Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Adoption in Haiti

By: Erin Davoran
Produced & Edited by: Erica King

When Ed and Mindy Horgan started looking to adopt a child from Haiti in 2006, the process was supposed to take 12 to 18 months. They were matched with a little boy named Herwens who was about six years old. It took three years after the match to bring Herwens home to Cincinnati, Ohio. He finally joined the family in November 2009.

Two years later, they found out Herwens’ younger brother, Wagner, was placed in the same orphanage and decided to adopt him as well. Wagner’s adoption took even longer than Herwens’. The Horgans started Wagner’s adoption process in 2011 and brought him home to Ohio in February 2014. 

For American families looking to adopt from Haiti, the timeline now is at a halt.

As of November 2013, Haiti now complies with the Hague Convention Adoption Process, an “international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions,” according to the U.S. State Department.  Including Haiti, 94 countries are convention countries.
Before being a convention process, adoption agencies worked closely with, and some even managed orphanages in Haiti and were heavily involved with the matching process.
“U.S. agencies would partner with an orphanage or organization in Haiti, or more than one, and then a child would be referred by that orphanage to a family that the agency was working with … and we would match the child with a family on our waiting list,” said Mike Noah of Holt International, the adoption agency the Horgans went through.

 Now, under the Hague Convention, all matching goes through Haiti’s central authority for adoptions, IBESR. 

"They are the ones that will do the matching themselves to adoptive families… In other words, the orphanage is not involved in the matching,” Noah said. “So a family could theoretically be matched from any orphanage in Haiti."
While the Hague Convention has streamlined the process for everyone involved in inter-country adoptions between the U.S. and Haiti, including normalizing certain fees, the new responsibility for IBESR of matching children with families has caused the process to come to a standstill.

“At this point, IBESR has not officially started matching children with families yet, so the waiting list has grown pretty large,” Noah said. “It’s unknown at this point, once they start matching, how long families near the bottom might wait to be matched with a child."

Some adoption cases, known as dossiers, submitted to IBESR prior to the Hague Convention guidelines being implemented were grandfathered in. According to the State Department, 464 children were adopted from Haiti to the U.S. in 2014, and 388 were adopted in 2013.

Wagner was one of those children. He is now 8, Herwens is now almost 16. The Horgans have two other young children at home – Brady, almost 13, and Ruby, 11 – and an older son, Eddy out of college. 

“Be prepared for delays that don’t make any sense and tons of paperwork,” Mindy Horgan said of the adoption process. 

"The delays are very long right now for waiting families due to the lack of action by IBESR and new limitations placed on adoption agencies, which are now only allowed to submit 12 new dossiers a year," said Noah. "No such limitations existed before."
The Hague Convention has also changed agencies relationships with the Haitian orphanages.  

Aid relief for Haitian children at an orphanage. | Photo cred: Wikimedia
  Holt International, has ended its involvement with the orphanage it oversaw, Fontana Village (formerly Holt Fontana Village).
Some orphanages do not meet government standards and therefore do not have the goal of adoption.

Ten children are being raised at Jesus in Haiti Ministries’ Lighthouse Children’s Home. 

“We don’t have intentions of adding children unless there was like a special case. And they’re not adoptable,” orphanage director Lauren Neal said. “Not because I don’t want them to be but because to be adoptable you have to be a government-recognized home and we’re in the process of doing that but right now…it wouldn’t be possible.”

Adoptions of Haitian orphans were also affected by the 2010 earthquake. Before the earthquake, there were an estimated 380,000 orphans in Haiti and as many as a million after the natural disaster, wrote John Seabrook of The New Yorker who adopted a daughter from Haiti during the natural disaster. 

According to the CIA World Factbook, the country’s population is around 10 million. A third of the population is under the age of 15. Because of the earthquake, some adoptions went through quickly.

“They were able to come immediately. And so they skipped all that waiting which was great for them, but I was super jealous because we had just gone through like three years and had just gotten him home,” Mindy Horgan said.

“It changed how fast those people worked through the process which was probably great for the kids because the worst thing about that process – three, four, five years in an orphanage, that’s ridiculous when you know what the end result’s going to be,” she said. “It’s just stupid to make those kids sit in that limbo. It just adds like a whole other piece to an already traumatic transition." 

Noah described the current situation as a state of limbo as well. 

 "It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just takes longer and is a little more complicated to do,” Noah said of the new adoption process. As for when IBESR will start matching families? Noah said no one knows.  


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