Ten Americans Arrested In Haiti for Illegal Adoption: Hotel Room ‘Orphanage’

January 31, 2010

(ChattahBox)—-Laura Silsby, the leader of the Idaho-based charity New Life Children’s Refuge, told reporters on Saturday, while being held in custody in Haiti on child trafficking charges, “we came here to help the children and we know God will reveal truth.” Silsby, along with nine other Americans working for the charity group, were arrested at the Haiti border crossing with the Dominican Republic on Friday night, and they are now being held in custody in Port-au-Prince, while they await a court hearing on Monday. The members of the New Life Children’s Refuge were attempting to leave the country with 33 Haitian children, with no adoption documents and without authorization from the Haitian government. Haiti has suspended the majority of adoptions of Haitian children, after the devastating earthquake, amid fears that child traffickers would take advantage of the chaos and steal children for illegal adoptions.

The five men and five American women, were arrested in Malpasse, Haiti after Haitian police conducted a routine search of their vehicle. The members of the New Life Children’s Refuge were attempting to take the children ranging in age from 2 months to 12 years, to an orphanage they claim to have in the Dominican Republic.

The charity’s leader Laura Silsby told Reuters from a jail cell at Haiti’s Judicial Police headquarters, “We had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage that we have there.” “We have a Baptist minister here (in Port-au-Prince) whose orphanage totally collapsed and he asked us to take the children to the orphanage in the Dominican Republic,” Silsby added.

“I was going to come back here to do the paperwork,” Silsby said. “They accuse us of children trafficking. This is something I would never do. We were not trying to do something wrong.”

But Silsby had no authorization from the Haitian government to take the children out of the country for adoption. Yves Cristalin, Haiti’s social affairs minister, said “This is totally illegal.” “No children can leave Haiti without proper authorization and these people did not have that authorization.”

Silsby and her group had no papers from the Haitian government certifying that the children were in fact orphans. Haitian officials have been concerned, since the powerful earthquake destroyed the capital city on January 12, which killed an estimated 150,000 people, that aid groups may have flown children out of the country for adoption before efforts to find their parents had been exhausted.

Although Silsby said that she was taking the children to an orphanage the charity group operates in the Dominican Republic, no such orphanage yet exists. A report in the Idaho Statesman notes that the group had only been in the process of building an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, before the quake hit Haiti.

According to Sean Lankford, whose wife and daughter were among those arrested, Silsby and her group had rented hotel rooms in the Dominican Republic to house the Haitian children, until an orphanage could be built.

According to the account in the Idaho Statesman:

“Lankford said the Idahoans had been planning an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for several years, and they were ready to build when the earthquake hit. Members quickly arranged to help a pastor whose orphanage in Haiti collapsed, Lankford said.”

“The Idaho group had rented hotel rooms in the Dominican Republic for up to six months to house the children while the orphanage is being built, Lankford said.”

Lankford claims the group was well intentioned. “They really believed that they had all the paperwork that they needed,” he said. “They’ve been working with governments on both sides for a while,” Lankford added.

Silsby said she obtained the children from a Haitian minister. “Group leader Laura Silsby said the group paid no money for the children, whom she said they obtained from well-known Haitian pastor Jean Sanbil of the Sharing Jesus Ministries.”

U.S. Embassy officials met with the detained Americans on Saturday and gave them food and bug spray. The Haitian children are being housed at an SOS Children’s Village outside the capital.

Eight of the arrested Americans are from Idaho and are associated with Meridian’s Central Valley Baptist Church and the East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls. Two other suspects are from Texas and Kansas.

Source: Reuters

Photo Source: AP


20 Responses to “Ten Americans Arrested In Haiti for Illegal Adoption: Hotel Room ‘Orphanage’”

  1. Kerry on January 31st, 2010 2:03 pm

    It doesn’t matter how ‘well intentioned’ they are. No papers, no permission, no go. Taking these children out of their country illegally? For all they know their are family and other loved ones searching for them! The righteousness of their actions is sickening. They are traffickers.

