Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FIA Steering Committee Meeting with Minister Deb Matthews - July 28, 2009

Meeting with Minister Deb Matthews

July 28th, 2009

In Attendance:

Minister Deb Matthews

Chris Carson – Chief of Staff

Marilyn Renwick - Administrator


Chris Shantz – Minister’s Senior Policy Advisor

Sally McGowan – Director of Children and Youth Services

FIA Steering Committee Chairs & Co-chairs

Calling of Meeting to Order and Introductions

Deb Matthews:

Hoping to gain a better understanding of what our needs are.

Wants to ensure her ministry is doing everything possible to assist us.

They will not hold anything back and will be honest with us.

Feel we have the same goal – uniting us with our children through the adoption process.

Want us to understand what they can do to help us and what their responsibilities are.


Introduction of her role and the opening statement:

Thanks to the ministry and apologies for isolated inaccurate statements with regards to comments in the media about the ministry’s lack of cooperation.

Thankful for the expedited visas but asking for more.

Concerned about the Ghana and Ecuador programs and St.Anne’s organization.

We are now asking for a clear plan to ensure that ALL files are completed from ALL programs.

We are hoping this meeting will result in assurances and concrete answers from the ministry to ensure all files are completed successfully.

This will most likely mean the ministry may have to go outside the normal boundaries of their responsibility.

We do not want false hopes but a realistic plan that we can support.


Presents our questions for answers/clarification.

These are from the questions we left with the ministry after our Friday meeting.

Minister Matthews:

Thank you for acknowledging the hard work of the ministry.

Her hope is that the creditors will come up with a solution to keep IA viable.

Can’t foresee what will happen at the Thursday meeting with BDO – but they want us to succeed.

The ministry will bend over backwards to make that happen – within the boundaries of the law.

Aware of the danger to lose accreditation with Ethiopia – but they are committed to maintaining a healthy relationship with international officials.

Should the agency be unrevivable – the home studies are portable. Therefore, those files would be transferred to another agency.

Questions for Minister Matthews from Families of Imagine Adoption

· At our last meeting, Sally McGowan stated that the Ministry is working with the other provinces to understand more about the families impacted by Imagine Adoption’s Bankruptcy outside of Ontario. We understand that an inter-provincial call took place on Friday. Please provide an update on what was discussed on the call and any decisions that were made.

· We know that the ministry is having regular conversations with HRSDC’s Intercountry Adoptions Services unit and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. What are the outcomes of these discussions? Can we feel assured that the right action is being taken at the Federal level to ensure critical relationships with the national governments in the countries Imagine Adoption worked with are being maintained?

Sally McGowan:

Citizen and Immigration, International Trade and International Affairs spoke together on a call last week. Ministry of Children and Youth Services gained a better understanding through this conversation about the process and how things are being managed on the ground.

These departments plan on communicating regularly to share information on the different country programs and on the family files from other provinces.


What exactly are you hearing from these departments? What are the conversations with regards to MOWA?

Sally McGowan:

MOWA will report back to the ministry on Friday with regards to the accreditation and licensing on the Ethiopian end.

Minister Matthews:

Have we had the opportunity to speak with other government officials?


We have had the ear of MP Glen Pearson up to this point but the other MPs are in Quebec on retreat at this time so we’re on hold with them right now.

Minister Matthews:

How about on the public service side?


No – not yet. We are only now beginning to understand this aspect of Federal government.

Chris – Chief of Staff:

Has liased with Minister Kenny’s chief of staff and have scheduled ongoing calls between those two ministers. Also liaising with Minister Finley’s office.


· We recognize that any concrete decisions on the future status of Imagine Adoption are based on BDO Dunwoody’s financial assessment of the agency, but what options are currently being considered?

· Our priority as families impacted by Imagine Adoption is to ensure that all families that have signed a retainer with Imagine Adoption are able to complete their adoptions. Is the Ministry of Children and Youth Services committed to:

1. Expediting a license, if required, as quickly as possible; and

2. Exercising the Ministry’s power to act an interim licensee to continue to facilitate adoptions while Imagine Adoption is restructured.

Minister Matthews:

We can’t speculate about what might happen Thursday.

The ministry is not in the international adoption business and is not planning to become so.

They will support plans but won’t be the plan themselves.


We understand there might be some viable options, but if there isn’t – does the ministry still feel the same way?

Minister Matthews:

Can’t speculate on all the “what ifs”.


Would the ministry give us time to group our thoughts and formulate our plan after the meeting on Thursday?



Sally McGowan:

It could be that BDO acts strictly in their position as shutting down the business of IA.

