Haiti: Children and Families Initiative

August 12, 2009

Haitian Children & Families Initiative

Dear Friends,

Over the past three years, the processing of adoptions in Haiti have slowed to a crawl. Abandoned children are enduring adoption processes lasting two or three years before being united with adoptive families.

Not only is such lasting institutional care damaging to the children who wait and wait, but the slowed process has had a negative effect on the many desperately needy children of Haiti who are not waiting in orphanages. Orphanages in Haiti have traditionally been providers of humanitarian aid to their communities. Many support free medical clinics, schools, feeding programs and family preservation programs. Orphanages have been a resource for temporary care for children following a family crisis, such as a fire or illness. But now that children are languishing in orphanage care for years, orphanage directors report that the beds are full, the food and medicine supplies are insufficient, and the children needing temporary care are left on the streets with little prospect for life.

In a laudable effort to move towards transparent and democratic government, Haitian officials are now adhering to the Haitian Constitutional law regarding adoption, written in 1974 by Jean Claude Duvalier. While the law of 1974 places severe limitations on the size and age of those who may adopt, it does allow for Presidential Dispensation for those not meeting the family size or age limitations. Unfortunately, Haiti lacks an organized and transparent system for obtaining Dispensations. This confusion along with the absence of a sense of urgency regarding institutionalized children has caused extensive delays in the adoption process and further victimizes children who have already lost much.

Haiti has a pending solution to this legal logjam. A newly proposed adoption law will clarify who may adopt, increase protections for Haitian children, their birth parents, and adoptive families, and streamline the adoption process. This legislation is supported by the United States and French governments along with the NGO community and UNICEF.

The children of Haiti, the crèche directors who serve them and the adoptive families who wish to raise them need your help. We must encourage the Haitian government to pass the new adoption law and efficiently grant Dispensations in the interim.

What can you do? Make five simple phone calls and write one letter.

1. Call your U.S. Senator.

· You can find your Senators’ phone numbers at www.senate.gov

· Ask to speak with the Legislative Director or Chief of Staff

2. Call your second U.S. Senator.

3. Call your representative to the U.S. House of Representative.

· You can find your representative at www.house.gov

· Ask to speak with the Legislative Director or Chief of Staff

4. Call or fax UNICEF Haiti

§  Ask to speak with Julie Bergeron

§  Their number is 011-509- 2245-3525

§  Their fax number is 011-502- 2245-1877

Their email address is jbergeron@unicef.org

Please note that calls and faxes to Haiti are international calls

5. Write letters for the Haitian Prime Minister, President of the Haitian Senate, and the Minister of Social Welfare.

Your letter can contain the same information as specified below. If you are an adoptive family or are close to a Haitian-born adopted child, insert a picture of the child or your family in your letter.

Describe your family’s commitment to Haitian culture and the country’s well being as a result of your contact with a Haitian-born adopted child.

Mail your letter to Holt International, which has volunteered to collect letters and transport them to Haiti for hand delivery to the above government officials.

Holt International

Haitian Children & Families Initiative

P.O. Box 2880

Eugene, OR 97402

6. Forward this message to everyone you know who cares about the welfare of abandoned children in Haiti. Individuals need not be personally involved in a Haitian adoption to let their voices be heard on behalf of children who have no one to speak for them!

When should you call? August 13th, 14th, and 17th

For maximum affect, we are asking you to make these calls within a 72 hour window!

What should you say or write to member of the U.S. Congress? Speak from your heart and give them the following information.

§  Inform them that you are calling regarding Joint Council Haitian Children & Families Initiative

Inform them that the Haitian international adoption process is unreasonably delayed.

Inform them that children referred to U.S. families are languishing in institutions

Inform them that the backlog of children in the process of adoption is preventing orphanages, who serve as local humanitarian aid providers, from continuing to assist their communities.

Inform them that due to the interruption of services provided by the orphanages, Haitian children outside the orphanages are needlessly dying.

