"RETURNING HOME" IN SAN PEDRO SULA
BY Erica Switzer, IDENTITY MISSION COO
A few Friday nights ago, we had just arrived in San Pedro for the weekend from Siguatepeque, when our team got a phone call from the child protective services office (DINAF) in San Pedro Sula. (This is a very important detail, we will explain why in the next section… just wait for it!). The DINAF social worker told us that a newborn baby had been abandoned and that she was at their office. However, because it was a Friday night and it was already after office hours, she said that she had two sets of paperwork ready to file.
One for the baby to enter Identity Mission’s care within a foster family.
Another for her to go to a local orphanage.
Based on Identity Mission’s experience, if a child enters an orphanage at this age in Honduras, the process of moving them out of an institution and into a family would likely take years. If it could ever happen at all.
We were told that if we couldn’t get to the office in the next thirty minutes, this baby would be moved to a local orphanage that very night.
We got in the car immediately with Tara and Jorge Garcia and drove downtown to the DINAF office. When we arrived, we were met by the guard who took us to where the social worker was, and the baby was swaddled and laying on the desk, next to a desktop computer.
The DINAF office is under-resourced, so they don’t have any childcare supplies, and the baby was wrapped in the same blanket in which she was found. We stood in shock as we began to piece together the reality of her story.
We learned that she was less than a day old, she had not yet been bathed since birth, and that she had been found on the side of the highway by a group of mechanics from a shop close by who had heard her crying. She was left in a onesie and in a blanket with no identification. The mechanics bought her a bottle and formula and took her to the police, who a few hours later brought her to the DINAF office. We later found out that other witnesses saw the unidentified mom leave her there on the side of the road and walk away.
We stood there with the DINAF social worker as she decided what her name would be, wrote her assumed date of birth, and signed her over to Identity Mission’s care, and in a matter of minutes, we were in the car with a newborn. We spent the first night with her as a foster family was prepared to care for her long-term, or until her case is resolved! I’m excited to share that she’s in perfect health and she is absolutely beautiful, and she is so well-loved! Her immediate reality and long-term future have been forever altered, as we believe that she will never again have to feel abandoned and uncared for.
THIS IS A BIG DEAL BECAUSE…
This is such an exciting story, also a really big deal in the grand scheme of things because… the San Pedro Sula DINAF office oversees the cases of orphaned, abandoned, and at-risk children from three states in Honduras. With a staff of just over a dozen workers, this branch is extremely overworked. The city of San Pedro Sula has the highest percentage of child abandonment in the country and this office is also facing the more recent challenge of managing the cases of up to four hundred children per week who are being deported to Honduras from the United States and Mexico. Simply put, they are overwhelmed with the number of cases and children they are responsible to oversee.
For the last few years, this overwhelming pressure on the DINAF office has resulted in them opting for whatever is easiest with most of the children’s cases that come to their office. They have placed children in orphanages because it’s historically been a faster, easier answer. But they have recently begun to express their awareness that easy does not mean best, and they want to seek the best long-term solutions for each child! This office has shared that they know that families are far better for children than an orphanage ever could be.
On top of this, three years ago, Honduras was one of the dozens of developing countries that signed an agreement to uphold the United Nations Rights of the Child, which specifically states that every child has the right to a family, and also that no child under the age of three years old should ever enter institutional care. Worldwide research has shown a pattern of physical, mental, and social developmental delays that happen when infants spend any amount of time in orphanages.
All of these factors combined have led the San Pedro DINAF Office to contact Identity Mission for increased involvement in the placement of children in foster families, in the San Pedro Sula region! Identity Mission has been planning on opening an office in San Pedro to be able to impact more orphaned and at-risk children, and the timing of DINAF’s involvement could not line up any better! We are really excited about the upcoming growth happening in Identity Mission and in Honduras’ orphan care programs as a whole!
We truly believe that we are on the verge of life and culture-changing times, and we could not be more excited. God has truly been opening all of the doors and preparing the right hearts for this moment, and we are incredibly humbled that we get to be a small part of what is happening here!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
In order for Identity Mission to be able to open the San Pedro Sula Identity Mission office, we are raising $15,000 in order to have the margin to take in and care for more children and youth in need! Identity Mission needs 23 more monthly sponsors of $50 a month! If you are able to give towards this expansion or if you know of someone who would be interested in sponsoring this expansion of Identity, just go to identitymission.org/donate