NOT AN ORPHANAGE.
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The D2C Family Home provides a long-term home and lifelong family for vulnerable and at-risk children who were abandoned, orphaned, or enslaved (restavek). In addition to loving care, shelter, nutritious food and clothing, the children are provided with the best available education to help support their future.
Unlike traditional orphanages, at-risk children are identified through local outreach and adopted into the D2C Family, but remain rooted in their community. They are raised immersed in their own culture and by local Haitian and Haitian American staff. Rather than residing in an institution, the children and youth in the home are part of a supportive family that focuses on nurturing their physical and emotional growth. Moreover, the D2C Family Home places an emphasis and substantial resources in the formal education of each child as well as developing livelihood strategies that will provide economic stability and independence when they age out of the program.
The D2C Family home is run by a Haitian-American Director who oversees a staff of 6 Haitians from the Cayes Jacmel community. Currently, the D2C Family Home is caring for 8 children; with two beds always remaining open for emergency foster placement should the local government identify an at-risk youth in need of immediate shelter. The children who arrive as foster placements at the D2C Family Home are provided equal care and attention until reunification processes are completed. All D2C children attend school full time with fees and tuition covered by the D2C organization
WHO LIVES IN THE FAMILY HOME?
D2C Currently has 8 children, 3 boys and 5 girls, living full time in the Family Home. Some came to the Family Home through referrals of community leaders and extended family members, and others were placed through the Haitian Social Services (IBERS) after being identified as vulnerable or at-risk. Learn more about our kids here.
Along with our In Country Director, our head nanny lives full-time in the house with the children. Additionally, there is full-time security detail to ensure the children are safe, and another nanny who supports the cooking, cleaning and laundry. Every staff member is an integral part of these kids’ lives and contributes to the various parental roles. Not only does each staff member feel they are part of an extended family, they are excellent role models for the kids.
HOW ARE CHILDREN IDENTIFIED AND ACCEPTED INTO THE HOME?
D2C established a strict criterion so that children would not be removed from their parents or capable extended family. This is often the problem with Haitian orphanages, since they are culturally viewed as a desirable advantage where children will be fed and educated.
The children accepted into the D2C Family Home were collectively identified by D2C and community leaders as the highest risk and with minimal family support. The highest priority was given to children who were considered a “restavek’ (child slave) or were physically abused. Secondly, to a child that was truly orphaned or abandoned for many years by their parents. Unfortunately, children placed with us through Haitian Social Services (IBERS) did not always fulfill our criteria, and often no background information was provided.
After a child was identified as a possibility, D2C would follow through with due diligence and perform a site visit where the child was living at the time. If a child was deemed in a most vulnerable situation, and the criterion was applicable, D2C would begin the legal process of guardianship.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL PROCESS FOR ACCEPTING CHILDREN INTO THE HOME?
Originally, all paperwork was done with the village notary where guardianship of the child was transferred to D2C Executive Director Kristin O’Connell from the current guardian, usually the closest relative. Per the terms of the legal documents, Ms. O’Connell would be responsible for the child until the age of 18, and would provide the basic necessities and an education. In addition, a local judge approved all the guardianship paperwork and the identity of the child through a birth certificate and next of kin.
Later, after a relationship was established with Haitian Social Services (IBERS) and they recognized our Family Home as a viable orphanage for their temporary placements, the legal process was implemented through them. As a precaution, D2C still followed through with its own paperwork and guardianship since Services (IBERS) did not always fulfill our criteria and often no background information was provided. D2C took extensive steps to conduct a thorough verification process with all the children to ensure their safety.
IS D2C ACCEPTING MORE CHILDREN AT THIS TIME?
The guardianship of the children in the D2C Family Home is contracted until they each turn 18-years-old. Our long-term vision is to support our eight kids in their pursuits of higher learning or vocational training to support their independence. We do not plan on accepting new children at this time, but we do intend to expand our community outreach to serve more children in the community at large. In addition, we are required through Haitian Social Services (IBERS) to leave two additional beds open for both a girl and a boy for temporary placements.
HOW DOES THE FAMILY HOME DIFFER FROM A TRADITIONAL ORPHANAGE?
While our legal delineation under the Haitian government’s IBESR agency is as an orphanage, the answer is more complex. D2C does not promote itself as an orphanage facility that takes care of children who have lost both parents and seeks external adoptions. Our work goes beyond that traditional concept and our methodology is grounded in progressive concepts of family, nurture, and long-term socio-economic development.
In Creole, children from orphanages are referred to as sanfanmi, which literally translates to ‘without family’. The term carries a negative connotation – someone who has no one to keep an eye on them, no one to help them avoid getting caught up in trouble, no one to look out for them. D2C seeks to ensure that none of the children in its care become sanfanmi. When they become a part of our home, they become a part of our family, forever. We adopt in, not out.
At D2C we believe that even those children who have suffered unimaginable trauma and violence in their lives are capable of growing into strong, thoughtful, healthy, and loving adults. We believe in the resiliency of these children. Resiliency plays an important role in drawing the differences among abandoned children. The resiliency of a child is based on personal characteristics, and interactional and environmental factors. The environmental factors fostering healthy development include stability, continuity and positive feelings; mainly love. This is what the D2C Family Home provides.
WHAT IS THE HAITIAN ORPHANAGE CRISIS?
Following the 2010 Earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak, there was a tremendous amount of media around the supposed swelling numbers of orphans in the country. Prior to the earthquake, there were less than 300 orphanages in the country. Within 3 years of the earthquake there was a 150% increase in the number of orphanages. In 2013, UNICEF and the Haitian government conducted an assessment that determined there were at least 30,000 children living in approximately 750 privately run and financed orphanages in Haiti. However, most of them were not true orphans and 140 of the assessed orphanages by IBESR had unacceptable conditions of care.
Suffice it to say, Haiti doesn’t have an orphan crisis; it has an orphanage crisis. The Haitian government estimates that around 80% of the children living in orphanages have at least one living parent. Small and large institutions that are frequently created as a means to make money off the labor children and prey upon the earnest yet naïve hopes of a better future and economic relief their parents or guardians seek. 80 years of research has demonstrated the significant harm caused to children in traditional orphanages, who are deprived of loving parental care and consequently suffer lifelong physical and psychological harm. The time spent by the abandoned child within these institutions and other child’s protection services impacts the child’s development, very often bringing conditions that generate complex trauma.