What the U.S.A. Should Do About Haiti Earthquake Orphans

I have in the past few days been sharing stories found on the Internet about babies/children being orphaned due to the tragic earthquake on January 12th.

Serving on the Board of Directors & as Regional Manager for North America on behalf of World Initiative for Orphans I feel I must write my personal feelings on this subject and potential solutions to the crisis.

I am happy our government responded to the 200-300 orphans who already had adoptive families awaiting them in the United States. The State Department is allowing these adoptees to come into the U.S. even with the necessary paperwork being lost due to the earthquake. The Netherlands has also responded to this crisis flying 100 children to their country in the same fashion.

However this is just a drop in the bucket. Even prior to the earthquake their were thousands of babies/children living in orphanages  throughout Haiti or even just living on the streets doing whatever was necessary to survive.

Though Americans should be proud of the actions of our government and ourselves for by our response to the overall crisis caused by the earthquake; providing financial aid, supplies, troops for security, etc as well as some response to the orphan crisis…we can and MUST do more!

Before the earthquake about 800 to 900 U.S. families are in the process of adopting children from Haiti, said Tom DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services though their adoptions have not yet been finalized…these adoptions need to be expedited and the children moved safely and quickly to the United States. 

Before the earthquake, Haiti was home to about 380,000 orphans, according to the most recent data from the United Nations Children’s Fund.

At this point of the crisis it is not known how many new orphans have resulted from the earthquake. We know the United Nations estimates 2000,000 people have died as a result of the quake. How many were adults leaving behind babies/children we do not know. We also do not know how many babies/children have just been separated from their families as a result of the quake.

As our government moves along in this crisis it is important that orphans and those babies/children just separated from their families are handled in a totally different manner. The government cannot allow themselves to later be targeted as taking babies/children from their families and placing for adoption because they did not do the necessary investigations. The government needs to move quickly but not too quickly.

My solution ideas to this crisis are as follows:

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, can allow otherwise inadmissible people into the country for urgent humanitarian reasons or other emergencies The U.S. State Department also has the authority to reduce much of the unnecessary red tape involving international adoptions & the obtaining of necessary visas to enter the United States.

Therefore:

ADOPTION 

Secretary Clinton & Napolitano should immediately create a Task Force whose responsibility should be strictly to expedite adoptions of orphans from Haiti as well as expedite visas. This should be done working together with the government of Haiti and local orphanages.

The Task Force must ensure that each baby/child to be potentially placed for adoption in the USA should definitely be orphans and no family can be found in Haiti who will take responsibility for them.

The Task Force must work with established adoption agencies to ensure those saying they are adoption agencies are in fact as such and not a scam.

The Task Force should establish reasonable fees for processing , immediate home studies, necessary paperwork and potential legal fees. These established fees should be only to cover the above at reasonable costs and not for profit for the agencies. Agencies should be allowed to profit from this tragedy but their expenses should be covered.

If a potential family is shown to be able to financially support a baby/child after adoption but is unable to pay upfront necessary fees a payment plan for such should be established or possibly have the government should waive the fees to the potential family and cover them to the agency.

The Task Force should also work with other governments of developed countries to also play a role in providing safe homes for orphans within their country.

The establishment of this Task Force should be immediate and work on this crisis should begin without further delay.

FOSTER CARE:

I have read that we are considering placing folks from Haiti at Qauntanimo for temporary housing.

If babies/children go there who cannot be verified as orphans and they have no family to care for them they should be placed in a separate section to ensure they can not be preyed upon by sexual or physical predators to ensure their safety. It would be tragic for them to go from one tragedy to another caused by our government’s action.

A camp type setting or institutional setting has shown not to be the best setting for a child. Therefore the government should look to potential foster care families in the USA mainland to care for babies/children that are not orphans.

In both adoption & foster care accurate records must be ensured by the Task Force. This is especially ture for babies/children that may be placed in a foster home and may return to Haiti if family is found there to care for them.
I have received many comments to my previous blog entries on this subject from folks interested in adopting, providing foster care and asking what they can do.

Write your Senator, Congress person, Secretary Clinton & Secretary Napolitano about the subject and the need for our government to act and to act fast!

Also you should remember that there are over 129,000 youth within our own foster care system who are awaiting adoption. There is also a need in all the states for good foster parents.

I hope this gives at least a few ideas as to how we as a people and government can help the orphans of Haiti caused by the recent earthquake.

Remember: NO child should be allowed to grow up without the love, nurturing, caring of a family!

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Orphans from Haiti arrive in U.S.

January 19, 2010 5:38 p.m. EST

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (CNN) — More than 50 Haitian children — rescued from an orphanage damaged by last week’s earthquake –arrived Tuesday in Pennsylvania, most of them headed eventually to adoptive homes.

