Sorry that it has taken me this long to give you a report about the meeting on Thursday. I was exhausted by the time I arrived back at the orphanage late in the afternoon. I had to go to the market for food and also work on some things in my office. Then Friday, I thought the US Consulate Adoption staff was coming at 10 AM, but then received a call at 3 PM saying they could not make it after all! We really needed to talk about some things for our adoptions who are at the visa stage, so we discussed things over the phone instead.
What I am writing is mainly for American Families. I will write two updates on the meeting since I lost the last half of this update which covered more general information.
The meeting on Thursday was great! One of the most informative meetings and interesting that I’ve ever attended! Lots of key players in the adoption process in Haiti were there. IBESR Staff, the chief judge from from the Civil court and both Children Judges, the Emmigration/Immigration staff, the Archives Staff, the Mayor of Delmas Staff, Embassy of Spain staff, Foreign adoption agencies and 3 creches. There was also staff representing the US Consulate adoption unit and the USCIS (Immigration).
I’m going off subject for a second…bear with me here….
Staff at the US Consulate in Haiti changes frequently. It is difficult to get to know anyone very well before they leave. Many of the staff at the windows who talk to us about the visas and our adoption cases are only there for about 18 months. We have a new Adoption Chief who will be here 3 years. I believe she has been in Haiti now about 1 1/2 months. Her name is Ms. Chinwe Obianwu and she is very open to communication between her office and the adoptive parents and the creches. The adoption section email is email@example.com. One of the American officers checks this email daily. I would recommend only writing them if you are having problems or questions once your file gets to their office.
The Chief officer for US Immigration is Mr. Hichem Kefi. He spoke at the meeting and stated that he will be leaving his position in the next few months. Hopefully, his replacement will come and work with him before Mr. Kefi leaves Haiti. He is also very open to trying to answer parents’ and providers questions that they might have about cases.
My first contact with Ms. Obianwu in the adoption section was after we had received an email from someone in the adoption section who accused my staff of making a fraudulent birth certificate. They wrote to us when we inquired about why a case was taking so long.
“She was unable to simply schedule the visa interview, as you suggest, because the birth document that your organization had submitted for the child was fraudulent. The consular officer turned the case around the same day, and has requested that our investigators go to the National Archives to investigate the documentation of this child’s birth. As you can understand, the consular officer must ensure that the data put on the visa to the United States is trustworthy, and it is not possible for her to base it on a false birth certificate.
One of the things that most slows down adoptions cases in Haiti is the suggestion of fraud. If you were the person involved in obtaining the fraudulent birth certificate for the adoptive parents—or you know of who might have done this in your organization–you could certainly help the family now by letting us know from whom you obtained it, and whether you know of any reason why your organization wouldn’t simply request a legitimate civil document from the Archives or via SogExpress or Unitransfer? There might be a good explanation for this mistake, and thank you in advance for any ideas you might offer.”
Needless to say, I was livid! I immediately wrote back and asked for an appointment to discuss this in person. I stated that in 23 years in Haiti, I had never knowingly given the US Consulate a false document and I had worked hard to keep our reputation above reproach! I didn’t appreciate the tone of their email and I asked for them to show me proof that the birth certificate was fraudulent. We even had an extrait from Archives that was legalized and the signatures on it verified and we had received it from SogExpress!
We did not hear anything for many days and then I received a call to apologize for the false accusation from the adoption unit. The birth certificate was valid after all. It just seems that in the eyes of the US Government more papers are fraudulent then good in Haiti. We need to prove our innocence because they are assuming we are all passing them false documents.
I understand that a new officer comes in hearing all of the “horror” stories first. They only tell them about the orphanages and creches that have done serious harm to families and children. Why don’t they have a list of orphanages whose adoptions are usually really clean and straight? I remember some officers telling me how they knew when we came with our documentation that it would be in order and very clear. They could count on it! If anything was missing, they knew I would have it at the orphanage and it was just a mistake if something wasn’t in the dossier. More than once, if something was missing, it was buried on THEIR desk somewhere because I always wrote down every document I gave them and gave them a copy and kept a copy for myself. When they opened an envelope from GLA, they knew exactly what was inside it!
So what I’m trying to tell you, adoptive parents, is that with new Heads of the Units for Adoption and US Immigration is there will be a learning curve here. There will be changes and when these people leave and new ones come, they will change again due to different interpretation of the policies and laws.
I really like Ms. Obianwu and hope we will be able to work well together, but we have to accept that there are changes we will have to get used to.
So here is one change that AMERICAN Adoptive Parents need to know today…
Once you receive the email saying your child has a visa appointment, DO NOT PLAN AT THAT TIME TO COME TO HAITI! They are changing the way they will be issuing visas from this time forward. They will be asking for the child and creche personnel to come for the visa appointment and then the Adoption Unit officers will study the dossier. If they have any questions about the biological family’s relinquishment or the abandonment of a child, they will then investigate this or if the validity of any document is questioned they will need to look into it. So it can take 4 to 8 weeks maybe after USCIS approval of the I-604 before the visa will issued. I was told that hopefully it will be less than 8 weeks and more like 4 weeks or less.
I told Ms. Obianwu that we assumed that these were the things that USCIS was checking in the 8 weeks they took to run the dossier through their Fraud Department! US Families are going to freak out if it takes 3 or 4 months after the adoption is finished before a visa can be issued. Only the USA takes so long to issue a visa for a child! It makes no sense…
Personally, I’m hoping that once they have done this for a while, then maybe it will go back to a more normal time schedule for the issuing of visas for adoptions. We have been told over and over that adoptions are there number one priority, but boy, it is a long drawn out process to get a child a US Visa!
I wrote a LONG update about the meeting and went to send and it disappeared! I had worked on writing it for 4 hours! So this is part of it and I will try and rewrite the last part later.
Because as you all know…
Life in Haiti Goes On….