Thank you all for the support--it really helps to have that. I am just so furious with CHSFS. I e-mailed Jan, who is our contact person. She's been lousy at communicating with us since the get-go, which should have been a red flag before we even submitted our dossier, but we'd looked so hard at the agencies that we felt confident that it would all even out and it would get better. Ha. Ha ha. Oh, I laugh.
When we received the diagnosis about Manalimo, it was awful. The guilt over being unable to accept the referral, coupled with the anger at CHSFS for sending us a referral prematurely--coupled with more guilt over feeling angry that we fell in love with a little boy who would not be part of our family. Jan didn't contact us for two days; she claimed it was because our social worker (who she'd somehow managed to contact) had said that she would do it (not that she did, but that wasn't surprising considering how awful our social worker was). Then when she did call, what she said sounded good. Maybe I just needed it to sound good because of how awful I felt. Now I'm back to feeling cynical like they sent us a referral for a little boy with a severe neurological problem in the hopes that we'd fall in love and take a chance, even though our initial form said we couldn't, and they wouldn't have the expense of a waiting child with cerebral palsy.
When we received Melkamu's referral, we were excited that we would get to meet his birthmother. After all, we knew that there was always a chance that we wouldn't know anything about our child's birthfamily but Melkamu's referral they did have that information (actually, so did Manalimo's), and we would hopefully get to meet her. And then they changed the policy.
The part that has really started to bother me is this: CHSFS refers a fairly high percentage of children who still have two living parents. I think it's around 25% of the children they refer. That part doesn't bother me--there's no guarantee that two living parents have the ability to care for a child any more than one living parent. But with the US definition of an orphan, I can see why they would feel the need to get policies worked out in order to continue their program. It saddens me and I can see so many problems with this anyway, but that's not my main point. The point is that this means that 75% of the children they refer DO fit the US definition of an orphan. Either they have one living parent who cannot care for them or they have no living parents and/or relatives who can care for them. The US definition also says something about the birth families not being allowed to expect further contact after the child is relinquished for adoption (yes, because closed adoptions have always proven so effective for everyone involved...who, me sarcastic?). But then what about the adoptive families who want and feel that their children DESERVE that contact? Don't those other families deserve to have all the opportunities available to contact the birth family if known? Yet instead of just cutting off meetings for families whose children have two living birthparents, which is bad enough, they've cut it off for everyone. Melkamu meets the defintion of an orphan. Maybe his birthmother can't expect contact according to the definitions, but I see nothing about her having to refuse contact freely offered by us. CHSFS was supposed to be really good about looking after the best interests of the adopted children, yet they've cut off everyone. How exactly is this in the best interests of the majority of the children they refer? Let's say that, of those 75% of children that they refer who meet the US definition of an orphan, half are from a single birth parent who relinquished a child that he or she couldn't care for. I don't know if that's accurate, but we had that information on both of the referrals we received. So of all the children they refer, about 38% come with a known birth family member. Shouldn't those 38% of children be able to meet birth families if they so desire? Why make them all suffer?
(Rant, rant, rant...I won't be offended if no one's reading, but I need to get this out.)
So now all of the fun comes up with the guest house. I e-mailed Jan to say that I was just feeling sick about so many of our hopes for the travel on this trip going away one at a time, and she basically said "Sorry you feel that way." The end. Which angered me further. So I sent back an e-mail saying that I was wondering when they'd planned on telling us that we wouldn't be allowed to stay at the guest house, as she'd known all along that we will be bringing Patrick with us--I'd even e-mailed her questions about getting him a visa and everything, so she can't claim she had no clue. I wanted to know if it would be a case of "Here are your travel dates--and by the way, you can't stay at the guest house so you'd also better get started arranging a place to stay." It wasn't in the nicest of tones, I admit, but I'm so fed up and furious--and Melkamu is legally our son, so I'm not as concerned about what they can do. Delay it, yes. But since we can't travel for 3 more months anyway, I doubt they could delay it that long when we would otherwise travel next month.
She e-mailed back "Sorry you feel you weren't informed. The policy change was started 1/1/08 and was in the travel packet from January, the e-newsletter, and on the hotline. (I've copied the director of CHSFS on this e-mail if you want to talk to him.)" Ah, now we've figured out the problems! Jan, lousy communicator that she is, never sent us an updated travel packet. The one we have is dated November 2007, and we received it at the beginning of December when we accepted Melkamu's referral. Our e-mail addresses have never made it onto the e-newsletter list. Jan knows this and had promised to fix it last fall. It never happened. She received a reminder that we weren't on that list a few weeks ago when I learned about the birth family policy change from the forum, and e-mailed her about it. "Oh, you never received that e-mail? Here's a copy. But I won't bother fixing the problem--I'll just slap a forward on this e-mail and that'll be good enough." And the hotline? I'm guessing people found out about it in the e-newsletter, because I'd never heard of it before.
I e-mailed back to both her and the director of CHSFS that the fact that we'd never heard of it before was a direct result of her poor communication. I ended the e-mail there, before I could call her nasty names.
Every adoptive parent has to take training classes. In all of these training classes, they make the point that you're not paying for a child, you're paying for the services of the agency through the process. I'm still waiting to see those services. I'm glad that Melkamu is getting top-notch care but quite frankly, I'd expect a little more care from CHSFS for his parents who have paid $12,000+ for their services!
Oh, and the fact that the fees that go to the guest house are lost--they do tell you up-front that your fees pay for the guest house and that if you don't stay there, you don't get money back or have a reduction in fees. We knew that. We planned to use the guest house, so it wasn't an issue. But we didn't know that our option for using it by would be taken away from us because we will be bringing Patrick. We DID have the option to use the guest house when it was us and Patrick when we signed that contract. We still had that option even after we accepted Melkamu's referral. Now we don't, and I don't believe there's been a single word of "Sorry about that. We know that this was a selling point for our agency and that this will drastically change the travel plans for certain families. Therefore, we will be refunding those families the X amount that would otherwise have gone to the guest house so that they can make other arrangements." At least I don't think there has been. Jan didn't bother sending me any of the documentation that she claims expressed this new policy, even after I e-mailed to say I hadn't seen a single one. Big surprise.