Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Court Three Years Later...and Still A Lot of Emotion

Three years after our Ontario-based adoption agency went bankrupt, it finally appears as if the criminal fraud case against the former President and her CFO ex-husband is going forward.

Though it's been three years since those horrible days surrounding July 13, 2009, just the mention of the criminal case against Sue Hayhow and Rick Hayhow (the former CEO of Imagine and her ex husband, who was the CFO of the agency) floods me with emotion.  It's actually hard for me to write their names.

When the agency went bankrupt, Geoff and I were the next in line for a referral of siblings within our age and gender specifications.  In conversations I had with our former social worker after the bankruptcy, she confirmed this, and I was left with the distinct impression that we had been matched with children but that the paperwork had not yet been completed in order to provide us with an actual referral.  When the agency went bankrupt, any matches that had been made by the agency were, of course, lost.

It took an additional one year, four months and nine days until we were referred Seth and Lizzie.

And we are amongst the lucky ones.  There are many families, fellow clients of the agency when it went bankrupt, who are still waiting for their referrals.  In the ensuing years, the whole process in Ethiopia has slowed down significantly, which means that these families are having to wait even longer now than the families did at that time.  Other families, due to the extra financial contributions required of families when the agency restructured, were unable to continue with their adoption plans and had to relinquish their dreams of family altogether.  In addition, the actions of the Hayhows left children in the agency's transition home (in Ethiopia) without adequate food or staff; parents who had received referrals before the bankruptcy had to rush to Ethiopia to claim their children and then wait there (in some cases for months) while court and immigration processes were completed.  My friend Sharla and her husband were amongst the group of parents who raced to Ethiopia to save their children; she has since written a wonderful book about that experience (you can find the link to her book on amazon here - I'm even mentioned a few times).

Of course we wouldn't trade Seth and Lizzie for the world; and had the bankruptcy not happened we would not have them in our lives.  One person said to me a year or so back that maybe it was a good thing that the bankruptcy happened because it resulted in our bringing Seth and Lizzie into our lives.  I know that this person meant well, but I'll be honest in saying that this is only helpful when viewing the situation in hindsight, with Seth and Lizzie in our family, and without consideration of the other many families who were/are impacted.  At the time of the bankruptcy, and for several months thereafter, we didn't know that the agency would be resurrected; we thought it was over, done; our dreams shattered.  It was utterly devastating, and I could hardly get myself out of bed that first while.  I truly felt as if we'd lost our children.  So no, I can never say that it was a good thing that the bankruptcy happened; I view the miracle of Seth and Lizzie as the phoenix that rises from the ashes, and I am waiting for the remaining families to experience the same.

So much pain resulting from the actions of two people who (allegedly??) stole over $420,000 of money from the agency (ie. families) and used it (allegedly??) to pay for personal vacations, spa treatments, car purchases, clothing, home renovations, a horse and saddle purchase for her daughter, and on and on and on and on.

It was a devastating time for us, continues to create pain for families still in the process, and I can't even imagine how devastating life still is for families who had to let go of their dreams of having children in their lives.  There are some very, very bitter and angry and sad people still out there, as a result of what the Hayhows did...and I can't blame them.

I chose quite a long time back to forgive the Hayhows, but it seems that every time I hear news of them I have to remind myself of that choice.  When I just this week saw video of her walking to the court house with her partner (the one she left her husband for, shortly before the bankruptcy), dressed in white from head to toe, with perfectly coiffed hair and what appeared to be a diamond ring on her left ring finger, I swallowed hard and reminded myself again of my choice.

For a while, I wondered if I could both forgive them and want them to be held accountable.  For some reason that wasn't an easy one for me for a while.  But I'm ok with it now.  I chose to forgive them for myself.  I forgave them before the agency was restructured and before I ever thought again that we had a hope of our dreams materializing, and I did it because if I didn't, I would risk becoming bitter and cynical; and I knew even in those hardest of days that I ultimately would not want to live life like that.

