Thursday, March 29, 2007

Donna's Email

In my last post I referred to an email from Donna Barber, the office manager at the Acres of Hope office in Wisconsin. She just returned from Liberia and has a lot of stories to share about her trip. She wanted to explain to the waiting families why there is such an unpredictable wait, so she shared some stories of her trip to help families better understand. I asked her if I could post this email from her, because I think it offers a really unique perspective to the whole process, and also a good explanation of why I don't have a really clear timeline for our adoption. It is totally unpredictable.

Here's Donna's email:

While I was in Liberia the last week; over half of our staff was thrown in jail for child trafficking. Right out of the blue. What led to this? Well AOH took in a 6mo baby who was very sick and tried to help him. He was immediately admitted into a hospital. Unfortunately they could not save him. So AOH called the father and explained to him what happened. We did not at that moment yet have the death certificate or the medical report so the father immediately assumed we had sold the baby. After all we didn't have a body. (You have to bury dead bodies immediately due to the heat there) So he went to one of the embassy's there and told them we had sold his baby and couldn't show proof of him so that embassy called the police and a few hours later- they were all in jail. Mind you no one came and asked about the situation. Even they just assumed the father was telling the truth. This is why Adoption education is SO important as well.

So the country director had to go down to the jail that night and pay to get his staff out of jail. They went to court the next day and provided the necessary documents. Needless to say you had to be there to believe it. We were all shocked.(although we shouldn't have been- this is Liberia after all) There is still a few loose ends with this and it cost us several days work to clear it up. That is why nothing happened on adoptions those days.

Then there were a few days where I spent all day with some of the staff just trying to get very sick girls into a hospital that would and could treat them. We would get home at 10:30 at night. Could you imagine it taking all day just to get your child to a hospital and get some treatment? This is why adoptions didn't happen those days.

Then there is the internet- why cant we get info and pics when one requests them. Well most of the time I was there the internet that AOH paid 2,000 to have in their office worked maybe 1/4 of the time and it was slow. And sending a picture? Well that was down right LOOOONG. It took all night to send a family their adoption documents. There are 12 pages. Who stayed up most of the night sending them? The country director did and he needs to be in court the next day representing parents for their adoptions. How about getting a medical? Those take even longer to get if we need to provide one for a family who is adoption a special needs. It can take up to 2 months to get a doctor to release what we need.

And then there is the investigations into the children in order for them to be available for adoption. So many times we make a referral and the parents change their mind or their story. What can we do to protect the adoptive parents? We do more extensive investigations. These take much longer and more visits. So If a family has to wait longer for their referral; it is with good reason. Some of you can attest to what it is like to lose a referral. It is devastating to a family. We won't be able to prevent them all but it should help cut down on some.

We are told daily that our passports will be out just to find out at the very end of the day that there will be no passports and the reason is usually quite lame. Appointments are tough. When I have an appointment a 3:00; I am pretty sure I will have that meeting at 3:00. Not so there. You may have a meeting at 3:00 but it could be 5, or 6, or not at all. And you find this out after you guess what - Wait!

It is also getting harder to get an embassy appointment at the drop of a hat. They are busier too, so when a family ask - how come I don't have an appointment sooner and why can't I travel now? It is because many times we can't get you in right away. We are at the mercy of the embassy and what they allow. We don't control this.

I must say that each time i go to Liberia- I learn many more things.I was very impressed with office staff and how they run their different departments. And AOH just hired on full time a nurse from India who is just wonderful! I can't say enough about her. The kids will be benefiting greatly from having a nurse available to us all the time. Not to mention that we have another nurse coming on staff in a couple of months from the states.

AOH just bought a new building just down the street from our offices now that will be the new guest housing for when families come. We have appreciated the Sheppard's opening their home to families but it is trying at times to have guest just about every week in your home. ( Anyone here do that on a regular basis?) We also have many wonderful foster families helping out with the newborns who are doing a great job. All this is what your adoption funds are paying for. People have asked- what is the difference between AOH and other agencies? What I have listed is it. This is not the norm for agencies in Liberia and as always AOH is paving the way to set the standards by which adoptions should be handled. Especially in a country where they are still learning about adoption and its benefits.I hope I have not offended anyone by this email or feel that I was in judgement to you. I thought it would be helpful to info what I have learned and hope this helps you with the wait process and understanding why it is what it is. And as always- when I ask Patty why it is the way it is in Liberia; she responds: "who knows why it is- this is Liberia after all!" Right!

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