Excuse Me While I Rant! My Perspective on Haitian Adoption

A friend of mine posed the question; “I’m thinking… why are people so anxious to “help” the children of Haiti by adopting them, removing them from their culture, their country, their language and their homes? Wouldn’t it be better to help rebuild and invest in the children there, so they can develop into the country’s future leaders?”

The comment got me to thinking about the current crisis in Haiti.  While I’m sure that my friend has the best of intentions when asking this question, I found myself having a pretty strong reaction to it.  It’s a busy morning for me here, so pardon my unedited and hardly proof-read response.  I just couldn’t not write anything about it!

Perhaps it was a slight leaning toward the vilification of adoptive parents.  Or maybe because it conjured in me the idea that Haiti, even before this crisis, was a delightful place to raise a child.  I am going to attempt give words to these strong feelings, for my self, but so that I can be a voice in some very small way for the orphans of Haiti (and all over the world for that matter.)

By now it should be obvious to all of us that Haiti is in a crisis beyond any of our imaginations.  Before the earthquake, Haiti was already the #1 most impoverished country in the western hemisphere.  Number 1.  So lets not kid our selves here, with an 80% poverty rate, and an abject poverty rate at over 50% (pre-quake) there are a lot of very practical needs of Haitian children that are not being met.

People all over the world have opened their wallets and given money to the people of Haiti.  That is a wonderful gesture of good will and very generous, but in the end some problems need more than our collective paycheck, and they need it now.  While my children all went to sleep in their own beds last night with full tummies and a hug from their parents, it is heartbreaking to me to think that there are children in Haiti, and around the world, that don’t have that.  I think prospective adoptive parents are looking at the situation in Haiti and from a really practical, tangible standpoint have stepped up.  Not only have they opened their wallets, they have opened their homes and hearts.  That takes guts.

It will be years before any of the money being funneled to Haiti becomes anything tangible for these kids, and while it’s a great story, “Earthquake Victim Child Rises From Rubble Of Haiti To Become New Charismatic Leader!” it is not going to be the case for most of those children.  Sadly, the odds are not in their favor.   It is likely that without parental support from people who are emotionally and financially dedicated to them, they will become the next even more impoverished generation, and on top of that they will be parentless.  I find that extremely sad.

Most people willing to raise an orphan are not able to uproot and move to the child’s home country in order to provide them a home.  And to back up a little bit, we are talking about adoptive parents who are not looking for healthy, white, newborn, “perfect in every way” babies, and we are talking about kids who have been through horrific trauma, are sick (HIV is rampant in Haiti), and poverty stricken.  I’m wondering which is worse, living in abject poverty without parents, or learning a new culture and language?  I know many adoptive parents, in fact, embrace their child’s native culture and earnestly try to teach them about it.  I think about how I have grown to love my husband’s family and traditions because they are a part of him, whom I love and adore, and can’t imagine an adoptive parent not embracing the culture of a child they love and adore as well.   Adoption isn’t a neat and tidy solution.  These parents have signed up to get down and dirty and they have their work cut out for them.   They certainly are doing more than many of us rubberneckers!  Many of us gawk at our televisions and send $10 text donations, while they have signed on to a lifetime of support for one person, possibly even a group of siblings, and have agreed to be forever changed by the events in Haiti.  I hate to say it, but it is likely that I will be as changed by the events in Haiti as I was by the events in Indonesia in 2005…

In the 10-20 years that Haiti is rebuilding the buildings, those adoptive parents will be building people, and hopefully they will be instilling in them a pride of where they have come from.  Hopefully because theses Haitian children raised with the love and support of parents, raised with stability and security that comes from parents committed to them, hopefully they will naturally have a compassion and heart for their native country and people, and they will become citizens of either country that are positive influences for us all.

Around the time my first daughter was born I heard a quote from a man named Ed Cogar that has stuck with me and I have thought a lot about it in regard to the orphans in Haiti, “It is easier to raise a child than to repair an adult.”   I applaud the parents who are stepping up in the most tangible way for the orphans of Haiti and around the world.  I believe they are most heroic.

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3 thoughts on “Excuse Me While I Rant! My Perspective on Haitian Adoption

  1. Well said, Vicki! In my short FB status, I in no way intended to imply that adoptive parents didn’t have children’s best interests at heart, but rather that there seems to be a rush to remove children from Haiti. There are people clambering to scoop up children to “save” them from their country. To me, some of it at least feels like it’s a mad grab to do something, anything to garner the praise and attention of the world: “I saved a child from Haiti.”

    I’m not talking about people who were in the process of adopting orphans from the country before the earthquake, I’m talking about the folks who are making mad dashes into the country now looking for a child to adopt. Children who have been orphaned by the earthquake may, in fact, have an aunt, uncle, grandparent in the country who would include this child in their family. How heartbreaking would it be to take a child away from the country only to find out that a grandmother has been desperately trying to find any of her remaining grandchildren?

    Worse yet are folks or who are taking children from parents who are still living. True, some Haitian parents are desperate, choosing to send their children away in hopes of a better future, but wouldn’t it be better to help those parents and communities build and develop the resources they need to raise their own children? This is what disturbs me most, as these are the same words child traffickers use to get parents to relinquish their children to lives of sex slavery, abuse, and neglect.

    We Americans too often feel that children are only well cared for if they have a comfy bed to themselves, a McDonald’s within a few miles of home, and electricity with which to watch TV and play video games. Of course, I would never deny a child the opportunity for clean water, nutrition, health care and education. I’m saying we need to be looking at ways to help Haiti develop those things.

