' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: What of the Children in Haitian Orphanges?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What of the Children in Haitian Orphanges?

More news since last night's post on Haitian adoptions. What will happen to the children that were in the process of being adopted? An estimated 50,000 children who were living in Haitian orphanages when Tuesday's earthquake hit, and between 800 and 900 of the children were in the process of being adopted by families in the United States. An additional 1,500 had been matched with European families, mostly in France and the Netherlands.

According to the Washington Post, the remaining children include many who might not technically be orphans but whose families could not afford to care for them, said Tom DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, a Washington-based child welfare organization that has taken the lead on negotiating their status with U.S. authorities.

So far there are no reports of deaths at the orphanages--more than 350 of them are in the country--but that is probably because everything in Haiti is chaotic as the country reels from a earthquake of a 7.5 magnitude. Water and food is scarce for everyone, and the children are in the precarious position of not having neighbors or nearby family members to look out for them. Most agencies have only a few workers taking care of many children.

To coordinate relief efforts, the Joint Council on International Children's Services has started a database of orphanages and known orphans on its Web site, http://www.jcics.org. The group hopes the list will eventually help it expedite moving the orphans from Haiti to the United States and Europe.

This is where it gets tricky: will there be a push for the wide-scale diaspora of the children? Obviously, yes. We understand the plight, but removing them from their homeland, from their extended families, from all that is familiar is not the simple matter that it at first appears to be. Experience has taught us that the wide-scale diaspora of children from their own culture is a much more complicated issue than the families who would adopt them, the social workers who facilitate the adoptions and the agencies who profit from them realize. There are plenty of reasons for tears here. It's almost certain that some children who have families in Haiti, and do not wish their children to be adopted, will be uprooted and transplanted in new families. The Post story continues:

In an e-mail Friday, Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said, "We understand the deep concern these prospective adoptive parents feel about the welfare of these children, and we are actively working to identify available options in light of the recent tragedy."
 We are giving what we can to Doctors Without Borders. 

And for more on the story, see The Daily Bastardette.


  1. Thanks for keeping up with this tragic story. Also, everyone, keep reading bastardette@blogspot.com
    for further updates and insight.

    I can see so many ways how a massive babylift can go bad for the kids involved, especially since they are Black kids coming out of culture of extreme poverty, with the trauma of the earthquake on top of that.

    There might at first be a rush of well-meaning but ill-prepared prospective adoptive parents, but many of the less attractive among these kids will eventually be warehoused in substandard institutional and foster care....like other minority kids in this country. Cynically, I do not think the fad of having a Haitian orphan in your "forever family" will last very long, and that some of these adoptions will terminate when it becomes apparent love does not fix the serious problems many of these kids will have.

    A much better way to handle this is to make a real effort to find the families of as many of these kids as possible, including family in the USA, and expediting getting those kids out and to relatives as quickly as possible. The other is to put all efforts into rebuilding Haiti for all the people there, including the children, including local care and ethical adoption for real orphans, but this is far down the road after it is determined which children really have no surviving family.

    I can't get too excited about prospective adoptive parents upset about the kids they were supposed to get but do not really know, when so many Haitians here and in Haiti are grieving for family and friends they have known all their lives. It sad that some people's fantasy will not be realized, but that is not the same as a real loss of known people.

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  3. I often feel that way too, Improper Adoptee--when you are a reporter covering a story there is a point you have to be first a human being giving whatever aid you can, not a "neutral
    observer. Didn't see the show last night.


  4. This is a very scary situation. Haiti's hundreds of children in orphanages is not just a lack of parent issue. The reasoning behind the lack of parents is even more realistic and tragic.

    Haiti is the AIDS capitol of the world. The population of Haiti has had, at minimum almost a 40% AIDS saturation for over three decades.

    Most of these children are, or were exposed to AIDS - which is not being publicized - as well as the simple fact that no one at this time can tell which child is which, with the exception of the orphanage owners/managers - whatever.

    So, the situation is more grave than you can imagine.....

  5. I'm feeling conflicted about all this, or maybe confused is a better word. I'm a mother who lost her son to adoption in the 80s, "in reunion" for several years. I'm not exactly anti-adoption, more like anti-most-adoptions.

    I have a friend, not a close friend, who has adopted several children from Haiti, has one completed adoption of a teen boy who is still living in Haiti and one more adoption in the early-ish stages. All but one of the kids are siblings with the same mother, different fathers. The mother has had something like 8 kids and she basically just drops them all off at the orphanage at some point by the time they are 4 or 5. The mother has severe mental illness, the situation is just ... really hard. The key to how to best help these kids, I don't know what that is, it's so complicated. I want to say there's a better way than uprooting kids from their culture, bringing them here. When I see this family, I don't know what to think, my knee jerk reaction to adoption is so strong. But what I see now is a family, the kids living here with my friend, they're just kids, happy delightful children, they're part of this new family and they all speak very openly about where they came from and their adoption. My friend and her husband don't see themselves as rescuers, or humanitarians, or anything, I don't know, but it was easier to think about this stuff before I knew this family, that's for sure!

  6. Aimee, Lori, everyone:

    Thanks for the comments. We have a tendency to think about adoption from only our point of view--that of the surrendering mother--and it's good for us sometimes to reflect that the alternative to being adopted is growing up in an institution and being let out at 16 or 18 without family support. That is a bleak future indeed.

  7. If we think the best thing for Haiti's children is to bring them to the United States, then why don't we transport children AND THEIR FAMILIES to the United States? We did that after Katrina -- we shipped WHOLE FAMILIES out of New Orleans.

    Compassion is a wonderful thing, but heart cannot rule the head. Adoption experts say that removing traumatized children from the only world they have ever known is NOT the answer.

    So the best practice is to FLY GOODS and SERVICE PROVIDERS to Haiti to help children in orphanages to be cared for by the caregivers they know.

    Children whose orphan status is unknown should also be cared for IN HAITI so as to make reunification with their families easier. So DONATE MONEY to organizations that HELP CHILDREN, not organizations that forcus only on adopting children.

    This isn't ROCKET SCIENCE. We may not have done a great job in New Orleans, but we did take care of families and children without any talk of adoption . . . .

  8. Your thoughts on the tragedy in Haiti have been interesting to read. So so much devestation there, on so many levels.

  9. Vultures...NOT storks.

    That image with the bird carrying the baby is FOREVER CHANGED FOR ME.

  10. I encourage anyone on this list who has never been to an orphanage in a third world country (including Russia/Eastern Europe) to visit one before any more opinions are rendered about what would be the best thing for these children.

  11. Thank you for posting the last comment. I have been involved with and studying this issue for years and agree that keeping families intact is a good thing. But even before this earthquake there were over 380,000 children living in orphanages in Haiti who were never going to be reunited with their families, alive or dead. I agree we need to work to solve these problems on a bigger scale (i.e. figure our why families abandon their children, help stop worldwide poverty etc.) but that will take more time than these children have got. In my view we can't let those who are already on this earth rot while we hope to help future generations. Please, please, please....save your pennies and visit these places. I promise it will change your views about finding these kids homes right now while we work to change the world.



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