Can I adopt a
Duarte de la Rosa, Special correspondent (Text
can see this question repeated throughout the web. A
rapid Internet search on the situation of children
in Haiti throws up disturbing results. Millions of
websites, blogs and pages note how to adopt these
minors, as if the solution to the problem were to
uproot them from their land.
The question increased after the
earthquake when international humanitarian aid
descended on the Caribbean nation. In the midst of
the chaos, many provided selfless assistance, but
others took advantage of this cover to enrich
Prior to the quake, there were an
estimated 380,000 orphans in the country. According
to UNICEF figures, 3.8 million infants were in a
situation of extreme vulnerability in 2009 and,
after January of 2010, one million children swelled
the ranks of those without family care. The disaster
exacerbated their lack of protection and opened the
gates to illegal adoption and human trafficking.
Even though international
legislation prevents adoption proceedings in the
case of military conflict or natural disaster, and
adoptions in Haiti were suspended in 2007 due to the
lack of legal guarantees, many governments gave the
green light and facilitated those in progress.
The United States, France, Holland
and Luxembourg headed the list of countries
receiving dozens of young children. The Barack Obama
administration, for example, allowed emergency
travel visas for Haitian children being processed
for adoption, even when they lacked documents, and
they were able to immigrate on humanitarian grounds.
The first group of Haitian orphans arrived in the
United States just 10 days after the earthquake.
The speeding up of adoptions in the
midst of disaster and without meeting international
requisites endangered children’s rights, in addition
to facilitating illegal acts. There were incidents
of the theft and kidnapping of minors, as well as
abandonment once they had been transferred to other
countries. Trafficking networks existed previously
in Haiti and increased with the situation.
By the end of January 2010, UNICEF
had already denounced the theft of 15 children from
Port-au-Prince hospitals. None of them were orphans.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and non-governmental
organizations like Save the Children expressed
concern over the thousands of children separated
from their families.
This organization demanded effective
measures to protect children from all forms of
violence and exploitation, including sexual violence
and kidnapping under the cover of adoption; at the
same time it froze international adoption and
instigated alarm mechanisms.
Priority was given to tracing
families and the reintegration of children with
their parents, extended families, or family friends
prepared to look after them. On the other hand,
international adoption or children being taken in by
foreigners requires an international agreement
between the participating governments.
In relation to the current fate of
infants, Haitian President Michel Martelly is
promoting education at all levels. Last October,
four million began the school year – according to
authorities – including 712,000 children beginning
to benefit from free education. The government also
launched a program against extreme poverty, which
seeks to guarantee the education of children with
very few resources and to alleviate the burden of
families living in vulnerable areas.
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and
First Lady Sofía Martelly set in motion the Ti
manman cheri program, the principal objectives of
which are to improve school attendance and
performance and promote women’s autonomy. The
program, benefiting children in 200 elementary
schools, is financed by the Venezuelan government’s
Petrocaribe regional solidarity project.
The question forming the title of
this article has a response which does not appear on
any website: the support needed by Haiti is not the
adoption of its minors. Poor children are not a
merchandise needing adoption. It is the task of the
state and their families to shelter and protect them
so that they can develop normally in their own
environment. The country needs aid which respects
THE STORY OF A SMILE
It all began with a smile. I was
sitting on a stair landing and without me initially
noticing her, a little girl was standing in front of
me, staring fixedly. I gave her a timid smile and
that was enough for her to come closer. . "Bèl
cheve," she said and immediately began to play
with my hair. She wasn’t even four years of age but
looked like a simplified version of a young woman
with bare feet.
I deduced that she didn’t live very
far away and effectively, almost immediately three
more children arrived in search of their playmate.
Within seconds, I was surrounded by young girls who
smiled, sang, and played with my hair. They
decorated it with colored ribbons, showed me their
dolls, assaulted me with questions and, from the
little I could understand, I tried to answer them. I
resigned myself to showing them the camera and
taking photos of them.
Not more than five minutes had
passed when the reclaiming cry of a mother broke the
spell. The girls ran off happily toward her open
arms. They looked back once and said goodbye with a
I couldn’t begin to imagine those
small children with a mother in another country and
speaking another language. The future is uncertain
for everyone, but there is nothing like returning to
one’s mother, I thought.