Where's the motivation?

The lead story on The New York Times Web site this morning was a heartbreaking report about Haiti's children in the aftermath of the earthquake. The lead story now, of course, is about Apple's new iPad (insert joke here about the name). Lest we drown in our obsession with Apple products (I'm included in this crowd), let's take a minute to read about Haiti's children.

Haiti's children, 45 percent of the population, are among the most disoriented and vulnerable of the survivors of the earthquake. By the many tens of thousands, they have lost their parents, their homes, their schools and their bearings.

But as Haitian and international groups begin tending to the neediest among them, many children are clearly traumatized and at risk.

"There are health concerns, malnutrition concerns, psychosocial issues and, of course, we are concerned that unaccompanied children will be exploited by unscrupulous people who may wish to traffic them for adoption, for the sex trade or for domestic servitude," said Kent Page, a spokesman for Unicef.

After the earthquake, families like Kristin Heaton's were tremendously concerned that their process to adopt children from Haiti would come to a halt. One of our readers pointed out this religion ghost in a Times article following the Heatons' struggle to get their new daughters.

Desperate for food and water, Bettania, 7, and Dieunette, 2, were among 53 children whisked out of the ruins of their group home in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 19 in a high-profile rescue made possible by the easing of immigration requirements between the United States and Haiti.

Dieunette arrived caked in dried diarrhea. Bettania's clothing had to be burned. But they spent the weekend here in rural Nebraska cuddling on a plush sofa, feet warmed by a fire, outfitted like princesses, being hugged and kissed as they ate and drank, laughed and played with a toy poodle. They looked thoroughly contented--perhaps for the first time in their short lives.

"I knew God would find a way to bring them home, but who would have thought like this, through a catastrophic disaster?" said Kristin Heaton, their 49-year-old adoptive mother. "Can you hear them giggling away? It doesn't feel real."

We see little glimpses that this family has some sort of faith, but it's never spelled out. You can see at the words "hope" and "faith" magnets in the picture at the top of the article (presumably, "love" is somewhere else on the fridge). Then there's a photo of the Heaton family bowing for prayer and the story says the spent hours in prayer after the earthquake. So we have several vague references that this family has faith, but no clear picture of what it would be.

The Today Show (the YouTube clip above), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Nebraska outlets covered the successful adoption, but none of them extend the story any further. Local news station KETV offered a few more vague quotes.

"It did not go easily. It was difficult and everything that could have gone wrong, I think, went wrong," said Kristin Heaton. "Yet God got these kids out of there."

... While that fight goes on, the girls will be shown a new life in Nebraska.

"We are blessed beyond measure," Kristin Heaton said.

Sounds like there's a religion angle to be teased out. Perhaps the reporter could have asked the family a really simple question: why did they adopt children in the first place? As Haiti recovers, we'll probably read more and more adoption stories, but religion should not be treated as window dressing. Of course, some people adopt for reasons other than faith, but this family seems to have something motivating them. The vague references in the story tells me that faith had something to do with it.

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