It has been months now. The sadness does not get to me often anymore.
It did today.
Today I missed Emerson and Bennett. The boys we thought we were adopting, not the boys we protected. [Read more…]
As we got closer to Mother’s Day last week, I did not know what to expect. I did not know what I would feel. This was supposed to be my first Mother’s Day with children in my home. It is heart breaking. Then again, we protected those two boys and they are where they should be. It is joyful. The fact that the two sons we fell in love with were imaginary constructions developed by people who would defraud us, well it is just mind blowing.
More than anything else, I was not sure how I would (or should!) be treated on the holiday. I had plenty of people to celebrate…and lots of adoption moms to celebrate with! But the reality was that I do not have children in my home.
I feared pity.
I also feared being forgotten.
I had posed a hypothetical question to myself:
“What does a person say to a woman in my position on Mother’s Day?”
While I could not have told anyone what to say, ultimately three friends wished me a happy Mother’s Day…and they each got it right. One wrote:
“Even though you never brought home the boys, I know you thought of them as yours. Love you friend! Happy Mother’s Day.”
Acknowledgement and love with no hint of pity. I am blessed with wonderful friends. And now I think I have a better idea of how to handle tough holidays like this one. Thank you girls for setting such a strong example.
I have some really interesting information to share with you. This week the US Department of Justice issued a press release regarding an adoption fraud case they are prosecuting. This has nothing to do with our adoption or with the adoption agency we hired – Lifeline Children’s Services. However, I am encouraged to see the DOJ taking adoption fraud seriously. Perhaps if adoption agencies are held accountable for these types of activities, the ethical standards of international adoption will improve.
Here is the press release from the Department of Justice:
Four current and former employees of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG), an adoption services provider, have been indicted by a grand jury in South Carolina for allegedly conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with IAG’s adoption services in Ethiopia. IAG is a South Carolina company that identified children in Ethiopia for adoption and arranged for their adoption by U.S.-based parents.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney William N. Nettles of the District of South Carolina and Assistant Secretary Gregory B. Starr of the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security made the announcement.
“The defendants are accused of obtaining adoption decrees and U.S. visas by submitting fraudulent adoption contracts signed by orphanages that never cared for or housed the children, thus undermining the very laws that are designed to protect the children and families involved,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “As today’s indictments show, the Justice Department, alongside its partners both here and abroad, will respond vigorously to these criminal schemes and will act to protect the many families and children who rely on the integrity of the adoption process.”
“The Bureau of Diplomatic Security uses its global presence to vigorously investigate any fraud related to the acquisition of U.S. visas,” said Assistant Secretary Starr. “The Department of State’s Bureaus of Consular Affairs and Diplomatic Security are firmly committed to working with the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and bring to justice people who victimize children and families by abusing inter-country adoption system and bribe officials to facilitate their actions.”
The international program director and coordinator for IAG, James Harding, 53, of Lawrenceville, Ga., was arrested today in Georgia. Alisa Bivens, 42, of Gastonia, N.C., who oversaw the Ethiopian operations from the United States, is scheduled to make an appearance at a later date in U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C. The company’s executive director, Mary Mooney, 53, of Belmont, N.C., was apprehended in Belize by Belizean authorities and transported to the United States. Haile Mekonnen, age unknown, an Ethiopian national who ran IAG’s operations on the ground in Ethiopia, was also charged in the indictment.
According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly engaged in a five-year conspiracy to violate laws relating to the adoption of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents. The scheme involved, among other things, paying orphanages to “sign off” on contracts of adoption with the adopting parents as if the children had been raised by those orphanages — even though the children had never resided in those orphanages and had not been cared for or raised there. These orphanages could not, therefore, properly offer these children up for adoption. In some instances, the children resided with a parent or relative.
As part of the charged conspiracy, the defendants then allegedly submitted or caused to be submitted these fraudulent contracts of adoption to Ethiopian courts in order to secure adoption decrees, and submitted or caused to be submitted the fraudulent contracts of adoption and the fraudulently procured adoption decrees to the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia in order to obtain U.S. visas for the children to travel to the United States to be with their new families. The indictment also charges that the defendants’ scheme involved paying bribes to an Ethiopian government official and agreeing to create counterfeit U.S. Customs and Immigration Service forms that were to be submitted to the Ethiopian government.
