Anyone who enters our gates will quickly realize that we have one of the safest, cleanest, most pleasant baby houses in all of Haiti. However, no matter how clean and pleasant we make things, we still cannot avoid some of the issues that persist in any building that houses close to 50 infants and toddlers. Essentially, there is a point where our current model hits a ceiling for the care we can give, and we may be approaching that ceiling. The proposed model appears to have a much higher ceiling in terms of quality of care, especially in the following areas:
• Healthcare: Perhaps the biggest difficulty with the current system is that we have many sick and fragile babies living in close proximity to one another. To add to this, each day we also have an entire shift of nannies come in from the surrounding community, potentially bringing with them any sickness that persists in their own house or community. These 25-30 individuals each represent a possibility of bringing sickness to our entire baby house, as the tendency is if one baby catches it, then they all catch it. Under the new model:
• Controlled environments: The new model would still have many small scale baby houses. However, scaling down the number of infants, reducing the number of adults in contact with them, and mixing ages a bit more will contribute to a more controlled environment.
• Isolation: Separate homes will allow us to to isolate illnesses that do occur in certain homes. Within each home, we would also incorporate a system of isolation for individuals who get sick. Laundry, food preparation, and bathing facilities would each be used by less babies, thereby isolating occurrences of sickness even further.
• Accurate observations: One of our current struggles is that our nurses are not always getting a clear picture of what is happening with a baby when they are not around. Haitians tend to define things a bit differently and have the added anxiety of worrying about their job security. Having a stable International house parent would help give a clearer picture of each child’s health.
Emotional and Relational Development
The fact that our goal is to get kids out of our care and into a family setting as soon as possible suggests that we already feel the baby house model is less than perfect. We always tell biological parents and relatives that our facilities look nice, but they are not perfect and are not a replacement for a family. The US foster care system is based on the premise that centralized, institutionalized child care has lasting emotional and relational affects on children.
Many adoptive parents report back to us the struggles their adoptive children experience as they transition from a group setting to a family setting. Children often struggle with attachment, behavioral, and emotional issues. Consistency is the major obstacle. Nannies tend to be the most consistent adult in these children’s lives, and they change each day. Volunteers come and go, and staff can only devote so much time to the emotional needs of the children. Under the new model:
• Consistency would be the key, and would come in the form of House Parents.
• Each house parent would be responsible for knowing and addressing the emotional and relational needs of the children/infants in their care.
• Each house would have its own small staff of nannies, working day shifts rather than 24 hour shifts, but working more frequently. These smaller staffs could be trained and led to better address the needs of the children in their house.
Want to know more? Want to get involved? Contact us:
Operations: Jamie Groen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Field Director (In Haiti): Nick Stolberg – email@example.com
Operations: Jamie Groen – 320.444.8180
Field Director (in Haiti): Nick Stolberg – 509.388.92.447