haitian orphans: two years later, still UNICEF’d

I spent a little time today reflecting on Haiti and watching some of the news updates about the country on the two-year mark since the earthquake.  While I remain ever grateful that Kembe, Karis, and I survived the earthquake, it’s still a hard day to remember not only how personally difficult it was, but to be mindful of how far the country still has to go to rebuild.  As I was watching some of the coverage, I came across this piece talking about the current situation for orphans in Haiti.  It was discouraging, to say the least.

 

One of the reasons we chose to adopt from Haiti was because we knew not many people were willing to do it.  We knew there was not a long queue of adoptive parents waiting to be matched with a child . . . we knew that the converse way true – that many kids were waiting for a family.  We were aware of the red tape and the long wait, but we were up for the challenge if it meant providing a home for a child who otherwise might not have one.  Obviously, as I watch Kembe flourish and grow as a member of our family, I am so glad we did.  But it was an incredibly hard process – it took nearly three years, despite the fact that Kembe’s birthparents died, and despite the fact that we entered the process with piles of paperwork recommending us fit to be parents.  On occasion I will let myself dwell on what those three years did to Kembe’s spirit. . . how the difference in him coming home three years sooner might  have changed so many of his current struggles.  If I think about it too much, I can become seriously enraged, because it was so unneccessry.  Obviously, I believe that there should have been checks and balances in place to ensure that he wasn’t being stolen, or that we weren’t psychotic.  But three years?  Not okay.

That’s why watching this news program was so disheartening to me.  The earthquake has not changed this delay for orphans in Haiti.  If anything, it’s made it worse.  It’s clear that the new head of IBSER is being highly influenced by UNICEF (she says so herself).  And while UNICEF’s theory of adoption as a last resort is a good one in theory, most of the people who work in orphan care on the ground will tell you that IN PRACTICE, children without parents are being denied a family based on political pressure.  It is really troubling to me that, despite the number of new orphans the earthquake produced, Haiti is still clinging to it’s archaic rules about couples needing to be married for 10 years, and to have no biological children, and be over 30 years old, in order to adopt.  It’s disgusting to me, in fact, that this woman who is in charge of the well-being of Haiti’s children can stand outside such an overcrowded orphanage and shake her head at willing families because the couple hasn’t been married long enough.

It’s also really concerning to me that Arielle Jeanty is using the “we need to keep these children to become tomorrow’s leaders” rhetoric.  While I completely agree that adoption should be a last resort, I believe that there are thousands of children in Haiti who are in that “last resort” place.  To relegate them to a live in an orphanage on some notion that they will later lead the country is so cruel.  There are plenty of children living in families in Haiti who will hopefully receive the love and encouragement from a parent that will give them the confidence to be Haiti’s next leaders.

Watch the child at minute 2:40 in the video.  See the way she’s rocking herself?  That’s not autism.  That’s a child who has learned to self-soothe out of neglect.  That behavior is common in orphanages, and no doubt it’s the tip of the iceburg in terms of behavioral manifestations of neglect for that small child.  It should be a horrifying sight, when you really know what it signifies. THAT should be the subject of this news piece.  Notice the brief footage of the orphanage.  Children are in their cribs in the middle of the day.  Cribs are lining the walls.  Kids are 20 to a room.  It is entirely unrealistic (and contradictory to psychological research) to propose that these children should stay in the country to be the next leaders.  The prognosis is not good for adults with institutionalized behaviors and attachment disorder. 

 

If you aren’t sure about how these policies effect children, watch this video at the 2 minute mark. It will turn your stomach - but I think it's important to see how UNICEF's policies are playing out.  

I am so disheartened that children in Haiti continue to suffer, and even more disheartened that children continue to suffer based on well-intended policies taken too far at the expense of those they intend to protect. If UNICEF is going to police adoption, then they should also police the conditions that children are living in. They should be working on reunification, and if that doesn't work, on a swift permanency plan. They should be locating the papers needed to move kids into permanent families, instead of setting up kids to be lifetime orphans. And if their policies are clearly leading to child neglect, they should be ashamed.

Two years later. Not good enough.


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