Saturday, November 7, 2009

On the Road Again...

After only a few weeks at home, here I am back in Haiti again. The kids and staff were very surprised to see me. For once the amazing Haitian grapevine failed to notify everyone of plans. But they were very happy to see me nonetheless, and the older kids made sure to assure me that Manno had indeed bought chicken with the money I left here last time.

A few things have changed. One little girl at BRESMA II has left for France, and a pair of toddler twins from Jamie’s House is now safe at home. The little boy I brought here from BRESMA I on my last trip no longer has any sign of the scabies or scalp fungus afflicting him before.

The kids played a long, loud, and rowdy game of Kidnappers. The older boys were the bandits, of course, and they marched back and forth from the front yard to the back, chanting ‘left, right, left ,right’ in unison. They would select a target (one of the older girls, or even me, once) and drag their victim back to the front yard amid wild shrieking and giggling. Then Manmi Lis would run to the front yard and pretend to chase the boys around with the belt she wears around her shoulders as a threat. The game went on for hours. I couldn’t help but think over the deafening noise of 29 children, that this place does not sound like an orphanage. It sounds like a noisy home.

I am here on such short notice as I have been summoned by the US Consulate. Vice Consul Linda Percy has asked me, three other adoption professionals, Judge Rock Cadet of Parquet Court, and Madame Pierre Bernard, the Director of IBESR, to a workshop to discuss the feasibility implementing the Hague Convention on International Adoption here in Haiti.
Initially I was flattered, intimidated, and a bit confused why I, of all people had been asked. I am quite ignorant of the Hague. Or at least, I was until a few days after the invitation. After quite a bit of intensive study of legal documents, statistics, and history, I am grateful to be given the chance to speak.

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect to Intercountry Adoption is a simple document. It is only fourteen pages long, and covers many basic human rights, as well as outlining structure for uniform processing of adoptions throughout and member country. It’s the implementation that is tricky. And expensive.
The United States signed the Hague Convention in 1994. And then it took us fourteen YEARS to be able to create and implement policies allowing us to conform before we ratified the treaty in 2008. And we still have loopholes, bureaucratic struggles, and allegations of politics interfering with the accreditation process.

I am grateful to have a chance to speak before a group who seems pre-disposed to listen so that I can say that I think the Hague could be a wonderful thing to Haiti, IF and only IF it were implemented correctly! This would involved a multistep process, taking several years, culminating in Haiti successfully following all Hague standards internally for at least 12 months before ratifying the Convention. Reform is certainly needed in the adoption process, but as Tom DiFilipo, President of the Joint Council always says, we must not try to remove a splinter with a chainsaw.

I hope to witness a step of the process I have not done yet on Monday. Margarette is still in France, rallying for more funding for more new schools and attending BRESMA reunions of French children. She’s assigned me the task of taking him for his Visa appointment, which the Consulate was so kind as to grant me immediately so that I can hopefully escort the young man in question all the way home to Denver on my lap.

I’m no fan of escorting, but this little guy’s mother was just here a few weeks ago to file form I-600 and He’s super outgoing. I made a point of spending some time with him this afternoon. I think he’s feeling pretty comfortable with me, because threw a really impressive, first class tantrum when I put him down because I had to leave.

The few times I have agreed to escort a child, it has been a real thrill. Seeing parents reunited with their children is one of my greatest joys in this stressful, challenging work. My favorite escort trip had to be one where I brought a little boy bound for Canada to meet his mother in Miami. Upon my arrival, I suddenly realized I had never met the woman, nor had I ever seen her picture. While I was in Haiti I kept thinking I would identify her the same way I always identify and adoptive family I’ve never met before when I pick them up at the airport – they will be the white ones. A highly effective system of identification here, but not so useful in Miami.

I needn’t have worried. Not only did the baby lean towards a particular woman in the crowd, but I imagine one only makes that face once in a lifetime, at the moment of greatest joy.
I don’t know what this mother looks like either, and there are a lot of white people in Denver, but I’m not worried. We’ll find each other. This baby boy is coming home, after months of working and waiting. It was meant to be.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, I didn't read the whole blog before my last questions. Glad you trip went well.

    Elizabeth Costantino