Thursday, February 7, 2013

Searching for Scarlett

Most of the time life here is full of joy and miracles.  Sometimes, however, it is confusing and heartbreaking. The Hondurans describe such a situation as "complicado" because everything here is indeed complicated. 

Last April, Scarlett came to us during Holy Week.  Her mother is a child herself, now only 17.  They had lived on the streets before IHNFA (social services) took custody of Scarlett.  Scarlett lived with me for 10 days and then moved to the Children's Home.  She absolutely thrived there!  Noelia is just about the same age and they looked and acted like twins.  She got potty trained, started talking and lodged herself firmly in everyone's heart.

Then we lost her.  Her grandmother went to Children's Court to get custody, claiming she always wanted her.  (Where was she when her daughter and infant granddaughter were living on the streets?)  Despite our best efforts, the judge awarded the grandmother custody.  "Poverty is not a reason to keep a child from her family."   I agree with this in principle.  It would be a steep and slippery slope if custody became dependent on family income.  So one day, after I had returned to the US, she left us.

I have been anxious to see her ever since I got back here.  Today was the day.  Rina, the social worker at SBV, met me at the office at 8 AM.  I took off my watch, removed my camera and cell phone from my pocket and left everything in the office.  Rina and I took off on foot to find Scarlett.  We walked down the sidewalk on the main airport road, skirting such hazards as a 4' x 2' x 6' deep hole and a steep ravine with no guardrail.  We turned down a steep street into a barrio called Las Rivas.  The farther we got back into the barrio the worse it got.  The road was barely more than the width of our shoulders, we could smell raw sewage, and occasionally could see into dark, dank rooms.  A group of young men congregated as we approached.  Rina and I both said silent prayers for safety.  We finally got to the boarding house where Scarlett lived with her mother only to learn they had moved quite a while ago.  So, clutching the bag with Scarlett's belated birthday gift, we retraced our steps.  Although disappointed, I am relieved Scarlett doesn't live there.  Wherever she is can't possibly be worse, I thought to myself.  I just couldn't allow myself to think about Scarlett at the Children's Home. The contrast was too stark and horrifying.

We got back to the office and Rina called her contact at the Children's Court.  The contact was shocked to learn that Scarlett was not living with the custodial grandmother and that they had moved.  No phone numbers work for any of Scarlett's family.  Rina says she thinks the grandmother lives in another part of the city called San Francisco.  We went to Flor to find Henry to accompany us.  He told us that San Francisco is too dangerous to go to after 10 AM.  Before 10, all the "delinquents" are still sleeping off the night before. It was 9:30 and I was afraid to drive in such an unfamiliar part of the city.  Instead, I burst into tears.  Jenny, La Pastora, at the school rushed over to comfort me and remind me that we must put Scarlett in God's hands.  He knows where she is.

So, we wait.  We pray.  Next week, Rina is going to try again to find her.  If we find her and she is in a bad situation we will see what we can do.  My heart is broken thinking about what Scarlett's life was like with us and what it is now.  I am raging at the system that would give custody of that precious child to such irresponsible, selfish people, and I am terrified we will never find her or, if we do, we will be powerless to help her.  It is complicado.  

Join me in prayer that we find her and that she ends up where she belongs.