The devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti augmented a previously existing exploitative system that ensnares hundreds of thousands of Haitians: child slavery. This system is able to thrive because of high poverty rates that leave scarce work and educational opportunities. Parents are desperate to ensure better lives for their children—better lives they perceive in sending their children to live with other families. In exchange for working as servants, the children are promised to receive an education. However, reality does not hold to these promises. Once the children are residing with another family, their domestic service goes unpaid, they do not go to school, and they are verbally and physically abused.
These children are known as restavek (originating from reste avec in French, meaning “stay with”), and it is estimated that there are over 300,000 in Haiti, most of them girls. The Haitian government has implemented laws that make this system illegal, but these laws have not been enforced. Additionally, the government regards the ownership of restavek children as an ingrained element of Haitian culture. This outlook has allowed for the practice to continue and gain a sense of accepted normalcy.
Several organizations and advocates in Haiti and abroad are fighting for restavek children by raising awareness and tackling the conditions that allow for the system to persist. Devoted to Children is one of these organizations. Our long-term family home provides crucial necessities and nurtures physical and emotional growth for vulnerable and at-risk children, including restavek. We recognize the gravity of ensuring that no child’s childhood is molded into one of exploitation and abuse. We also recognize the urgent necessity in which this practice needs to be addressed and eradicated. Through the dedication of many, there is still hope that positive and sustainable change can be made in the lives of every enslaved child.
 “What are Restavec?” Restavec Freedom Alliance, https://www.rfahaiti.org/restavec/.  Diane BE, “Restavek children in Haiti: A new form of modern slavery,” Humanium, September 5, 2016, https://www.humanium.org/en/restavek-children-in-haiti-a-new-form-of-modern-slavery/.  Ibid., “What are Restavec?”  “What are Restavek?”  Ibid.  Marian Wright Edelman, “Haiti’s Restavek Children: The Child Servitude Crisis,” Child Watch Column, March 26, 2010, https://www.childrensdefense.org/child-watch-columns/health/2010/haitis-restavek-children-the-child-servitude-crisis/.