  2. Tmax on January 31st, 2010 2:51 pm

    Any world event causing chaos in nations, the US “adoption industry” goes into orga$mic thralls which is witnessed any observer of their grapevine and network which is easily monitored…especially since the Internet’s inception.

    The salacious drooling ‘industry’ and their consumer nation American customers make no secret of their “joy” for the newest inventory potential… within moments…of horrid tragedies around the world becoming news headlines.

    Again we witness… our Christian Nation…. not “doing the right thing”, they are doing what the US adoption “industry” and churchy pyramid schemes do – grab kids before the dust is settled during the chaos of tragedy: to do one thing…make money, BIG money.

    If these so called “do gooders” were concerned about kids’ they would have re-hydrated & fed them while reuniting families instead of spending buckets of $ on a hotel to set up in a country already scandalized by other Chrisitan organization’s child bordellos servicing pedophile tourists just recently.

  3. Augie on January 31st, 2010 2:53 pm

    Before the tides receded in the tsunami not long ago, the adoption industry and their fan based customers were openly cheering the financial windfall of available kids & again making NO “Christian Nation” effort to unite kids w/family in their online forums and grapevines.

    Post WWII and in the 1950’s they snatched thousands of EU’s kids w/o ANY effort to reunite them with family in the “American Sectors” to sell them off to ‘adoptive’ Americans.

    The result is another industry that birthed: decades of profits made off those who never lost hope for their ‘real family’ who spent decades trying to locate their stolen children and from those children trying to locate their parents/siblings thrown to the wind.

  4. Jan on January 31st, 2010 4:05 pm

    These people have only added to the confusion. How could they presume to be rescuers. It appears there are thousands of people already there helping out, along with millions of donated monies. Why are they taking 33 children out of the country? This is terrible. If the children were sick, they obviously needed care where they were. The news has been very clear for a while that no children would be allowed to leave unless approval had been obtained. To state they did not know is unconsciable. For the pastor of this orphanage to not know is also extremely suspect. These American religious groups need to back off.

  5. Jenny on January 31st, 2010 5:51 pm

    These folks were not establishing an orphanage to rescue children. They were establishing an adoption scheme. Page 3 of their “mission statement” shows this clearly:

    “• Seaside Villas at Playa Magante*: Villas for adopting parents to stay while fulfilling requirement for 60‐90 day visit as well as Christian volunteers/vacationing families.

    • Provide opportunities for adoption through partnership with New Life Adoption Foundation which works with adoption agencies in the U.S. to help facilitate adoptions and provide grants to subsidize the cost of adoption for loving Christian parents who would otherwise not be able to afford to adopt.

    • Seaside Café at Playa Magante*: small beachfront restaurant serving the community and adopting parents”

    They Silsby and her misguided pals were hoping to cash in on the Haitian adoption market.

  6. Elisabeth on January 31st, 2010 8:44 pm

    Now lets turn the tables and all of you that are bashing the ‘righteous do-gooders’ try putting yourself in their shoes. Since you cared enough to read this news article obviously you have some heart or at the least it stirred your curiosity… If you, specifically, had gotten a cry for help from someone you knew or supported in Haiti and they asked you to come and take some of these poor children to a safe place, would you just stand by and say “No, I won’t come and help you!”
    I’m afraid that you too would have rallied and said, “Yes, we’ll come and do whatever we can to help you! … and rightly so!
    … So now you have arrived in Haiti and see the total devistation. There is no food or water to be found to care for these children appropriately and you see thousand on the verge on death from injury and lack of food and water! What would you do? You say that if a person was really trying to help them they would keep the children where they were.
    … I agree that child trafficing would be a big concern at a time like this and you certainly wouldn’t not want to take a child away where a parent could not find them….
    So, why am I writing this… Just to say, try to put yourself in their shoes and and see how you would respond. I’m sure these now ‘suspects’ thought they were doing the appropriate thing and weren’t trying to do anything illegal.
    I don’t know what the general mindset of adoption organizations is, so I won’t pretend that I do… I think I could say with about 100% assurity that these people were not thinking $’s. If you had enough compassion to go over and help those Haitians you probably would have done the same thing!!!!
    Btw, since all of you seem to know how all this stuff works and what would be in the best interest of these children, maybe you ought to get up out of your easy chair and go over there and do things correctly!
    May the truth come out and stand fast!
    I’m praying for the Haitians!!!!!

