Adoption agencies, church leaders, and an assortment of do-gooders are decrying the “red tape” that prevents them from bringing Haitian orphans to the U.S. and other affluent countries. In response, Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced a “humanitarian parole” policy to expedite adoptions from Haiti. The first of 900 children “whom the Haitian government had already identified as orphans, and whom adoption agencies had matched with couples in the United States” arrived in the United States January 19, only a week after the devastating earthquake. These 53 children are being screened for medical conditions and will be placed in their adoptive homes.(NY Times 1/19/10)
The adoptee rights organization, Bastard Nation, meanwhile, has faxed a statement to the State Department calling for a halt in these evacuations until thorough investigations are conducted. We at FMF support BN’s effort and urge others to do so as well. Excerpts from the statement follow this post.
Prior to the January 12 earthquake, there were an estimated 380,000 orphans in Haiti living in about 200 legitimate orphanages and group homes, according to the U. N. Children’s Fund. The earthquake undoubtedly created many more orphans. Bringing orphaned children to the US is the “moral and human thing to do” asserted Mary Ross Agosta spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami which is urging the US Government to create a “Pierre Pan” program similar to the “Pedro Pan” program which brought over 14,000 Cuban children to the US between 1960 and 1962. A similar program, Operation Babylift airlifted over 3,300 children from South Vietnam as it fell to the North Vietnamese army in 1975.
But what’s red tape really? In it grandest form, it prevents despots from trampling on the rights of the less powerful. Red tape assures that those accused of crimes have a fair trial. If lawmakers hadn’t shredded red tape, banks would not have failed while their CEOs received multi-million dollar bonuses.
Red tape in the adoption business protects children and families. Susan Soon-Keum Cox, Vice-President of Holt International Children’s Services based in Eugene, Oregon, warns that “It’s incredibly important in times like this to take every precaution that an ethical, professional, compassionate process takes place. There may be children that appear to be orphans, but we need to make sure there are no other family members or neighbors willing and happy to take that child into their family. We can’t rush in and assume that they’d be better off somewhere else.” (Oregonian 1-20-10)
When bureaucrats cut red tape to enable zealots, the results are not pretty. According to E. Wayne Carp (Family Matters, 1998), in the mid-nineteen century, the founder of the Children’s Aid Society, Charles Loring Brace, moved hundreds of children from New York to rural areas where they were often forced to work as unpaid laborers in order to save the children from “neglectful or abusive or Catholic parents” (Italic ours). Georgia Tann spirited hundreds of children from poor families in the 1930s to the 1950s to meet the needs of wealthy would-be parents wrote Barbara Bisantz Raymond in The Baby Thief (2007). Government officials allowed Brace and Tann to circumvent child protection laws and operate under a cloak of secrecy. Pedro Pan and Operation Babylift also separated children needlessly from their families, covering up illegal and unconscionable actions by destroying or falsifying records.
The fact that 380,000 children--out of a total Haitian population of ten million--were in orphanages is the result of misguided policies by organizations set up to help poor Haitian children. Establishing orphanages is relatively simple and provides immediate help to poor families struggling to feed their children. However, the orphanages soon become crowded as indigent people send their children to them. To alleviate the crowding, agencies then make the children available for adoption and they are sent off to other countries, as is almost certainly the case of two Haitian children we wrote about last week. Both had mothers in Haiti. A young girl adopted at age nine, was wondering if her mother had survived the earthquake; the boy adopted at age two, may not remember he had a mother before he came to this country. We ask: Why were these children adopted at all?
The people who adopt these children are, for the most part, kind and generous people who truly want to help a needy child. While adoption may help a particular child, it should never be seen as a solution for child poverty. Far better would be the establishment of schools and economic development programs to end poverty. We encourage our readers wishing to help Haitian children to donate to established relief agencies such as Portland-based Mercy Corps, Doctors Without Borders, or the Red Cross which will help children stay with their families in Haiti.
Excerpts From the Bastard Nation statement:
“We urge US State Department and other US authorities in Haiti to (1) remove private special interests and those with conflicts of interest, such as adoption agencies and ministries, from the child welfare decision-making process and (2) halt the evacuation of children and their placement for adoption in the US.
We also urge the State Department to suspend pending adoptions. Haitian paperwork is lost or destroyed. Rock Cadet, the judge most responsible and knowledgeable about pipeline cases, died in the quake. Though the US Embassy survived, US paperwork is probably unavailable for some time, if it still exists. Without proof of Haitian court or Embassy status, any adoption removal from the country, without thorough background investigation and due process, is illegal and not in the best interest of the child.
Needless to say, no new adoptions should be processed.
In the post-quake chaos, children need protection from predatory snatchers. Bastard Nation, therefore, supports the expedited removal of Haitian children, orphans or otherwise, to credible and documented parents or family members in the US for temporary or permanent placement depending on the circumstances. These children must not be assumed adoptable and scooped up for fast-track adoption. They should be a top priority. We urge the State Department or other government or credible private and disinterested agencies to assist Haitians in the US to locate child kin and bring them to the US.
We understand why people want to open their arms and hearts to the children of the Haitian earthquake, but adoption is not emergency or humanitarian aid or a solution to Haiti’s ongoing problems. The immediate rescue effort in Haiti should focus on emergency services, individual and family care and family reunification, not family, community, and cultural destruction and the strip-mining of children.”