Haiti authorities right to protect vulnerable children from exploitation

An Idaho religious group’s desire to help children is understandable but does not excuse it for trying to take several dozen Haitian children across the border. Following Haiti’s rules makes it less likely that a parent’s desperation is preyed upon and more likely that some of the children may be reunited with relatives.

AN earthquake last month plunged Haiti into crisis. Even deeper poverty and heartbreaking reports of lost and abandoned children have followed. A desire to help Haiti’s children is understandable but does not excuse an Idaho religious group accused of trying to take several dozen Haitian children across the border.

Haitian authorities have in custody a group of Baptists who describe a “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” to save abandoned, traumatized children.

Their plan to take 33 Haitian kids, ranging in age from 2 months to 12 years, to a beach resort in the Dominican Republic was thwarted when authorities stopped them at the border for not having proper paperwork. The group was sent back to Port-au-Prince; the children were placed in an orphanage.

Representatives for the Baptists, affiliated with the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, argue that the group had good intentions. Perhaps, but their actions were inarguably wrong.

Haiti’s overwhelmed government had halted adoptions unless they were in motion before the earthquake, allowing the tiny nation to concentrate on rescue and relief efforts.

Authorities are also concerned that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable to being seized and sold. Sex trafficking is rampant in Haiti. The country is right to take steps to protect its children, including demanding assistance be tempered with compliance with Haitian law.

An Associated Press report quoted a Haitian parent who said some in Haiti have given their children to foreign rescuers in the hopes of a better life.

But a different story was told at the orphanage where the children taken from the Baptist group are now housed. On the facility’s Web site Sunday, one of the children, an 8-year-old girl, told workers she was not an orphan and said she believed that her mother had arranged a short vacation for her.

Following Haiti’s rules makes it less likely that a parent’s desperation is preyed upon and more likely that some of the lost or abandoned children may be reunited with relatives.

The group of Baptists from Idaho could face criminal charges of child trafficking and kidnapping. But unless authorities uncover some malevolent twist to the their plan, they should be released.

Let this case resolve itself quickly and without charges. It is unlikely that with Haiti’s court system in shambles, the government truly wants to wage a high-profile prosecution fraught with diplomatic and cultural tensions.

source: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorials/2010953790_edit02haiti.html?prmid=op_ed

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