to the unicorns-and-bunnies-adoption-land PAPs who only can hear what they want to hear do a grave disservice to all PAPs who deserve the truth, good and bad. Any agency that harasses clients in any way for speaking up truthfully about problems is a scum agency and their behavior exposed for what it is - unethical, immoral, and sometimes criminal. How can anyone ever trust an agency director who threatens clients and has other clients do their dirty work? It's insanity.

scooping it up said...

The people who are adopting from unethical agencies in corrupt countries need to know they are not the first to use their same justifications, same arguments, have the same defenses up. Your rhetoric about saving kids is not new. Your participation in defending evil agencies with Bible scriptures has been going on for decades in so many countries it's impossible to list them.

What you are doing in your online support groups and yahoo groups, attacking people who speak up, isn't creative. It's a replica of what happened before Guatemala shut down, VietNam, it has been happening in Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, everywhere there are coerced and trafficked children, there are adoptive parents desperate to believe the agency is "ok" and wnat to save the children from their birth culture and country and families under the banner of God.

This has all been done and said before, except in DRC, because there is no regulations, no government, no moral ethical laws in place to protect families from agencies who know exactly how to capitalize on this ethical nightmare, it's so much worse. The stuff happening there to make children available for the selling and buying is wild and rampant and it's so sad that people don't realize that little brown children grow up and realize they were apart of adoption trafficking, that their white parents were apart of taking them from their family. They grow up to face their loss and grief and want to know "why did you do this?" When they know enough English they beg to go back home.

Adoptive parents in DRC are no different than in other countries. There is the "don't ruin it for us" syndrome http://scoopingitup.blogspot.com/2013/02/dont-ruin-it-for-everyone-what-does-it.html

And the "we want more proof why aren't you tell me your names with more details?" syndrome www.scoopingitup.blogspot.com/2013/02/wanting-proof-of-mess.html

Anonymous said...

AAS conducted almost all of their business online, over Skype, over Facebook, and emails. It is not hard to trace every allegation stated above.

Anonymous said...

This post is very similar to our experience adopting from DRC and using MLJ Adoptions. They too had some of the same lawyers as AAS for their cases (T, M, J...), so it makes sense they would conduct business in a similar manner because they're using the same in country personnel.

Let me jump back, for a moment, and say that the "child finder" fee is most concerning. I would like to know more about how exactly children are "found" for DRC adoption, considering most of the children referred from agencies have been as early as days old. I would like for more transparency in this area but I guarantee that this transparency won't come from dialogue with the agencies involved.

A few additional comments....

Benjamin - Glad to see you made it here. I'm sure you know a lot about courage considering your dramatic kidnapping in Kinshasa. As an adoptive parent who has blogged about truth and adoptee relationships with your daughter, I'm sure you understand the importance of bringing AP stories of corruption to light.

Suzanne - PAPs blindly accept agency words as the sovereign truth because the actual truth about DRC adoptions is suppressed. Where does one go to glean the truth? The agencies who are profiting won't supply it. Online searches bring up adoption agency blogs and ads as the first hits. Facebook has APs and PAPs talking in secret and hidden groups because any non private group talk is deleted. I choose to believe that many APs do not want to walk into an adoption that will end up featured on 20/20.

Sandy - Signs of hope can be found on BEB sites. Discord and hatred has already been fostered from the "us" vs "them" mentality perpetuated by the agencies involved in DRC as well as with BEB. We all want what is best for the children of DRC. That means that if they need to stay with the birth mothers and families who want them, we should give them every initiative to parent.


Beth said...

That's a whole lot of words coming from a person who found inconsistencies in the paperwork of the first Ethiopian kid she adopted, felt kinda bad, hired an investigator, yet turned right around and adopted from Ethiopia again (!).

Seriously. If a first-hand encounter with fraud while adopting wasn't enough to stop you from adopting from the same country AGAIN, well, nothing is or ever be.

You are about adoption ethics NOW - all the kids you wanted to adopt from Ethiopia are safely in your home.

While you SAY you cared about ethics as you were adopting, your actions DEMONSTRATE otherwise.

That's the crux of the adoption ethics problem -- nobody (well, precious few) cares enough to halt an adoption. You sure didn't.

What's also interesting about so very many could've-known-and-done-better-but-elected-not-to APs is they get the kids home and then complain they're traumatized. That horrible, preventable damage has been done to innocent kids (true), that others don't get it and that no helpful help is available and it's so very very hard on the APs. Not the kids whose lives got blown up.

You reap what you sow. And your adopted kid pay an irrevocable price for it. And you don't give a damn.

Holly said...

Thank you for all the comments! I want to continue the open dialogue about this post here; I feel like it is extremely important. As a reminder, let's stick to comments related to DRC adoptions and AAS specifically. Please keep comments constructive and respectful of each other. Thank you!

scooping it up said...

Hi Beth! I think it's fascinating you think you know details about my first adoption, like "I found inconsistencies in my paperwork." I never said those words ever, because they didn't happen. What did happen is that a whole lot of people I know found inconsistencies in their paperwork, and that made me want to check things out, go back to Ethiopia. This was at a time when not many people were doing that, I was the first one of my friends, and we didn't hire an investigator, not that it matters, my husband went to investigate with the help of an awesome translator. - And yes, we did adopt again because I believed at the time that there were ways to prevent fraud. By not adopting an infant, by adopting "hard to place" children like teenagers and sibling groups, and using an agency that was known for advocating for adoption for children with special needs, etc. I thought by having an open investigation and relationship with first family outside of agency interference before the adoption we could verify details and the circumstances to make sure the children needed adoption. I thought that it was possible to offer a second chance to children who really needed it by doing "all the right things" and not buying into agency BS. - I was wrong. And I take responsibility for this every day. And just because I am complicit in international adoption problems does not mean for a second I am going to stop talking about it. I own that I thought I could beat the system. And I own PLENTY on my blog, in my space, that there are some kids, not all, in my family that would have been better off not adopted, that they miss birth family and country very much and so we call home all the time, and they have the most open adoption situation I know about. -Find another place to spew venom. I own my responsibility and deal with the aftermath every freaking day. What will not do is shut up about ethics because of our family story. Whether you like it or not, we are on the same team. I would LOVE for the US to stop adoptions in DRC, Ethiopia, Uganda and Ghana and Haiti. I wish more churches promoted programs that promote family preservation instead of the taking of children from at risk families.

