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6521: #6492:Taking care of our children in the U.S. (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

This is a response to Sabine Michel heartfelt comments about Stanley Murat's 
unfortunate death and on her critisim/comments on community activists  
alleged dependence on the "system" to resolve parenting issues  which  she 
describes as a "private" matter.

Yes, parents are responsible for parenting their children, but  Stanley's 
case as well as the alarming rise of juvenile delinquency in the Haitian 
community of SOuth Florida ( about 60% of the kids involved in the system 
now are of Haitian descent) indicate that they need help. Haitian parents 
have been stripped by "the system" of what they perceive as their only means 
of "parenting". Without corporal punishment, some Haitian parents don't know 
of any other method of disciplining.  They feel very vulnerable and have in 
many cases lost control over their children.

The answer,of course, is not as you say to " depend on the system to enter 
our homes and to control our children" but to educate parents about 
effective parenting methods in the US. The answer however, must be a 
creative one, one which is based on the  socio-cultural context not 
necessarily methods that have worked for other groups.  "Time Out",for 
example, in an overcrowded home environment ain't gonna work, the 
withholding of privileges may not work too well in households where income 
and space are limited.

A solution to this problem must involved  collaborative efforts between 
community based organizations, the faith communities, and yes the "system" 
which includes the school Board and all other governmental agencies 
concerned with the welfare of our children.  While we don't necessarily want 
the "system" to be too intrusive, it is only fair that our children and 
their parents benefit from the same resources that have been invested in 
other comunities with comparable issues.

In South Florida those of us "receiving monies to deal with the 
disenfranchised"  are trying very hard in spite of the limited resources 
available. Efforts on many fronts to deal with these issues include the 

At the Haitian American Foundation we have offered two sets of parenting 
related programs : parenting classes which are conducted at churches, adult 
schools etc., and we also offer to the community the services of what we 
call a parent advocate. The parent advocate is available to any parent in 
need of help to navigate the school and health care systems. That position 
was created out the needs that we identified and has thus far been totally 
unfunded by the "system". Members of our staff have volunteered and received 
appropriate trainning to serve in that capacity. Our programs represent of 
course a miniscule drop in the bucket.

We are also serve on the Board of an organization called the School 
Readiness Coalition headed by former Miami Herald Publisher Dave Lawrence. 
At the School readiness Coalition,we are working on a preparing a series of 
videotapes on parenting and early childhood education in Creole. Those 
videotapes wil be distributed to all parents of newborns as well as to 
parents of any kid enrolled in pre-schools.

At FANM Center ( Haitian Women of Miami), a mental health professional is on 
staff focusing on family  matters  and is currently working with the Murat 
family. Haitian Support Inc. has a the only  "Creole' hotline and referral 
service  which children,parents, abused women and the elderly use quite 

Following the Restavek incident, a very diverse Task force ( includinig 
Haitians and non-Haitians) was convened to work precisely on issues dealing 
with the safety and the parenting of our children. In the works,is the 
creation of a one-stop center where many agencies dealing with children and 
family issues will co-locate to provide families with a "culturally 
competent" space where they will feel comfortable to come forward with their 

The solution also demands that more Haitian Americans become actively 
involved in their communities by volunteering to serve as mentors, board 
members in organizations dealing with theses issues and so on and on....

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