-Staff Writer-

American citizens Laura Silsby, 40, of Boise, Idaho, right, and Carla Thompson, 53, of Meridien, Idaho, at the Haitian police headquarters in the international airport of Port-au-Prince, Jan. 30. Ten Americans were detained by Haitian police as they tried to bus 33 children across the border into the Dominican Republic, allegedly without proper documents. Photo: AP/WideWorldPhotos

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – The Institute of the Black World 21st Century’s Black Family Summit, under the leadership of Leonard Dunston, president emeritus of the National Association of Black Social Workers, has formed a National Task Force to help address the growing crisis of orphaned children in Haiti.

“On radio talk shows callers have been asking: Are there any Haitian-owned orphanages in Haiti? Should Haitian children be taken out of their homeland or remain in Haiti? Why don’t we see Haitian Americans or African Americans adopting Haitian children? Are there any Black owned agencies involved in the adoption process,” said IBW President Ron Daniels at a press conference February 3 at the National Press Club. Dr. Daniels is also founder of the Haiti Support Project, which has been doing on the ground development work, supporting education and promoting cultural tourism for over 15 years in the country.

“After the issue was discussed on Rev. Al Sharpton’s nationally syndicated radio talk show, Keeping It Real, the staff at the National Action Network reported that the lines were flooded with inquiries of Black families expressing a willingness to adopt Haitian children.”


He added, “Black adoption agencies from around the country report a similar response. And Omarosa Stallworth, an original Apprentice and Gardner C. Taylor, Fellow at United Theological Seminary–who traveled to Haiti in 2007 with the Haiti Support Project–has stepped forth to say she and her family are ready and willing to adopt a Haitian child if appropriate.”

The task force has organized the directors of seven Black adoption agencies, leading Black psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and sociologists and representatives of several national organizations specializing in Black family issues. A major earthquake Jan. 14 destroyed Haiti’s capital and other areas, leaving the country in crisis, some children orphaned and others separated from family members.

“While our initial tendency may be to rush, we must with clear minds take deliberate action to be responsive first and foremost to the victims of this disaster by providing our skill set and expertise, establish workable partnerships and reciprocal relationships, particularly with other Black organizations and design our long term capacity to share our mission with those in need,” said Dr. Benson George Cooke, president of the Association of Black Psychologists.

This group is ready to send Black psychologists to Haiti.

“African American adoption agencies have a collective interest in being a resource for the children who are homeless and or without custodial care in Haiti. We are concerned both about their vulnerability and the associated dangers and also about the negative repercussions of well intended, yet misguided efforts to provide alternatives for the children of Haiti who are in need of care,” according to task force declaration of intent.

The press conference and collaboration came as major news agencies focused on 10 Americans charged in Haiti Feb. 4 with child kidnapping and criminal association.

The group, which included members of the Idaho Central Valley Baptist Church, was stopped and arrested at the Dominican Republic border with 33 children in a bus. None of the children had documents allowing them to leave and several told Haitian police they were not orphans and wanted to go home. Media outlets have now reported that the group’s leader, Laura Silsby, initially said the children were orphans, that she didn’t know she needed paperwork to take Haitian children to another country and that they were headed to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. CNN reported that she lied on all three counts: Some children had parents. Others had warned her she could not simply take the children across the border and the so-called orphanage is a 40-room hotel.

“This is similar to what happened in Chad with Zoe’s Ark,” explained Abdul Akbar Muhammad, international representative for the Nation of Islam.

In 2007 the so-called philanthropic organization Zoe’s Ark tried to get 103 children out of Chad to adoptive families in France.

“The operation was aborted when the driver saw the French putting bandages on the children who didn’t have any injuries and thought something strange was going on,” said Mr. Muhammad.

The story went international and to the highest levels of the French government. The Zoe’s Ark employees were convicted as child traffickers, sentenced to eight years of hard labor but later released to France and their sentences were thrown out.

The new task force wants to prevent that from happening in Haiti.

“This is an unprecedented and positive collaboration. It’s heartwarming to see our people coming together in the spirit of the Million Man March and the Millions More Movement. This work bodes well for the future to confront issues in Haiti as well as in this country,” said Dr. Daniels.

His group is taking Black journalists to Haiti, including Final Call editor Richard Muhammad, to report on conditions in the country. The trip was scheduled to begin Feb. 9.

“We want our journalists to be on the ground telling the story,” said Dr. Daniels. “We’re also taking one of the heads of the Black adoption agencies to see what’s going on also. We’ll return with a report on our findings,” he said.