My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

This Time, an Adoption "OMG"

Well, my previous posts about the Adoptly app being a piss-poor idea have become a moot point; it turns out the whole thing was an "art project" by Ben Becker and Elliott Glass, a couple of guys known for creating such glorious art as the "pooper" app (called "Uber for dog poop" by several press outlets taken in by the duo's press releases).  Becker and Glass stated that Adoptly was meant to satirize "our tech obsessed world and our cultural desire to make everything faster, easier, more convenient, and instantly gratifying, and raise questions about where we draw the line, or whether we do at all." The goal was to "see where [the conversation] went naturally through traditional media, social media, and comment boards."

I'll leave it up to each reader to ponder the duo's artfulness, tastefulness, attitude toward society in general, and concerns about the complexities and emotional loading of adoption. (For the sake of transparency, I was very impressed by the whole thing -- in a VERY negative manner.)

That said... Well, there's now a huge, nationwide adoption-related "OMIGAWD" I want to visit. (Fear not, Dear Reader; I'll soon have the post about the Pipsqueak's CNY dance performance at Lakeforest Mall up for y'all to read.)

My online news feed has been populated with an ever-growing number of stories about an adoption agency closing. Unfortunately, there's nothing unusual about a business being shuttered, and I remember the chaos shortly after AJ's filing when the US became a Hague nation[1] and all the adoption agencies scrambled -- and some failed -- to fulfill the accreditation requirements.

This is a little different.

The adoption agency in question is the 34-year-old Independent Adoption Center, a California-based not-for-profit with offices and clients across the nation.  Unlike the Hauge scramble, there were no indications of trouble of any kind -- all of a sudden, their clients received an email stating the agency was immediately shutting down and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Not just a few people, either. According to several sources, IAC had 1,886 adoptions in progress the day they said, "'Bye!"  That's one thousand, eight hundred and eighty six families. Some already had their adopted children at home and have no way to know how to finalize the process (if at all); others were still "paper pregnant," either having just filed or being years into the process. Boom, just like that, with zero warning, every one of those families is now hung out to dry in limbo.

Even better, every one of these families has given IAC thousands -- tens of thousands -- of hard-earned dollars, believing that everything was ship-shape and they could trust the company's representatives with their lifelong dreams of becoming parents (or providing a forever family to a child who had none).  The letter everyone received from IAC talks about how "the climate of adoption has changed in recent years" and states they "worked tirelessly to adapt" but they still were "not able to maintain solvency in this new era of adoption." That leaves at least 3,772 people heartbroken AND out anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 with no clear path forward and no clear indication of what fraction of their money they might be able to recover. (The one guarantee is that it will be a fraction of what they paid to IAC.)

But here's where this story begins to wander out of OMG territory and approaches the border of WTF territory: public records show that despite working "tirelessly" to maintain solvency, as recently as 2014 IAC's Executive Director was taking home more than $150,000 in salary and the Associate Director was taking home more than $118,000 in salary.  That's just two company executives raking in more than a quarter of a million dollars annually from a not-for-profit that was taking thousands from families across the U.S. every month who needed help building a family.

There's no indication in any of the news stories I've seen that salary cuts/caps were part of the effort to keep IAC solvent. (There are plenty of stories -- I'm referring to text saved from just the 14 most recent  reports filed across the U.S. as I write this.) However, there are multiple reports of IAC accepting, even recruiting, new clients right up to the moment they suddenly said, "We're outta here!" While the referenced changes in the overall adoption environment are real, the whole thing reeks of greed, bad (or no) ethics, and maybe even an amoral "screw it, I'm tired of this stuff" attitude that led to IAC essentially screwing 1,886 families out of their dreams and cash, and potentially leaving the same  number of children stuck in orphanages & temporary foster care.

Yes, businesses fail all the time.  Yes, the entire adoption climate has changed drastically over the past decade.  Yes, running an adoption agency is a labor-intensive and expensive endeavor.  Yes, adoptive families need to ensure they are ready, both financially and emotionally, for the trials and travails of the adoption process. But there is NO excuse for giving no warning, operating as if all is well, continuing to try to pull in more clients -- and then pulling the plug literally overnight.

I don't understand how anyone can suddenly thrust all those children just a few weeks or months from the end of their adoption process into legal limbo that could have them tossed back into whatever institution they came from. I can't imagine what those 1,886 families are feeling right now.  (I'm not sure I want to imagine what they're feeling right now.)

While I doubt it will happen, I hope the IAC's executives and board are raked over hot coals, and their personal fortunes damaged the same way they've damaged so many others'.

Meanwhile... make sure you hug your kids. Tonight, tomorrow, every day.

NOTE: I don't have a lot of followers but if you, or someone you know, is affected by IAC's sudden shutdown, I have a copy of their state-by-state listing of related legal resources that I'll be happy to forward to you. Just let me know.

[1] Hague nation: A country that follows the rules & regulations laid out in 1995's Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (aka "Hague Adoption Convention"), which became effective in the U.S. on April 1st, 2008.

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