In the weeks since the January 12th earthquake that rocked the island of Haiti, there has been a tremendous increase in adoption inquiries. As the rest of the world watches, we cannot help but hurt and hope and desperately seek ways to help. Pictures of orphans and news stories of destruction cause us all to want to grab a passport and come home with as many children possible.
It is normal.
Yet, it is not practical. At this point in time, it is also not best.
Haiti's infrastructure is almost impossible for many Americans to comprehend. There is no public postal system as we know it. Chief Postal Inspector William R. Gilligan, Jr. of the USPS recently stated: "Members of the Universal Postal Union all are playing a role in rebuilding the Haitian Postal System." Yet, those who are familiar with Haiti know that means starting with basically nothing. If you pay for electricity, you are not guaranteed electricity in Haiti. It comes and goes in no predictable pattern. Infrastructure helps or hinders adoption.
The children of Haiti need every opportunity to be raised -- in Haiti -- in a safe and healthy home (even if, right now, it is a tent). Due to the recent catastrophe, it will easily take weeks, possibly months, to locate family of displaced children. Yet, for the sake of these kids, that must be the main focus at this time.
Just recently, Licia Betor of the Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center (RHFH) talked about a young boy who had been treated at the US Comfort ship. International rescue teams pulled him from rubble three days after the quake. There were nine members of his family living in his home. He was the only one to survive. The people at RHFH worked diligently to find more extended family. They discovered his father was living, but the two had no relationship. Finally, an uncle was discovered. "The family has no house to live in, so we will keep him here a while longer to recover. His uncle is working on finding a place for them to live," said Betor.
This boy will remain in his country, with family he knows and with whom he already has a bond. That must remain the main goal for now as more people are located and more families are reunited.
On the flip side, UNICEF has certainly been at the forefront in the adoption discussion during the past weeks. I do not agree with UNICEF's hardcore stance against international adoption. While UNICEF does many things well, they have hurt and hindered children in this area. In areas of poverty, political unrest and lack of infrastructure, I believe there has to be a balance. UNICEF does not agree.
In 2008, after excessive pressure from UNICEF, Guatemala agreed to try a very radical approach to their orphan crisis. Adoptions outside the country were closed and an aggressive campaign began to recruit foster and adoptive homes. In October of that year, Oscar Avila of the Chicago Tribune wrote a piece on this program titled, "Guatemala Seeks Domestic Fix to Troubled Overseas Adoptions." He reported that the program was not only questionable but appeared to be falling on its face. "Only about 45 families in a nation of 13 million currently have taken in foster children since the program began this year," Avila wrote.
So, should we adopt from Haiti? Should we not?
For now, we must wait. For the children and all they deserve, we must wait. It is okay to be fighting for those already in the process. Those children have been matched. Those regulations have already been met. Yet, for those who just now appear orphaned, we must allow time for their story to be uncovered and their appropriate "forever" to be secured.
When the time does come, I encourage everyone who has an interest to begin to ask a lot of questions and truly learn what it is to raise a child from another race and/or culture. If you don't love Haiti, you can't love these kids. So, it's okay to find out and uncover whether or not this is more for you than just a tugging of the heartstrings. I've had plenty of tugs in my life, but the actual parenting part requires some heavy-gauge wire!
In the meantime, there are some efforts beginning to surface in ways which we can all help children in Haiti by helping families. Keep your eyes on Heartline Ministries, as they hope to soon be announcing the opportunity to sponsor an entire family. How wonderful to give a family what they are lacking to provide for themselves, and keep children with their first loves.
The children of Haiti deserve our effort, our voices, our understanding ... and our patience.
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