Severing Ties that Bind

Well folks! Sit back. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, because this is going to be a long post.

A few things to know:
1. We are in the process of adopting a second child.
2. We decided to use a different agency than we used for S because our original agency raised their fees beyond our budget.
3. We decided to use a small, Christian Adoption Agency in Jacksonville, FL after the recommendation of a friend of a friend. (more on this part later...)
4. We have had issues with this agency since the beginning of our interaction with them. See this post for more information. I'm going to start from where this post leaves off.

Click below, I didn't want this situation taking any more space than necessary in my life!

After 4.5 weeks we still hadn't received the supposedly "overnighted" home study documents from the agency. So on Monday, I wrote this message to the agency. 
Hi (name removed):
When we spoke last Tuesday afternoon, it was my understanding that our homestudy documents would be FedEx'd the next day (Wed) as we have been waiting for quite a while to begin the homestudy process. Our
application was received in your office Sept. 16th. and we still have not received any documents almost five weeks later.

I know that you explained that you are short staffed (more on that in a minute) but I can't help but feel a little disappointed at the delay.

Two questions:
1. Does (agency name removed) charge to review a homestudy completed through an outside agency? If so, what would that fee be?
Due to the delays and to lighten your workload, we would like to have our homestudy conducted by our previous provider. I just need to add in any additional fees on (agency name)'s end into our budget. Please advise.

2. I know that you are short staffed. I am in the area and would be willing to come up and volunteer if that would help. It is clear to me that you guys could use some assistance, and I would be happy to help! Just let me know!
I really hope to hear from you soon regarding the acceptance of a home study conducted by another provider.

Thanks, N and M

The phone rang. 

It was the Adoptive Parent Coordinator who explained that she left to go on a cruise and left our address at work so she could not mail our documents. I explained my frustration and that we were for sure using our other homestudy provider now. She said she "overnighted" the documents 

As inept as I thought this woman was, I kind of liked her. She had a way of putting me at ease and convincing me that everything was going to be okay and that the delays were just because a staff member had been fired and wouldn't continue. I'm not entirely sure if she apologized or not....but I hung up the phone feeling okay about using our other homestudy provider to conduct our homestudy and this agency to find us a birthmother.

Until all hell broke loose. What the Adoptive Parent Coordinator didn't know is that I cc'd the Center Director on the email above. (Honestly, I cc'd the Director because I wasn't sure if she was aware of our situation....not that she ever returned any of my email messages!)

The phone rang again.

It was the Adoptive Parent Coordinator again, speaking in a tone I hadn't heard before. She said, "I just got a call from the Center Director and she wanted me to call you back and urge you to reconsider letting us conduct your homestudy." I apologized to the Coordinator because she got in trouble. Then she said, "The Center Director is really upset." (Upset with us? The Adoptive Parent Coordinator?) I tried to get a feel for whether or not the Center Director was too upset to continue working with us. The Adoptive Parent Coordinator then said, "I'm just calling you because I don't want to be the next one to get fired!" LOVELY!

I told her we'd get back to her about the entire homestudy fiasco soon. Deep down I thought....wow, this is Christian Agency. What is going on?

A little later I received the following reply to my email from the Center Director:
Ms (name removed),
I just spoke to (name removed) again
Ur fingerprints are good for 5 years.  I would just need ur previous hs with copy of ur fingerprint results.  Ur other clearences should be back in our office within couple weeks.
We do not have a birthmother to match u with
At this time.  I hope (name removed) explained to u that being gender and race specfic also makes the process take longer. Its all Gods timing
Center Director (name removed)  

note: with the exception of the change of the names, nothing in this message was altered. It was sent from her BlackBerry. I had a BlackBerry and you can use capitalization and punctuation. Just saying!

M and I discussed it that night and decided that we were going to still stay with the Agency, but have our homestudy done elsewhere. I emailed the Adoptive Parent Coordinator and asked for a week to consider and told her we would get back to her on Monday Oct.26th.

On the morning of the 26th, I wrote the following email to the Center Director
(Name Removed),

Thank you for your response.