Please stop assuming you know the details about my adoption paperwork, because you've never seen the papers and I've never written what is in them, so your assumptions are ridiculous and unhelpful in this comments and all others. Your exact wording is used in so many other comments sections to attack me but the name keeps changing.

Anonymous said...

Why are only wanting comments about AAS and not other DRC agencies? What is your specific agenda with then?

Anonymous said...

Wow! Stopping adoptions completely. That is horrible. While fraud needs to stop there are children who are true orphans and they deserve families. Not to grow up on the streets or orphanages. By advocating to end adoptions in these countries you are signing death certificates for so many children!

Holly said...

Anon. at 12:20pm, this post is about APs experiences with AAS. My comment was specially posted after someone commented about adoptions in Ethiopia and about another AP's adoption in that country. I would like the comments to remain on subject. That's all. Thanks.

Sandy Bequette said...

Anonymous, I think you make several good points here and in fact allude to what I was trying to say in my original post: that for whatever reason it comes about, a ‘them vs. us’ mentality is not growth-oriented. That is one of the beauties of the BeB site—that agency speak isn’t allowed. When we reduce the conversations of ethics in DRC adoption to ‘agency bashing’ however, we cause others to become defensive, thus the line of dialogue is shut down. It is my understanding that AAS will no longer be involved in adoptions once the suspension is lifted and their contracts with clients is complete (per the blog post above). I think that AAS, like many agencies operating in the DRC, would admit to a plethora of mistakes. I find it hard to believe that any agency can be run ethically that operates in the U.S. and has to rely on in-country staff to operate. A good friend of mine who also is involved in DRC investigations told me that he knows of no adoption agencies there that have been above the ethical law due to the complicated nature of Congolese culture: a nature another Congolese friend stated is run on “kleptocracy.” I can tell you that my family and I have been through pure HELL through this adoption process, but to blame it all on our agency would be neglectful. I am also very thankful that I know my child’s story—something that will prove invaluable in the years to come. My only wish is that conversations about the unethical nature of one’s adoption be done without names--that is what Hague reports are for. AAS, like so many other agencies, seems to be in the wrong here but it is also my understanding that they have admitted their mistakes and are working to resolve them. Rather than publically defaming them with a list of their ‘sins’, perhaps we could look at why these issues have occurred in so many adoptions regardless of agency? “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?”

Anonymous said...

We all know that BEB prefers for everything to be kept quiet...didn't Erin Siegal MacIntyre write an article about that recently?

Hague complaints take quite a long time to process, and the specifics of the complaints are not made public. They may result in corrective action, but are often a poor substitute for actually speaking out publicly about issues with a particular agency. Omitting the agency's name from accounts like this one would benefit no one except the agency -- and it would harm PAPs who are looking for information about an agency BEFORE they sign anything. Because AAS apparently intends to continue to work in other African countries, it IS important that this sort of story is made public.

It's interesting that no one has claimed that any of these allegations are false -- simply that it's "bashing" or that it shouldn't be anonymous (although the post clearly describes the reason why these families chose to be anonymous). Obviously, there are problems with other agencies working in DRC (and elsewhere) -- but since when does "but they're doing it, too!" excuse anyone from wrongdoing? I'm positive that other APs and PAPs could write posts like this one about other agencies -- but that doesn't mean that AAS is absolved (after all, 2 wrongs don't make a right). It isn't "bashing" to speak the truth; it's actually bashing when people attack other adoptive parents for speaking the truth. Covering things up helps no one -- except the agencies.

Finally, I'd be careful about using terms with specific legal meaning without actually knowing what they mean. It isn't defamation or slander if it's true.

Suzanne said...

Anonymous - No, just no. PAPs have several avenues by which information can be obtained -- call Embassy and see if the person who claims to work there really does, check the State Dept website to see if any adoption alerts/warnings have been posted, quick google search to see if anything DRC adoption-related has made the news.

Those three things, that's take 5 min combined would have yielded enough information by mid-2012 (and onwards) that attempting to adopt from DRC would be a very high-risk endeavor and that if they cared about ethics, they should go adopt from someplace else.

Anonymous said...

@Suzanne, YES, but for agency-specific information, the best place to look is personal accounts from APs and PAPs who have been there, done that.

Sandy Bequette said...

But can truths be known when only one perspective is given? I doubt that . . .

Anonymous said...

@Sandy, Holly invited a response from AAS. They are apparently free to give their perspective. As you are -- why not give your perspective on the claims in the post instead of generalities and bible quotes?

Anonymous said...

Suzanne - The alerts from the State Dept began in 2011. That did not help PAPs who began adopting from DRC from agencies in 2009. Nothing substantial was posted to the State Dept website until 2012.....after hundreds of adopted children had already immigrated to the US. 2012 was just TWO YEARS AGO. Many children have been "stuck" (as BEB puts it) at least that long.

If they were to "go someplace else" if they cared about ethics...I'm not even sure at this point where a person would go.

Suzanne said...

Sandy -

I disagree completely - names NEED to be named. People need to know what agencies to *avoid*.

The families that wrote this post allege AAC committed serious crimes - stealing money, neglecting kids, extortion, etc - so in my view this agency is *way* past the point of being able to simply "admit" mistakes and (without external supervision) "resolve them".

It's terrific that you completed your adoption ethically and that you have your kid's *true* story. I truly hope that's the case, that it's been independently investigated/confirmed. Because I'm guessing you do not speak any of DRC's 5 official languages, your agency could've lied to you and Congolese social services are so scarce as to be non-existent, and thus unable to do so.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sandy Bequette said...

Anonymous, I’m sorry-you have no right to share any info about me. That is my choice. I can see by hiding behind the term 'anonymous' you are afraid to share your real identity. Please remove any info about my specific case. That is unfair. I am not defending AAS per se-if another agency had been posted where people's names are being drug through the mud based on a few people's stories, I would also have concerns with that. I believe as Christians, we are called to a higher caliber. The problem with so many of your posts is that you exude judgment--you are somehow better than these other adoptive parents and that is shameful. So many of us are hurting and have been waiting to bring our children home for years. I am simply defending people whose voices are not present on here and asking people to reserve judgment until they have all the facts. That is why I am choosing to post my full name-you are welcome to dialogue with me privately and hear my personal story and why I choose not to judge but rather to move past to a spot of healing. If we can’t disagree in a civil manner, then these discussions really aren’t helpful. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, I believe that multiple people are commenting as anonymous. I know that I've only made one comment before this one.

