Real Help For Haiti

In October 2007 British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, pulled out of a meeting with his Saudi counterpart. He was in the United States awaiting the birth of his second child. Although his wife, Louise Shackleton, is an American citizen she is, of course, resident in London, where she is a violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra. The reason his sons, Isaac and Jacob, were both born in the USis that they were both adopted. Adoption is very much easier in the US than in the UK. Even for a couple in which one member has been tipped as a future Prime Minister and the other is an international concert violinist, adoption is very difficult. In the US, the birth parents – or frequently a lone mother – often select the adoptive parents. This seems right. The mother is giving up her child, usually in the hope that he or she will have a better life. While the educational opportunities and material comforts that life with the Milibands must afford are only part of the equation, if we assume, as I think we must, that they are also dedicated and loving parents, it is easy to see why a mother would choose them.

Though there is poverty in America, it remains the richest country in the world. If a mother in the US was able to look at the Milibands and say to herself, “they could give my child a better life than I could”, how much more so must that be in poorer countries?

In Haiti, for example, there were 200,000 children living in orphanages before the earthquake which killed at least 50,000 people. We have all read horror stories of care homes at which children have been horribly abused – and this is in rich countries, with sophisticated procedures for preventing such things. What is life like for a child in an orphanage in Haiti, or Malawi, or any number of other poor countries around the world? In almost every case, a loving family is better for a child than an orphanage.

And yet, well-meaning governments keep putting up barriers to adoption, especially international adoption. For example, politically correct rules stand in the way of inter-racial adoption. Yet in the US and in the UK Black children are more likely to be put up for adoption and White couples are more likely to want to adopt. Since 2007 the US has ratified the Hague Convention on international adoptions. American courts no longer make adoption orders to US citizens resident abroad as they did for Louise Shackleton and David Miliband. If they want a third child they must go through the bureaucratic British procedures, and probably get eliminated on the ground that they are old and too white. (In the interests of full disclosure, this columnist is also married to an American citizen resident abroad. The same rules which allowed the Milibands to adopt would have allowed us to do so; And the newer rules which preclude them also preclude us).

While there is much media publicity given to the small numbers of children who have been flown from Haiti to the US, the numbers of children desperate for a loving home is enormous. The number of prospective parents who have been waiting for years to provide such a home is also huge. And the barriers to making all of these people happier keep increasing.

Article provided by Quentin Langley
Lecturer in PR and Political Communications,
School of Journalism, Cardiff University

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