Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Serious Good News!

Wasn’t it just yesterday I wrote something about having plans, but not expectations?

Same Age, Different Personalities!
We’re late.  Late by more than half an hour to our meeting with Met. Andolphe Guillaume, head attorney for IBESR.  Being late when you have the first appointment of the day doesn’t really matter, because chances are that the person you’re meeting with is stuck in traffic too, but when you’re a later meeting it can be a problem.

I’m here with my two primary crèche partners, Margarette Saint Fleur and Sonia Andre.  The meeting was originally mostly for me to ask two questions for ABI, but I needed a translator anyway, and these ladies are my partners.  I’m proud to be seen in their company.

The three of us wait for almost two hours for Met. Guillaume to finish the meeting he was drawn into when we failed to show up on time.  We spend much of the time in a front office with two young women.  One has several US adoptive dossiers on her desk.  During this whole time, one woman plays on Facebook and the other does nothing at all, occasionally chatting with people as they come by.  They’re very fortunate that they don’t work for me, and the experience provides an unpleasant glimpse into why IBESR can take so long simply to approve a dossier, a match, an adoption.  I have found the leaders to be very diligent and hard working, but if this is how their support staff operates it’s no wonder the office is plagued with inefficiency.

Finally, Met. Guillaume appears.  He asks us to wait a few more minutes, but I’m not worried about him disappearing again.  This man has demonstrated that he’s trustworthy in the past.  At last we get started.  Met. Guillaume confirms what I was told over the phone by a US Government official yesterday – Haiti did indeed deposit her instrument of ratification of the Hague Convention of International Adoption on December 17th.  It is done.  And praise God, I believe that it was done right.  The new law has been examined by many experts and they believe that it will be considered fully Hague compliant.  In Haiti, the Hague Convention will not be twisted into a weapon to eliminate or minimize international adoption as an option for permanency for orphaned and abandoned children.

I ask about one dossier of ABI’s that was deposited after the new policies took effect, but before the new law was published.  The adoptive mother no longer qualifies to adopt under the new law.  Met. Guillaume tells us that his secretary is conducting an inventory of all the dossiers in IBESR, old and new, some 500 in all.  One of the things they’re looking for is dossiers in exactly this circumstance, caught between laws.  It is his intention to present these cases to the judges to see how they can be handled.  At this point my partner Sonia, who is generally a mild, sweet tempered, and easy going woman, launches into an impassioned speech about the need for older, experience parents for older children.  It makes no sense at all for a fifty-two year old parent to be forbidden to adopt a fourteen-year-old child!  She argues that IBESR can and should make exceptions where they are warranted, just as there are no upper age limits for families adopting biological relatives.  The best interests of the child must be considered first.

I agree with her one hundred percent, but I have no idea if Haitian law makes any provisions for common sense.  I’m hoping that the judges find that it does.

I discuss another agency issue with him, and then all three of us launch in at once: when are referral letters going to start being issued regularly?  Poor man.  He’s a quiet, thoughtful, purposeful person, and having three passionate, frustrated women pushing him at the same time must be somewhat disconcerting.  February, he assures us.  His secretary is supposed to have the inventory of the dossiers complete tomorrow, and very shortly he can start calling crèche directors in for more match-making meetings.  The referrals will be offered only with IBESR’s approval, but with the close coordination of the crèche directors who know the children.  I refrain from leaping out of my seat and cheering.  Margarette gives me a little smile, knowing how much effort I’m making to keep my mouth shut.  I settle for a reverent and heartfelt ‘Mesi Jezi!’ and leave it at that.

The proposed double blind matching system has been haunting me since the day it was first proposed.  An epic failure when it is used for older or special needs children, I’m not sure I could continue under such a method.  In the double blind system, government officials review dossiers of adoptive parents and of children who are legally free for adoption, and match them together, never having met or even spoken to either party.  It has worked in China, with a huge staff of trained social workers placing mostly healthy infants.  In Haiti, where we almost never place a healthy infant, the potential for disaster is undeniable.  Older children, siblings, traumatized and abandoned children, those with medical, developmental, emotional, or psychiatric special needs – all can be best served by crèche directors who know them well partnering directly with program coordinators who have carefully screened and prepared their adoptive families to meet those needs.  It’s still not easy, but parenting a child with challenges that you were aware of in advance is much more feasible than being surprised with a child comes home with issues the family never knew about, planned for, or would have agreed to accept in the first place.
Class at BRESMA

We return to BRESMA, my head still decompressing from the relief of stress, at least for now.  After lunch, I escort my visiting client to BRESMA.  I give her the grand tour and introduce her to the staff.  She has come prepared with teaching supplies and a plan, and my older kids are soon busily engaged with her.  I’m surprised how many shapes, numbers, and colors they know.  They love the attention, stimulation, and activity, and after going around to check on everyone, take a few photos, and say hello, I allow myself just to sit and enjoy watching them.


It has been a good day.

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