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6631: Stressed families struggle to relate (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

 Published Sunday, January 14, 2001, in the Miami Herald
 Stressed families struggle to relate BY JACQUELINE CHARLES

 Rosemane Lubin and her daughter Welline disagree about everything --
from the
 teenager's friends to her smoking. Yet, their disagreements are more
than typical
 mother-daughter squabbles. Rosemane is Haitian. Her daughter is Haitian
American, and that distinction puts them at the center of a cultural
clash that makes all the difference in the world as the two try to
relate. ``She isn't into any of the things that I am into,'' said
Welline, 17. ``She is always stuck on Haiti.'' Being ``stuck on Haiti''
means Rosemane Lubin, like many Haitian immigrants, has very distinct
and often rigid ideas on how her two teenage daughters should behave,
and how they should be raised. Mix a conservative set of values, and
there isn't much room for negotiating, especially when teenagers engage
in typical behaviors such as defying authority.
 As a result of such clashes, according to Haitian advocates and
juvenile justice
 experts, a disturbing trend is emerging: 10 percent of the children
getting arrested
 in Miami-Dade County are Haitian American. Broward County doesn't keep
 statistics, but prosecutors say they're seeing a growing number of
 children in trouble. While the trend isn't unique to the Haitian
community -- other immigrant groups across the country have been faced
with the same problem at one time or another -- the number is disturbing
for several reasons: Unlike other more established
 communities, South Florida's Haitian community lacks social service
programs to
 help parents. The number also is troubling because it not only
represents a disproportionate share of Miami-Dade's Haitian population
-- it's estimated at 5 percent -- it also signals a larger problem in
the overall Haitian community: the breakdown of the
 family and the inability of parents to discipline their children within
 constraints. ``They don't know how to discipline their children
anymore,'' said Leonie
 Hermantin, executive director of the Haitian American Foundation, a
 group that works with Haitians. ``Before they didn't have any limit,
and now they
 have a hard time understanding the limits.' Hermantin is referring to
the use of corporal punishment, an acceptable form of discipline in the
Haitian culture that could sometimes border on child abuse by American
 Nowadays, when parents try to discipline their children, the kids --
aware of the
 law -- threaten to call the police and claim child abuse. Fearful of
the state,
 parents dig in and either do nothing at all or they engage in some form
of extreme
 punishment like locking the child out of the house. ``I had this
14-year-old kid who would come to my office looking for protection
saying his parents wanted to send him away,'' Hermantin said. ``They
didn't want to deal with him. They both work and would come home at 10
at night. They wouldn't give him the keys to get in the house, and so he
got into mischief. They used that against him, and they would tell the
system he doesn't come home.. . .
 ``Instead of trying to remedy the problem, they try to make it worse
than it is
 because they don't know how to deal,'' Hermantin said. Welline, who
attends a court-ordered school, says she has been in and out of
Miami-Dade's Juvenile Assessment Center, where juveniles are detained
after being arrested for being incorrigible and breaking the law.  She
says that's because her mother calls the police every time there's a
problem between the two. Reluctant to provide details about her
problems, Rosemane Lubin, 36, would only say, ``It's terrible.'``The
children here are terrible,'' said Lubin, who lives in Miami. ``They
have a lot of other influences that they don't have in Haiti. Sometimes
they don't sleep in the house. They leave for a couple of days, couple
of months, and I don't know where they are. If I talk to them, they talk
back to me; they try to fight me.'' Lubin said when her daughters first
started acting out, she asked for help -- from the school, from the
courts -- but no one would assist her. ``They might as well come and
take them,'' she said. Wansley Walters, director of Miami-Dade's
Juvenile Assessment Center, along with the Haitian Neighborhood Family
Resource Center, an advocacy group, is trying to provide more help. Soon
they will be training community volunteers to work with Haitian parents.
The volunteers will teach parents about the juvenile justice system
while suggesting alternatives to help their children. ``If we can help
these families transition more effectively, we can help a lot of these
kids,'' Walters said.


 While Walters' efforts will concentrate on Miami-Dade, similar efforts
are also
 under way in Broward County. Minority Development & Empowerment
Inc./Haitian Community Center of Broward County recently hired a
community liaison to work with the Department of Children and Families
and Haitian families so that each can better understand the other,
especially on the issue of discipline. ``The system has failed to
empower these families,'' said Marvin Dejean, a spokesman for the
 ``What we hope to say to these parents is, `Yes, you have lost the
village approach to raising your children, but it doesn't mean it is
impossible for you to do it.'


 Louise Marcelin, a University of Miami sociologist, said there is no
one solution to
 the problem. ``The parents need to be educated on the American
system,'' said Marcelin, who with her husband, Louis, a UM sociologist
and anthropologist, is researching drug use and gang activity among
Haitian youths. ``Parenting in Haiti and parenting here is not the same.
It's a different set of discipline, a different set of values.
 They just need the support.' Hermantin agrees. ``There is a serious
need for parent education to teach parents alternative means of
disciplining children,'' Hermantin said.
 The challenge, however, is not to replicate what other communities do.
For instance, timeouts and taking privileges away will not work in the
Haitian culture, Hermantin said. ``What privileges do you withdraw when
you don't send the kids to the movies or anywhere?'' Hermantin said.
``We need to learn to create things to withhold from them and spend more
time with the kids,'' he said.