But...I do want them to go through a trial and to be found guilty, and I want them to be sentenced.  Part of me would like to attend the trial and be able to see them face-to-face...maybe close a door on a painful part of my history.

I have no idea if the RCMP and crown attorneys have compiled enough evidence to convict the Hayhows, but I'm hoping it's enough.  I also hope that at some point the Hayhows are forced to listen to victim impact statements because many, many families have offered them.  Most importantly from my perspective, I hope that some day the Hayhows get, and maybe even apologize for, how much they hurt people - real, live people who gave them not only their money but who invested their hopes and dreams in the "total love" approach that the Hayhows promised.


Here's the link to a report from the Kitchener/Waterloo newspaper, The Record, and below is a copy of the article.

Couple To Face Charges in Imagine Adoption Case

  • Dianne Wood, Record staff 
  • Thu Aug 16 2012 

Couple to face charges in Imagine Adoption case

KITCHENER — It’s been three years since hundreds of families across Canada — including many in Waterloo Region — were left devastated by the collapse of Imagine Adoption.
On Monday, the estranged couple who ran the Cambridge-based international adoption agency will be in court to face allegations they used corporate funds for personal use.
Susan Hayhow, the agency’s executive director, and Rick Hayhow, its chief financial officer, will have a preliminary hearing in Kitchener’s Ontario Court on numerous counts of fraud and breach of trust.
A preliminary hearing is held to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial. Three days have been scheduled — Aug. 20, 22 and 24.
Earlier this year, there were talks between Rick Hayhow’s lawyer and the Crown about a possible guilty plea. But federal prosecutor David Foulds said Thursday that Rick Hayhow has decided to have a trial.
The couple was jointly charged in 2009 with breach of trust, six counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of fraud under $5,000. Each was also individually charged with one count of fraud over $5,000.
The charges followed an investigation by Waterloo Regional Police into allegations the Hayhows charged more than $300,000 to agency credit cards for personal purchases before the agency went bankrupt in July 2009.
These included trips to Disney World and New York City, spa visits, home renovations and the purchase of a horse and saddle. The couple drove leased luxury vehicles and paid themselves a combined income of $320,000 a year.
Families who hoped to adopt children from overseas — mainly Ethiopia — were left in shock by the agency’s collapse. Many had paid up to $15,000 to adopt a child.
The creditors initially filed claims as part of the bankruptcy process. But they eventually decided to pay an extra $4,000 each to cover the cost of restructuring the agency under new management and continue with adoptions.
The Hayhows separated about four months before the bankruptcy.


  1. I hadn't seen all this coverage or the video clip. Thanks for posting. A

  2. Hi Ruth,

    If you do decide that you want to come to Kitchener for the trial, please let me know as you are welcome to stay with me and my family.

    I struggle with the knowledge that if it were not for the bankruptcy we would not have Addis. On one hand I am so thankful he is the child we have but I can't say I'm thankful for the bankruptcy or the fallout. Soooo many people were hurt. I really liked your analogy of Seth & Lizzie being the phoenix rising from the ashes. On a personal note, I find it affirming. I've been considering a tattoo and I wanted to get Addy's name in Amharic but I wanted something else to go with it and while watching the Olympics it finally dawned on me what I should get and it was a phoenix.

    Anyway, just wanted to say hello, thanks for the posts and also thanks for emailing Brian Calwell. Like you, keeping the interest going is the main reason my husband and I agreed to do the interview for CTV.


  3. Thanks Angela for the kind offer - how lovely!

    And Addis is beautiful - I saw him in the clip of you guys at home.

    Though I'm so very thankful for S&L, I can't seem ever to fully get over the devastation of '09. In my heart, they're very separate events. One that almost cost us those dreams; the other one that was miraculous and even more joy-filled BECAUSE of the bankruptcy. They have certainly helped in my healing from '09 but I still can't help the visceral reaction to thoughts/memories/reminders of July'09. S&L are my phoenix, and it sounds like that might be just the most perfect tattoo!!