The three families that recently traveled to Haiti for their Socialization trips are back, and catching up with them and hearing their stories has been amazing! After talking to them so much before they left I felt the tables had turned while they were in country and I was constantly waiting for them to email me with updates(I imagine this is how families feel waiting to hear from me!). They all had a wonderful time in country and a couple of them are going back this summer to see their kiddos again while we wait for the adoptions to finalize.
Once a referral is received for a family and the Socialization trip happens the social worker that conducted the visit with the family and the child has 10 days to submit a report to IBESR. Once this is submitted the dossiers (family and child) will go to four different offices to get signed off on. After all the signatures are provided the dossiers are able to be pulled from IBESR and the family is invited for the final trip to complete the adoption.
Now that Haiti has gone Hague we all anticipated more movement happening and ideally the process in general taking less time. After various meetings were held in country it sounded like the matching time for families would be around a year from dossier submission and around 4 months between the Socialization trip and finalization. So for the time being all we can do is hope this is how the process will be going forward and we can get all these children home soon!
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18
After a lot of chaos, stress, excitement, more stress, more chaos, and of course more excitement we officially now have three families in country for their socialization trips! These are the phone calls I get to make very few and far between since the wait times for Haiti are longer but they are always the most exciting. Well, almost as exciting as calling families and telling them we FINALLY got their referral. Each family in country is at a different step in their journey but I am so glad they all have each other in country to bond, converse, and ultimately to gain new friendships. As a case manager these are some of the greatest moments..getting my families to this point; the point we have all been waiting for and ultimately what can also be known as the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire”
Today is a big day in the Haiti adoption world. For those of you who do not know after today Haiti will officially switch over to Hague meaning a lot more rules and regulations will start being implemented. Because of this, tensions are pretty high in agencies, with families, and of course at IBESR. I honestly cannot imagine the chaos that is IBESR right now. Our rep and various creche directors have pretty much been living there the past two weeks along with praying and hoping for pre-Hague families referrals to be issued.
I have said it before and I will say it again…I do not know what it is like to be an adoptive parent but I met these kids while I was in Haiti and I know personally how many of them want a forever family. I met ALL of the kids my families are currently matched with and as I sit here at my desk anxiously awaiting news from our rep I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. It is 12pm here which means it is 1pm in Haiti which also means we have about half of a day for God to really guide IBESR officials hands and start making serious movement in country. To say I have not already cried today would be a lie and the purpose of this blog was to have an inside look on the side of adoption you do not always get to see. So, yes I cried because EVERYONE involved in these adoptions get extremely invested. The pressure has set in and all we can do is…wait.
I am sending prayers and remaining hopeful and I hope you all will too. And, as you send up a prayer today please send an extra one for the children because a delayed referral means another day in an orphanage for them.
Today I wanted to do a “Flash Back Friday” to Haiti. As time passes, I keep reflecting on funny things that happened while I was there and here are a few I have not quite shared yet.
EVERYBODY called me Hillary Clinton. I mean EVERYONE. From meeting creche directors, talking to individuals at The Apparent Project, meeting people on the street, and even some of the older children. Every time I introduced myself to someone they would say, “Oh like Hillary Clinton.” Initially in the beginning I would politely laugh it off but after the numerous times that it happened I really did start thinking how funny it was that the common person they knew to compare me to was Hillary Clinton. Hillary also has a foundation in Haiti so I think that is why most Haitians know who she is.
When you pull out your phone and start taking pictures the response you will typically hear is, “ME! ME! ME!” “PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!” “ME! ME! ME!” But one time I loved in particular was when I took out my phone to take a picture with a little girl and she immediately started making all of these faces. From sticking her tongue out, making kissy faces, and smiling really big. I quickly realized what a pro she was!
Peanut butter is their favorite. I mean FAVORITE. Like do not get yourself caught between the bowl full of it and their eager hands. The first day we arrived we made home made peanut butter with peanuts and a peanut grinder. Most of these children have never had peanut butter and they were not only in love with the taste but also the fact that they could roll in into balls with their hands. It was COMPLETE chaos but the joy in their eyes was
something I will never forget. They even proceeded to chase one of the guys making it across the court yard for more!
I met one little girl at a creche we visited around the age of 5. She immediately wanted me to pick her up so of course I had to right?! We walked around outside for a long time and she kept talking in creole and I continued to speak back to her in English neither one of us knowing what the other was really saying. Minutes continued to pass and she continued to talk..I finally asked the orphanage director, “what in the world is she talking about?” He started laughing and said, “she keeps saying she doesn’t know English!” After this we ALL could not stop laughing.
“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” -Winnie the Pooh
I am currently sitting at a kite festival in Austin, TX. Families, children, and of course kites are everywhere and in this moment I again have another realization of what so many children in the world do not and will not get to experience. Such a simple and fun activity that I wish I could share with all of the children I met in Haiti. We live in a world full of wrong but in times like this when you see how many amazing families and people there are in the world it makes me see all the right in the world too. If even just half of these families pursued adoption it would make the number of orphans so much less & maybe one day they too would get to see something as incredible as this.
