I have left the original blog post intact, below the page break, for the sake of those who "need to see evidence" or how corruption presents itself in adoption, or do not believe it occurs. But this is the truth:
In August of 2012, the day I published this post, myself and several other families gathered together the pieces of our broken hearts and all of the evidence we had against International Adoption Guides and filed a SERIOUS complaint with COA, DOJ, USCIS, the EMBASSY, GA, SC, and NC licensure, and the office of Susan Jacobs.
We were entirely certain, based on our evidence, that IAG would be closed immediately and the staff would be arrested.
Then, we watched in horror as 17 months went by.
(This pic was taken from the IAG website before it came down. It is, most likely, a mother visiting her children at the IAG orphanage)
17 months of IAG calling us liars, sending us letters from attorneys insinuating they would sue us for our complaints. 17 months of NEW CLIENTS. 17 months of families being referred not 1, not 2, but 3 unrelated babies within weeks of signing up for adoption with IAG.
17 months of those around us telling us we should stop pestering COA and be "peacemakers" so we didn't "ruin Africa" for others who wish to adopt, while child after child stepped forward and told the same tales of physical abuse in the IAG care centers, or lamented over the families they were taken from.
17 months in which the only office that took any visible action was THE STATE OF SC who promptly removed their licensure after investigating our complaints and finding the agency "office" was actually a fake, empty rented space, and adoptions were being facilitated poolside at Jim Harding's home.
The STATE OF NC licensure office told me they "would not discipline Mary Mooney no matter what evidence I brought them" and that I should be happy with my babies. They denied my complaint, officially and unofficially, over 6 times, and it was in this state that Mary Mooney was licensed.
17 months in which I received a letter from COA saying they had to close their investigation, would not reveal the violations they found, and there was nothing they could do.
17 months in which local friends continued to use and recommend Mary Mooney for services, despite my warning.
Mary and Jim were suddenly arrested.
EDIT 1) 2/11/14 FROM http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/February/14-crm-149.html
If you believe you have been a victim of this crime involving the named individuals or International Adoption Guides, please call 1-800-837-2655 and leave your contact information. If you have questions or concerns about adoptions from Ethiopia in general, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State through the email address AskCI@state.gov . If you have specific questions about an adoption from Ethiopia that IAG facilitated, you should contact the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State through the email address IAGadoptioncases@state.gov .
EDIT 2) 2/20/14
In light of recent events and new information, we will be RE-investigating our children's origins.
To read the IAG INDICTMENT, please go to https://www.scd.uscourts.gov/CMECF/pacer.asp#index and follow the instructions to register and request the case. There is a fee: 32 pages @ 10 cents a page.
I advise all IAG families to read this document as it highlights the extreme nature of the level of fraud that was occurring..
******ORIGINAL POST UNEDITED******
(I wish, with all my heart, that the end of this post had been the end of the story.)
Many of you know that my children were not related until the day we went to court for them, and that they were abandoned children with no traceable parents to speak of. We knew this, too.
In December of last year, I began to have serious doubts about the origins of my children, primarily because of the refusal of my agency to provide documents that are standard for a transparent adoption, and secondarily because of their reaction when I insisted in receiving these documents.
Red flags went flying in the air, and quite suddenly, my world was turned upside-down in doubt. My concerns about the inconsistencies or omissions in my paperwork were deflected and ultimately ignored, and I was left for months to wonder why.
On my court trip, I tried as best as I could to learn more about my children's stories. The information I was told I would receive, once again, was not provided as promised. So I stood in the courtroom before the beautiful Ethiopian judge, with no additional info, and agreed before the Lord and the Ethiopian court to be their mother, with questions hung heavy around my neck.
When I met the judge, I stood by myself in front of her desk in a small room. The judge asked a few standard questions while looking at my paperwork, and I tried to remain calm. Then she looked me square in the eye and asked some version of this question, with a marked intensity:
Our Moses. Our Mimi. Ours from the moment we saw them.
Many of you do not know that while everyone was joyfully watching my "Meeting the Babies Video" after I returned home from court, Paul and I were gearing up for the fight of our lives. We tried once more to obtain truth and answers regarding our children's origins, and were once again deflected.
Paul and I made the decision to go for the truth, at all costs, for several reasons. First, there is nothing to fear in God's truth. Not one thing. Second, one day our infants were going to grow up and turn to us for answers about where they came from.
"I'm really not sure, " was no longer an acceptable answer for our son, Moses, or for our daughter, Miriam.
EDIT: In regards to recent rumors regarding Bitsay now working for IAG and investigating abandonment cases for them, Bitsay would like any interested families to know that IAG's offer was denied and he does not in any way work for IAG nor accept funds from them for any work he does. Bitsay maintains that he is a true INDEPENDENT THIRD PARTY orphan verification agent.
