Losing Ingrid

I'm not waiting for her anymore. BIG BIG problems with the paperwork that have marred this case almost from the beginning. I'm now trying to deal with the reality that Ingrid will never be my daughter.

Friday, March 07, 2008

How to contact me

I've had some comments left that I will not approve ONLY because they give accounts of similar treatment by Joanne. If these families are still in process, I will NOT jeopardize anyone's adoption by putting their information on this blog for Joanne to see. (I know that Joanne has read my blog. I don't know how frequently she visits, but I wouldn't be surprised if she pops up every so often.)

For that reason, if you are a family who is currently working with Joanne and you'd like to speak with me, please leave a comment with your e-mail and I will contact you. I will not "approve" your comment because I don't want Joanne do to do you, what she did to me. If she sees your name on my blog, or if she sees any distinguishing statements about your case on my blog, she may react. She's done it before. (And please be careful about what information you put on any blog, or e-mail group or any forum. Joanne has read things, and I've often had the feeling that she's sought out comments I've made on the Internet. She has commented directly about things she's read on this blog.)

Additionally, if you are a family who is working with an agency that has similar "practices," please understand that these are not the normal risks associated with international adoption. You did not hire an agency to be your best friend, nor did you hire the agency to bully you. You hired an agency to help facilitate the adoption process, and that is all you expect from this agency. (If you gain a new friend, that's great! If the agency is bullying you or intimidating you, or making you believe that the problems associated with your case are because of something did, then this agency is NOT operating in a manner consistent with what you paid them to do.) If you just want to bounce ideas, possibilities, whatever you think is a "snowball's chance in h-ll" that your agency is not being upfront about, please leave a comment (that I will not post) with your e-mail and I will contact you. Chances are you are not the only one with this concern about the agency. I know that when "it" happened to me, I thought I was the only one in the world that this ever happened to. It turned out that I wasn't alone, not in what happened with Ingrid, not in what happened with Teo, and not in what happened with Joanne. I now realize that sadly, I was NOT alone and this happens far more frequently than I'd once believed.

All said, I do believe with all of my heart that most of the adoptions from Guatemala were conducted completely ethically. I've met some of the most amazing people through this journey, people who have faced adversity I could never have imagined. And I believe without a doubt that there was nothing suspicious about their adoptions. And I believe that adoption is a WONDERFUL way to create a family, for the parents and for the child. I am thankful that my experience is NOT the norm, and I hope that Dateline showed that a few bad seeds can spoil the whole crop. May G-d watch over you as you progress through the adoption journey, and may He help us stop those who are hurting children and families with their actions.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


It's me.

I'm sorry if I offended anyone.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Last Post

Note: Before I started my adoption journey and they were just "plans" to adopt, I picked out names. Eliza Jane was my girl's name.

And then along came Ingrid Jeaneth. I was told she went by Ingrid, so that's what I've almost always called her. But then I found out (about 10 months into my "process") that she prefers to go by Jeaneth, which is pronounced more like Janette. So that was going to be her American name. Same as her Guatemalan name, just a different spelling so that teachers will be able to actually say her name correctly. Janette.

This blog needs to end before I can continue. I need to move past this hurt. Ingrid will never be my daughter, only for those few days in February 2006. And as I type this, the hurt is just too real for me to end this blog and move on. I will be able to fulfill my dream.

Baby Jane, by Rod Stewart
Note: first few lines omitted as they don't apply
I wish I knew what I know now before

When I give my heart again
I know it's gonna last forever
No one tell me where or when
I know it's gonna last forever

Baby Jane don't it make you feel sad
just when I thought that we were winning
You and I were so close in every way
don't time fly when you're loving and laughing
I've said goodbye so many times
the situation ain't all that new
Optimism's my best defense
I'll get through without you

When I give my heart again
I know it's gonna last forever
No one tell me where or when
I know it's gonna last forever
I won't be that dumb again
I know it's gotta last forever
When I fall in love again
I know it's gonna last forever

Baby Jane I've said all I want to say
go your own way don't think twice about me
Cause I've got ideas and plans of my own
so long darlin' I'll miss you believe me
The lesson learned was so hard to swallow
but I know that I'll survive
I'm gonna take a good look at myself and cry

When I give my heart again
I know it's gonna last forever
No one tell me where or when
I know it's gonna last forever
When I fall in love next time
I know it's gonna last forever
I won't be that dumb again
I know it'll last forever

Good-bye, baby doll. I'll miss you. I love you.
Love, Mami Stacy

Monday, January 07, 2008

Almost the end

I waited over the weekend. I read some sites about things other agencies have done to manipulate clients, and so many things sounded familiar. I checked old e-mails and timelines. I reread everything from Adoption Supervisors, especially the times when AS said one thing and Joanne said the opposite.

And then I got into Researcher mode. This was last January, remember, when I was preparing my dissertation proposal. I already had the tools to formulate a theory and design a study to test that theory. I knew how to organize information and use documents to prove a hypothesis. I had been preparing for the answer to Joanne's "deal" for three years of doctoral study.

