Photo: A US cargo plane transports away Haitians, mostly children, after the earthquake.
The underside of international adoption
English | French
“Native citizens, men, women, girls, and children, let your gaze extend on all parts of this island: look there for your spouses, your husbands, your brothers, your sisters. Indeed! Look there for your children, your suckling infants, what have they become?… I shudder to say it … the prey of these vultures….” – Jean-Jacques Dessalines
Some questionable French adoptions that had been frozen soon after the earthquake have been reconsidered by the Haitian government and allowed to proceed. This decision follows two years of lobbying of the French government by a group of “adoptive parents” called SOS Haiti. Since the founding of this organization one day after Haiti’s earthquake, its members have pressured their government to tie the delivery of aid from France to an ex post facto legalization of the removal of hundreds of Haitian children during the earthquake without adoption documents.
Another issue being legalized after the fact is the acquisition for many years by French couples of partial adoptions (also called “simple adoptions”) in Haiti that are then turned into full adoptions by French courts.
- Partial adoptions allow children to maintain contact with their biological families and are recognized by Haitian law.
- Full adoptions do not allow contact with biological parents and are not recognized by Haitian law.
The Haitian government boasts of plans to restrict its adoption policy because it plans to abide by the Hague Convention and to require the affiliation of future adoptive parents with organizations approved by the Haitian and French governments.
In fact, recognition of the Hague Convention implies a relaxation of Haitian law to allow full adoption, and the new policy, intended to exclude unscrupulous agents from future adoptions, represents an abandonment of Haiti’s stolen children.
UPDATE: Haiti’s government recognizes the Hague Convention and claims this to be an “informality.”
Dady Chery, Editor
Translated from the French by Dady Chery, Haiti Chery
On average, every day about five Haitian children who are put up for international adoption leave the country to foreign destinations, especially Europe. Over 2,000 children are adopted each year from Haiti by foreigners, most of them French couples. This is an activity that brings big money.
Story from Haiti. Michaëlle is eight years old, black eyes, lips curled back. This girl from Grande-Saline (Artibonite) has no means of support. Her parents died two years ago. After the galleys and deprivation, she fell into the “circuit.” She is believed to be about mid-course through a good tour of the circuit, because after the earthquake of January 12, 2010, due to a collapse of the monitoring capabilities of the Haitian State, through the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR) and the police authorities, the girl was able to leave the country. Michaëlle is adopted by Belgians. Her story is not unusual.
“For Michaëlle as for many orphaned children, the procedure was very quick. Foreigners who wanted to have her at all cost paid US $5,000 to the officials of a nursery to adopt this little girl who lost her parents during the earthquake,”
says Jeanne, an employee of the IBESR, sounding sorry.
According to a UNICEF report, of the 700 children’s centers currently listed throughout Haiti, only 300 are properly registered with the country, we learned.
Several of these centers, institutions for the accommodation of young children and whose avowed purpose is to give them up to adoption, are linked to foreign organizations whose job, for some hard cash, is to match children with adoptive parents. For some orphanages, this is an extremely lucrative and illegal trade, although those most affected — the children — still have parents.
Some 80 to 90 percent of individual adoptions are the results of a direct relationship between the owners of a nursery and the foreign adoptive parents. In addition to remuneration (and monthly payments) from the adoptive parents, some of these nurseries are subsidized by Haitian and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGO).
The nurseries, though recognized and accredited by the Institute for Social Welfare and Research (IBESR), operate without real structure, most often with the complicity of a lawyer who is also indecently enriched at the expense of the children. According to an expert who was willing to talk to us under cover of anonymity, their fees to complete an adoption case depend on the client and range from $1,000 to $4,000. These children adopted by foreigners often lose contact forever with their relatives in Haiti, even though it is, in almost every case, a simple adoption, and not a full adoption.
Indeed, experts note a rise in the number of nurseries in Haiti. Their control is a thorny problem for the IBESR, which has no political means or enters too late into the adoption process. In addition, some information confirms that, at the root of these networks, are certain officials or owners of nursery and orphanage. Many live from this heinous trade and operate with impunity thanks to the complicity of some government employees.
In many of the shelters and orphanages, thousands of children live in deplorable, if not subhuman, conditions. This was the case in the orphanage “Son of God” Crossroads, shut down by the Haitian authorities in October 2011 after IBESR was informed that foster children in the facility were the victims of abuse and mistreatment.
