Not only is such lasting institutional care damaging to the children who wait and wait, but the slowed process has had a negative effect on the many desperately needy children of Haiti who are not waiting in orphanages. Many orphanages support free medical clinics, schools, nutrition programs and family preservation programs. Orphanages have been a resource for temporary care for children following a family crisis, such as a fire or illness. But now that children languish in orphanage care for years, orphanage directors report that the beds are full, the food and medicine supplies are insufficient, and the children needing temporary care are left on the streets with little prospect for life.
In an attempt to move towards transparent and democratic government, Haitian officials now adhere to the Haitian Constitutional law regarding adoption, written in 1974 by Jean Claude Duvalier. While the law of 1974 places severe limitations on the size of family and age of those who may adopt, it also allows Presidential Dispensation for those not meeting the family size or age limitations. Unfortunately, Haiti lacks an organized and transparent system for obtaining Dispensations. This confusion over Dispensations, along with the absence of a sense of urgency regarding institutionalized children has caused extensive delays in the adoption process and further victimizes children who have already lost much.
Haiti has a pending solution to this legal logjam. A newly proposed adoption law will clarify who may adopt; increase protections for Haitian children, their birth parents, and adoptive families and streamline the adoption process. This legislation is supported by the United States and French governments along with the NGO community, including Joint Council.
Joint Council's work in Haiti has been extensive, from working with the Haitian government, adoption service providers, orphanages and other NGO's on developing and implementing Standards of Practice for Intercountry Adoption, which were signed at the U.S. Embassy in Port-A-Prince in January 2009 (see Joint Council's page on Facebook for the pictures) to advocating for a change in the current law. In August Joint Council launched the first of many advocacy efforts to support the change in law. Joint Council's efforts, entitled the Haitian Children and Families Initiative, strives to ensure the new law is implemented. A second effort will occur this month. This effort will include a petition to U.S. Congress requesting support of the law. You can sign the petition by clicking here.