Jill Bentley always dreamed of having an adopted child, even back when she was a kid herself.
“My friends and I would play house and I wanted to be the mom with adopted kids,” said Bentley. “I guess I always knew it would play a part in my life, and now that I waited too long to have biological kids, so this is my only option.”
She was in the process of adopting a child from India when Vancouver Island’s only adoption agency, Choices Adoption and Pregnancy Counselling, closed its doors in October – for a second time.
Now, her dreams have been placed on pause.
Clients like Bentley had renewed hope when Choices re-opened after being on the verge of closing in April, due to a severe decline in international adoptions.
Under a new board of directors made up of former clients, Bentley felt reassured that the $16,000 she had spent would pay off. But the adoption agency couldn’t stay afloat longer than a few months.
“Simply put, we are out of money and time to fix this,” said an Oct. 18 statement on the Choices Facebook page. “Despite our efforts to work towards the development of a new business model and the implementation of drastic cost-cutting measures, we came to the difficult conclusion that the agency could no longer continue to operate.”
The statement says they believed the agency could be restructured to meet the challenges of inter-country adoption based on the information they had at the time. They realized their dire situation when the new board treasurer announced their financial analysis at a meeting on Sept. 11.
Now, there are two remaining adoption agencies in the province – Sunrise Family Services in North Vancouver and Adoption Centre of BC in Kelowna. Bentley says the Ministry of Children and Family Development told her the cost to transfer her files to Sunrise will cost another $4,000.
“Why wasn’t there an audit to figure out if the agency could be financially viable before they re-opened?” said Bentley. “It makes me angry that from Sept. 11 to Oct. 18, Choices clients weren’t told that the ship was sinking.”
Kelly, another hopeful client, has paid $11,000. Her last name has been removed due to concerns about speaking out against the Ministry.
“I’m upset that the previous board passed on a losing cause to the new board,” said Kelly. “I think we’re all in a worse situation now than when Choices first announced their closure back in April.”
Kelly has two biological kids, ages 3 and 17. She admits that the need isn’t as dire for her, but she is worried about other clients. She’s in line for the India program as well but has yet to hear back from the agency overseas as communication has now been disrupted.
Victoria Mitchell, vice-chair of the new board, wasn’t available for comment. Mitchell, who placed her son into adoption through Choices, played a significant role to save the agency this spring.
“My personal apologies [for] the delay,” said Mitchell through the Choices page on Facebook. “I assure you that we, the board are doing our utmost, to support this transition and will continue to do so. We kindly ask for your patience during this difficult time, as we have no staff support, and are therefore operating in a volunteer capacity.”
Meanwhile, the Provincial Director of Adoptions Renaa Bacey said in a letter to Choices that her staff will begin reviewing and assessing client files to determine the next steps.
Bentley started a petition calling for the Provincial Director of Adoption’s Office to cover the transfer fees for Choices clients. The petition has been signed by more than 600 people as of Nov. 14. The petition can be found at bit.ly/choicesclientstransferfees.