Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On keeping quiet

So you're in the process of an international adoption, and you've been told you can't post the name of the country you're adopting from. Why is that? Do you know? Have you asked? What were you told?

Did you know it's OK to share the name of the country you're adopting from? It is NO SECRET that people are adopting children from countries like Ukraine, Serbia, Russia, Bulgaria, and many others. Those countries have agreements with the US to allow their children to be adopted by families here. So why the secrecy?

Here is what happened with our adoption, and what I suspect is probably the issue with other countries as well:

Our facilitator regularly checked in on our blog. A couple of times she asked me to change some information; like asking me to change "facilitator fee" to "country fees". Another time I had a news article posted from a public news site that mentioned the country name. She asked me to remove it. (I refused. It was a public newspaper made available online, there was no reason for me to remove it. ) I was also told by Reece's Rainbow that "Serbia" should not appear anywhere on my blog until my adoption was final.

Then, a few months ago an article came out about some issues in Ukraine institutions and orphanages. Many adoptive families posted that article on their blogs, then were asked by Reece's Rainbow representatives to remove them, myself included. I was told they didn't want to call attention to all the blogs by families adopting from Ukraine. They don't want the name "Ukraine" to appear on ANY of those blogs until the that family's adoption is final.  That doesn't even make sense! "You can't post the name of the country your'e adopting from, because we don't want to......" What? You don't want to bring embasrassment to the country? (That was one of the things said to me.) Seriously? But wouldn't it bring the same embarrassment posting the same information AFTER the adoption? Yeah, it might not affect THAT family's adoption, but surely if it were an issue it could affect the NEXT family, right?

This all seemed very odd to me, and didn't make sense. But "everyone" was following the rule. Surely there was a reason.

Later, once the investigation of our facilitator became public knowledge,  I found she didn't want me to list Serbia because what she was doing was illegal! She wanted "facilitator fee" removed from my blog because she didn't want government officials asking me who I was paying, because what she was doing was illegal. She was handing out private information about the children  in the country, (pictures, names, birth dates, diagnosis, etc.) some of whom were not even legally available for adoption! So the secrecy was all about SECRETS. Not letting government officials know that PRIVATE information about their children was being posted all over the net. As a state employee it is illegal for her to be making money off the adoptions of children for whose medical care she was responsible. She sure didn't want the government officials finding out who I was paying!

Guess what? I am PROUD of the fact my child is from Serbia. Guess what else? The Government of Serbia has NO PROBLEM with my talking about the fact we've not only adopted from Serbia, but are hoping to adopt from Serbia again.  What they DO NOT want shared is pictures of the child I'm adopting, nor the child's real name until that child is legally mine. I can talk about where I'm traveling to, what city I'm in, EVERYTHING!!!!

Serbia, Serbia, Serbia.

Now let me ask you this: Suppose I went to your blog, lifted a picture of one your biological children, and posted on my blog saying, "This is the child we're going to bring home!" I'm thinking if you discovered this, you would probably flip out a bit. The same is true with your adoption. Those children belong to the government responsible for their care (the fact the care their getting may not be the greatest is not a factor) These children are NOT yours and unless GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS gave you permission (not facilitators, not a US based organization, THEY have NO SAY in the matter) then you SHOULDN'T share the child's picture on your blog.

And, if you're new in this community of international special needs adoption, you may not know that quite frequently it has happened that a family makes a horrible discovery, sometimes not until they've arrived in country. OOPS! That child isn't legally available for adoption! Really? You mean Reece's Rainbow or another organizations had pictures of children listed who were not adoptable? Really? And they've allowed families to collect money for those children? OOPS!

Yes, it's fun to have the cute buttons with your child's face. It helps draw people into your blog, and helps you with your fundraising efforts. So many people compare their adoption process to a paper pregnancy. So, with a real pregnancy you can share details like your due date, how you're feeling, the doctor you've chosen, etc, but you don't get to see the baby's face until the day that baby is born. Think of your adoption the same way: It's a process, that you can share the details of, including the "due date", where its' going to happen, etc, but you can't share the child's face until it is yours to share.

Go ahead....say can do it.


bringinganahome said...

Not that I expect anything less from you, but....Well Said!

Hevel said...