With tears streaming down my face, I told him that I wanted him to find out the truth for my children, and that I could not bring them home until I knew they were truly available for adoption. He went to work immediately.
We prayed for protection for Bitsay. Another family within our agency had hired a 3rd-party to verify orphan status, and that man was jailed. When confronted with this article about the jailing, an agency staff member acknowledged (in an email) that the investigator named in this article was working for an IAG family when he was jailed, but claimed that the agency itself was not involved in his arrest.
For this and many other reasons, I then made a similar call to a leading international adoption attorney, and told her that we were no longer comfortable petitioning for our children to the US Embassy with the information we currently had from the agency. Given the fact that we were already the legal parents in the eyes of the Ethiopian government, we had put ourselves in quite the predicament by going through court with unsatisfied questions, but we had no idea of our rights at the time.
To say that our agency was not supportive of our search for the truth would be a massive understatement. There was a defining moment in our adoption where we were clinging to the hope that the blind trust that was required to work with our agency was deserved.
We clung to that hope until the moment that our adoption coordinator and program director cut all communication with us, and we received an email from the director that said Paul and I were "too stupid for this process" and that they were "truly done" with us. It was at that moment that everything changed, and we hired the attorney to help us complete our adoption.
There was a lot of isolation that occurred at this point in our journey. Our agency went on record as stating that our investigation was endangering "thousands of lives"and the future of Ethiopian adoptions, as well as hurting birth families, and this opinion spread among the client list. The US Embassy and adoption professionals worldwide assured me that this was not true, so we pressed on.
To say that everyone in the adoption community supported our decision would be incorrect as well. We lost friends, especially within our agency client list. People told us that any action that had the potential to uncover fraud in the adoption world should be avoided for the "greater good" of future orphans. I understand why, because I was once in their shoes. But I learned that the truth is never to be feared or withheld, given the promises of the Lord.
People asked us what we would do if we uncovered trafficking, a birth mother, or worse. People told us that if the Lord wanted these things revealed, He could do it Himself, which is true, but discounts the call of the Lord that compels Christians to take action in some matters, when they feel called.
I want everyone to understand that we were called to seek this truth just as strongly as we were to begin this process to begin with, and we now understand why. We trusted His purposes in placing that call in our hearts.
Then we waited for the results of the orphan verification and the decision of the embassy to reveal the truth for our family.
For 3 weeks, I petitioned the Lord for my children.
I sat in the early morning hours, asking God to allow me to be chosen, once again, to be their mother.
Then, I begged Him to show us His full truth, at all costs, even if that meant I was not to be chosen to be their mother.
It was around this time that the Lord led me to Joseph.
Joseph was the victim of human trafficking, sold by his brothers. He was then used by the Lord to salvage the bloodline of Jesus Christ by saving his own brother, Judah, from a devastating famine.
The Lord is the Poet of Justice.
I began to have a peace about what was ahead. I began to understand that even if one of the children were found to have a birthmother who loved them, that child would also have another mother who loved them, and that mother was me. A child who had no one would now have an abundance.
And I knew that the Lord would take care of the rest.
When that judge asked me if I would do for each child what I would do for my own, I gave an oath before the Lord. He allowed me to get to that point, so from that moment on, until the day that I died, those children would be of my blood and my body.
If they were denied the truth in their path to my arms, this mother would fight to gain it for them.
So this mother and this father got on a plane and flew 20 hours to Ethiopia. This mother and this father stormed the gates of the care center and carried our children out while our attorney stood firm for us stateside.
We praise the Lord that our investigation, though it told a different story than we were able to gather from our paperwork, still reflected true orphan status for our children. We praise the Lord that we were able to meet the REAL finder of our daughter, a young boy who had been left out of the few documents we were given; a young boy who is now our daughter's "family".
And I petition the Lord daily on behalf of my friends; on behalf of the mothers and fathers whose 3rd party orphan verifications revealed questions that may never be answered, or truths that are hard to live with. I pray for the Peace that passes understanding for each of them and for their children, and I know He will provide that Peace to those who petition Him for it.
We praise the Lord that we noticed the omissions, errors, and holes in our paperwork, and that the agency reacted the way it did and was unable to satisfy our concerns. Otherwise, we would not have the beautiful stories we have been given for our children, the stories of sacrifice and love. The stories that created lasting connections for Moses and Miriam in Ethiopia. The stories that gave them "people", people that will welcome them in Ethiopia whenever they choose to go back. People who call themselves mothers, grandfathers, and uncles to my children, to our great joy.
There was a moment in Haromaya when I stood in the very spot where Miriam was found. I stood with the boy who found her in the place where someone who loved her walked away from her. The connection I felt to her family while standing in that spot was God-given.
