Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thinking about Haiti

With the Haitian earthquake tragedy the last few weeks, the adoption blogosphere has been on fire with commentaries, like at Adoption Talk or Family Preservation Advocacy. It seems everyone has an opinion.  Here's mine:

I was relieved to see that the U.S.-Haitian adoptions that were in progress before the earthquake were expedited and those children were able to be brought to the U.S. to be taken care of my their new family.  I can only imagine the distress that the "expecting" adoptive parents felt when they saw how these earthquakes have decimated Haiti. After all, those adoptive parents could have been waiting up to three years to be united with their new son or daughter.

I was also relieved to hear on NPR (listen here) that the United States is not rushing in to scoop up the "orphans" and bring them to the United States.  When a tragedy like this hits, it is important to act quickly for rescue, food and medical care. But when it comes to the children and surviving families, I believe that the United States should practice patience. The risk of child trafficking is too high.

We must be vigilant not to separate children from relatives in Haiti who are still alive but displaced, or to unknowingly assist criminals who traffic in children in such desperate times.
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler

This is where, as an adoptee, I have strong feelings.  Moving forward from today, I feel that every effort should be made to find a child's biological family - whether they will be placed with their aunt, uncle, grandparent or second cousin-once removed.  There are greater chances that a child's biological family will know medical histories of family members or anecdotal family stories, giving the child a sense of connection and belonging. I would hate to see history repeat itself after the 1970's adoptions of Vietnamese children (see above NPR link).

However, it doesn't mean that I am against adoption. I'm just against the all-mighty U.S. of A. using their superpower to swoop down from on high to "rescue the children."  If we place these children into American families (and, most likely, transracially adoptive families), will the children grow up with a sense of their Haitian culture?  It depends on where they live.  If it's southern Florida or New York City, I'm not so worried.  If it's in a location that does not have a well-established Haitian community, I'm more concerned. And it depends on their adoptive parents. Hopefully, they will be well-informed, learning parents who appreciate the child(ren)'s heritage culture and will be able to teach them how to live in a race-conscious United States.

And for the adopted Haitian, will they grow up understanding their privilege in the United States? Will they feel moved to use that privilege to better their homeland?  If they do feel moved to return to Haiti, can Haiti afford to wait for ten to twenty years before these children grow up and become doctors or teachers?

For those who are suddenly "moved to adopt" and take care of these needy children, I give this challenge: why not move to Haiti? That way you can raise the child in their native country and not strip Haiti of their future - the children. Doesn't Haiti have every right to keep their children? (I'm getting sarcastic, I know...)

At the very least, I think that Haiti should have a strong say in this decision.  Please, U.S. government, listen to the Haitian voices before you make decisions about their children. Haiti is an autonomous country. Please ask them what they need, and don't try to make decisions for them.

Readers, I would love to hear your thoughts on Haiti and her children.


a Tonggu Momma said...

Someone emailed me this week, asking if I thought there was an ethical way for a Haitian babylift to occur. I said yes, if the Haitian government actually ASKED us to do this. Which they would only do if the circumstances were DIRE. And that pretty much sums it up. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this.

JBH said...

@Tongu Momma: Thanks for commenting and for affirming my views:-). I always enjoy reading your blog!

Vita Reid said...

A co-worker of mine who happens to be caucasian very much wants to adopt a Haitian child. Whether a child is adopted or returned to their biological parent, what is most important is that the child be happy, healthy and kept out of harm's way.