Karen said...

Sandy, would you be good enough to answer Anonymous's comment that your adoptees have living birth parents who wanted to reclaim their children. Is that true? I'm sorry but the disconnect here with your other comments is too enormous to ignore.

Which brings up another point...which the exit-letter suspension has pushed to the background - namely, how many DRC adoptions from AAS and all agencies are actually wholly legitimate? If you want to adopt an orphan why are there so many relinquishments from intact bio families? Why would anyone presume that in one of the most corrupt countries in the world, the adoption business would somehow be exempt from corruption??? I know we're supposed to stick to AAS/DRC, but I think people should know that the judge in Ethiopia who used to sign off on adoptions actually went public with a statement that she KNEW deep-down the paperwork was wrong, but as it still presented as legit, she had to approve it. (This was posted on the Yahoo groups for ET.) This is when adoptions in ET began to seriously slow down and PAPs came flocking to DRC instead....

In all countries, the only way to ensure that your own adoption was wholly legit is to use an independent searcher unconnected to anyone in the adoption business, and an independent translator who is also unconnected. There are many completely legit reasons for an adoption (bio parents are really deceased or too ill or incapacitated to care for their children, for ex, and no other family members or friends are capable), and knowing you don't have bogus paperwork claiming abandonment and/or dead parents (who really are alive and had been coerced) is one of the reasons why adoption can be such a wonderful thing for a child truly in need.

One of the hardest points to get across to PAPs, though, is that even though you have paperwork that is stamped and signed and considered "legit" it can still be entirely bogus and fabricated. Having the papers does not mean your adoption was ethical. It just means someone got the paperwork in order. Which is why I would love someone from MLJ to explain how their dozen or so families were so extraordinarily special that they got exit letters during the suspension. Why was this exception made?

As for Hague, IMHO it's a smokescreen to con PAPs into thinking there is proper regulation. Families who file complaints are informed that the complaints are shared with the agencies in question. What kind of stupid idiotic loophole is that? APs complain about agency, agency denies and covers their tracks, agency harasses APs (yes, this happens), and some time before Voyager reaches the end of our solar system, the COA may get back to you. They are slanted toward protecting agencies, not PAPs and APs. They have accredited way too many agencies despite having valid, detailed, and horrifying complaints lodged for me to ever give them the benefit of the doubt. And even if accreditation is yanked, it's often no more than a wrist-slap and then back to scamming as usual.

Anyway, I hope that more information is shared here and that families with other agencies in DRC will contact Holly and share their stories too. They need to be heard.

Benjamin L. Corey said...

Ah, yes Karen. It's people "like me" who necessitate the need for others to wage horrific accusations privately... people "like me" who have sat back quietly and watched a bunch of Americans behave like children for the the past year.

We're dealing with two difficult governments-- theirs, and ours, neither of which actually appear to care or have a sense of urgency.

Then we have the grown up children, often acting like spoiled Americans, who want what they want and want it now-- and when they don't get it, they throw a tantrum and want their pound of flesh to be satisfied. I've seen it all and said nothing.

I've sat back silently for a year and watched this appalling behavior that's made me both ashamed to be an American and often ashamed to be a Christian. I'm not going to be silent any more. This childish behavior on the part of not just the anonymous author, but a good portion of the adoptive AAS parents, needs to be called out for what it is.

The irony is that neither government seems to care about these kids, but you know who does? Amy and Danielle, that's who. I've watched them bust their tails to work with a broken system and put up with a bunch of adoptive parent who's behavior is generally atrocious, and who rip them apart at every step-- often making the process harder, not easier.

So by my math, that makes Amy and Danielle functionally care more than some of the parents. That's ironic enough for an Alanis Morissette song.

I'm all about ethical adoptions and bringing corruption to light, but "anonymous" is just trying to get their pound of flesh out of the two people in this entire scenario that actually care, and I'm pretty sure they know that.

And yes, "anonymous" I do know a thing or two about courage. I put up with hate mail that you wouldn't even know what to do with, and do it on a daily basis. I put my ideas and opinions out to hundreds of thousands a month, and yet I have the courage to sign my name and stand by what I say-- especially when I say it about others.

The sad part is that the author is confident to publicly try to damage the reputation of two individuals but they do not have the personal integrity to sign their name and risk their own reputation to take a stand.

That tells me they aren't sure if they even believe their own allegations... and that they have a thing or two to learn about courage.



Sandy Bequette said...

Karen, I do not have a birth parent who wants to reclaim my adopted child . . . so the information that was shared was false and again, should not have been shared and I am asking the facilitator of this site to remove it. Under no circumstances should someone's case information be shared without permission. For your information, I and many other families that I know have verified our stories through private investigators outside of our adoption agency. Please know that I share this with you only as a way to stop your judgmental statements which makes me understand why so few people post on here that don't agree with what is posted--the bullying tactics are quite interesting-really thought I'd left junior high behind years ago.
Anonymous: I realize others have posted as such, but you are the only 'anonymous' who spoke of my private case which is unfair. You are not the only one here who sounds judgmental . . .
Again, I stand by my earlier statements. Ethical discussions can take place without naming names-or if names are identified, they need to be held in strict confidence and shared only with people that have a need to know.

Anonymous said...

Suzanne, why must an agency be avoided when they are no longer taking on clients?

Karen said...

Sandy, thank you for your clarification and I am sorry if you felt judged. That's why I asked and I am grateful for your explanation.

Benjamin - the original post was about AAS's behavior in DRC, not about PAPs bhavior in country. I find it hard to see how agency personnel "care" so deeply if they harass, intimidate, insult, and threaten clients. I don't find it "caring" to invoke their religious beliefs to justify unethical deeds.

Furthermore, if you read the original posting, it isn't from just one person. It is a compilation of info from multiple families. If you know that any of the info provided is inaccurate, can you please state why.

