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.