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Haiti series- “It is madness. It is insane…” Bribes, Bullies, and Traffickers extract kids- part 4

As the Haitian child exports are receiving a great deal of attention at the moment I’d like to welcome new readers and recommend a visit to my about page and my WTF page. They answer many basic questions and lay out my comments policy.

If you are new to this series please backtrack and read the previous articles on my Haiti tag as this series relies upon definitions of words such as “orphanage” that I’ve already discussed in my previous Haitian posts.

Then read my Introduction to this Series.

Without at minimum reading the short Introduction, you will miss the context these parts or chapters were written in.

I am an adult adoptee, writing from an explicitly Bastard perspective on these matters.


Again, let me reiterate, there are more examples than I could possibly blog at this point. Part 4 is going to focus in on SOME examples, these are far from the only examples out there.

Part 4: Kids not in an adoption process being exported, bullies and bribes & the Rendells’ Raid

There have been a number of child export flights out at this point, some private or donated, others on American military flights returning after dropping off supplies.

The Dutch and Americans were among some of the earliest countries extracting kids, both of which have taken kids living in the so called “orphanages” (see my earlier posts for a discussion of what “orphanages” mean in the Haitian context) that were not in adoption processes at the time.

Here’s an AP story on the flight chartered by the Dutch Government. Some of the kids both finalized and non-finalized on the Dutch flight went to Luxembourg.

United Adoptees International has more on the Dutch story here Dutch Government accept bribes to get Haitian Children.

Further down in our main article we learn, emphasis mine:

Nine of the children, who arrived in the Netherlands, were sent to foster homes because the rushed airlift meant that children had not yet been matched to parents.

Which means we’re talking about nine kids who were not in any adoption process prior to getting on the plane from Haiti. They were residents at orphanages, but there are a number of explanations for such, as I’ve been saying all along. Take this from the United States Department of State (by way of Ethica), again, emphasis mine:

In addition, some children who had been residing in orphanages before the earthquake were placed there temporarily by parents who could not care for them. In most of these cases the parents did not intend to permanently give up their parental rights. Even when it can be demonstrated that children have indeed lost their parents or have been abandoned, reunification with other relatives in the extended family should be the first option.

Against Child Trafficking expands beyond that, discussing both the pre-existing corruption in the Haitian system and what adoption means in cultural context to the Haitian people, emphasis mine:

Neal’s position is taken a step further by Roelie Post, of Against Child Trafficking, an NGO based in Brussels opposed to international adoption.

She said a report by Unicef in 2005 found the Haitian adoption system to be “untransparent”.”The issue at stake is that Haiti has for a long time been known as a country with not a good adoption procedure,” Post said.

“Orphanages are clearing houses in Haiti. As soon as the children enter the home, they are signed up to an international adoption agency. This means that the parents, if they are alive and they want them back, cannot get them back.”

Post said there was a different understanding in Haiti of what adoption really means.

“In the Western world you get a new birth certificate, with the names of the adoptive parents. There’s no legal link with the [biological] family,” she said.

“The system in Haiti is more like foster care and the family link remains. And the people in Haiti in do not know what international adoption really means.”

Parents believe they will still be able to be reunited with their children, Post said.

The differing cultural and legal understandings of the word “adoption” has been something I’ve pointed out before. To people in many parts of the rest of the world placing a child in an orphanage, or even saying the kid will be placed for adoption does not mean a state reassigned identity, a reissued birth certificate erasing the names of one’s blood relations and replacing such with one’s new adopter’s name in a re-writing of history. For people in many parts of the world, adoption means the familial history remains intact, that the child is still part of the parents lives, and that everything that came before is not cut off from both the child and the family of origin.

Even in gaining a Haitian parent’s “consent to adoption” it remains highly questionable whether or not they have been genuinely informed to the full legal ramifications of what that can mean: removing the child from the country, rewriting their history, and potentially never seeing their blood relations again.

Words such as “orphanage” and “orphan” must always be questioned in the Haitian context:

The Haitian government has had reason to be cautious; there are about 200 orphanages in Haiti, but United Nations officials say not all are legitimate. Some are fronts for traffickers who buy children from their parents and sell them to couples in other countries. “In orphanages in Haiti there are an awful lot of children who are not orphans,” said Christopher de Bono, a Unicef spokesman.