I'm asking because if you are going to criticize anonymous posters, well, sorry, but you have just shared info about anonymous people behaving badly without clarifying what they did, to whom, and when, and why. You still haven't answered if you are an AAS client and whether or not you have yet brought your child home. Are you saying that the PAPs' childish behavior is worse than an agency that is allegedly trafficking children or has board members that allegedly smuggled their children out? I don't doubt that some PAPs behave badly abroad, especially if they haven't traveled much to third-world countries, but these same PAPs are the ones who paid the fees. The agency employees are the ones who got the fees. Being "childish" is not exactly on par with lying to biological families and falsifying paperwork for financial gain, is it?

Anonymous said...

Not taking on clients in DRC. Looks like they're up and running in Niger & Uganda, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that the information regarding AAS building programs in Niger and Uganda is inaccurate. Niger has a small program that is not taking new clients, and there is no program in Uganda. They are assisting two families who are not using them as an agency, nor as facilitators. AAS is no longer taking clients for any program and will complete its DRC adoptions.

Anonymous said...

I just checked the COA website. Both Niger and Uganda are listed for their Hague accrediation/approval, but not DRC. Why would these countries be listed if they weren't working there?

Anyone can verify this by going to www.coanet.org and clicking on "who is accredited?"

Also, I'm curious as to how they would "assist" but not as an agency or facilitator. With UAA in effect, wouldn't the families be required to use AAS as an agency? And how can they assist when they know nothing about the country and its laws? Seems strange to help random people in a country where you haven't operated in the past and allegedly have no plans to operate there in the future. Also, if they have so many problems in DRC and are having trouble completing cases there, why branch out to other countries ("assisting" or otherwise)?

But beyond all of that, even if AAS is closing completely and won't ever do another adoption, does that mean that current and past wrongdoing should never be discussed? Does it somehow make it all moot?

Anonymous said...

Sandy, I was referencing you because I imagine you have heard of those instances, not to expose any aspect of your case. I believe any clients around the time of the One Destiny shenanigans are aware of those excuses made to explain the sudden appearance of biological parents after they discovered that their children were being mistreated at OD.

Anonymous said...

I find the whole international adoption mind set crazy’ Save a child from a country you know nothing about using a system you know nothing about over a child you know nothing about’.
I am sorry but why do you think things go wrong with all those levels of ignorance and space for bad behaviour.

I think countries that require an in country commitment to have far stronger credentials. I am currently waiting to adopt from a country in Africa that requires a 3 year residency commitment before adoption. And although the wait is personally frustrating, I see it as absolutely good thing to stop the horrid situations found in other countries across the continent .
I am know learning my future child language I am able to learn just how this country works I have contacts and connections here with good and bad practice orphanages. Ones where the American missionary has told me they believe in forced relinquishment and ones that try every way possible to trace family, even in abandonment cases, try and find a family member to financially support to take back the child first. 90% of orphans in Africa are absorbed into family networks. Thos ethat aren’t need homes but by a money fuelled American adoption industry that cares about their want for a child over the child, that conducts this over oceans with no context of the childs life, culture or way the country works and relies on profit centred people to make this work on their behalf? It crazy people think this is a smart solution but until this is not ok to people it will keep happening. I live not too far from the DRC and have to say its crazy hearing how people talk about forcing a country with political issues up to their eyebrow to let their children out of their country?!?!?

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Holly said...

As a reminder--please keep comments focused on topic-DRC adoptions and APs experiences with agencies that are doing adoptions in DRC. Thank you!

Corie Gibbs said...

I wonder why those defending AAS are focusing solely on the fact that this post "seems judgmental" and was written anonymously. Let's focus on the claims. Do you have any proof that what this writer said is untrue? If the facts listed in this blog post are true, then there is an obligation to speak out about such behavior. You can ask "what about forgiveness" if AAS has admitted to wrongdoing and apologized, but the fact remains that God calls us to "seek justice and love mercy" and sometimes justice looks like exposing corruption. Sometimes there are consequences for wrongdoing, whether you are sorry or not.

Ephesians 5:11 "do not participate in the unfruitful deeds or darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in darkness. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light..."

The Bible repeatedly refers to marking, avoiding, rebuking. In response to whoever talked about "naming names" as wrong, in the Bible, Paul repeatedly called people out BY NAME to expose wrongdoing. It is GOOD and RIGHT to expose those who are in error, especially if they claim to be acting on behalf of God or in service to him.

(Former AAS client)

Anonymous said...

No they are not "up and running" in Niger and Uganda. They do not have a program in Uganda. The program in Niger has been in process for well over a year and just like DRC they are only finishing out contracts and not accepting new clients.

Anonymous said...

But the fact is they are no longer accepting clients. They are not starting programs anywhere. They are trying to finish out cases that have been started. What about all the children this is hurting? The fact that now parents can't bring kids home from other countries that no one on here had facts about the process and how it works. Do you realize the consequences of this article for many parents, some first time parents just wanting to have children to love. And spent thousands of dollars and now may never become parents. Not to mention the children. The children you all claim to love that are now stuck in orphanages because you couldn't just let an agency finish out contracts and leave it alone. You are not hurting Amy and Danielle. They have already said they were sorry and are done. Who you have hurt is the waiting adopting parents and mostly the children!

K.G. said...

Anonymous,
Are they only finishing out cases that have been started in Niger? That is, only the cases with referrals? Everyone else without a referral will not move forward? Is that what I'm reading when you say "they are trying to finish out cases that have been started?"

Anonymous said...

Blaming the brave parents in this article for the reason AAS may not finish cases or be able to help bring children home is really disgusting and probably straight from the mouths of AAS staff. They have continually taken on a victim mentality whenever things have gone wrong. Hague complaints have constantly "caused them more work, taking away from their clients." Insert victim mentality again. They could avoid the time it takes to respond to Hague reports by not giving clients a reason to file them. Now that they've been called to the plate, they shift the focus to how this will keep their clients from bringing their children home. If they can make their current clients mad at someone else, than they won't research their cases and find they've been lied to, think about their bad behavior and refusal to act or begin to doubt any of their lies, manipulation and flat out bullying. And this was a small sampling of only a few stories. There are a lot more and I hope this gives those past and current clients that have first-hand experience into the lies and questionable behavior of AAS the courage they need to come forward.

Anonymous said...

Adoptions work differently in Niger than DRC. They are finishing out anyone who has been approved by the Nigerien government to adopt. Families have to get approval from the government first before they (the government) gives the referral. So basically those wih approval but may not have the official referral yet

Beth said...

