I made my first trip to Haiti in 1998. Fell in love with my first orphan in 2000. Started a non-profit to help Haiti in 2003 and started taking teams down on short-term mission trips soon after. I fell in love with Wanna and Fritzon (and a lot of others in the same orphanage) in March of 2010 and had to wait over 2 years to start the adoption process due to the laws of Haiti and a process that is always changing. Our documents were finally submitted and accepted in the fall of 2012 and are currently moving through the court system. We are quickly (hopefully) approaching the end of our adoption. This is my blog to talk about all things related to our adoption and any thing else I think is relevant to it. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Real Adoption Story

Sadly my adoption story isn't going the way I had planned.  I've been lied to, taken advantage of and because of this my kids have been kept from their family longer than we hoped.  Sadly, I'm not alone in my experience.  It has come to a point for the safety of other families I had to step up and share my personal experience and story in an effort to help find a way to stop this and help the many families "stuck" because of it.  I've shared my story here were others are also sharing theirs.  Please pray for us all as we work to bring our kids home.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

To know or not to know, that is the question....

For those of you reading this and involved in Haiti adoptions - unless you are still processing an independent adoption (which are no longer allowed), you are currently with an agency or looking to connect to one so this question is really for you.

When it comes to Haiti adoptions, that phrase could really be applied in a lot of areas, however, I want to talk about how different Haiti adoptions are compared with most other countries and how knowing every detailed step of the process is not always the best thing.  Had I heard that even a few weeks ago I think I would have disagreed. As I always say with Haiti, nothing is always 100% for every one and every situation, but for me I am seeing more an more why "knowing less can relieve stress!"

As I've talked to families adopting from Haiti who have also adopted from other countries I have learned how vastly different Haiti is set up when it comes to adoptions.  Most countries do not have an atmosphere of "hands on" adoptions.  All countries with really good systems in place process the adoption without parents really having much involvement other than getting an email update maybe once a month, maybe less.  Parents don't know every gory detail of the process: they just know if they are accepted and they are notified when they are needed for the final trip home.  Haiti, however, (because it does not have a "good system") has had parents doing much of the leg work for their adoptions which leads to lots of information being shared with others in the process.   Even those who are working with agencies and don't need to know every step often find it out from others.  Unlike most other countries, Haiti doesn't have a streamlined process or a set timeline.  Often agencies say "2 years" but with some families completing adoptions faster, many families want to go with those timelines and outcomes and this leads to a lot of questions and frustration.

This leads me to the question:  To know or not to know?

Now, I am definitely one of those hands one people that like to help and know what's going on and help others too.  I helped start a FB group in the fall of 2011 with the intention of just finding others going through the Adoption process in Haiti so we could just encourage one another.  Since then we have grown to over 700 families all in some part of the process or considering adopting from Haiti.  It has become a group of many moms and some dads encouraging and praying for each other but also a group where those involved in independent adoptions get help each step of the way and also share the information they learn as they go.  Those with agencies also share each step and also obsess and compare their timelines with the independent adoptions and those with difference agencies.  I have found myself sucked into the obsession of timelines and comparisons, frantically checking online for information I can take and imagine and dream about applying to my own timeline or adoption process.  This obsession has recently come on since exiting IBESR and it hasn't been pretty.  The sad thing is, is that I KNOW that no two timelines are the same.  I KNOW that independent vs agency adoptions very often have different timelines due to the huge amounts of work agencies have dealing with multiple families vs someone dealing with a single family.  I KNOW that "This Is Haiti" and what happens today may not happen tomorrow and what couldn't happen today could very well be allowed to happen tomorrow.  I KNOW all those things and more but my heart just wanted to obsess and in doing so I have caused my own self unnecessary grief and wasted time and energy.

I have had to take a step back, take a breather, calm my heart, clear my head and seek God a lot in the past week.  I have had to apologize to my own agency (that I also work for) for questioning my timeline and becoming one of those parents that turned her eyes inward and began only seeing me, and MY adoption instead of focusing on my work of helping others with theirs, trusting God and trusting an agency that has recently and is currently flying kids home and completing many adoptions.  No, instead of looking at all of those positive things I started comparing myself to others... I started doubting, I started worrying about everything that could go wrong and it certainly didn't help my adoption.  It didn't help my family and it didn't help my relationship with my agency.

