Wednesday, December 14, 2011

UNICEF & Declining Adoption Numbers

The Waning of International Adoption
Numbers Don't Lie

This information was provided by Harvard Professor Elizabeth Bartholet:
The depressing 2011 statistics demonstrate the ongoing reduction in international adoption. 2011 Adoption Statistic

UNICEF Continues to Undermine International Adoption
A powerful new film documentary demonstrates the harsh impact on unparented children of the elimination of Guatemala's former international adoption system. This film does an extraordinary job of documenting the problematic role UNICEF plays in international adoption policy. Abandoned in Guatemala

Andrea Poe urges people not to buy UNICEF holiday cards given the destructive role that UNICEF has played in denying unparented children homes in international adoption.
Why I Won't Buy UNICEF Cards

Is There a Better Way Forward?
The Separate Statement on international adoption policy was issued as part of the recent Way Forward Project led by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. This Way Forward Project is designed to encourage the reduction in the use of institutions as a method of addressing the needs of unparented children in six African nations. An important Separate Statement promoting international adoption as a key method of serving children's needs was incorporated in the Way Forward Project's Final Report. This Statement was signed by: Elizabeth Bartholet, Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law, Harvard University, Dana E. Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Tendai Masiriri, International Services Manager for Africa Programs, Bethany Christian Services International, Inc. and Elizabeth Styffe, RN MN, Director HIV/AIDS & Orphan Care Initiatives, Saddleback Church.
Promoting Permanency through Adoption
Center for Adoption Policy
Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One-Year Anniversary

Today is the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. My family and I survived this horrific event, physically unharmed (aside from a few bumps and bruises), but we lost most of our belongings in the aftermath…

It has been an emotional day for me that has been filled with feeling sad but at the same time feeling in awe as to what the human spirit can withstand.

I moved back to the U.S. in August, my kids and husband joined me in November. His mother and brother and many other relatives remain in Haiti.

Haiti is like a prison for most Haitians because no country seems to welcome Haitians. Only 5% of the rubble has been cleared! Most of the aid money promised has never arrived! I feel frustrated and somewhat angry because the big governments could help Haiti if they really wanted to… Haiti really does not seem to have much importance to the rest of the world leaders and governments. In my opinion, the only way that Haiti could be build up would be to take most of the people off the island. Rebuild it nice, then invite people back. Most Haitians have relatives in the U.S., Canada and Europe (mostly in France). That could get about 70% of the population out of Haiti to do the work.

I know this might sound utopian, but I do not see how the country can be rebuild (when it was in terrible shape before the earthquake even struck) with all the people crammed into the Port-au-Prince geographic area!

Thanks for allowing me to get this off my chest.

Monday, May 31, 2010

New Law? --- Not so fast....

The new law was ratified by the Haitian Parliament. However in order for it to become law, it also has to be voted on and passed by the Haitian Senate. Currently, the senate does not have all its members and it does not have a quorum. Additionally, once it is passed by the Haitian Senate, it has to be published for a while in order for it to be passed into law. 

Thus, there really is not "new law"... not yet anyways...

Also, there is a bit of a scandal surrounding the "new law". While the "new law" was being written, composed, there were several meetings of all the stakeholders, including Creche Directors. ("Creche" is an orphanage that is licensed to process adoptions.) These directors proposed changes and these were edited into the proposed law. 

However, the wording of the "new law" that was ratified and passed by the Haitian Parliament did not have any of those changes and edits. The "new law" that was put forth to the parliament was exactly the wording that UNICEF had proposed! 

Hmmm... do you smell a rat? I sure do!

The Creche Directors were furious about this "fast one" being pulled... They are organizing to lobby the Senators (old, new, etc.) before the Senate will pass the law in an attempt to pass the law as it was written after the many editing sessions. So this is not done yet!

Also, the Haitian Parliament passed this "new law" in one of its emergency sessions where they were supposed to only look, discuss and ratify laws that were of emergency! 