We certainly do realize that this process is in God's time. Our frustration stems from a lack of response from your office to emails, and the timely mailing of documents. It took five weeks from the time you received our application until we received our homestudy documents.

Now it seems that we have caused an issue by trying to complete our homestudy elsewhere. That was certainly not our intention in the slightest. The woman providing our homestudy is the same one who conducted our first one - who we have remained in contact with since S's adoption. In the beginning of this process we really had a hard time NOT choosing them to conduct our homestudy, but ultimately decided to go through you instead. That was - until we became increasingly frustrated by the lack of response from (Agency name removed).

Its not a matter of having a birthmom to match us with now. We do understand that our gender and race specifications will mean for a longer wait. But it was our understanding that that wait was longer AFTER the homestudy process, not before. Even a brief "We're swamped and will get those documents to you as soon as we can" email would have gone a long way.

Our urgency comes from the fact that we cannot apply for grants for our adoption (because our daughter's health costs depleted our funds for a second adoption) until we are homestudy ready. This was expressed in our original contact with you in June.

We decided to go through (Agency name removed) because of the great review we received from church members that adopted through you. We felt as if God was not a focal part of our previous agency and wanted Him to be this time. We prayed and prayed and felt led to use your agency to grow our family.

It's an issue of trust for us. We have asked your agency to locate and place a new baby with our family. That is placing a HUGE amount of trust in you. If we email, we have an expectation that there will be a timely response. If we are told that papers are being sent, then the expectation is that we will be receiving papers.

Yes, we have been disappointed up to this point - but that does not mean that we are all not able to move forward from here. I am hoping that we are able to resolve these issues and continue to work together.

Please call me at your convenience at (phone number removed) to discuss this further.

Thank you, 

Monday passed, no phone call. (Shocking, eh?)

Side note: I have to mention here that I received the contact info from the friend of a friend who adopted through this agency to ask if they had similar problems. After I sent this message to the Center Director, I emailed this lady and told her the situation. Included in the email was this paragraph:

"I'm upset because I honestly don't know what to say to their frustrations because I feel like they were the ones that caused the issue in the first place. My husband wants to find a new agency because he's concerned that they have lost a certain level of trust necessary when someone is helping to choose a new member of the family. He's also worried that perhaps they will not work as hard as they might of if we hadn't caused any "issues."

This will come into play in a minute....

Tuesday morning, the phone rang.

It was the Assistant Center Director calling. We had never spoken before... My initial reaction was annoyed because the Center Director did not contact us personally. The conversation started cordially enough, but there was a tone in her voice that said this wasn't going to be good.

How right was I?

My question: Why isn't the center director calling me herself?
Answer: Because she's at a conference and she asked me to "handle you."

She began by giving me a play by play of our history with the agency beginning in June. (Umm..I knew all that. I was there, remember?). Then she said,"The staffing issues were just a momentary blip and that wasn't the reason for the delay in getting the paperwork to you. The problem was YOUR  expectations!" 

Okay, wait a minute....um...I don't think I was being unreasonable about having to wait five weeks to receive a packet of documents. (Especially since our new homestudy provider got ours to us 3 days after we contacted them!). 

So I asked, "Well, what is the usual turn around time?" She said, "Well we try to get them out the same week"
I countered with, "That WAS my expectation! What didn't that happen?" 

She had no response to that but moved on to the next topic of insult. 

My question: But what about being lied to multiple times by the Adoptive Parent Coordinator about when our documents arrived? 
Response: The Adoptive Parent Coordinator has since been fired. Not just for your situation but she had some other "issues" we weren't aware of. (Did I mention that this agency has only THREE employees? How can they NOT be aware?!?!) Now we are left trying to do all of the work she didn't do. (But didn't you just say that the staffing issues were not the cause of the paperwork issues?)

At one point she offered to return our application fee ($500 raised at our garage sale). I wasn't ready to give up on repairing this relationship until....

