As have many Utahns, we've been heartened by the stories and photographs of Utah families who have finally realized their dreams of adopting children from Haiti.
Some adoptive parents and their prospective children have waited years to complete these adoptions. The recent 7.0 earthquake in Haiti that devastated the impoverished island nation prompted government officials to expedite pending adoptions. It is one of the few silver linings of this wide-scale tragedy.
While this is a new beginning for the Haitian children and their new families, many challenges lie ahead. Just as siblings in a natural family can be as different as night and day, adopted children — particularly those who experienced the trauma of the recent earthquake and, earlier, separation from their birth families when they were placed in orphanages — will require profound patience and love from their adoptive families and the larger communities in which they are associated.
Ensuring that these children have adult role models of the same race will help them be successful in their new lives and families. Cultural awareness on the part of extended family and caregivers will be important.
Because of the length of many of these adoption proceedings, some Utah families had made multiple trips to Haiti to meet with their prospective children. They have established ties that will help them settle into their new roles. But some experts interviewed recently by the Deseret News remind us that it is naive to believe that love will conquer all as these families start new lives.
Race and cultural issues must be addressed. Some children may have attachment issues or have suffered from abuse. Coming "home" to a different culture where they will find themselves in the minority will be another source of stress.
Not only will this be a new experience for the recently united families, people in their sphere of influence will also experience some adjustments. They, too, need to learn more about Haiti's culture and history so that these children are better able to assimilate but are able to hang on to important aspects of their unique culture, as well.