You may have heard about the troop of Baptist evangelicals who got caught trying to take children out of Haiti without proper paperwork. It appears a judge in Haiti is about to release them so that they can leave Haiti (without the children).
Eugene Robinson wrote about this episode earlier this week. Essentially what the “missionaries” did was take advantage of the confusion and deprivation in post-earthquake Haiti to gather up 33 children and take them out of the country. Their stated intention was to find American families to adopt the children.
According to CNN, some of the children’s parents — who had no food or water to give their children — have since testified that they did in fact give the evangelicals permission to take their children with the understanding that they could see their children whenever they wished. This suggests to me the parents did not realize their children might be adopted by people living thousands of miles away.
As Robinsons says, “I can’t imagine more duress than trying to provide for a family in the days after a disaster of the magnitude of the Haiti earthquake. It was a moment of overwhelming need and despair — precisely the wrong moment to expect a parent or guardian to make a permanent, life-changing decision.” I can only imagine how traumatized those kids must be.
News reports say the group had made an earlier attempt to take another busload of children out of Haiti and had been stopped. Although they claimed to have proper authorizations and permissions, in neither kidnapping attempt were the evangelicals able to produce proof of this.
The group’s leader is a woman named Laura Silsby who has a history of initiating grandiose plans that later fall apart. It appears she abandoned a new home and a start-up company — leaving employees unpaid — to begin her Haitian adoption venture. She also seems to have inserted herself into the efforts of a Kentucky couple to adopt three children —
She even found a Kentucky couple, Richard and Malinda Pickett, who had been trying to adopt three siblings from Haiti and told them she could get the children out.
The Picketts say they politely declined, figuring the youngsters were safe and would soon be evacuated to their new home.
“My wife told her that under no conditions should she try to move the kids â€“ that would just interfere with our plans. But she called two more times, and the last time she called, on the 25th, she said she was getting on a flight and would like to pick up our kids,” Richard Pickett said. “My wife, for the third time, told her no way â€“ stay away from them.” …
… The Picketts said they were immediately suspicious of Silsby. The Kentucky couple didn’t need her help â€“ the government had already given them permission to go pick up the children. But Silsby persisted, they said.
She showed up at the Compassion for All orphanage in Haiti, asking to collect the Picketts’ three adopted children and claiming to be Malinda Pickett’s friend, according to Richard Pickett.
When the orphanage told her the children had been moved, Silsby went on to ask for any other kids she could have, Richard Pickett said. She paid a worker to take her to other orphanages in the region and translate for her.
“She asked for kids at each of the orphanages, and at the end of the day when no one would give her any, she cried,” Richard Pickett said. “Why would you cry after you see these kids are being taken care of?”
The Picketts’ adopted children are now with the couple in Bowling Green, Ky. Richard Pickett said he was recently interviewed by an agent with the Department of Homeland Security who is helping investigate the Silsby case.
By all appearances Silsby is massively screwed up. One suspects some kind of personality disorder. But she apparently had the blessing of her Baptist pastor back in Idaho to round up random poor children and spirit them out of the country and put up for adoption.
Although there has been speculation Silsby and her crew intended to make a fast buck by selling the kids into servitude, I suspect she really did intend to see them adopted. The Southern Baptist convention has been promoting adoption, especially adoptions from poor, non-Christian places. (For more background on the Christian adoption craze, go here.) They seem to think the poor places of the world are stuffed with unwanted babies waiting to be adopted, but in fact most abandoned children are older children. Unwanted babies are relatively rare; at least, there are not nearly enough of them to meet the demand.
However, because there is demand, there is a growing black market of babies who were either stolen or purchased.
In 2007, 98 percent of U.S. adoptions from Guatemala were babies who had never seen the inside of an institution were signed over directly to a private attorney who approved the international adoptionâ€”for a very considerable feeâ€”without any review by a judge or social service agency.
For a taste of the sheer arrogance of some of these “adopters,” check out this personal account:
It didnâ€™t matter to us that the nurses in the orphanage across the seas still called these boys â€œMaximâ€ and â€œSergeiâ€; we had on their walls nameplates reading â€œBenjaminâ€ and â€œTimothy.â€ It didnâ€™t matter what their current birth certificates read; they would soon be Moores.
This newness of identity also informed the way we responded to questions, whether from social workers or friends, about whether we planned to â€œteach the children about their cultural heritage.â€ We assured everyone we would, and we have.
Now, what most people meant by this question is whether we would teach our boys Russian folk-tales and Russian songs, observing Russian holidays, and so forth. But as we see it, thatâ€™s not their heritage anymore, and we hardly want to signal to them that they are strangers and aliens, even welcome ones, in our home.
We teach them about their heritage, but their heritage as Mississippians. They learn about their great-grandfather, the faithful Baptist pastor, about their countrymen before them in the Confederate army and the civil rights movement. They wouldnâ€™t know â€œPeter and the Wolfâ€ if they heard it, but they do know Charley Pride and Hank Williams and â€œWhen the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.â€ They are Moores now, with all that entails.
… we also have the advantage of understanding our host cultureâ€™s worldview and their very deep superstitious beliefs. thus, we were not surprised that sterling was given to us with a jade luck charm â€“ a buddhist charm meant to bring good luck, fortune and protection. we, however, know that this charm is associated with spiritual forces meant to keep people in bondage. thus, we smiled and accepted it as we should, and then later went to the park, broke it, and threw it into the pond, and prayed for our sterling that all spiritual bondage over him would be broken. these spiritual forces are alive and real, and manifest themselves in more obvious ways (but with the same degree of power) than in the west, but we know that the power and grace of the God who created the heavens and the earth is infinitely greater than the forces of evil
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