Friday, September 25, 2009

Adoptions from Haiti slow to a trickle

A very good story this morning talks about the delays and challenges in seeking adoption. The story focuses on Haiti, where the adoption process has slowed to taking up to 2 years. Many factors are blamed for the delays, including political unrest in the nation, the food riots of last year, and some are even blaming UNICEF.

From the News Journal writer Kelly Cuculiansky writes about expectant adopter Robin Garland who has been waiting to adopt Jennifer Casanave from Haiti. If you really want your heart strings pulled click on link to the entire story.

Garland left the orphanage that day bound for home, not knowing what troubles would lie ahead for the girl’s country. Within three weeks of her visit, she opened an e-mail from the adoption agency, detailing the beginnings of food riots that broke out earlier this month.

Youngsters normally receive snacks and three meals a day, consisting of goat or beef, black beans and rice. During the riots, Cayo said the orphanage experienced a food shortage, but “managed.” Rice was up to $80 for a 100-pound bag, while a gallon of gasoline was selling for $6.

“Last week was the first time we have seen something like that happen (in Petionville),” Cayo said.

The town, considered a wealthy suburb where most of Haiti’s political and economic elite live, is in the hills east of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. During the riots, Cayo said storefronts and car windows were smashed, tires were set ablaze and there were some roadblocks, “but not much damage.”


With the protests now mostly over, Lori Jones, executive director of the orphanage’s parent organization, A New Arrival Adoption Agency, hopes the recent ousting of the country’s prime minister will make a difference in the adoption system’s red tape.

“We’ve never had a failed adoption in Haiti,” she said from agency headquarters in Twin Bridges, Mont. “But about three years ago, the adoptions were processing in six to nine months.”

Now, it could take 16 to 24 months. According to the U.S. Department of State immigrant visa statistics, Haitian adoptions to U.S. families have been on a decline. In 2004, about 356 were adopted from Haiti. Last year, there were only 190.

“Haiti, by far, is one of the most difficult countries we’ve ever had to work in,” said Jones, whose agency has worked in 13 other countries.

It’s especially upsetting because nearly all the children in the orphanage have new moms and dads waiting for them in America, she said. The most recent adoption occurred in November.

Jones said most of the delays have to do with the nation’s political instability. The changes in government staff and officials tend to slow the processing of applications.

But Jones also said UNICEF could be affecting the pace of adoptions. She said UNICEF is expressing concern to government officials about the possibility of child trafficking and a high number of adoptions.

“I do believe that they have met and have tried to influence one side of a very complicated process,” Jones said.

Geoffrey Keele, a UNICEF spokesman, said while the agency makes it a priority to reunite children with their families in their country of origin, it has never opposed international adoptions.

“Our viewpoint is that families need to be supported so they can remain together as much as possible,” he said. “We just want to make sure that there is always a need for appropriate safeguards and transparency in these adoption processes.”

For Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard Law School professor who has written extensively about adoption, there is a disturbing trend among the declining inter-country adoptions over the last three years. She also blames UNICEF, saying the organization is “vigorously” opposing international adoption by encouraging countries to be more restrictive.

“They basically do not seem to see it as one of the appropriate solutions for children in need,” she said.

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