Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One Year Later

It was one year ago today that I was working on a new website for our agency when I received the phone call that let me know the world had turned upside-down.  The earthquake brought days of sheer terror and the relief of a quick homecoming for most of the BRESMA children and their adoptive families.  Those who were not airlifted out to the US, Canada, or the Netherlands were transferred to God's Littlest Angels orphanage, which was intact and largely emptied, where our friend Dixie Bickel took over their care.  Over the year, Margarette and her staff doggedly pursued the adoptions of the BRESMA children going to France.  Finally in mid-December, the French and Haitian governments agreed to allow the remaining French children to leave Haiti for their homes, just in time for the holidays. 

We processed dozens of adoptions here in the US, got citizenship for many of the children, and the passage of the Help Haiti Act assured citizenship for all of the Humanitarian Parole children.  It's been a happy ending for almost everyone, as the ABI staff has learned that the majority of the 12 children held in Pittsburgh for almost a year have been released to the adoptive families we recommended for them immediately after the airlift.

New Orphanage Building
French, Dutch, and American families showed their generosity by donating tens of thousands of dollars to ABI and other BRESMA and Haiti supporters.  With support from the French group Association Aide aux enfants d’Haiti en France, BRESMA constructed a new school and community center for the rural community of Castaches, near Jeremie.  Massive new construction is underway: a five-story building including indoor kitchens, plumbed bathrooms, a schoolroom and even a rooftop playground rises in the backyard of the BRESMA I facility.  The original building is undergoing repairs and renovations which are nearly complete.  BRESMA should be able to accept new children by the beginning of February.

 Tragically, our need to be able to accept new children is greater than ever.  One year after the earthquake, on a practical level for the average Haitian family, there has been no recovery.  Millions live in tent camps, in 'houses' consisting of tarps tied to sticks with scavenged string.  Cholera and other filth-borne illnesses are rampant.  The children who appear at our doors with desperate parents are even more malnourished then we are accustomed to caring for.  To the average Haitian family, there is no more hope or stability than if the earthquake had happened yesterday.

Margarette with supplies for the Depot
France, the Netherlands, and various Canadian provinces have suspended Haitian adoptions for their citizens. Governments are expressing their wishes for the Haitian government to focus on child welfare rather than adoptions.  Child welfare systems are surely needed desperately in Haiti, but will attempting to prevent the average 1500 annual international adoptions ensure their creation?  Much child welfare in Haiti is actually centered around the creches - almost all of them operate free schools, health clinics, or nutritional programs.  All the creche directors I have met prioritize family preservation.  To put it simply, most of us working in child welfare in Haiti regard international adoption as a last resort.  When we cannot find a safe and permanent family situation in Haiti, we must look to other options to ensure that every child's right to a family is fulfilled.

For months, the BRESMA staff has sent food, formula, and medicine home with families living in the tent camps and fighting to keep their children alive.  Many of them insist they want to place their children for adoption.  We hope that many will change their minds, and find some of the aid that UNICEF and so many others have promised.  But many of them will not.  They have no hope and no options, and they love their children.  They want them to live.  They will bring them to the orphanage and relinquish them as soon as the doors open once more.

Waiting Children
Our need for adoptive families and financial support is greater than ever as we try to help in whatever limited way we can following one of the worst natural disasters in history.  Please share our needs with your friends and communities.  ABI and BRESMA and our other orphanage and aid partners don't know how to fix Haiti's woes.  All we know is how to serve one child, one family at a time.  We need your help to make a difference in whatever small ways we can.

“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” - Mother Teresa of Calcutta


  1. I just discovered this blog, and I'm deeply moved by what's happening with adoption around the world. My wife and I have been wanting to adopt some international children, and I hope we'll be able to do so, even though we're young (31) and have three of our own children. We've been watching closely what's happening in Haiti, and are eager to help.

    Thank you so much for all you're doing for Haiti. I recognize that the problems didn't start with the earthquake - they were just intensified by it. And I like how you talk about making a difference one child and one family at a time. And those who's lives are touched by others will reach out to others. God works through individuals, and together, we WILL make a difference!

    God bless you!

  2. Thank you for what your organization is doing in Haiti. I am glad to see that the work continues and these precious people are not forgotten.