Thursday, February 04, 2010

New Life Children's Ministries Facing Serious Charges Over Orphan Situation

The legal situation facing the American charity New Life Children's Ministries in Haiti is a serious one and one that could have been wholly avoided had they chosen to follow the law and procedures for orphans and adoption rules. 10 of its members are now facing possible criminal charges over human trafficking; they were caught trying to take 33 kids out of Haiti without any documentation or authorizations.

How many valuable resources are now going to deal with this mess that could otherwise be devoted to actually providing humanitarian aid and helping orphans in need?

Here's how the situation apparently unfolded:
It all began last week when a local orphanage worker, fluent in English and acting on behalf of the Baptists, convened nearly the entire village of 500 people on a dirt soccer field to present the Americans' offer.

Isaac Adrien, 20, told his neighbors the missionaries would educate their children in the neighboring Dominican Republic, the villagers said, adding that they were also assured they would be free to visit their children there.

Many parents jumped at the offer.

"It's only because the bus was full that more children didn't go," said Melanie Augustin, a 58-year-old who gave her 10-year-old daughter, Jovin, to the Americans.

Adrien said he met the Baptists' leader, Laura Silsby of Meridian, Idaho, in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 26. She told him she was looking for homeless children, he said, and he knew exactly where to find them.

He rushed home to Callebas, where people scrape by growing carrots, peppers and onions. That very day, he had a list of 20 children.
Desperate people in desperate situations make all kinds of decisions that we might not otherwise consider (like sending their kids away with a bunch of strangers claiming that they'll get a better life somewhere else. Yet, the group claims that the kids were orphans.

The group claims and those of relatives of the kids claim two different things. One side says that the kids were orphans. The other says that the church group got permission from family members. In no case were government authorizations provided.

The problem with the various versions is that regardless of which version you believe (that they had permission from family members or that the kids were indeed orphans, the group had no government approvals or documentation to do any of this.

As such, at a minimum, the group should be expelled from Haiti and prevented from doing business there. It does seem thought that 9 of the 10 will get released, while 1 will likely stand trial - Laura Silsby (and Silsby's track record back in her homestate of Idaho isn't much better with lawsuits and unpaid obligations all over the place).

In the meantime, the kids are being cared for at Austrian run orphanage in Port au Prince.

Charges have been filed against all 10 members that were arrested. They face counts of  kidnapping and criminal association.

No comments: