Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haitian Orphans Hurriedly Adopted in America

The recent earthquake that ravaged Haiti left many children parent-less. Check out this article, which details how the US of A has jumped to the rescue, loosening visa requirements so that hundreds of American families are able adopt these children almost immediately.

(I wonder if, on our end, anything has changed or "loosened" with our adoptive-parent-screening process to make it quicker?)

A quick rescue effort from Pittsburgh included sending a plane of aid workers, doctors, and a few politicians to gather orphans from Haiti.

Does this scenario remind anyone of the Korean Babylift of 1975?

Aid groups had said that every effort should be made to place children with relatives in Haiti, but in reading all these articles I can't tell how much of that effort really happened.

Shouldn't we stop and think: Maybe a rush to help doesn't have to mean a rush to remove.

Of course there are other things to protest about with this highly sensitive issue. Critics have complained about the media images. Photos that say without words: look at the white rescuer carrying the poor, starving, third-world black child to safety. Because of our long history of silencing with international adoption and the "savior" narrative, the images make me cringe a little.

(And, of course, I think about how no one seems hurried to adopt the many African-American children without permanent homes right here in this country. This is a crisis, too, people.)

One adoptee writes a detailed critique of the media's portrayal, naming the emotional bent that adoption stories often take, one that focuses solely on the adoptive parents' point of view. It's hurtful as an adoptee to see this happen over and over. To feel silenced, objectified. But I believe we should be compassionate as we criticize, recognize others' good intentions as we speak up. We should definitely speak up.

America, we should be careful as we laud, and not simply see these Haitian children as poor and in need of rescue. We should not simply view these adoptions as providing a "better" life for these children. Yes, their basic needs will probably be met better than back in Haiti (though what if we gave more directly to Haiti so it could provide for its own?). But their emotional needs are even higher now. Remember the lost mothers and fathers.

We must say thank you to all those who stepped forward to give time, money, and resources to Haiti, and to the parents who have opened their homes to these orphaned children. It's a good thing to see people work together to help another country in crisis. It's a good thing that people are coming forward to meet immediate needs of children. Intentions, I am certain, are good. But, adoption is always-always-always complicated, and a balanced perspective on all the issues surrounding it rarely seems to emerge. No one likes to hear about the downside of adoption, or how a good thing can go bad.
Fifty-three orphans arrived here in Pittsburgh yesterday morning. As they get settled into new families, my hope is that the parents are being educated on the issues surrounding this potentially-good-yet-complex situation. The children might not be as "grateful" as parents expect them to be. At some point they might struggle with racial issues, anger, confusion. They will probably want to return to Haiti one day, obtain their original birth certificates and records, maybe find their birth parents or other blood relatives. I hope the parents are ready for that, and will allow space for their children's complicated emotions.


Erin said...

Libby, have you tried publicizing this blog or submitting any of your writing to newspapers or other print media? I don't know how one would go about that process, but I think your voice should be heard by more than just your friends and those who happen upon your blog by accident. Something like this should be in a newspaper column. You're a great communicator and you have great insights on a topic that people need to be better educated about.

Anonymous said...

As an adoptive parent of a little girl in Haiti, I wish to respond. Our adoption has been complete for six months and we were waiting for a passport to be printed. We have not asked for an expedited adoption, we have asked for an expedited visa, with the blessing of the Haitian government.
Adoption is a last resort in Haiti. Of the over 300,000 orphans in Haiti before the quake, only 300 were adopted each year into the US. There is no business in Haitian adoption. There is subsistence survival in orphanages and outside of orphanages alike. There is no state aid of any kind for orphans in Haiti, and many, many children die of starvation every day. "I don't believe that children have a right to the culture of an orphanage or the culture of a casket. They have the right to the culture of a family, wherever that family is."
It is not that we as parents are saving out daughter from the darkness of Haiti. It is that we love our daughter. It is we who are fortunate to know her.
There is very limited space in the mostly faith-based orphanages, and moving these already adopted children to join their legal families opens much needed space. There may be much room for debate about the causes of the poverty in Haiti, but leaving our daughter in Haiti does not solve anything. How does her death there, or the death of another orphan who could have had the bed and food that she would have in an orphanage, solve anything.
You may see the pain of parents who miss their children and worry for their safety - something that is in no way guaranteed. But you also see the pain of American parents whose biological children are missing in Haiti. It is the same kind pain, except that some parents do not know if their children are safe or not, or know them not to be. I know Haitians that were friends that were killed in the quake. Their is pain in the loss. Who have you lost in Haiti? Who are you to judge our pain? Parents are in the media to bring attention to our children, because that is what parents do. We fight for our children - for their well being. And right now, my two year old girl is frightened, hungry, thirsty, hearing the screams of hurt or mourning people, and smelling the corpses around her building rot. Any parent would want to bring her into safety as quickly as possible.

