My Thoughts

I will start off by apologizing for what is to follow as I suspect that it may be a jumbled mess of half-formed thoughts, but writing is therapeutic for me, so I need to write out at least some of how I am feeling.

I was away this weekend and therefore blissfully unaware until this morning of the news that on Friday, founder and former Executive Director of Imagine Adoptions and former General Manager and CFO Rick Hayhow were arrested and charged with fraud.  For those who do not know, in 2009, our adoption agency went bankrupt amid rumours of theft and misappropriation of funds while two of our children were being cared for by Imagine’s Transition Home in Ethiopia.  We heard of the bankruptcy on the same day that we heard that there were only 3 days of food left to feed our children and that none of the caregivers there had been paid for weeks and were only staying to look after the 43 + children out of kindness and compassion.  Our world was turned upside down that day and we fought to bring the kids home many months earlier than expected while grieving for the approximately 400 families awaiting referrals whose dreams of expanding their families appeared to be shattered.

As the saying goes, beauty rises from the ashes and that determined group of waiting parents managed to resurrect the agency and many children in Ethiopia have found their way to loving forever families as a result, but for some, the stress and financial burden was too much and their adoption dreams ended on that very sad day.  There also were children in the Transition Home whose paperwork was not complete who had to be sent back to uncertain fates in their originating orphanages or with birth family.  So much destruction at the hands of a woman who professed faith, who professed a love and compassion for orphans, and who stood on a platform of “our unique total love approach”…

In the days following the bankruptcy, when Mark and I did not know what would become of our precious children, there were moments of anger, outrage, disbelief, and sadness towards this woman.  There did come a time during those first two weeks that I did choose to forgive her so that I could move past the anger and focus on doing what I needed to do to get our children safely home.

Once our children were home though, the anger would rise up at times because we began to learn more information.  For a period of about six weeks, our children and the other children at the Transition Home were fed only one small meal a day (really what they were fed should not even qualify as a meal).  There was no money for gas to drive the kids to appointments, so when our son Elijah got a gash on his forehead that should have required stitches, he did not get medical attention.  There were times when I would drive myself crazy with all the “what ifs”…What if one of the kids had gotten sick and died?  What if the caregivers had not stayed once they stopped being paid?  What if the rations of food had completely run out before other parents began to arrive?  What if…?

To put into perspective what this was like for my children, you need to understand that this was not the first time in their lives that they had gone hungry.  Imagine, if you can, being a child in the developing world and going hungry, seeing others in your village die from lack of food or the effects of unclean water, and then being brought to an orphanage where, though it was scary and unfamiliar, you were being fed.  You began to count on being fed.  You began to let go of the fear of when your next meal would be or whether or not there would be a next meal.  Then, just as you began to settle in, you were brought to a different orphanage, this one was called a Transition Home and you weren’t sure what to expect.  For the first week or two at this new place, you were being fed and you began to relax and then, the meals got less frequent and smaller and then there was only one small meal a day and the hunger returned, and with it, the fear.

Over the months after we first got home with our kids, I struggled with anger and feelings of helplessness and guilt.  I felt like somehow I should have known that something was not right.  I felt stupid for trusting someone else with the care of my children without doing more research or asking more questions.  I felt angry about the amount of money we had spent to ensure they were well cared for only to find out that they hadn’t been.  With each new piece of information, I struggled to have to forgive this woman who had hurt my children.  I struggled about what I would tell them someday about evil in this world and how that evil had been the reason they worried for themselves and for each other during their short months at the Transition Home.

After the bankruptcy when parents were arriving daily to pick up their kids, when there was chaos and confusion, when the babies from the other location of the Transition Home whom they had never met were suddenly brought into their home along with their caregivers and my children worried all the food going to the babies (in many places in Ethiopia, if there isn’t enough food to go around, the youngest is fed first), when a strange white man arrived to meet them and then took them away from there and no one explained what was happening to them, my babies were afraid.  They were terrified.  They were traumatized.  They had already been through so much in their young lives before even coming there.  My heart breaks for that time in their lives and I wish I could have prevented that.  To know that this all happened because of someone’s greed disgusts me.  It sickens me.  It saddens me.

Not only were adoptive families, prospective adoptive families, and children affected by what this woman did, but employees both in Canada and in Ethiopia were also extremely negatively affected.  Not only did they lose their jobs suddenly and not have money coming in, but these employees were people who genuinely cared for these children and they were put in a position of worry.