BDO has assured the ministry however, that they are willing to go beyond that to put a viable solution in place.

BDO has confirmed that they are reviewing possible plans to keep the agency viable – and the ministry is committed to expediting this plan.

Ministry has been communicating with other agencies across Canada to gain understanding and form relationships should IA clients need to transfer their files to another agency or that agency step in to assist us.

If there are possible plans for viability of the agency – the ministry doesn’t want to put any artificial deadlines in place. They are committed to ensuring any proposed plan is viable – don’t want to find ourselves in this situation again.

They do however, recognize the time sensitive nature of this situation.

· At our last meeting we expressed our concern that Dr. Palacios, Imagine’s lawyer in Ecuador would not take any action to continue to facilitate adoptions until he got clear direction from the Ministry, or Sue Hayhow. Terre Des Homme, an agency looking into the possibility of taking over our files, cannot take any action until this is resolved. Has the Ministry contacted Dr. Palacio? If not, will the Ministry take immediate action to do so?


That communication is happening as we speak.

Sally McGowan:

Have a Spanish speaking staff member who is communicating directly with Dr.Palacio and with Ecuadorian officials.

* We understand the short turnaround time between our meeting on Friday and today. We left a very specific list of questions with your staff at Friday's meeting. When can we expect answers to those questions?



Reporting fees and requirements for families who are home with their children already. Trying to fulfill the reporting requirements as required by Ethiopian authorities. Can the ministry help us with this situation?

Sally McGowan:

It has been raised with the federal government and MOWA. It has been asked several times on the hotline.

She will raise it with the high commission on our behalf.


How can we as citizens be assured that this situation will not occur again?

Ironically, we thought the risk of this process lay in the international country.


A lot of learning will happen throughout this process and I’m sure we will come to conclusions later and be reflective.

A license means that an agency will comply with the law – safety of children, 47 steps to meet before being licensed.

The ministry will look beyond the immediate crisis later.

If fraud has occurred, she is not sure the ministry could have prevented this.

Other agencies may want to strengthen the system voluntarily as the process of international adoption is taking a hit from this in general.

Sally McGowan:

What the ministry looks at when licensing (financially):

An outline of the fees paid by families to the agency.

Then an outline of the monies paid on behalf of the family by the agency.


Without a full review of financial statements, often perception and reality are disconnected. Necessary to provide accurate information.

James Boyle:

BDO is also not in the international adoption business. Who is helping them wade through this aspect of the bankruptcy?

Sally McGowan:

BDO is working with lawyer Ted Giesbreicht.

Ministry is working with BDO to ensure any proposal put forward meets the 47 licensing criteria.


Could you share with us any candidates as we have people approaching us who might be able to fill needs?

Sally McGowan:

Discussions are happening with Susan Taves.

The ministry will combine proposals etc. to help BDO put a viable candidate/proposal in place.

Susan Taves is on a steep learning curve. Ie. Donation for the transition house.

This is a spirit of the law vs. letter of the law situation.


Who should be pro-active to find the viable solution once the money aspect is sorted out on Thursday?

Sally McGowan:

BDO has people knocking at their door with regards to proposals.

This is a conversation we need to have with BDO on Thursday.

If we have people approaching us, ask them to go to BDO with it.


BDO is not representing St.Anne’s families. How is the relationship working between the three branches?

Sally McGowan:

The ministry is working on all branches simultaneously – with the understanding that BDO’s job is IA.

It is not a hierarchy for the ministry – they are working on all aspects.


How many licenses have been extended to IA?

Sally McGowan:

There are 2 licenses.


What is happening with Ghana?

Sally McGowan:

The owner of Hands of Mercy has called today and Sally will be speaking with other officials about this immediately as there is conflicting information being presented to families.

This is a priority.


Has a breakdown of files/countries for us – for Ontario.

Is available for other provinces as well.


What about families verbally matched but not referred? This is another category not listed on these numbers.

Sally McGowan:

This is a conversation we can have with BDO on Thursday.


You mentioned that accreditation is frozen at this time – will that affect the court dates of future adoptions?

Sally McGowan:

NEW ACCREDITATION is frozen – not IA’s current accreditation.

We don’t want anything to jeopardize that accreditation.


Minister Matthews:

Is the hotline and website set up by the ministry sufficient for communication?

This does not have to be the conclusion of our communication – the ministry wants to keep clear and efficient communication.


This meeting has been very helpful to us and he is hopeful we can meet again in the coming weeks.


Absolutely. She looks forward to the day she can meet these little babies in the future.


Thank you for hearing us and assisting us in this process, a process we know is long term and critical to the ongoing success of international adoption.

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