I sent this response at 7:15 on Monday (January 8, 2007) morning, before I left for work that day: (Please note that all bold type has been added by me in THIS post and did not appear in bold type in the original e-mail. The only other changes were the removal of the agency name. The italics were in the original e-mail to clearly distinguish quotes from the agency Business Agreement.)
According to the (agency) Business Agreement,
"Duties of (agency): (Agency) agrees to provide information as to the expeditious preparation of documents required for international adoption in Guatemala, keep the Family informed of the adoption proceedings in Guatemala, intervene on behalf of the Family with the adoption sources in Guatemala and the American Consulate, and assist with the preparation of the documents for the final visa approval. (Agency) shall provide periodic updates on the health of the child assigned to the Family. (Agency) also agrees to keep Family informed of any activity taken on behalf of the Family."

As you know, I have never received any medical update from a doctor about Ingrid. There was never any activity taken on my behalf, the activity was taken on behalf of (the bsister)'s family.

"Adoption Risks: (Agency) cannot guarantee any time frame for completion of the adoption after the assignment has been made because each adoption is subject to and governed by the laws of the country of the child's origin and the immigration laws of the United States. (Agency) has no control over changes in laws that may affect the adoption process. Shouold Family choose to withdraw from the international adoption program after an assignment has been made, for any reason, all fees paid to (agency) and its foreign source, and no refunds of any nature shall be paid or due. Family understands that (agency) is unable to guarantee that no new categories of charges will be required or guaranteed that dates scheduled for overseas trips may not be cancelled or rescheduled because of events beyond its control. All such costs are the sole risk and responsibility of Family."

If (agency) were abiding by the immigration laws of the United States, I would never have been matched with Ingrid. Ingrid was being placed through a facilitator that is banned by the US Embassy.

My adoption process never started to adopt Ingrid, as my Power of Attorney was never filed. I was never "in process" during the past 13 months since I mailed in my dossier.

The Family (me) is not choosing to withdraw from the international adoption program. An assignment has never been made, as the child assigned to me was never able to be relinquished and my POA has never been filed.

"Child Placing: Family understands and acknowledges that (agency) does not place the child. The placement of any child is made by the foreign adoption source."

Therefore, you do not need to give me a placement with this same attorney. This attorney did not file the POA for my case, and therefore did not place a child with me. You can take the refund from this attorney and apply it to another referral with a different attorney. Please remember that this attorney works with Thanassis, who is banned by the US Embassy. You are not permitted to knowingly give me a referral from Thanassis. According to the
US Embassy's letter of March 30, 2005,

"This is to inform all involved in Guatemalan adoptions that effective today, Mr. Athanasios Kollias, aka Athanase Thomas Collias, Athanasis Thomas, Thomas Collias, has been banned to act as facilitator in the submission and/or processing of I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative)applications before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the American Embassy in Guatemala.
We advise all agencies to not accept any referrals from Mr. Kollias, as they will be rejected.
Any Guatemalan attorneys or notaries found to be involved with Mr. Kollias in attempting to circumvent this proscription will likewise be subject to similar action."

"Interruption of Adoption Services: If, at any time during the adoption process, Family decided to terminate the adoption process, all fees and expenses due to (agency) and in the source country at the time of the interruption of adoption services, may be considered included, but not limited to, change in family structure, such as separation, divorce, or death of a family member, instability in employment or other financial problems, health problems which might adversely affect the placement of a child with Family, falsification of records by Family, etc. "

The Family is not deciding to terminate the adoption process. According to this paragraph, I have always had the control you say you are just now trying to give me. This clause does not have any provisions for the Agency choosing to terminate the adoption process.

Therefore, according to the (agency) Business Agreement, I see there are two options.
(1) I get a new referral with an attorney not associated with a banned facilitator.
(2) I get a complete refund of all fees paid, as this happened before there was a child assigned to me for placement. According to the contract, the fees paid to the attorney were $9,000 and half of the (agency) fee, $2,000.

I will expect your answer by the close of the business day on Tuesday, January 9. Thank you.

"By the close of the business day." That is more than 24 hours, in fact it is two complete business days. I don't need to tell you that Joanne didn't answer me. I resent it the next day from my work e-mail, stating that the program enabled me to see the time she opened the e-mail and that I expected a response within 24 hours.

Still, no response. By Thursday night, it was clear that Joanne was not going to respond to me. She promised me a referral OR a refund, I said I would accept either one, and now she's ignoring me. She's not living up to her contract and she's blaming ME for the entire thing. There are provisions for what happened outlined right in her contract. I pointed out the provisions: refund or referral. I would have taken either one (the only thing I would not take was a new referral through Thanassis, which I also explained why I would not accept). I went to the forums.

Yup, the forums Joanne says to stay away from, but she advertises HEAVILY on. For a while, it seemed that every time I'd check the forum I'd see HER advertisement. And if you search for her agency online, there's actually a quote from Joanne about how wonderful the forum's photolisting is because it brought her lots of "leads." Make no mistake about it - potential adoptive parents are "leads" and not "people she can help process an adoption for." I'm not going to fish out my exact post on the forum, but it was something along the lines of "I lost my referral after 14 months and now my agency won't answer my e-mails."

