Friday, January 25, 2013

Shakeup

Good thing yesterday was quiet. Today has me spinning in circles…

In the morning I go to IBESR to pick up our accreditation paperwork. Because I work with Joint Council and have a list of questions compiled from all the US agencies, I’m allowed to meet very briefly with one of IBESR’s attorneys to get some answers for us. That’s when I find out about the quota.

IBESR has imposed a quota on how many adoptive family dossiers they will accept per country, per agency, and per month. And for the U.S., it works out to ONE DOSSIER per agency per month. I can completely understand why they do not want to be flooded when they are deeply concerned about their capacity to effectively screen families and protect children, but I already have at least 18 children awaiting placement today! What are we supposed to do with them all? The total quota is for 800 children per year to be adopted from Haiti. Unfortunately, this is far, far fewer than the number found abandoned each year. It simply won’t meet the needs.

The attorney with whom I am meeting explains that this is a pilot program – they don’t know how thing will look in the end, but they need to be certain that IBESR doesn’t bite off more than it can chew. I can see both sides of this issue clearly, but mostly I see that the orphanage directors are in a heck of a fix. We all have more than twelve children come in to care each year. In fact, IBESR gave Sonia TEN abandoned babies last weekend! They can’t live at AUBE until they are eighteen. They all need families.

I leave IBESR deeply distressed and relay what I have learned to the three crèche directors in our van. Chaos erupts. I don’t think the crèche directors are going to be able to accept the pilot program working this way. It’s simply not feasible. There will have to be some adjustments. We’ll offer some logistical support from Joint Council to help IBESR streamline their process and get the job done right, but more efficiently.

I read in the car to try to quiet my buzzing head as we drive out of the city and west to Petit Goave. We’re visiting birth parents today. Margarette and I are here to explain to a birth mother (again!) that we were not kidding when we told her that her children would not come back to Haiti when they turn eighteen. She told USCIS that this is what she believed would happen, and naturally this is unacceptable for Immigrations.

In the van with us is a young French man in his mid twenties and his wife. Francois was adopted from Haiti as a small boy. He knew he was from the Petit Goave area, and he contacted an orphanage director to conduct a search for his biological family. Today he will see where his birth mother lives.


Petit Goave house
 We visit a little house constructed of woven slats with canvas stapled to the outside, with a compressed plastic material roof. It was built by a relief group after the quake, and is home to Francois’s mother now. On the floor on a mattress lies a man who we learn to be Francois’ older brother. His limbs are twisted into the fetal position, wasted and useless. Somehow his mother has kept him alive. The brothers speak softly in French, Francois tall and strong and healthy, his brother so much less fortunate. It’s very hard to watch. Life is not fair, and much less so in Haiti.


Outdoor kitchen
 We visit our confused birth parent as well. My partner can be a bit of a hot head. When the birth mother denies ever having been told that adoption was permanent, Margarette asks her if she knows how to read. She replies indignantly that she does indeed. Margarette discusses the document that the mother read, was read to her, and that she signed with is crystal clear about exactly what adoption means, including the specific statement that the children will never move back to Haiti. Tempers rise, and soon there is a great deal of shouting and some name calling going on between various members of the community, the pastor, the biological family, and Margarette. We’re getting nowhere, so I beg everyone to be quiet.

I speak softly to the mother, who I know darn well knew exactly what she was doing when she relinquished her children for adoption. I’ve sat through dozens of intake meetings, and I know for certain that the BRESMA staff explains in excruciating detail about the permanence of adoption. This mother was even sent home with her children to think about it for a week before she came back to relinquish them.

I explain to her that she has the power to stop this adoption right now, and that the children can be home with her within days. She does not have to place them for adoption and nobody can make her. We don’t want to try to make her. If she can provide for her children, she should raise them herself. I explain that the only person who knows her children better than she does is God himself, and that she needs to make a decision about what is best for them. The only thing that matters is what is best for the children. I don’t think this is at all what she was expecting to hear from this strange white woman. I ask her to think about it and pray about it and do whatever is best for her sons, because only she can decide what is best. She can let us know what her wishes are in a few days. (She called Margarette only three days later to say she had decided that she wanted the children to be adopted after all.)

We start back down the mountain, stopping briefly to visit the new orphanage sponsored by Hands and Feet. The children here were originally in an orphanage so terrible that is was closed down by the government. Hands and Feet has stepped in to give these children safety, hope, and a future. They are all thriving and it’s hard to believe how dire their situation once was. Michelle Meese talks to me about the chicken farming project they’re starting as an experiment. They’re always looking for enterprises for the children to take on as the grow up. They can’t live here forever. They must become productive, self-sufficient members of Haitian society.

At last we head into the city in the dark, stopping only to pick up some street food for the ride. It’s been a long and exhausting day, and I feel completely overwhelmed. The ladies urge me to relax and let things take care of themselves. Or at least have some patience in taking care of them. As a wise friend once told me, we must all do the best we can, and after that it’s out of our hands.

Tomorrow I leave for the States and the 250+ emails stacked up in my inbox. As Dixie Bickel titles her blog, “And life goes on.”

2 comments:

  1. i love to read your posts...thanks for sharing your trip with us!

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  2. Diana - we talked over a year ago, before our family moved to Haiti. I just wanted to thank you for your heart-felt and well-informed postings, keeping everyone up to date on the state of adoptions, orphan care & IBESR.
    We have not pursued adoption here yet, as we've been busy getting acclimated & learning our own roles. I would love to with you again sometime on how to prevent the need for orphanage care for those that have parents/family willing to care for them (just no resources).
    blessings for all that you do!

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