Another difficulty I have with all of this is that the children, both those in the Transition Home and those who will never get to have a family because of what this woman did, were already in a vulnerable position.  These were children who were orphaned or abandoned or relinquished by family hoping for a better life for them.  They were in a position of needing protection and instead, became victims.  I cannot imagine an evil that allows someone to prey on the most vulnerable, the most needy.

People throw around the word “closure”.  I was expecting that when Sue was arrested, I would feel closure.  I do not.

Today, when I heard about Sue’s arrest, I did not feel happy.  I expected to feel happy.  I hoped for this day.  I wished for this day.  But nothing done to her by our justice system will take the pain away from my children.  No jail time will give the families who could not continue with their adoptions, their long-awaited child.  No restitution she will be made to possibly pay will cover the true expenses of what her actions cost.

Today, I am sad.  I am reminded again of how close we came to never knowing the tremendous two little people we now call son and daughter.

Today, I am hurt.  I want an apology that probably will not come.

Today, I am ashamed.  I want this woman to be fed only what the children entrusted to her care were fed.

Today, I am broken.  I want to hold my babies closer and take away their hurts.

Today, I am humbled.  I am in awe of those who worked with such determination to resurrect the agency and bring more children home.

Today, I am angry.  I know that true justice will not come in this world.

Today, I am empty.  The arrest did not bring the peace I was looking for.

Today, I am struggling to forgive anew.  I need God’s help and strength to do this.

Today, I am helpless.  I am reminded that justice is not mine to administer.

Today, I am reminded.  My children are a miracle and their story a testimony.

Today, I know.  God has spoken about this already:

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.'” – Matthew 25: 45


9 responses to this post.

  1. Oh Sharla, you wrote this beautifully. I am so glad that the parties responsible were arrested – but I agree. 3 square meals a day, comfortable bed and a tv don’t feel like justice when their actions resulted in children starving and long term psychological issues as a result.


  2. Great post Sharla. It is a shame that the people responsible will never feel the pain and hurt they have caused.


  3. Posted by Claire on April 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Hi Sharla
    It’s my first visit to your blog (found you via Tammy V.)
    What a great post. Your thoughts resonate with me. This whole thing does not bring me closure either. It merely rips open the wound I have tried to forget and makes the pain fresh again. I am hopeful some kind of apology or consequence (stiffest allowed) will help it grow back together, but there will always be a scar.


  4. Posted by Michelle Q on April 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Ah Sharla, this, too, has been on my mind and heart since hearing the news. Our kids went through the wringer because of ‘Mother Susan’. Not only weren’t they being fed but the mistreatment in the TH that she allowed to happen is unconscionable. It’s all so very sad.


    • Michelle – I have very limited information as to what our kids witnessed and experienced in the TH that spring and summer, but I know from what I’ve witnessed in the aftermath that it was not small. Can you contact me, or do you know if it’s been blogged some where…


  5. Sharla,
    Thank you for fighting so hard and for caring so deeply. All of your children are blessed to have you as their guide in this life and the world is a better place because of people like you. You amaze me with your faith and grace.


  6. Posted by Sylvia Lindgren on April 12, 2011 at 12:02 am

    I know it won’t be easy but it’s important to remember that the same God who provided you with this lovely set of kids is the same God who knows the heart of the perpetrators of this crime and is a God of justice. If there is punishment to be handed out it won’t come in the form of a cushy jail cell but in an eternity in hell. God is the only one who knows all the reasons this tragedy happened and is therefore the only one who can judge those involved. Pray that God will help you to focus on the joyful family he has provided and the good (ie public awareness for one) that may still come out of this crime.


  7. you put into words so much of what i haven’t even been able to think about yet…i honestly have not let myself go back to that time, yet..(other than a terrible nightmare i had two nights after the news broke). thanks for sharing this..praying for peace and whatever ‘closure’ we can all get. Praying that we will hold on to forgiving. love darci
    ps…can I link this blog on my facebook page, or do you prefer to keep it ‘quieter’? you can let me know on FB..I won’t do a thing til I hear from you. darc


  8. Wow Sharla – I have read quite a few posts about the bankruptcy but yours brought tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine how painful that experience must have been for everyone involved and I admire your honesty in sharing your thoughts here. I think we are often led to believe that the justice system will help to bring closure in situations where horrific acts have been committed against vulnerable people but as you have said, sometimes the punishment will never even come close to resolving what was lost. Thinking of your family and all who experienced a great lost on that terrible day. I hope that eventually each of you will find some measure of closure.


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