Just as I expected, I got a bunch of private messages asking for the name of the agency. I also got some posts offering condolences, followed by private messages asking for the name of the agency. People wanted the name of the agency, that was for sure. (I can't blame them; no one wants to be involved with an agency that would give a referral, watch nothing happen for fourteen months, and then after the referral is "lost" the agency won't even answer an e-mail. That is a HUGE red flag, even to the biggest skeptic.) Bright and early the next morning, I posted a comment on my own post, thanking people for their support through private messages. I knew my comment would bump the post to the top of the forums. First thing in the morning, when Joanne logged on to spy on her clients check on the latest news.

Seven minutes later, I finally got a response to the e-mail I sent on Tuesday:
I have sent this to our legal counsel and will wait to hear from them. I doubt very much that your information is correct and seeing as we did offer you a replacement that you passed up and you continued to want to wait....

You can make all the "I am expecting a response from you within 24 hours of your having read the e-mail" demands you want. When we hear back from our atty we will respond to you and not before.

There's a little more interchange, two or three e-mails back and forth, but they just reinterate that she will get back to me after she hears from her attorney.

And as far as that "24 hour" thing - sucks to be her, since she sent the rest of her clients an e-mail earlier that week (within minutes of my Tuesday e-mail) stating:
As a result of this very uncooperative attitude by certain families, as a policy (the agency) will only answer emails during the day from about 9 AM until about 4 PM. We will, at our own discretion, answer emails from families with genuine questions or concerns or thoughts in the evening and weekends. The official policy will be that each email will have a response within 24 hours of receipt and if an exact answer is not readily available (which very rarely happens), a note advising of receipt of the email will be sent and an estimate as to when we will have the information will be given. We never imagined that we would have to resort to this kind of unfriendly policy but unfortunately a few clients have made this legally necessary.
(There was much more to the e-mail, but it doesn't matter much. You can see that according to Joanne's own "official policy," she will respond to each e-mail within 24 hours of receipt exactly as I was requesting she do. Funny that her "official policy" came right after I ask her to answer me using those same guidelines and she responds that she will IN NO WAY answer in that time period.)

That's where it ends. Friday, January 12, 2007. It's been almost a year. I'm tired of this. I've had enough. Two more posts on this blog, and then it will become legacy.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

but you PROMISED

Last I heard from Joanne on December 15, 2006, she told me I'd get the refund agreement to sign on December 27. We went to my mom's house for Christmas vacation, so I didn't even check my e-mail until December 28. (Imagine how shocked Doug was when I didn't check e-mail from December 24 - 28!)

(Remember the color code - red is Joanne's e-mail, black is my comments, and green is my e-mail to Joanne.)

December 26

The offices of (the agency) will be open again on December 27. It has been a very sad and upsetting week for all of us with the sudden deaths of two people in our lives. Last Friday, December 15, our long time assistant / associate and my very best friend in Guatemala was murdered in the middle of the day. Someone came up to Patricia while she was picking up her son from a clinic (he had broken his ankle playing basketball), talked to her for a short minute and then shot her twice in the heart and throat. The Police quickly decided that they were unable to determine who or why so they are not going to open an investigation. Such is the ways of Guatemala with murder. We were devastated by the news. We were on our way to Belize at the time to assist with the opening of a medical clinic founded by a good friend and agency owner. I rerouted to Guatemala while my family and staff continued on to Belize. I caught up with my family a few days later and then decided to cut our trip a bit short to get back home to deal with the many issues that Patricia's death brought us. (I hate to be cynical about such a tragic event. Anytime someone is murdered, for whatever reason, it is a tragedy. However, most people who read this blog have been to Guatemala. Not the "seedy" parts, but the country. It's not as dangerous and wild as this paragraph would have you believe. Just like in any country, things like this tend to happen to people involved in shady practices. I hope that Patricia was truly just an innocent bystander, rather than this murder being some kind of retaliation for her involvement with shady characters in unethical business practices.) (OK, and just a bit of cynicism. Isn't Joanne a humanitarian, to be going to Belize to open a medical clinic during her Christmas holiday? What a kind-hearted soul.)

We came back for one day and received the terrible news that one of our darling babies had become very suddenly sick and had passed away during the night at the private hospital. It is always terrible to think of losing a baby (we never have had this happen in 7 years) but the family was leaving in 2 days to go to Guatemala to bring her home so it felt even worse. They had a super fast case and were completed in record time. The Embassy took much longer than usual to issue the Pink Slip otherwise the family would have been in Guatemala at the time or maybe even had her home by the time the death occurred. The family is drawing upon their deep love and trust in the Lord to get them through this terrible time. We have counseled and assisted them every step of the way with this tragic loss and disappointment. We have someone going with them to Guatemala this week to attend to the funeral arrangements and meeting with the foster mother and the birth mother to grieve. I know that the prayers and thoughts of all of families will be with this family and their sweet little angel that is now in Heaven. (Again, I can't be cynical about the death of an infant. It's devastating to hear, even more devastating when one considers the situation, and of course I'm sure everyone reading that got a little bit of the "That could have been MY child" feeling.) (But I do question why Joanne felt she needed to add that this case happened "super fast" and "in record time." Does that make it better? Or what about blaming the "two more days" scenario on the Embassy? That part of it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, because it seems like Joanne is absolving herself and blaming the Embassy for the death. Nothing to do with medical care, nothing to do with the foster parent, nothing to do even with G-d's will, let's just blame the Embassy for taking two more days.) (And I wonder what happened to the family. Since they were out of PGN and presumably already had pink, they were the legal parents and the adoption was complete. Did they get a new referral? Did they have to pay those fees again? Or is it just "these things happen"?)

