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International adoption delayed for a Haitian orphan

Haiti has shut down international adoptions because of suspicions of child trafficking in the post-quake chaos.

Haiti's post-quake chaos has created more oversight of international adoption. Olivia’s Canadian parents, Chris (l.) and Leslie Rollings, run a water filtration program in Haiti. They wonder if choosing not to grease palms has caused delay in final approval of their daughter's final adoption papers.

Kathie Klarreich

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Chris and Leslie Rollings knew, when they took tiny 15-day-old Olivia home from Heartline Ministries orphanage in January 2008, that it could take years to be legally recognized as her adoptive parents. Having run a nongovernmental agency for several years already in this rural seaside village, Mr. Rollings was familiar with navigating the Haitian bureaucracy.

The Canadian couple vowed to go the course without offering the traditional palm-greasing “incentives” key to speeding any official process. They also vowed not to go on a vacation abroad until Olivia had the documents to come too.

It has been two years, and they’re still waiting to take that vacation.

And it promises to be even longer because of the effects of the earthquake that rumbled through this poor nation Jan. 12.

Olivia – a bouncy 2-year-old with a penchant for the sweet bananas growing in her yard – doesn’t seem to be lacking anything, except the Haitian government’s approval of her adoption.

Given the vow to play the process completely aboveboard, the Rollingses say they were not surprised at some delay. With all their paperwork complete, they’d been just biding their time.

But now the added complications brought by the quake really concern them. The event scattered government staff and destroyed offices and documents. It resulted in the death of the nation’s leading adoption judge.

Added to the complications is the intentional slowdown of adoption procedures. Highly publicized cases of suspected illegal child trafficking by adults trying to take kids out of the country without the proper legal papers have heightened vigilance and wariness on the part of the Haitian government and other child protection agencies.

So the Haitian government is taking no new cases of adoption. How many mid-process adoptions are in limbo is unclear, but US Embassy officials in Port-au-Prince confirm that at the time of the quake 1,600 to 2,400 cases of American adoptions were open.


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