Many of these children may not be orphans. “A child could have been at school and the parents were at work far away,” said Tom DiFilipo, president of JCICS. “That child could be alone for weeks and weeks and seem like an orphan and put into the adoption process. But in reality the mother was injured and in the hospital and wasn’t able to travel to her child due to poverty or poor conditions of roads.” Intensive efforts also need to be made to reunite children with existing family members and living parents before declaring a child is available for adoption, said DiFilipo.
Under more normal circumstances, intercountry adoptions often take years to complete. That’s because time-intensive safeguards are needed to verify that an adoption is free from coercion or other forms of corruption. Prospective adoptive parents also need to be screened to make sure they are financially stable and mentally and physically able to care for a child who may have special needs and may not share their race and ethnicity.
The process can seem needlessly and maddeningly bureaucratic. But so far, no country has been able to come up with a system that is both streamlined and ethical. “The bottom line lesson is that if you rush, you make mistakes,” Pertman said. Even before the earthquake, some of Haiti’s adoption programs didn’t have sterling track records. There were accusations of child trafficking, of bribes paid to government officials, and of parents being tricked into sending their children to orphanages for a better life, only to discover later that orphanage residents were malnourished.
“We want to democratize the patronage process. After all, why should it only be rich people who get to work with artists and inventors and share in the excitement and beauty of their creative process?”—CityPatron