If any of you have read my “about me” section then you know that I was a Houseparent working with 9 at-risk youth prior to working in the international adoption world. Those children ages ranged between 13-18. Before my role as a Houseparent, I worked at a residential treatment center with 30 girls who were between the ages of 14-17. With all of this being said, I have had my fair share of interaction with older children in the foster care system and who are labeled in the international adoption world as “waiting children.” Many days I come to work and this is a hard topic for me. Of course I want EVERY child to find their forever family and in a perfect world the term “orphan” would not exist. But, the reason this is a hard topic for me is because unfortunately a lot of families are only open to adopting younger children. There is a huge stigma that older children will not be as resilient or they will not form attachment or the bond just will not be the same. Now, a lot of this can be considered true but not just for older children but younger children as well. A younger child may not remember a lot of the past and yes they may adapt easily in the beginning but do you know how long the “waiting children” have longed for a forever family? Because I have worked with older children in the system I know the struggles and man can they be hard but I also know how great the rewards are of breaking down those walls and bonding with a child who has longed for that feeling their entire life (whether they knew that wanted that relationship or not). Will it be easy? Not always. Will it be worth it? It always was for me! “Waiting Children” constantly see adoptive parents coming to creches and taking children home and wonder if anyone will ever come for them. This is a sad and unfortunate reality. A lot of these older children eventually are even seen as caretakers to the younger children and their whole idea of what a childhood should be is quickly diminished.
While I was in Haiti, I met ALL of the children at the creches I visited and they are ALL incredible! But, there are a few “waiting child” sibling groups I met that really stood out to me and I would love more than anything to help advocate to find them a forever family.
Help me, help them find their forever family!!
When we arrived at the airport last Friday in Port Au Prince I soon discovered that leaving Haiti is very similar to the adoption process as we experienced a lot of unpredictable delays. We got to the airport at 2pm for our flight at 4pm. We slowly watched the expected boarding time get later and later. It eventually was pushed back so far that now we were not going to make our connecting flight to Austin. We finally arrived in Miami at 11pm to be transferred to a hotel for the night and back up at 3am to try again and make our way to Austin…
The plane touched down and I felt as if I dreamed the whole trip up in my head. As I was scrolling through all the photos on my phone while I waited to get off the plane I still could not believe the trip had already come to an end. Since I have been back in Austin I have felt an extreme sadness. I am completely heartbroken by the life those sweet children live but I also have a renewed hope for the future ahead. I am constantly wondering what they are doing and how they are feeling. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a child living in an orphanage. Because, I met these kids I was able to learn a lot about their personalities, their hopes, fears, and dreams; I know that any family would be incredibly lucky to add these children to their family. Because of this trip, I am extremely aware of many things we don’t even think to be grateful for like smooth paved roads, lights, hot water, a bed full of pillows and blankets, air conditioning, and much much more. But honestly, I would trade it all to be back in Haiti right now. There are some things in life that completely shake the ground you walk on and this was one of those experiences for me. For a country full of citizens who have nothing in some ways they seem to have a lot more than us. I don’t know if it is their reliance on God that I saw throughout various communities, Espwa for a better life one day, or the fact that they may just not know anything significantly different even exists.
“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
Looking around our room at our packed bags my heart is so heavy. I am filled with a renewed hope to help find orphaned children in Haiti forever families but I am also so sad to leave them behind. Something you quickly notice when you walk in a orphanage is how many of the kids want to know your name, little ones want you to hold them, and they ALL ask when you are coming back.. Now, for anyone who knows a lot regarding child behavior and attachment you know this is not typical. It is not “normal” for children to run up to you and want to be held but unfortunately this is their reality. For these kids, you rocking them for 15 minutes might just be the longest time they will be held all week. Kicking around a flat soccer ball with the older kids might be the most adult interaction that they will receive all week. And, in the short time we have been here if these small interactions have helped them in some way to feel comforted, cared for, or important then I am thankful we could provide that to them. Haiti will always hold a piece of my heart and I cannot wait until my next adventure to this amazing country.
Since we arrived in Haiti we have worked everyday from sunrise to sunset. We have made so many connections and learned a lot about the adoption process in Haiti. But something else that I have learned, is just how Haitians live their everyday lives. We have driven many miles visiting creches in Port Au Prince, Kenscoff, and some others in between. Because of this, I have seen how almost all Haitians are living and what the people in this country must do to survive. One of the orphanages we visited was in a more rural area of town and as we were walking around taking everything in I turned and saw some kids beating a bird with a rock. Instantly, I turned my head and shuddered at the thought of having to kill birds with rocks in order to feed my family because that is exactly what they were having to do… There are SO many things we take for granted and a lot of things that come so easy to us are extremely hard for others to get and most of the time it is things like food, housing, and water. There are some things in life that change you for the better and some things just change you. I know because of this experience I have been changed for good.
