My heart is breaking for the people of Haiti. As I watch the news, I am moved beyond words by the pictures, especially the pictures of children alone. The mother in me wants to scoop each of them up in my arms and protect them, feed them, cuddle them. I want to mother them because that’s what I do and what I am. From the phone calls and emails I’ve been receiving about adopting Haitian children orphaned by the earthquake, I know that many of you feel the same way. While the desire to come to the aid of orphans is wonderful, it is usually not possible to adopt these children, at least not in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Adoption is not the first solution considered for these children for many good reasons.
- Right after a natural disaster, it is surprisingly hard to determine if a child is truly an orphan or just temporarily separated from his family. Haiti and relief organizations need to move slowly to allow immediate and extended family members to find each other. US law supports this by requiring that all children adopted by US citizens meet the strict legal definition of orphan, and just losing a parent is not enough to meet this definition.
- Once a child is determined to be an orphan, the first step is to try to find members of his extended family or community to adopt him. This effort takes time. Literally and figuratively, the dust needs to settle.
- From a practical standpoint, Haiti’s legal infrastructure has been torn asunder, and heaven only knows we need an intact legal system to process adoptions. The last thing we want is another fiasco of fraudulent international adoptions. Also, with all that the Haitian government has on their plate right now, processing adoptions is not and should not be their top priority.
- Travel to Haiti is not safe right now, and the limited supplies available in Haiti need to be used for Haitians, not foreigners traveling to adopt children.
- Orphans of a natural disaster have been traumatized, and moving to a new home, with new parents, new language, and a new culture may not be in the child’s best interest even if they can not be adopted in their birth country.
- International adoptions are a long, often drawn out process, and don’t lend themselves to the hurried atmosphere immediately following a natural disaster.
But here’s the irony: before the earthquake adoption agencies were having trouble finding families for Haitian orphans, especially sibling groups and little boys over the age of two. There are many children in Haiti in need of a permanent family and these kids will still need families once the dust settles. I hope that our donations to Haiti will be used in part to support families and extended families so that no new children are abandoned or placed in orphanages because their parents or extended family can’t afford to raise them. Although that should be our goal, in reality we expect that more children will ultimately be in need of permanent adoptive families due to the earthquake and the economic crisis that will likely follow. We won’t know the full numbers for at least 6 months to a year. We have every expectation that international adoptions from Haiti will resume sometime this year, and I want to encourage you to consider this as an option.
Sadly, we don’t know the impact of the quake on adoptions that were already in process. My heart goes out for those families whose children are still in Haiti. All the families I know of have now receive word that their children are alive and safe, but I still can’t imagine the frustration of knowing your child is at risk and not being able to do anything. It is possible that once the immediate rescue needs are met the US government will expedite these adoptions. I hope to have more information on this in time for next week’s (January 20, 2010) Creating a Family show.
I often tell people that adopting from Haiti isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you are patient it is doable. We have a chart describing the Haitian Adoption Process. The Creating a Family radio show on January 20, 2010 will be on Adopting from Haiti Post Earthquake. Adopting from Haiti is reasonable in cost and the children are simply beautiful.
How to Help the Children Now
In the meantime, there is so much that you can do right now to help the children of Haiti and especially the orphans of Haiti. By the grace of God, I have not heard of any orphanage that was completely destroyed or lost children. (I will continue to update this blog as new information comes in on this.) However, several orphanages were damaged and all orphanages are concerned about getting basic supplies of food, medicine, and water within the coming weeks. The physical infrastructure of roads, airports, and sea ports have been damaged or destroyed. Getting supplies into the country and around the country will be a challenge and will take money. All of Haiti needs our donations, but if you want to give to support orphanages specifically, consider some of these. As most of you know, I seldom mention specific organizations or agencies because I feel the obligation to check each one out to make sure it is on the up-and-up. Time simply doesn’t allow me to do that with this list. I’ve done what I can, however, to quickly check them out. Again, I’ll continue to update this blog as I hear of new organizations collecting funds for Haitian orphans.
- Dillon International Adoption Agency has had a long standing adoption program in Haiti and is affiliated with an orphanage and hospital in Haiti. The orphanage was damaged and the hospital is overflowing with people needing medical help. Dillon is collecting funds for both the orphanage and the hospital.
- Holt International Adoption Agency has a long standing international adoption program in Haiti and helps run an orphanage and family preservation program there. The orphanage was undamaged. They are collecting money to aid all Haitian and especially children.
- Carolina Adoption Services: Working with Maison des Anges in Tabarre which is home to 90 children, the majority under the age of 2 years. The children are unhurt, but the orphanage sustained some structural damage.
- Children’s House International: Working with Creche Enfante Jesus. Orhanage and children are fine but concern for food and water in the coming weeks.
- Tree of Life Adoption Center: Working with HIS Home for Children in Port-au-Prince and Foyer de Sara. Although the 100 children are safe, the orphanage was damaged and the children and staff are sleeping outside. Greatest conern is food and water.
- Bethany Christian Services: Working with God’s Littlest Angels orphanage and The Creche Enfants Jesus. Children are safe and orphanage was not damaged. They are able and willing to take in more children.
- Hand in Hand is a nonprofit adoption agency that has been processing international adoptions from Haiti for the past 20 years. They are collecting donations for two orphanages they work with in Haiti.
- Chances for Children provides the financial and strategic support for an adoption center named Crèche Enfant de l’Jèsus, currenly housing about 70 children and located east of Port au Prince, Haiti. Also support numerous local project to improve the underlying conditions that result in the number of children coming into institutionalized care.
- BRESMA Orphange was badly damaged. They are trying to get all the children out of the country.
- New Hope Haiti Mission is a non-profit Christian ministry providing care to 29 children. The orphanage was damaged and supplies were lost in the earthquake.
- God’s Littlest Angels is a non-profit Christian orphanage in Haiti.
- Heartline Ministries runs Maranatha Children’s Home as well as many other programs in Haiti.
- Foyer de Sion orphanage is home to 225 children. Although all the children are safe, they are in need of money for supplies.
- The Shepherd’s Crook is a phenomenal ministry finding homes for kids with special needs. They are involved in a project in northwest Haiti building a facility for special-needs orphans. Although they’ve put this project on hold since the quake, they are collecting funds for general Haitian relief working with Northwest Haiti Christian Missions.
- Moving with the Spirit Mission Haiti is building an orphanage in Haiti.
- World Wide Village, Inc. is a Christian ministry providing education, health care, nutrition and micro enterprise opportunities to children and families in Haiti. Although not specific to orphans or orphanages, I felt compelled to include them since I have been following their blog since the earthquake.