My husband and I have visited our girls in Haiti twice now … once in July of 2006 and then again in September of 2006. I was fully prepared to go on the next Parent Trip to Haiti this last January with our agency, but once the travel dates were announced; I realized that I should not go to Haiti again. There were many reasons behind this—financial, the stress of getting ready for a trip, the stress of the trip, leaving our other kids behind, leaving our daughters in Haiti. I wanted to see them, and yet I also knew that it was not the right decision to go.
Our agency just announced a new policy for their Parent Trips. Up until recently, they had Parent Trips every three months. As I read over the new policy and the reasons behind it, I felt a bit of peace about my decision to stay home for the January 2007 trip.
Here is part of what our agency’s reasoning for having a new policy (I wanted to share it, because it really hit home to me):
The reasons for the new changes:
• It occurred to us during the last trip to Haiti that with all of the comings and goings of our parent groups that we might actually be facilitating RAD.
• M has talked in depth with us about the children’s reactions to the parent trips. These are her babies, in a sense, and her heart aches right along with the children’s when they hurt. While she sees many positives from the parental visits, she has stated that there are many children that struggle to become reintegrated into orphanage life. They won’t eat. They don’t want to interact with anyone… A part of them shuts down.
• The children in the age range of 3-9 years old seem to be the children most affected because they are big enough to understand what is happening, but not really to comprehend all of it. It leaves them with a huge sense of confusion. Children over age 8/9 are better able to adapt and integrate into orphanage routines again because they have the mental capacity to really comprehend the whole situation.
• We are concerned that there are those parents who are feeling pushed to go on parent trips, but who don’t really have the funds to do so. We don’t want anyone to feel “obligated” or pushed to spend extra money. Going on the parent trips is not a requisite… although there are benefits for US families, in that if both parents travel to see the child before the adoption is completed (through Civil Court) then the child will be an automatic citizen upon entry into the USA. We welcome those who want to go, however.
Leaving the second time was torture. Our daughters were bawling. We had to leave Talley in a crib and walk away. She screamed and reached for me. The look on her face was, “What is happening? Why aren’t you picking me up?” It just about killed me. When it came down to buying tickets for another Parent Trip, I felt I was incapable of going through that again. I questioned whether it was healthy for our daughters. They had experienced abandonment once already. It seemed that in another way, we were also abandoning them.
A friend of mine told me about an adoptive mother that gathered opinions and policies from various adoption agencies on whether travel to Haiti to visit one’s child was allowed and/or encouraged. She kindly received permission for me to use the information on my blog. I am working on compiling the information in an appropriate format and will post it as soon as I am able.