Sunday, 6 June 2010
It is often said that history has a way of repeating itself. I have seen that this is true. We should be able to learn from the mistakes of the past - mistakes that we make, or mistakes that others make. Yet sometimes, history is infuriatingly difficult to overcome.........
Someone asked me a week or so ago, what we at GLA were doing to protect baby Peterson from his young mother, who, freely admitted to slapping him.
In Europe and North America, social workers swoop in and swiflty remove infants from parents who mistreat them in this way. In Europe and North America, children have rights. In Haiti, by contrast, medical staff, magistrates, police, and school authorities must work within a legal framework in which the rights of parents supersede any rights that their children might have.
In Haiti, it is socially unacceptable to hit a baby, but it is not illegal.
God's littlest Angels is operating in a country in which a parent may, at any time, remove their child from our care, even if they are very sick, even if they will die without the medical care that we provide.
The 'system' may not always gel with our own moral frameworks. We may not like it, but we are not here to change it. Rather, we are here to serve the children and families of Haiti. We are here to stand alongside them and to show them the love of God.
Peterson' s mother tells a sad story of extreme physical abuse and emotional neglect at the hands of a mother who beats and verbally assaults her to this day. She tells us that her mother beats her younger siblings when they refuse to eat. She says that she understands now, that Peterson is too young to respond to punishment. I am not fit to judge Judith. How can she be expected to provide 'appropriate 'care and nurture to her baby boy? Who can ever give what they have never received? Our judgement cannot help Judith or her son.
We aim to influence her parenting by example. We hope that when she sees us providing gentle, loving care, she will model that. Judith watches us closely. She wants to learn to care for her baby. She says that she would never give him up. She works hard at GLA, and is quick to offer assistance wherever she can - mopping floors, folding clothes, taking used bottles and crockery and cutlery to the kitchen. She wants desperately to please us.
Her son's progress in frustratingly slow. Even for those of us who are accustomed to working with babies who have special medical needs, Peterson is a challenge. Daily, I remind myself of Sicelo, a severely disabled boy I cared for in South Africa. Daily, I remind myself that I was able to teach him to drink from a cup. Daily, I remind myself that if Peterson does have some neurological problems, they are no-where close to Sicleo's. Daily, I tell myself that we are making progress with Peterson: the feeding tube is out, gradually, his weight is going up, and he is now able to sit for short periods, unsupported.
We hope that as Judith sees these encouraging signs, she will develop the patience that she needs to take over her son's care. For now, we continue to guide her, monitor her, support her and pray for her.
Posted by Susan Westwood at 16:54