ELK RIVER, Minn. -- Two Elk River families emptied their savings, took out loans and even second jobs to adopt children from Ethiopia, but now, have lost tens of thousands of dollars after their adoption agency announced bankruptcy last month.
Christian World Adoption, based in North Carolina, suddenly closed its doors in early February, citing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
On its' website, CWA wrote in part "child care costs in Ethiopia despite slower adoptions was a major drain on finances."
"It was really sad, and very unexpected and a huge shock," said Katie Vick, of Elk River. She and her husband Ryan had long dreamed of adding a third child to their family through international adoption.
The Vicks say after a year of paperwork, and payments exceeding $20,000, their money is gone.
"We pretty much had to start from scratch," said Ryan Vick. "We found out they were probably applying the money to a family that was further ahead in the process."
The Vicks say the loss impacts two other families at their church, Central Lutheran in Elk River, including Bjorn and Esther Dixon, who also wanted to add a third child to their family.
"All these children who don't have the basic needs met, that don't have proper healthcare, proper nutrition, who live an institution, the question wasn't why should we adopt, it was, why not? ," said Esther Dixon, who estimates she and her husband lost more than $20,000 as well.
"We were both working second jobs just trying to make it happen, and then we just realized it's gone, went up in smoke," she said.
CWA says today international adoption agencies face a "perfect storm" of circumstances that has made it difficult and impossible to continue.
"Many adoption agencies have closed their doors in recent years. Russia's recent ban on adoptions to Americans, the U.S. State Department's decision not to open adoptions from Cambodia, vastly longer adoption wait times in China, and longer adoption times and fewer referrals in Ethiopia have all had an adverse effect on CWA. UNICEF has waged an unrelenting campaign against international adoption for many years," the organization said on its' website.
Ryan Vick is calling for more transparency and accountability in the international adoption process, and hopes the international adoption standards set by the Hague Convention are reexamined. The Vick family already hit a roadblock when trying to adopt from Haiti two years ago, losing a $1,200 payment to their agency when Haiti began the process of becoming Hague accredited. They started over when they learned the wait for a Haitian child would stretch up to eight years, looking to Ethiopia instead.
"There are a lot of loving families who want to adopt. If we can just bring awareness that there is challenges and red tape and things that need to looked at in the international process to make things easier," said Ryan Vick.
BothKatie Vick andEsther Dixon started blogs to help raise the money lost and begin the adoption process again.
"Esther and I felt like while we didn't necessarily know where the money would come from, God would supply the way forward," said Bjorn Dixon, a pastor affiliated with Central Lutheran. "And we felt a renewed sense of our call to adopt."
"It's been a journey, and will be so worth it in the end," said Katie Vick.
A documentary called "Stuck" highlighting challenges of international adoption will be shown at the Southdale Mall AMC theater on April 23.
Advocates behind the documentaryalso started apetition to reduce the delays of international adoption.