The charge of conspiring to defraud the United States carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
If you believe you have been a victim of this crime involving the named individuals or International Adoption Guides, please call 1-800-837-2655 and leave your contact information. If you have questions or concerns about adoptions from Ethiopia in general, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State through the email address AskCI@state.gov . If you have specific questions about an adoption from Ethiopia that IAG facilitated, you should contact the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State through the email address IAGadoptioncases@state.gov .
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The prosecution is being conducted by Assistant United States Attorney Jamie Schoen of the District of South Carolina and Trial Attorney John W. Borchert of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
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Our God is so kind. Y’all, seriously. Let me tell you about His extravagant grace.
I am couch surfing this week. Okay, so I’m not a college-age free spirited guy with a guitar traveling the country. I’m doing the mature person version of couch surfing. I am spending the night in the spacious and lovely guest bedrooms of my generous friends in Louisville. Yep, a long weekend in Kentucky with my beloved friends has been a long time coming.
It is wonderful to be here. Hugs and long talks and the squeals of my former middle school students…I have missed these people so much. Oh, and hearing little Charlie talk about his rocket ship…priceless moments.
In some ways this visit has surprised me with emotion, though. These were my people as we were developing our adoption and fundraising. These were the people who cheered us on and supported us while we lived up here. These people made a huge impact on our adoption. Seeing them for the first time since the adoption ended brought some emotion to the surface. In most ways, I am healing so well. I suppose there will always be tender spots in my soul after this experience. It is okay to be surprised by them every now and then…especially as I seek to deepen these treasured friendships.
As I sat noticing these tender emotions, a friend told me our adoption had impacted his family. I was a bit nervous. Most people who have contacted me with that preface have told me about scary adoption corruption. That is not what he wanted to say though. He wanted Dave and I to know we had made a difference for them. After walking through our adoption process with us the Lord called them to get involved in caring for truly needy children. Soon, another child is going to be wrapped in a safe, loving, Christ-centered family. Guys, did you hear that? Are you paying attention?!?! God is at work! He used our story to encourage adoption! God gets all the glory! Our situation is tough and the Lord so sweetly offered us the tiniest impact on another family…and blessed us to hear about it. What grace!!
I will be “couch surfing” between friends over the next few days with a renewed and deepened sense of gratitude. Each moment celebrated. Praising the Lord for the relationships He has blessed…and for His truly, unfathomably deep grace.
Hello dear friends,
I know I have been quiet for a while. The silence, while necessary, has also weighed heavy. Now I begin the process of sharing the latest chapter of our story. I will, shakily, begin to unpack the silent hell we have lived. Today I begin breaking the silence, finding my voice anew, and singing aloud my very personal broken hallelujah. I renew my commitment to being a transparent sojourner.
This is going to take some time. Details will unfold slowly over weeks, not unlike most other parts of the adoption process. Today, there is only one place to begin.
Our adoption has failed.
During my China trip, it came to our attention that there may be some irregularities in the twins’ files. Once I was back in the states and recovered from jet lag we began to do in depth research. We discovered Bennett Donovan and Emerson Fitzgerald Scott do not actually exist. There are two young men in an orphanage-boarding school in central China whose pictures and false histories became a significant part of our lives. But our sons, the twins we have held dear for ten months, were imaginary. The boys who were abandoned at age nine on the north bank of the Yellow River – they were likely dropped off at school by relatives. The boys who would be kicked out of the orphanage at age fourteen and left with only a fifty percent chance of living two more years – they will likely continue living in their warm, safe boarding school until they graduate high school and then they will go to university. The boys who were going to be home for Christmas, learn English with me, and play fetch in the yard with Danger and Gunny – they do not need to be adopted. They are not orphans.
I know this is not much information. The situation is so far from resolved and I can only share pieces at a time. But I needed to begin sharing again. Dave and I have to grieve the loss of the two sons we already cherished. I need to be able to talk about this without having to dodge the “Hey! When are the twins coming home?!?” enthusiasm. They are not coming home. They will never sleep in the bedding I bought. They will never play with the legos sitting here next to me.
