Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Show Me the Money

I don't really think there's much need to editorialize this so I'll just let you read it yourselves. The only thing I'll add is that it's very kind of the Board members to share all this with us. It's created a nice record of their apparent gross negligence in supervising the management of this agency which they were seemingly unaware it was their obligation to do. I especially liked the part where they were completely unaware of how much the CEO of the organization who reports directly to them, was paid. Bravo, volunteers, bravo. May you be held to the same level of accountability as our erstwhile CEO and her ex-hubby.

Update from BC Government

Not a lot of new info here, but here's what I have, resulting from this morning's follow up conversation with Nina Sihota. She advised that last Friday's meeting ended up being more information sharing, and most of what was shared is stuff that we, as waiting parents, already know. The lawyer sent to Ethiopia by BDO is coming back today. He's been reviewing and assessing all of the files that were in Ethiopia at the time of the bankruptcy. He'll report to BDO shortly and presumably, BDO will announce his conclusions as soon as they can. BDO is driving the boat on Imagine's longer term plan. Presumably, they are working closely with the Ontario government, but it's their plan, which is an interesting twist on the usual role of a Trustee. Nina says they are still information gathering and she cautions that she does not expect them to be in a position to release any firm details on the future of Imagine for some time yet.

I asked specifically whether anyone had received confirmation of MOWA's views on this situation, and whether MOWA is willing or able to continue to facilitate further adoptions through Imagine, in whatever form it continues. Nina said that since MOWA has been shut down for two weeks, they have not been able to get any confirmation at all from them as to how the Ethiopian government wants to proceed. So, basically, after 2 weeks, we really don't know a whole lot more than we did, as the situation pertains to pre-referral parents. Nina seemed to think the likely resolution was that Imagine clients would have to look at other countries, since there is no other agency in Canada which has the capacity to take on further Ethiopian clients. That is not the advice that leads me to believe Imagine is going to be brought back to life...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Proof of Claim Form: Some Help and a Disclaimer

For those of you who need some help filling out the BDO Dunwoody form, feel free to take from this what you wish. This is not intended as legal advice. I am not a bankruptcy practitioner - this is simply how I filled out my own form.

Firstly, the benefit of sending your money "in trust" is that these funds get priority over unsecured claims (employees, telephone bills, etc.). However, not all of your money was sent in trust and secondly, we don't know at this point how Imagine accounted for the trust funds. If they simply deposited the trust funds into their general account, they may no longer be trust funds, regardless of how they were sent in by clients.

Having said that, I have claimed all of my funds as trust funds, notwithstanding that only a portion was specifically sent to Imagine as such. This is because all of the expenses incurred by Imagine on my behalf were to be for the sole purpose of completing the adoption of a child for me. Since my adoption has not been completed, I have argued that entire sum was trust monies and have submitted in my Proof of Claim that my claim takes priority over all unsecured creditors. I've made this statement in two places: (1) on the Schedule A attachment where I outlined the exact amounts I paid and when, and (2) in item 4 of the Proof of Claim. In item 4, I crossed out the wording that said "I do not claim a right to a priority" and changed that to "I do claim a right to a priority".

I have seen some concerns posted on the various chatrooms that by submitting a Proof of Claim you may be giving up your right to continue with your adoption. I'm not going to comment on any of the legalities surrounding the bankruptcy, but do wish to point out that other advice coming from BDO says that that is not the case.

Hope this helps,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Update, Such As It Is

I guess this counts as an update, although I'm not sure how useful the information is. I spoke with Nina Sihota of BC Adoption Services late this afternoon to follow up on a few questions I had regarding the role of the BC government in resolving this fiasco. First and foremost was to find out what they are doing to ensure that all of us "pre-referrals" get our adoptions completed. The answer was no different than anyone else has received to date, namely, it's a possibility, but no decision has been made yet. One will be made (fairly) soon. I got the impression that a decision would be made in the next few weeks, but not necessarily by the creditor's meeting on the 30th.