I've seen and dealt with a lot of scams in Haiti adoptions.  I worked for a director that I thought was spending thousands of dollars and countless hours reaching out and helping families that have been scammed in their own adoptions only to find out SHE was ALSO scamming many of them.  I have spent hours listening to, trying to find answers and praying for multiple families that reach out from the FB group for help.  It's hard sometimes not to think that every time something goes wrong that it's not a scam or a lie.  I read a post on FB the other night that really helped me understand that things happen to all of us in this process and that just because there is a snag, it doesn't always mean someone is lying.  One of the most trusted and longest working adoption directors posted:
We have had 3 dossiers lost at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office since September/October. They said that they weren't there. I sent our worker every couple of weeks. Finally today, we had a special meeting with the director of legalization and lo and behold, the staff walked out of all 3 lost dossiers!!! We are praising God right now and I know 3 families who are going to be so happy too!
It's not fair that this happened to those poor families but imagine if they had taken it upon themselves to go after this director and accused her of lying. What if one of the families went to MOI and was told their dossier wasn't there and they thought their director was lying to them... possibly frauding them?  What if they started telling other families that she was a fraud and made other families start questioning everything about their process.  What if that director then had to spend all her time on rumor patrol and fixing the damage caused?

That's what knowing every little detail leads people to do.  It leads people to question everything.  Had that scenario happened in China, chances are you would never know and if you did you would probably have more faith in your agency but Haiti is different.  It's hard.  It's hard to know when to push for truth and answers and when to trust that what is going on is legit.  I think you have to do your research and know the history of your agency and director and look at their successes.  Look at the families involved and see the entire picture, not just the corner of the picture frame where you are standing.  

I think that the future will be much clearer for new adopting families.  In the past anyone and everyone has been and still is processing adoptions.  So much can and has happened under this method.  I have seen families taken for tens of thousands of dollars and never able to adopt their children.  It happens.  BUT, if you are with a legitimate agency.  If you are working with a director or a lawyer that has a history of completed adoptions and many families that are happy with their experience then hold on to that truth.  It's not bad to have information as long as that information doesn't have you.  Don't let it rule your thoughts.  If something is or does go wrong then push for answers and a solution but push WITH your director/lawyer/agency first.  

I don't claim to have all the answers but I know I have experienced and learned a lot in the past 14 years of working in Haiti and in the last 3 years in the pursuit of adopting my own kids and more recently in teaming up to work with an agency.  I know when you think you know something as a parent, in the US, reading online (including my own FB group) that it may be a completely different on the ground in Haiti. 

So, I end with this thought.  If you must know about your adoption, your timeline, your progress... then prepare your heart every day for the disappointment of watching others pass you on the race to to homecoming day.  Prepare your heart for a deadline that gets passed over and over again.  Prepare you heart to celebrate with others even though you are grieving another day away from your child(ren).  Prepare yourself you know that knowing more will probably stress you out more and knowing less will leave you with fewer questions and anxiety attacks.  I didn't prepare my heart and dove in thinking that I could handle it.... I am after all a seasoned Haiti worker! :)  Totally started drowning in what I knew and thought I knew.  Hang in there and pray, meditate, read, prepare the house and your heart for them to be home but don't get sucked in and if you do... take time to step back, look at the entire picture and reach out to your agency/director if you really have something that the above doesn't resolve.  Peace is better than panic any day!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shasta's Testimony - My heart for Haiti and adoption

I had the opportunity to share my testimony at Pine Level United Methodist on April 24, 2013.  A lot of what I've been through and experienced had given me the heart I have for orphans, for the outcasts, for those who think they don't matter....  I've learned that it doesn't matter who you are, what you've been through, or what you've done - God will use you if you're willing to be used.

Here is the audio to my testimony tonight. 
If you can't listen to it here on your cell phone try the one at

Here is the video I showed of me over the past 14 years in Haiti:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Babies in the River....

