After completing our international adoption from Haiti this past year many people have asked us if it was worth it. Our answer is “absolutely”. For us it was a situation where we felt strongly that God had added these four children to our family but they happened to be living in Haiti. All we had to do was get them home. Sounds simple doesn’t it? In reality, it was incredibly difficult, but still worth it. Once we felt sure that this was God’s direction for us, failure was not an option. We do recommend it; however, there are some things that you should consider before entering into this process. Through this article, I will attempt to help you make an informed decision and hopefully keep you from some of the inevitable pitfalls of international adoption, specifically with regards to Haitian adoptions. I will try to point out some of the particular benefits of adopting from Haiti and in part 2 of this article I will identify some specific difficulties. We will break this down to 4 sections: why adopt at all, why adopt internationally, why adopt specifically from Haiti, and finally in part 2 of this article I will address specifically what to look out for when adopting from Haiti.
Why should anyone in their right mind adopt a child they don’t even know? There are many reasons. First and foremost is that there are literally millions of children that are without a parent to raise them. Depending on the geographic area, there are multiple reasons that normal children become orphans. In Africa many have lost their parents to genocidal wars, TB or AIDS. In Haiti, many children have become orphans due to starvation, AIDS and TB. Still others live with a single parent who is too poor to feed them. These children or their parents often die from malnutrition or diarrhea secondary to contaminated water. Many of these children are forced at a young age to leave home and fend for themselves on the streets of Port-au-Prince. There are an estimated 300,000 children from Haiti alone that are sold as slaves or “restaveks”.
Another reason for adoption is applicable to those of us who profess Christianity. James 1:27 states that “True religion acceptable in the eyes of God our Father is to take care of the orphans and widows in their distress.” It is not ambiguous. The church is to care for orphans and widows and we are the Church. The best way to care for orphans is to provide a family for them through the process of adoption.
Now that I have put forth some good reasons to consider adoption, why should you consider international adoption as opposed to domestic? Certainly there are very needy children in the domestic system that deserve to be adopted. Nobody can argue that and I certainly don’t want to minimize that need. The best argument for international adoption is mainly that many orphans from other countries are in more desperate situations. Many countries have no services or means for providing any care for children waiting for adoption. Here in the US there is at least a foster system to care for these children or some sort of government assistance to feed and shelter the children. Many other countries have absolutely no provisions for or even an interest in caring for these discarded children. They are truly outcast without hope for survival. Unfortunately many do not survive and if they do they may end up as prostitutes or slaves. Certainly we can all see the need to consider ALL children of this world worthy of at least the most basic provisions. With the internet, communications, and travel what it is today there is no excuse for us to close our eyes to the children of the world just because they are not living in our neighborhood. With modern technology our world has become smaller. We have become aware. We are only ignorant of the need if we choose to be.
OK, if you have read this far, you are truly interested and I applaud you. Now let us consider adoption specifically from Haiti. I must preface this part with the fact that I know of many stories of adoption of absolutely wonderful children from other countries and I am not trying to undermine those programs. I am merely attempting to bring to light some reasons to consider adoption from Haiti when considering international adoption. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere sits in the Caribbean just south of Cuba. It is only 600 miles from Miami to Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Haiti is essentially in America’s “back yard”! The poorest slum dwellings in the world exist in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, a tumultuous city with over 4 million people trying to scratch out an existence. The World Health Organization estimates that there are nearly 200,000 orphans in Haiti with no system in place to provide even the most basic requirements for life, let alone a safe, nurturing, or healthy environment. Many of these children have lost both parents. Other children are left to fend for themselves while their single parent tries to work for a meager wage. Even if they do get employment, the average income in Haiti is estimated to be equivalent to about $275 US per year. Poor destitute mothers try everything to feed their children. In Haiti, poor mothers often make a meal of spiced mud pies, made of clay, grass, spices and a little margarine then dried in the sun. Evidence of malnutrition is very obvious in Haiti with many of the malnourished children being very thin with distended stomachs consistent with protein-calorie (kwashiorkor) malnutrition. They often have orange colored hair, which is also very indicative of significant nutritional deficiencies. Many of these poor children are forced to live as beggars in the streets of the city trying to get a few pennies from motorists as they wait in the always slow-moving traffic of the city. In an attempt to earn a small tip many of these children are fast to wipe down your car with a dirty rag or try to carry your basket of fruit from the local street market. Many of them sleep in alleys or seek the superstitious protection afforded them in the graveyards at night.
If abject poverty is not enough there are even more reasons to consider adoption from Haiti. Voodoo is the most commonly practiced religion in Haiti with nearly 90% of Haitians practicing voodoo to some extent. Even those that profess Christianity often times also practice voodoo. The Catholic Church in Haiti is particularly infiltrated with voodoo beliefs. Many times Christians that stand against Voodoo are targeted by the voodoo priests and killed. Street children are often times targeted to be used in voodoo ceremonies. Any child that is born with a defect of any sort is considered to be cursed and therefore is at risk to be sacrificed. We had children brought to our orphanage by frightened mothers trying to protect them against the latest voodoo rage. Voodoo priests had told followers that if they brought them the heart of a child, the voodoo gods would grant them riches through the country’s ever-popular lottery. Many children were in danger of being kidnapped for this purpose. Christians in particular that are interested in adoption should certainly be motivated to consider Haiti when they realize the foothold that Satan has in Haiti and the likelihood that these children will certainly be victimized by voodoo.
One benefit of adopting from Haiti is something that we did not realize until we were well into the process. Many adopted children suffer from significant bonding issues. Most child psychologists agree that this is due to a lack of nurturing and bonding during a critical developmental stage that occurs during infancy and very young childhood. It is well known that children who are shown love at this young age are much more capable of loving and being loved as they grow older. Many orphans in Haiti are particularly “lovable” children because they were very loved by a parent or family member during this critical developmental stage. It is the poverty that makes them an orphan, not the lack of love. Also, there is essentially no fetal alcohol syndrome in Haitian orphans compared to other countries where alcohol is much more highly consumed. In Haiti, alcohol and illicit drugs are rarely used by the poor.
In short, if you or someone you know is considering adoption, then International adoption should certainly be worth investigating. Haitian adoption should be considered for several reasons; it is very close to the U.S. for travel purposes, it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with nearly 200,000 orphans, voodoo is the dominant religion, and Haitian children are very loving and lovable.
Part 2 of this article will address some of the difficulties that can be encountered when adopting internationally and particularly when adopting from Haiti.