According to the "new law" - couples who have been married at least 5 years and are older than 30, with no biological children are given preference to adopt in Haiti. 
- It mentions that biological children are no obstacle at one point in "the law" but at the beginning it states that the couple is to be without bio kids. (I still need to spend more time reading the text.)

-If the couple is not married but has lived together for at least 10 years, they can also adopt.

- Only divorced women and divorced men over the age of 35 without any biological children can adopt.

- I am not sure if dossiers can be sent to orphanages directly for matching or if the dossiers have to be sent directly to IBESR for matching? I need to find the time to sit down and read "the law".

- Orphanages will be financially penalized if they accept a child and do not report the child to IBESR within three days! That one is a biggy because the fine is a lot of money! Many orphanages have the capacity to accept children, but are not doing so because of financial implications. Who is financially supporting the orphanages and their kids? Only the big ones that have church sponsorship or sponsorship from other sources can survive and care for kids right now. IBESR or UNICEF do not give financial support to orphanages.

On a side note - I was told by one creche director that UNICEF showed up at her creche with armed guards in order to "inspect" her orphanage. Armed Guards? Really? COME ON NOW!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Housing Situation in Port-au-Prince

I wanted to give a small update, it really has nothing to do with adoptions, but it is affecting children. 

*** The tent situation has gotten a little better, but there are still many more tents needed. I do not know if the international aid groups do not have good guides to help show them around, but there are many more fields and areas in the outskirts of PAP where families continue living in bed sheet tents. It has been raining a lot. When I say "raining", I mean RAINING for hours and strong rain! 

*** Some people's homes were not destroyed and now international aid workers are seeking housing. As a result, renters are being evicted because they cannot pay as much as the international aid workers. Some families are getting as little as a one-week notice to move out. 

*** Sexual harassment is getting worse for women and girls in their teens. The problem with living in tent cities or bed sheet tent cities is that there is really very little privacy and security. It is not like one can lock a door or gate. From my observations and with talking with women/girls I know, it is a real security threat. It is bad enough that so many women and girls have to depend on a man to help them get food, shelter, basic necessities, in addition to all too constant verbal sexual comments,  but women and girls have to worry about getting sexually assaulted.  

*** On a side note, I have female friends who work for the U.N. and they constantly tell me about verbal sexual harassment and sexual touching that they have to endure from the male U.N. soldiers and employees. They are afraid to complain and endure this kind of treatment because they are afraid that they will lose their jobs if they do. 

*** The security situation has gotten worse since many of the U.S. Army troops have left the country. I think that was a bad decision to have them leave. Right on the street that I live on, a man was shot to death during a robbery by four men with guns. The man's son watched the attack and his father being shot. The father had driven his car to the local bakery and they were going to buy bread. Another incident happened in the city where two Haitian police men were shot and killed by criminals. These are just two incidences, there are others. It is no longer safe to go to the bank, to go shopping and to go into the city to run errands! Sad but true!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Haiti Update

I am in the U.S. for a few days after having escorted some adopted children to the U.S. from Haiti. We did not have any electricity since the earthquake, let alone any internet access. I am not sure how long it will be before we have electricity and/or internet after I return to Haiti. I wanted to post some information regarding Haitian adoptions and information for the general public to understand what children came to the U.S. (and other countries) post-earthquake.

(1) I want people to realize that the Haitian children, with a few exceptions, that were brought to the U.S. (and other countries) after the January 12th earthquake, were mostly children who had already been adopted by foreign families or who were in the middle of the adoption process by those foreign families.

In talking to people, it seems that many people think that the children who were brought out of Haiti on Humanitarian Parole "visas" were orphaned children who needed homes after the earthquake. Some people that I have spoken to seem to think that families who want a child merely stepped forward to claim an orphan. I want to dispell this misunderstanding.

