Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Saving Haitian Orphans

A quote from Pat Robertson, as reported in the NY Daily News:

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," the controversial televangelist said during an interview Wednesday on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"They were under the heel of the French...and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'"

Robertson continued: "True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

Religious folks sometimes do more harm than good. I guess Robertson believes in a different God than the one I was taught to love as a child. I was taught he was a force for love and goodness, not vengeance.

Then, there is a different kind of response.

An orphanage in Port-au-Prince is owned by a Haitian, as is the law, but sponsored by Answered Prayers, out of Canada. The orphanage is called BRESMA.

Two sisters from the Pittsburgh area worked in this orphanage in Haiti and were able to fly out 53 orphans today, thanks in large part to social media. To get the message out that they had group homes available to care for the children until they are adopted, they enlisted the help of PA Governor Ed Rendell and the networks of Twitter and Facebook. Quite savvy, really, but it does play into the criticisms. Was all of the necessary paperwork completed for these orphans? In most of these corrupt third world countries, finishing paperwork involves paying off the officials. Was simply throwing money at the rescue the key to the evacuation?

Emergency Visas were issued for those flown to Pittsburgh with elected officials, including the Governor of Pennsylvania who flew down on the rescue plane dispatched for the children.

I'm not saying these children shouldn't be brought to a better life here in America. I'm asking, is this how we do it now in crisis situations? What about the other children and the fresh wave of orphans this earthquake will create? What about the couple from Greece, New York who were on FOX yesterday tugging at our heartstrings because the two little ones they were adopting were put on camera by a reporter? The viewer was led to believe that the State Department was not moving swiftly enough, that red tape was risking the lives of these children not able to simply board a plane and leave the country. Turns out, the parents were still in New York and not in Haiti. The parents admitted the paperwork process was only about 75% completed.

What about the remainder of the 150 children living in this particular orphanage?

According to an article at Pittsburgh Magazine online, January 2009,
the McMurtrie sisters of Ben Avon, have been at the orphanage since 2006 (Jamie) and 2008 (Alison). No one would fault them for doing what they feel is their calling in life, saving the Haitian orphans from desperate circumstances. This orphanage is known for the "fastest adoption process of any Haitian orphanage", according to the article. Still, the process can take up to 18 months.

Typically, when Americans adopt children from overseas, the prospective parents are in country and doing paperwork while the process is completed. In a natural disaster emergency this is complicated. It does raise the question of who will receive special treatment under dire straits. Does the end justify the means? Not all of these children, newly arrived in America, have clearance for adoption and the State Department has issued a statement that much care must be given that children are not adopted when Haitian family members are willing to take them in. So, why were those not given final clearance allowed to leave?

International adoption can be a corrupted process, under the best of circumstances. Money talks. Americans must tread cautiously to avoid a trap of good intentions versus human dignity for all involved.

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