In a move mirroring Operation Pedro Pan in the 1960s, Catholic Charities and other South Florida immigrant rights organizations are planning an ambitious effort to airlift possibly thousands of Haitian children left orphaned in the aftermath of Tuesday's horrific earthquake.And the comments left at the Herald say the same thing: adopt, adopt, adopt--how can I/we get a child. I do not mean to disparage many who are commenting there because truly they want to open their hearts and homes to children in need. Haiti is an incredibly beautiful country, verdant and vibrant; but poor, incredibly poor. I spent a week there in the mid Seventies and was struck by the friendliness of the Haitians, their colorful art, side by side with tin shacks, rundown bicycles, the lack of a country-wide sewer system.
``We will use the model we used 40 years ago with Pedro Pan to bring these orphans to the United States to give them a lifeline, a bright and hopeful future,'' Catholic Charities Legal Services executive director Randolph McGrorty said at a news conference in the offices of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
``Given the enormity of what happened in Haiti, a priority is to bring these orphaned children to the United States,'' he said.
Archdiocese of Miami officials and other local organizations have already identified a temporary shelter in Broward County to house the children, McGrorty said.
We understand that for some children there will be no alternative but to find them homes in other countries, and the adoption diaspora will continue, but with a difference. Pedro Pan was clearly motivated by the Catholic Church to get the children out of the clutches of the anti-religion Communism of Castro's Cuba. Haitians are Christians--Catholics in fact, with a smattering, or more than a smattering of native voo-doo thrown in; a large percentage are now evangelical Christians. But most of the children brought to this country will have families there, huge extended families that could care for them and let them grow up as they were born--if only there were aid enough. But here is how the story will end:
By the time it ended 22 months later, the unique exodus of children -- ages 5 to 17 -- had brought 14,048 unaccompanied Cuban minors to America, with the secret help of the U.S. government, which funded the effort and supplied the visa waivers, and the Catholic church, which promised to care for the children.The late Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, a Miami priest, was considered the father of the [Pan Pedro] effort. As the children filtered into Miami and their numbers swelled, many went to live with relatives and family friends, but others were sent to Miami-Dade group homes and camps called Florida City, Kendall and Matecumbe. They were then relocated across the country to archdioceses in places like Nebraska, Washington and Indiana.
There, they went to live in orphanages, foster homes and schools until their parents could find a way out of Cuba. Sometimes the separation was brief; sometimes it lasted years.And we know because of all that has happened before, the separations that for many the separations that lasted for years became a lifetime. I do not have an answer, I do not have close ties with anyone in government who I might talk to and suggest that wholesale adoptions should not be considered first, but last.
Yet I am sad. Why is the whole sale adoption of children, the reassigning of cultures, the first reaction? Why not a concerted effort to keep the children with their extended families?
In the meantime, nut job TV evangelist Pat Robertson is blaming the earthquake and resultant disaster on the Haitians "pact with the devil." Truly the man is evil himself. For more on the situation in Haiti, see Daily Bastardette's excellent blog on the matter.
Jane here: In a few months, Vietnam Babylift will celebrate the 35th anniversary of Operation Babylift where over 3,500 infants and children were taken from orphanages and their families to the US during the panic created when South Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese. President Ford counted this as one of his proudest achievements. Others are critical, noting that many of the children were not were orphans. Sadly too, one of the planes crashed, killing over 100 children. The poignant PBS documentary Daughter From Danang chronicles one woman's journey back to her family in Vietnam. According to her mother, women were frightened by the Holt International Adoption Agency to give up their children. They were told the Americans would return with their children.