Dear Haiti adoptive families,
As some of you may have known, I was in Haïti last week. It was a very productive week in Haiti. I’m so grateful we have been warmly welcomed once again by our US Embassy and IBESR. All Blessing, Wasatch, Building Arizona Families, and Nightlight, came together to “thrive together instead of survive alone.” We all have common goals of doing what is best for Haitian children – all children. We spent time listening to many creche (orphanage) directors, IBESR agency representatives, our Embassy adoption team and IBESR staff members as we discussed the many aspects of adopting a child from Haiti and the overall welfare of Haitian children.
Our first meeting was an informal gathering for us to hear from creche directors and others involved in caring for children in Haiti. There were many concerns raised. Overall, we left this gathering with the conclusion that communication and rumors remain problematic for everyone. We continue to encourage all stakeholders in Haiti who care for the best interests of children to schedule regular meetings and to share information so that rumors can be dealt with quickly. Everyone we met with during the week wants to do what is best for Haitian children. Although there are differences in perspective on what is best, including the issues surrounding adopting a child from Haiti, there are many more areas of agreement.
Our next meeting was with our US Embassy. Michelle Milardo, Chief of the Adoption Unit, is on a medical leave of absence. During her absence, Megan Kenny, is acting Chief. Megan is just as passionate and responsive as Michelle. Michelle and Keith attended our later meetings with us. Megan brought a few concerns to our group that we believe important to share with you in regards to adopting a child from Haiti.
1. Clarification on the Visa medical appointment and vaccine requirements. The embassy follows the CDC guidelines for vaccines. However, parents can choose to waive vaccines for children under 10. Children over 10 must have vaccines. The medical appointment for children over 10 is $450. The medical appointment for children under 10 whose vaccines are waived is now $200.
2. We discussed the inconsistent timeline with dossiers processed in MOI and subsequent passport processing. This has been a challenge for us because the passport department tells the embassy passports take one week. We know they have taken 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, etc. We know that families are “at the end of their rope” by this point in the process of adopting a child from Haiti. We want to make sure this step becomes more predictable in terms of timing. We brainstormed different solutions and the embassy took note to present to the administrators at MOI who have, in the past, been very receptive to putting their input into practice.
3. The Embassy discussed the challenges of social media and the Facebook pages’ influence over parents. She said she knows when a rumor is posted because she receives communication at once from several families who are concerned. This has always been a concern and something we constantly have to manage and do damage control. Facebook is a blessing and a curse – bring any and all rumors/concerns to your ASP. Transparency on all sides is crucial in this hard and long journey to bring your child(ren) home. The embassy pointed out that they too have a Facebook page and American Citizen Services has a Facebook page. The embassy team is happy to dispel rumors, but they ask that families come to their adoption agency first with these concerns and we will work with the embassy to solve any problem they might not be aware of.
On January 23, 2019, was a meeting at IBESR (with the embassy team) and it was filled with new information about the welfare of Haiti children, as well as how it impacts adopting a child from Haiti. Agency representatives who have been working in Haiti 15+ years state they have never seen IBESR create the amount of change they have in the past year. Local and international organizations have partnered with IBESR to administer regulatory supervision over 569 orphanages. Using electronic surveys, the orphanages (and creches) were inspected by committees and rated based on administrative caregiver rankings. You have probably heard of the color system that creches are now under (green, yellow, and red and there is a red+). IBESR explained the goal of the creche rating system, how orphanages and creches are color coded and the steps and timeline in which creche are being asked to improve their facility to make it “green”. It became apparent quickly that outside resources have come in to support IBESR in this huge undertaking. IBESR is prioritizing the safety of children and seeking that all creches have appropriate discipline plans for the children in their care. There is a movement to de-institutionalize Haiti and move children back into their original families or into foster care. They are calling it the “DI Process.” There is also another subgroup of creches considered “red plus.” These creches will be shut down due to abuse concerns.
We (the agencies) expressed our concerns to every group that this must be done with extreme caution, slowly and with an abundance of education and transparent communication. It is clear that international adoption will remain as a solution for permanency for Haitian children – that adopting a child from Haiti would ideally be a last resort.
How does this affect your plans for adopting a child from Haiti? Only green creches can submit new child dossiers until creches are re-evaluated between now and July. If yellow or red creches have child dossiers already in IBESR, those can be matched/processed still. Agencies are still receiving referrals and IBESR states that they have matches prepared for many of the families who have been waiting the longest for a match. If a creche that was yellow or red did not have a child’s dossier completed and turned into IBESR by the beginning of January they may not turn in the child’s dossier until the creche is coded as green. I know many of you are waiting on referrals for special needs and older children and at this time I do not know, and will not be told, what dossiers were turned in while we wait for the referrals.
(What made a creche not “green”? There was a list of criteria a creche needed in order to maintain a positive coding. At this time there are 35 green, 139 yellow. The main target of the project was abuse. For example, if a nanny was spanking a child, that nanny had to be fired in order to correct the issue.)
We also discussed recent changes to the quota. After our discussion, it was determined by IBESR that agencies can continue to submit 12 parent dossiers per year for adopting a child from Haiti that is non-special needs. In addition, BAF can submit 10 parent dossiers that are special cases including kinship, children over age 6, sibling sets of 3+ and medical special needs. This quota, which we support, is to prevent a backlog.
This brings me to our next item of discussion: advocating for special needs/older children. IBESR is researching a few database programs that will help them manage, regulate and track children in their care. With this, we hope to receive more information on these cases so that we can advocate for children who are more difficult to place. In the meantime, as I become aware of a child that is considered special needs I can make you aware of the needs of that child or sibling groups.
All in all, I can confidently report that intercountry adoption from Haiti will remain a permanency option for Haitian children. The opportunity to adopt a child from Haiti will continue and I will advocate for each family and each child. As all these changes take place we will continue to see the time-frames from 24-36 months until you bring a child home. If you are waiting to be matched with a child under 5-years old the wait times will be longer than a family wanting an older child or sibling groups.
Many of you have asked for reading suggestions while you wait. Here are a few I would suggest. Some are religious in nature, but regardless of your background, they are educational. Miracle on VooDoo Mountain, Restavec, When Helping Hurts, Mountains beyond Mountains, and Toxic Charity.
International Program Manager