I am going to keep talking. You see, there is an Enemy who hates adoption because it is a beautiful picture of the gospel. He does not get to silence me. We love adoption. We are passionate about caring for the orphan. If the Lord allows, we will be adoptive parents someday. Until then I have a new story to tell. It is not the story I wanted to tell, but it is the one HE ordained. And I trust Him. He is sovereign. He knew and He knows. For now I will tell the story of a failed adoption. I will tell the story of our grief.
Feel free to share and comment and contact me. There are going to be plenty of questions I cannot answer, but I will answer all I can. May I ask you though, to please be kind?
Know I love you all dearly,
The last week has been crazy town, but I am still here….just figuring out how behind I am on everything! Today I wanted to share my pictures from our short stay in Beihai – a small city on the South China Sea. It was a lovely town and the beach was really impressive. Apparently it is the go-to beach vacation spot for folks who live in Russia because it has a great beach and it is relatively inexpensive.
The expansive beach held thousands of people…and the little boats were quintessentially adorable!
Teeny, Tiny Crabs!! They were everywhere – millions of them. They were about the size of my thumbnail and they covered the sand. As I walked across the beach they would scurry into their holes right before my foot would have squished them. I am not entirely sure my foot didn’t squish some! Our translators cracked us up by stooping down and showing us proper tiny-crab-catching technique…
Isn’t this street gorgeous?!?! We ate at a restaurant and did a bunch of shopping in this district. The colonial feel was really charming.
So much fun! We got to ride in motorized rickshaws! Talk about an adrenaline rush and culturally iconic experiences!
Completely different dinner…this monster shrimp was placed on my plate by the generous chopsticks of our host. I could not get past the eye…
Go fish! These little guys were swimming in the tank downstairs before they came to our table…
Every little boy’s favorite picture from my trip…these, my friends, are sand worms. They were also squirming around their little tank downstairs before dinner. I could not bring myself to try one, but oh my goodness, the locals we were dining with were THRILLED by this dish!
We left Beihai at sunrise…and it was beautiful!!
Just for fun…we had a little stop-over in Changsha during our flight to Beijing. We were handed these little tickets and told to take a rest in the gate area.
Lisa and Carin were so obedient!
Hehe…I LOVE the girls I got to travel with!!
I have had some requests for more pictures from my travels…and as always, I am happy to serve! Please understand there will be no pictures of children here. Pictures of the children we worked with will be available through agency lists and shared lists once the adoption files are complete. For now, here are some photos of Baotou…
The mountains as we approached Inner Mongolia were super impressive. Also, we were flying lower than I have experienced before. Yay China!
They are everywhere. People of Walmart: China Edition is surely coming soon.
A typical playroom at the orphanage. So clean. Lots of color. Lots of toys. This is the room we did most of our work in!
A view from the playroom….of the orphanage driveway.
Pods of apartment buildings were all over the horizon. I was intrigued that they built the same building a dozen times in each pod.
Cannot read those signs…
Baotou at a glance.
Exceptionally helpful menu.
HUGE sports arena. There are no sports teams that play there.
The ever-fabulous Carin and Gracie in native dress.
Lisa took this one of me…because she would not let me take a picture of her!
I am not a women’s conference person. I am not even a women’s ministry person. It is not that I have anything particularly against women’s outreach, I have just never gotten involved in one.
I have not even had the chance to go to a Beth Moore Living Proof Ministries retreat…despite the fact that she is seriously one of my heroes!
Monday night I had the opportunity to serve at the launch of The Grove – the women’s ministry of Passion City Church.
What does “opportunity to serve” mean, you ask? I am a Door Holder at PCC on typical Sunday mornings. This means I volunteer to hold doors, help folks find seats, or pass the bucket during the offering. Mostly it means I get to wear a name tag and somehow that name tag gives me permission to walk up to perfect strangers sitting in rows minding their own business…and chat. I get to hear about their lives. I get to talk about Jesus. I get to encourage and pray with new friends. By serving at The Grove event, I got to do all of this…with some of the strongest women I have ever met.
The purpose of The Grove was explained in four eloquent sections by four Jesus-loving women.
Rooted. Be rooted in the Word. Ezekiel 31
Flourish. In order to flourish, you have to be ALIVE in Jesus.
Freedom. He came to set us FREE.
