Do good, the legal way

Sonali Kudva

A lot has been written about the relief efforts in Haiti (or lack thereof) in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that took place on Jan. 12. A big fallout of any major natural disaster is the children who become orphans.

This past Sunday, 10 American Baptists were held for trying to take 33 Haitian children illegally. The group asserts they were not connected to child trafficking but instead trying to help these children and give them a better life in an orphanage in another country (the Dominican Republic). My question? Why not go through the regular channels to achieve this?

The church group, most of whom are from Idaho, was arrested Friday night as they traveled in a bus with the children. The children ranged in age from 2 months to 12 years.

While this group may have had the children’s best interests in mind, there are better ways of rehabilitation. They could have been in shock, could have been abandoned or simply have been separated from friends and family.

When a disaster occurs, there are reasons for a government to lay down safeguards for just this kind of situation. In this case, it now requires approval from Haiti’s Prime Minister himself for taking even one child out of the country. Adoptions from Haiti have also been halted. These are measures to prevent child trafficking and to ensure that children can be reunited with family where available.

Aid can help these children, but for now, they would most likely benefit from staying in familiar surroundings in a culture that is their own.

I do not disagree with the motives behind the rescue workers who tried to rehabilitate these children, but all aid and rehabilitation is most helpful when conducted through the proper channels.

The social affairs minister Yves Cristallin told The Associated Press the Americans were suspected of taking part in an illegal adoption scheme. In 2007, aid workers were detained in Chad as the Chad government accused them of illegally taking 103 children from the country. The aid workers defended themselves saying everything they did was legal. The legal battle for this was long and arduous, and the aid workers were convicted and later pardoned.

Their actions, however, went some way toward local authorities becoming more suspicious of foreign aid workers. It also should have gone some way to ensure that aid workers be registered with the local authorities as such so as to prevent flair-ups of this kind.

Sonali Kudva is a journalism graduate student and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].