Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meetings

Earlier this month I was honored with an invitation to another Adoption Round Table at the US Embassy.  Unfortunately, I had to send my regrets.  My work in Haiti has caused me to miss more proms, games, first steps, and birthdays than I even like to consider.  But I was not about to miss my daughter competing in the state high school basketball finals.  Her team finished seventh in the entire state B tournament, and this time Mom was there for every moment of her triumph.

Good ol' Boys Club
At the same time, there were transportation strikes in Haiti and the US Government postponed their delegation to Haiti.  Much to my delight, the meeting was rescheduled for today, when I was already scheduled to be in Haiti.  The meetings are always informative and useful, and this one is to be attended by several people I’ve worked with for years but never met face to face.  What a gift!

The morning starts with a tour of BRESMA for some special visitors.  I think they’re very impressed by what they see, and one person present (who is an attorney in real life) shows her true colors when her colleagues have to shoo her out the door.  She would rather stay and color with the preschool age girls.  I would too, but today is not the day for personal preferences.  It’s time to put on our diplomatic hats and fancier clothes and head to the US Embassy.

It’s a limited meeting, with only a few US agency representatives and the Directorship of three crèches invited.  I’m delighted to learn that Dixie Bickel from God’s Littlest Angels is here as well.  Hers is always a voice of reason, and of course she is very well informed.  Lucien and Gina Duncan are here, as is Margarette Saint Fleur of BRESMA.  Definitely a good sampling of the best informed and most ethical adoption facilitators and crèche directors in the country.  The US delegation includes the in-country staff of both USCIS and DOS, as well as many important leaders from both departments from their Washington DC offices.  I will not share names here to protect their privacy, but suffice it to say that the US Government is demonstrating a very strong interest in and concern for the welfare of Haiti’s vulnerable children.  USCIS and DOS often get a bad rap from adoptive parents, but over the past eleven years I have overwhelming found their personnel, at least at the higher levels, to be not only cooperative but compassionate as well.

We discuss various issues that we’re seeing lately.  At the moment, the primary focus is on transitional cases.  There are approximately 400 I600A petitions filed by US families to adopt from Haiti, which is now a Hague country.  Therefore, all of those cases are considered transitional.  They will be processed as would a Hague case in Haiti, under the new law (unless they are already begun – contact your agency or an immigration attorney for details), but as an Orphan/I600 case in regards to US Immigrations. 
Please read this information from USCIS for critical details regarding the filing of forms I600 in transitional cases: http://www.uscis.gov/adoption/country-information/adoption-information-haiti!

The delegation tells me they have not yet begun to focus on the straight Hague cases, as they don’t anticipate any I800 filings for Haiti cases processed under the new law for quite some time.  They are visibly taken aback when I inform them that I will in fact be filing the first such case in about two months at most.  The moral of the story, my American readers, is DO NOT LET YOUR I600A EXPIRE!  I suppose they’ll have to figure out how to process Haiti Hague cases sooner rather than later!

There is extensive discussion of the delays at IBESR.  Lucien Duncan expresses his opinion that the issue at IBESR is “lack of qualified human resources”.  I could not agree more!  There is one social worker to meet with, inform, and counsel biological families considering placing their children for adoption.  One social worker to meet with each adoptive family visiting Haiti on their socialization trip.  On Tuesday she was way up in the mountains in Thomassin, meeting with one of my families.  The trip and visit took most of the day.  When exactly is she supposed to write up her report on their meeting?  Mme Jean is a superb social worker, but she’s only human.  IBESR desperately needs a team – a large one – to accomplish their designated tasks.  Margarette and I calculated that the fees for the dossiers currently submitted must total at least $520,000 US, but I imagine that money is long since spent, and that IBESR lacks the financial resources to hire more staff.  As I told the US delegation, as I continue to tell IBESR, $385 was never enough funding to complete all of their assigned tasks.  I urgently wish that IBESR would now require an additional $1100 for each dossier already filed but not yet matched, as they plan to do for each dossier from October 2014 on.
I am able to relate to the delegation how much more reliable and safe the new relinquishment process is.  At this point, I think it would be very difficult indeed to traffic a child for adoption, with the birthparents unknowing of what is was to which they were agreeing.  They seem very pleased to hear about all of the safeguards in place.

Overall, I’d say that all the meeting participants are quite pleased with IBESR’s work, just not the speed at which is it being performed.  We all understand that transition is very difficult.  Unfortunately, the children who are growing up without families do not understand.  Nor should they have to.  They don’t have the time to wait and be patient as their childhoods slip away.
My Haitian colleagues and I leave the meeting in a bilingual discussion of all that occurred.  They are very satisfied indeed – they feel heard and they are very impressed by how much the US Government cares about Haitian adoptions, as evidenced by the number and importance of the personnel that they sent to speak with us.

Leg of a starving one-year-old child
Speaking of trafficking – as soon as we are finished with the meeting at the Embassy, Margarette and I go directly to IBESR to continue our very, very long battle to attempt to repair a few cases from an organization that had some very questionable ethics.  Today we need to meet with Me Jean, an IBESR attorney.  In one of the cases, the child’s grandmother was made to sign as her mother.  The little girl’s entire dossier is false!  We need permission to do it over again, this time with a family counsel and a death certificate for her mother, who is in fact deceased.  I’m angry twice over, as this particular bit of fraud will not only set the child back even more months of waiting, but it’s not even that hard to get a family counsel for a true orphan.  This was a lie born of sheer laziness, and the child is paying for it.

I’m very glad I came along.  Me Jean is empathetic to Margarette’s request, but she says she’s worried that the US government will not allow the case.  I am able to explain to her exactly how the law works – we haven’t submitted any of the falsified dossier to the US Government.  If only she’ll allow us to do the child’s dossier over, and correctly this time, we’ll file a clean and legitimate case with US Immigrations.  We are not required to turn in documents that we know are false and replaced with correct ones.  She’s running out the door and instructs us to return on Friday.  This is how it usually works in Haiti – you have to have an appointment to make an appointment, and even that is no guarantee that both parties will appear at the right time or even on the right day.
Finally I’m home again.  Dinner is ready and so am I – in Haiti I too seem to usually get just two meals per day.  My husband likes to refer to my travels as my ‘Caribbean Vacations’.  Funny how I always wish I could take a few days off after one of my ‘vacations’!

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