Adoption agencies abandon families

Adoption | Tiffany Owens

Adoption agencies abandon families

Jeana Bonner, left, of Utah, and Rebecca Preece, of Idaho, sit with their adopted children at a hotel in Moscow, Russia, shortly after the country approved a ban on American adoptions.
Associated Press/Photo by Mikhail Metzel

Christian World Adoption Agency (CWA) closed its doors last week, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and ending the adoption process for 15 families without warning.

According to an explanation posted on its website, CWA couldn’t afford the rising costs of international adoption, among them higher licensing fees and mandatory child care costs for children in partner orphanages abroad.

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"We see no other choice but to close our doors," CWA said in an e-mail to families waiting to adopt from Kyrgyzstan. Shannon Fenske, a CWA client from Reeseville, Wis., said she and her husband, Kevin, were dismayed by the news. They’ve been trying to bring home a little girl from Kyrgyzstan since 2008.

"They did not reach out to us beforehand to allow us time to try and make any sort of arrangements," Fenske told the Associated Press. Families like the Fenskes have spent thousands of dollars on their quests. They said they received no prior warnings before getting an email from the agency on Friday announcing it was ending operations, effective immediately.

"They just dumped it on us on Friday afternoon and ran,” she said. “We have no idea what the future holds or what our options are at this time."

This decision apparently came after three years of cutting as much of its operating costs as possible. “[We] cut our U.S. staff by two-thirds; curtailed foreign staff; moved to less expensive offices here and abroad; cut back on foreign travel; reduced mailing costs to a minimum; closed Acacia Village in Ethiopia and utilized nearly all the proceeds from the sale of a building owned by Christian World Foundation,” CWA said in its statement.

Adoption ARK, an agency based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., also closed its doors suddenly, citing financial problems and blaming Russia’s ban on U.S. adoptions, which went into effect last month. Founded in 2003, ARK helped place nearly 1,000 children with adoptive families. Its Russian-based program provided more than half its income.

Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council for Adoption suspects more agencies will close in light of Russia’s recent ban. It already had become harder for agencies to stay open given the staggering decline in American international adoptions. Last year, Americans adopted 8,668 foreign children, down 62 percent from the peak of 22,884 in 2004.

Despite the obstacles, Fenske said she would not give up on the girl she already considers her daughter. 

"We are fighters," she said. "This does not change the fact that our children continue to languish in institutions and that we continue to love them as much as we did yesterday."

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