We have returned all emails and voicemails left last week. (But you didn't get back to ME. Oh, wait, this was written on December 26 and she wasn't going to get the agreement to me until the 27th.) A few voicemail messages were cut off so if you left an important message on late Wednesday or later and have not received a response please send an email to our office. (Or should the first statement say "we have returned all emails and voicemails that we wanted to return, and the rest of the emails and voicemails must have been the few that were cut off?) Be sure to make the subject line the topic of your email.

We are hoping that the PGN will be open for business soon and start getting the cases completed quickly. We have made it abundantly clear to anyone and everyone in the PGN that we are not above paying a fee or a "gift" for some help on getting the PGN cases approved and completed. (Really? Go back and reread some of the other e-mails you sent me a few weeks ago, because it looks like you specifically said you paid someone for the bsister's case to get out of PGN.) Back in the day, we simply paid $1000 and the case was approved in a few weeks. It was a great system for us and our families and the PGN workers. (Oh, I love that statement. "We're so upset that the bribes no longer work, because that was a GREAT way for us to run our business!") This was about a year ago. Since that time, everyone in the PGN was fired including the big boss (who was our best contact and who got somewhat rich off of us!) (and maybe THAT is why they all got fired - because they were CLEARLY unethical and all of the current mess in Guatemala might have been avoided if the previous people weren't such unethical snakes). Patricia had made that contact for us (see what I mean about people involved with shady characters in unethical practices? I'm sorry that she died for this, but...) and we will be forever grateful for her determination to get our cases approved and home quickly.

The new PGN boss will not allow ANY contact with the PGN attorneys or PGN reviewers. (How many people out there have called PGN since December? People who've actually BEEN TO PGN? Met with the reviewers? With the attorneys? With Barrios himself? Maybe the new PGN boss, and remember Barrios had been in this position for 8 months at that point, was limiting the people he knew to be unethical from having contact. I've heard of PLENTY of people who've gotten through.) There is a big sign in front of the PGN that clearly states that only the Attorney of record can check on a case and that they will only give information out with the original receipt and that NO ONE can go past the receptionist and that no one can have an appointment with anyone in the PGN. ("Attorney of record = not the facilitator.) It does not matter what the situation is, who the attorney of record is or how desperate the family is to get their child home. On the few occasions that the PGN atty has met with the attorney of record, the meetings are short and in the open and only lasts a few minutes - just long enough to quickly discuss a question or an issue and then the attorney of record is escorted out of the offices and back to the receptionist area.

That all said, we do have a few inside contacts but they are not able to get the case approved. They can push the file along and they can be sure it stays at the top of the pile for the boss to give the final sign off but they can not get the PGN reviewer to approve a case. We are not giving up and will continue to get an effective inside contact (I hope that "effective" means "efficient" rather than "bribeable").

As most PGN families know, there are over 2500 cases in the PGN right now. The PGN is not working in any order and is not concerned with how long a case has been in the PGN (not entirely true, whenever we see timelines we look for the date the case was entered into PGN to know if our own case is "getting closer," because there IS an order. And AS has been pretty good about estimating the week of the OUT based on the IN date, because there's some kind of regulation about how long the case is supposed to take; that said, we all know PGN is not an "exact science" but it's not as random as Joanne would like us to believe). The PGN continues to kick a case out (called a Previo) for nonsense reasons such as needing a new medical report for the child or not liking the way a form was filled out (in 14 months with my referral, I NEVER received a medical report so it's not bizarre that PGN would need a new one, Joanne told me the reason I never got a medical report is that "the office" dealing with my case wasn't good at sending out the medical reports; and PGN not liking the way a form was filled out might mean an attorney did not sign a paper which indicates carelessness, or there was a different birthdate listed on different documents which indicates carelessness, or there were two valid and current cedulas for the same woman, or one cedula has a perfectly professional signature even though the cedula holder is completely illiterate). At this point, we are almost happy when a case comes out on a Previo as we at least know that someone is looking at the file and it is not at the bottom of the pile somewhere.

The U.S. Department of State has been working closely with the Guatemalan attorneys to establish a working model that will comply with the 2007 US Hague requirements. The DOS is very encouraged with the progress that has been made and feels that Guatemala will be compliant and that Guatemala adoptions will continue on as planned. The DOS has nothing at all to do with the PGN and the PGN does not care what the Dept of State has to say (or any Senators or friends who owns a big company in Guatemala or any local or US attorneys) BUT the DOS has made several visits to the PGN to stress the need to process the files in a timely and consistent manner. The US Embassy has had that same meeting but again, the US Embassy has no influence or control over the PGN and the PGN is very clear in letting everyone know that they do what they want. The automated emails from the US Embassy even address that they have no contact or information about the PGN cases.

