Monday, May 21, 2007

Hot off the press?

I usually try to avoid the “big” Ethiopian yahoo group. It tends to be a bit cut-throat there and cat fights break out regularly. I have a fairly thick skin when it comes to internet chat boards, I’ve been a member of a very large mom board for almost 7 years, but I’m much more sensitive when it comes to my adoption for some reason. With the recent referrals at my agency I’ve been craving more Ethiopian adoption gossip so I decided to head over there this weekend for the first time in months. Wow! I picked a very interesting time to come back…

Since I don’t have permission to post specifics, I’m going to just give a brief synopsis here. It seems that the “Jones” family, adopting from an agency I’m going to refer to as AG, got a phone call not long after returning home from picking up their new daughter telling them that they had brought home the wrong girl. It seems that the “Smith” family had just gotten home and was sure that the baby they had was not the one they were referred (and had legally adopted through the Ethiopian courts) and the agency would do nothing about their concerns until they got home. AG then confirmed that the girls had been switched and since both families were thrilled with the daughter they had, AG assured the families that they would work out all the paperwork to make everything copasetic.

Several months passed while the families both got the run around from AG and nothing progressed in straightening out the paperwork muddle. AG wouldn’t reveal the identity of either family to the other and refused to give any information about what was going on. Finally in desperation the Jones searched and finally was able to contact the Smiths. Both families agreed to switch paperwork so they could at least know more about the child they now called daughter. This is when they discovered the mistake was bigger then they thought.

It seems that there is a third child involved. The Smith’s have the daughter that the Jones were referred, the Jones have baby ??, and the baby that the Jones are the legal parents of, lets call her L, was still in an orphanage in Ethiopia. The Jones contacted AG and requested that they be allowed to bring L home too since they knew that Ethiopia will not nullify adoptions and so she is just sitting in an orphanage and cannot be adopted to anyone else. AG will not allow them to get any information on L or even a picture of the daughter that is legally theirs. AG is doing nothing to fix this nightmare of a mess because it would require them to go to the courts, and the embassy, and admit they made a huge mistake, something they currently refuse to do. They now also won’t do anything to help the Jones and Smiths legally adopt the children they now have at home.

A huge mess right? I find the whole thing very tragic and a good example of how an agency can go bad, but what is really interesting me tonight is the new direction this discussion has taken on the boards. One person recommended that these families take their story to the press to get some pressure on AG to sort out this situation. That seems like a reasonable suggestion when nothing else seems to be working, right? Plus it adds the bonus of making sure no one uses this particular agency again. (I think that mistakes can happen to anyone, but they way this has been handled by AG is, in my opinion, just criminal.)

Of course not long after the "go to the press" suggestion was made several people chimed in with the opinion that going to the press would be a mistake and could jeopardize all Ethiopian adoptions. They quoted the bad press that China, Guatemalan, and Russian adoption have gotten recently. They, correctly, pointed out that the media only cares about ratings and would only focus on the negative perhaps scaring off potential adoptive parents from the whole program for one bad apple. They sited other international adoption programs closing down after getting bad press.

Now, I am against anyone pressuring someone to not tell their story for fear of the ramifications. That screams to me of “blaming the victim”, which is NOT what I’m all about. These folks are in an impossible situation and have the right to use any tools at their disposal to help rectify their problems. I believe that most Ethiopian adoption agencies are ethical and legal and would be able to stand up just fine to any scrutiny.

On the other hand, as someone who is expecting a referral soon, I don’t want anything to jeopardize my adoption. I know some folks who had referrals when the Russian reaccreditation thing happened last time and it was not pretty! I tremble in fear of anything happening that would not allow me to go get my baby for a long time, or possibly never. *shudder*

So, what do you think? Is going to the press a good solution to the problem or would the media’s tendency toward “if it bleeds it leads” indelibly harm the program? What is the line between someone getting their personal needs met and the good of a community?


Chuck and Jenny said...

I'm like you - I just lurk there occasionally. I read that thread a few days ago. What a mess for everyone - agency, families, kids...just everyone involved. I really don't know what the best thing to do is since. I tend to agree with you that going to the press will put the entire country program at risk, but something needs to be done to get the one left in the orphanage home.

Maggie said...

Wow. That is one HUGE mess. I don't know enough about Ethiopian adoptions to understand how in the world this happened. Didn't they realize they were given the wrong child when they went to pick them up? Or did an escort bring their child? I'm confused.

In any case, they obviously need to get this solved. It's horrible that the agency is leaving them high and dry. Does the agency have culpability in the mistake? Perhaps legal channels would be their best bet. The media could be effective, too. I'm surprised people got up in arms about that, though. It has done more damage than good in the past. But they can't bury it under the rug just because there are other families coming after them. It needs to be fixed. And that little girl that's still over there needs to come home.

If possible, can you explain the generic process that would have enabled this mistake to happen? I'm not asking for the specific details of these families stories -- just the process of adoption in Ethiopia.

Elle said...

I'm not sure if the media would be the way to go in this situation. Normally when one has a "situation" with adoption the state senator is the one you would contact. In this particular case that is what I would say. Since the families have to readopt their children to make them legal in the US the senator would have sway in that. As for the child left in Ethiopia, I don't know. Maybe if the right kind of pressure was put on the agency their tune would change.

I can see how you would not want them to run to the media jeopardizing your adoption process. I was much the same while waiting for Alexander. A media story was going to come out about an old Russian adoption abuse case and I freaked out about it. Often times one story is not the make or break deal as I found out.

Jenny and Matt said...

I've been keeping up with this story, too. What sadness!
I was surprised to hear so many people advise against going to the press. I felt like people were just saying 'don't do anything to jeopardize my adoption. I can understand feeling that way, but these families need help. That being said, though, I don't think the press is necessarily the way to go. Even when bad things are happening, the press has a way of over-generalizing that could paint a bad picture even for those families and agencies that have done everything by the books. And in the long run, good or bad press won't get that third girl home with her family.
I would think that legal and possibly gov't intervention would be the way to go at this.

jeneflower said...

Just wanted to say- thanks for posting that video. Very touching!