State Department: Now's Not the Time for Haitian Adoptions
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley yesterday told reporters that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton would not directly intervene in the case of 10 Baptist missionaries charged by the Haitian government with child abduction. The missionaries were arrested January 29 as they tried to take 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic.
"We have had regular consular access and meetings with the 10 American citizens," Crowley said. "I believe we have facilitated getting medicine to, or other needs to, our citizens. We are doing exactly what we would do with detained Americans anywhere in the world. … We are monitoring the course of their legal process to make sure that we think it's in accord with Haitian law. And we will continue to do that. This is a Haitian legal process. The matters right now involve whether these individuals have broken Haitian law."
Meanwhile, Christianity Today spoke with Michele Bond, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for Overseas Citizens Services, which oversees international adoptions as well as other children's issues. Bond has also coordinated the government emergency taskforce on Haiti orphans already in process of U.S. adoptions.
Bond declined to comment directly on the detained Baptists, but addressed concerns that the incident might harm future involvement of evangelicals in international adoptions.
What impact will the Idaho Baptists incident have on foreign adoptions in Haiti?
My guess is this incident is not going to change the prospects for foreign adoptions in Haiti. The fact that some people don't go about arranging adoptions in the right way is not a surprise to any government. But because this case has gotten a lot of attention, it is a good reminder that people need to be thoughtful and well informed so that they don't accidentally violate a law. All governments are vigilant about protecting their children; just because children are poor doesn't mean others can come in and scoop them up. People should make sure they are well informed.
The State Department has partnered with the Haitian government to expedite adoptions already in process before the earthquake. Almost 800 Haitian children have already been brought to the U.S., and as many as 1,100 will arrive by the end of February. This represents about three years' worth of adoptions. However, the Haitian government is not accepting new adoption applications at this time.
Have many evangelicals or others expressed a willingness to adopt Haitian children affected by the earthquake?
We are fielding lots of calls about this; my own brother even called me up. There are a lot of people looking at their TV sets and thinking about what they have to offer. People are stepping up now, very generously saying, "I want to help in a very specific way and adopt a child as my own beloved son or daughter." That is a major commitment; much bigger than writing a check. But these are people the Haitian government has never heard of.
Our answer to the people who are asking, "What can I do to adopt a Haitian child?" is that this isn't the time right now to be asking that question. The Haitian government has said their first priority is not going to be reading adoption applications. They are focused on identifying orphaned kids and getting them first into safekeeping and then to family members if possible. In the initial months after an incident like this, we don't want to move children away from the area where family members are searching for them. After the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004, there were many small kids virtually unidentifiable, and yet a very high percentage of those children, thanks to DNA testing and other methods, were eventually returned to family members.