Of interest - Nina is meeting with her provincial counterparts this Friday to discuss this and other issues relating to Imagine Adoption. The topic of pre-referrals will be covered then, although she says it's not anticipated that a final decision will be forthcoming from that meeting.

Following my questions about the ongoing viability of Imagine Adoption, I asked whether, if the adoptions cannot proceed, those of us who lost money will be indemnified. I suppose we can all, to some extent, claim priority based upon funds in trust, but that only covers about one-third of my fees paid. In addition, I have no comfort that the money was actually properly segregated into a trust account, so I'm not hopeful that even that amount will be returned. I was told by Nina that this too, is a topic being covered at this Friday's meeting. And I have to say - I fully expect that we will be made whole. The public pressure on the Ontario government has been significant and they have clearly played some role by virtue of their regulatory obligations to supervise this agency. So I think we'll get our money back, and then they can do what they have to do to recover those funds from Sue, Andrew and/or the Board of Directors. Small comfort, ultimately, but it's something.

After the meeting on Friday is finished, BC Adoption Services will summarize whatever progress, decisions, etc. were made, and send the information to each of the 6 registered adoption agencies in BC to be forwarded to all Imagine clients. So we should hear something late Friday, or Monday.

In the meantime, I gaze upon this and remain grateful for what I have...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Imagine Adoption Update

I'm not going to reprint all of the great information that's circulating on our group facebook or the yahoo boards, so I'll just give you the lowdown on a couple of things I've been following up on myself, that didn't look like were being covered by others. Apologies if they've already been covered and I missed the post(s).

First - legal action. Too soon, of course, but I wanted to touch base with BDO to make sure that they would actually be doing this for us. I know they have (expensive) counsel working for them, so we don't need to spend our good money duplicating efforts that are being paid for out of Imagine funds that were taken from us in the first place. I did get that comfort. If BDO uncovers any evidence of misappropriation of funds, they will report this to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy who will liase with the police so the police can assess whether to lay charges. In addition, it is this Office who will make the decisions about going after any personal assets of individuals. So we definitely need to let BDO finish their work and just monitor where things are going.

Second - I travel for business a fair bit. So I knew that one of Sue's biggest "assets" was likely to be her airline points from her numerous first class trips to Ethiopia and her Starwood points from her numerous stays at the Addis Sheraton. Recently I alerted BDO about these points since, although Sue almost certainly kept them personally, they are the property of Imagine. I also inquired whether these points could be redistributed to the parents currently in Addis or on their way, many of whom are anticipating long stays that not all can afford. The Trustee (Susan Taves) told me today that Sue's airline points have now been reclaimed by BDO and her Starwood points are in the process of being reclaimed. She will not be taking advantage of her business perks to remove herself to a more desirable offshore location. (Am I petty and vindictive or what?? Boo hoo Sue!) However, BDO has made no decision about the redistribution of the points. The Trustee has the authority to redistribute them, but is not planning on making these decisions right away. She doesn't think it will be necessary because.... (drum roll please)... the High Commission is meeting on Monday and with all the pressure being put on them by US!!! she expects that parents will not be waiting 3 months for their Visas and this should start moving along pretty quickly.

Hope this cheers some of you up!

Quintessential M

Just a quick health update - I didn't specifiy the problem previously, but M was having some trouble walking and there was considerable scurrying around to try and find out what the problem was. This culminated in a (another) trip to ER last night on instructions from her pediatrician. Long story short - she's doing better and is not in any pain anymore, but no one has any idea what the problem was (is). X-rays and blood tests all looked good. She's happy as a clam and brushing the whole thing off as usual, so I'll chalk this up as a childhood mystery, and the problem, whatever it may have been, solved. So, now I'm 2 down, 1 to go (I'm not counting the car anymore - it's going to be accessorized with blue and white scratches for the forseeable future).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Expensive Souvenirs

You will recall the four steps it takes to have a really bad day. And, all one can really do is chip away at them one at a time. Which isn't to say I'm not working on all of them, but they're only going to improve one at a time (except the car - that's going to wear a blue and white scratch for the forseeable future). But one thing has been accomplished - Dog 2 - aka Widget, came through his surgery with flying colours and his egg sized abscess has been replaced with several stitches and a drainage tube. Yes, I know, ewww gross. But he's my bud and I love him even when he looks like a freak. Here he is:

How could such a thing have happened? I'm glad you asked. Here is the culprit:

Having a little trouble? Let me enlighten you.