This important article from United Adoptees International describes how the 109 Haitian kids taken to the Netherlands have been divided into three categories, resulting in 53 of the kids having left the country without any form of Haitian finalization. Of the kids who went to Luxembourg, some of them are considered “category 2” or not finalized by Haitian authorities as well.

Under this classification America has kids from all three groups as well, despite the government’s statements saying no class 3, or completely unmatched kids would be accepted.

Other kids are being taken across the relatively open border to the Dominican Republic with promises of returning them to Haiti and reuniting “some” of them with family later.

On the American end, after the Department of Homeland Security announced the  Humanitarian Parole policy, the flights began almost immediately.

Extending Humanitarian Parole status like this is completely unprecedented in inter-country adoptions, we’re off the edge of any map.

Once that status had been conferred, someone had to test the limits of the policy. While the American government was insisting that only kids already in an adoption process would be accepted, many questioned what would happen if a child not in process landed on American soil. Would they be sent back? Or would they be kept and slid into the American adoption process?

Enter Ed Rendell and a cast of cronies.

I’m not going to do full coverage on this story, as it’s simply too large and won’t fit within the scope of what I’m trying to accomplish here. Instead I’ll provide merely an overview and encourage readers to do some research on their own.

Bear in mind that all of this was taking place against the backdrop of a political context of heavy lobbying to let the Haitian kids in and to expedite the adoptions. Take the Jan. 19th letter to Secretary of State Clinton (link opens a PDF) and the letter from the 20th (link opens a PDF) by way of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute as just two tangible examples.

The ‘Rendell Raid’ taking place over the 18th and 19th was the first flight bringing the Haitian children to the United States, the test case.

In, a heavily publicized set of flights Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell headed off to Haiti to extract kids from the BRESMA “orphanage” in a privately donated plane .

The airport of course, has been non-stop and so to up the chances of actually getting in country, pure political clout was used to muscle their way into the queue, making other planes loaded with humanitarian relief supplies wait in the pattern.

Mr. Rendell and Representative Jason Altmire flew Monday to Haiti on a chartered plane carrying medical supplies and 20 doctors and nurses. The plan was to drop off the supplies and pick up children from an orphanage run by two sisters, Jamie and Alison McMutrie from a Pittsburgh suburb, Ben Avon, Pa..

There are various versions of what happened once they landed on the ground here’s the one published on the 19th in the NYT (emphasis added:)

Having lobbied the White House for several days, the Pennsylvania delegation had obtained United States visas for the children and had expected to be on the ground one hour.

But Haitian officials would let only 28 of the 54 orphans the sisters had brought to the airport to leave; the rest had not cleared all the hurdles for adoption. Seven had yet to be matched with adoptive parents, the Haitians said.

Then the sisters dug in their heels. “They just said no, they wouldn’t leave without all of them,” Mr. Altmire said.

For five hours, the delegation worked furiously to get the Haitian government to agree to let all the children go. The governor’s wife, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, went to Port-au-Prince to meet with American diplomats. Mr. Rendell and Mr. Altmire lobbied the White House, which pressured Haitian officials.

The chartered plane was forced to return to Miami before a deal was reached, Mr. Rendell said, but the delegation stayed in Haiti. But at 11 p.m., the Haitian officials relented and the children were evacuated on a United States military cargo plane to Orlando, Fla., where they transferred to the jet to Pennsylvania. One child was found to be missing at the last minute in Haiti, and Jamie McMutrie stayed behind to find her. They were expected to arrive here Wednesday.

Where do I even begin? The White House was pressuring Haitian officials despite the American policy to supposedly only bring back kids already “in-process” at the very moment Haiti is in the position of in some ways  Governing without Government:

However, Haitian lawyer and activist Ezili Danto said after the January 12 earthquake, “The palace collapsed, the police headquarters collapsed, the parliamentary building collapsed with legislators inside it. No one knows how many policemen, municipal workers, legislators were there, how many escaped, who is injured”. Many ministers are still missing but the president and prime minister are alive.

Meanwhile, Gov. Rendell, the “orphanage” workers, and their cast of characters were so busy ‘caring for the orphans’ that apparently they couldn’t even count to 54. (The missing 54th child was later retrieved by Jamie McMutrie from the U.S. Embassy, where she had be left behind.)

The last of the orphans arrived in Pittsburgh Wednesday morning with her caretaker, Ben Avon native Jamie McMutrie.

