The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and distortion and learn the truth about the world,
then to organize and act to change it. That's never been impossible and never been easy. ~Noam Chomsky

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Talking Red Flags

Now that AJ is home I want to talk more about red flags. What should you look for when first considering adoption? What questions should be asked before deciding if you should move forward?

The first of the red flag series is about words. What kind of due diligence can be done when an adoption representative is saying all the right things? In our experience Heather Elyse had all the right answers both in writing and on the phone. Here are her words quoted by the adoption ethics website Reform Talk (click) .  (See some of the excerpts below.) 

No red flags in her article (in fact she comes across as ready to reform the Haitian adoption system) or in the answers she gave to me when we spoke.

The perfect words. How do you do ensure you aren't getting involved with an excellent actor/actress who knows what to say to get clients?

1. You cannot assess the ethics of an organization based on their social media, articles, words online, self promotion or even other adoptive families' promotion of it.

Our example: When we began researching adoption from Haiti we knew that we needed to somehow find a group to work with that was aware of the corruption in Haiti, that was supportive of the implementation of the Hague Convention in Haiti, that supported family preservation, and that was not charging extra money that would go to unscrupulous facilitators. We agreed together that unless we found an organization like this we would not adopt from Haiti. Yes, we were looking for the Holy Grail of an ethical adption.

So we began to dip our toe into researching online via google, Haiti adoption groups,  and reading agency reviews and articles posted by agency staff.

Immediately Heather Elyse stood out to us because of her extremely vocal online stand against child trafficking and adoption corruption. Her creche in Haiti was fairly new, was declaring itself to be changing the face of adoption in Haiti, posting red flags about adoption online, and was speaking out about poor adoption practices. The author covered every concern we had - it was like she had read our minds....

Here is a clip from Adoption Reform Talk which posted an entire article in 2012 written by Heather Elyse.

Excerpts in italics Read full article by clicking here. 

"Adoption fraud is everywhere. I am amazed at all the adoption scams that go on. Scams are one of the reasons why we are opening up a law office in Haiti just dealing with adoption fraud cases. My heart is literally grieving for the many, many families who have been lied to, lead astray, given false hopes, and scammed. I am sick over all the corruption that surrounds the orphan and adoption. For those of you who know my heart wrenching adoption stories, you will understand why I am passionate about making sure families never have to experience what I endured. ”

My comment - wow! finally an acknowledgement that adoption can involve fraud! A law office makes this group sound very experienced and intelligent! Heather has her own horrible adoption story and has been personally impacted by fraud. That gives her a personal motive for being transparent and careful in how she conducts her adoption programming!

"As I investigated, the Haitian woman clearly told me that she doesn’t want her child to be adopted. She was too poor to feed her child, so she gave her to this missionary woman in hopes that her child would get a better life in an orphanage setting, and eventually come back and support the family. I almost wished this missionary woman would of walked into this Haitian hut and tried to figure out a solution for this family to get food and education, not rip a child away from it’s family.”

My comment - wow! This group actually investigates cases and seeks a child's background! Heather understands the nuances of birth families that place their children in orphanage care due to poverty not orphaning! 

"Adoption is our last resort at the creche we oversee. If we can keep the child with the family… That is our goal." 

My comment - yes! Absolutely. This is what we were looking for - adoption as a last resort.

“So here it is: my official orphanage advice: If you are not licensed to do adoptions, please stop promising your kids to hopeful adoptive families. I am working on three cases currently where the children were promised to families, yet they aren’t even adoptable. Messing with another person’s heart strings and emotions is a scary thing. Orphanages please tread lightly and use caution."
My comment - Heather must understand soft referrals and how dangerous they can be. She must be on the up and up because she recognizes the importance of licensing, regulation, following the rules and the disaster that can result from not operating with this level of understanding!

"You can not come into a foreign country and decide to start an orphanage and just start taking kids in." 
My comment - She could have taken this quote straight from my mouth. Surely she must have years and years of experience in Haiti. Surely she wouldn't herself be someone without any experience who just flew to Haiti and started an orphanage!

"Dear Orphanages, if you are NOT licensed to do adoptions…. Please stop facilitating and doing private/ independent adoptions. It’s too risky and like many who have already been shut down in Haiti, you could be next. I know Haiti is not a Hague country yet, and there have been many successful independent adoptions done. I am not criticizing anyone who has done an independent adoption, just asking everyone to use wisdom…tread lightly. I understand why many choose to do an independent adoptions, especially with how many corrupt agencies there are. Although I agree with the USCIS when they clearly warn all families to not do independent adoptions on theirwebsite."
My comment - The last thing we'd want to do is an independent adoption! So glad that she recognizes the pitfalls in skirting rules or acting contrary to guidance from USICS!

“A plea to all Adoption Agencies: Why again are we charging outrageous fees?? I understand the need to pay staff, keep the utilities on at the office, but come on agencies!!! Let’s operate with integrity. Dare to be different!!!! Let me say that again … Dare to be Different!!! Let’s not make this a money making business."
My comment - exactly! Adoption as a money making/get rich business is deplorable. 

"If a Haitian wanted to adopt a Haitian child, it would be less then 700 US. I know this how: because we have a program where we pay for Haitian families to adopt. We encourage it as long as they meet our standards. (that should give you an idea of how cheap it is to adopt here in Haiti)."
My comment - Supporting in country domestic adoption is very important to us. It is so rare to hear an agency encourage this since it does not make money for the agency. We are amazed at the level of commitment to Haitian families! Wonderful!

The language used in this article was the same language on Heather Elyse's facebook page, on the facebook pages of her organizations, the creche, et.
Combined with positive information in online Haiti adoption forums and a total lack of negative information or reviews when we Googled we decided that this was an agency we'd be very interested in talking to.

So what questions should you ask to look for red flags? How do you weed through a forest of words and sort the manipulators from the sincere?
To be continued....

1 comment:

  1. Your bravery is inspiring. So proud to be among you!!


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