Anonymous @ 12:30 -

The reason folks can't bring the so-called "DRC stuck" kids home is because the Congolese government stopped issuing mandatory DGM exit permits.

The fact that some AAS clients are desperate to be parents and out a boatload of money does not justify your (seeming) demand that everybody look the other way so that they can complete adoptions of very likely trafficked Congolese kids. That is morally/ethically reprehensible (and probably illegal).

Every AAS client was informed that there are no guarantees in a DRC adoption, was required to sign legal paperwork acknowledging this and decided to move forward with a DRC adoption anyways.

Your over-entitled attitude is somewhat disturbing, almost as if you're unaware that:
- DRC's a sovereign state
- Americans aren't entitled to adopt Congolese kids. It's a privilege that DRC can revoke at any time for any (or no) reason.
- the adopted on paper DRC kids are Congolese citizens only and can't become US citizens til they step on US soil.
- the US government cannot compel the Congolese government to issue DGM exit permits to it's own citizens (or anybody else for that matter)

It's also worth noting that your argument -- "look the other way! You're wrecking it for everybody else!l -- is *precisely* what got adoptions from Guatemala, Cambodia, Vietnam and Nepal shut down.

Vanessa said...

If a simple blog post -- one whose facts are apparently undisputed by any of the AAS folks on here -- could shut down adoption programs in 3 separate countries, I'd say that the agency has bigger problems. The whole "oh, this is going to end our adoption programs!" thing seems more like another manipulation to avoid blame for their own failures and to make themselves the victims once again.

Anonymous said...

I am saddened to read all the comments on this page. What is really sad to me is I started Congo adoption process over two years ago and found the community at that time to be helpful, and was so grateful to find other families walking out the same journey. I am appalled honestly at the arrogance and nerve at how people have acted.

To the people who feel it is the AP's responsibility for agency unethical behavior. I would like to ask you this. When you hire a company to provide a service do you not expect when they have an accredidation standard that they would operate with those standards? Isn't that the point of being accredited? You trust people who are supposed to know the rules, the ins and outs of a particular field and that they adhere to those standards by which they swear by? How is it that PAPs are now blamed for agency misconduct? I mean I get it, if you know of something wrong and you overlook it, that is different but MANY parents started in this process with no prior knowledge of anything adoption related and they sure as heck didn't know about the corruption taking place. I know that because I am one of them. I talked to MULTIPLE agencies, I did the research, I didn't know there was corruption back then like I know now. If you call paying for an exit letter corruption by the way, clearly you have NEVER traveled to a third world country to have seen or known how their economies and culture work. Nothing gets done without paying someone. Nothing.

Secondly, I would like to know the point of this blog. What GOOD is it doing ANYONE, certainly not the children affected, by publicly slandering people whether it be agency folks or other adoptive parents? Is Social Media going to take up your cause and make it right? Is social media an authority to put the corruption (if there is any) to a stop? Why not take the high road and complain to someone who can actually DO something about it. Is blogspot going to make this right? I Doubt it.

Thirdly-the bullying in the Congo adoption community needs to stop. Its ridiculous. And if you are a believer, honestly I pray for your soul because if you think that bullying other parents in the adoption community is going to get the suspension lifted, you are misguided. If you think that bullying and talking smack or lies about other families, calling out people, whose cases you likely know nothing about is going to somehow get you favor with God to get your child home sooner--you too are misguided. GOD loves these children more than anyone. He will see to it that each child gets justice, because He is a just God, and He is a lover of all things good. It is interesting to me when I hear waiting parents advocate, say they are praying, etc to get these kids get home and when kids do get home you come out like vultures with accusations of knowing exactly how those families got home with your alleged contacts. You bully, you malign, you spread gossip, but you love these orphans so much right? You love the fatherless so much that you seethe with anger, judgement and even jealousy because YOUR child did not get home before someone elses. Ever think that maybe, just maybe, your journey is halted partly because of your nasty attitude or maybe because your case isn't as ethical as you think or that God has some other purpose in it? If you call yourself a believer, shouldn't you be taking up your anger with God that your child isn't home instead of harrassing parents who have kids home?

Lastly, I take comfort in knowing that during all of this, my children have been and will be being protected in the hands of God in this mess, and thankfully nothing can take that away from me or them. If it means that Gods only purpose in my pursuing adoption is to help reconcile a birth family, or to help feed orphans, or to simply advocate for the vulnerable, well then I gladly submit to God in that because I trust my Father in heaven. No agency person, no government, no one can get in the way of that.

Vanessa said...

@Anon 5:16, when you say that you're sick of bullying in the Congo AP community, do you mean when people say things like how their kids would be home if they didn't have such nasty attitudes? Just checking. Because...pot, meet kettle. It's the height of irony to decry bullying in the SAME paragraph in which you bully others.

Anonymous said...

To the above anon poster- You say the bullying in Congo adoptions has to stop and then you say, "if you are a believer, I pray for your soul," and "you are misguided" and "maybe your journey halted because of your bad attitude." How can you call for an ending to bullying (which is not what this blog post was about) and then turn around and BULLY PEOPLE. So so hurtful.

The purpose of this blog post was to share stories about this agency and how they are not acting in ethical ways in Congo, which as we have seen in other countries, causes suspensions, shut downs, victimizes families (birth and adoptive). I for one WISH I had read something like this prior to choosing AAS as my agency. That has nothing to do with the suspension. It has everything to do with how they are "conducting business" in the DRC. I don't know how familiar you are with international adoption, but issues like these need to be discussed and PAP's need to refuse to work with agencies that do more harm than good.

Maybe one reason God called some of us on this journey was to defend vulnerable families and "recruited/trafficked" children by standing up for ethics in IA and ensuring that the children being adopted NEED TO BE ADOPTED.

Anonymous said...

1. You started your adoption in early 2012, after State Dept issued a warning about DRC adoptions and Guatemala, Vietnam and Cambodia adoptions had been shut down by State for trafficking/corruption.

You *could* have known, just didn't want to.

2. Paying for that exit permit is a bribe, it's illegal and State's DRC adoption page states that it is.

3. My bible is missing the page where Jesus says it's cool to have middleman acquire a kid who *has* a family to adopt, and then pay a bribe to illegally get the kid out of the country.

