Today was the adoption meeting at the US Embassy. The last of these was in November, to discuss the Hague and Haiti. Consul General Donald Moore had planned to have a whole series of discussions and meetings for the adoption and child protection community, but the earthquake changed that as well. Finally we can resume our dialog.
One of the purposes of this meeting was for us all to say goodbye to Linda Percy, Vice Consul for DOS. Linda was in place during the earthquake and subsequent humanitarian parole evacuations. The strain probably took a few years off of her life, but we are all deeply grateful that she was there to help. Linda is an adoptive mother herself. She understood with both her head and her heart what was needed. She will be missed.
I got to meet the new staff members - Emily Godfrey and Du Tran. Mr. Tran will be taking over the Adoptions Unit. Emily hopes to continue working with him once he's up to speed. I hope she will too - I suspect she will be a loyal ally for children's rights. Poor Mr. Tran had just arrived on Monday and appeared to still be suffering from culture shock. He was very polite regardless.
Our meeting was held outside, which was handy for security measures but a bit warm for my taste, even with a seat right by the fan. Almost every adoption service provider I know of was present, as was Mme Pierre from IBESR and an attorney from the Ministry of Social Welfare. On the agenda was a discussion of the new adoption law and humanitarian parole.
As the meeting began, it was an amazing thing to look around the space and see that almost everyone was present. The orphanages of Haiti, despite many damaged or collapsed buildings, experienced a miraculous lack of casualties during the earthquake. Everyone introduced himself and gave a status update. What a thrill to hear each director proudly report the numbers of children evacuated to safety, no fatalities, and that they are processing the rest.
Madame Pierre, director of IBESR spoke next. She thanked UNICEF and the Haitian government for their support, and described the HP evacuation as 'bittersweet'. She stated that IBESR is the only agency in charge of dealing with child protection, and they were not involved with the project. They should have been consulted. But that is past. They are now ready to start anew. IBESR is accepting new dossiers for adoption cases at this time.
The Minister of Social Welfare and Work presented four laws as being the most urgent from his Department. All four address issues of child protection, including the new adoption law. A meeting was held at the Montana some time ago in which stakeholders were allowed to comment on and make suggestions regarding the new law. Several of the changes recommended by the Haitian Creche Directors' Association and Joint Council were in fact implemented in the latest version (most notably, the removal of any limit on the number of children an adoptive family may have already). A few people at today's meeting were upset that some of their recommendations were now included.
We were told that it is still possible to make changes to the law, but that only the Senate itself can do so. Generally laws don't change much after they have progressed through the Chamber of Deputies, as this one has.
The US Department of State is hosting ongoing meetings with child protection organizations to facilitate communication and coordination of efforts. It is going to be a long a difficult summer, as temperatures rise and diseases caused by overcrowding, vermin, and unclean water multiply. At least it seems that a great many of us are united in the fight to defend the homeless children of Haiti.