In the most extreme cases, we remove girls from the homes where they are living in restavek, and place them safely in one of our transitional homes, where they live with trauma-competent caregivers, continue their education, and receive job training. When it is safe to do so, we help them transition back to their biological families, or if they are old enough, help them get started on their own feet.
For the majority of the children in our Child Advocacy Program, however,we do not remove children from the homes, but instead work to change the attitudes of their host families. We have found this is a much more sustainable approach. The practice of restavek is so pervasive in Haitian culture that if we were to remove a child from a home, the host family would very likely find another child to replace them. At the same time, sending a child back to their biological family does not guarantee they will not eventually enter back into the restavek system, as their family sent them to live in restavek out of desperate poverty, and may very well be in the same position.
We are working on many fronts to end the restavek system, including meeting with host families to talk about appropriate treatment of children, working with the government to enforce child protection laws, working to change people’s overall attitudes through media and education, and providing job training and classes for sending families in the rural areas of Haiti.