(The agency) will be going back to Guatemala for a pictures etc around January 15 or so. Please have all packages here by Jan 11. We will send out a separate email advising of the dates and the packing requirements etc. (Why was I sent this e-mail? Does she expect me to send a package to Ingrid? If I were given the opportunity to send her clothes and shoes and toys, I WOULD! But I don't know if I'm allowed to, because at that point I didn't even know if she was still with the foster family. And for the record, I DID send Ingrid a package even though I knew the case was over, since the last time Joanne visited was after AS already told me the case would never be finished. I sent Ingrid a bag jammed with as much as I possibly could, presents from her aunt Elsie and from Special Friend Doug and even a picture from cousin Jenna, people she would NEVER meet.)

If you have visited or plan to visit your child during the adoption process we need to get a Visit Affidavit from you. This needs to be submitted with the final paperwork to the US Embassy when we are requesting the Pink Slip (final appointment for the family to obtain the travel visa for the child). We will send the form to everyone regardless if you travel during the case or not - just so everyone has it.

Also, the US Embassy is now asking for a new I-600 and G-28 for each file that we submit to the Embassy for the Pink Slip.Of course, this makes no sense seeing as the I-600 and G-28 were already submitted when we started the case. The JCICS (Joint Council on International Children Services) is fighting this new requirement as it is cumbersome and unnecessary. Until then, we need each family to send us a I-600 and G-28 before Jan 11. Please send them 3 copies of each in a flat envelope (do not fold them) with your family name and the child's name on the front. Fill out the first page of the I-600 and sign the second page. On the G-28, just sign at the bottom. One parent signs in the box and one parent signs above the box at the bottom. Please use Blue Ink as the Embassy has been kicking some back as they were unable to tell if the signature was original or not. This is all nonsense but we have to go along with this requirement until it is changed. You can send the forms with your packages / gifts for our next trip. The documents are only signed and not notarized etc. You can get the forms at
www.uscis.gov. Let us know if you can not load them and we can fax them to you. (What I find interesting about this paragraph is that now she's told you the new requirements, so you have to do the stuff yourself. I would expect this kind of information to be sent to parents it pertains to. If there's an issue with paperwork, then the e-mail should be about paperwork and not about "what we've done during our Christmas break" or "send a package for our next visit trip." It's free to send e-mails, why doesn't she send out e-mails to the people they pertain to? I know of a family that had been home for over a month that even got this e-mail - WHY? And with Joanne, if you were to have read this paragraph and then asked a question about it she would have just said, "We sent an e-mail with that answer." Or if you did it wrong because this information was lost with all the other information in the e-mail, she would absolve herself of blame because "we sent an e-mail with that answer." That is NOT the way to run a business, and considering that her business obligation is to help clients complete the paperwork related to an adoption process, this is totally unprofessional.)

We look forward to the courts and offices getting back to work this week. Of course, there will not be any case updates for a bit until the cases start moving again. As soon as we have any information we will notify each family as we always do.

We thank you in advance for your heartfelt concern and prayers for the loss of our dear friend and valuable associate Patricia and for the family that lost their little daughter. We will continue to do all that we can (and more!) to get all the cases completed and home as quickly as they can!

OK, it was a form letter. I've gotten plenty of those in the past 16 months from Joanne, but I don't really know why I got this one. From the previous e-mail, it seemed that Joanne no longer considered me a client and was in the process of preparing a refund for me. I mean, she "personally promised." Mostly, I was just confused why I got this e-mail at all. And then I realized it was December 28 when I read this, and I had not gotten a personal e-mail with the refund agreement.

Maybe she faxed it? I'm not at work until January 2, so if she faxed it I won't see it for a few days. (My secretary would just put it aside for me, if the secretary is even working this week. There's no one I can really call so I'll just have to wait until Jan. 2.) I sent her a reply to the form letter, along with an explanation as to why I didn't sign the agreement yet. (OK, truth be told, it was also a reminder that she promised to fax the agreement.)
Of course, I am saddened to hear of Patricia and the little girl. How tragic these circumstances are and my thoughts are with their families.

I just wanted to let you know that I will not be able to see the fax you were to send yesterday, December 27, until January 2. The fax number I gave you is to my school, and the building will be closed tomorrow for New Years. I will look at it first thing Tuesday morning and will have it back to you as soon as I can.

9:23 Tuesday morning, January 2, I sent this e-mail while forwarding the previous correspondance (which included my reminder AND Joanne's "promise"):
I have not received the fax as yet. As I mentioned in my e-mail on December 28, the school was closed last week. They did receive other faxes, but nothing from you. I am now back at school and I am awaiting your fax. The number again is (xxx) xxx-xxxx. Thank you.


Stacey- (now I'm annoyed. Please spell my name right. Make that tiny effort. Or just don't include my name. Really, I don't mind when people misspell my name but you've been doing it ONLY when you write an e-mail that has information that's going to bother me.)

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you about things but it seems that our agency attorney is finally back to work so we had a chance to talk today about your situation. I am being overruled on my decision to send you the $ paid for the atty fee. (Um, I thought the attorney already wrote out an agreement? But it had too much legalese for your comfort so you were having him rework it? Why is he changing his mind now? This paragraph seems to say that he never agreed to a refund for me and the aforementioned agreement was never written.)

