Haiti, Culture and the Best Interest of the Child

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

At Gladney, our hearts ache for the people of Haiti, especially the orphans. We’ve all watched with interest the case of American missionaries trying to bring presumed orphans across the border to the Dominican Republic. While probably well-intentioned, the efforts of this group were misguided. International adoption is effectively blocked in most countries of the world. One reason is just what has stoked the controversy around the efforts of these missionaries – the fact that some of these children may not be orphans, but were simply separated from their parents in the earthquake. At the extreme end of the spectrum, with ill-intentioned individuals and groups, this leads to charges of child trafficking, which sadly enough, are occasionally true.

Foreign governments, our own Department of State and large well-funded NGO’s sometimes stand in the way of international adoption for another reason – a concern that the best interest of the child does not include any option which would remove him or her from their country of origin and their culture.

To a degree, we at Gladney affirm this view. That’s why we are beginning to explore the establishment of in-country adoption programs in select countries where we already operate. It’s also why our Gladney Family Associations around the U.S. plan several country-specific events each year. As an example, we have a number of Chinese New Year celebrations on the calendars this month. We believe it is important to provide each child adopted from overseas ample opportunity to fully appreciate the culture from his or her country of birth. That’s also why we are finalizing plans for our first “heritage trip” this summer – a group of families traveling back to Russia to enjoy Moscow and St. Petersburg and visit the orphanages in smaller cities.

To be clear, Gladney’s view is that in the best interest of the child, the need for a family trumps the need to remain in the country of origin, consistent with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN in 1989, which states that “every child deserves a family”. Amen. Put another way, we don’t think it is in the best interest of any child to live in an orphanage, even those that are well-run, when there are loving families in the U.S. and elsewhere who are ready and able to provide permanent homes. Culture is vitally important; a loving family is even more important. At Gladney, we focus on both.

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