I was talking with someone the other day on a topic that has become personal.  It's not an easy topic and there are no perfect answers for it but it demands discussion and requires action:  Orphans: Family Preservation and/or Adoption.  She shared this story with me and surprisingly, though it seems to be a pretty popular parable, I had never heard it before:

"There was a small village on the edge of a river.  One day a villager took a break from harvesting food and noticed a baby floating down the river toward the village. She couldn't believe her eyes! She heard crying in the distance and looked downstream to see that two babies had already floated by the village.
"Oh, this is terrible!" A woman who had been building a campfire shouted, "Look, there are even more upstream!" Indeed, there were three more babies coming around the bend.

They quickly organized themselves to rescue the babies. Watchtowers were built on both sides of the shore and swimmers were coordinated to maintain shifts of rescue teams that maintained 24-hour surveillance of the river. Ziplines with baskets attached were stretched across the river to get even more babies to safety quickly.
The number of babies floating down the river only seemed to increase. The villagers built orphanages and they taught even more children to make blankets and they increased the amount of food they grew to keep the babies housed, warm and fed. Life in the village carried on.
Then one day at a meeting of the Village Council, a villager asked, "But where are all these babies coming from?"
"No one knows," said another villager. "But I say we organize a team to go upstream and find how who's throwing these babies in the river."
Not everyone was in agreement. "But we need people to help us pull the babies out of the river," said one villager. "That's right!" said another villager. "And who will be here to cook for them and look after them if a bunch of people go upstream?"
So one group stayed while the other went to find the cause and search for a solution.


I have found myself in a position of pulling babies out of the stream.  I encourage those who want to, to go find who is throwing babies in the river and figure out solutions before it gets to that.  I don't think they will be able to stop every baby from floating down the river to us but if they can stop some then lives will be saved and changed.  I never jumped in the river to gain attention or glory.  I didn't grow up thinking that I would be trying to rescue orphans when I was an adult but that is what God put in my path and I can't walk away from that.  It is who I am and what is in me.  I am happy to encourage and support others who are on a similar mission but a different path.  Instead of being in the water they are on the shore, going upstream to stop the tide of children being washed away.

What I never expected to encounter were people standing on the shore yelling at me that I'm doing it all wrong.  I never expected people to attack me for choosing to step in the water, instead of go upstream, as those children drowned.  I didn't know I would be persecuted and told that I was part of the problem by rescuing those already in the water.  Part of me wants to yell back to these groups that are picketing my wet, mucky work and say, "Hey... why are you wasting your time yelling at me?  Take all that energy, go upstream and do something there.  I can't be there and be here so go if that's what you want."  As I search more into adoption, ethics, family preservation, the orphan crisis and so forth I am shocked at how often adoptive parents are told they are the problem and that Christians are fueling the problem.

You've never had that experience or heard of people saying that?  This is just one of many articles on the issue:

I don't pretend to have the answers but I will say that I see way too much dissension in the adoption world and I just wish we could work together.  Adoptive parents are not the enemy.  They may not be educated or know there are ethical issues in adoptions.  I didn't know that until I started on my own journey but I will not spend my time and energy bashing and degrading those who didn't or don't know better.  Instead I will do my part to walk along side and educate these parents.  I will search for truth in between pulling kids out of the water.  I will send my support and encouragement to those who are not pulling out babies but searching for solutions upstream and I will not bash them for their efforts.  We are all in this together and the results in the adoption world and with the "orphan crisis" might be a lot better if we actually learned how to do this.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Changing the future of Orphanages

What if we could redefine orphan care and the future of institutionalized orphans?  What if we could keep families together and provide permanent families for children and foster homes for those awaiting adoption?  We can but it's going to take time, dedication, education and organizations willing to collaborate and cooperate with each other.  One of the biggest issues in ministry is the unwillingness for ministries to work together for the bigger picture out of fear that they may lose funding or recognition to another name they are helping.  We need to get over that... that discussion is for another day though.

What does orphan care currently look like?  It looks like big, concrete buildings with many bunk beds to a room and workers that take care of the children's needs but do not take the place of a mom and dad.  It often does not recreate a family structure and many times kids never get to experience the same life a child with a family would.  There are those that would argue that a nicely run orphanage isn't so bad if they are fed, clean, taken care of and given some love from those who work there.  To that I say, "Go ahead then, send your child off.  It's not that bad, right?  It would be just as good as living with you".  I'm sure you would never do that because you know in your heart it's not the same.  Nothing can take the place of the love and acceptance of parents and being a part of a family.  The spectrum of care in orphanages ranges from filthy with little to no affection to immaculate with lots of love and attention but in the end, children still long to be wanted and to have a family of their own.

