Preface: I’m not attacking or judging any one person or organization, what I am doing is speaking out about a broken child and orphan care system here in Haiti.
Respire Haiti Christian School starts in 3 weeks. It’s a time of excitement but it’s also a time I dread a bit. It is SO HARD having countless moms and dads come up to me asking if there’s room in our school, but even worse than that my heart breaks when it’s a 9 year old little girl.
This year we are adding more children than we have in 5 years. We will have 62 new students starting. They have come from all walks of life, in orphanages, just out of orphanages, restavek situations and just tough living situations. Many of these parents were on the verge of placing their kids in local orphanages because they run “the better schools.” Over 22 of these new students are between the ages of 9 and 15 and have never been to school before. Some of them came over the summer and were ecstatic after they learned how to write their name. Imagine being 14 and not being able to write your name.
I’ll probably be crucified for saying this, but I feel like this is a pattern I’ve seen over and over again and I’ve been silent for too long. And the Lord has been showing me, that in general, Silence in the face of oppression and injustice is the same as agreeing with it. So, I’m speaking up, Haiti doesn’t need more orphanages or more white American Churches coming and building a nicer building than the majority of homes here in Haiti.
Haiti needs people that UNDERSTAND that families want and need to stay together (and even for you naysayers thinking, “Well, you didn’t meet this little girl or this family, she DIDNT WANT her daughter.” TRUST ME. I’ve been there and for ANYONE to play God and say a child is better off in their orphanage than with a parent (except in severe abuse cases) is absolutely horrifying.) But this is a cycle, new churches or American missionaries come in to Haiti and perpetuate the cycle of keeping families apart by opening orphanages. It’s a cycle of orphanages being supported by American churches and realizing the orphanage they were supporting is not all it’s cracked up to be (I get numerous emails every month from people all over Haiti about this- corruption, abuse, trafficking of children IN orphanages)
Over the summer our Mental Health Staff has had more than half a dozen incidents that could have resulted in a child being placed in an orphanage. In fact, I’m being honest enough to say that would have been SO much easier to do that. But instead, we counseled, we prayed, we talked and we made a plan with each parent or caregiver. We enrolled some in afternoon school. We made home visits, we visited places 5 hours from us. We watched children with HIV be given up, we had parents drop their kids off at our clinic and run. And we went after them. We PURSUED them…taught them, loved them, WALKED WITH THEM in this crazy world.
To say that children here in Haiti are “orphaned” with NO parents or relatives or even the ability to have someone foster them, honestly, its crap (and also the easy way out). Even with children who have NO living relatives, we have had numerous successful cases of students being fostered and even adopted. We are hoping to begin more Foster Care classes within our community in October. Last year, just in our school we had three moms (parents of students) that died in childbirth. Within the tragedy, we are blessed to say that all 3 of those babies STAYED WITH THEIR FAMILIES. With education, support, prayer and counseling they are healthy children now still WITH their families. (We also consequently started a Prenatal Education Program as well).
A few months ago I literally had a Haitian man that works with an organization here look at me and say,”America stopped having orphanages almost 100 years ago because IT DIDNT WORK, so why then do Christian Americans keep coming here to Haiti and implementing something that didn’t work for them in their own country?”
Mic drop. Seriously.
I implore you to read this article by LUMOS.
70 MILLION dollars goes to supporting orphanages here in Haiti. (That could run OVER 450 Respire Haiti Christian Schools enrolling 230,000+ students). 70 MILLION dollars goes to keeping families apart. And the longer they are supported the harder it is to reunite children with their parents or extended families. The longer they are in an orphanage, no matter how nice the building is, how pretty the paint and playground is and no matter how many “Caregivers” are hired. It’s Not A Family. It’s already been PROVEN to Not be Healthy. And it’s NOT what God asks us to do when He asks us to care for orphans (James 1:23) Why? Because He has already shown us a better way.
Its like trying to smoke a prettier cigarette, on a prettier park bench outside. There’s still a HUGE chance you will get cancer, no matter how pretty the cigarette is. It’s DAMAGING. This has already been proven! The same is true for orphanages. They have already proven to be DAMAGING to children. So why continue to do the same thing and expect different results?
On top of all that, 80-90% of children in orphanages in Haiti HAVE PARENTS. These are poverty orphans. And I’m telling you by EXPERIENCE, not by some grandiose, “What If…” or by some completely out of the blue idea…but I’m TELLING YOU from experience that…with education, with counseling and with prayer, we have kept families together and reunited parents with their children. Again, I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s worth it and it’s the RIGHT thing to do.
Respire Haiti has been working on a Parenting Curriuculum that we hope to have finished this fall. We hope to choose some groups around Haiti to help us Pilot it and then we hope to spread it for FREE to anyone and everyone who wants to use it.
Why? Because this idea of putting children in orphanages is generational…it’s generational because some of these parents think they are doing the BEST thing they can for their child! The orphanage can provide meals, a place to sleep and most important SCHOOL.
Why? Because some of these mothers are young and don’t know another option. They’ve been told they CANT, so they need someone to tell them they CAN.
By opening Respire Haiti Chrisitan School we have insured more children than we can count to stay with their families. We have seen over a dozen children pulled out of orphanages because our school opened, we have seen families reunited and we have seen that this view becomes contagious.
Maybe this rant has upset you because you support or run an orphanage. Maybe this blog makes you aggravated because it seems like I am criticizing or attacking others organizations or churches that support orphanages, I’m not, I am however trying to get us to reflect on this broken orphan care system in Haiti. So, honestly ask yourself this question.
Would you want to give YOUR OWN child something that’s just ‘Good Enough’? Or would you want to give them the best?”
One of my good friends here visited an orphanage where they told her, “The kids have a great bond with their caregiver, she’s here two days on and off one day.” And literally my friend said later, “Right because that’s normal. My mom was MIA every 3rd day when I grew up too”
Whats happening is orphanages here in Haiti are continuing the generational problem of detachment with children, breaking families apart and sadly patting themselves on the back and having church groups come and visit with their “orphans.”
It has to stop. It has to change. This cycle has to break! NO ONE is “saving” children in Haiti by opening or running an orphanage. If anything, it’s perpetuating the cycle that Satan started with tearing families apart.
You want to know what changes Haiti? Creating jobs. Having safe and available health care. Helping moms have healthy babies. Giving children (and adults) a chance for EDUCATION. And doing THIS with Jesus’ incredible power changes lives. It changes the future for these children.
So please, think about it. Break the cycle.
Close an orphanage. Reunite families. Open a school. I’ll get you a list of 300+ kids here in Gressier, Haiti who are waiting.