Sunday, November 14, 2010

Missing Eban

Eban--an Adinkra Symbol in Ghana, standing for "love, safety, and security,"

Eban House closed over half a year ago. Eban House was the care center AAI opened in 2007, when our Ghana program first started. For 3 years we were able to help kids who were all shriveled up upon arrival to slowly grow and blossom into beautiful blooms. For three years we were able to support the local economy in a small way, by employing 20 Ghanaians not just with a living wage, but also benefits such as health care and vacation time. For three years AAI parents were able to know who was responsible for their future child's care--and able to keep their agency accountable if the care wasn't what they wanted it to be. For three years, we had an Eban House family--current residents, "graduates," employees, and volunteers.

I hate that it's all gone now. This little children's home should have been nothing more than a small blip, except to the children and families that benefited directly from the home. Instead, because it was started and supported by an adoption agency, the powers that be in Ghana refused to see it for what it was. They assumed (wrongly) that there must have been some sort of profit. They assumed (wrongly) that there must have been some sort of ulterior motive. When new residential home standards were put out by the government, we worked our tails off to make sure we met every standard. And then we were one of the first to apply under the new standards to be a fully licensed children's home under Ghanaian law. We did everything "right." It didn't matter.

There are very, very few "legal" and licensed children's homes in Ghana. That has been the case for a long time, and for a long time nobody did anything about it. But in the last few years Ghana made it very clear that their goal was to close down up to half of the homes (in favor of private foster care or family reunification), and license only the best. It sounds good, in theory. But in reality greed becomes a very real part of the deal. Licensing "the best" never really happened. Closing of homes (some good, some bad) has happened.

Here we were with Eban House. What to do? We say we're going to run a program that is fully within Ghana's laws, and yet we are running a home that is no longer licensed. Lots of others are doing it. Heck! There are several U.S. adoption agencies that are right now running homes, usually calling them "foster homes," that are completely unlicensed and therefore illegal in Ghana's eyes. Why couldn't we do the same? 1. Because we said we would operate within the law. 2. Because we were the "first" and therefore the one to draw all of the attention.

Eban closed in April 1st of this year. And I mourn her every day. I see kids in other orphanages and I mourn the conditions they are living in. I cringe at the thought of 50 kids and 1-2 caregivers, or no money to take a malaria-stricken child to the hospital. Our kids were so well cared for, in comparison. It makes me angry. I have a sour feeling in my heart, because I had to end something GOOD in order to do what was legal and right.

Let me take it a step further and say, I feel jealous of some of those other homes. I think to myself, "Why do they remain open without a license? How do those agencies justify it? Where is the justice?" And yet,how is it just for the children if these homes are closed. I just wish it were a fair playing ground. However, I am the one that created this hard standard. Others aren't required to work by my standard. The one thing I promised myself when I started this work in 2007 was that I would never compromise on corruption. But most certainly, there have been many sacrifices in order to stay away from it. Eban House was sacrificed.

One day I hope that Ghana Social Welfare is structured enough to license not only children's homes of high standard, but also adoption agencies of high standard. In Ethiopia the government keeps track of the work an adoption agency does not only for orphaned children, but for ALL of the vulnerable in the country. Shame to the agency that is not taking part in programs beyond that of assisting the adoptable child.

Lately I've been feeling sorry for myself because I'm not making many friends in the community when I talk about stuff like this. I find I am less and less "popular" the more real I become about stuff. [And honestly, I like to be liked!] People don't like to hear about corruption. They don't like to ask hard questions of their adoption agencies. They are only against corruption as long as their child can still come to America. Few of us would stand against corruption if it meant we were no longer able to adopt.

Hmm...I'm getting off subject. I'll stop here.

Eban House, I miss you, and all you were meant to be.

3 comments:

Heather A. 10:23 PM  

I hear ya sista! The corruption issue has been on my heart so much lately. So many of the families in the Uganda program,some AAI families included, have switched countries to get a baby girl faster. It just pisses me off that so many families just don't give a damn about how their children come to them. PLEASE keep shouting from the rooftops about corruption. It NEEDS to be heard, whether people want to hear it or not.

Magaly 10:55 PM  

Bravo!

Cindy 11:35 AM  

Keep it up Anita!