As it was pointed out to me by members of our board, our accountant and most importantly our agency attorney- the (agency) Business Agreement calls for a replacement child to the family. No provisions are made for a refund of fees. The board, accountant and atty are especially adamant about this seeing as you chose to continue to wait and did not accept another referral when the case was stalled for so long. Their feelings are that (the agency) spent well over and above the normal fees to keep this case on hold while you waited for an opportunity to start the adoption of Ingrid. (Even now, I get a SICK feeling reading that. I DID NOT CHOSE TO CONTINUE TO WAIT! I am sorry, I apologize a million times for NOT choosing to continue to wait. I'm sorry that I DID give up on Ingrid. But the TRUTH REMAINS that on April 24, when you first suggested the possibility of a new referral, I called immediately to discuss that and you talked me into waiting. And then in July I ASKED FOR a new referral and you did not give me one. And every time since then, when you said that I chose to wait I reminded you that I DID NOT CHOSE TO WAIT. DO NOT BLAME ME FOR THIS, BECAUSE I CHOSE TO GIVE UP on a child I believed in my heart was my daughter. I wish I could say I was strong enough to choose to wait, but I DID NOT CHOOSE TO WAIT.)]

At this time, we can offer you a replacement referral but you will need to have a current INS I-171h in place to do that. I assume that you have kept your INS clearance current. I remember there being an issue with the group that did your homestudy and their reluctance to approve you for an adoption again. (Remember the issue with my homestudy? It was because Joanne told them I was too fat to adopt. And the "reluctance to approve me" was NONEXISTANT, as I was actually approved to adopt TWO children. Yup, TWO. Because the intent was to allow me to start an adoption process with a different agency, and then on the off chance that Ingrid would ever become available I could adopt her ALSO. As a SECOND child. And then there was the very distant hope that the family adopting the bsister already got a new referral and then I'd be able to adopt both Ingrid and her bsister, but we all knew that was SOOOO not likely.)

I am sorry that I do not have better news for you. Please let me know the status of your INS clearance and what your plans are.

My response:
I did NOT choose to wait. I asked for another referral in July. You consistently told me (the bsister) would be approved any day, so why would I want another referral. It doesn't matter much at this point, as Ingrid cannot be adopted.

I do have another homestudy, by the same agency, approving me to adopt two children. That was done when I was told in October that (the bsister) was sent back to Minors. I was going to accept referral while I continued to "wait" for Ingrid, even though I already knew I could not adopt Ingrid.

I have not redone my I-171H, but it hasn't expired yet anyway. I can arrange to have my fingerprints (not expired yet) redone, so that the I-171H continues to remain current.

Please give me another referral, if that is my only option at this time. Thank you.

(Yeah, it's the same as the rant above, but it beared repeating. My rant a year later is THE SAME, the emotions are the same, but the words I used back then to Joanne are not the words I'd have liked because I wanted to seem less hostile. And I'm from NYC, believe me these are still not the words I'd like to use but I don't want to seem hostile.)

Two days later, no response from Joanne. I'm wondering if she hasn't responded because she thought I wouldn't want a new referral, so now she has some explaining to do? If I want a new referral, she just said that her own Business Agreement says she has to give me one. Maybe she doesn't want to give me a new referral, and she's trying to find a way out of that? Or maybe she thought my homestudy would come back not approving me to adopt, and that was her way of getting rid of me, so now she needs to find another way to get rid of me since I appear to have a valid and current homestudy? Or maybe she thought so much time has passed since my fingerprint clearance that I don't have current paperwork to start a new process, but now she sees that it's not "enough" time that's passed so I DO have current paperwork? I'm thinking she spent those two days panicking about how to NOT give me the new referral she's now saying I'm entitled to.

On January 5, I wanted to prove to her that my paperwork was current and everything else I was saying was also truthful. (Remember, I'm a RESEARCHER. I have documentation for every claim I make.)
I have not heard from you since I responded that my clearance is current. Since my only option from (the agency) at this point seems to be another referral, I would like another referral. I am attaching a scan of my I-171H. Please respond so I know you have received this. Thank you.
Doesn't get any clearer than this. Here is my current paperwork. You say the only thing you can do for me is give me another referral, so I specifically ask you to give me another referral. Clear enough?

We have it. I have been fighting with everyone to get you a refund. You most certainly do not want another referrral from that same office. But I DO WANT another referral. Because I want to adopt a child. That is why I contacted you. PLEASE HELP ME. The office is willing to credit (the agency) back a small amount (what changed? I thought they would not do that?) but we have to wait for the one and only last case with them to come out (huh? I thought you don't have any more cases with them?). I would personally really like to not have to start another case with that office. Actually they have been fine enough through all of this but since we only have one last case with them I would prefer to part ways sooner rather than later (Who is the one last case? I can name three people with Joanne's agency, same attorney listed on my POA, who also met Thanassis during their pick-up trips AFTER this letter. I'm confused about how you can have only "one last case" when I know of several other "last cases" with them.
I do not to hold you up and goodness knows that everyone has been through enough with the waiting and almost and then nothing. But a new referral would be SOMETHING, right? Give me a new referral. That's what I asked for, because that's what you said is ALL you can do for me. Please!