Most of the children, I am especially speaking of the children who I obtained humanitarian parole for were children who already had valid Haitian adoption decrees. Their adoption files were in the Ministry of Interior (in Port-au-Prince) awaiting passport approval letters so that they could be issued Haitian passports and then could have their immigration visas applied for at the U.S. Consulate in Haiti. Most of the families had been in the adoption process for one to three years at the time of the earthquake. I had one child who had IBESR adoption authorization, but the rest of the children had already been adopted by their families.

(2) I know that a lot of families have come forward to inquire about adopting a child from Haiti, "earthquake orphans". Though I personally think that UNICEF is doing more damage than good, especially in Haiti with their anti-adoption attitude, I have to agree with them that in terms of children who seem to have lost their parent(s) during the earthquake should not be released for adoption unless we know that their parent(s) is(are) dead and no relatives can care for them.

What people do not seem to understand is that under U.S. immigration law, the term "orphan" has its own legal definition:

(a) A child whose parents are deceased; or

(b) A child who has one living parent who is not able to care for that child under country-based standards and who has relinquished this child; or

(c) A child whose living parents (both parents) have abandoned that child.

Based on my personal working experience in adoptions, proving to the U.S. government during the orphan investigation process that a child's parents are deceased is the most difficult thing to do and that makes it the most difficult kind of adoption to process.

Thus, I think that it will be difficult to adopt orphaned children who lost their parents in the earthquake because of the lack of proof that the parents really died. Many people's corpses were burned or burried in mass graves after the earthquake without any identification.

(3) I know that IBESR (Haitian adoption authority) has started working again. Last week Monday, they accepted adoption dossiers and also signed out approved adoption dossiers. However, I know nothing about the workings of the courts.

The PAP Parquet (the court building in Port au Prince that processes adoption decrees) building was still standing (at least what I saw from the street) but I do not know what kind of damage there is to the building.

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) was pretty much completely destroyed, but apparently several, if not all, file cabinets that contained adoption dossiers with original adoption related documents, were recovered by MOI staff.

Immigration was open last week and people who had had passports printed prior to the earthquake were able to pick them up. So, I do not know if they are up and operational for adoption related passports or if they are issuing new passports for the general population. Personally, I cannot see how they can work in the building because you have to enter into Immigration through a long basement room and I would not go through there (personally) just in case the building is not safe or another aftershock strikes.

(4) Future Adoptions - I am sure that adoptions will continue, but if UNICEF is now in charge of adoptions and/or in determining what child can or cannot be adopted, then the future is really bleak for the children in need of homes. Post-earthquake, UNICEF personnel came to visit registered orphanages to take a count of how many children were in the care of the orphanages, so I had a chance to speak with one of the UNICEF workers. He basically told me that their focus was to keep all Haitian children in Haiti because "they are the future of Haiti".

In theory, I agree that children should grow up in their home country, but when there is a non-existing social welfare system (even prior to the earthquake, let alone after the earthquake) to care for those children, then for survival sake, adoption is one of the very few solutions. That is the reality!

(5) Post earthquake, I have been working on getting food and medical assistance to people who were displaced by the earthquake. Unfortunately, assistance has not reached people who are in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, i.e. Santo, Clercine areas, just to mention two areas. We have a piece of land that is currently housing approx. 200 families in "bedsheet tents". Nobody has come to offer these families food, water or medicine from any international aid organizations. I am working on getting at least 50 real tents to bring back with me this week so that some have cover from rain which will come. We also want to set up a feeding program, but that requires ongoing donations. We have given food to about 80 families on a somewhat regular basis paid from private donations. But this distribution has been our private one-four persons effort.

There has been some food distribution near the U.S. Embassy and the Major of Tabarre that I have seen, but people have to stand in long lines for hours in order to reach the distribution. In order to stand in the line for hours and to carry the food donations, the person has to be able to stand for a long time and be physically fit. What about mothers with small children? What about elderly people? What about people who were injured in the earthquake? They cannot stand in such lines.