LLB said...

Thank you for your timely and smart critique. A friend forwarded it to me. I have similar concerns, if you'd like to see my blog on it, it's at

Anonymous said...

To anonymous -

I do not recall the author casting any judgment on adoptive parents but rather the legal system in which the children are being brought to America.

It is a pity you did not read the article because it brings up many good points about the implications of interracial/international adoption. Sometimes the truth hurts but ALSO helps, if you choose it to.

If anything you seem to think you are being victimized and trying to turn the table. I do not see this to be the case at all.

And lastly - the adopted children do not have any choice in this situation. As resilient as we may seem we will struggle with it our entire life.

Liberty said...

Thanks, Erin! Maybe I'll look into it. The issue has definitely gotten piqued interest here in Pittsburgh.

Thanks, also, to my two anonymous commenters. I appreciate both of your thoughts on these difficult issues. It's hard for all of us (myself included) to step back from pointing fingers, placing blame, or elevating ourselves. I did not mean to imply that adopters are in the wrong by taking in the Haitian children. I do, however, have much criticism for the way the gov't and the media are handling this issue, which in many ways perpetuates biased ideas about adoption.

Peppermint Patty said...

I think people need to realize that these Haitian adoptions that were expedited were LONG in the process before the earthquake.

These weren't people who saw crying Haitian babies on the street following the earthquake, applied and had them brought to the U.S. in 2 weeks.

Some of these parents have been waiting for YEARS. I saw one "testimony" from a family that adopted 4 siblings (2 teens, no less) and they said from start to finish it took 4 years!

When I went through 6 yrs of infertility, I had so many uniformed, well-meaning people say, "Well, JUST adopt."

You don't "just adopt." There is so much paperwork, homestudies, classes, meetings, background checks, etc. AND...we were in the process of "domestic adoption."

You want the best screening of potential parents as possible, so for people to think that someone just signed up to adopt a Haitian child since the earthquake and had the child brought to the U.S. is ludricris.

I've looked at both sides of the issue - domestic vs. foreign.

Domestic isn't as easy as everyone thinks. Pardon my use of words here, but there are A LOT of screwed up people in the U.S. that have MAJORLY screwed their kids up.

Adoption is NOT a decision to take lightly. You WILL have issues, you will have problems (learning, physical, abandonment, biological, etc). Very few come out "unscathed."

We really had to go through and decide what was going to be a "good fit" for the child and our family.

My husband and I both worked, so taking care of a severely handicapped child wouldn't work.

A child that sexually abuses other children, abuses animals, sets fires or has severe attachment disorder, was another disqualifier for us. IT WAS HARD!

Most people want babies (7-8 yr waiting list for infants in the U.S.), but the older kids need someone too.

You feel so bad for these kids, but it's not as "cut and dry" to "just adopt."

So I would like to end my "comment" (sorry, more like an essay), with, "DON'T JUDGE unless you find out the individual facts surrounding each persons adoption.


Peppermint Patty said...

GREAT article!!

Liberty said...

Hi Patty,
Thanks for your comment. How did you find out, specifically, how much time was spent researching whether these orphans (not just the ones from the PA-women-run orphanage) were truly orphans (the article link you sent gave a good overview of why that's necessary), or how long the parents who took them in had been waiting prior? Trouble is, I can't seem to find that information. Again, media is skewed in its coverage, and perhaps that's a big reason why the adoptee groups everywhere are so outraged.

Can you send me a link to info? I would really appreciate it. Thanks, Patty!

Peppermint Patty said...

A lot of the info I found was actually on Videos and articles.

I'll see if I can get you the links. :)

Peppermint Patty said...

You will hear them specificially saying that certain children have been "in the process" of having paperwork completed to be adopted.

The adoptive U.S. parents are already "matched" with certain children and most have met their adoptive children more than once over the course of the adoption process. That's why most of the kids aren't crying thinking a crying stranger is picking them up hugging them.

Peppermint Patty said...

DANG IT! What is the code to hyperlink these webpages??

Peppermint Patty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peppermint Patty said...

These are the girls from PA:


GREAT explanation!

FOR MORE INFO...Go to, videos, Haitian earthquake.

Peppermint Patty said...

2 Years waiting...

4 Years waiting...

UPDATED VIDEO (a little recap)

Liberty said...

Looking at this one, for example,, they said that the gov't was not wanting to let children out whom they weren't sure were actually orphans. This is the risk, and why the screenings/procedures often take so long, I'm sure. Which is why speeding things up is a little nerve wracking in one sense. Also, it doesn't sound like they are trying to locate more than birth parents (other relatives), when many aid organizations have said this is what should be done (see new post).

I guess we just have to keep watching and praying that the best outcome prevails for the children! It's definitely amazing to see people so ready to help.