Sheriff’s Office investigating complaint against shuttered Adoption Advocates International in Port Angeles

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a complaint against Port Angeles-based Adoption Advocates International regarding $7,000 a church in Colorado reportedly paid the nonprofit.

The nonprofit adoption agency, which had been in business for 30 years, announced Tuesday it is closed.

Brad Collins, who stepped in as interim executive director of the nonprofit in October, said Wednesday that he has not been interim executive director since Monday.

“My temporary interim position was up, and the board accepted my resignation,” said Collins, who is also a Port Angeles City Council member.

Sheriff Bill Benedict said Wednesday a detective has been assigned to the complaint filed against the adoption agency after the Port Angeles Police Department forwarded it to his office.

The complaint is not considered criminal at this time, Benedict added.

“Like all investigations, we’re not commenting on them until they’re complete,” he said.

Police Chief Terry Gallagher said Wednesday he passed on the complaint to the Sheriff’s Office to avoid a potential conflict of interest, referring to Collins’ City Council position.

On Tuesday, Collins had directed all comments about the agency to its board president.

Board President Suzanne Hayden said Wednesday she had not heard of the complaint and was not aware of any agency staff being contacted by law enforcement.

“I’m sure I would know if we had been contacted,” Hayden said.

“I can tell you there’s nothing criminal going on.”

C.J. Alderton, pastor of Patrick Crossing Ministries in Durango, Colo., said his church raised the $7,000 as partial payment to Adoption Advocates International to help a couple in the church adopt a 5-year-old boy from Uganda.

Alderton said he filed the complaint because he had learned Monday that Adoption Advocates was planning to close its doors.

Alderton said the check, issued by his church, was delivered Feb. 26 and cashed by the adoption agency March 3, adding that no one from the agency has returned his recent calls concerning the money.

“It’s not done until I see a check from [Adoption Advocates] in my mailbox,” Alderton said in a Wednesday phone interview.

“We’re going to stay on it.”

While the church has not heard from the adoption agency about the money, the family seeking to adopt the orphaned Ugandan boy has been contacted by Adoption Advocates staff about returning documents the couple has given to the agency so the adoption can move forward.

“They’re now doing due diligence on where to go from here,” Alderton said.

The couple began working with the agency last fall to adopt an orphaned boy from the Congo region of Uganda, Alderton said, adding that he had heard nothing but good things about the nonprofit.

Hayden said all families with adoptions in progress are being contacted to help them finish the adoption through other agencies.

Hayden, who is also an attorney for Clallam Public Defender, said the nonprofit has not taken in anymore funds as of Monday.

“Some [payments] are being returned,” Hayden said.

“It depends [on the] situation and whether services have been provided and those kind of things.”

Hayden, who became president last fall, said financial hardships for the nonprofit over the past few years have necessitated its closure.

“There are multiple factors, but I’m not going to comment any further than that,” she said.

Information on file with the Washington secretary of state shows that Adoption Advocates generated about $2.23 million in revenue and had expenses totaling $2.48 million in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, with $695,370 carried over from the previous year.

Hayden said Adoption Advocates staff are contacting every family currently in the middle of the adoption process to give them documents necessary for adoptions to continue and refer them to other agencies.

“We’re making copies that are either going directly to the families themselves or to the new agency,” Hayden said.

“Everybody that’s in process, as far as I’m aware, has been contacted by staff to figure out how best to smooth a transition to another agency,” she continued.

Hayden, an adoptive parent herself, said the nonprofit’s closure has been especially hard since most if not all agency staff and board members are adoptive parents.

“It’s all personal to us,” Hayden said.

Adoption Advocates, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in November, has placed 4,500 orphaned or adopted children from around the world and in the state.

The nonprofit places children — from babies to teenagers — from Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, China, Thailand and many other countries, including foster children from the U.S.

Merrily Ripley founded Adoption Advocates in 1983 and retired in the fall of 2011.

Collins has been named in a sexual harassment complaint filed with the city of Port Angeles.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 12. 2014 6:37PM
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