Journal of Global Social Work Practice, Volume 2, Number 2, November/December 2009
RE: Open letter to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton
Dear Secretary Clinton:
On February 2, 2010, there were very good opinion pieces in the New York Times about the Haitian Orphan crisis ( http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/haitis-children-and-the-adoption-question/ ). We, as professional social workers/human service providers and social work scholars support this discourse, however in the immediate situation we want to underscore a pressing concern. Many of the children who are coming to the USA for emergency medical care are arriving on humanitarian visas and in crisis. We ask that you consider the following:
Some of these children have uncertain identities and in time, determining their family connections will be difficult therefore DNA should be a part of the procedures so that they may be returned to their parents or extended family, when possible.
The USA medical facilities where these children are being treated have the capacity to take tests and, in addition a centralized DNA database must be developed and managed by a party that has no financial interest in intercountry adoption.
The visas that are being issued by the Department of State can be coded as to identify such a child (example: humanitarian/medical/minor Haitian). Coding in this manner would be a second data point for the aforementioned database, insuring that the whereabouts of these children are clear so that they may be returned to their families if and when that is possible.
It is our position that such management of information is necessary so that the best interests of the child are honored and the prevention of child abduction is assured.
All of the above points are explained in greater detail at Americas Quarterly http://www.americasquarterly.org/haiti-orphans
As social workers, we further support the position statement of International Social Services which is found at: http://www.iss-ssi.org/2009/assets/files/news/haiti_position%20CIR_ENG.pdf
Finally, the news reports indicate that a US-based faith group has been arrested in the Dominican Republic for an illegal airlift of children. We implore the US government to cooperate with international law enforcement to clarify this incident—determine if it was indeed child trafficking and act accordingly. Our nation’s commitment to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, set forth to prevent abduction and trafficking of children, requires that we act responsibly in law enforcement related to such alleged activities. Even if the Convention does not apply to Haiti , it is our opinion that we must act according to these values to insure the best interests of the child .
If and when adoption of Haitian children re-opens as an option, managing this system ethically will be essential to insure human rights of peoples who have already been so devastated.
Karen Smith Rotabi, PhD, MSW, MPH
Kathleen Bergquist, LCSW, JD, PhD Associate Professor, School of Social Work
DeGuerre Blackburn, ACSW
Mary Katherine O'Connor, PhD
Jini L. Roby, JD, MSW , MS
Denise Gammonley, PhD, LCSW
Carmen Monico, MSc, MSW/PhD student
Rosemary J. Link, PhD
John Cosgrove PhD, Professor Emeritus
Jenny Jones, PhD, MSW
Humberto Fabelo, PhD, MSW
Ruth McRoy, PhD
Etta Lappen Davis, MA.Ed.
Karen Smith Rotabi, PhD, LMSW, MPH
This “Open letter to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton” demonstrates some of the many issues discussed in the editorial. Please note that the opinions in this letter are not the opinions of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Global Social Work Practice. This letter is offered as a public service to all readers.