4. I think the word you are looking for is "libel" (written untrue statement), not "slander" (spoken untrue statement)... but neither applies. The allegations are substantiated.

5. I don't see speaking out against folks who are separating much-loved children from their families for profit in DRC as bullying.

6. Kids WITH families in DRC are not orphans. They HAVE families. They don't need American ones.

Jacky said...

@Anon 5:16 You seem to be really sensitive about the issue of families being "harassed" if they got their kids home during the suspension. Is that because you got your kid(s) home during the suspension yourself? If so, I'm sure we would all love to hear more about that.

Anonymous said...

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wise words to ponder as many on this thread seem to believe that if an injustice did not happen to them, then it should not matter -- and that nobody should stand up against that injustice because it somehow might hurt them.

Anonymous said...

Harassment is inappropriate regardless of how (legally / illegally) someone got their DRC kids to the US.

If one suspects someone got their kid out of DRC without a mandatory DGM exit permit ( or with a fraudulent one) -- the appropriate course of action is to alert the appropriate authorities (State Dept? USCIS? Local police) regarding your suspicions that a TRAFFICKED Congolese kid may well be residing with [name, address] and let them take care of it!

Anonymous said...

How convenient. They save themselves and hurt other adoptions in the process to make themselves feel better.

Karen said...

I know we are supposed to stick to DRC, but this article was in the Guardian UK today, and the trafficking as reported in this piece is very similar to what has happened in DRC: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/06/uganda-child-adoption-market-confusion.

Lifeline is, FYI, the agency responsible for the wrongful domestic adoption case of Baby Veronica, who has a loving biological dad and family - do a Google. Lack of regulation and a savior mentality lead to horrifying ethical lapses, and not just in DRC.

Suzanne said...

I know we are supports to comment on anything but AAS....

... but the State Dept warning against starting a DRC adoption this morning and EAC adoptions is still advertising "quick referrals" of Congolese kids:

http://www.eaci.com/site/informationCenter/PreadoptiveParents/Programs/Congo

Mindy Walker said...

I was an DRC Adoption Services/AAS client and would never recommend them. The reasons are many and I personally know of instances where AAS has lied, withheld information, bullied. There are huge issues surrounding birth parents and fees. I highly respect the families who contributed to this article. Someone asked what the point is of this blog posting. The last paragraph clearly gives an objective. And it is the same reason I am writing this comment. I hope that future adoptive parents will see this as a huge red flag and will avoid AAS. There was discussion regarding what countries they are working in. There is absolutely nothing on their website to indicate that they are not taking new client for the Niger program. In fact, quite the opposite. A person can go on there and view a sample contract, sample referral acceptance, and a number of other documents. And both Niger and Uganda are listed in their Hague accreditation. So until AAS publicly announce they are no longer working in those two countries or in any other country, it remains important for information stated in this post to shared publicly.

Anonymous said...

@Suzanne, I think Holly just wanted us to stay focused on DRC, not specifically AAS. Things were getting a little off-topic with comments about other commenter's ET adoptions. DOS is a bit late on that statement, but better late than never!

@Karen, Lifeline operates (operated?) in DRC as well. Scary, scary stuff.

@Mindy, THANK YOU for speaking out. While current AAS clients may claim that the agency isn't opening or working elsewhere, the agency itself has not made such a statement. Thank you for adding your voice and your story. It is important for PAPs to have resources out there so they can review agencies -- and that includes names of agency owners and employees. Many times, people get shut down in one agency only to go to the next agency or country (like Susan Manning of OWAS). Naming names is key.

Anonymous said...

This behavior would seem to violate many provisions of the Hague standards, including 96.39(c): The agency or person does not give preferential treatment to its board members, contributors, volunteers, employees, agents, consultants, or independent contractors with respect to the placement of children for adoption and has a written policy to this effect.

And 96.46(b)(4): Requires the foreign supervised provider to compensate its directors, officers, and employees who provide intercountry adoption services on a fee-for-service, hourly wage, or salary basis, rather than based on whether a child is placed for adoption, located for an adoptive placement, or on a similar contingent fee basis.

I'm sure that many more can be found here: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=cd371ac8decfb13aa0b6d57902806813&r=PART&n=22y1.0.1.10.49#se22.1.96_135

Suzanne said...

The DRC exit permit ban has been in place for 13 months.

A US family has adopted a darling Congolese boy who is only 10 mos old.

http://tbo.com/pinellas-county/dunedin-couples-congo-adoption-hurdle-may-be-fatal-20141009/

That means they accepted the referral of little "C" a minimum of FIVE months after the ban was imposed.

The PAPs knew the ban was in place, ignored numerous State Department warnings regarding adopting from DRC and is now really, really mad that every single thing they were warned about has come to pass.

I sincerely hope little Cruz gets the medical treatment he desperately needs to survive. But my blood pressure goes up every time I see folks like this who genuinely do not seem to care if the kid they've adopted on paper is trafficked or not.

kym said...

@Karen, on Oct. 6, you stated that Lifeline was the agency responsible for Baby Veronica's horrible case.

Are you mistaking Lifeline with Nightlight Christian Adoptions (aka Carolina Hope Christian adoptions)? Or if you mean Lifeline, could you explain briefly how Lifeline was involved? Their were many involved, but I haven't yet heard of Lifeline's role.

Much thanks,

Tresor said...

Another AAS family is home during the suspension....what a surprise! One of their biggest defenders and spies.

https://www.facebook.com/HazelTreePhotography

Jacky said...

Ironically, a person who claimed that THIS post would ruin her adoption is the one who sneaked her son out during the suspension...risking everyone else's adoption. Amazing how hypocritical people can be!!

Katie Fowler said...

My understanding is that:

1) a DRCstuck kid cannot immigrate to the US without USCIS approval

2) DRC stopped issuing exit permits months ago & the State Dept on July 11/14 issued an alert that said the Congolese gov't would not be issuing exit permits until new adoptions laws got passed (& had concerns that even completed-on-paper adoptions might not be legitimately fraud-free).

3) Why the heck is US immigration letting clearly TRAFFICKED -- i.e. any kid who immigrated to the US from DRC in or after July 2014, since there's no LEGAL way to get a DGM exit permit -- Congolese kids into the US.

Literally trafficked kids. Since there's NO LEGAL WAY to get an exit permit.