  7. Julie on February 1st, 2010 12:05 am

    All you judgers out there…Do you think the televisions in Haiti were announcing the travel restrictions? Or radios let everyone know what the State Department had ordred? televisions? It is a madnenning situation in Haiti. 26 children died from the orphanage these children were from. If you googled World Harvest Missions, first instead of blathering, you would know that the orphanage these children lived in no longer exists. So this mission team which has a 35 year record of service to the Haitians were trying to get them to shelter- something unavailable in Haiti.

    Christian haters and judgers – be very careful before you sput off before you know the facts!

  8. Chantal on February 1st, 2010 11:50 am

    It amazes me how stupid people are. Even if I could get past the fact that very little if any attempt was made to reunite the children with family, even if I could get past the fact that these people have no rights to do anything with these children, but being so ignorant of the history between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is just a colossal failure.

    You people have no idea what Haiti is like. You assume that the only option is another country. Where do you get off thinking taking a minor whom you have no legal rights to over the border is OK? My family’s town is a 4 hour drive from the capital… yes the country is that big. So you tell me there is nothing, I mean absolutely nothing in the whole country that can act as a shelter in the meantime?

  9. jm on February 1st, 2010 1:26 pm

    There are ALWAYS travel restrictions on moving children between countries, what on earth are you talking about?

    What ELSE could they have done instead of loading those kids into a bus?

    -Supported an existing group of orphans right there in Haiti through those funds they solicited.
    -Taken that empty bus over the border to the Dominican Republic and have brought it back full of food, water, and medical supplies.
    -Helped to support identification of the children and reuniting them with extended family.
    -Fostered the children in country instead of assuming that whisking them away was the best thing for them.
    -Worked through the U.S. Embassy to make sure everything was done legally.
    -Protected the children by making sure that the CHILDREN’S best interests and the preservation of their ties to family and community were carefully guarded.
    -And, AS A LAST RESORT, helping those children who truly had no homes and no parents to enter the adoption process as determined by the government of Haiti.

    Have you ever BEEN to Haiti? Although the situation is dangerous in Port-Au-Prince, areas farther away from that city are more stable. You would not have to take the children OUT of Haiti in order to serve them.

    Think about it. You live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Your children and spouse are caught in a hurricane while you are working in Texas. You cannot contact anyone after the event, destruction and chaos are everywhere. When you finally get back to your neighborhood, your house is gone and so are your children. Where are they? It turns out that a group of well-meaning Germans (or Cubans or Moroccans) have taken a group of children out of the United States, yours included, in order to “save them” and place them with loving families overseas. How are you feeling? How are your children feeling? Do they appreciate this loving, clean, new home and their new parents? Or are they missing you? Are they grieving? Was this even legal?

    You would FREAK OUT. And the U.S. Government would be FREAKING OUT. For very good reason.

    If they were not participating in child trafficking, this group of people is incredibly stupid and completely arrogant. I’m not sure which is worse.

  10. jm on February 1st, 2010 1:28 pm

    p.s. I am a Christian. So I am not a “Christian-hater.” But I am not a fan of people who do moronic things and then try to avoid taking responsibility for doing these stupid things by claiming that “God put it on my heart.”

    If God put it on your heart, he would have advised you to take along someone who spoke Creole with the group so that you would know from talking to a few of the older children that many of these kids had families.