So how can we change that?  There are hundreds of thousands of orphans in Haiti.  Every day hundreds of mission teams fly to Haiti for a variety of reasons and you will almost always meet a team on their way to do some type of orphan care, almost always with an orphanage or with the goal of building an orphanage.  I've read a few blogs that are completely against this type of mentality when going to Haiti and at first I thought that was a little harsh but I get where they are coming from.  So my goal is to find a way to start getting these new ideas out and educating churches, Christians, mission organizations so that there can be a new trend when going to Haiti.  Instead of going to build an orphanage or help the orphans, what if the new mission was to help families stay together or help kids find families.  What if we could change the face of Haiti from being a country of orphans to a country of families?  I know, I'm a dreamer and I dream big but it could happen and you could help it happen.

Imagine instead of building an orphanage you built a neighborhood.  What if a big concrete building you build several homes or an apartment type complex or duplexes?  What if when a mom came to you and wanted to give her child up because she had 2 other kids and she couldn't afford to feed them all and the baby would starve, instead of taking that baby and raising it, you took the family in and provided for them.  Whoa, now instead of 1 mouth, you have to feed 4?  How is that feasible?  Well, you provide her shelter and food and ask her to take in 1 more child whose parents died from cholera.  Then you give her a job in the neighborhood to help with the food and shelter she's getting and give her a small salary. So now your ministry has kept a family together, provided housing, given a child a family setting (possibly a forever family) and given the mom a job.  Or, you could just have your orphanage with another child without a family. 

But you already have an orphanage building?  Okay, so do some remodeling.  Or start with foster care.  If you've been in an area for any length of time, hopefully you've made friends with the community around you.  If so, start reaching out to the families you know are strong and ask them to take in one of the kids in your orphanage.  Offer them support with the food and schooling.  Provide free education or skills courses for parents willing to foster.  Invest in those parents and in others who are interested. 

Know someone who works in Haiti with orphanages?  Talk to them about the future of their orphanage and if they want to do more to help families.  Talk to your church or ministry who wants to go build another orphanage and think about putting kids in a place where they may never get to be with a family again or think about ways you can connect these orphans with families.  International adoption is not an option for most of the orphans in Haiti, even the true orphans.  The system, the quota, the sheer number of orphans to the number of adopting parents makes it an impossible goal to reach of getting every orphaned child into a home overseas, however, we can get them homes and families. 

Some have argued the church will never go for this because "Orphan" care and "orphanages" conjure up much more financial giving than "family restoration" or "building neighborhoods/communities".  I hope they are wrong.  I hope that Christian churches can let go of some of the stereotype behaviors and show that in the end the goal is for children to know the love of a forever family, even if it means doing something different, "unconventional" and something that is not traditional.

If you are interested in getting involved with organizations on the ground that are moving in this direction let me know and I can connect you with them.  If you are interested in helping your current ministry in Haiti transition from the traditional orphanage to a family based mission, let me know and I will work with you to develop a strategic plan to help move you in the right direction.  If you want to help change the future of orphan care in Haiti, help get the word out. Share this idea, these concepts and the new vision of change for the future of Haiti's most precious asset... their children.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


There was a time in my life when I thought no one loved or cared about me and my thoughts were often about pain and suicide .  My reality was really warped but it was my reality and the feeling of loneliness was so painfully real.  I've come a long way since then and every day I am amazed at the OVERWHELMING outpouring of love and support I have in my life... a life in which I thought was worthless and would be off not lived.

I have always tried to be the giver in all my relationships and in life in general. Asking for help for our adoption has been very humbling and difficult (which I know is hard to believe as much as I'm on here fundraising but it's true... I HATE it).  While it's been hard to ask for help I've had people reach out and support us because at some point I helped them, and that is special to me.  Even more humbling and touching are the people that have come out to support and help that I haven't seen in years.... or people I barely know.... or people who have little to give but give all they can.  Most of them don't want to be recognized but they know who they are and I want them to know how very much it means to me.  What may seem like a small gift of time or donations is worth more than I can express.  You are helping bring my kids home to a family they have longed for their entire life. 

