Friday, February 12, 2010

Calling For Balance

There are a small handful of beautiful programs working in Haiti to raise orphans to adulthood and teaching them to give back to their country. It takes a lot to pull that off. It takes strong and committed Haitian leadership.

Last night on AC360 Anderson visited an orphanage outside of Port au Prince.

As he interviewed the people overseeing the orphanage they said things and he repeated them in agreement. It was the "let's all agree and not think critically" segment.

During the interview one women admitted that most kids were placed in the orphanage as a result of financial hardship in the birth family. She did not claim the children had deceased parents. (Although some of them probably do.) She went on to explain that they would not want to offer adoption as a choice because these children need to stay in their own culture. Anderson did not ask a single hard question and just nodded in agreement. In reality orphanages are a subculture and cannot effectively preserve the culture that they so adamantly claim needs preserving.

AC went with the unicef line about how much better it is to be raised in an orphanage in your own country ... preserving your cultural norms and avoiding adoption at all costs. (Meanwhile unicef spokesperson Angelina Jolie adopts children from other cultures and ruins their chances of growing up in an orphanage - yet somehow that is different. You must need to be a celebrity to break unicef rules.)

The weird thing is, they stood in an orphanage meant to house 100+ kids at once and literally said "We never want to take these kids from their parents, their parents love them." Yet the kids are LIVING in the orphanage ... do they not count that as taking them from their parents?

Basically, you can take them from their parents to raise them in your crowded institution - but you cannot take them and place them in nuclear families abroad ... that is abusive. They sat there saying that the kids were placed mainly due to financial reasons, then tried to say that they must be raised in Haiti to be able to help Haiti some day. One teenage girl spoke on camera, saying something like "If you adopt all the kids out they won't be here to help their people, and that is what we want." It was an odd soundbyte by someone who is likely on a short-term visit to Haiti and has very little big picture perspective.

I hardly think anyone is suggesting that we take every.single. child in every.single. orphanage and move them out of Haiti. OF COURSE NOT. As usual, they change the argument into something it is not. ALL children leaving Haiti is a bad idea. An idiot knows that. You cannot remove the entire next generation. But, ALL children staying in Haiti (closing down adoption on the whole) is a really bad idea too.

The same thing applies as in every other argument ... it is not a black and white, one size-fits-all argument. Different situations warrant different responses ... there is no hard and fast rule, no one response to the orphan crisis. Keeping hundreds of thousands of orphans (with or without living birth-parents) in institutions and thinking that these institutions will prepare them to "give back to their country" -- is nothing short of totally ignorant. The vast majority of orphanages in Haiti are horribly understaffed and overcrowded. Those conditions don't turn out world leaders.

Most orphanages look different on the days that visitors come. They are not wonderful, loving, centers of cultural goodness. 100 kids living in one building was presented as a brilliant idea by Coop last night. I am not exactly sure what he was thinking. Live in an orphanage for three months when there are no cameras around. THEN come tell me how totally awesome it is to stay in your home culture.

I don't know why Anderson is generalizing and suggesting one solution for the problem of orphans in Haiti. These one-sided platitudes must be encouraged by unicef or by those ten people that tried to take kids illegally ... but either way they are misguided. I'd love to see Anderson actually report on this issue looking at BOTH sides.

Adoption is not warranted in every situation. Of course not. But keeping all orphaned kids from the opportunity to be adopted in order preserve their fabulous (orphan) culture and keep unicef in business, is not a one-size-fits-all solution either.