Monday, January 25, 2010

The images of human suffering in Haiti are heart-wrenching. But the rescue of 16-month-old Winnie Tilin by a translator for an Australian news crew brought home the realization that the earthquake will have orphaned potentially hundreds of thousands of children.

Winnie spent three days under the rubble, surrounded by the bodies of her dead family. In her case there seems to be an uncle to step in and care for her, but what about all the others? And what about the 1.5 million children already orphaned or abandoned in Haiti?

As big-hearted America grapples with the best way to help, one must ask about long-term measures that will last beyond the current $100 million from our government and the millions pouring in from individuals. All of this is the appropriate response and one that Americans have historically made when faced with the despair and suffering of others.

However, there is a need to go farther and offer remedies that last beyond all the media attention in dealing with children. But what is the right response in regard to Haitian orphans?

Some think enough government money will fix the problem. Planned Parenthood’s response is to raise money for birth control for Haitian women. “Never mind you’re thirsty and hungry, have a condom.” That won’t do anything about the fact that so many children need our help now. Once charity meets their emergency needs, who will care for these babies?

Estimates vary widely between a quarter-million to 2 million American parents currently waiting to adopt children. Regardless, recent published reports have noted that 2,400 Haitian children are already matched with American parents.

Now, due to the chaos, many of those unions will take much longer than expected. One must ask how many more families would be willing to adopt a needy child if the expense were not so great and the wait not so long?

Conservatives believe that government is a very limited solution to poverty. So what is our answer?

At the very least we favor Americans financially supporting organizations and individuals who are ministering to, and caring for, these kids. It might mean a personal long-term commitment to a child or one of the estimated 377 orphanages in Haiti.

The Obama administration should work to remove barriers to giving these children loving, forever families. The first and obvious goal should be to remove red tape both in the U.S. and in Haiti. Of course, the proper investigation to assure that the child or children are matched to a safe home is a must. However, the “home study” process is only a very small part of the time and expense of adoption. In Haiti, the U.S. government should use some of its new leverage to ask Haitian officials to cut red tape in that country and follow the same example with immigration authorities here.

The other main obstacle to providing a loving home to Haitian children in need is the cost. One solution is for Congress to pass S. 2816/H.R. 213, sponsored by Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, and Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican. Their bills would extend the 2001 federal tax incentives of up to $10,000 to help adoptive parents better handle that expense of anywhere between $15,000 for domestic adoptions and $30,000 for international adoptions.

This bill would be a significant gesture of good will toward these children. Adoption is a noble and rewarding response to children in need either here or abroad. As Americans weigh their personal response to this crisis on our doorstep, our government can make doing the right thing a little bit easier.

Penny Young Nance is CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization with 500,000 members.

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