Thursday, March 7, 2013

IBESR Meeting

Manmi Wislande and a Young Friend
It’s funny – as I write this, I realize that I am a different person than the one who set out this morning intending to take some cute kid photos and attend a policy meeting. I’d anticipated a lot of fun in the morning and a frustrating afternoon, which is in fact part of what I got.

Marg and I went to AUBE first, where I took photos of all of ‘my’ kids and a dozen or so new ones. IBESR asked Sonia to come and get a LOT of new babies to care for, just after our agency’s accreditation was announced but before they told us about the quota. We now have a shocking number of hungry little mouths to feed, and no good prediction as to when we’ll be able to place them with families.

Marg makes good friends with a baby boy who arrived at just one day of age. He’s a lucky guy. Growing up here, he’s right on target developmentally and a very happy baby! Marg ponders if she could stuff him in her large purse for the flight home. I’ve had the same thought many times myself!

Several years ago the adoption case of one of my favorite little squishlets ever was taking forever. As I was unpacking my suitcase and Ti Fafann was standing in it anyway, I asked her if she would like to ride home in my suitcase. She said she would. I asked her if she could be very quiet. She answered, “No. I will sing!” So we had to do it the official way. Still – it’s tempting! (Please Note – ABI’s Director said that I must specifically state that this is all said in a joking manner and I would never participate in actual child smuggling! )

Next we go to IBESR. Sonia, Marg and I arrive early as the Crèche Directors’ Association email had asked us to, but we are the only ones. The planning meeting we’d hoped to have in advance does not occur.

IBESR has made some improvements. There is a large, newly constructed meeting room at the back of the complex. A brand new generator hums away in a nearby shed, explaining the constant electricity I noted on my last few visits. We file into the meeting room which fills up fast. I know a lot of the people here, which I suppose isn’t surprising.

Chris Nungester sits behind us with a friend who is going to translate for her. I beg her to talk loudly so we can listen in. Neither Margarette or Sonia have the peculiar skill of listening in one language and repeating what they hear in another at the same time. I can assure you from personal experience that it’s a LOT harder than it looks!

The meeting, once it begins, is just as contentious as I had expected. Most of the crèche directors have not accepted the new policies. Some of the terms feel offensive to them – particularly the prohibition restricting licensed agencies from sending post-placement reports directly to the crèches. After caring for a child for one or two years or even longer, these people have a vested interest in knowing how each child fares. I’ve read those regulations carefully. They do state that we agencies are FORBIDDEN to send those official post-placement reports to the crèches. But I sure don’t see anything forbidding a friendly letter and photo exchange, so that’s what I plan to beg all of my families to provide as a kindness to those who give so much to help their children when they need it the most.

I so wish I could speak French! At one point in the meeting, a crèche director makes a statement, Mme. Villedrouin responds, and suddenly fifty people are on their feet shouting at her in French. When things finally quiet down enough that I can make myself heard, I ask Margarette what happened. Apparently the crèche director told Mme. Villedrouin that when they send children home to biological families whose situations have not changed, they are dead within three months. Mme. Villedrouin replied that that was not true, and that is why everyone is shouting. It is true, and they’ve all seen it. It’s possible to insulate yourself from some of the raw suffering of Haiti, but most of the people in this room have chosen not to do so.

This moment during the meeting is forever frozen in my mind, given what happened later this night.

After the meeting I speak very briefly with the young woman from the Hague Permanent Bureau. I’m lucky – her English is impeccable. She and I have similar concerns about what I consider the most critical issues in the new policies, and it’s reassuring to hear that the HPB is communicating the very message to IBESR regarding those issues that I would speak myself, given the opportunity.

As the HPB lady says, “Change is hard.” They’ve seen resistance to new policies before. Perhaps I’m a perpetual optimist, but I believe that this change can be good overall, despite the early difficulties of implementation.

So we left the meeting at peace, in blissful ignorance of what was happening for one of our little ones...

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