Friday, April 8, 2011

Fraud Charges have been Laid!

Wow.  The big news in today's Globe and Mail is that the founder and former Executive Director of Imagine Adoption, Sue Hayhow, along with Imagine's former General Manager and Chief Financial Officer, Rick Hayhow, have been arrested for fraud!

This is the conclusion of an almost two-year investigation by RCMP into how money that was paid to the agency by adopting families was spent; and how the agency ended up bankrupt in July of 2009.  One article said that the allegations are for breach of trust, fraud over $5,000, and fraud under $5,000; the charges suggest that more than $420,000 of agency funds were misappropriated, and spent on personal items - including clothing, vacations, and extensive renovations to the former couple's home.  Both Hayhows (who separated in the months before the bankruptcy) were arrested yesterday, and released again pending a May 26 court appearance.

We had an inkling that this news was coming.  About a month ago, someone posted on the yahoo forum I'm a part of (for Canadians adopting from Ethiopia) that she had been told by RCMP that the investigation was finally at an end and to watch the newspapers for announcements.

But to hear the actual news of their arrest brought up a lot of emotion for me.  My very first reaction was physical; I was instantly nauseated.  I was frankly shocked at how immediately the memories and emotions surfaced from that horrible Monday, July 13, 2009 when we first learned that Imagine was bankrupt.  Those were some of the worst hours and days of my adult life, when we thought that our dreams for bringing additional children into our family were over.  Though eventually the agency was restructured (after months of hard work by the remaining staff, the trustee in bankruptcy, and by the families themselves, and after the injection by families of even more money) and although our dreams are now coming to fruition, many families were not able to continue the process post-bankruptcy, and there have been so terribly many consequences of the Hayhows' actions...their legacy lives on.

These are people who professed, at one time, to be Christians...maybe they still profess faith, I have no idea.  I watched her (twice, I think) appear on 100 Huntley Street; she and her former husband used to work at a bible college in Ontario; their Christianity and its impact on Imagine Adoption's mission statement formed part of the pull we felt towards the agency when we decided to adopt from Ethiopia.  But, as we all know, being a Christian doesn't preclude people from making mistakes - even biggies like the ones they made.  I've made some pretty terrible mistakes in my own life that have had huge impact on other people.  I have also experienced some pretty big moments of grace and, quite frankly, have learned more from grace extended than I ever have from judgment.  As a result, Geoff and I chose to forgive them in the horrible weeks/months following the bankruptcy, before we knew that the agency would be restructured and while thinking that we had lost our dreams as well as the almost $13,000 we had paid to them as part of our adoption process.

But what I've always wondered is what they have learned as the investigation into their actions has proceeded over the past almost-two years?  Have they learned anything?  From the time of the bankruptcy, they have never made a statement, never apologized to the families that they hurt so deeply, never made restitution (despite being formally asked to by the trustee in bankruptcy)...nothing. When we were in Ethiopia in February, talking with the staff there, we were told that the had learned of the bankruptcy via the internet (as I did, through the yahoo forum) and when they questioned Sue Hayhow (who was in Ethiopia at the time of the announcement), she told staff only that there were some money issues and it would be fine.  Not.  It was the generosity of remaining staff, both there and here in the Cambridge office (who worked on a volunteer basis during the months of crisis to keep things afloat), and the generosity of corporate donors here in Canada, who kept children fed in the agency's transition home and who 'manned' the fort until the agency was eventually restored.  The Hayhows simply disappeared.

I need time to process today's news, and it certainly brings up things that maybe haven't been entirely healed yet inside of me.  It would be nice, in an ideal world, to hear them speak to what they did, and take responsibility for their actions.  More than that, though, I hope that the coming court process brings a measure of closure for all involved: the families who have been impacted; and for the Hayhows as well.

Here are a few links to check out from today's headlines...and I'm sure there are more to come.

Globe and Mail
Toronto Star (also with video clip)
Waterloo Record
Cambridge Now
Winnipeg Free Press


  1. Thanks for the update, Ruth. I'm so glad those dark days are behind me. I will probably always remember where I was and what I was doing that day, but I'm glad that we have something good to focus on now instead. Well written post, as always!

  2. so interesting to me to see my reaction..honestly, i have no real reaction at all..wierd. I remember very distinctly, back then, forgiving them, as you said, and actually feeling quite a bit of pity for them...I mean, really, they must have been sorry individuals to stoop so low as to steal from families adopting, and I just imagined what a mess their lives must be, you know? I think I need to go read some articles and let myself feel whatever they bring up..:) All I know right now, though, is that regardless of the wrong they did, so many people did so many GOOD things, and got us back on our feet, and our great God brought us our SON! :) so...those memories of that terrible dark time feel so faint right now...thanks for all the links-I only knew of this because of facebook today. :) darci

  3. ps can i link you since you are SUCH a better writer than me? :)

  4. You know, Ruth, one thing that really struck me was when you said that you went with Imagine because of the Christian ties.

    When we first started on the adoption road, we were actually headed to Ethiopia. My husband left it up to me to choose a facilitating agency. I decided against Imagine BECAUSE they seemed to position themselves as Christian. And that just sent red flags up everywhere for me. My husband is self-employed, and I'm sad to say that the people who are most devious, dishonest, and difficult are without a doubt the people who wave the 'Christian' flag. This has been a real lesson to us to conduct ourselves in we're grateful for!

    I'm so glad to hear that they've been arrested and charged. I'm sure that their time will come....but I don't really want to know, as I don't want to gloat or be happy. I'll just mind my own. And learn what I can as applies to me. God will do it His way, His time. His justice is just the best.