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...