Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For Orphans in Haiti, Cut the Damn Red Tape Already

The “letter” vs. the “spirit” of the law; the Haitian orphan crisis deserves the latter.

Prior to the devastating 7.3 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti last Tuesday, according to the United Nations Children's Fund there were about 380,000 orphans, a number that is expected to grow in the wake of the quake. What is most maddening is many of these orphans were already in the process of being adopted, but the paperwork got “lost in the rubble” — putting this process in limbo and leaving the families involved in adopting Haitian children feeling helpless and distraught.

A few days ago, CNN's Gary Tuchman broke the story about two young American sisters from Pittsburgh, Jamie McMutrie, 30 and her sister Ali McMutrie, 21, who run the BRESMA orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. With the collapse of this orphanage and food, water, and other supplies running low, these two young girls continued their dedication to care for the children with the hopes of getting them out.

This story has a great ending because this morning a "mission" formulated by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), with the assistance of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and others, succeeded in bringing 53 of the 150 BRESMA orphans back to the United States. Officials are saying, "The other children are being cared for by people from the countries where they are being adopted, such as France and Holland."

Yesterday, Jonathan Hunt, who is on the ground in Haiti, and Shepard Smith in the Fox News studios, brought another compelling Haitian orphanage story to the forefront. The "House of the God" orphanage, run by a Texas-based outreach organization, was in dire straits for aid and the Salvation Army and Red Cross responded. According to Hunt and others, the urgent need now is "to get these children out of Port-au-Prince.” Hunt also informed Smith that the Dutch government decided to “fly a plane there today and pick up 100 children to be adopted by Dutch families."

With much frustration, Hunt pointed out the "ridiculousness of the situation" occurring at the "House of the God" orphanage that he was positioned at, stating that the majority (120 of the 135) of the children "had already been legally adopted by American families.” Despite the fact that "For His Glory Outreach" had sent an airplane and it was sitting in the Dominican Republic, waiting for permission to pick up the children, the orphans still sit in Haiti. "The problem is the State Department; they will not act to allow these children to come into the United States now," Hunt said.

Sitting with the children, Hunt began to introduce Smith to the orphans by name and said, "these kids... are the very best of Haiti." "The families who have adopted [these orphans] in the United States are the very best of America and what is keeping the best of these two countries apart is the worst of America: bureaucratic red tape," Hunt stated with what seemed to be pure disgust.

The stories in Haiti move rapidly, making it difficult to track, and as I write this article, Hunt and Smith announced that Texas governor Rick Perry is lobbying heavily to move these orphans out of Haiti as soon as possible. It turns out Hunt was right, The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs chartered a plane to pick up about 100 children on Monday and from the same CNN report, “300 children have pending adoption cases with American families and six children arrived in Florida Sunday night and were met by their adoptive parents with hugs and tears of happiness.”

As many organizations and government officials are making efforts to protect and provide care for the Haitian orphans and are scrambling to move them to a safe and secure place, I can't help but share the same irritation and outrage Hunt displayed in his reporting. It is sad that the fate of these children lie in the hands of politicians. Furthermore, anyone with half a brain (actually heart) knows that there is a difference between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law,” and this particular crisis calls for action. The Haitian government and any other country, including ours, need to get off their butts, cut the damn bureaucratic red tape, and let the "already adopted" children go home to their new families.

Since my mother died when I was three and my father abandoned me, the orphan issue in Haiti has pulled on my heartstrings. Due to the kindness of distant relatives, I was only an orphan for a short period of time and by no stretch of the imagination can I compare my childhood situation with what is going on with the Haitian orphans, yet, I can care. Because I am not in a position to adopt and will have to settle with my adopted pets, I can only hope that those who have it in their heart to adopt consider the Haitian orphans. Lastly, I can pray that when the reporters go home, the orphans in Haiti are not forgotten or forsaken — all the orphans around the world for that matter.

First on BlogCritics in Politics
For Orphans in Haiti, Cut the Damn Red Tape Already
Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Jan 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm
National BroadSide

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