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6588: New Haitian liaison hears community tell of needs (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

 Published Wednesday, January 10, 2001, in the Miami Herald
 New Haitian liaison hears community tell of needs By BRAD BENNETT

 A 40-year-old Fort Lauderdale woman broke down in tears on Tuesday
 describing how the state took away her 13-year-old boy and three other
 after she stepped out for a few minutes to pick up orange juice and
milk. Sandy Boisrond, the Haitian community's new liaison to the Florida
Department of Children and Families, listened intently. It was a vivid
example of why DCF has seen fit to help designate an ambassador to
Broward's growing Haitian community.
 Boisrond, who just started the $27,000-a-year job in November, actually
works for
 Minority Development & Empowerment, Inc./Haitian Community Center of
Broward County. But she will serve as a bridge between Haitians and DCF.
She was peppered with complaints and inquiries during a town hall
meeting at the Haitian center. ``We are not allowed to talk about any
individual case,'' said DCF spokeswoman Eva Coblentz. But, of the woman
who complained of her children being put in foster care, she said, ``If
a child was removed for being home [alone] or babysitting, there had to
be other issues that needed to be addressed.'' The Haitian Center is
working with the woman to reunite her with the kids and is looking into
her complaint.
 With the help of a $40,000 grant from DCF, the Haitian Community Center
 November hired Boisrond, an American-born woman of Haitian descent, to
 smooth out relations between the two groups. ``I really felt that there
was the need, and that I could do the job,'' said Boisrond, 23, who was
the president of the Haitian Students Organization at the University of
Miami, where she earned a bachelor's degree in science.
 Fluent in Creole and English, Boisrond is working to help both the DCF
and the
 Haitian community understand each other. Haitians accuse the agency of
cultural insensitivity to the way they raise their children. In their
homeland, Haitians said, it is acceptable for parents to leave their
children home alone. Adult neighbors look out for them in a village-like
environment. It is also acceptable in Haiti for Haitians to spank their
children, parents said. DCF officials, however, say it's illegal in the
United States to leave young children unattended or to physically hurt
them. Both offenses, they say, are grounds for removing children from
the home. ``They feel that what they do is OK when in our culture it's
different,'' Coblentz said. Haitian residents have complainted that DCF
officials can't speak their language and that they don't understand
their culture.
 That's where Boisrond comes in. Her job is to work with children and
families involved in child abuse and domestic violence, to advocate for
Haitian families before DCF and the courts, and to hold regular town
hall meetings with DCF and the Haitian community like the one on
Tuesday. Boisrond also explains to parents how they can and cannot
punish their children under the law. ``One of the basic ideas is that
you cannot leave marks on your children,'' Boisrond said.