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Haiti's orphans: the fine line between adoption and abduction

By: Almena Mayes, The Guildfordian

Posted: 2/12/10

On Jan. 12, 10 Baptist missionaries from Idaho were arrested at the Haitian-Dominican Republic border and charged with kidnapping and child trafficking.

The missionaries said they were just trying to take the children to a better life. The Haitian government, however, saw things differently.

According to the BBC, Jean Sainvil, a Haitian-born pastor now living in America helped the missionaries gather the children, load them onto a bus and proceed to the border.

Dominican authorities said the Americans had no documents to prove they had cleared the adoptions of the children through any embassy, nor did they have passports for the children. It became clear after the arrest that many of the children were not orphans.

Richard Danzinger of the International Office of Migration (IOM) told The Guilfordian that children found in disaster areas are not to be adopted outside of their native country for at least two years.

However, despite this policy, many fast-tracking adoption procedures are already under way in Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.

"Unfortunately many (child adoption) agencies feel that this (two year period) is far too long for a child to wait for a suitable family and better life," said Danzinger.

The IOM reported that in 2008, U.S. citizens adopted approximately 301 children from Haiti. As many as 600 or more were already in the queue for adoption to the U.S. prior to the earthquake. Those adoptions will go through; however, there will be very few new applications processed until the dust settles and the status of the children is properly verified.

"Haiti has long been known as one of the more difficult countries from which to adopt" Tanya W., a social worker from Newark, N.J, told The Guilfordian, "My husband and I have been trying to adopt a Haitian infant for almost two years."

Adoption.com states that prospective parents wanting to adopt a child from Haiti must acquire proper documentation from the surviving parent or legal guardian as well as the regional Justice of the Peace.

The documentation must then be submitted to the immigration authorities in Haiti, who in turn investigate the medical and psychological well-being of the prospective parents and child. Finally, the adopting parents or their legal representative must present the authorization in civil court and obtain a Haitian legal document known as the "Acte d'Adoption," which serves as the official adoption decree.

In spite of this process, child trafficking has grown in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Allissa Silverman, Deputy Director of the Southeast Regional office of UNICEF in Atlanta, Georgia, explained that Haiti is a target for many child traffickers because of its impoverished people.

"Parents hoping to give their children better lives fall prey to unscrupulous business people who, instead of giving the children the lifestyle and education promised, sell them into the sex trade industry or for illegal organ harvesting," she said.

UNICEF has already documented 15 confirmed cases of children missing from area hospitals.

Copyright 2010 The Guilfordian

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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