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Parents asked to bail out failed adoption agency Add to ...

Potential parents whose international adoptions are caught in limbo are being asked to pay an extra $4,000 to revive the failed Imagine Adoption agency to get their bids to bring home a child back on track.

But many of the hundreds of applicants left hanging when the Ontario company declared bankruptcy in July fear they would just end up adding to the thousands of dollars they've paid already - and see nothing.

The families have until Sept. 21 to vote on the proposal from the bankruptcy trustee for the agency.

Some, especially those whose applications are more recent, fear the proposal has too many uncertainties and the extra money will have run out before their adoption referral goes through.

Robyn Bertucci estimates that she's about No. 230 on the 339-couple list of active files.

"That's pretty far down the list. ... I'm being asked to fork over another $4,000 and it looks like I'm just going to be funding someone else's adoption," she said.

The Bertuccis have been trying to have children since 2001; they applied to Imagine Adoption more than a year ago. If this plan goes through, she said, they would not see their child for another three years - if at all.

"I'm frustrated. ... As it is, no, I'm not willing to gamble $4,000. That's very hard for me to say because I desperately need this to work - I want to vote yes. But not as it sits."

But Susan Taves, the BDO Dunwoody trustee heading Imagine's bankruptcy proceedings, said the proposal is the families' best shot at bringing their hoped-for adoptions to fruition.

Under the proposal, applicants would make two payments of $2,000; adoption referrals would resume in 2010, and Ms. Taves said 270 adoptions are expected to be completed within two years. "The projections are done conservatively. ... The plan was not set up to run out of money in 18 months," she said. "Folks realize there's risk in adoption and there's uncertainty in proposals and they need to all make their own decision. But we're getting positive feedback."

Ontario Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews said the province is committed to getting the adoptions back on track, but won't pay for international adoptions.

"We fund domestic adoptions. ... When parents choose to go the private adoption route, then that's a decision they make. We've never funded that," she said, adding that the ministry is "very hopeful" it will be able to keep Imagine's adoption licence intact.

The province has renewed Imagine Adoption's licence three times since it was first licensed in 2005, and some of the hundreds of families burned by the bankruptcy are asking how that's possible given the company's questionable finances.

Ms. Matthews said her ministry is looking closely at that, although it's too early to tell which changes, if any, would be made to the adoption agency-licensing process.

"We want to understand exactly what happened here and what we need to do to strengthen the system. So we're taking a very close look at that right now," she said, adding that would-be parents should understand that licensed adoption agencies are still private corporations.

A fraud investigation into Imagine Adoption is continuing. No charges have been laid, and Waterloo police couldn't provide additional details on the nature of the investigations.

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