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In the realm of child welfare, there’s a major sea change taking place that is impacting hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children around the world. Developing countries such as Ethiopia and Haiti, to name just a few, are committing resources to build or strengthen their child welfare services. As a result, more children are able to stay in their home countries, living in nurturing environments with biological family members.
You may have seen the Associated Press’ recent article on how improvements in Haiti have led to a decrease in adoption placement with families outside the country. The devastating earthquake in January 2010 initiated a desperately needed overhaul to the country’s child welfare system. Prior to and immediately after the earthquake, vulnerable families were routinely approached by disreputable organizations seeking to place children with adoptive couples outside of Haiti. This placement occurred under the false pretense that the children would get an education and come back to their biological families.
Today, Haiti’s new system requires counseling for families considering an adoption plan for their child. This counseling includes an explanation that they may never see their child again and allows a “cooling-off period” where birthparents are able to change their minds. Additionally, for those children whose birthparents are deceased, social workers in Haiti are required to try to find a relative who can step in to provide a loving home.
As president of Bethany Christian Services, one of the world’s largest organizations equipping families to be the answer for children in need, I am thrilled by the strides made in Haiti over the past five years. Our first objective in every country we work with—17 across four continents—is to keep waiting children in-country with their biological families or with loving families willing to adopt. This is why we’ve been approached by governments across the globe to provide training and best practices so that they can introduce or solidify existing child welfare services.
No matter how much training is done in these countries, however, there will always be instances where placement with a family outside of the child’s home country is in his or her best interest. For that reason, it’s vital that agencies accredited under the Hague Convention be allowed to work with families to make the best decision for the child. With millions of children worldwide waiting for a forever family, eliminating international adoption is not a sustainable solution.
While much progress has been made in a short period of time, there is still plenty of work to do. For those countries that have just started to address issues of child welfare, taking that first step is always the hardest. Bethany is proud to work hand-in-hand with its partnering countries in fostering the real change that is needed to minimize the number of waiting children.
Learn more about Bethany’s child welfare initiatives around the world at bethany.org/global-services.
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