Serving on the Board of Directors & as Regional Manager for North America on behalf of World Initiative for Orphans I feel I must write my personal feelings on this subject and potential solutions to the crisis.
I am happy our government responded to the 200-300 orphans who already had adoptive families awaiting them in the United States. The State Department is allowing these adoptees to come into the U.S. even with the necessary paperwork being lost due to the earthquake. The Netherlands has also responded to this crisis flying 100 children to their country in the same fashion.
However this is just a drop in the bucket. Even prior to the earthquake their were thousands of babies/children living in orphanages throughout Haiti or even just living on the streets doing whatever was necessary to survive.
Though Americans should be proud of the actions of our government and ourselves for by our response to the overall crisis caused by the earthquake; providing financial aid, supplies, troops for security, etc as well as some response to the orphan crisis…we can and MUST do more!
Before the earthquake about 800 to 900 U.S. families are in the process of adopting children from Haiti, said Tom DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services though their adoptions have not yet been finalized…these adoptions need to be expedited and the children moved safely and quickly to the United States.
Before the earthquake, Haiti was home to about 380,000 orphans, according to the most recent data from the United Nations Children’s Fund.
At this point of the crisis it is not known how many new orphans have resulted from the earthquake. We know the United Nations estimates 2000,000 people have died as a result of the quake. How many were adults leaving behind babies/children we do not know. We also do not know how many babies/children have just been separated from their families as a result of the quake.
As our government moves along in this crisis it is important that orphans and those babies/children just separated from their families are handled in a totally different manner. The government cannot allow themselves to later be targeted as taking babies/children from their families and placing for adoption because they did not do the necessary investigations. The government needs to move quickly but not too quickly.
My solution ideas to this crisis are as follows:
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, can allow otherwise inadmissible people into the country for urgent humanitarian reasons or other emergencies The U.S. State Department also has the authority to reduce much of the unnecessary red tape involving international adoptions & the obtaining of necessary visas to enter the United States.
Secretary Clinton & Napolitano should immediately create a Task Force whose responsibility should be strictly to expedite adoptions of orphans from Haiti as well as expedite visas. This should be done working together with the government of Haiti and local orphanages.
The Task Force must ensure that each baby/child to be potentially placed for adoption in the USA should definitely be orphans and no family can be found in Haiti who will take responsibility for them.
The Task Force must work with established adoption agencies to ensure those saying they are adoption agencies are in fact as such and not a scam.
The Task Force should establish reasonable fees for processing , immediate home studies, necessary paperwork and potential legal fees. These established fees should be only to cover the above at reasonable costs and not for profit for the agencies. Agencies should be allowed to profit from this tragedy but their expenses should be covered.
If a potential family is shown to be able to financially support a baby/child after adoption but is unable to pay upfront necessary fees a payment plan for such should be established or possibly have the government should waive the fees to the potential family and cover them to the agency.
The Task Force should also work with other governments of developed countries to also play a role in providing safe homes for orphans within their country.
The establishment of this Task Force should be immediate and work on this crisis should begin without further delay.
I have read that we are considering placing folks from Haiti at Qauntanimo for temporary housing.
If babies/children go there who cannot be verified as orphans and they have no family to care for them they should be placed in a separate section to ensure they can not be preyed upon by sexual or physical predators to ensure their safety. It would be tragic for them to go from one tragedy to another caused by our government’s action.
A camp type setting or institutional setting has shown not to be the best setting for a child. Therefore the government should look to potential foster care families in the USA mainland to care for babies/children that are not orphans.
In both adoption & foster care accurate records must be ensured by the Task Force. This is especially ture for babies/children that may be placed in a foster home and may return to Haiti if family is found there to care for them.
I have received many comments to my previous blog entries on this subject from folks interested in adopting, providing foster care and asking what they can do.
Write your Senator, Congress person, Secretary Clinton & Secretary Napolitano about the subject and the need for our government to act and to act fast!
Also you should remember that there are over 129,000 youth within our own foster care system who are awaiting adoption. There is also a need in all the states for good foster parents.
I hope this gives at least a few ideas as to how we as a people and government can help the orphans of Haiti caused by the recent earthquake.
Remember: NO child should be allowed to grow up without the love, nurturing, caring of a family!