    Programs like World Vision, Compassion, and a number of other child sponsorship programs work with children and families in their own country to provide adequate food, water, shelter, education, economic opportunities. I would much, much rather help children grow in their own culture and country, not only to become the new charismatic leader of the country, but to become the leaders of their communities: the teachers, parents, business owners, politicians, respected elders, mentors, church members of their communities.

    When adoption is truly the best option for a child, I’m all for it. But, the psychological impact on a child of being given up by a parent is immense, as is the impact of losing a parent, and then being swept away from everything that they know – their culture, language, community, friends, extended family. So, I think we need to tread lightly, and focus instead on doing what we can inside Haiti to help communities and families – in whatever form they take on – develop and grow.

  2. First off I cannot claim to be all that knowledgeable about the current adoption situation in Haiti. I have heard all sorts of tales about children who were already in process of being adopted, but none about specific situations other than those. I guess I also find it pretty cool that there are people who in moments of urgent need are willing and able to do something as radical as adoption. I don’t think they are moving on their collectible instinct as much as they are moving on their compassion instinct. Maybe I’m an optimist that way, but how does one look at an orphaned child who has been through a violent, wrenching crisis and want to parent them for status?
    You are right, every effort should be made to place them with relatives, and taking children away from parents in this situation is abhorrent! In no way would I ever want to ever see child at risk for sex trafficking!!! It would be ideal to keep them in Haiti, but in such chaos, and all reports seem to be this, it is chaos in Haiti right now, these kids are at huge risk right now for all sorts of physical, emotional, and financial vulnerability. Yes, there need to be safeguards in place for their well being, but people all over the world want to help them, not just Americans.
    I was not implying that “stuff” will help these kids, but what is wrong with a bed? It would be great if Haiti could provide even the basics for children in that country right now, but they are over whelmed, and will be for a generation or more. Kids don’t stop growing up just because there is crisis all around them. They don’t care that there is a plan. When my babies were crying in their car seats and I couldn’t pull right over, they didn’t care that I intended on meeting their needs with a warm bottle or clean pants, they only knew that they had a need that was going unmet.
    There are tons of relief organizations out there that want to help and are the vitality of relief efforts. I totally agree that they can provide all sorts of help! I would love to see Haiti grow to the vibrant community you describe, but I believe it will be at a heavy price for many orphans. How can it not? The situation at hand has so much against it. (See, I’m not really an optimist!) So I don’t think people who are doing what they can, by adopting them are harming an already dire situation, and to be clear, I’m talking about honest, above board adoptions. Consider that in some ways they may be helping it. I can’t imagine the transition it would be to loose a parent and a culture, but I personally would think that I would want to be part of a family and know the love, commitment and security of parents (even of another nationality and I’m not saying American either,) than to be alone but remaining part of a culture.
    …And, I really don’t believe these adoptive parents are doing it to bring home a little Haitian trophy. I just have to believe in the human spirit and that the overwhelming majority of people are better than that! I called this piece The Dirty Work, because that is what parenting is sometimes. It’s not easy and these are huge questions that take courage to grapple with, but there are people out there who are giving “boots on the ground” support to these kids in an attempt to meet the needs of those kids right now. It would be nice if we had a couple years to figure it out, but for some kids, we don’t. Those adoptive parents who have stepped up, they are the ones who do the dirty work, they are the ones who will be answering the tough questions when their child asks the “Why?” and I have a ton of respect for that. They are sure doing a whole lot more than me!

  3. Good thoughts, Vicki. I’m not an expert, either, but as a former prospective adoptive parent of a Haitian orphan, I do have some knowledge. First, the children being adopted who are leaving Haiti were all in process prior to the earthquake. They had been established orphans in Haiti and referred to adoptive families. Prior to the quake, the timeline from referral to homecoming was, I believe, averaging about 2 years. Some families were waiting closer to 3 years. So some of these kids who were recently referred, got home a lot sooner than if there had not been a quake.
    Though there are hundreds of thousands of orphans there, there have been only a couple hundred adopted by US families each year. (330 last year). The process to adopt from Haiti is grueling. There are pretty tight family requirements, for starters. (This is why our adoption dream didn’t get far, we had too many children.) There are multiple layers of gov’t bureaucracy (see this post: http://kashaiti.blogspot.com/2009/12/current-haitian-adoption-process.html) it is/was agonizingly slow.
    There are no new adoptions happening currently, and my guess is that there won’t be for 12-18 months. Perhaps when Haiti opens again, the process will be a bit more streamlined, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The fact is, it’s much easier to adopt from another country. So folks choosing Haiti have to be really committed, and are typically certain God has led them to that path, though it is more difficult.

    It is certainly true that it would be better for an orphaned child to find a family, in any culture, rather than spend their childhood in an institution. But the fact is, the sheer numbers of orphans in Haiti (which have only increased dramatically since the quake) will *not* be adopted. So it is imperative that we do the hard work of examining our lives to see how we can be part of the solution to the problem of those twin burdens of affluence and poverty. And those who are able to pursue adoption (and really, *everyone* should consider whether they are able… not necessarily “called” but merely able) should pursue it, whether rescuing Haitian orphans, Chinese orphans, Russian orphans, or American orphans.
    Okay… I could really go on and on, but I won’t. Thanks for your post.

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