*****
I will, however, thank the ethically-challenged adopters of "DRC stuck" kids for so flagrantly, publicly violating Congolese law (the photo session? on the trafficked kid? Set to 'public' on FB?)... as their actions are pretty much guaranteed to get adoptions from DRC shutdown.

Way faster than the sane people who are demanding reform so that DRC adoptions don't HAVE to be shutdown.

Anonymous said...

When are you all going to realize that kids HAVE gotten home legally with exit permits, and were not trafficked despite the suspension. Its not like DGM has a legal and binding responsibility to tell adoptive parents or anyone for that matter they HAVE issued exit permits during the suspension. Think back to long before DGM shut down, when DGM told everyone (including the US Embassy in Kinshasa) that it did not cost anything to obtain exit permit, yet many people were repeatedly asked to pay a fee. Hmm, does this mean that perhaps, just maybe that they (DGM) might actually LIE? And as far as the embassy is concerned once a child gets a legal visa, the US is done with their side of international adoption. If someone from DGM makes an exception, allows certain children to leave because they were sick, or knew someone, or for whatever reason, that is UP TO THE DISCRETION OF DGM. They don't owe anyone an explanation. If indeed a child was trafficked, it is the Congolese's law's responsibility and discretion to take the matter into their hands as they have done in the past. You would really set yourself free by realizing that DGM is at best inconsistent in what they say and do.

Anonymous said...

There have been quite a few children who have come home with exit letters that were obtained under false pretenses. These letters do not indicate that the child is leaving with their adopted mother and/or father nor that they are leaving for the purpose of adoption. Hiding behind these pretenses accomplishes nothing. Why not show a picture of the exit letter? It would clear up questions of the legality.

Anonymous said...

If this woman came home legally, with "DGM discretion," then why exactly is her agency (AAS) saying that they had nothing to do with it and will report it to DOS?

The simplest answer is usually the best one, and that is people are sneaking their kids out through various methods. It'd be SUPER simple for people to prove that they have legal, valid exit letters from DGM Kinshasa -- and yet they don't. They go into hiding. They delete friends on FB. They lock down their profiles. It's not because they came home legally. Just own it. Stop being a coward and pretending like it's totally legit and you didn't pay anything and just got lucky and had some connections. It's bullshit. And we all know it.

Anonymous said...

And you know this how? You were personally there? You work for the CIA? You saw such letters for each of these families and know the exact circumstances of these families? My point is the story being told by DGM to the Embassy is not what is happening. Big surprise there. This kind of stuff with DGM was occurring long before last September. Not saying it is right but it is what it is. This kind of stuff will happen til DGM reopens or Congo is shut down to adoption for good. I do find it interesting that first people were saying all the families home had no exit letters, and now the story is changing to they have exit letters obtained under false pretenses. As far as showing photos of the exit letter, I don't think that would satisfy anyone, bc there will always be someone who would dispute it. Think about it. Since so many people have said that adoptions are unethical in DRC, and this whole page is dedicated to illeged unethical practices of one particular agency, then hey why not ask all the families who adopted from DRC to now uploadall their paperwork so that all the expert APs can decide for themselves if each case is ethical and or legal. It will never end.

amanda said...

@anonymous 10:36, agree 100%. Nobody would be hiding, defending, de-friending, and all these other incredibly ridiculous moves if they were 100% confident they moved in a legal, honest way. If i got my kid home and did so thru Kin DGM during the suspension I'd have NO problem AT ALL showing my exit letter to whom ever asked for it. period. I also find it interesting AAS felt the need to announce on their FB page that they had nothing to do with their most recent AAS client getting their kid out. That alone raises many red flags.

Anonymous said...

1. This isn't a page. It's a post. The blog itself is about far more than this agency, but I don't know if you're interested in that.

2. Knowledge has evolved on these matters. Not many people knew how others were getting out at first, because people were not talking. But then people started to talk, and people learned more. That's how these things evolve.

3. An exit stamp from Goma (or any border crossing) isn't a legal exit. An exit letter from Lubumbashi isn't a legal exit letter. The only legal exit letter -- per the US Embassy -- is one from DGM in Kinshasa.

4. The US Embassy says there have only been a handful of legitimate exit letters, other than the batch of 15 or so in May.

5. This agency in particular has admitted to getting people out through Goma.

6. This agency has also denied having anything to do with this most recent person getting her son home, or with any of their clients who have gotten their kids home in recent weeks. If it's legit, wouldn't the agency be involved?

7. Are you seriously claiming that every single person who has come home throughout the suspension has done so legally? If so, why do these families go into virtual hiding? It's just...strange.

Anonymous said...

I am actually not claiming anything. I have little knowledge of people's circumstances in how they got home whether legal or illegal. I do know this. Saying, "the simplest answer is the best one" doesn't equate to it being the truth. Getting answers from social media, surmising, guessing, or whatever also isn't paramount to knowing the truth either. I also know that DGM seems to be inconsistent in what they say (& why they say it) and what they actually do. I am sure there are parents who have undermined the process, I just choose not to spend my time making accusations against people who have no obligation to tell me anything and trust that God will see that justice prevails for every child.

Anonymous said...

You are assuming that other people don't know for sure. There are plenty of PAPs and APs who have actual confirmation -- more than just speculation on social media -- that other APs brought their kids home illegally. This happens when they're offered these exit routes, or when their friends confide in them.

Is DGM inconsistent? Absolutely. But I'm pretty sure that if you hire an escort to take your kids through LB or to walk them across the border in Goma or elsewhere, you know that it isn't legal or legitimate in any way, shape or form. And ultimately, if you care about these kids or about the future of adoptions in DRC, you would want families to follow the rules. There are people with adopted children who are seriously, sometimes terminally ill...and they are waiting and following the rules. People are allowed to be mad about this. It isn't just to sneak your kid out at the possible expense of other children.

Jess said...

There were several kids from DRC that were recently adopted in Italy, so while that doesn't really give any info. on DGM, clearly, kids are still being adopted and DGM is letting certain ones out.

Katie Fowler said...

There are American adoptive parents who have bragged (albeit anonymously) about getting their child home from DRC without the mandatory DGM exit permit:
http://kitumaini.blogspot.ca/2014/01/the-three-most-important-documents-in.html

Don't forget that:
1) Belgian woman was arrested/convicted of trying to sneak a Congolese child out of DRC without the required DGM exit permit.

