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Why 27 Haiti orphans, adopted by US parents, are stuck in Haiti

The Haiti government, concerned about child trafficking, has stalled adoptions of orphans in the wake of the earthquake.

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A group of 27 Haitian orphans – with documents in order and the blessings of the US government to travel to their adoptive American families – have been stopped from leaving by the Haitian government.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Marc Bellerive decided Jan. 22 that even children granted “humanitarian parole” by the US government in order to expedite their departure from Haiti’s post-earthquake disaster will have to complete an exit process with the prime minister’s office.

But the new process has yet to be defined. For now, the 27 adoptive families in the US who had thought they would be united with their children are still waiting.

“We thought these children would be with their families by now, but the government decided for some reason that they have more requirements,” says Franckis Alexis, who helps run the Maison des Enfants de Dieu (House of God’s Children), the Port-au-Prince orphanage where the 27 children live.

The Haitian government halted the adoptions even as it faces what is arguably Haiti’s biggest crisis in its history. The government’s decision to slow the adoption process is especially galling to adoption advocates in the US and in Haiti since it comes as millions of Haitian children face such adversities as deteriorating living conditions, exposure to disease, and lost schooling as a result of the quake.

At the same time, the Haitian government faces a chorus of warnings from some domestic and international child advocates who say the aftermath of such disasters is often a time of increased child-trafficking. The risk of designating as “orphans” children who are merely separated from their family is also greater, some child advocates say.

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