It’s hard to watch the news coming out of Haiti since the January 12 earthquake and not want to bring all the orphaned children home and care for them. And since Conceive readers are already in family-building mode, that urge is strong! The New York Times writes that children make up 45 percent of Haiti’s population, and even before the earthquake the United Nations Childrens Fund (Unicef) had estimated that there were 380,000 orphans in the country. No doubt there are now many, many more. Who wouldn’t want to help?
But while the government and U.S. adoption agencies have been flooded with inquiries, for now most couples who want to parent an earthquake-orphaned child will have to wait. It’s estimated it will be many months—some say a year and a half--before any new adoptions can be initiated in the country. While the wait is frustrating, most leading aid organizations feel that much of it is warranted. For one thing, it may be quite a while before Haitian children can be reunited with family members or friends who can take them in. And it’s always preferable for children to stay with their own families, or in their own communities, when possible.
Also, it’s absolutely imperative that children recently traumatized by the earthquake not be further traumatized by falling prey to disreputable adoption agencies (“baby sellers”) or international sex or slave traffickers. “Early in a crisis it is better for children to be protected while remaining in their home countries until the locations of their family members can be confirmed and adoption possibilities explored within their own communities,” says Nicole Behman, a child protection specialist at World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children worldwide.
There is some good news for Americans who had already initiated adoption proceedings in Haiti before the earthquake struck. According to Melissa Brisman, a reproductive attorney practicing in Montvale, New Jersey, and a member ofConceive’s advisory board, “On January 18, the U.S. government announced that it has eased the requirements for orphaned Haitian children to enter the United States on a temporary basis. . . The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department are working to accelerate nearly two-thirds of the currently pending adoptions of Haitian children by U.S. adoptive parents.” The eased restrictions will also help Haitian children with family members in the U.S. to relocate here, at least temporarily.
Advises Dawn Davenport, executive director of CreatingAFamily.org and author of The Complete Book of International Adoption (Broadway, 2006), “If you were in the process of adopting a child from Haiti prior to the earthquake, immediately contact both the CIS (haitianadoptions at dhs.gov) and the DOS (ASKCI at state.gov) with the name of your child, the name of the orphanage, and any other relevant information on how far along your adoption had progressed prior to Jan. 12, 2010.”
There is no shortage of planes to bring Haitian children to the U.S., and no shortage of people who want to help foster or adopt a child. But for right now, and the foreseeable future, the best thing most concerned Americans—those who hadn’t already started adoption proccedings in Haiti--can do is support aid efforts by donating to any of the many reputable aid organizations who are providing relief.
Before the earthquake, Haiti was having trouble finding families to take in the country’s many orphans. Perhaps an international outpouring of sympathy will now enable many of these children to eventually find forever families. Let’s just hope that people feel just as sympathetic a year or so from now when adoption proceedings in Haiti can be initiated again.“If there is a silver lining in all this tragedy, it would be the overhaul of the Haitian adoption process, which is badly in need of ‘modernization’ (aka ‘improvement’),” writes Davenport in her blog.
For updated information on what’s happening with Haitian adoptions, visit the Creating a Family website. Specific information for Haiti, including news and important links, can be found at creatingafamily.org/adoption/charts/adopting-from-haiti.html