Monday, February 4, 2013

Bank Account

On Thursday night I wrote this to a private group of adoption friends:

I hope to blog about this, but wanted to share here first. I'm feeling like a dirtbag tonight, but I'll be OK. You see, I let the orphanage director know today that I was declining to make a cash donation from Maxim's bank account.

I have been conditioned to think that this was a gesture of goodwill to the children that are left behind. I had a difficult time deciding what to do with this $xxxx.

The thing that tipped the scales was my Ukrainian friend who has facilitated adoptions in the past. He BEGGED me not to hand over cash...that I would be perpetuating corruption. He said the money was intended for Maxim and it should be used for his benefit. He also said that if my heart tells me to donate to the facility to ask the director for a list of items that they need and purchase things from that list. Which I do plan to do.

I know that many of you are using the **other** facilitators and they DEMAND that you hand over this money in its entirety to the facility. You need to know that this is a corrupt practice (many of the directors and fac's split the funds 50/50) and even if you can't do anything about it, I think it is a practice that needs to be questioned.

Maxim's orphanage is a facility in transition. Between my two trips, they lost a whole building. It was taken from them by the government and given to a preschool. This is a building in which some charities had spent money in hopes of benefitting the disabled children. How disappointing!

In the process, many children had to be transferred to other facilities. The music room in the remaining building now holds much of the therapy equipment from the old building...along with stacks of extra furniture and crap. Also, I understand the physical therapist was let money in the budget to pay her.

Before I hand over cash or even donated items, I need to think carefully about how this will benefit the children. As much as I may trust the people I'm dealing with here, it's so easy to see how the funds could simply be pocketed. This IS Ukraine, folks. It's a place where personal survival and "what's in it for me" is of primary concern. Even among professional and seemingly trustworthy people.

So, for the time being, Maxim's savings will be set aside for his medical needs, which could be extensive. I will get a wish list from the director and keep in touch with local missions to coordinate any donations. I'm very appreciative for the care that he has received in the past 4 years. I understand that he was in poor condition when he was transferred and that he spent at least a year in a "laying room." I will not forget the children left behind.

Two and a half years ago, when we adopted Theo and Zhen, I did hand over a FAT STACK of Ukrainian cash to the orphanage bookkeeper. I didn't know him, he could have been any guy off the street. I got a sick feeling when he folded that money up in his newspaper, stuck it under his arm and walked out of the bank. My feelings were confirmed when I visited the orphanage a year later and found the same poor kids sitting alone in broken cribs, no toys, drenched diapers, and smelling of vomit. There was no lasting benefit to them.

This is a discussion that adopting families in Ukraine need to have with their facilitators UP FRONT, before you decide on what facilitator to use. (Yes, you have a choice of facilitators.) What is expected of me? May I use the funds to purchase items to donate myself? How will I know the money goes to a good use? May I have a receipt of donation? Look for red flags. Please consider how you may be contributing to corruption. Pray for wisdom and direction...and do what you are led to do. No judgement.


yuliya2m said...

in my experience Americans are the ONLY once that donate money from kids accounts back to the orphanage. i think that if you want to make a donation it's better be dome in the form of diapers, toys or some other items rather then cash

Anonymous said...

My son had over $5,000USD in his account. And stupidly, we handed it over. Part of the 'contract' that we signed with our team stated that the money should be given to the director. We are not stupid -we know our team got a kick back. But we felt pressured, and didn't know what to do. We assumed it would only be a couple hundred dollars - or even $1,000USD at the most. We were shocked - astounded - and bewildered when we saw it was so much more than that. We believe our son's birth family had been putting that money away for him, in hopes that he would be adopted and be able to take that money. And we just handed it right over to a greedy director who promised to spend it on food. Baloney.

Jolene said...

Stephanie, we could not agree with you more. We have lived in Ukraine for 10 years and we know exactly how deeply the corruption runs. Everyone has a way of justifying their actions. It is just how it is done.

Use that money how you see fit. Even donations can be sold or taken home by workers, which happens more than anyone cares to admit.

Like you, we have big hearts and we give, give, give to the orphanages. The Lord knows and He sees it all, and I believe He will bless us for doing our part. Yet, we have to be wise with the money He allows to pass through our hands. And when it is dealt with corruptly, despite our best efforts, God will still bless us for trying to take care of His children.

Thank you for stating your thoughts here. Coming from you, it is going to give a lot of other parents food for thought when they have this decision to face. For Americans, $1,000 USD may not seem like a lot but in Ukraine that equals several months' salary and quite a big temptation!

Jill said...

Thank you for sharing and speaking the truth!

Stephanie @ Ralphcrew said...

Jolene, thank you for weighing in on this topic. I have a lot of confidence in what you say considering you have "been there and done that" in regards to dealing with Ukrainian orphanages for so many years.