Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New U.S. Department of State Independent Adoption Warning

Hats off to the US Department of State for their strongly worded new warning:

Alert: Pursuing Independent Adoptions without Licensed Agencies Increases Risks of Delays and Fraud

The Department of State has seen a recent increase in U.S. citizens seeking to pursue adoptions in Haiti through independent agents instead of licensed adoption providers. While these “private” adoptions are currently permissible in Haiti, prospective adoptive parents should be aware of the risks associated with not utilizing experienced, licensed agencies. Non-licensed facilitators may lack experience in navigating the complex Haitian adoption process, and this could lead to delays and critical mistakes in processing the case. Haitian facilitators may also not be familiar with U.S. immigration law governing intercountry adoption processing. Prospective adoptive parents pursuing an independent adoption may place their trust in private facilitators engaging in unethical or illegal practices in Haiti. The Department strongly encourages prospective adoptive parents adopting from Haiti to research U.S. immigration laws and Haitian adoption procedures through the use of a reputable, licensed agency or experienced facilitator. For more information about intercountry adoption in Haiti, please visit our website at: http://adoption.state.gov/country_information/country_specific_info.php?country-select=haiti.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Government Meetings on Haitian Adoptions Complete

The following is an article from Haiti Libre:


Haiti - Social : End of the Conference on International Adoption

27/06/2011 14:59:22


At the initiative of Quebec and France, an international conference was held in Port-au-Prince from June 22 to 24, 2011 bringing together the Group of Montreal, represented by nine central authorities (Germany, Belgium, Flemish Community of Belgium, Federal Authority of Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland) the Embassy of Spain, the UNICEF representative in Haiti, the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference, the Central Authority of Chile, in the presence of governmental and parliamentary authorities of the Republic of Haiti and the Social welfare and Research Institute (IBESR), Haitian adoption authority.


The Group of Montreal has reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of the Hague Convention of 1993 on Protection of children and the cooperation in respect of intercountry adoption. After the meeting to Montreal in December 2010, which set the guidelines for a joint action plan in preparation for the ratification of the Convention, has constituted a signal awaited by the international community, of the will of the Haitian authorities to secure the adoption procedures.


Before the Group of Montreal, the President Martelly is firmly committed to complete, during his mandate, the process of ratification of the Hague Convention, and include the law on adoption, to the parliamentary agenda with a review as soon as possible by the Senate and possibly in second reading by the Chamber of Deputies. Pending the adoption of the law, he has committed to make a presidential order requiring the passage of the applications for adoption with the approved bodies. http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-3232-haiti-social-the-president-martelly-announces-the-imminent-end-of-the-private-adoptions.html


The Head of State continued : "In confidence and transparency, we will be able to identify the ways and means to resumes the international adoption in Haiti. It is my strongest desire in the interest of children and in the respect of their most basic rights" stressing that he relied on "the support and cooperation of the international community, and particularly the host country of children."


Saurel Jacinthe, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, has also assured the Group of Montreal of his will to put the bill to the parliamentary agenda and has expressed his support for a evolution of the Haitian law more consistent with international standards.


Participants to this Conference welcomed the commitment of the highest authorities of the country to engage firmly the Republic of Haiti in favor of the Child Protection and to comply, in matter of adoption, to the principles of the Hague Convention. The Group of Montreal, according to the plan of action that it developed since December 2010, will continue to cooperate with the government of Haiti to implement procedures consistent with the Hague Convention that will allow eventually to resume the international adoptions in this country.


S/ HaitiLibre

Read the article on HaitiLibre.com.

So what does all of this mean for families in process today, or those who want to start a Haitian adoption?

Note: the following is an educated guess made by a private individual. It does not constitute legal advice, or the official advice of All Blessings International, a Hague Accredited adoption agency.

Most of us (meaning my colleagues in Haiti and other Hague nations) seem to feel that much of the information that came out of the meeting, both publicly and privately, was quite positive.

Possible Re-Opening of Haitian Adoptions for 'Frozen' Hague Nations
It could very well be that various nations/provinces that have 'frozen' Haitian adoptions for their citizens may defrost, and allow Haitian children to follow the legal process to permanent homes within their borders.

This is a very positive step, as most of the reputable U.S. agencies with longstanding programs in Haiti are struggling to find enough families with which to place the children we are already serving. Things were bad before the earthquake. Now, they are far worse and the need for permanent, safe families for destitute and abandoned children is more desperate than it has ever been before.