Of the 50,000 children in shelters across the country, about 20,000 are fatherless or motherless, the others are there only because of the extreme poverty of their parents. [Many impoverished Haitian families who placed their children in shelters to get them fed continue to express their dismay about adoption records that they were tricked into signing by unscrupulous middlemen. DC]
Since the 2010 earthquake, orphanages have become one of Haiti’s most lucrative activities, after the national and international NGO. The illegalities of the adoption procedures are nevertheless known to all. This often involves genuine criminal networks dedicated to child trafficking and irregular adoptions. These networks operate through the nurseries and orphanages; they buy the children, often using threats, fraud, or deceit to convince the biological parents to give up their children for adoption. These networks, which are expert in the manufacture of false documents, false witnesses to pose as the legitimate parents, declarations of abandonment or fraudulent consent, also collaborate with lawyers and justices of the peace to achieve their ends.
During our investigations, the great discretion of the owners of nurseries and orphanages did not really allow us to shed light on the practices of child trafficking through adoption. Nevertheless, rumors of all kinds, even most terrible ones about organ harvesting, run more and more through the streets. According to the law of April 4, 1974, the Haitian government should strengthen controls before and after the adoptions.
Voices being raised
It is not surprising that more and more voices are being raised against this scandal. Not least of which, that of the French ambassador for international adoptions Thierry Fraysse, who during a seminar in Port-au-Prince, emphasized the need to ratify the Hague Convention of May 29, 1993 on the Protection of Children and Cooperation with Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, adopted by Haiti in 2010 but still not ratified. He believes the time has come for each sector of national life, including the Haitian parliamentarians, to take up the debate in order to regularize this matter.
Mr. Fraysse believes that ratification of the Hague Convention will allow IBESR to become the central authority and play a much larger role in adoption from Haiti. The implementation of this agreement, the view of children’s rights at the international level, issues of legality of international adoption, abandonment and difficulties of parenting, as well as the accompanying adoptive families are the main topics that were discussed during this meeting.
Executive Director of IBESR Arielle Villedrouin says that the number of children adopted by foreigners in Haiti is over 2,000 each year, most of them by French couples. In contrast to the UNICEF statistics, Ms. Villedrouin of IBESR noted that, of some 700 shelters and orphanages, only 150 have the permission to operate. To regularize the situation, Ms. Villedrouin is seeking the support of local and international partners.
As for those parents who have adopted, without legal status, Haitian children after the earthquake and who demonstrated recently in Paris, the French ambassador in Haiti, Didier Le Bret, said that simple adoptions allow the adopted children to maintain some connection with their biological family, whereas full adoptions do not. Nevertheless, the biological parents will always be informed about the situation and development of their children.
On the other hand, the diplomat said, adoptive families in Haiti are accustomed to obtaining, together with the agreement for a simple Haitian adoption, a consent to a full adoption signed before a notary. Armed with this document, the adoptive parents are then granted a full adoption by the French courts. But this document has apparently no legal value in Haiti, which is radically revising its legislation on adoption. According to Mr. Le Bret, the problem is a technical one, because there is no ill-will from the French administration, only one of a substantive legal issue that has always existed and that parents are aware of when adopting in Haiti.
[In other words: Since Haitian law does not recognize full adoption, the French parents who secured full adoptions in France are in contravention of the law. The Hague Convention will legalize full adoption from Haiti and be used to "legitimize" many illegal adoptions after the fact. DC]
Sources: Le Nouvelliste (French) | Haiti Chery (English)
Below: Photos show the removal of children from Haiti to the U.S., France, and the Netherlands, in January 2010, right after the earthquake. The captions are the original ones from AP.
France to resume international adoptions in Haiti
By Wilner Jean Louis
English | French
Translated from the French by Dady Chery, Haiti Chery
The French Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on Friday December 23, 2011 that France has decided to resume international adoptions in Haiti. This decision, we read in the press, is agreeable to Haitian authorities who have opted for a new approach to the issue of international adoption.
“The highest authorities in Haiti, starting with President Martelly, have undertaken a vigorous and public effort to ratify the Hague Convention and modernize their legislation in the shortest time possible. They also indicated they would respond to requests for individual adoptions, meaning, ones conducted without an approved intermediary, “
the statement said.
However, according to ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero, this decision
“will initially concern only a limited number of cases that were frozen during the earthquake of January 2010 by the Service for international adoption to ensure the proper functioning of cooperation mechanisms.”
This new measure is taken in order to respect and protect the well being of children, explained the spokesman for the Quai D’Orsay
Valero added that those to benefit from this resumption will be,
“Adopters accompanied by an authorized intermediary operating in nurseries certified by the Haitian Institute of Welfare and Research (IBESR).”
“The Foreign Ministry draws the attention of prospective adoptive parents in Haiti to the fact that from now on, given the positions expressed by the Haitian authorities, any action undertaken without the assistance of an approved body for the adoption or the French Adoption Agency will be doomed to failure, “
the statement concluded.
Sources: HPN (French) | Haiti Chery (English)