As a follow-up to my blog post on July 2, 2018 including the CNN article on child trafficking, I wanted to share more international media exposure on this issue.
I was contacted by a contributing reporter for “France 24” on May 18, 2018. Manon Heurtel had heard about our work as one of the only organizations to welcome abandoned children with disabilities and had heard about my book, “Angels of a Lower Flight” (Simon & Schuster 2007), in which I document the disappearance of many children from a well-known hospital in Port au Prince. Manon had heard stories about Mothers in Haiti being solicited by “brokers” to give up their children for “a better life” in Port au Prince and wanted my perspective and that of our Haiti Administrator, Erline, who is featured in the France 24 segment.
Watch the video below to view the France 24 segement.
In the past four years, HaitiChildren has been alerted by Mothers in surrounding villages in the Arcahaie area (where our campus is located) of predators offering money for their small children. After a thorough investigation, we found children to be taken to an “orphanage” pending outward adoption to various countries including the US. The middle man (in this case a woman) pays a poor, usually teenage Mother $250 per child on the promise that the child will receive “good food”, education, clothing and water in a safe environment. The Mother is told she can visit the child once per month. The child is then taken to an “orphanage” pending outward adoption. It’s a “puppy mill.”
While our organization did few outward adoptions, mainly around the time of the earthquake in 2010, we soon realized this was not going to be the result that would benefit Haiti and was not one that could justify any longer. Since then, I have been a strong advocate for the non-institutionalization of abandoned children and a tireless promoter of public policy that aids these children, particularly those with disabilities, that are discarded, not just abandoned. You may ask why we have 130 children living with us. Quite simply no other organization would take them and death was the other option.
Half way through this video segment there is a flyover of our main building and our school and then the camera captures Erline talking about the issue of child trafficking and how “orphanages” are willingly or unknowingly participating in it. It was Erline who translated for me at a Bible study with women from the village where our campus is located; this is where I heard first-hand about this practice. Three of the six women there told me how they received money from “a woman” who promised all the scripted services that the child would receive in Port au Prince. The three gave up a child each. They had names and identified the man, via the internet, who ran the “orphanage” the children were taken to. We were able to find one and only one. The “orphanage” demanded US$2,000 for the release of the child. When he found out that HaitiChildren, an American-based aid group, was behind the demand for the child’s release, he let the child go without payment.
As a result, we started a public service announcement campaign using three women from the community to use megaphones, on foot, on donkeys and on motorcycles, to tell “Mothers, keep your children.” if approached by anyone. You will see this in the France 24 video. Further, we coordinated with Digicel and the department within the Government of Haiti that regulates orphanages to send 2.6 million text messages across the country saying, “Mothers keep your children! Call this number if you have been separated from your child.” And we gave out our number at the campus. We received over one hundred calls and successfully intervened in several cases with the result being children staying with or reunited with their families.
I am very grateful to Manon Heurtel and the team at France 24 for exposing what people like me have known for years. It is time to stop this practice immediately.
Click HERE to read the full article on Frannce24.com
From the heart,