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Illegal Haitian Adoptions Land Americans in Jail

100123-N-4774B-840An international scandal has ten Americans sitting in jail for allegedly trying to steal children away from Haiti in an illegal adoption scam.

Apparently they missed the memo on why now is NOT the time to adopt kids from Haiti?

Reuters reports the ten Americans were part of an Idaho-based mission group calling itself New Life Children’s Refuge. The group has no official Website (one is supposedly under construction, but there is no site registered under the URL provided), but according to a memo released by Eastside Baptist, an associated church, the plan was to “Drive bus from Santo Domingo into Port au Prince, Haiti and gather 100 orphans from the streets and collapsed orphanages, then return to the DR.”

So much for checking to ensure these kids were indeed orphans or following the rules of the Haitian government regarding adoption.

Reputable adoption officials, such as the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, have been calling for moratoriums on Haitian adoptions in the wake of the disaster – to ensure the safety of the children is of the utmost concern, rather than risk kids who have simply been separated from their families being taken away or worse, the kids being sold into slavery or the sex trade. The lack of infrastructure has made reconnecting families a challenge for rescue workers, but that’s the first step for these kids – placing them with a relative rather than a stranger, if possible.

According to the Reuters report, the folks with New Life had no proof the kids – ages two to twelve – were even orphans. And although they claim they had permission from the Dominican Republic government, the Haitian government – which still has oversight over what happens to its own citizens – has said they did NOT have permission to remove the kids.

The group’s executive director, Laura Silsby, whose name is on the memo asking for donations and mapping out the plan for the “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission,” has said she planned to return to Haiti after the kids were out to take care of the paperwork. She says an orphanage in Haiti specifically asked for their help. Their mapped out plan shows they were planning to build a new orphanage in the Dominican Republic, renting a hotel for now to house the kids.

You know what they generally call people taking a group of kids out of a country without the government’s permission? Kidnapping. Even if you have good intentions.

And good intentions do not an expert in orphans make. The potential for corruption in an orphanage thrown together by non-experts is high, and the kids are the ones who pay the ultimate price.  Though mired in problems at the moment, the Haitian government still has the right – and I dare say the need – to determine what happens to the children of Haiti.

If you want to help, send money, not kidnappers (and not milk either)

Image: DVIDSHUB, flickr

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