My heart is heavy tonight for the adoptive parents who are still waiting to get their children home from Haiti, and for the children who wait in the balance. Since we got Kembert out last week, things have changed dramatically. On January 18th, the US government announced it was granting humanitarian parole for orphans already in the process of adoption. This made perfect sense: these children were shown to be eligible for adoption prior to the earthquake. The Haitian and US government go through extensive searches when a child enters the system to show this to be true, including the procurement of death certificates, DNA testing, and birthparent interviews. I was so proud that our country saw the value of evacuating these children into the care of waiting families in the US, not only to remove them from a precarious situation, but also to free up room in orphanages to take care of children who are orphaned or displaced as a result of the earthquake.
This all seemed to make sense for a couple days. The US agreed, Haiti agreed, and we saw lots of personal interest news stories of happy families united with their children. That is, until UNICEF stepped in. UNICEF, with their seemingly charitable gestures towards children worldwide, happens to be an organization that is staunchly, and often illogically, anti-adoption. It is also an organization that wields a great amount of power (and money), and when they put the pressure on, Haiti complies. There is a lot to be said about UNICEF's views. There is an essay brewing there - but for now, the short version is that UNICEF would prefer children without parents to be raised in an institution within their culture of origin rather than by a loving family of a different culture. In other words, race/culture trumps family/nurture/security. (It doesn't take a psychologist to see the faulty logic there).
Over the last week, the effort to get previously-matched children out of Haiti has slowed considerably. Extra steps have been added, redundant steps, steps that pose no added measure of safety since these children HAVE ALREADY BEEN CLASSIFIED AS ADOPTABLE BY THE HAITIAN GOVERNMENT, and since these parents HAVE ALREADY SUBMITTED AN EXTENSIVE HOMESTUDY/DOSSIER/BACKGROUND CHECK. This is effecting hundreds of waiting children. One such child is Ronel. I want to tell Ronel's story, because I think it is a compelling example of the need for international adoption, and a tragic (hopefully only temporarily tragic) example of how UNICEF's corruption affects orphaned children.
Ronel was abandoned at the Rescue Center of Real Hope for Haiti, which is an amazing medical mission that takes in malnourished children and nurses them back to health. I am constantly amazed by the life-saving work these sisters do. When he was brought in, he weight 28 pounds (less than my daughter India). They were unsure of his age, but guessed him to be about 7 or 8 years old. Over a few months at the Rescue Center, his weight nearly doubled. Because his parents had died and no other family came to claim him, they searched for an adoptive family.
Debra answered that call. I've never met Debra in person, but I feel like we're friends through this crazy blogging world. She is friends (the real-life kind) with Jamie, who posted a photo of Ronel on her blog. Debra saw the picture and knew. THIS WAS HER SON. She and her husband Ernest started the process to adopt Ronel. This was well over a year ago. Like many of us, they were in the wait to get him home when the earthquake happened. Like many of us, they moved into action to try to get their son home.
Ronel was supposed to come home the night Kembert did. He was one of the kids who did not get approval, and got left behind. My heart was so heavy for Debra that night, as she rejoiced for those of us getting our kids home. But even worse was reading this visiting missionary's account of what that night was like for Ronel:
Tara told me today that the boys were flying to the US. One was going to his adoptive family in Houston Texas, the other to a family in Dallas. When I got back from my days work, the boys were all dressed in their very best to meet their new families. They were so excited. I was so excited for them. It was hard to watch them go. Later in the evening after dinner, the truck returned from the airport where 27 children were flying to meet their new parents. In the front seat of the truck was Ronel, the 6-7 year old that was staying in my room. I asked why he was still here and Tara told me it was because they needed one more paper for him. The other children got to go. She said she hoped they could get the needed paperwork tomorrow. I would never wish for you to see the disappointment on Ronel's face because it would crush your heart... it did mine. It was dark and the power was off. He went into our room, laid down on the bed, pulled the sheets up and sobbed. It was so sad. Tara came in and talked to him in Kreole... I'm not sure what she said but I know she was trying to comfort him. After a time she got up and left as I sat across the room. I could not leave him by himself. I went over and motioned for him to move over and I laid down next to him. The tears were pouring out of him. He was still in his new clothes as he fell asleep.
The embassy wanted one more paper to send Ronel home. He was supposed to go home the next day. That was a week ago.
Three days ago, Debra's husband flew down to try to get him out. From Debra:
I did not know I would literally have to fight for him.
He [Ernest] just got word that the US is deciding to comply with a request from the Haitian government. That request is to approve of all children who leave the country after they have been cleared by the United States. France and Canada have not complied and are getting their waiting children home. Our US Ambassador has not cleared children and will not see the parents waiting/pleading. They were just told that the Ambassador has left for the day.
There are sick children and pregnant women sleeping on the floor in hopes to bring children home all the while nothing is being signed out. All documents are ready to go except for that approval....
E has said that every time they call him to the window Ronel runs up to his side and says a phrase in kreyol with an expectant look on his face CAN WE GO? As in can we go home. As in can we go to THIS home. His home.
I will not lie and say that I am not fighting fear. I am. I am fearful of Ronel being hurt again. Being left again. It would break Ernest. I cannot imagine what it would do to Ronel. Would he understand that we would still fight for him? To think of it makes my stomach sick.
That was written yesterday. They spent all day at the embassy again today. They still don't know if or when the ambassador will sign them out.
Ronel's story is just one story of hundreds. Hundreds of orphaned children with waiting families, and nothing separating them but political manoeuvrings and power plays that put children at risk. I hope that you will read this and consider educating yourself on UNICEF's history in thwarting international adoption, and register your voice of dissent.
Haitian Ambassador to US
Kenneth H Merten
US Ambassador to Haiti
Tabarre 41, Blvd 15 Octobre
P 509 22 29 8000
F 509 22 29 8028
Hilary Clinton/Dept of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520