Vet: It took us awhile to find it, but we finally did. It's a {mumble mumble}
Me: What?!? He ate a piece of glass?
Vet: No - grass.
Me: Grass? I just spent $1,000 because he ate grass?!?
Vet: Well, grass seed.
Me: I just spent a $1,000 because he ate grass seed?
Vet (now laughing): yes.

Apparently, he ate a piece of grass seed which travelled from his mouth through his esophagus and squatted in a fold of skin (or some similar anatomic approximation) and then grew into an egg.

May I remind you all that $1,000 is a lot of shoes. I told them I wanted to save it, so there it is in the little glass tube.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stirring the Pot.... and Keep Stirring

Just wanted to reiterate what you're already reading on other blogs. Call/write your MP! I've written mine and am requesting a meeting. If I can get it, I'm happy to have a few tagalongs. The more the better. Let me know. Also, just wanted to re-post the text of an email I sent yesterday to a few people in the same boat I am in. Just some practical legal advice that I may as well share more broadly. Here you go.

"I appreciate that at this moment, money is not our concern. But, I think we can agree that if it turns out that funds were misappropriated, and this conduct caused the loss of our future families, we want to see those responsible held accountable, even if we can never truly be made whole. To me, this means, in addition to whatever court process may evolve over time, ensuring that those responsible do not benefit financially from our loss.

Over the next few days you will be receiving a legal notice to creditors. You will recall that the money we gave to Imagine was marked "in trust". In the form you receive, you need to declare those sums as being a trust claim AND an unsecured creditor claim. Please pass this advice along to anyone else you know who will be receiving such a form.

Whenever there's a bankruptcy, secured creditors get paid first and then unsecured creditors share whatever is left (typically very little). If we can prove there's been a breach of trust then there is a possibility we can sue the person(s) responsible and secure those funds from them. At this time, obviously we have no idea whether or not funds have been misappropriated, but we need to keep all of our options open in case that turns out to have been the case."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Worst Day Ever

This is the summary of my day thus far (not even remotely in order, and no, things do not come in "threes"):

(1) Dog 2 needs emergency surgery tomorrow.
(2) Makeda has a new health issue which her GP can't figure out and we're off to see her pediatrician tomorrow. More details to follow. I'm hopeful it's not serious but it never feels good when one doctor throws up her hands and says (at least she's honest) that she has no clue and she'll get M into a specialist asap.
(3) My adoption agency just declared bankruptcy. I don't know what this means for my file although since I did not yet have my referral, I am not anticipating that it will be finalized. While the money is insignificant next to that loss, since Imagine was kind enough to require all funds up front, I am fairly certain that I will never recover a cent of the $20,000 I've spent to date. I also know that this financial fact will prevent many other prospective parents from being able to pursue their dream of a child. I certainly can't start over.
(4) While considering these things on the way back from M's doctor's appointment, I failed to pay sufficient attention to the post that jumped out at me and now have a pending car repair as well.

I'm (sort of) (trying) to keep a sense of humour - I think I've earned all the bad news possible for what - at least a year??? Here's looking at you 2010.

On a much more serious note, please join me in sending prayers to all those Imagine Adoption clients that were much further along in the process than I was, and hope that they receive all possible assistance to bring their children home. The Imagine website has give no information at all about whether adoptions in progress will be completed and if so, how, and in what timeframe. We will all be waiting day to day for more information. Please share whatever you hear!