As I stood outside the Café talking to Megan a little girl came running across the highway as adults were throwing rocks and yelling “fou” (crazy).
She stood by Megan fearful and crying. No one knew who she was or where she’d come from, they just kept telling us she was crazy. Knowing she needed to get away from the gathering crowd of people Megan started walking her toward the house.
Minutes later a mass text was received asking us to come to the house now! Stephanie and I got to the house to find our staff there following the girl around as she tried to touch and pick up everything.
We spent an hour praying and singing over this child and she became calm, still and peaceful.
Not knowing what to do, but knowing it’s illegal to keep a child without paperwork, a few of us headed to the police station for paperwork or some kind of help. We were directed to another police station, and then another, and then directed to a “children’s organization” who then directed us back to the first police station we were at and actually giving us a phone number that ended up being the exact person we had talked to… We decided to head to the mayor’s office where things seemed to go a little better but the mayor wasn’t actually there and they were about to close so they couldn’t actually get us any paperwork right then.
We headed back home where a friend from another organization saw and recognized the child! She knew her name was Sarah along with a few other details.
We had a contact who said he knew where she lived but it fell through as his story continually changed and he stopped answering calls. We were more confused and any options we'd had had fallen through so we did the only thing we could do and kept her for the night.
As we bathed her Sarah got a glimpse of herself in the mirror and yelled out “Sarah!” As we bathed her it sickened me to think that anyone would hurt this child, that anyone would misuse this precious daughter of God, that someone didn’t want her and left her on the street all alone.
Six of us sat in the room with Sarah playing, talking, trying to get the splinters out of her beat up feet. We watched this young girl be more open, relaxed and comfortable then she had been. I got a glimpse of the potential she has if she could just get the help and love she needs.
Mark offered to be the one to stay with her for the night so we all wandered off to bed knowing we were “on call” if he needed us. No one really slept.
Morning brought us to the tough point of needing to make a decision. Knowing we couldn’t keep her without paperwork much longer, and knowing no other organization could take her directly from us, we made some calls and knew we had to head to IBESR (basically child services) in order for any organization to be able to legally take Sarah into their care.
Again, I loaded into the truck with Josh, Bernard (Respire Haiti team member and translator), and Sarah and we headed to the IBESR office in Port au Prince.
We received the runaround being told they couldn’t take “mental” children, saying we needed to take her to the mental hospital (um, that would be their job), then we were told it is “impossible” for them to take any child without paperwork so we needed to go to the police station (tried that three times already)!?!?
It was highly frustrating and stressful as Sarah was freaking out and Josh and I struggled to keep her contained.
As we left the office the worker said “this is an office get that THING out of here.”
The moment we were back in the truck Sarah was calm, quiet, peaceful and smiling, holding my hand as we rode to the child division of the police department.
Arriving at the police station Josh wasn’t able to enter the grounds because he was wearing shorts so Bernard and I entered with Sarah. The moment we stepped into the building Sarah started freaking out. She knew what was happening and I’m not convinced it hadn’t happened before!
Bernard talked to someone and we were told that IBESR should have taken her, that they would send an officer with us and we needed to go back (again wanting us to do their job).
During all of this I am down a hall by myself where Sarah had writhed her way down, physically struggling with her as I tried to keep her from running. As I held her arms while she lay on the floor biting, pinching, hitting and scratching me, screaming and yelling out I stared into her eyes, seeing a totally different child, and knowing it wasn't legally possible I wanted to scoop her up say forget the “system” and take her back to the truck and home where she’d be calm and peaceful again.
So what do you do when the “right” thing to do doesn’t seem like the right thing at all but is really the only thing you can do?
What do you do when the only thing you can do is not right at all?
What do you do when the people who can help you, who are suppose to help you, won’t help you?
What do you do when the people whose job is to help and protect children don’t actually care about children at all and refer to them as “that thing”?
We had to do what we were hoping we wouldn’t have to but were afraid we would be forced to do.
I walked away from that sweet child sitting in fear on the police station floor after trying to physically restrain her while she hit, bit, pinched and scratched me, not because she is “crazy” or “sick” as everyone kept saying, but because she was completely and utterly frightened and unable to communicate.
After spending 30 hours with Sarah, getting a glimpse of her potential, seeing how bright she is, hearing her laugh, seeing her play, but also seeing how broken she was I turned my back, found Bernard and asked him why we couldn’t just leave. He again told me what he was being told, what we needed to do; I looked at Bernard, showed him my trembling hands and said “I can’t do this anymore. They need to do their job and take her.” Bernard said he was being told we couldn’t just leave her so I asked him “if I walk out right now will they arrest me? Will they arrest me?” and then with tears running down my face I didn’t look back and walked out of that building and off the grounds of the police station.
As the three of us loaded up in the truck and made the 1.5 hour drive home the atmosphere was heavy, our hearts were broken. I’d just lived one of the hardest days of my life.
So what do you do after being forced to abandon a child in order to get anyone to do their job?
I’m praying God works a miracle, that someone will see the potential in Sarah, that someone will see how beautiful she is and view her as the precious child of God that she is.
I’m praying she ends up in a good place where she can get the help she needs in order to be the most she can be!
I know there was nothing else we could have done and I believe God had Sarah come to us for a reason.
All stories do not have happy endings but, while this might be the end of my role in Sarah’s story, I’m praying God takes Sarah’s story and makes something beautiful out of what others may only see as ashes and ruin.