Two-year-old Emma had gone missing Monday just as a group of Pennsylvania officials and medical personnel were leaving the earthquake-ravaged country with the orphans and the two Ben Avon sisters who had been caring for them and arranging their adoptions.

Emma was found shortly after the jet left with the remaining orphans and McMutrie’s sister, Alison. Jamie got off the flight to look for Emma. She was found at the U.S. Embassy. Jamie and Emma left Port-au-Prince for Miami late Tuesday.

Now, here’s the crucial piece, this flight back to the States is the first flight with kids being exported from Haiti, it’s the test case, and it’s transporting 7 kids who are not in any way shape or form already in an adoption process.

The private plane leaves (convenient that, it certainly sidestepped several potential liability issues there) and the group ends up hitching a ride on a U.S. military transport plane.

Which is to say the U.S. Military ended up doing the actual exporting of the kids.

See photos of the kids on the Military plane here.

Once the group was on the ground in Florida, they rejoined their donated plane and flew on to Pennsylvania.

Here’s Governor Rendell bragging about the raid in his version of the flight.

It’s not as if Rendell didn’t know he was exporting kids not in process, in this CNN piece, Gov. Rendell himself admits 7 of the kids were not in process, but American adoptive parents will be sought (now that they’re here.) emphasis added:

According to Rendell, adoption cases are under way for 47 of the children. Of these, 40 will be U.S. adoptions, four children will go to Spain and three to Canada. Adoptive parents will be sought for the remaining seven children.

Here, in the NYT  piece we also see the Haitian intent, they are not only fighting that the 7 not in process remain, but the 19 others who were supposedly “in-process” (for all that’s worth) but not finalized by the Haitian Government. Once again emphasis added is mine:

But Haitian officials would let only 28 of the 54 orphans the sisters had brought to the airport to leave; the rest had not cleared all the hurdles for adoption. Seven had yet to be matched with adoptive parents, the Haitians said.

Which is to say the U.S. may be fine with removing kids “in-process” but Haitian officials were not.

None-the-less, the Rendells’ party strong-armed and bullied their way through to removing the kids.

So much for this American version of how kids will be processed.

Not in an adoption process? Not a problem.

Just get ’em on American soil and we’ll adopt ’em out anyway, exactly what I warned against in my initial Haiti post:

Sadly when it comes to the redistribution of children in the wake of natural disasters (as well as wars and other such) the industry has learned that getting in quick, getting the kids out, and then forcing their country of origin, or individual family members to mount legal battles to reclaim children can be an effective strategy.

In adoption, as in many other such extra-legal grabs in the wake of catastrophes, disgustingly, the mere act of possession (and relocation) can end up being 9/10ths of the ‘law’.

Lest anyone think that the US would ever contemplate returning the stolen kids not in process see this Baltimore Sun article for this little ‘gem’, emphasis still mine:

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said that as of Thursday morning, 96 Haitian orphans had received humanitarian parole. Some of the orphans were already in the adoption process with families here, while others will meet prospective parents. None of the children will be sent back to Haiti, he said.

All of which makes for a climate wherein if they’re landed, they stay.

A number of us adopted people have deeply questioned putting aspects of adoption under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, this export flight test case, which I’ve labled nothing more than an outright raid, may go a long way towards explaining aspects of our fundamental objections.

No matter what the American Government’s rhetoric, the actions themselves, and the Homeland Security pronouncements in the wake of such, amounting to “ends justifies the means” evidence the emptiness of the words.

Keeping the landed not in process is in direct contradiction to stated policy,

Currently, the federal government has taken the lead role in responding to the arrival of children from Haiti.

Only children with valid adoption papers or in the process of being adopted by a U.S. family before the earthquake struck Haiti are being allowed to enter the United States, federal officials said. Those orphans are receiving humanitarian visas.

That will remain the U.S. government’s policy, officials said, and there are no immediate plans to expand it.

Were the outright raid not bad enough, we also have the various versions of evangelically based freelancers, who now that the gates are open, make no bones about their tactics.

As for the seven, once on the ground, the number seems to have shifted to 12 still waiting to be adopted. They’ve been moved to Holy Family Institute, a faith-based organization that describes its mission thusly:

In the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching and rooted in the heritage of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, we empower children and families to lead responsible lives and develop healthy relationships built on faith, hope, and love.