It's definitely crazy going from feeling like no one likes you or wants you to knowing that many people love and accept you and more than that, they believe in you and your dreams. I wish I could help transform every orphaned heart into being able to feel that change. 

No child should be without a family and while my heart aches daily for the orphans of the world, the pain I feel being separated from my kids is almost too much to bear some days.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us.  Seems so insignificant to just say Thank You but know it's such a deep, sincere, heartfelt, tear-filled eyes, THANK YOU!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wanna and Fritzon Grimes

Adoption Decree = Wanna and Fritzon Grimes.....

Yes, they are legally ours, in Haiti. Now to get them through Immigration so they can come home. It's not an overnight thing... and what should take 6-8 weeks could (and has for some) taken 6-8 months. 

A friend of mine at the end of her adoption journey posted this on my FB wall and I'm pasting it here to help you understand what I mean above:  
    "We received our adoption decree in September of last year ... Was always told everything is fine/great with our and his dossier ... never had any red flags that I'm aware. Things looked so good that we were told he should be home by Christmas ... now i "know" Haiti, and knew better than to count on that and even told myself and others, who were always asking me "when will he be here?"..."don't count on it, but it's a possibility, only a possibility he will be home for Christmas." My head knew this but my heart (which I have no control over evidently WAS counting on it and it was crushed ... his Christmas gifts that were under the tree, are now on his bed, waiting for him ... he just turned 13 April 1st ... I've loved him for over 2 years now.
We just received his passport (after it went back to be "corrected". which took 4 weeks just for that) last week. I am confident our crèche and agency has worked diligently and has done everything they know how to, to get our son home ASAP ... not to mention they've been like Jesus to him :0)
I hear your "head" knowing to be truth that when you say "what should take 6-8 weeks has taken some 6-8 months" ... prepare your heart, sweet friend ... If that is at all possible :0"

I honestly don't want to prepare my heart.  I want to just believe we are the exception and that there will be no hold-ups and that we will be one of those miracle cases that flies right though.  I think that and know it's probably not a reality.  I also know that it would be devastating for so many families who are STUCK to see that happen, to watch another family unite, while they continue to wait.  I am continuously reminded that adopting from Haiti isn't a fair race and it doesn't matter how fast or hard you can run, it's a team race and you are partnered with a "handicapped" player.  I'm talking about a player that probably doesn't want to run.  One who forgets they are running a race or forgets that you're their partner and walks away to team up with someone else.  There are also partners who will stop and start walking the other way demanding money to get them to turn around and do what they signed up to do. No, definitely not fair.  

So those are the thoughts that go through my head as I try to focus on the reality of having the adoption decree.  I think I'm still in shock as I realize that our kids are really ours. I've been too worried about the process, the issues that could come up, the bill and other behind the scenes things to really just sit and celebrate but that's what I'm going to do now.  I want to feel the excitement of knowing that this 3 year journey is almost over and that the kids God put in our lives are actually a part of our family. Please pray for us, this process and our documents. I have watched them grow up so much. I'm ready to have them home...we all are.

Sooooo.......Wanna and Fritzon are my kids!!!!! I am their mom!!!! AAAAHHHHH... Been waiting for this day for so long.... Okay... going to cry now!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Haiti Adoptions: Poverty & Trafficking

I often work behind the scenes with Haiti adoptions and families muddling through them. I say muddle because it certainly is not an easy walk down a flowery path with the sun shining overhead.  Some of what I do and know I have to hold on to and can do little but pray and search for answers or help.  Other families I am able to actively work with to provide the answers, support and help that they need.  The rest is public and many see it in the FB group we have or this blog.  In all this work I have seen and heard several recurring themes and issues and one has been very heavy on my heart the past few weeks: Child Trafficking.   Some of the buzzwords associated with “child trafficking” in international adoptions and specifically in countries like Haiti, Uganda, Guatemala and most other 3rd world countries are: true orphans, institutionalized and family preservation.

What exactly is trafficking, how does it happen and what do we do about it?