I have carried that moment with me, and will carry it until the day that I die. I mourn for that woman, that mother, that relative, whomever it was who hurried away from her after placing her on the ground, full of grief and probably hunger, and knowing that they could be arrested in Ethiopia for abandoning their child, knowing that in walking away, they would hurt for the rest of their lives.
I mourn for that moment in a way that only Biblical Old Testament mourning could explain, in a sackcloth-and-ashes kind of way. I now understand the tearing of garments in response to mourning. The mourning I feel for the birth families of my children, in the moment that they left them, and in the moments they spend missing them, is so deep that sometimes I want to reach for my own skin and rip it open, which is the representation of the tearing of garments.
People have told me that we "should have known" many things. I should have known better than to choose this agency and given greater credit to the repeated negative reviews (agreed), I should have researched their past better (also agreed), I should have known more about adoption ethics (sometimes you can only learn from experience), I should have known better than to take two unrelated infants (we had no idea, but we have no regrets on this), I should have known better than to wait until after court to learn the truth about my children's origins if I had any doubts (agreed), and the most offensive one, that I should have adopted domestically and saved myself this hassle (ridiculous). Writing this post opens our family up to any number of "I told you so's" and "should-haves", but one thing alone gives us the confidence to do so:
We should/could have done a lot of things differently. But we have zero regrets. All of the above led us to create lasting connections for our children, and to learn more about the great needs of Ethiopia, and to a school full of children who delight this mother to tears, and to a country that has stolen our hearts.
The Lord has stood in the gaps where our should-haves put myself or my family at risk. The Lord has protected my children, my family, and our story. The Lord has created beauty from tragedy, once again. The Lord has used the withholding of truth to reveal the truth. The Lord has painted the story exactly as He would have it, and it is a masterpiece.
To me, that promise of goodness (along with the call of James 1:27) means that becoming "anti-adoption" after a flawed process is NOT the answer. We would adopt again, but we would place more importance on agency reputation, agency orphan verification practices, and transparency, and we would demand these things upfront before entering into a contract. (Because I now believe that the very first day that you begin "defending the fatherless" in the adoption process is the day you make your agency choice.) And after that, we would hand it to God, because
When the Lord adopted us, He certainly did not ask for perfection in the process, which is a relief, since we are unable to give that to Him. Any of the trials that come with the flawed, human system of adoption in our society are representative of the very trials Christ encountered on His mission to rescue and sanctify us.
We do it in His name, and you are His perfect gift to this family.
We love you. This mother and this father...we love you.
And so does your Uncle Bitsay, your "mother" Shartu, your "other mother" Yeshi, your "brothers" Abdurazak and Henok, your Oromian grandfathers, your "Aunts" in Haromaya, your village in the hills, and your "family" in Kebele 01.
To my audience of potential and current adoptive parents who would like to educate themselves on the ethics of international adoption, I suggest the following resources to you in your quest for knowledge. These are things I learned from experience, and all I can do is pass them on. Please give heavy consideration to repeated negative reviews of an agency. A positive review does not make a negative review untrue. Ask if the agency verifies orphan status before making a referral to a client. Some agencies do not, but there are plenty of good ones who DO. Support the agencies who are taking the extra steps. They are the ones who will keep the program open.
And to current APs, please be aware that you have rights and are (supposed to be) protected by the Hague:
EMBASSY: If your agency has asked you NOT to contact the US Embassy during the submittal and approval process, or is not being forthcoming with all paperwork requested by you or your investigator, please contact the embassy DIRECTLY by emailing ConsAdoptionAddis@state.gov per this email from Scott Riedmann: "Not only do we strongly encourage parents to communicate with us, they are in fact our customers. So we send our communications directly to them and will only copy the adoption agency if the parents want us to. I always become suspicious of an agency that wants to control information and keep parents in the dark. It suggests they are trying to hide something. If you tell us which agency, we will reach out to them directly and discuss this issue with them."
KELLY ENSSLIN: International adoption attorney, adoption ethics advocate with Both Ends Burning, adoptive mother, and our real-life superhero. Contact Kelly@ktelaw.com
BITSAY: Our investigator, our friend, our family. Contact directly at Bitsay21@yahoo.com
THE HAGUE: Here is the text of the Hague, which explains many of the rights you have as an adoptive parent. If you are choosing an agency, base your questions to agencies around these requirements. If you are in process, be sure to know what an ethical and transparent adoption looks like:
FOR QUESTIONS: Regarding the Hague interpretation and how it pertains to your adoption, please contact the state department at:
***I have purposely NOT listed COA, USCIS, or other .GOV sites. By the time these entities have proven the corruption, the agency will have been closed, so checking with them is virtually useless as they do not make complaints OR violations public unless verified. By all means, file with them if you need to, but you can not count on them to report current fraud under investigation. JCICS is pro-agency, and generally unresponsive to ethical issues, so they have also been left off.