Ask that their office to sign the Dear Colleague letter regarding the pending Haitian adoption law, sponsored by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Senator Sam Brownback. The letter asks that adoptions currently in process be speedily granted Presidential Dispensation and that the new adoption law be passed.

Sample Statement

Hello,

We are calling/writing on behalf of the Haitian Children & Families Initiative. We, as your constituents, are asking that the Senator/Congressperson sign the Dear Colleague letter regarding the pending Haitian adoption law, sponsored by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Senator Sam Brownback.

As you may be aware, the Haitian adoption process is unreasonably delayed. Children already matched with adoptive families are languishing in orphanages for two and three years. The orphanages, which have traditionally served as humanitarian aid outreach centers, have run out of resources and are no longer able to offer assistance to their communities. Haitian children outside the orphanages are dying needlessly as a direct result of the delayed adoptions.

Your office must get involved and sign the Dear Colleague letter to support the Haitian government in their effort to assist the homeless and abandoned children of Haiti.

Sincerely,

<your name and contact information>

What should you say or write to UNICEF? Speak from your heart and give them the following information.

§  Inform them that you are calling regarding the Joint Council Haitian Children & Families Initiative

Ask them to support the rights of children and lend their considerable influence to ensuring that intercountry adoptions currently in-process be speedily processed to completion under the existing Presidential Dispensation clause.

Inform them that many adoptions are taking two or three years to process, during which time children languish in orphanages.

Inform them that due to the overextension of their resources, orphanages are no longer able to provide their traditional humanitarian aid services to their communities, such as free schools, medical care, temporary child care for families in crisis, and family preservation programs.

Inform them that as a direct result of the orphanage’s inability to provide humanitarian aid due to overly taxed resources, children are needlessly dying in the streets outside the orphanages.

Ask them again for their support of the Presidential Dispensation and the swift passage of the new adoption law.

Sample Statement

Hello,

We are calling/writing on behalf of the Joint Council Haitian Children & Families Initiative

. As financial supporters of UNICEF (through our tax dollars), we are asking that UNICEF lends its support and considerable influence to the Joint Council Haitian Children & Families Initiative

As you may be aware, the Haitian adoption process is unreasonably delayed.

Children already matched with adoptive families are languishing in orphanages for two and three years. The orphanages, which have traditionally served as humanitarian aid outreach centers, have run out of resources and are no longer able to offer assistance to their communities. Haitian children outside the orphanages are dying needlessly as a direct result of the delayed adoptions.

UNICEF must get involved to ensure that adoptions in process be speedily granted Presidential Dispensation so that they can be completed in a timely manner, and that the new adoption law be passed.

Sincerely,

<your name and contact information>

Can you explain the problem behind the current crisis? Here is some additional information

The current constitutional law, written in 1974 by Jean Claude Duvalier, severely restricts who may adopt from Haiti. The only method by which the Haitian government may permit adoptions to non-conforming families is via Presidential Dispensation.

The lack of a defined and efficient Dispensation process has caused delays of up to three years for children in the adoption process. Prolonged institutionalization has been scientifically proven to be highly detrimental to children.

As orphanages expend their limited resources caring for children in the process of adoption over extended periods, they are unable to provide their traditional humanitarian aid programs to their communities.

The existing adoption law provides almost no protection for the rights of abandoned children, their birth parents, or adoptive families. It offers no safe guards against human trafficking.

A proposed adoption law will alleviate the crisis by standardizing and streamlining adoptions, and will far better protect abandoned Haitian children from child trafficking.

What else can you do? In addition to your primary calls to U.S. Congress and UNICEF, you can call the Haitian Embassy:

Embassy of Haiti in the U.S.

2311 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20008

Office Phone 1- 202.332.4090

Office Fax 1- 202-745-7215

embassy@haiti.org

Please share the message with the world – post it to your blog, email it to your friends, add it to your Facebook page. It is time to act on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of homeless and abandoned children of Haiti.

Diana Boni

Haiti and Liberia Programs Coordinator

Alliance for Children

(605) 301-4690

www.allforchildren.org

dboni@allforchildren.org

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