I think that I can sway the team into some refund action if I get the office to agree to $4000 credit when the final case is done. But two days ago you told me that everyone else at the agency, attorneys and board of directors and whoever, will not let you give me ANY refund? What's going on? How can you now sway them for $4000 when two days ago you couldn't do anything, no way no how? It has been in PGN for a bit of time so it could /should be soon (??). But you said PGN doesn't work on a timeline? What if we cut you a check for $4000 now and then when we get the credit back we cut another $4000. It could be one week, one month or three months. Oh please not three months! I'm too confused. Last month you were going to cut me a check for $8000, then you couldn't do that AT ALL so you're giving me a new referral, and now I'm supposed to accept this open-ended deal? I need some legal advice before I accept such a deal from you, because there are too many questions I have about this for my own comfort. Especially as seeing that this whole situation happened because of the bsister's case that was in PGN for a bit of time and would be out soon (what I heard for the better part of a year) and now is NEVER getting out.

I am really trying to get you a refund so you are free to go wherever you want for an adoption. If you want a referral we can do that too. I just was trying to give YOU some control in this whole thing.
What do you think> I think you should do the job I paid you to do. I think you should follow the contract you signed. The contract says I get a FULL refund if the process hasn't started yet, and I know that my POA was never signed so according to the contract I'm entitled to a FULL refund and I'm willing to accept 2/3 of the money I paid you. The contract also says that I can get a new referral and all fees paid may be transferred to that other case, so I'm willing to have that also. I don't really care how much money your business spent on this case, because that is your business. I did not choose to support your business, nor did I pay a fee to your business. I paid money for an international adoption process that NEVER legally started.

PS...................................the fast easy emails and calls are quick and we get to them right away. All day yesterday and today I was trying to break free to call or email you to toss out this split payment idea. Obviously I am the only one that can do this email and this deal and I am now painfully aware of how much more control our accountant, atty and board have over the business. Update March 2008 - Her accountant at this time, according to her 990 non-profit tax form, was her husband.

Think about it and let me know. We are ready to get you moving on your adoption plans.
Too bad you weren't ready when I hired you, 16 months ago.

I'm not calling her, as I want everything in writing from now on. I need an attorney, that is obvious. She gets to consult her attorney, so I should be allowed to do the same. Or at least I need time to collect my thoughts, because there are just too many questions raised by this. Is this even a valid offer? If I accept this deal, what will happen if she doesn't follow through? Will the attorney even let this happen? And if it all does go well with the initial $4000, what if the other case gets stuck forever like the bsister case? (Let's just assume the last case is the foster sister, who Joanne knows that I'm in contact with the family because SHE put us in contact with one another. If that were to happen, I'd be upset that my friend is dealing with never bringing her child home AND I'd never get my remaining money.) (The fsister did come home.)
I will get back to you on Monday about this.

(There's a little more. It's good. I defend myself. Even though I didn't get a refund or referral or even a RESPONSE, I'm still proud of myself for how I responded. But the response will be posted on another date. I've got a dissertation to FINISH...)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not open to interpretation

On December 12, 2006, I was told that I would receive an agreement to sign the very next day, and that I would get my refund and dossier by the beginning of the next week. Keep that in mind.

By Friday, December 15 (three days later), I still hadn't received any agreement from Joanne. Since Joanne said I needed to sign this agreement before she gave me my refund, I wanted to be sure to sign it ASAP. Her own words were that she would get the agreement to me that next day, and it's already two days beyond that.

I sent her an e-mail:
I sent my fax number on Tuesday but I have not received either a fax or e-mail as you indicated I would. That is fine if it's taking longer than expected but please let me know you have gotten the fax number. In case you haven't, it is (XXX) xxx-xxxx.

Five minutes later, I got this response:
I was just getting ready to email you. The atty sent over this horrid agreement that is soooo legalese and terrible. I called to have him clean it up (give me a break there are at least 13 "whereas" comments) as I can not even understand it. He is out of town until the 24th so I have to wait until then. I PROMISE you that I am PERSONALLY sending you the funds. The board was crazed, our atty is livid and my accountant about passed out. That all said, I am sending you the money but it looks like the agrement will not be done until after Christmas but I will handle it myself as soon as we are back in the ofice on the 27th

Honestly, it was five minutes later. E-mails are stamped with the time, so it's not an exaggeration or my shady memory of events. I find it ironic that three days had passed, yet she was "just getting ready" to e-mail me at the exact time I e-mailed her.

I guess they never had this kind of issue before, that they never had an agreement like this before to sign? If Joanne can't understand it, then she is not approving the agreement. I'm fine with that, I'll wait for the agreement even though you said I'd have it a few days ago. But I'm curious why it's taking so long like this? And I'm also curious about an attorney that will be out of town until Christmas Eve. He's off the week before, but will work on Christmas? Huh?

And in Joanne's words, she is PROMISING me that she will PERSONALLY send me the refund. Everyone else is incensed about the situation (not my problem how your company operates, BTW), but she is PROMISING me. It's all there, not open to interpretation. "I PROMISE you that I am PERSONALLY sending you the funds."

But I have to wait until December 27. 2006, for the agreement...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

So then what'd ya do?

I immediately typed out a response to Joanne, but I didn't send it. I saved it. It's raw.

Then I posted on my blog.