  11. Chantal on February 1st, 2010 2:49 pm

    And to you people daring us to get up off our easy chair and help, guess what? Some of us have been helping … before the earthquake hit .. before the hurricane hit. We’ve been sending home food, clothes, and money for YEARS. We’ve been helping those who can come to the States do so, we’ve been making sure that those who can get a better education do so. Just because your eyes are open for the first time to Haiti’s plight doesn’t mean we’ve been ignorant of it this whole time.

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  13. Notborn Yesterday on February 3rd, 2010 12:22 am

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  14. Notborn Yesterday on February 3rd, 2010 1:52 am

    Chantal, and others who no longer belief in “innocent until proven guilty”,

    “It amazes me how stupid people are.”, you say. Well Chantal, it amazes me how ready some unthinking people are to form the most damning judgment of total strangers based on the most skimpily presented and plentifully edited sets of facts!

    and then, “the fact that very little if any attempt was made to reunite the children with family”. So you know do you, what efforts were made by the orphanage management before it was destroyed to reunite those children (and the 26 dead) with their families? Tell us how you know will you?

    ” So you tell me there is nothing, I mean absolutely nothing in the whole country that can act as a shelter in the meantime?”. No, Chantal, you answer your own holllow challenge and YOU tell US what facilities there are, seeing you live there. Tell us: are the facilities strained or not? Is there no longer any need for children to compete for accommodation with toilets, clean water and food? Is there no longer need for the hastily erected refugee camps with poor sanitation and the accompanying threat of disease? Have they now been emptied and dismantled? I do hope you are able to tell us “yes”. Tell us, for those children who saw 26 of their fellow residents die in the collapse, would you prescribe subjecting them to the market forces of a ravaged community, or would you prefer to keep them togther and relocate them to a facility where there is clean water, sanitation, food and care? Would you, personally trust the word of officials and act fast to get the kids to where you already know there is safety, sanitation, clean water and food, or would you prefer to have all the legal procedures and paperwork neatly tied off by a government that the mainstream media consistently tells us is basically “not there”?

    Oh, Jenny: Can you explain how this christian mission makes heaps of money by “…facilitate adoptions and provide grants to subsidize the cost of adoption” (from your own post)?. Just curious. I wonder… who actually receives the money, “the cost of adoption”? Would this not mostly be government and perhaps lawyers?

    Some strange questions remain:
    1) If there are families involved, why were their children in an orphanage in the first place?
    2) Where did this ugly idea come ffrom that this christian mission was rushing these children to premature adoption? Was it some prejudiced reporters imagination? Where is the evidence? Merely the fact that they are involved in adoptions?
    3) Given the obvious massive edit of the facts, what else is missing and what has been added?
    4) why has a mission with a 30+ year history in Port au Prince suddenly come under such viscious attack?

    For those who are on the spot, these questions would be easy to investigate, but have any journalists done so or are they happy to sensationalise and edit according to their prejudices?

    BTW Chantal, its great that you (who call Haiti ‘home’) have joined with us (who cannot call it ‘home’ ) over the years to show compassion and support for the Haitians. But why do you so venomously and publicly presume that Elisabeth has not? Do you know Elisabeth personally? What would make you assert, “your eyes are open for the first time to Haiti’s plight”? Come to think of it, you make inferences, but did you actually give us any useful facts?

    With reference to the trustworthiness of the media, even this article’s title, ‘Ten Americans Arrested In Haiti for Illegal Adoption: Hotel Room ‘Orphanage’ demonstrates how bias is deliberately applied. The subtle implication of a single room orphanage scam is morally bankrupt. In fact, the whole 46 room hotel was to be used, and converted to an orphanage until the long-term project could be completed. Also, the missionaries weren’t arrested for “illegal adoption” but for their intent to cross the border with the children, allegedly without authourisation.

