Thursday, April 26, 2012

US Government meeting

We had hoped to accomplish three meetings today. Hah. But the most important one happened. Mike Noah and Mansour Masse of Holt International and I met up at the Embassy for an appointment with Officer Hichem Kefi, the new Field Office Director of USCIS for Haiti. I asked Officer Kefi to invite someone from the Adoptions Unit to join them when my email requests were unanswered. I am stunned to find the Consul General herself attending our meeting. Sometimes I get a bit overawed by the people I end up meeting with. I didn't ask for this. It was just handed to me to do, and nobody else wanted the job.

This is not an ABI meeting. I'm here in my capacity as Co-Chair of the Joint Council of International Children's Services Haiti Caucus to ask questions for the group, and my colleagues Mike and Mansour are of course very welcome as fellow Joint Council members and very active participants in Haitian adoption issues. We explore a number of general issues facing intercountry adoptions in Haiti and how we can cooperate more effectively. As usual, the DOS and USCIS staff are very helpful. I've been working with some of the local staff for close to a decade now, and we've seen quite a bit together. It's also very good to hear firsthand what we need to do to assist USCIS & DOS in their critical mission as the last layer of protection against ilegal and unethical adoptions. The importance of their ability to perform thorough inspecitons of every case cannot be overestimated.

Officer Kefi payed a surprise visit to BRESMA on Monday. It was nice to hear what he thought of our house. I think he was a bit surprised, actually. Most people have something different in mind when they hear the word orphanage, with fewer toys and less dancing involved. USCIS will report any abuses they see to IBESR, and I'm grateful for that too. I have a feeling that we've just gotten our third excellent Director in a row.

Consul General Colombia Barrosse is highly focused on providing excellent customer service, as was her predecessor, Donald Moore, and has several policies which will soon be in place which will make appointments for adoption Visas much easier and more pleasant. She also took our concerns about issues with the security guards failing to admit American Citizens very seriously, and will address them. I almost feel sorry for the guards. Almost.

Mike and Mansour and I were hoping to meet up with another program director who is also down here in Haiti, but it doesn't work out. So the three of us go to lunch and discuss various adoption and aid related topics. We're very lucky here in Haiti. Everyone knows we're all on the same team, and we do things cooperatively, both on the United States and Haitian side. I'm told this is not the case in some other countries. I can't imagine dealing with the difficulties we face here in Haiti and not working as a group, helping each other whenever possible. It's quite hard enough down here without any infighting taking place.

I come home exhausted again, but there's more good news. Nacha, our exceptionally clever and well-connected almost-attorney has managed to secure an IBESR exit packet for my adoptive family who is just about to leave, even though we don't have their Visa yet. Even IBESR feels terrible for this family, and has given them an extremely rare exception to policy. This means that the very second they are holding their daughter's Visa, they are free to go. Hallelujah, Bondye bon!

Tomorrow is my meeting with IBESR. This is the third IBESR Director I've met, but I'm still very anxious. So much rides on my NOT messing this up.... I've been having anxiety dreams about the meeting, in a messy tangle of English, Kreyol, and Spanish, that I have no idea what I'll end up saying when I finally meet the woman. May God keep His arm around my shoulders and his hand over my mouth!

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