Why We Need UNICEF

An update on Ronel - they are still at the embassy. They are sleeping again on the cold tile floor. The good news is that they have received humanitarian parole and I believe it was only by Ernest's sheer determination and willingness to fight for their son. It should not have been that hard. They are now waiting to find a plane to fly out, because word on the street is the military is no longer offering evacuation flights for orphans. When he asked why, Ernest was told it was because of "bureaucratic red tape". I am curious to know what that means.

I want to make a few points about UNICEF. There are many people who philosophically disagree with transracial/cross-cultural adoption. I have a lot to say about that, and will leave it for another time. The problem with UNICEF, though, is not that they hold that philosophy, per se. Honestly, there are many other high-profile organizations that hold a similar view. The problem is that this view often becomes a focus of action for an organization that should be devoting their time and attention to displaced children who are at risk of trafficking, as opposed to matched children who have pre-screened adoptive parents in the pipeline of a legal adoption process.

I've received a few emails (and some snarky blog comments) pointing to an incident where a group of missionaries tried to smuggle Haitian children across the border into the D.R. There has been an insinuation that this is some sort of "gotcha" for adoptive parents. That somehow this points to the conclusion, "See, this is why we need UNICEF!" To that, I would say:


Policing incidents of child-trafficking is exactly what UNICEF should be doing. Not muddying up the process for legal adoptions. The story of the missionaries moving children to the DR is an example of people acting very, very stupidly. They were not adoptive parents, and there story is not an indictment on legal adoptions in Haiti. This situation is exactly where UNICEF's gaze should be focused. Not at the embassy in Haiti where children who are legitimately eligible for Humanitarian Parole attempt to leave the country.

I think my friend Tara says it best:

"I have been reading the news articles about a few of the real and/or perceived cases of children being taken illegally. There is a reason we've avoided the media as a general rule --- much of it is exaggerated, inflated, sensationalized and untrue. (And of course I wish that no one would do something illegal but I bet you we don't have the whole story.) They need stories for ratings so they can sell advertising at a higher price. That does not exactly set them up to report with integrity and total honesty.

Haiti is an incredibly difficult place. It was before the earthquake. Now it is difficult times ten. UNICEF would like you to believe that there are lots of "safe spaces" (whatever the heck that is) where they can put children. They want you to think that there is a great risk GREAT RISK of children being used for sex slaves and domestic servitude in the USA and other countries ... they want you to believe that Haiti is the safest place for them to be protected.

We have only been here four years plus a year of going back and forth a ton. BUT in these years I can tell you that we have seen horrific abuse of children. Neglect, sexual abuse, restaveks ---- it is rampant. Sexual crime is NOT a crime in Haiti.

For example A 30 year old man can have sex with a 8 year old girl here and there is no legal process for pressing charges. It is culturally acceptable. Working with women I can tell you that they do not control their own bodies. The men call the shots. In my neighborhood there are restaveks working at 5am sweeping the fricking street for the people they live with. There is no way in hell Unicef or any other yahoo that has not lived in this culture and seen it with their own eyes will EVER EVER EVER convince me that Haiti is a safer place for an orphan. Never. Also, sitting somewhere else and reading news stories that the media produces is not a good way to decide that UNICEF is good and on the up and up. The media has something to gain from making stories more dramatic. Unicef has something to gain by keeping orphans as orphans. No Orphans equals no Unicef afterall."

I don't think that UNICEF is all bad. I do think they are doing some good things, in Haiti and around the globe. But I am deeply concerned by the excertion of power they are using over adoptions in Haiti. They have already completely closed the adoption programs in many countries, and this has caused the instituionalization of thousands of children. I am gravely worried this could happen in Haiti. While I agree that displaced children need to be reunified with their families, I am also aware that there will be children who are orphaned from this earthquake. It is my deep hope that once family reunification efforts are exhausted, that Haiti can continue placing orphaned children into loving families instead of relegating them to a childhood in an orphanage.


  1. As I was reading this post, I could not get these words out of my head, " for we are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but against the powers, against the master spirits who are the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the supernatural sphere." eph 6:12 amp.

    "The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness of it, the world and they who dwell in it." ps 24:1


  2. Anonymous8:54 AM

    SO Tara is claiming that these oddballs who were trying to smuggle kids out of Haiti without the correct paper work is untrue? It doesn't sound it to me from what they are saying. Or is Tara saying child trafficking is also fine?

  3. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Not so "exaggerated", "inflated" or "untrue" Tara. CNN reports that they now know that 14 of these children have one or both parents who handed them over. CNN interviewed a Dad who said the "missionaries" were well aware of them because he himself sat and talked with them and was told their kids would be taken to a better place. They then took his kids based on these promises. Quite a different story from the lies these freaks are trying to tell the authorities, claiming they thought all the kids were orphans. Sure. God knows what they wanted those kids for.

  4. No one tells it better than you, Kristen. Thanks for bringing clarity and a point of view to help balance the UNICEF story we typically hear.