The End of 'Independent' Adoptions
President Martelly has stated that he is going to put a stop to independent adoptions. There are a few possible interpretations of this remark, but as he also stated that he wants Haiti to more toward the Hague, most of us suspect he means that all adoptions must be overseen by a licensed adoption agency in the adoptive parents country of origin, and that all adoptions must be processed by a properly licensed Haitian entity. This will mean one of the 67 licensed crèches. As President Martelly is decisively interested in Haiti becoming Hague compliant, and the new law is very clear on the matter, we expect that all adoptive parents must be working with a Hague accredited agency in their home countries to oversee their adoptions.

Most of us who work with Haiti are desperately eager to see the immediate end of independent adoptions. We have already seen in the number and ratio of disruptions among the children who came into the U.S. on the Humanitarian Parole program that adoptions with no agency involvement were far more likely to end in disaster and heartbreak. Those who had no crèche and no agency probably wouldn't have gotten here at all, but for the HP program, but many of those ended badly as well. Perhaps you are one of those rare families who adopted independently and all has gone well. It does happen! But without education, support, and supervision during and after placement, both children and their new families can suffer unnecessarily.

I do not know what will happen to the families who are already in process of an independent adoption, but I have heard no mention of 'grandfathering' those cases through the system. Quite frankly, after some of the heartrending messes our agency has stepped in to help with our Mending Hearts program, I hope they are not. The financial savings (if any) cannot possible equal the potential for disaster for a Haitian child. Out of the frying pan, and into the fire! We've had several independent families contact us already, and I assume all of the Standards of Practice and Haiti Crèche Directors crèches and agencies will be ready to help any independent families ready to step under our umbrellas.

Plans to Ratify the Hague - But Not Today
President Martelly declared he wants Haiti to ratify the Hague within his five year term of office. As it was the stated goal of certain organizations to pressure Haiti into ratifying immediately - in fact before Martelly even took office just weeks ago - this is a positive announcement. It would seem the President is aware that Haiti is not currently in compliance with the Hague Convention.

It took the United States fifteen years between signing and ratification to be sure we were compliant. Haiti has a major advantage: all adoptions are already overseen by a Central Authority (IBESR) but so many other necessities present a problem, from laws and policies, accreditations, even permanent record keeping is going to be a major challenge. However, as it was not possible to railroad Haiti into ratifying immediately, perhaps it will not be possible to do so at all until she is truly ready.

In the meantime, steps toward the Hague could do exactly what the Convention is supposed to do: protect all members of the adoption triad. I, and most of my colleagues, would rest a lot easier knowing that every single Haitian family was required to have counseling and a presentation of all of their possible options from a third party before they could choose adoption for their children.

Again, so what does all of this mean for families in process today, or those who want to start a Haitian adoption?

Here's the breakdown. Again, the following is an educated guess made by a private individual. It does not constitute legal advice, or the official advice of All Blessings International, a Hague Accredited adoption agency.

If you are already in process of adoption with an experienced, Hague accredited agency and a licensed crèche: breathe easy. There is no reason at this time to assume that the meetings are going to make your process any more difficult than it was already.

If you are already in process of adoption, but do NOT have both a licensed crèche and a Hague accredited agency: you could be in trouble. It might be wise to explore ways to legitimize your adoption now, just in case. Worst case scenario, you'll end up a better educated and supported parent.

If you have not yet started your adoption: go ahead! That's right - go ahead with an adoption using a Hague accredited agency experienced in Haiti and a licensed crèche. There will be an additional element of risk if Haiti ratifies prematurely and if the U.S. Department of State for some reason behaves differently regarding 'grandfathering' in referred cases than they have in other nations. But there is always risk in international adoption, and this risk is relatively small.

I've had a few questions by email about Haiti shutting down its own adoptions while attempting to implement the Hague. A few other nations have done this. However, those countries did not have well established adoption procedures and programs serving a significant number of children already. Haiti in general is strongly pro-adoption. In my personal opinion, this is not a very likely scenario. I certainly can't predict the future, much less the future of Haiti, but I can study the past. Haiti has never been one to sit down in her tracks and hold her breath while she attempts to save herself. As my friend and colleague Dixie Bickel titles her blog, 'And Life in Haiti Goes On'. And so will adoptions, at least for the reasonable future.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Government Meetings in Haiti

The governments of various nations who have or are allowing their citizens to adopt from Haiti are meeting this week with IBESR and UNICEF to discuss the future of Haitian adoptions.  Unfortunately no stakeholders - adoption agencies, adoptive parents, adopted children, birth families, or creche directors - are permitted to attend.  However, the Dutch Consulate has shared the following release:

Representatives from ten countries adopters, including France, the first host country of Haitian children in 2010, were gathered Thursday morning, in a reunion at the Plaza Hotel in Port-au-Prince, in presence of the President Michel Martelly, to provide an update on the adoption in Haiti.