We all heard about the Baptist missionaries who shortly after the earthquake tried to take a bus load of kids across to the border to a Dominican Republic orphanage.  They were arrested and put in jail for obvious “child trafficking”. Now, I do believe the majority of the missionaries on that trip had no idea what they were involved in but we all know that ignorance does not excuse you from the law here in the US or anywhere. 

That is an easy case to define but what happens when people say that most adoptions from 3rd world countries are trafficked kids or that if you are adopting  you may be adopting a kid who is trafficked? How do you answer that?

I must admit until I got into the middle of my own adoption and started really learning about adoption as a whole I never heard most of those “buzzwords” or thought much about them.  My thoughts were always pretty simple and basic:  Kids in orphanages are orphans and they need families.  I never thought about why there were there or if they should or shouldn’t be there…. I just knew my heart ached that they were there and that they were missing out on the love of a family.

I have since learned that children in orphanages are more likely orphaned due to economic hardship than due to the death of parents (at least in Haiti).  Hundreds of thousands of kids sit in orphanages every day, “institutionalized” because their families don’t have the means to feed them or provide adequate medical care.  Some have been there their entire lives….. What conditions qualify them to be a true orphan and when does adopting one of these kids equal trafficking? Depends on who you ask…. And I bet if you ask a group (or read the responses to this blog after a few days) you will see a list of varying responses as to who the “true orphan” is in these cases and what trafficking is.  I will say that the US has standards they follow as to what they consider to be a true orphan when it comes to international adoption and while I’m sure there are kids who slip through the cracks of the system, they are doing due diligence in trying to make sure that only legitimately orphaned children are adopted.

Many argue that children whose parents are alive are not true orphans.  Just as there is no truth to saying all kids in orphanages are true orphans, it’s impossible to say that just because their parents (or a parent) is alive that they are not a true orphan.  It’s impossible to lump all these into a single category.  I recently read an article that lists various other ways that I’d never considered or thought about before as ways trafficking happens but many of those scenarios were based on people being paid a “finders fee” for dropping of a baby to be adopted. In all those cases people lied, stole or kidnapped babies or children and took them to the agency or orphanage and said the child was abandoned or found.  With all the orphans in the world I can’t imagine why an orphanage or agency would need to pay for a child that needs to be adopted.  From my research it appears this often happens in countries where adoptions happen more quickly than in Haiti and families actually go home with babies when their adoption is complete.  I'm not sure, with the exception of HP after the earthquake, that I've seen a baby actually unite with their family through a completed adoption.  This may be one reason why we don't see this type of "buying" of children going on with creches and agencies.  However,  because of stories and situations like that there are some on a crusade to stop orphanages from starting and others wanting to stop international adoptions because of a fear that a child may get adopted that could turn out to maybe, possibly not be a “true” orphan.  It’s just like the gun law war in the US now, this type of response is not the answer.  Stopping everyone from adopting to stop the few bad people that might be trafficking is like taking the guns away from the law abiding citizens to stop the gangs from having them.  

So now you’re unsure about all these orphans and what you’re supposed to be doing to help?   Some are even asking, in the middle of your own adoption, if your child is a true orphan and if you are doing the right thing.  And what about that orphanage you’ve been sending supplies to, are they harboring not-so-true orphans?   Well, let me go a little deeper into the logistics of Haiti…..

Haiti has one of the largest communities of non-profits (NGOs) on the ground.  What I’ve seen in the 14 years I’ve worked there is that there are sub-groups of ministries when it comes to the “orphan crisis” there.  Many of the NGOs are associated with an orphanage in some capacity and more are showing up every day (that's another discussion for another day).

One type of orphanage does not adopt kids out with a goal of, "raising good, strong leaders for the future of Haiti".  This is a fantastic idea, if done the right way.  I have a friend, Marie Prinvil, who has done this for years and has had anywhere from 10 to 30 or so kids at a time, and she is the MOM.  Doing this in a family setting will usually yield much better results than those who may be in poor, overcrowded conditions in an orphanage.  In addition to the “home” type orphanages that don't adopt out, I have seen the conditions of the regular orphanages range from pretty good to deadly.  More importantly than a nice building or clean clothes, these kids need to be provided with love:  Love shown through touch and affection and time.  Even in the nicest physical conditions these children will almost always be missing the element of individual time with a parent who loves them.  That breaks my heart. That makes me support adoption.

