Haiti Halts Departures of Orphans
The Haitian government has halted the departure of all orphans from the earthquake-ravaged country until it can guarantee that only legitimate adoptions are being approved, according to U.S. government officials.
The government only will allow the departure of orphaned children whose paperwork it has examined and approved, the officials said.
The decision temporarily suspends the arrival to the U.S. of Haitian orphans under a policy announced last week by Washington. The so-called humanitarian parole was introduced to expedite the adoption of children in orphanages who had been assigned to U.S. families before the Jan. 12 earthquake occurred.
One U.S. government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive had been holding discussions in Montreal during a Haiti reconstruction conference to ensure that U.S. departures resume within days. "We are working on details to get these approvals from Haiti as soon as possible," the official said.
The Haitian government is concerned that some children are being removed from the country without proper oversight and risk winding up in the hands of child traffickers. Other children might be removed even though they may still have relatives in the country who could care for them.
"There is evidence that children have been removed from Haiti with no due process at all," said Diana Boni, Haiti adoption coordinator for Kentucky Adoption Services, a non-profit adoption agency in Owensburo, Ky. "The Haitian government in the past has looked over the paperwork of each child leaving the country with adoptive parents."
Many children released from hospitals have no one to care for them, one reason why orphanages are eager to fly out children who were already matched to U.S. and European families before the earthquake.
"Orphanages are trying to make preparations to take in more children," said Kim Harmon, president of His Glory Adoption Outreach of Florida, a ministry that funds an orphanage in Haiti. "We have been contacted to receive many more children."
The United Nations has begun erecting special tent camps for thousands of Haitian girls and boys separated from their parents by the earthquake and at risk of falling prey to child-traffickers. U.N. Children's Fund has said children are being removed from the country without appropriate approvals.
Even before the earthquake, economic hardship drove many Haitian families to relinquish their children to orphanages. About 380,000 Haitian children were orphans even before the earthquake struck, according to Unicef.
Washington has identified about 1,000 children [this number keeps jumping! It was 900 a week ago.] who already had been approved for adoption by U.S. families before the quake struck. Several planeloads of these orphans arrived in the U.S. in recent days, and the children were united with their previously assigned American families, some who had been waiting several years to adopt a particular child.
There are no reliable estimates of the number of children who have been separated from their families or orphaned since the earthquake. However, homeless minors are believed to number in the tens of thousands, according to aid organizations.
Mrs. Harmon of His Glory Adoption Outreach said that 79 of the 106 children at the Children of the House of God arrived in the U.S. on Saturday after receiving humanitarian parole. However, the remaining 27, including a boy she is adopting herself, are now stuck in Haiti.
"We saw this glimmer of hope that our child would come home," said Mrs. Harmon. "But now we are just in a waiting process."
EARTHQUAKE HALTS NEW ADOPTIONS IN HAITI
BY ROBIN HILBORN, Family Helper editor
(Jan. 26, 2010) The Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake has halted new adoptions in Haiti. Government offices are in ruins; records are destroyed. (CNN reported that the country's top adoption official, Judge Rock Cadet, was killed when the courthouse collapsed.) For now it is extremely hard to know if children are truly orphans, or if they have some family in the country.
With services in disarray, it may take several years before Haitian authorities are able to follow the prescribed steps: try to re-unite a child with family members, ensure the child is an orphan and allow for possible domestic adoption. International adoption could start again only when authorities in Haiti can eliminate the possibility of families caring for orphans within Haitian borders.
As for adoptions already in progress, some are being fast-tracked. Countries are struggling to rescue those children already established as orphans and eligible for foreign adoption before the earthquake. Emergency airlifts are carrying out children who were already matched with parents abroad. Where the paperwork is not complete, emergency visas are issued and the process is finished abroad, supervised by foreign authorities.
Here are some examples of efforts made to bring adoptees out of Haiti:
Canada -- As of Jan. 25, 2010, 217 Haitian adoptees had permission to leave. 24 adoptees flew to Ottawa on Jan. 24.
France -- 904 French families have applied to adopt from Haiti. France will immediately take in 276 children already matched with French parents.
Netherlands -- 123 adopted Haitian children reached Eindhoven on Jan. 21.
U.S. -- State Department said it's working on nearly 300 cases of Americans adopting Haitian children; 200 of those cases are being accelerated. 53 children rescued from the damaged Bresma Orphanage in Port-au-Prince arrived in Pittsburgh on Jan. 19.
For more news, see Haiti Update.
After the 2005 Asian tsunami disaster many people wanted to adopt "orphan" children. The same rule applies to Haiti as applied then: "Accepted international practice is to try to find a home for orphaned children in their own country before uprooting them to a foreign country and culture."