501(c)3 Non-Profit | Empowering Haitian Families

Two streams of the same river- adoption and sustainability.

In Haiti alone, they are estimating around 380,000 children who are not living with their biological parents according to the latest UNICEF reports. We call them orphans.
Of those kids, many are with relatives. A common misperception in the adoption world is that Haitians, (and disadvantaged people of all kinds), don’t take care of their own. Can I emphatically say that this is NOT the case in my world. Many of our artisans have children that they raise AS THEIR OWN that were given to them by a family member who died or just couldn’t take care of them. This is very common in Haiti as well as many other disadvantaged people groups.
 (including in North America).
It super erks me when we act like we are the only ones trying to help these children.
If they can’t go to relatives, there are a variety of situations they can end up in.
They are on the streets (prostitution, trafficking etc.. ),
they are given as child servants (a restavek is a child given in domestic servitude to another family in exchange for shelter, food, and possibly a chance to be educated- although this can play out to be anything from a foster care like situation to pure slavery), or to orphanages.
Of all of the orphanages in Haiti, very few actually adopt out children. The children live in usually below poverty level situation ( much like when they were with their families), are not well cared for or loved the way they would be if they were with their moms, and will often end of with little hope for a decent future. Even GOOD orphanages have a hard time transitioning kids from orphanage life to the real world once they hit 18.
It is a tough job raising kids in bulk!
Some of the better orphanages in Haiti, many run by expats, do offer adoption and will offer this as one of the solutions for this horrific problem of orphaned and vulnerable children.
Of all the orphanages that offer adoption in Haiti, only about 200 kids get adopted each year. (see chart at the bottom). With new laws currently in the works, this number looks like it will be going down even further- not just in Haiti but all over the world. Too much corruption, child trafficking, and dishonesty has made specialists in the field- from the governments on down to the social workers feel it necessary to slow down in order to PROTECT vulnerable children.
Please hear me.
If your adoption is slow.
The powers that be aren’t just having long lunch breaks.
They are literally more concerned about the 1000s of cases of unethical treatment of children and are bogged down with trying to decipher between legitimate relinquishment, abandonment, and true orphans and the corruption all over the place makes it hard to do that job well.  
Now to get to the point. I find too often in my world that you have the pro-adoption and anti-adoption camps. The pro-orphanage and anti-orphanage camps.
This paradigm is completely skewed and doesn’t make sense. 
It’s an illogical comparison.
If we have 380,000 vulnerable children and only 200 are even in process of adoption to the U.S. and maybe 200 more to other adoptive countries like Canada and France, then we have approximately 379,600 kids who ARE STILL VULNERABLE.
While I submit to adoptive parents to be careful where they adopt from, know that it will be one of the most challenging experiences they will ever face, and that they will most likely get their heart broken several times- both before and after the adoption is complete, let it be clear that
advocating for a solution for the other 379,600 children is in no way anti-adoption or anti-orphanage.
WE are all working for the cause of protecting vulnerable children.
This is why we can all have different solutions  to the same problem and be in harmony- and should be in harmony.
I myself have two adopted children.
I work tirelessly to help mothers be able to sustain their families. These are two ways that I work towards a solution- in tandem.
And I think that what those of us on the ground in the field are tirelessly trying to communicate to the rest of the world is  that we NEED to prevent child relinquishment not because we are anti-adoption, but because we see this gaping hole in the side of the vulnerable people groups all over the world. This gaping hole is that parents need an opportunity to take care of their children. If we are called by God to help “the orphan” than with any brain in us, we can figure that helping prevent relinquishment helps the orphan. By nipping it in the bud. Any by help, I do not mean AID forever, but rather the dignity that comes through sustainable development- a JOB.
And here’s the thing- we appeal to ADOPTIVE parents because we know that they are the most likely of all the people on the planet to want to help families stay in tact. Because they see that adoption is a redemption- not the first plan. That their kids have scars. And they want to help.
My point is that this should never be and adoption VS sustainability issue.
My point is that we can do it all in tandem- cooperatively and as individuals.
Let’s adopt kids who truly need it. And let’s help parents who wish to keep their kids find jobs, and let’s buy products from Haiti, because stimulating the Haitian economy is helping families all over Haiti, and let’s soak up some rays at the beautiful beaches of Haiti because the tourism industry is Hait’s #1 chance for economic recovery.  And let’s support schools and feeding programs for children because it provides some reprieve for parents who are struggling to be able to make ends meet.
Let’s do this thoughtfully and in a way that ultimately allows parents to keep their most precious and valuable gifts given to them. Let us love the orphan before she becomes one. And though we choose to adopt for now, do feeding programs for now, support schools for now, let’s work tirelessly to make that ultimately unnecessary.
~shelley clay

