The economic situation of the biological families of children living in restavek is not something that can be approached simply, because it requires an in-depth analysis of an entire system. These children with whom we work every day are from rural families, often single-parent families, struggling to make ends meet. Most of these families have 3+ children which is more than they can take care of.
Haiti is described in the media as the poorest country in the Caribbean and one of the poorest on the planet. Some evaluations show that Haiti is lagging behind in global advancement, the majority of the population living on less than one dollar a day. Parents in the countryside try to meet their kids’ primary needs, but their limited means stop at a small piece of land they grow and harvest perishable products, many harvested just once a year. There is an influx of these products during the season, large numbers of people bringing the same products to the markets, causing the market value of these products to drop.
Parents who are unable to care for their children send them in to restavek in search of a better life. The children are sent to large cities because there is a need for help in homes and the opportunity for education. Sometimes the villages the children live in are too far away from the schools, so the parents decide to place the child in a family member’s care so that the child can go to school.
The various crisis’s that Haiti has experienced have also contributed to the degradation of the life of the peasant mass, which represents the largest part of the Haitian population and which continues to fuel the problem of restavek in Haiti. Natural disasters and environmental problems are also a part of the high prevalence of poverty.
Because these children have been sent to live with someone other than their family, even when intentions were good, we often meet these children abused, mistreated, humiliated, violated, and beaten down. The problem of restavek should be addressed holistically, and with aid from the government in helping the most vulnerable families, to develop the country in order for each citizen to benefit their rights to be a part of this nation where our ancestors fought to be free.