Haiti: Update Children & Families Initiative

September 21, 2009

Haitian Children & Families Initiative

Background

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.

The Solution

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 Joint Council and the NGO community, including 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.

The Haitian Crèche Directors’ Association has circulated a letter which 19 orphanage directors have signed, asking for our assistance in getting the support of the U.S. Government. This is our chance to help those who help the children of Haiti.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has sponsored a letter to her colleagues asking for their support for the pending law and the issuance of Presidential Dispensations.

What can you do?

On September 28th, 29th and 30th make three simple phone calls:

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.
You can find your Senators’ phone numbers at www.senate.gov
Ask to speak with the Legislative Director or Chief of Staff

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

After you have made the calls please.

4. 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

5. Sign the Joint Council’s online petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/haitian-children-families-initiative.html

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!

What should you say or write to members of the U.S. Congress?

Speak from your heart and give them the following information.

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.

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.

If they have further questions ask them to contact Amiee Henneke from Rep. McMorris Rodgers Office, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute or Joint Council at (703) 535-8045.

Thank you!

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.

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