Drinking water was given free by Miracle Water for one week, two weeks ago. Now people have to pay for water again. As a result, of not having free drinking water provided to them, people are drinking contaminated water. Well water is readily available because many houses have wells and there are community wells, but that water is not safe for drinking.

These are my personal observations and updates...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Haiti Update

Yes, I survived the earthquake, thank you God!

I have very limited computer or internet access. I have been working with different parents and orphanages to get humanitarian parol "visas"for adopted or in the process of being adopted children.

Here is what all adoptive children's parents need to know, make sure that you have current fingerprints with USCIS!!! Many of the files (children) stuck in the process in the Port au Prince USCIS are stuck because the adoptive parents do not have active fingerprints. They expire every 18 months! Please, if you are one of these parents, go to your local USCIS office and have them resubmitted ASAP.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Getting things accomplished in Haiti...

I usually give adoption related updates on this blog, but today I want to tell you the story that is completely adoption unrelated. It is the true story of getting my car registration changed to my name after I purchased a car in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I am hoping that this story will give you an idea of how difficult it is to get things accomplished in a bureaucracy that is a complete disaster at times...

I purchased a used car from a private seller, a Haitian man who works at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince as a car mechanic. I purchased the car from him in October, however had not changed the registration and car insurance, which is state run in Haiti, and wanted to get this done. So, last week the seller and I finally found a date where both of us were available to get this accomplished. It took a total of FOUR workdays to get this accomplished! Here is the story...

Day #1: The seller and I had to meet at Circulation (similar to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles or DMV) to get the registration changed from his name to my name.

First, we had to take the car through a car inspection line, cars are lined up to be driving into a big hanger type garage to have the VIN number checked and I think that they checked the engine too, but cannot remember. That part took over an hour to accomplish. We got the appropriate piece of paper. 

Next, we had to go find a parking spot in the crowded street near Circulation and then walk back to Circulation to continue with the process. Circulation is a big compound that has a hanger type inspection station, but there are offices hidden in buildings along side the large hanger. Also, the is a larger two story building with offices on the downstairs left side, downstairs bottom side and the second floor of the building. 

We had to go to the downstairs left building to get four empty forms that all required the seller's, the buyer's and the vehicle information. All four empty forms required the same information, but since it is not in carbon form we had to fill out each form individually. Once done with that, we had to go to one of the "hidden" buildings for a stamp to be put on each one of the forms. However, the police officer who was in charge of stamping the forms did not like that I had made correction on one of the forms and refused to stamp all four forms.

So, we had to go back to the first office to get a new form. But just getting a new form would have been too easy, we were required to fill out an entire new package of forms again. Wouldn't it have been easier to fill out just the one form and to have stapled that page to the other three already correctly filled out forms? That would have made to much sense, I guess...

Once we filled out the four new forms all over again, we walked back to the "hidden" office so that Mr. Police Officer could put the stamp on each of the papers. Which he did this time...

Now we had to walk back to the first office, but this time we had to squeeze toward a small window in the wall where a man sat who looked over the forms and asked for 150 Gourdes. The funny thing is that both, the buyer and the seller have to show their faces through that little window to answer questions and to pay the money. There were about 20 sellers/buyers trying to get to the little window and whoever could squeeze the best got to the window. I guess that the seller and I passed the squeezing test because we made it to the window in about 10 minutes. 

The man behind the window looked at the forms, asked us for our i.d. cards, after inspecting them, he then covering up the information we had written on the forms asked us for the seller's name, his address and phone number. Then he asked me the same thing while covering up the information on the form. He also asked what kind of car the seller had sold to me, I guess that we passed the test and were told to sit down while the man kept our forms.

After waiting about 20 minutes, the seller and I were called to a door that led into the office behind the man in the window. We had to go to desk #1 and sit down. Behind the desk was a man in civilian clothes who looked at our forms and asked us for our i.d. cards/driver's licenses. After inspecting them, he gave the cards back to us. Then, just like the man behind the window, he covered up the information on the forms so that only he could see it and asked us individually for our names, address and telephone number. He also asked what kind of car the seller had sold to me. I guess that we passed the test again because we had to move to desk #2 after the man on desk #1 stamped and signed the forms.