Other orphanages are established for the sole purpose of adoption.  Those starting them understand that children need a family unit and like I mentioned above, even in the nicest conditions of an orphanage, there are few that have the ability to provide the individualized love that children need long term.  There are some that do a good job filling in the gap until kids are united with their forever families.

And more recently many new start-ups or even currently running orphanages are establishing foster care programs and other programs to help keep families together that simply just need support while also offering a home and family to kids who legitimately need one either forever or while they wait for an adoption.  (I will be posting a blog on this concept soon with resources and ideas for those interested.)

Since starting the Adopting from Haiti group on FB a year ago I have learned and experienced a lot with Haiti adoptions.  I have seen adoptions from almost every angle from the adopting parent, to a liaison helping others, to watching perfect adoptions completed, to crying with those involved in scams, to working alongside directors.  In all this I have seen good people hurt in the adoption world and am seeing that happen right now with the issue we are discussing.  I have seen those who have an adoption labeled “trafficking” simply because documents are not worded properly, not because the kids were ever trafficked.  I know people who learned after an adoption was complete that their child was possibly “trafficked”.  And there are those who are just simply trying to do adoptions and are being accused of trafficking.

I bring this up because there is so much confusion on what “child trafficking” is and people are throwing the term around and accusing those in adoption of supporting it or doing it.  Much of what I hear about this is that poverty should not be a reason for a parent to give up a child so if poverty is the reason and an orphanage takes that child and puts them up for adoption then they are simply trafficking that child.  Think about this though, in the US every day hundreds of moms give up their newborns or children simply because they don’t want to take care of them or they know someone else would do a better job than they will.  So in the US a parent can give up their child and choose a family to give that child to (or in extreme cases just drop them off at safe houses) and no one is raising the red flag of TRAFFICKING to them.  But now in Haiti, there are some crying TRAFFICKING if the Haitians do this and give up their child for adoption for a better life.

This is so frustrating to me because while I know there is corruption and trafficking in Haiti and while I know we can’t fix it all, I know that we could do more if we would work together.  I’m not opposed to people trying to stop trafficking and am on board with creating programs to curb what some consider unintentional trafficking but I am opposed to people and ministries not working together to accomplish this, especially if it comes at the expense of true orphans missing the opportunity for a family due to the actions of these groups.  I have seen people go after orphanages on a hunch or suspicion or just plain fear that this could be happening and in doing so have caused issues for the waiting children and families. 

What if those who want family reunification stopped attacking the orphanages and started helping them develop programs for families who show up wanting to give their child up?  What if we started working together to develop a foster care system and a way for families who did want to keep their children to be able to? How about we do what we can to help those families while ALSO supporting the adoption of those who have long been abandoned by their families or those with no families at all?

There will never be one solution for all of the various situations in which orphans come into “the system” but we can do better, in Haiti and in the world if we will communicate together and work together for the good of the children and not any one agenda.

In the article linked to above it discusses how the US defines trafficking and adoption: "Fraudulent Intercountry Adoption Does Not Constitute Trafficking in Persons," explains that, under U.S. law, human trafficking involves “exploitation through force, fraud, or coercion.” The law in question is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the statute that authorizes and encourages American anti-trafficking efforts, here and abroad. In this definition, someone is trafficked when he or she is transformed into a slave, their labor and bodies used for someone else’s gain.”

It's important that we educate ourselves on the issues we are facing in international adoption and not just educate ourselves with others opinions but with facts.

What is your definition of trafficking and what are your thoughts, experiences, ideas and such with this issue?  What are some solutions you think would work to identify trafficking, stop it before it happens? How do you think we should battle this while protecting those who are waiting for their forever family through adoption?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Difference Adoption can make....

The difference adoption can make…..  I know it can....

You see, I knew this little girl….  She had a sweet little smile and bright blue eyes.  Unless you knew her story you probably wouldn’t know what she’d been through. She didn’t know life was supposed to be different than it was.  When she was very young, 2 to 3 years old, she was left alone, often for days, to fend for herself and try to take care of her younger brother.  Most of her memories are gone from those days and she knows only the accounts of the neighbors or social workers who documented those early years.  She has 2 memories that have withstood the years of life since.  Simple yet heartbreaking…. One, she was home alone and wanted to eat but the bread she wanted was just out of reach.  No matter how much she stretched she just couldn’t reach it and went to bed alone, hungry.  On another day her little brother sat in a play pen and one of the sides was down so she went over and pushed it into place only to pinch the skin on her frail hand.  She turned to find someone to comfort her in the pain but there was no one there.

