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Haitian orphans: Americans fight red tape to hasten adoptions

The US government has expedited orphan transfers after the earthquake in Haiti. But aid groups worry about trafficking children whose parents or other relatives still may be alive.

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"Any hasty new adoptions would risk permanently breaking up families, causing long-term damage to already vulnerable children, and could distract from aid efforts in Haiti," the aid groups Save the Children, World Vision, and the British Red Cross said in a joint statement.

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There are more than 200 orphanages in Haiti, but the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that not all the children are real orphans – and that smugglers in some cases buy children from poor parents to be sold to white adoptive parents in the US and elsewhere.

Lessons from Indonesia and Sri Lanka

Even as international adoption demands grow, countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka have crafted stricter adoption policies to shield children from being torn from their own cultures. Critics say those policies reflect political interests and extend the amount of time children spend in institutions or on the streets.

That tension has already become evident as the orphan crisis grows in Haiti.

A delegation led by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell flew the first group of children out this week, but only after a protracted battle with Haitian officials, who under pressure from US officials finally relented and approved the transfers of all 54 children. The airlift appeared to buck the new US policy, since seven of the children had no adoptive parents lined up in the US.

One of those who did have a home waiting was 7-year-old Dania, adopted by Nathan and Catrina Brock of Toccoa, Ga. The disaster has left the girl, already shy, even more subdued, Mr. Brock said at a press conference this week in Pittsburgh. “I want to get her into dirt bikes, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” her new brother, Austin, told reporters.

Not knowing if big-eyed Dania was all right after the earthquake, “I had moments of madness,” Ms. Brock told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, explaining that the girl’s paperwork had already been lost twice as they went through a four-year process of getting a Haitian adoption approved.

The Brocks thanked state and US officials for shifting national policy to help Haiti’s struggling children.

“The world’s eyes are on Haiti,” said Ms. Brock. “There are so many orphans. Taking care of widows and orphans is God’s greatest calling for our lives.”

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