Whenever someone was mentioning on their blogs that they were adopting from Eastern Europe, I was always sure of two things: they were with RR and they were adopting from Ukraine or Serbia. Occasionally I did ask, and sometimes I got private answers in email, with an explanation that the COUNTRY says either photos or the country name can be shared of the kids, not both. I always called BS on that... several family members have adopted from Ukraine, and I do happen to know that there are no photo listings allowed besides the handful of photos on the ministry page. Also, there were TONS of blogs, my sister's included, that talked openly about Ukraine. Even Special needs adoptions. And yes, my sister's blog had a photo or two of her new daughter, because *gasp* she was adopting a child she knew... But always just saying "this is X, whom we hope to adopt, G-d willing".

Thanks for writing this post! You rock, Leah!

Mel said...

Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine! hehe Not that it has as much punch since we've been home almost 8 months... LOL

Ellen Stumbo said...

What would you suggest then? Because we would not have adopted Nina had we not seen her picture and I know we are not the only ones. Sometimes apictyre does say a thousand words.
I think you do bring a good point in that there must be a way to contact each coutry directly and ask what can and what cannot be shared. As a matter of fact, this should be a requirement, to go directly to the country officials in order to provide acurate information to families and not just go through a facilitator. We loved our facilitator by the way, and we would use him again if we go back to Ukraine. Facilitators are necessary too to help you navigate ina country where you are deaf, mute, and illiterate.

Leah S. said...

Ellen, yes it is necessary to have someone hold your hand while you're in country. What is NOT necessary is to continue to put families in the hands of facilitators who are corrupt, and habitually threaten families. There ARE good facilitators. There is also the fact that the facilitators get your EVERY details of your financial status and know which families have the highest potential to come up with more money when it is demanded of them. I agree, families are more willing to adopt when they've seen a picture first. Perhaps if the governement officials were releasing the pictures, instead of them being obtained by questionable methods? Serbia DOES have agreements with agencies and gives them information about the children registered for international adoption. It does not (as of May 9, 2011) have any agreements with US agencies. I don't know enough about Ukraine to know how they manage their information. Perhaps someone should ask the Ukraine SDA that question? I do know this: While it is a sad thing that these children are wasting away in institutions, getting the information about by illegal means is NOT right, and THAT is what has the potential to damage international adoption agreements between the U.S. and other countries.

Shea said...

I agree Ellen that facilitators are necessary. Ours was very good. For 12 days in country he charged us $450 and gas was $8 a gallon. He drove us everywhere. Trust me, he was not making money of us adoptive parents and this was not his job. He cares about the kids.

Linnea said...

This is very well said. I agree with you. I think all of us know when people say I am adopting from EE where they are getting their kids. I always wondered why the secrecy too. Thank you for writing this.

BE blessed


harris family journeys said...

Going into our international adoption we were always fully aware that something could happen at any time during the process and the child we were hoping to adopt could become unavailable for one reason or another. Sadly that is exactly what happened to us. However I think RR was always very clear, as well as the contract we signed with the agency who actually handled our adoption, that there are no gaurantees when adopting internationally. These countries do not operate anything like the United States! Things can and will happen that seem ridiculous and unfair and guess what, we as American visitors have absolutely no control over it. I for one would have been lost without our facilitator who did the best he could to help us adopt
the child we travelled to adopt. But again we adopted through an agency, we only found our child on RR. If Reece's Rainbow or the agency I am working with tells me that it is dangerous for me to have a picture of the child I am HOPING to adopt on my blog or to mention the country by name (which an agency did tell me for a Russian adoption just recently) then why would I do it just because I don't understand why they said not to do it? I don't get it. We are trying to gain favor with foreign governments who change their rules with the wind changes and who can and do look at our blogs! Why risk it? Isn't the goal to save the child's life you are hoping to adopt? If I was told I needed to put I Love Russia everyday on my blog in order to save my child I would do it. As far as the whole process goes, especially while you are in country and basically at the mercy of another government's sometime's crazy procedures and ridiculous rules, the one thing that made me have peace was reading the late, great, Derek Loux's blog post, "Redemption". We are RANSOMING our children from these countries and from these orphanages and from these institutions. Forgive me but I would do anything to get my children out and if that means breaking the law because facilitators are illegal in that country then so be it.

harris family journeys said...

So you are not going to post my comments because you don't agree with them? I think if you are going to raise a controversial issue you should be ready and willing to let more than one viewpoint be heard.