She said, "We're not going to apologize again (Did they ever? Not sure). We already offered to come down to complete your study. If you are going to complain, vent and talk about us*, every time your expectations aren't met, then we don't want to continue working with you."

* Talk about us....I hadn't talked to anyone except.....the friend of a friend from church. Honestly, if I loved this agency and someone was talking crap about it, I probably would have let the agency know too. I don't blame her, I understand where she was coming from, but it explained a bit of the Agency's anger. They thought I was talking bad about them to other people...

By this point, I'm almost in tears. This WASN'T how the conversation was supposed to go. They were supposed to call. Apologize profusely. Try harder. Work more efficiently. Return my email and phone calls. And find me a son. And we'd live happily ever after....

A few other comments she made:
"If you don't trust us, don't work with us!"
"If you are going to question our integrity and vent to other people, then there is no reason to continue."
"The tone of your email was inappropriate and rude."
"We already said we'd do your homestudy, what else do you want from us?"
"We've been in this business 20 years. Ask any of our families and they had great experiences."
"It was both inappropriate and uncalled for you to even suggest coming up here to help us. We don't need your help and it was rude to assume that we needed any help."

The last one made me cry. Hard. 

I was serious about going up to volunteer. I felt bad for any other families who were waiting on stupid paperwork like we were and I honestly wanted to help. Did I add that because I knew it would get their attention? Yes.
But would I have really done it? Absolutely. I explained all of this to her as I began to shake and cry harder.

She countered with something....I can't even remember now...

I was D.O.N.E., done, done DONE!!

I finally said, "Just send us our application fee back then!"

Click. She hung up on me.

I sent an email to the Center Director immediately following this phone call, documenting that we would be receiving our full $500 application fee back and that she could consider this email as severing any and all ties with her agency. (I'm still amazed at my restraint. The things I wanted to say). 

Now we'll have to see if they give us our money back. 


Mandy said...


I am so sorry that you had to deal with that. This isn't a business transaction, people! This is a very sensitive and loving experience that is supposed to be shared between the Agency and the parents.

It's unfortunate because Christian places of business or what have you give Christians a bad name. The reality is, you get people who think they're doing God's work, but they have an underlining attitude of entitlement and don't have the slightest clue how to work with people and have a sense of compassion. A part of me really is so angry (seriously.), that I want to call them and completely go off. Of course, I won't, but it just chaps my hide when I hear this sort of thing.

I hope you get/got your money back, N! But also, I hope that you're able to get this out in a good venting post and move on and never think of them again.


redheadmomma said...

Oh. My. God. Are you KIDDING me? I am so angry for you. I am so sorry. I hope you get the word out to everyone who may be in the same shoes as you. How unprofessional, mean, and rude. And you know what? You do NOT want to adopt through them, no way, no how. Their showing you their true colors, I'm absolutely sure, is a blessing. Can you imagine being more invested, having a baby chosen, and still having to work with them? OMG.

But she's right about something - this WILL all be a blip as time goes by. I think bad stuff like this happens sometimes to remind you how other people do it right, and show their kindness and aptitude.

Hugs, R

Lindsey said...

Oh my gosh!!!!!! I am so mad for you! What the heck?! Some of the things that person said are just downright inexcusible and far beyond unprofessional. I'm so sorry that this happened. I will pray for you and I hope that the rest of this process goes smoothly. You are definitely in the right and the right things will happen for you.

Jenny Rebecca said...

Oh GOOD GRIEF!!!! What an infuriating situation.

Lianna Knight said...

I am so SHOCKED by all of this. How in the world can this agency justify ANYTHING they said or did. I am praying that you not only receive your refund, but that you are blessed in FULL with a sweet baby boy SOON!

Kelly K. said...

Wow. I am so sorry. There aren't even words. I just want to give you a hug. I'm proud of you for handling yourself in a professional manner when I know you wanted to scream. Hang in there. You are awesome people and you'll get your bouncing baby boy. Maybe the right one wasn't using this agency so God is moving you elsewhere. I will pray that you will find the right agency and everything will go more than smoothly.