We moved to desk #2, located immediately next to desk #1. I felt like playing musical chairs..

The man behind desk #2 was a police officer. He did the same thing as the man behind the window and desk #1 had done. He asked us to show our i.d. cards/licenses and then while covering up the form ask each of us for our name, address, and telephone number. This time, after he had asked the seller what kind of car he had sold me and when he turned to me and asked what kind of car the seller had sold to me, I said: "A 2009 Mercedes." Mr. Police Officer Man failed to see the humor in my response, so I quickly gave him the correct answer.

He stamped and signed the forms and handed each of us a paper with a Bible quote on it. I guess he realizes that Car Sellers and Buyers really need heavenly intervention in the changing of registration process? 

So, now we were done with the first part of the process. We had arrived at Circulation at 10 a.m. and it was now about 3:30 p.m. The next step was to go to the OCAVT office compound which is located clear across town and is not anywhere near Circulation. We realized that it was too late to drive across town to get anything accomplished at the OCAVT office compound. We made an appointment to meet the next morning at the OCAVT location. OCAVT is the official vehicle inspection place where mechanics check the engine of the cars and sign off on a document that certifies that the car is operational. 

Day #2: The seller and I met at the OCAVT location and had to drive in the car into the inspection line. We had to hand over the entire stack of stamped and signed forms from the previous day, including the title document of the car and some other receipt papers that we had collected from the previous day. Thank God for staples! Once we handed the stack of stapled papers over, a sticker with a number was placed on the rearview mirror, gave a sheet of paper to be filled out, and we were told to drive to the back of the compound to have the engine inspected.  

Meanwhile the seller was mad because he said that I should not have given the entire stack of documents to the men who put the sticker on the mirror. So, I walked back to the sticker men to confirm that they had kept the correct documents, etc. while my car waited for the inspection from the mechanics with the hood open next to a bunch of other cars with their hoods open. 

I was told by the sticker men that indeed, they had to keep the entire stack of papers. I walked back to the car to tell the seller the response which he did not believe. After all, I am a woman and they tell anything to women. (He seriously said that.) So he walked back to the sticker men just to get the same answer!

Finally, the mechanic with his flash light and stick that had a piece of cloth wrapped on the tip of the stick came to do my car's inspection. He used the flashlight to look at the engine and used the stick to poke some things. He also looked at the oil level and some of the other fluid levels of the engine. Satisfied, he signed off on the paper and told us to move the car to the very end of the compound to park it there. We were told that we now had to sit in a large room with benches to wait for our names to be called. 

As I parked the car at the end of the compound, I noticed that there was a small restaurant located in the compound. After I parked, I went to buy myself a cold drink. I am telling you this because as I was parking the car at the back of the compound, I saw some of the engine inspectors sneaking behind the building of the restaurant to sneak in a few drinks from rum bottles that had been stashed back there... I guess they needed ensure that their fluid levels were at adequate levels as well.

We sat inside the large room with benches for about an hour when the seller and my name was called over a loudspeaker that was trying to blow out waiting sellers and buyers with squeaking feedback noises.

Once our name was called, we had to go to my parked car and drive the car to the front of the compound to pick up the ever bigger getting stack of my documents that had some more papers with stamps and signatures on it. Then we were done at OCAVT.

Next we had to go to the National Assurance (insurance) Office, fortunately located on the same street as OCAVT. We found parking and went into the Assurance Office which is a compound but not as large as Circulation or OCAVT.  Of course, there is no paper or information posted as to where you have to go and what you have to do in each of these offices. 

We went to several offices in the Assurance building to find where we had to go and finally learned that we had to make photocopies of our driver licenses, the car title and the seller's insurance document. So, we had to walk down the street to the photocopy place to make copies. Once we returned to the Assurance place we were promptly told that we needed to get color copies of the driver's licenses and that black and white copies were not accepted. So, we had to walk back to the photocopy place down the street to get color copies done. How come they did not tell us color copies the first time around?

