Two years ago, trustees of the Cambridge, Ontario-based Imagine Adoption Agency discovered “questionable” spending in the firm’s records. Today, the founder and general manager stand accused of defrauding the agency of over $420,000.
The agency matched children from Ghana and Ethiopia with Canadians eager to adopt. Imagine declared bankruptcy in July, 2009, which literally left hundreds of families who were midway through the process up in the air.
On Friday, the Globe and Mail reported that agency founder Susan Hayhow and agency director Rick Hayhow are accused of breach of trust as well as multiple counts of fraud. The total amount of money they are accused of absconding is in excess of $420,000. According to the report:
“Police allege the frauds took place between January, 2007 and the agency’s bankruptcy declaration. During that time, police say, money paid for adoption services was spent on international vacations, renovations to the couple’s shared home in Cambridge, food and clothing…
“But [the situation] raises questions about how an agency involved in the increasingly lucrative business of international adoptions, whose license was renewed multiple times by the Ontario government, could have operated for so long with its financial irregularities unnoticed.”
Ministry of Children and Youth Services spokeswoman, Anne Machowski, claims that Ontario has “some of the most comprehensive international adoption licensing requirements in Canada.”
Even so, something obviously went wrong in Imagine Adoption’s case. Ontario’s reputation for their strict enforcement of adoption industry compliance likely means little to all of the families who have been affected.
Susan Taves, a trustee who was in charge of handling Imagine Adoption’s bankruptcy case, said that even though the spending irregularities were obvious to her as she reviewed their records, she doesn’t blame what happened on Ontario:
“Licensing is like issuing a license for someone to be a car salesman: They’re not going to be in there every day to see if the price of cars is going up or down,” she said. “This is an operating issue I think it would have been difficult for a licensing body to see.”
But just to be safe Ontario has, indeed, strengthened its licensing process. The process now requires audited financial statements, annual reports for public consumption, as well as a report from the board of directors which details the operations and activities of agencies.
But regardless of what Ontario or any other governing body requires of its adoption agencies, criminals will be criminals. And if the Hayhows are, indeed, guilty of these charges, they are just that. Criminals.
And the fact that their crimes effected orphans and potential adoptive parents, makes them even more criminal, still.