  15. Chantal on February 3rd, 2010 4:11 pm

    BTW Chantal, its great that you (who call Haiti ‘home’) have joined with us (who cannot call it ‘home’ ) over the years to show compassion and support for the Haitians.
    Other way around. I am first generation American. Both parents come from Haiti. I have not joined you, you have joined me. It doesn’t matter how long you and your organization has been helping. My family has been there for generations helping each other out. Like I said, my nuclear family has been sending food, clothes, and money since my parents left the country more than 50 years ago. We don’t just support our family who still live there, but have donated to send other Haitian children and young adults to school for an education in both basic learning and a trade. We have been part of fundraisers to bring electricity and sanitation to towns that didn’t have, as well as to build schools and other necessities. At one point we even considered buying a used vehicle and sending it so that someone could use it for gainful employment (taxi service). I can’t provide receipts (we weren’t looking to write this off on our taxes) so if that’s the kind of “proof” you are looking for then you will be disappointed. I can’t presume to know every single charity that has tried to help Haiti, but Haiti has been suffering for a long time and it seems recent to someone whose family has been helping for so long.

    It is not uncommon for rural families to send their children to the capital to get a better education if they can afford it. Many times these children live with people who are not family. Fostering children is already a way of life there so telling me there is no other choice but to send these children to another country when there is is still a lot of Haiti that was not devastated by the earthquake is what I find unbelievable.

    Ignorance of the law does absolve you when you break the law. When the same law exists in your own culture, there is really no excuse. I would like to know where they got the children’s passports. If they were traveling without them, I CANNOT believe they didn’t know what they were doing wasn’t criminal. Take for example a drug user who has in excess of 4 grams of drugs. No matter how many times he says it was intended for personal consumption, he will still be charged with intent to sell. If it was true that their destination was not operational yet, what else can we deduce?

    Ignorance of a country’s history or culture although not criminal can be just as much a slap in the face.

  16. Notborn Yesterday on February 3rd, 2010 9:57 pm

    Hello Chantal,

    “Other way around. ” Point taken. My purpose though wasn’t to state any chronology, but first to point out that many for whom Maiti is not their home are helping and sacrificing to help, and second to pull you up on an unfounded and venomous conclusion that Elisabeth (and others in here) had only just had their eyes opened to the Haitians plight and had not been supporting prior to the current crisis. To be fair to you, on re-reading Elisabeth’s “armchair” comment it was also unfounded and unnecessarily provocative.

    Yes, there may well be other places in Haiti that can accommodate the homeless children., but if Supply>Demand there will be no need for temporary unsanitary accommodation in Haiti where childrens health is put in further danger. The children would all be in, or on their way to safe, sanitary accommodation.

    Chantal, as I previously said, there are many unanswered questions. I guess what I have mainly been trying to say is that there is a real tendency in human nature to form and then publicise the worst possible judgment on total strangers without proper evidence. This seems to be all the more evident where those strangers are christian missionaries. My position is that whether christian, catholic, Islaam, atheist or even voodoo, no-one should be tried by media and presumed guilty until the facts are out and it has been proven. This is true all the more of those who are giving of themselves to relieve in times of natural disasters and crises. Imgaine the impact of these judgments on these individuals if they are proven to be false! Also the impact on the relief effort and those in hardship.

    There IS confusion and that needn’t be, if journalists and columnists would take their responsibility for unbiased factual reporting seriously.

    Jenny, you had the wrong organisation when you quoted their mission statement. So did I. That was “World harvest Missions” based in Lake Worth, Florida and they run the orphanage “New Life Children’s Home” in Port au Prince, and have been there over 30 years. There are 115 children in there right now and the organisation has told me by email they are all fine. The orphanage has suffered minor cracks which are under repair. Laura Silsby’s group however is “New Life Children’s REFUGE” and the group is based in Idaho. I’m still trying to work out where the destroyed orphanage comes in to it, but it appears that I and others have been wrong to connect the two.