Finally, with color copies of our driver's licenses in hand and the other photocopies, we were told to go to an office that was in a little wet alley way behind the back of the building. In the officer were a number of desks and we had to do the sit at desk #1, then move to desk #2 and then onto desk #3 "game".

At desk #1, a gentleman who was very flirty (I'll tell you more about him when I get to day #4) filled out a pink form while asking the seller for his name, address and telephone number and then moved on to asking me the same information about myself in his flirty way, complimenting me on my Kreyol, etc. Then he attached the pink form to our ever bigger getting stack of documents/papers with another staple. Then we had to move over to desk #2 and then onto desk #3 where the person behind the desk stamped and signed some more.

Then we were told to go to the DGI cashier to pay 170 gourdes in fees and then once we were done at the DGI cashier, we had to go to the Assurance cashier to pay 500 gourdes. Fortunately, the DGI cashier and the Assurance cashier are in the same large room, though at opposite ends in their respective cashier cages.

Once I paid the 500 gourdes, I was told to wait because my name would be called to give me the new National Assurance Document with my name on it. Once my name was called and I collected the paper, it again was around 3:00 p.m. as it had been the previous day.

Our next step was to return to the Circulation Compound located clear across town and like the previous day, it was too late to get there during day #2.

The seller told me that I could finish up the rest of the necessary paperwork on my own at Circulation and that I should go there the next day to finish up the process of changing the car registration over from his name to my name.  We parted way and instead of leaving things for the next day, I tried to go to get some more things accomplished at Circulation during Day #2.

Day #3: I went back to Circulation to try to figure out the rest of the change of registration process. Right away, I was approached by one of the "hustlers" that work around Haitian government offices and offer to be guides through the process. I did not trust this guy as far as I could throw him... So, I declined his assistance and went by myself to the upstairs portion of the Circulation Building. There one of the clerks told me that the seller and the buyer, each had to pay a fee of 3,650 gourdes (about $95 USD). I called the seller and told him that he and I both had to pay this fee. Of course, he denied that he had to pay the fee. 

I asked the lady where I had to pay this fee, as she wrote both the seller and the buyer fee onto the "old" car registration/ownership document that was in my stapled pile of papers. She told me that I had to go to "central DGI" which is located in downtown Port-au-Prince. This made no sense to me and I asked her if I could not pay my fee at the DGI cashier's office on the same floor where she was located. She told me "no" and that I had to go to the central DGI office in "la ville".

I figured that she must know what she was talking about even though it made not much sense. But nothing had really made sense in this entire process, so I figured that she was correct.

On the way down the stairs to leave the second floor, these guys started to make nasty comments to me (sexually tainted) and I was so mad!

I drove downtown to the central DGI office and it became obvious that I was sent to the wrong place. I was so frustrated and called my friend James who is an auditor for the Finance Ministry in downtown PAP. I explained the situation and the confusion to him and he said not to worry, he was going to take the rest of the day off to help me finish the registration. True to his word, he met me within ten minutes and we drove back to Circulation.

When we arrived at the second floor of the Circulation building, it became pretty obvious that all the people who work there knew James. He explained to me that while he was training to be an auditor, after his university studies, he worked at Circulation for several months to learn its operation. James ushered me behind the locked cage door that separated the general, car registering public and the workers and sat me in an office while he went to take care of my registration. After about one hour, James came back with lots more signatures and stamps. However, he told me that I had a problem. It turned out that the car license plate on my car was registered to two cars and this would have to be corrected before I could finish the registration. 

So, that is how day #3 ended because it was a Friday afternoon and people stop working early, around 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. James told me to come back on Monday to finish the process and to bring the car's license plate and registration sticker (peeled off the front windshield). He said for me to ask directly for the director of Circulation and that he would assist me. 

(To be continued...)