    And Anonymous, please—Tara as a proponent of child trafficking? Seriously?! Have you even read her blog? Ugh. Go somewhere else with your nastiness.

  5. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Oh but Tara can say news reports are untrue when they're not. The scam artists in question were clearly trying to kidnap children.

    And Puddle...go jump in one.

  6. Well said Kristen and Tara. You've done such a great job keeping us informed on this issue Kristen. I lived in Malawi, Africa for a year, where many children are orphaned as well. Just like Haiti, sexual crime is not a crime there either. In Malawi, they make it very difficult to adopt. I can only imagine that has something to do with UNICEF. There are so many children there too that need to be adopted, yet they are starving in their villages and orphanages. I don't see the logic in keeping them in their culture if their future is not very bright there.

  7. Hello!? Tara did not say that story was untrue. You are taking that out of context. I can tell you that she was totally pissed (as was I) about what those people did. Don't put words in her mouth just because it suits your agenda.

  8. Anonymous10:44 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Anonymous10:58 AM

    As soon as I read the headline, my first thoughts were "I'll bet it's a bunch of religous nuts with presumptious thoughts that they were "Saving" these children." In many of these cases, the children were separated from the parents, the parents are hospitalized and can't be reached, etc. Shades of Elian Gonzales...

  10. Anonymous11:20 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Please keep us posted on Ronel's status. I am praying!

  12. Anonymous visitors: no more. If you have something to say, back it up with your identity like a grown-up. Leave an email or legit blog or I won't publish your comment. We all think the actions of the missionaries were stupid. That is not up for debate here, so don't make this a forum for it. We all agree. I won't le it be a derailing argument for anti-adoption agendas.

  13. Nope. Did not say that story was untrue. Not at all. Try reading it again.

    Those folks did the cause of the legit adoptive parent no favors. I really wish they had not done that. AND -- I never said that story was untrue. I did suggest that the media usually plays to one side of the story. If you have lived five minutes you ought to know that the media is not impartial fair balanced or objective.

  14. Once you have been interviewed -- and then had your words chopped up and put together in a way that takes everything out of context -- (sort of like you just did while reading this) -- then you'll better understand what I'm saying.

    UNICEF is not all bad. I am angry at their agenda and the way they have hurt legitimate orphans in the last ten days.

    Lording political power over a corrupt government to get their agenda pushed through and thereby trapping true, real, already identified pre-earthquake orphans in this hell -- is totally irresponsible.

    Agree to disagree with people who are so spineless as to not believe enough in what they say to use their *own names*. You are automatically disqualified from the discussion if you don't believe enough in what you're saying to share your real identity.

  15. lindsay donaldson12:32 PM

    Wow. Kristen, I have read your blogs about other HOT topics, which I won't mention here, and I KNEW you would post the other side of this UNICEF issue sooner or later. I really appreciate your INFORMED opinion and your outside of the box thinking. Thank you for writing. I am praying that the Lord will protect all of the children from the evil that is out there...

  16. Anonymous12:58 PM

    Kristen (and Tara),

    Thanks. what you do matters.

    I agree 100% about the the cowardliness of "anonymous." want to start trouble, but too afraid to show yourself.


  17. My heart aches when I read these comments. My parents are from Haiti and they raised me to be a proud American, but to be equally proud of my Haitian heritage. Some of you will think "what is there to be proud of?" To you I say "plenty."

    Tara, Troy, and countless other missionaries serve Haiti in a way that allows Haitians to maintain their dignity. Nothing in any of your blogs suggests otherwise. I read your blogs to find out what is really happening in Haiti. The press sensationalizes every story in an attempt to gain and retain your attention.

    I believe the hearts of the missionaries were in the right place when they attempted to remove the children from Haiti. They were probably blinded by what they perceived as the right thing to do. As a mother, my initial reaction is to grab any child i see is in harm's way.

    The debate over Haitian adoption is not new. There are differing points of view and many considerations. The children have an immediate need for food, shelter, and security. But what happens when someone adopts a child of another culture to "rescue" that child because s/he believes that the "American way" is the only way?

    Childhood is short relative to adulthood. What we learn as children shapes who we become as adults. Please consider your beliefs and biases. If you're adopting a Haitian child, but look down on Haiti and the Haitian people, you will do harm in the long run. Can a Haitian child who hears only "Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere" or "Haiti is cursed" or "Haiti made a pact with devil" grow into an emotionally healthy adult?

