A slow day at last. I go do BRESMA in the morning and spend several hours doing what I wanted to do in the first place; relaxing with the kids. This is my time to take photos and videos and meet several new children who have arrived recently. They’re easy to identify, with their papery skin and red hair. In a few months, they will look so much better.Speaking of looking better, I check in on the little boy of a set of twins who became very ill last summer while Margarette was away in Europe. She and their adoptive family came to Haiti on the same day to find both twins alarmingly thin and listless – the little boy frighteningly so. No more. He’s fat, fat, fat now! And spoiled too. I couldn’t be happier. He’s the special project of one of the nannies, who watches over him jealously, but the others like to fuss over him as well. Nobody would ever guess that he had given us all such a scare.
The kids enter the room where I’m observing carrying little packets of something sticky. I’m offered several pre-chewed bites, but politely decline. I don’t need any Medika Mamba to help me gain weight, thanks.
From the other room comes the sound of a child being beaten or murdered or tortured – I’m not sure which. They are all toddlers in this room, after all… The racket continues for a good five minutes and I go to investigate. L. is sitting in a high chair, next to his twin sister. She’s scowling, but he is screaming his head off, his whole head wet with tears and sweat. L. is trying to hit everyone in sight, filled with rage. The nannies are bellowing over his deafening protests, discussing the Nutella they are mixing with his Medika Mamba. I knew he didn’t like the Medika Mamba, which he needs, so they have to mix it with chocolate to get him to eat it, but this is ridiculous. A nanny forces a bite into his mouth, L. screaming so hard I’m worried he’ll choke. He shoves the bowl away violently. His sister is feeding herself the peanut butter mixed with chocolate, still glaring at everyone, but eating it. I take a taste. It’s delicious – like Reese’s peanut butter cups melted in a bowl! I tell L. that if he doesn’t eat it, I’m going to take it and eat it myself. That cools him down a little bit, but he’s still throwing an impressive tantrum. I ask his nannies what the problem is. It is very difficult to imagine any child who would not be very, very happy to eat what is in L.’s bowl right now.
One of the nannies explains the problem. It’s the bowl, not what is in it. L. is outraged that they won’t stuff the mixture back into the little baggie so that he can squeeze it out into his mouth like everybody else. So, to summarize, our previously starving Haitian orphan is now a spoiled little prince! I am delighted. One of the nannies scolds him, tells him to eat or she’s going to take his bowl away, and he resentfully begins to stuff himself, still giving us all the evil eye. Ah, the drama of toddlerhood. Praise God that our little prince now has the energy, determination, and confidence to protest how he is served the food specially mixed to meet his discriminating palate!
The new kids have not yet learned to be so demanding, but I have faith that in time they too will become the little tyrants that every tiny child has a right to be.
At the guest house I eat lunch (yeah!) and meet with the director of another orphanage about a complicated case. The child was in the US on a medical Visa for 20 months, having been born without an anus. The repair was not entirely successful, and B. now has no bowel control. She’s back in Haiti, but her biological family has eight other children and is unable to care for a child who ‘leaks’ and will probably be in diapers for the rest of her life without more intervention, never mind the repeated serious bladder infections her condition is causing. We’re going to attempt to do the next-to-impossible: a pre-identified Hague adoption when one of the parents is over age. But exceptional circumstances merit exceptional measures, and as I told the delegation on Wednesday, odd cases roll downhill to ABI. This will be a huge battle, but it is absolutely the right thing to do. Finding another family for a child with B.’s condition when there is already one who wants her, who she already thinks of and refers to as her own family, would be even more difficult. So, we’ll do what we must for the love of one child.
Finally Margarette and I get to meet. We’ve gone over our cases in the van between our endless meetings and appointments this week. Now we must go over our contracts for all cases submitted to IBESR following October of 2014. It’s a radical shift in how we work, and after eleven years of trust and partnership that have worked so very well, neither one of us is pleased about making any changes. I tell Margarette that if she doesn’t like the contract it’s my fault, since I’m the one who edited it for Haiti. It’s ten pages of single-spaced legalese, all written to conform to the Hague and US Immigration law.
Our contract was not easy to write, and it’s not pleasant to sign as it represents a parting of the ways. All these years, we’ve worked only with orphanages we know and trust. Safe homes for children where they are not only fed and given medical care, but also love and opportunities for development. Places which would give us honest evaluations of each child’s needs and strengths, with which we would jointly propose matches to families who would best serve each child. Now, the matches will be made by a committee that does not yet exist, and the trust will be replaced by protocols, hope, and faith. My visits to our partner crèches will be no more than that – visits, not evaluations of children and who can best parent them. Now I'm the one who wants to scream and cry, but it won't do me any good either.
Margarette signs, but she doesn’t like it. Neither do I, but what choice do we have? Haiti is still full of children in need, and we have been called upon to serve them, even if we will now only be permitted to do so in an inferior way.