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.