    Sometimes people, I think we all need to “count to ten” – me included. 🙂

  17. Chantal on February 5th, 2010 9:48 am

    I don’t think religion has much to do with this story. I think that there are those who feel they know better than others and ride roughshod over rights and feelings because they honestly think they are saving the latest target of their good intentions. This sense can be fueled by religion – most religions dictate that they are the one true religion and all others are either out and out wrong or merely corruptions – but the same kind of “I’m right and I know what’s best for you and I can’t even be bothered to ask what you think” is also present in those living in a country that is not part of the third world. I am not being specific for a reason, because I really hate to bring it up, but it was also ripe between 1619 and 1865 and 1776 and 1920 when 2 major groups were thought of as too ill-equipped to make decisions for themselves.

  18. Notborn Yesterday on February 6th, 2010 1:51 am

    Hello again Chantal,

    You said, ‘I don’t think religion has much to do with this story.’

    Comments like, “These American religious groups need to back off.” and “another group of raving fundamentalist christians” (in a blogg elsewhere)suggest otherwise.

    In fact I agree, at least to a point that it is. If it were a non-religious money-making racket it would not have attracted the media attention and contributor venom that it has generated. Now these 10 Americans did what they did (whatever in fact that actually was; we still don’t really know do we? Unless you’ve heard more recent news – genuine news – than I have.) either acting on the love of Christ to help kids in crisis, or using the love of Christ as a pretext to do wrong.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure which? I don’t pretend to (though I suspect it was a naive and amateur bunch that fell foul of official confusion and duplicity). I certainly wouldn’t be publishing presumptions and accusations of foul-play on the basis of the edited accounts we’ve been allowed.

    In a country that is so roman catholic/voodoo, I expect it will be difficult for christians to be given an objective unbiased hearing, judicially or by media. So in a way, religion does, i think have quite a lot to do with the story insofar as justice is concerned.

    Would you agree?

  19. Kerry on February 6th, 2010 5:26 am

    These kids aren’t even FROM an orphanage. They are children, some of whom have parents, who were shown pamphlets promising a holiday-camp-style new life complete with swimming pool and school, where their parents could visit as often as they wanted. Of course, there WAS no facility – just a “plan” to build one eventually. This is DEFINITELY about child trafficking. These kids would have been sold to desperate childless couples looking to get past the heartbreakingly lengthy and often insecure adoption regulations in most other countries, especially the US. It was a blatant money-making scheme, maybe not to the eight good-hearted team members, but without a DOUBT to the leader and her 2IC. Oh and that serene “I’m a Christian, look at my smug glow” expression just makes me want to throw up. Evil evil evil. I’m so sorry for true Christians. This woman’s parents need a wake up call – their daughter is a scam artist and must NOT be allowed to weasel her way out of this one.

  20. Chantal on February 8th, 2010 3:41 pm

    “I certainly wouldn’t be publishing presumptions and accusations of foul-play on the basis of the edited accounts we’ve been allowed.”

    I’m confused here. I re-read the article to make sure. I see a lot of quotes from different parties INCLUDING the accused, yet nothing from the author. It would be very easy to verify if “But Silsby had no authorization from the Haitian government to take the children out of the country for adoption” as well as “Silsby and her group had no papers from the Haitian government certifying that the children were in fact orphans” are true. Because the media is so rabid, if a newspaper were to print lies, the others would fall on it like a pack of hyenas. The media’s swiftness is key in stopping wrongs before they become irreversible.

    When the story is about something a person did wrong, you can choose whatever side you want, but people usually don’t side with the ones committing the crime, especially when children are involved. “These kids would have been sold to desperate childless couples looking to get past the heartbreakingly lengthy and often insecure adoption regulations in most other countries, especially the US. It was a blatant money-making scheme”. What a romantic you are. These children could have wound up in brothels, as drug mules, as lab rats, as a contestant in Child vs , as an organ donor, whatever sick purpose someone can think of, and without a paper trail how would anyone have known. If a parent came forward and wanted to retrieve the child, where would he go? What would his recourse be when he got to the DR and found no shelter where they said one should be?

    The time to denounce these actions was before they left the country AND before any other groups could commit the same crime, you know, in case there were others out there under the impression that taking children out of the country without the proper papers is OK.

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