Argelia Tejada Segor

Adoption: How important is it that U.S. families adopting Haitian orphans preserve the child's native culture?

Before this question can be answered, people in the USA need to be informed and learn the facts:

- Haitian parents love their children as much as any other parents on the planet. They give them away because they are too poor to feed them and are not able to send them to schools in a country where the public school system collapsed, and the private system--religious or non-religious --requires fees that they can’t afford. “Haitian orphans” have parents or closed relatives. They should be raised in Haiti to become the future of Haiti. Families in the USA can offer help to rehabilitate children that have lost one or more limbs.

- Evangelicals have a missionary zeal that blocks their capacity to preserve the native culture of the Haitian children. The insensitivity of Christian missionaries in the past, destroyed the cultural tool for reforesting Haiti. Only 2% of the Haitian land is covered by trees. Deforestation started with the French colonization but it continued because of the lack of regulations to protect trees and to provide the population with gas stoves and subsidized gas. Evangelicals do not respect Haitian culture. My friend, Bishop Telesforo Isaac, the first Anglican Bishop in the Dominican Republic, relates how during his seminary days in Haiti, a UN agronomist noticed one tree that Haitians would not cut. Eureka!!! The UN planned to reforest Haiti with this tree. In their native religion, this tree was sacred for Haitians. The Christian missionaries told the people that only God was sacred, not trees. That ended the dream of reforestation in Haiti. See the article here.

- A study from UNICEF in the Dominican Republic, 2005, estimates that 2,500 children were being trafficked every year into the Dominican Republic by old Haitians. The old adjective describes Haitians that have been in the country for a long time. The study explains that the parents considered them as benefactors and were willing to pay for the transportation. The children would beg on the main streets of Santo Domingo for approximately 6 months, and come back home with some money. The fact that traffickers had parents’ permission, does not justify breaking the laws of both countries to profit from child labor.

- You can’t take undocumented children from one country, bring them to another country without documents, and offer them for adoption under false pretenses. The arrested Americans were warned by UNICEF and by the Dominican Consul in Haiti. They were detained before at the border for trafficking 40 children and were left with only a warning from the Haitian police. They lied to the parents and they were lying to the would-be adopted parents by declaring the children orphans, when in fact they weren’t. And they are declaring themselves innocent? Their Church is pressing the US government to disregard the Haitian judicial process and bring them home? I can’t think of anything more arrogant! But they will be left free. Haiti is too dependent on foreign aid and the last thing it needs is this type of distraction.

- The Dominican Republic is a poor country and is coping with a solution for a similar problem. There is a national institute for children, CONANI, not an NGO, but a state institution that can act to protect children. Because of poverty, this effort is complemented by local NGOs and governmental interventions. The different local governments are trying to get child work-free municipalities. Parents say that without children’s contributions they can’t feed their families and set a daily quota for children to bring home from begging or working. The solution has been to identify the poor families and to pay them a small monthly fee for each child that attends free public schools. Still, many children work. All tax payers in the country have to contribute to alleviate poverty and defend the universal rights of children. When the state is weak and small, as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank advises, the children of the poor would go unprotected. - Haiti will be reborn from the ashes. Do not blame them for the deforestation that France caused. Do not blame them for the isolation imposed on Haiti by the US and European powers in the 19th Century. Do not blame them for the poverty caused by the debt of 150 million francs imposed by France that they were only able to pay in 1947. Do not blame them for the 19 years of US occupation (1915-1934) to protect American interests. Do not blame them for the changes made to their Constitution, and for the creation and training of a corrupt military and the support of the Duvalier dynasty until 1986. Blaming Haitians for their poverty and corruption while ignoring their history of exploitation denotes ignorance and irresponsibility. This is the message coming from some English speaking TV channels. It looks like they are more interested in covering up facts than in digging the truth. - Adoption should be the last strategy. Our identities are formed by our ethnicity. Haitians have a strong culture and history, different from that of the African American culture. In their country Afro-Haitians are the majority, the maker of their nation and their constitution. The leaders of an enslaved race. There is too much prejudice in this country to traumatize these children even more. Some Americans might be loving families for Haitian children, but these loving families do not exist in a vacuum. The best solution is to reunite children with family members, and put in place a strong public education system, that teaches math, science, ethics and civil values. Haitians do not need more preachers. They have shown strong faith amidst inconceivable adversity. New policies are needed to create wages and allow the reconstruction of Haiti to create jobs and income for poor Haitians. Women need access to modern methods of contraception so that they are not forced into pregnancies that make their lives more miserable. They need a responsible state, fare trade and living wages. They also need the cooperation and solidarity of the countries that in the past contributed to their poverty, and of all those Latin American and Caribbean countries that are still coping and striving to give their own children a dignified life. They need all of us. A planet united to save humanity.

Argelia Tejada Segor, PhD, Dominican sociologist and author of the USAID-DR book, Bateyes del Estado. It is based on a socioeconomic and health survey of the communities inside the sugar cane state plantations in the Dominican Republic during the year 1999-2000, before the harvest preceding the privatization of the sugar mills.