    Imagine moving to a place where your American culture and heritage are constantly maligned and marginalized. Imagine being the ONLY American in that place. How do you maintain a healthy sense of self in this environment? We've heard plenty about people with low self-esteem. People who feel they are not "good enough" generally do not make good decisions. In the US, the standard for deciding who is "deserving" is very high. Brown people, unless they are wealthy, are typically at the bottom. The brown people who succeed are usually the ones who have people they trust who tell them that they are deserving and are "good enough." The people who oppose cross-cultural or transracial adoption fear that the adoptees will not receive the support they need to succeed in this world. As a brown woman, I can tell you that it is nice growing up with role models and others to encourage me. There is nothing sinister about that. I do not oppose cross-cultural or transracial adoptions. Please be aware that those in opposition are not the enemy and that they have valid reasons. If you adoption across culture or race, you have an obligation to be your child's cheerleader and to validate who they ARE. Validating a Haitian child includes finding positive things to say about Haiti and Haitian culture. "Yes Pierre, [insert negative] is true, but did you know [insert positive]?"

    There is a solution and we must constructively pressure the people in power to find one that is in the best interest of the children. Children already identified as orphans and released by their parents for adoption must be permitted to find a new family. Unfortunately, attacks on Haiti, Haitian culture, or the Haitian government will certainly hinder the process. Maligning the government will only cause it to further dig in its heals. This is not in the children's best interest.

    I commend the bloggers who take the time to provide information we are not getting from the mass media. Stay focused. We support your work.

  18. SAHM Esquire--THANK YOU for your thoughtful comment. Having lived in Haiti as a missionary and as the adoptive mother of a Haitian child, I so appreciate you taking the time to give us your perspective, it does not go unheeded. And Kristen and Tara--I always appreciate your honesty, insight, and gifts for sharing your journeys with God through blogging. Wish we had had enough internet access to use a blog to communicate while we lived in Haiti. Peace.

  19. Love your honesty. Thank you for taking the time to post this. Praying for Haiti.

  20. one thing i have to say is "a fool answers a matter before hearing both sides of the story". i am afraid many of the people leaving comments are answering before hearing BOTH sides!! thank YOU for your heart for God and your willingness to serve Him. i have been praying about adopting from haiti ever since my family visited there 2 summers ago. i wonder now if that could ever happen...
    keep serving JESUS!! he is the faithful judge.

  21. Anonymous12:27 PM

    The thing is, it is very complicated. These things are horrifying to our way of thinking for sure.

    This reminds me of when I was involved with a feminist organization that wanted to prevent cliterectomy in Africa. The practice of mutilating little girls in often unsanitary conditions.

    We were met with a lot of opposition from people who called themselves "women of color" they were sick of white women forcing their views on everyone.

    I have to say their argument made a lot of sense to me. The arrogance it takes to put yourself in a position that you think emptying a country of its children is a moral highground is astounding when you take a step back.

    You know better than the rest of the world. God gave us humans tremendous egos did he not? It is important to not mistake our need for praise with God's words.

  22. Anonymous12:35 PM

    UNICEF IMO is not anti-adoption. They are anti-child trafficking. That is what was happening in Guatemala. There is proof of it.

    My husband and I were wondering which organization we should send money to to help the people of Haiti. Your blog tipped our decision to UNICEF. I just made a nice donation today. Thank you.

  23. I'm glad people are logging in. If this is your first time to my blog I would encourage you to read a bit further before making snap judgments. I am an advocate of ethical adoptions and open records, and I am consistenly annoyed with the savior mentality in adoption.

    That being said, in regards to this comment
    "The arrogance it takes to put yourself in a position that you think emptying a country of its children is a moral highground is astounding when you take a step back."

    No one wants to empty a country of its children. We only want the children who are in the process of being adopted to be allowed to continue. Speaking of arrogance, though, I would argue that UNICEF is showing cultural arrogance by assuming that Haitian women cannot possibly make an adoption plan for their children. Coming in to another country and disallowing women this choice is very presumptive, especially when many of them don't have access to health care or birth control. Haiti has a rather stringent process of assuring that birthmothers are informed and serious, and even interview them at the end of the process to be sure it's what they want. I think it's incredibly arrogant of UNICEF to come in and act like impoverished women can't make decisions for themselves.

  24. Anonymous8:43 PM

    I really wasn't trying to be holier-than-thou. I mean I relate to your motivations, as I stated, I was involved in a group that wanted to stop cliterectomy.

    I mean it is so beyond my experience that mutilating little girls is an okay thing. Some of the accounts, you can read them yourself, girls cut with broken parts of coke bottles, girls dying from infection.

    How can anyone get behind that?

    They can and they do.

    You have to step back and think of what an adoption plan means. Take a step back and think of one of your adorable children being taken from you.

    Let's say there was a natural disaster or you were sick, what would you prefer? Help to keep your child or a Paris Hilton type picking up your child and riding away on a vespa with your baby in her purse?

    That is their scenario.

    Think about it from their point of view.

    Think about you, for whatever reason, unable to care for your own children. How devastating, right?

    What would you want?

  25. Joy, your comment is confusing. Where have I given the impression that I am in support of an "adoption plan" like what you just described? Those examples are NOT adoption plans. Of course I would not want to see children taken from parents who are displaced or sick. I have never advocated for the displaced children of this earthquake being placed in adoptive homes. To me, an ethical adoption plan involves a woman making an informed and willing decision not to parent her child, which I believe is her right to do.


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