Then I typed another response to Joanne. Still didn't send it. Still too raw.

Then I had to run errands. I had to drive all over my county to find a copy of Beauty and the Beast to show for the French club, it had all been arranged previously so I couldn't just go home and cry. I knew for two months that this day would eventually come, but I really thought that at least I'd get the option of a new referral. Finally, the option that I've been asking about for MONTHS but Joanne refused to hear or listen. I called some friends while I ran the errands and cried to them, but in honesty I had been preparing for that day for months.

I didn't send Joanne a response that night. I needed to process what happened. Figure out how to word things, because any way I could think of was not the words I'd like to use professionally. And this is business, so I wanted to be professional. You can imagine the words I'd like to use, many of them have four letters and I probably would have used various forms of a word starting with f. (BTW, the responses I wrote but did not send weren't full of curses. They just weren't the tone I'd like to use.) I did not rush to answer Joanne, since this news was TWO MONTHS forthcoming. If she could wait five days to tell me DNA authorization was a lie, and she could wait one week to tell me what happened when the bmother was interviewed by the "reviewer" at PGN, and she could wait two months to tell me this case would never be approved, I surely had the right to sleep on my response to this devastating news. (PAPs are always complaining about the "lack of communication" from the agency. Talk about turning the tables.)

The next morning at 9:01 AM (11 working minutes after she sent me that e-mail), she sent this follow-up:
We have sent you three separate emails and you have not responded to any of them. That is fine if you do not want to respond but please let us know if you are getting them. Thank you.

I sent my response:
It seems you do not feel you will be able to find a child for me to adopt. Therefore, I will accept your offer to refund me $8,000 of the money I paid. Thank you.Stacy
I also included the part of her e-mail where she gave me the refund option.

Joanne responded:
I am so sorry for this. There is a girl but she is with the same original office and I doubt that you want to work with them...we sure do not but we would for you. What are your plans? Can we refer you to another agency or ???? We will work on getting your dossier back even if it is expired so you have the documents....do not want those floating around Guatemala any longer. Have you talked with (the fmother)? What can we do to ease this terrible situation?
Notice the change in tone. This second e-mail was sent twelve minutes after her previous one. Strange, huh? Seems like a different person wrote it. The first e-mail seemed accusatory, this one seems so compassionate. Which part of this e-mail do you like best?
  • The part where she says she sure doesn't want to work with this same office but she would for me? Cause since then, I've heard she continues to work with this same office. If she would only be willing to work with them for me, why is she working for them without me?
  • The part where she wants to refer me to another agency? 'Cause I trust her after what she did with my homestudy update. Like I don't know enough people in the Guat adoption world who can refer me to another agency. (Remember, I already HAVE another agency!)
  • The part where she'll get my dossier back? 'Cause I still don't have it back and it's over a year later. (Wait for another few updates to the blog and you'll have a better idea of where my dossier really is.)
  • The part where she asks if I've spoken with the fmother? 'Cause she knew for months that the fmother wouldn't answer my phone calls because she was afraid of Thanassis. And she knew that the fmother changed her phone number, because Joanne tried calling herself. And a few months later, she actually told another family that I was calling the fmother too much, yet here's another instance where she's telling me to call the fmother!
  • The part where she asks what she can do to ease this terrible situation? (I think that's my favorite part. It's so full of response that I can't even put it into words.)

I responded politely: Please refund the money, and if possible retrieve my expired documents. Thank you.

She responded in tone #2: I will get this handled by Friday. We will have the dossier sent from GC by Friday as well. I will personally handle this.
What are your plans going forward ?

I have several options I have been working on for the past few months.
Thank you in advance for retrieving everything for me. I will expect it early next week?

I said that we would have the funds sent to you by the end of the week and that we would get the office to send the dossier back. So you will have them next week. As a reminder, these funds are coming directly from our account. I need to email or fax you an agreement to sign to settle the issue so you can not come back later - sorry that is from our atty. I will have them send that out by tomorrow.

My fax number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. Thank you again.

That was the last e-mail for the day. Time of Joanne's last e-mail: 9:38 AM. A total of 37 minutes had passed. And then I went to teach, and my last e-mail was sent at 11:28, the beginning of my next prep period.

The ONLY things that have been changed from the e-mails were taking out the name of the fmother and taking out my fax number. Oh, and I took out Joanne's signature which includes her agency name and website, and phone number. (Why repeat them?)

As per this e-mail exchange:
  1. Was I rude in any way?
  2. Was I demanding?
  3. Did Joanne imply the only way I could have a new referral was to go through Big T, and that she does not want to work with him anymore but would do me a favor by working with him?
  4. Did Joanne say I'd have my refund and my dossier by the following week? (Isn't that a year ago NOW? And I'm still waiting.)
  5. Did Joanne say that I will have to sign an agreement from the attorney so that I can't come back later? And that the agreement would go out by December 13, 2006? (What's today's date?)
  6. And then I gave her my fax number so that she could fax the agreement that very minute - because it was my intention to sign the agreement and not my intention to "come back later"?

Really. Tell me what I did that was not amenable. Considering I knew my POA had never been registered and that Joanne in fact had completely scammed me, I was totally open to her refund arrangement where I'd still be losing money. What did I do wrong here?