Leah S. said...

"Harris Family Journeys": Not sure why you think I wasn't publishing you comment. I'm sorry I chose to spend a Sunday afternoon with my family instead of sitting here on my computer.

Molly said...

I have no input one way or the other, I simply don't have the knowledge to form an opinion. But, I do find it interesting.

Leah S. said...

If the agency or organization you're working with verifies with the local government that the child is legally available for adoption, there shouldn't be an issue unless someone else adopts that child before you get there. That is far different than having people go through the adoption process for a child that isn't even a legal orphan!

Michelle Z said...

The children listed on RR are legal orphans -- but yes, sometimes that status does change. Parents can change their minds, or the children go into foster care, or they are adopted by someone ... many reasons the status can change.

We were asked to either not share Lil's picture, or to not mention where she was. I had no issue with that at all. I mean, she wasn't my daughter yet -- I respected HER privacy, and didn't say where she was.

I also had no issues with our facilitation team. They worked their tails off for us and the other families that were there at the same time. I left there thinking we hadn't paid them enough!

Leah S. said...

Michelle, I am THRILLED that you had a good experience in your adoption of Lil. Unfortunately, that is NOT the case for all the RR families, particularly in recent months. Most of us who have had problems were told to be quiet, or were ostracized from the community. And the Serbia children? Most that were on RR were NOT legal orphans! I know three children off the top of my head, two who had families who's dossiers were already submitted to the ministry and approved to adopt from Serbia. But those children's parental rights have not been terminated, nor are there plans to do so. Fortunately, for the child who is critically ill, the Ministry along with a couple US non-profit organizations in country have been advocating on his behalf. While I was there in May we were able to get our hands on special formula for him, along with some other things so he can hopefully gain some weight, increasing his chances of surviving until the mess can be sorted out. The other two are not adoptable, and it's unlikely they ever will be. The ministry has told me that several of the other children were not available, but I don't know specifically which ones. The children I mentioned above are one's who's waiting families I am in contact with.

Leah S. said...

I should add that our adoption experience was just fine, with the exception of the last 5 days we were in country. That's when our facilitator turned ugly about money, and tried to extort more from me. When I refused to give her more, that's when the threats started. That's when she tried to interfere with my embassy appointment. That's when she became very paranoid about what I was telling the embassy. That's when all support from RR stopped. While my adoption experience was fine, I'm not real thrilled about the fact I'm now stuck in the investigation process, and will probably have to go back to Serbia yet again for that reason. I'd rather be going back to bring home a child. If we're really lucky, someday we will bring home the child we originally hoped to adopt, who was posted on RR for two years before I knew of her yet wasn't even CLOSE to legally available for adoption.

Somewhere Behind the Morning said...

A certain friend of mine sent me an e-mail with your blog address in light of what I posted on my blog today. I think we have a lot in common..... I agree with the whole "can't say where you're going" stuff. I never abided by it. I said city and country (ODESSA, UKRAINE!) the whole time before, during, and after. I didn't give out any personal information other than that because all someone needs to do is google the orphanage numbers, and the cities should come up anyway. It's not a government secret.

Kari :)

Speechless said...

The child we are attempting to adopt was listed on RR prior to actually being available for adoption. The ministry *is* allowing him to be adopted now, but he was not available. There's no blame there, I haven't had negative experiences with anyone and I have no reason to believe that RR had knowledge that this was the case--it's just what happened. Unfortunately, it cause a few problems for us and for our kiddo as a result.

The one thing that I do find it a little disturbing that no one wants to address that the fact that it (the listing of children not legally available for adoption) happened was wrong, even if the original intent was good. I understand that the legal status of children may change; but in S*rbia, I don't believe that was the case.

The way to have adoptions continue in specific countries isn't to hide or cover up when you don't abide by the rules; it's to follow the rules of the country allowing you to adopt it's children in the first place.

Bogaranty├║ said...

Thanks for this post. I know most countries in the region (I'M in Hungary) don't allow any photo listings of their available children, and Ukraine, in particular, has made it clear that they do ot reserve children at all... n ot even if your dossier is submitted. There is no guarantee whatsoever till you get the referral at the SDA that you will get a certain child's referral, so any organization saying anything to the contrary is doing something wrong.