We have been inundated with calls and emails by folks wanting to help Haitian children in some way-any way- and preferably in some concrete way. Rumors are rampant about children orphaned by the earthquake being airlifted from Haiti to the US and about the possible need for foster families for these children. I’ve seen reports in the last two days from Indiana, Florida and Pennsylvania about the possibility of mass airlifts of Haitian children. For better or worse, these airlifts and the possibility of fostering are just rumors. But this overwhelming desire to help is both touching and deeply beautiful. It’s hard to maintain cynicism in the face of such kindness.
There is both so much happening and so little happening, that the confusion is understandable. First, let’s talk about what is happening. The US State Department and Citizenship and Immigration Services issued an unprecedented policy on Jan. 18, 2010 allowing children from Haiti that were already in the adoption process to come to the US before their adoptions are finalized. They walked a fine line, and in my opinion walked it well, when crafting this policy. They wanted to expedite bringing children that were legitimately “orphaned” over to the US, while at the same time, not opening the floodgate to children who could and should be cared for in Haiti.
The US does not need help in getting these kids to the US. They also do not want or need adoptive families to go to Haiti to pick up their children. There is an abundance of empty planes flying back to the US after dropping off relief supplies and the US Embassy is using these planes to bring home kids. The US Embassy has acknowledged that it is chaotic right now getting orphans to the embassy and determining if they meet the criteria for expedited entry into the US (known as “humanitarian parole”), but more people thrown into the mix will not help sort out the chaos.
If you were in the process of adopting a child from Haiti prior to the earthquake, immediately contact both the CIS (haitianadoptions at dhs.gov) and the DOS (ASKCI at state.gov) with the name of your child, the name of the orphanage, and any other relevant information on how far along your adoption had progressed prior to Jan. 12, 2010.
Why you might ask, would they care about opening the floodgate for bringing all Haitian children to the US? After all, these are children for goodness sake, and children in need of care! I answered that question in an earlier blog (Adopting from Haiti Post Earthquake), but the crib note version is that child welfare experts believe that, if at all possible, it is in a child’s best interest to remain with their family or extended family. We need to channel our desire to help into giving money to organizations that can help families care for their children during this crisis. Organizations such as the Joint Council for International Children Services and Holt International have projects on the ground in Haiti right now to help families and help kids.
Another thing that is happening is the State Department and CIS are working on plans to expedite bringing children orphaned by the earthquake to live with family members in the US. Although, not finalized, they hope to have this policy in place once it has been determined which children were orphaned.
But there is much frustration both here in the US and in Haiti about how little seems to be getting accomplished and how much remains to be done. I imagine there will be a lot of finger pointing in the coming weeks about how things could have been done better, and some of the criticism may be well placed. But honestly, I think we need to give it some time. From what I read, relief supplies are flooding into Haiti. The problem is getting the supplies distributed within Haiti and all the relief organizations are actively working to resolve this problem. There are no plans at this time to airlift or boatlift or in any way bring children over to the US for fostering.
I hope that the desire of these families that are stepping forward to foster Haitian children will stay alive because in the future there likely will be many more Haitian children in need of permanent adoptive families. No one knows when it will be possible to adopt from Haiti again, but I firmly believe adoptions will resume. If there is a silver lining in all this tragedy, it would be the overhaul of the Haitian adoption process, which is badly in need of “modernization” (aka “improvement”).
I am so touched by the inherent good I see in so many people who never before thought they were “the type” to take in a child. And even those who don’t want to foster a child are donating money. Two-thirds of Americans will donate to Haitian relief. My faith in basic human kindness has been boosted. And for this, I am grateful.