She wasn’t afraid the day the social workers took her away.  She was just happy someone wanted to hold her hand.

She’s blocked out a lot of her time in foster care though she can still feel the sting of pain deep in her heart when she thinks about the rejection she felt being moved around to different homes and different families.  She does, however, remember the day she was picked up from preschool and told there was a man and woman at the house that wanted to meet her and her brother to possibly become their mom and dad.  While her brother hid, scared , she ran into the house and jumped into the arms of the big, red-headed man sitting on the couch.  If this man wanted to be her dad she wanted him to know she wanted to be his daughter.  She’d never had a dad in her life.  She sat in his lap and compared freckles and she felt safe.

That day was the start of her new family.  As she made the transition to her new family and they worked through the adoption she finally felt like everything would be okay.  It almost was but then her adopted mom began to call her names.  She told her she was a stupid idiot when she made mistakes and told her she regretted adopting them.  She beat her until she had bruises for imperfect papers at school and a messy room.  Her heart that had only just begun to heal began to break apart all over again.  She tried to be good enough but the abuse continued.  She withdrew and began calling herself names, questioning her existence.   Her father, in an attempt to stop the abuse, divorced her mom.  All this before she entered middle school.

She began middle school just wanting to be accepted by anyone but she was so fragile and sensitive.  People often made fun of her and put her down just adding to the “truth” she already believed that she was worthless.  She hadn’t had a mom to help show her how to dress better or do her hair so she was often made fun of for not being put together well enough.  Her father remarried while she was in middle school and while she was happy for him she wasn’t interested in having another mom.  On the outside she appeared to be just like many of the other awkward middle school students struggling through puberty and trying to find her way but inside she was dying a slow death.  She often thought about suicide and questioned why she should continue to live.

Her father had raised her in church so she knew the gospel.  She’d even walked the isle and been baptized as a younger child but her motivation had been to stand in front of the church so people would walk up and hug her in congratulations.  Her life had never been any different and in reality, she didn’t think God knew who she was, much less, loved and accepted her.  After all, she reasoned, if her own mothers couldn’t love her, why would He.

Somehow she survived middle school, mostly in part to a summer church camp that gave her a new glimpse of who God was.  One night she watched a skit where the “Africans” were looking up at the missionaries with a longing and hunger in their eyes that she’d never had to know and she thought then that she would love to help others.  Later that week she sat on the edge of a huge map that had been spread on the chapel floor and as the staff poured thousands of beans on the map the director stood up and said, “One bean represents 10,000 people who have never heard of Jesus”.  As she got on her hands and knees to help pick up the beans, with tears in her eyes, she said, “God, I don’t even know if you know who I am but I want to make a difference for You”.  It was at the moment that she heard Him say, “Shasta, I’ll use you if you’re willing to be used”.  God knew my name!  God knew me!

That day changed my life.  Who I was began to change.  I can’t say things were immediately better but I began to figure out who I was.  I had so much to deal with and get through but I can say at 32 I have overcome so much.  There’s a lot more that happened from that summer until now but I’ll save that for part 2. J  (I’ll talk about how my marriage has been impacted by and with adoption.)

I tell this story for several reasons.  I never understood the power of a testimony until I was asked to share my story and watched as people connected to my pain and celebrated my triumphs and overcomings.   Adoption made all the difference in getting me from who I was then to who I am now.  People often wonder if I wish I’d never been adoption with the events that happened following, but I wouldn’t change one thing about my life.  If one thing had been different, if one event, whether good or bad, hadn’t happened, I might not be who I am, where I am, or doing what I am doing and I can’t imagine doing or being any one else.

I’ve had people leave me but I’ve had others love me.
I’ve been rejected by some yet accepted by others.
I’ve given up on life but then given hope to carry on.
I've hated who I was but love who I have become.
Love made all the difference.