Friday, July 31, 2009



(KITCHENER) July 30 – Families impacted by the recent bankrupcty of
Imagine Adoption voted today at the first creditors’ meeting held in
Kitchener-Waterloo to work with the bankruptcy trustee BDO Dunwoody to
present a proposal to rescue the agency from bankruptcy. Work on the
proposal should be completed within the next two to four weeks.
I f the proposal is accepted by the court, the restructured agency
will continue to work to complete the adoptions of families registered
with the agency prior to the bankruptcy.
“What a moving moment it was to see all 189 people present vote in
favour of working towards taking the agency out of bankruptcy,” says
Christine Starr, chair of Families of Imagine Adoption, a group which
has been working to achieve completion of all the adoptions registered
with Imagine.
“But this is just a first step towards the completion of all files.
There is much more work to be done.”

Press contacts:

Ingrid Phaneuf: 416-710-0966
David Cotter: 519-502-5818


Article in the

July 30, 2009

KITCHENER — Hopeful families were buoyed Thursday by a plan to try to
save a bankrupt Cambridge adoption agency by bringing in new
If successful, it would mean hundreds of clients across Canada will
still be able to adopt children from overseas after investing months
of time and up to $20,000 in the process.
Would-be parents were devastated when Kids Link International Adoption
Agency, which operated as
Adoption, collapsed July 14.
But they left a Kitchener meeting in good spirits after about 200
creditors voted unanimously to pursue a restructuring effort outlined
by bankruptcy trustees from BDO Dunwoody.
“I’ve never seen so many people in one room agree on something so
quickly,” said Ingrid Phaneuf, of Etobicoke, who is trying to adopt a
child from Ethiopia. “It was fantastic.”
About six people with the necessary expertise may take over the
non-profit agency. The plan would require approval from the provincial
government, which licenses international adoption organizations.
Bankruptcy trustee Susan Taves said the plan will be explored and
developed over the next two to four weeks to see if it can work.
“I think it’s really probable – a high percentage of success here,”
she said after the three-hour meeting.
Companies, church groups, individuals and affected families have
contacted trustees with offers to help salvage the agency.
“This is a really unique file,” Taves said. “In 20 years of doing this
work, I’ve never had people call and say they’ll give money to keep an
organization going.”
The effort also has an ally in Kitchener lawyer Ted Giesbrecht, who
went to Ethiopia earlier this month to ensure children at an agency
transition home were properly cared for.
Giesbrecht, who is working for free, said staff at the home – where
children matched with Canadian families are housed – hadn’t been paid
in six weeks.
While also helping to complete adoptions that had reached the matching
stage, he cut staff and reduced expenses at the home from more than
$50,000 to $17,000 a month.
If the agency is restructured, Giesbrecht said, that will help stretch
the money Imagine still had in the bank when it went bust.
“The cost per family should be reduced,” he said. “The funds in trust
may go a long way.”
David and Holly Guistini of Kitchener paid $14,000 in fees to Imagine
and were waiting to be matched with a child in Ethiopia after
unsuccessfully trying to have a baby of their own for five years.
They were encouraged when a landscaper sitting next to them at the
creditors’ meeting told them he’d write off the money he is owed if
the agency can be salvaged.
“He said, ‘You getting your child is more important than us getting
our money,’ ” David said. “I was blown away.”
“It was a great meeting,” added Holly, who almost died from
complications during two pregnancies. “Everybody was together.”
James Ramsay, a federal judge who lives in Hamilton, was also upbeat
while leaving the meeting with his wife, Brenda.
The parents of six grown children, they signed up with Imagine and
were matched with a child in Uganda after Brenda saw a pressing need
while doing volunteer work there.
“They realize it’s not just money,” Ramsay said of bankruptcy trustees
and government officials. “They’re trying their best to make something
reasonable out of a very difficult situation.
“So far, it looks good, but you can never be sure. International
adoption is not for the faint of heart.”
Families have so far filed claims nearing $3 million. Imagine had just
$500,000 in cash left, plus about $150,000 in receivables and office
The collapse affected 415 families, including more than 200 in
Bankruptcy trustees are working with government officials to complete
about 40 adoptions, mostly from Ethiopia, that had reached the stage
where families were matched with children.
The remaining 375 clients are at earlier points in the lengthy
Nine families hoping to adopt from Ghana are in a particularly tough
spot after an orphanage there was closed over concerns children had
been improperly taken from their parents.
Jesse and Jeanette Martin of Elora had been matched with twin,
eight-month-old girls when all adoptions from the orphanage were
“To us, these are our girls,” said Jeanette, showing photos of the
children. “We won’t give up. We can’t give up.”
The orphanage was run by Hands of Mercy, a Christian charity based in
Fort Erie.
Deborah MacQuarrie, who heads the organization, attended the meeting
to talk to families trying to adopt from Ghana. With her were Melisa
and Brett Jackson, her daughter and son-in-law, whose own adoption
plans are on hold.
MacQuarrie insisted there were no serious problems at the orphanage
and said they hope adoptions can still be completed with no direct
involvement from Hands of Mercy or Imagine.
“Believe me, if we were guilty of all the things they say we are, we
wouldn’t be here,” she said. “We’d be in hiding somewhere.”
Waterloo Regional Police are conducting a fraud investigation after
two directors of Imagine alleged senior staff earning six-figure
salaries made more than $300,000 in questionable purchases with
corporate credit cards.
Included were trips, home renovations and a horse and saddle.
There was no sign at the meeting of Susan Hayhow, the former executive
director of Imagine and two related organizations, Global Reach
Children Fund and Saint Anne Adoption Agency.
Those agencies are also caught up in the Imagine bankruptcy because
money moved among accounts for all three organizations.
Hayhow’s husband, Rick, was chief financial officer of Imagine and
Saint Anne. He resigned in April after his wife began a common-law
relationship with Andrew Morrow, a board member and employee of Global
Susan Hayhow and Morrow were at the transition home in Ethiopia when
Giesbrecht, an expert in international adoptions, went there on behalf
of BDO.
Giesbrecht said they were trying to make sure the children were OK and
cooperated when he got there, giving him the information he needed to
take over.
“There was an introduction,” he said. “I met them and then I said ‘You
have no further authority here.’ ”

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