At this reunion, organized by a group of Montreal on international adoption, whose purpose is to consider the resumption of the "frozen" adoptions, the President Martelly has committed before the participants to ratify, during his mandate, the Hague Convention on the adoption, that prevents the so-called adoptions "private or individual".

"While awaiting the vote of this law, within time limits that I wish as close as possible, I intend to make a presidential order requiring the passage of the applications for adoption with the approved bodies, as provided for in the Convention of the Hague" declared the Head of State.

This will prevent de facto, all the individual adoption procedures of Haitian children.

HL/ HaitiLibre


Des représentants de dix pays adoptants, dont la France, premier pays d'accueil d'enfants haïtiens en 2010, étaient réunis ce jeudi matin, en colloque, à l’hôtel le Plaza de Port-au-Prince, en présence du Président Michel Martelly, pour faire le point sur l'adoption en Haïti.


Lors de ce colloque, organisé par un groupe de Montréal sur l’adoption internationale, dont le but est d'envisager la reprise des adoptions «gelées», le Président Michel Martelly s'est engagé devant les participants à ratifier, au cours de son mandat, la Convention de la Haye sur les adoptions, qui empêche les adoptions dites « privées ou individuelles ».


« Dans l’attente du vote de cette loi, dans des délais que je souhaite aussi rapprochés que possible, j’entends prendre un arrêté présidentiel, rendant obligatoire le passage des demandes d’adoption devant des organismes agréés, comme le prévoit la Convention de La Haye » a déclaré le Chef de l’État.


Cette mesure empêchera de facto, toutes les procédures d'adoption individuelle d’enfants haïtiens.


HL/ HaïtiLibre

We believe that what the President is describing as an 'independent adoption' is one in which the adoptive family is not represented by a licensed adoption agency in their home country, which will oversee the placement of a Haitian child in their home, and/or is represented by an attorney in Haiti rather than an actual, licensed creche.  If so, the new policy would save a great many families and children great heartbreak.  'Independent' adoptions - particularly those we've heard about recently - generally are not successful.  The family sends a great deal of money to a person who may or may not be an attorney in Haiti, but rarely comes home with a child.
 
There is also an A.F.P. article regarding the meetings:
 
Haiti leader vows to tighten adoption rules



PORT-AU-PRINCE, June 23 (AFP) Jun 23, 2011


Haitian leader Michel Martelly said Thursday he would issue a presidential decree to tighten up Haiti's adoption procedures and ensure all applications go through authorized entities.


Legislation to that effect has already gone through the National Assembly and is expected to pass the Senate soon, but Martelly, who was sworn in as president in May, is struggling to form a government to sign off on the law.


Martelly's first pick as prime minister, businessman Daniel-Gerard Rouzier, was roundly rejected by a parliament dominated by his predecessor's ruling party earlier this week.


"While waiting for a vote on this law, a delay I hope will be as short as possible, I intend to issue a presidential decree making it obligatory for adoption applications to go through authorized organisms, as the Hague Convention outlines," Martelly said.


The president vowed to ratify the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which sets forth guidelines and procedures and outlaws private or individual adoptions, during his five-year term.


He was speaking at a Port-au-Prince gathering of 10 adopter nations, including France, the former colonial power which took in more Haitian children than any other country in 2010.


This "eagerly awaited" measure will effectively ban individual adoption procedures, Martelly said.


Haiti was already the poorest country in the Americas even before a January 2010 earthquake destroyed much of the capital and killed an estimated 225,000 people, created countless more orphans.


A high-profile adoption abuse case shortly after the quake saw 10 Americans charged with kidnapping after they sought to take a busload of 33 children over the border into the Dominican Republic without the proper paperwork. The Baptist missionaries at first presented the children as quake orphans, but it quickly emerged that many of the children still had living parents, infuriating many Haitians.


A total of 318 adopted Haitian children were included in a special program and flown to France last Christmas Eve.


The children were all in the process of being adopted when the quake struck on January 12, 2010, causing adoptions to be delayed with some records lost in the rubble.