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Would-be parents seek ministry's help Add to ...

Dozens of prospective parents hope the Ontario government will step in and complete the work of a Cambridge, Ont., adoption agency that recently declared bankruptcy.

The parents held meetings across the province yesterday to figure out what to do after Kids Link International Adoption Agency went under July 13.

The agency, which operates publicly as Imagine Adoption, was the only one licenced by both the province and the Ethiopian government to arrange adoptions of Ethiopian children to Ontario parents.

In Toronto, some 50 people met in a downtown condo to share their frustrations and carve out potential solutions.

"It's important to make a difference and to stick together," said Shawn Smith, who was trying to adopt a child from Ethiopia with his wife, Alicia.

The $16,000 in adoption fees the Smiths paid evaporated last week when Imagine Adoption's board of directors failed to approve its latest financial statements, and the not-for-profit agency filed for bankruptcy.

But for most parents, the primary concern isn't about getting their money back, but ensuring their child arrives safely in Canada, said Ingrid Phaneuf, who organized yesterday's meeting.

Ms. Phaneuf, 42, decided to adopt a baby girl from Ethiopia after she had a stillborn child three years ago. She and her husband paid the agency $14,000.

According to financial documents from BDO Dunwoody, which stepped in after Imagine Adoption declared bankruptcy, the agency owed $800,000 to 400 families. The agency's assets were $723,004 - $363,000 less than its liabilities.

One of the parents' long-term goals, said Ms. Phaneuf, is a face-to-face meeting with Deb Matthews, Ontario's Minister of Children and Youth Services.

Ms. Phaneuf said she was heartened by the fact that representatives from Ms. Matthews's office attended.

"We've gotten some good news in [that]we know that the ministry is on it," said Ms. Phaneuf. "We didn't have a face telling us that before."

Ministry representative Kevin Spafford told reporters after the meeting that Ontario officials were working with federal immigration officials to fast-track visas for 22 completed adoptions in Ethiopia.

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