Shade. We provide rest to those around us – we will be known by our love. Philippians 2
I was inspired to run even harder after Jesus. One speaker even looked at the audience and said, “Ladies, be nice to each other.” We women do tend to be so very hard on other women.
Ultimately though, it was not the speakers’ words that ran like a river of fresh water through this musician’s soul.
It was a moment in the music.
Not the loud, bouncing up and down, clapping and praising moment. It was a moment at the end of the evening.
The voices of 1500 women sang with faint accompaniment.
The pure power of the voices …
“Holy Spirit you are welcome here.
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.”
I just had this vision of 1500 warrior princesses joining together to make His name famous.
In the middle of that sound, as I knelt to the floor, we were powerful…
we were rooted…
we were flourishing…
we were free…
and we were ready to be used by the Lord to provide shade to the people He puts around us.
Hello dear friends,
Let’s talk about jet lag.
I have this brilliant friend. We have known each other since we played together in beginning violin class…a loooooooong time ago. Ruth has an incredibly interesting life, so much variety and passion. I always enjoy reading about her adventures. She does travel a lot and she has some strong thoughts on jet lag, so when I set out to plan my trip to Asia I intended to test all of her theories. Basically, Ruth does not do jet lag. Despite dozens of international trips, she manages to adjust time zones and acclimate smoothly every time.
Mind over matter. I can do that. Right?
Well, going to China was not a problem. I was essentially awake for three days with only three hours of sleep. By the time I got to the hotel and took some sleepy medicine, I was down for the count. The next morning, after a cup of coffee and a hot shower, I was feeling like a million bucks! I was ready to go…and we had a lot to accomplish! The days in China flew by in a blur of babies, medical forms, and new friends. There was so much going on I did not have time to think about being tired or whether my body had adjusted to the time zone properly. At the end of each day I laid down and slept hard because we worked hard. I figured the mind over matter approach combined with traveling on no sleep had worked for me.
After 17 days on the other side of the planet, I decided to stay awake for the trip back to the states. If it worked going to Asia, surely it would work going home. My flight left Seoul at 11am on Sunday morning and landed in Atlanta at 11:30am on Sunday morning….how’s that for a mind warp? By the time I got home I had been awake for 25 hours. I fought to stay awake until 7pm…and almost made it. At 6:45pm after being awake for 28 hours, I went to sleep. Phew, I made it.
Waking up at 7:30 the next morning felt great! I had done it! I had beaten jet lag! I got so much accomplished on Monday. Little chores that just had to be done, errands that needed to be run, putting gas in my car…all taken care of. I got tired in the evening and went to bed around 8:30. Early, but it was a big trip, so I expected to be tired.
Then 3am happened. My eyes opened and my game was over. I texted Dave who was just finishing up his work day. He told me to go back to sleep. I tried. Believe me, I wanted nothing more than to NOT have jet lag. I got up and did paperwork from 4-6am. Then I went back to sleep only to have Danger and Gunny tippity-tapping around my bedroom ready for a nice walk and breakfast at 6:45.
The rest of the week passed in a fog. I tried SO HARD to function in a normal Eastern time zone reality. But my body just was not cooperating. My head felt fuzzy. My reaction time was slow. My daily run did nothing for my energy…nor did my daily cups of coffee. I will be honest. It was rough.
So what have I learned?
– Be super easy with yourself when you get home. Extend as much patience to yourself as you would to a person fighting the flu.
– Do not make big plans for that first week back. Just don’t. Go for walks. Cook yummy food. Watch television. Read yourself to sleep.
– Drink tons of water. Why this helps, no idea. It just does.
– Prepare an easy middle of the night snack for the first night. Trust me. You will need it. And rustling around the kitchen at 3am just disturbs everybody!
– If possible, have someone else cook your meals…and bring them to you while you sit drooling on the couch. (I love my mom.)
– Go out in the middle of the afternoon. Grocery store. Outlet mall. Bass Pro Shop. Somewhere. It is a lot harder to give into sleepiness when you are out in public. Or at least a lot more embarrassing.
– Try hard to be awake in the daylight. Then, once the sun goes down give in when you must.
– Ruth is actually Super Woman.
How have you handled jet lag? Any other tips? I do have another trip to China soon….gotta go get my twins!