Blaise Emilson, 25, spent his early years with his family, which included his mother and 13 siblings. But in 2003, he explained, a group of people connected to St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, an orphanage focused on arts education, saw him dancing at a carnival. They invited Emilson to leave his hometown of Jacmel and live at their Delmas facility.
Emilson spent most of his childhood at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys. Although he recalled mostly positive experiences, not all orphan children in Haiti can say the same. Numerous economic, psychological and organizational challenges impact the country’s orphans. Some of these challenges are more obvious than others.
Current demographic figures show that Haiti is a young country, with more than half of the population under the age of 25. But certain realities in the Caribbean nation have left many Haitian mothers with difficult choices when it comes to the future of their children.
Many mothers live on less than $2 per day and struggle to find sufficient employment, Erick Pierre-Val, a Haitian citizen, said in an interview with the Haitian Times.In a recent master’s thesis he published while studying at the University of Montreal, Pierre-Val looked at the factors that lead Haitian mothers to give their children up for international adoption. Poor access to health care, inadequate housing and paternal absence were also common struggles they faced, he said.
“Because there is no governmental assistance or welfare system in Haiti, oftentimes single mothers are left to fend for themselves, there really isn’t a place to go for regular aid,” said Kristen Hertzog, an American who adopted her daughter from Haiti in 2009.
Faced with minimal means of support, many mothers choose to give their children to orphanages for the possibility of international adoption. As a result, most children in Haiti’s orphanages are not “real orphans” because they have living parents, Pierre-Val pointed out.
Mixed results from Haiti’s orphanages
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Sam Bojarski, a freelance journalist, has reported in communities from Pennsylvania to Port-au-Prince. His work has appeared in national publications, as well as local newspapers in his hometown of Pittsburgh.