Espwa means hope in Haitian Creole and this whole trip I have been hopeful of new connections, updates from IBESR, good news from our rep, and positive movement not only on the adoption front but also in the country. So far keeping the phrase “Espwa” in mind has led us to great success. So far we have gone to Maison everyday getting updates on the children, updates on the kiddos matched, and updates on which children are available. We also visited another orphanage that currently has 130 children and discussed what partnering with them would look like. This orphanage has a lot of children with special needs and it would be amazing to help advocate to find them families. We also ventured out to IBESR and received updates on some of the families waiting. Today we are going to Maison again and also visiting another orphanage on the other side of Port Au Prince. The children are amazing and so are the people. The kids love to be held, given hugs, and are constantly hanging on us (and we are soaking up every moment). Looking around the orphanages you see what little things they really have. The children are playing with brooms, sticks, rocks, and random other object they find but even with so little you can see how much “Espwa” they have. Standing outside and watching the kids run under the clothes line full of children’s clothes of all sizes and looking over to see the tarp draped bathing area I really wish I could give them the world. I wish they were not given this life. And, I wish I could change their entire world. But one of my favorite adoption quotes is, “you may not be able to change the whole world, but for that one child the whole world will change.” With this quote in mind and keeping “Espwa” on the brain we all will be able to change the world.. One orphan at a time.
Tomorrow we visit C4C!!
Goodnight from Haiti ❤️
When you have dreamed about doing something your entire life and it finally comes true it is hard to believe. All day today, I have felt like I am dreaming.. As our driver came to a gate and told us we were at Maison my heart fell into my stomach. I had no idea what to expect and my nerves and excitement were starting to get the best of me. I stepped out of the car and began walking through the orphanage looking at all the little clothes hanging on the clothes line, children running everywhere, and the amount of love they spread every direction they ran. I was immediately tackled by a stunning little girl wearing an Ariel dress and a handsome young man joined in on the fun as well! After that I continued walking around and ended up at the toddler room. One little boy put his hand on my face and called me beautiful so I think it’s safe to say I found my valentine in Haiti ? We all took tons of pictures and started making home made peanut butter with a peanut grinder! The kids went CRAZY. I stood back watching them run up for more and more peanut butter and realized how lucky we truly are for what we have…They were all so excited over something that is such a common grocery item to all of us and that really hit it home for me. The children and people in this country are amazing and it has been incredible to see children in person that I have seen in photos for months (I am sure some of you families can relate to that).
Tomorrow we tackle IBESR so keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we push for updates and positive movement for adoptions in general.
Much love from Haiti ❤️
Today, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who participated in the Haiti Holidays donation drive. Because of you, I get to take ALL of this amazing stuff to Haiti and with the money that was also donated I will be able to purchase additional items in country for the orphanages. Thank you again for helping me help them!
For those of you that follow the news and keep up with what is happening in Haiti you probably have already heard about the elections and the Zika virus spreading. For those of you that haven’t heard here is what we have learned so far…The statistics for people contracting Zika in country are pretty high. I would like to assume most of the people that are being infected are not using and or are not able to use preventative care but we are planning on bringing plenty of bug spray, coil bands, and wearing long sleeves and pants just to be on the safe side. Also, the president stepped down without a successor which has caused some unrest in country. We were told by in-country staff that it is not too much to worry about right now but I will be able to provide more updates on all of this once I am actually in Haiti. The elections are now scheduled for April 24th and hopefully all goes well until then. We are hoping both of these issues in-country are being promoted more so for media hype (because that is what our staff keeps saying) but obviously we will not know anything for sure until we land. Keep the children, people, and country in your thoughts and prayers.
We leave in 5 days!!!
Adoption can take a taxing toll on families; financially, physically, and emotionally. I, myself, do not know what it is like to be a waiting family but I do know what it is like to work on the other side of the adoption; The advocacy side. As my journey to Haiti is quickly approaching I wanted to start a blog to not only share with you all what we learn and see in country but also what it is like to be an international adoption counselor and how we operate everyday to ensure that adoptions in Haiti and the other countries we work with are happening. For countries like Haiti that are under developed, experiencing extreme poverty, and multiple parties are needed to ensure the adoptions happen it tends to make the process a lot more difficult. I can easily spend half if not all of my day just working on one family’s case. And, something I have quickly learned is that the urgency to respond to questions in country is not on the same timeline as we try to operate responses here in the United States. Sometimes I am even given the same updates I heard months ago. I know the precious children you are matched with or are hoping to be matched with are not my own but we here at CAN are just as passionate about trying to figure out ways to get these kiddos home sooner! Dealing with Haiti can be a headache and that is just the honest truth but I LOVE my job and I LOVE Haiti and that is what makes the small and large bumps in the road completely worth it. I get to help create forever families and honestly that is just about the coolest thing I could ever imagine doing. I do not know how I ended up here but I am extremely grateful that I did!