One last word- while we all work together to solve this problem, we should  also be willing to not tolerate vulnerable kids getting abused whether in birth families, as restaveks, or in orphanages. Period. If we know it is happening and we don’t speak out to help. We are participants.


adoption statistics- http://adoption.state.gov/country_information/country_specific_info.php?country-select=haiti

Adoptions from Haiti to U.S. by year
2011 – 33
2010 -133
2009 – 330
2008 – 301
2007 – 191
2006 -310
2005 -234
2004 -355
2003 -248
2002 – 187
2001 – 192
2000 – 130
1999 – 96
  1. preach.

  2. Out of everything I have been reading over the last several days this is my favorite! Very balanced! I am currently adopting from Haiti and I have fallen in love with the culture and the people. My greatest desire has went from helping just one child (the one I'm adopting) to helping pregnant women and in turn helping multiple children. Your company has funded three mission trips for me and some of my friends through your bracelet fundraiser. During these trips I was given a vision to start a prenatal clinic. I have also purchased and LOVED two of the leather bound journals. Thank you for what you are doing in Haiti and for those of us that have been blessed through you too!

  3. i love this… so many things about it, but especially that investing in the mothers and families is loving them before becoming an orphan, in fact perhaps preventing abandonment. As people from the western world we often have the save mentality and focus so much on the children. We often go and forget that the women in the places where vulnerable children are, they are the ones with the children everyday. They are being mothers to them day in and day out. I want those women to be empowered, to love well, for when they are loved, encouraged and empowered, I fully believe that the children they work with whether orphaned or not, will be less vulnerable and grow up with more stability, mentally, emotionally and physically.

    Shelley thanks for doing what you do in Haiti, we know a lot of the same people, but I hope one day we will get to meet! You are a blessings!

    thanks for putting your thoughts on this out there…it is so good!

    may the Lord bless you and shine His face upon you in ALL that you do!

    Natasha Jovin

  4. Loved this. This is what I want see on the ground. This is what I want to hear from those trying to fix the issue. This is what I want to be a part of and promote.

    I don't want to feel like I have to pick a side. I don't want to be made to feel guilty for adopting without knowing all this stuff before I got in the middle of it.

    I do want to help legitimate orphans get a home while also helping keep others from entering the "system".

    These conversations and blogs and posts going all around have not been easy to read or digest but have been needed. I totally related to: "And though we choose to adopt for now, do feeding programs for now, support schools for now, let's work tirelessly to make that ultimately unnecessary."

    One way I do that is that I have a non-profit that gets scholarships for kids to attend school. Along with many of the children in the community where my children's orphanage is now go to school as well as all the siblings of the 2 that I'm adopting because I want to invest in those families so the future for them and their kids can be different.

  5. Thank you Shelly. This is very helpful as we consider adoption.

  6. Best comment on adoption I have read in a while. Not a attack. Just the truth.

  7. Great insight, as always. Thanks for the eye-opener!!

  8. Such a complicated.subject and you explain so well and handle with much grace, wisdom, and clarity. Thank you so much for posting!!

  9. Yes, yes, and YES!!! 🙂 I hate that people are picking sides when there is no winning side. It all goes hand in hand. Justice and safety for children who are hurting. Empowering parents who want to be empowered. Stimulating the economy. Making sure adoptions are ethical.


  10. Amen! What a wonderful article. This is something my husband and I have been praying about. I hope that as years go by, we can begin to see collaboration with the beautiful Haitian people that enables them to fully care for their own. I am praying that God uses the children adopted from Haiti to bring this about for his glory!
    I blogged about some work going on on La Gonave earlier this year if you are interested!

  11. Great post, Shelley! Obviously I hadn't read it yet when we were talking yesterday!

  12. Thank you for continuing to help people see the greater need! We love you guys and continue to pray for all things Haiti:)

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