Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quebec Exercises Proper Caution; Dutch Rush in: Haitian Adoptions

The Quebec government has put on hold all new adoption applications for Haitian children as part of an international effort to prevent a repeat of the child smuggling that occurred after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

On Monday, a United Nations agency urged caution with any new adoptions, given that the events unfolding in Haiti make it impossible to verify the personal and family situation of children.
The provincial directive, effective immediately, applies to all new applications involving Haiti — not applications already processed by Quebec authorities and approved by the Haitian government.

The federal government has announced it will expedite pending applications by fast-tracking the visas and other paperwork that falls under federal jurisdiction at the end of the international adoption process.

Damage from the earthquake and aftershocks, however, is making it difficult for Canadian government officials on the ground in Haiti to work as fast as they would like, according to an official with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The adoption process was further complicated by the fact that the Haitian judge who processes adoption applications has reportedly been killed, and the building housing existing files has been destroyed.

Across Quebec, adoption agencies have seen a spike in the number of calls from residents wanting to open their homes to Haitian children. But despite the outpouring, provincial government officials said Tuesday that child trafficking remains a real threat and makes it necessary that the process be suspended temporarily.

"There will be no new dossiers opened," at the moment, said Karine Whyte, a spokeswoman for Quebec's department of social services.

Whyte said the situation is fluid and will be re-evaluated regularly.

In recent days, Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney also has pointed to confirmed reports out of Sri Lanka that child traffickers and kidnappers used the chaos of the situation to falsely adopt children after the 2004 tsunami.

"We can't allow that to happen," Kenney said over the weekend.

Although Whyte did not know how many adoption applications are currently underway, she said about 55 Haitian children are adopted by Quebec families annually.

When attempting to reach representatives from two accredited Quebec-based adoption agencies that have a long history of matching children from Haiti with Quebec families, their phone lines have been jammed and the voice mail boxes full.

The federal government, for its part, is asking all parents who have begun the adoption process of children in Haiti to call Citizenship and Immigration Canada at 1-888-242-2100, or look for updates of the situation being posted on the government's website at


Dutch adoption plane heading to Haiti: Expert warns against hastily taking children after earthquake

All but nine of the children had already been assigned to Dutch families before the devastating magnitude-7 earthquake struck Jan. 12. The Justice Ministry has stressed that all 109 children were in the process, before the quake, of being adopted through two respected Dutch agencies.

Fifty-six of the children were waiting for travel documents before being united with their new families, while 44 others had been matched with new parents but a Haitian judge had yet to formally sign off on their adoptions.

Foster families for some

Nine children, who had been approved for adoption but not yet matched with a family, will be put into foster families when they arrive in the Netherlands while suitable parents are sought.
Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin agreed to speed up the adoption procedure because of the devastating earthquake that crippled the country and left tens of thousands dead.

But one adoption expert, Professor Rene Hoksbergen of Utrecht University, warned Tuesday that authorities should take great care in dealing with orphans from such a disaster.

He said the new parents of the groups of 44 and nine children should fly back to Haiti once normality has returned to ensure that all regular adoption procedures are correctly followed.

"Please, check that the procedures are fine. It is important for the children later on," he said.
He also feared that the hurried evacuation could send a wrong signal.

"You have to be very careful in adopting these children from a country in chaos," he said. "It might look like when a country is a disaster it is easy to adopt children there."

Wereldkinderen — Dutch for World Children — one of the two agencies involved, said all the children it was bringing back to the Netherlands "have a complete adoption dossier."

U.S. making it easier too
Martien Miedema, a spokeswoman for the group, said she shared criticism of rushing to adopt children from Haiti after the quake.

"We also believe that adoption is not a form of aid that is appropriate in this situation," she told The Associated Press. "But for these children it is completely different. We knew before the quake that they were coming to the Netherlands."

On Monday, the U.S. government said it also was making it easier for Haitian orphans being adopted by Americans to enter the United States.

In Belgium too, authorities are seeking to speed the adoption of children from Haiti and 13 could be arriving in a week or so.

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