Wanna-be-adopters are desperately jockeying for position to get one of them, see Haitian orphans draw potential parents

Images of the skinny, shell-shocked little survivors of the earthquake being carried off a plane in Pittsburgh compelled hundreds of people to reach for their phones or send an e-mail with the same question: How can I adopt one of the Haitian orphans?

Gov. Rendell, and the 53 homeless children whose rescue he orchestrated amid the disaster, had barely touched down in Pennsylvania Tuesday morning when phones began humming at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

Over the last two days, the agency has logged 430 phone calls from people who said they wanted to become adoptive or foster parents for Haitian orphans, said Karen L. Blumen, deputy director of the Office of Community Relations.

But social service providers – and the Rendell administration – have a message for the families willing to open their homes and hearts: Don’t forget the 3,000 Pennsylvania children waiting for permanent homes.

“While the plight of the Haitian orphans has attracted much attention, it is important to recognize the many other children for whom we are always working to find a supportive family and safe home environment,” said Harriet Dichter, acting secretary of the state Department of Public Welfare.

Child advocate Cathleen Palm said that when she heard about the rush to adopt the Haitian children, she wished there was a way to assemble all the needy Pennsylvania children in a stadium and have the governor rescue them.

“We want to make sure people aren’t losing sight of the fact that kids are in crisis in Pennsylvania, too,” said Palm.

(We’ll delve more into the Do-It-Yourself-ers in part 5, but the following example belongs firmly in the “bribes” section.)

Finally, there are wink-and-a-nod stories mentioning or hinting at American ministries using bribes as part of the child export process such as this from the Tennessean, once again, emphasis mine:

(Brent ) Gambrell, 44, has made more than 50 trips to Haiti. He’s made connections there with churches, schools and orphanages. He said he’s also made an impression on the people who can get things done.

“In Haiti, it’s always been if you know somebody,” Gambrell said. “Everything is about crossing people’s palms with money to get stuff. That’s how the guards at the airport remember who I am. I tip big.”

The article continues:

They delivered medical supplies and food, and brought Tia and a boy who was being adopted by a family in Kentucky back to the airport. But even after showing U.S. officials adoption paperwork and photos of the children, they were not authorized to leave.

“I got fired up,” Wilson said. “I said, ‘I’m not leaving until I leave with them.’ We were in the process of getting Tia a passport, but all that is down in the rubble. I knew if I left it would be months, maybe years, before we would get her.”

Finally the U.S. authorities relented. With Gambrell’s help, Wilson secured two seats on a private plane that took him and the two children to Fort Lauderdale, where they caught another plane to Nashville and touched down around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.

So what is this child export all about to this particular set of people?

“Our mission really is evangelism,” said Steven Boo, who was on the flight with Gambrell to Haiti. “We do not want Haiti to be a better place to go to hell from.”

But Gambrell said the current project is different. The focus is purely on getting as many orphans out of the country as the team can.

Ah, how very “diplomatic” of him.


Forward to part 7 (published out of order, due to trying to be timely for Jan 25th, we’ll come back to 5 and 6)

Back to the Introduction/table of contents

3 Responses to “Haiti series- “It is madness. It is insane…” Bribes, Bullies, and Traffickers extract kids- part 4”

  1. Baby Love Child Says:

    Slight update on the kids illegally removed/not in process/unmatched to adopters who came in by way of Rendell’s Raid:

    from here

    It is unclear how many families will get an opportunity to adopt orphans who remain in Pittsburgh from the BRESMA orphanage, which was nearly destroyed by the Jan. 12 earthquake in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

    Of 54 children brought to Pittsburgh from the orphanage, 12 remained Sunday in Holy Family Institute in Emsworth. The children are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services but are being cared for by local volunteers including Jamie and Ali McMutrie, the Ben Avon sisters who ran the orphanage. The other 42 were placed with adoptive families.

    Officials at the federal agency did not respond to questions about who might be able to adopt the remaining children, who arrived in the United States without having started an adoption process.

    Leslie Merrill McCombs, a UPMC official who helped coordinate their rescue, said it is possible the children could go to families who completed adoptions of BRESMA orphans. Seven families who adopted children expressed interest, and their requests were being evaluated, she said.

    “It’s not going to be very long before these kids are in a safe, happy home,” said McCombs, a senior consultant for government relations who traveled to Haiti on a rescue flight put together by Gov. Ed Rendell, Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, and others.

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