Gov. Edward Rendell, who traveled to Haiti to accompany the orphans back to his state, said the 53 children from the Bresma Orphanage in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince were flown to Florida on an Air Force C-17 transport plane. The group was then transferred to another plane to fly to Pittsburgh International Airport, he said at a news conference at the airport.

Another child is to arrive in Pittsburgh late Tuesday or Wednesday, Rendell said. Ali McMutrie, a Pittsburgh-area woman who ran the orphanage with her sister, Jamie, said her sister will accompany the 54th orphan.

“The children are incredible. They’re doing so great. I was more upset at the airplane ride than any of them,” said McMutrie, who also was at the briefing.

Most of the children’s adoption cases were at the end of the bureaucratic process before the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck.

Search for loved ones, see who’s found

According to Rendell, adoption cases are under way for 47 of the children. Of these, 40 will be U.S. adoptions, four children will go to Spain and three to Canada. Adoptive parents will be sought for the remaining seven children.

The orphans almost stayed in Haiti.

Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pennsylvania, who was traveling with the group, said it had been understood that all the children were cleared to leave. However, 14 of them had no papers because they were destroyed in the quake, and the U.S. Embassy said they couldn’t leave the country, Altmire said.

“We were frantically calling the State Department, the White House and everyone else” to get the clearance, he said.

In addition, the McMutrie sisters, who live in Altmire’s congressional district, refused to allow just a portion of the children to leave, Altmire said.

“So now, everything is up in the air. You’re just arguing about paperwork,” the congressman said.

Finally, with intervention from several agencies and the White House, the embassy approved humanitarian waivers, or paroles, for the 14 children.

“All of a sudden, after four or five hours of struggle, we got the go that all 54 orphans could come to the U.S.,” Rendell said.

By then, the plane that was to take everyone to the United States had left. The military and embassy arranged for them to fly in a military cargo plane.

Altmire said that despite their trauma, the children adjusted well to the flight.

“They were polite and either slept or were quiet or just played among themselves,” he said.

“We are all grateful the kids are here and safe, but this was a very unusual situation,” an Obama administration official, who did not want to be identified, told CNN.

“We will continue to grant, in special cases, humanitarian parole for orphans and medical evacuees, but our position is clear that people from Haiti attempting to enter the country illegally will be repatriated.”

The children were taken by bus to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County spokesman Kevin Evanto told CNN that the children will be placed in foster homes until details of their adoptions are finalized.

On Monday, the U.S. government said it had eased the requirements for orphaned children from Haiti to enter the United States on a temporary basis.

In a separate statement, the State Department said Monday it is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the Haitian government to process nearly 300 cases of Americans who are waiting to adopt Haitian children. Of those, 200 cases are being accelerated.

At least 24 of those children have left Haiti and have joined their adoptive families since the embassy expedited processing for immigrant visas, said Michele Bond, deputy assistant secretary for American citizen services.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, can allow otherwise inadmissible people into the country for urgent humanitarian reasons or other emergencies.

Before the earthquake, Haiti was home to about 380,000 orphans, according to the most recent data from the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Rendell’s plane flew into Haiti on Monday with a shipment of medical aid and several doctors. It arrived after aid organizations had complained that their planes bound for Port-au-Prince had been delayed.

The agency Doctors Without Borders says several of its flights were delayed or diverted for long spells, including a plane carrying supplies for an inflatable hospital. That plane could not land in Port-au-Prince on Saturday and instead was rerouted to the neighboring Dominican Republic, it said. Another medical supply flight was diverted to the Dominican Republic on Sunday, causing a 24-hour delay in delivering aid that had to be transported by truck as a result, the group said.

U.S. officials have attributed the delays to a crowded apron at Port-au-Prince’s small airport, but say traffic conditions have considerably improved.

The airport handled 180 flights Monday, none of which were delayed, Lt. Gen. P. K. Keen told CNN. One Doctors Without Borders flight was unable to land over the weekend, he said, because another aircraft’s departure was delayed. Instead of circling and burning fuel, the plane landed in the Dominican Republic, he said.

“And clearly, we wanted that field hospital on the tarmac,” Keen said. “But beyond landing them on the main runway and shutting down the entire airport for a couple of hours, there weren’t many options because of the design of the airfield.”

Keen added that planes turned back “a number of times” and “quite a bit” in the first few days after the quake. While the field manages more than 100 flights a day now, before the quake, it handled slightly more than a dozen a day, he said.

CNN’s Gary Tuchman, Adam Levine and Mary Snow contributed to this report.

NOTE: I am making phone calls to see what is being considered by State Dept. about bringing children, whether orphans or not, temporarily to the USA until Haiti is more stable…so far the issue has not been addressed though it can be done according to DHS for humanitarian reasons..we shall see. Will keep you advised.