2) an American woman was reportedly arrested trying to smuggle "DRC stuck" kids out of DRC without the required exit permits via Goma for a fee of $2500 + $750 'donation':
http://fusion.net/story/17389/american-implicated-in-congo-child-smuggling-ring/

3) The Costains casually failed to mention they got their Congolese son out of DRC via unspecified means 3 mos ago:
http://costainpartyofsix.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/1607/

Putting aaalllll of that information together isn't proof, but it certainly suggests there are extrajudicial/illegal means of getting a "DRC Stuck" kid out of DRC.

Again, the folks who do this, who assume the ends justifies the means, that it's perfectly okay to circumvent Congolese law to get a kid home sans DGM exit permit, will get ALL DRC adoptions shut down. Probably permanently.

Anonymous said...

Why do you feel like anyone owes you an explanation of anything ie, "unspecified means of getting out of DRC?" Pretty sure that family knows anyone can read their blog and do the math of when their son got home. And as far as the Fusion article goes, don't you find it interesting that the American media has not covered the lleged trafficking story--yet they are fully aware of it? Ever think that perhaps it is because the WHOLE story isn't being told?

Anonymous said...

Katie, your interpretation of that blog post is entirely incorrect. What those parents were talking about is how their agency (MLJ) escorted their kids home and it was only after the fact that they realized that they didn't have exit letters -- they thought that everything was done properly, and that they had paid to have proper exit letters.

Also, your interpretation of the Fusion article is wrong -- the incident involved Lubumbashi, not Goma, and the American APs involved weren't caught.

I appreciate what you're doing (truly), but it seems like you aren't that familiar with DRC adoptions -- you're getting some key facts wrong.

As for Anon. 3:06, many people feel that they are owed an explanation when another person's blatant disregard for Congolese law could ultimately jeopardize their adoption. Moreover, many people find it hypocritical for people who profess to be Christian to engage in this sort of behavior -- anything goes, because the ends ("saving" an "orphan" justifies the means). People are allowed to question it, especially when an AP is putting it out there publicly on a blog. Since when is all of this sacrosanct? Why can't people ask these questions? You bring a Congolese kid to the U.S. during the suspension, people are going to have questions.

Katie Fowler said...

Anonymous @5:28 PM, I think we might just have to agree to disagree as:

-- If you read the comments at the bottom of this post, at least 3 APs (anonymously) admit that they NEVER got & to this day do NOT have a copy of their child's DGM exit permit:
http://kitumaini.blogspot.ca/2014/01/the-three-most-important-documents-in.html

-- Erin Siegal's article specifically states that Congolese kids are being smuggled out of DRC without the mandatory exit permit:

"Congolese authorities have implicated a U.S. citizen identified as M. Samuel Jessy in an attempt to illegally smuggle seven children —six girls and one boy, ages 2-8 — across the DRC’s southern border into Zambia in an attempt to expedite their delivery to families in the United States.
... The illicit practice of smuggling children across the DRC’s borders has reportedly been going on for years, sources tell Fusion.

“It’s a word-of-mouth referral system,” an adoptive parent told Fusion on the condition of anonymity. “The [Americans] have the children brought through Lubumbashi instead of Kinshasa. It’s $2,500 for fees and services, and a $750 donation… They do it in groups of four…. there was another trip scheduled for this Sunday, but because of the bust, they’re postponing trips until December.”

Anonymous @ 3:06 PM

Erin Siegal's a longtime investigative journalist affiliated with Brandeis, whose been reporting on corruption in international adoptions for years - so I'm inclined to believe her. There's been very little mainstream media pickup on the DRC exit permit issue as it's now 13+ mos old. You're certainly entitled to think otherwise. Gotta love a free press!

*****

OMFG, the Both Ends Burning statement on the exit permit debacle is the most awful, most hilarious and most out of touch with reality thing I've read in ages:

https://bothendsburning.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/BEB-Statement-on-Adoptions-From-DRC.pdf

Love that BEB is advocating to:
- ignore allegations of fraud/trafficking for adoptions that have passed court
- allow "adoptions" (aka referrals) that haven't yet passed court to be completed
- issue US passports to non-US citizens
- ignore the fact DRC's a sovereign state, ie under no obligation to let Americans adopt their kids.





Anonymous said...

the anonomous parent tells Fusion about such a trafficking operation they know of but doesn't think to tell the US Embassy? This same parent was screen shotting people's posts in FB groups and repeating what was shared on BEB conference calls but is so ethical to not report it to embassy? APs wanna be investigators into people's cases yet say nothing about trafficking rings they say they know all these details about, the where, the when, the cost, etc.

Katie Fowler said...

Anonymous @8:59 PM -

There's no way to know if the AP(s) who took/provided screen shots to Erin Siegal reported (or chose not to report) their suspicions of trafficking to the US Embassy. I, for one, certainly hope they did and that some sort of investigation is underway.

It may well be a coincidence, but I note that:

1) Erin's article was published on Sept. 19
2) Congolese gov't announced no exit permits would be issued until new adoption laws were passed on Sept. 26
3) State Dept published this notice on Sept. 29:
http://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en/country-information/alerts-and-notices/DRC14-09-29.html
4) State Dept published a warning against starting a DRC adoption on Oct. 10

Curious and curiouser.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't the same person who took the screen shots and who submitted them to Erin Siegal, that was two different people. The person who took the screen shots knew nothing about the conference call.

Anonymous said...

Seems like you know this as if it were you.

Katie Fowler said...

Shellie Costain got her DRCstuck son Jecoah out of DRC 3 mos ago, LONG after DRC stopped handing out the mandatory DGM exit permits.

She's also 'fundraising'... some more. Shellie needs another $12k to pay off her 'adoption debt' to a mysterious 'guesthouse'.

http://costainpartyofsix.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/1669/

That's not shady as all get out or anthythign?

Shellie didn't keep quiet for 3+ months AFTER she got her DRCstuck kid home for any sort of suspicious or smuggling related reason,r ight?

(If I were a PAP with a DRCstuck kid, who LEGITIMATELY got an exit permit and brought my kid home, I'd yell it from the rooftops. Tell everyone on EARTH. Maybe offer some helpful tips!!!).