Thinking before adopting

March 16, 2010 — by Arnav Dugar

Imagine being a child in many parts of Haiti today. You leave the orphanage to look one more time for your parents. What once used to be the street you lived on is now an expanse of rubble. As you climb onto one mound, you realize the place you called home is gone.

Your parents are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they are looking for you, or perhaps their remains are just below your feet. With over half of Haiti’s population under age 21, you are just one of the countless youth searching for life as it was before the Feb. 12 earthquake.

Images such as these have sparked sympathy in many rich families, spurring on a new desire to adopt cute Haitian toddlers. Whatever the motive, whether it be philanthropic or for a quick, economic adoption, the influx of requests has upset the process with which children are removed from the country.

Although the would-be adopters may indeed be loving parents, it is not right for them to rip these children right out of their natural environment and immerse them in entirely new customs just because no one had the time to search for their closest relatives.

Not only do these children have to overcome the trauma from this earth-shattering event in their lives and the loss of everything that was dear to them, including their families and personal belongings, but then, they also are impressed with replacements, which may not even suit them, all in such a small period of time that they cannot comprehend the drastic change.

It is as if after an earthquake in the Bay Area, a student whose parents cannot be found is adopted by an Indian family that has never been to the U.S. before. So 24 hours later, he finds himself in a small Indian village learning how to eat with his hands and use the toilet without toilet-paper while his grandparents in Sacramento, whom he visited occasionally, think he died with the rest of his family.

This doesn’t mean people don’t have the right to adopt Haitian children or that their intentions are bad. It is just that the adoption system, the process of verifying the background of the new parents and ensuring the child is truly an orphan with no close relatives, is not being followed.

Blindly adopting children is only a temporary fix and does not target the root of the problem. The Haitian government can only spend less every year than the U.S. government spends every three hours. In a situation like this, donations to help support these children in their homeland to rebuild the nation are much more important than relocating the future of Haiti away from their homeland.

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