Americas

Orphans Blocked from Departing Haiti

A mother holds her adopted child, who arrived from Haiti on Jan. 22 at the Roissy Airport, north of Paris, along with 32 other Haitian children who have been adopted by French families. (Photo: Boris Horvat/ AFP-Getty Images)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with the U.S. Department of State, announced a humanitarian parole policy on January 18, allowing orphaned children from Haiti to enter the United States temporarily on an individual basis to ensure that they receive the care they need.

As a result of that policy, 79 of the 106 children from Maison des Enfants de Dieu (Children of the House of God) orphanage, who were granted humanitarian parole, arrived in Florida on Saturday, January 23. 

The Haitian Government, however, has blocked the remaining 27 children, including the adopted son of For His Glory (FHG) Adoption Outreach President Kim Harmon, from departing Port-au-Prince.

FHG, based in Texas, is a nonprofit fund-raising arm for the Port-au-Prince orphanage Maison des Enfants de Dieu, caring for an average of 125-130 children at any given time.

"I have a brother living in that orphanage," said Natalie, whose birth mother is Kim Harmon, about Maison des Enfants de Dieu, where she and her parents' children are from.

Some of the children are in the process of being adopted; others are waiting for families. Without the orphanage, many of these children may have become a part of the many sad statistics in Haiti of malnutrition, illiteracy, disease and even death.

In a surprise announcement, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive stated that all future cases of humanitarian parole would have to complete an exit process with his office.  He has not yet defined this exit process, so no action can be taken to bring the remaining children to their adoptive parents in the United States.

The Maison des Enfants de Dieu orphanage staff recently announced that they would be accepting 30 more children orphaned since the January 12 earthquake. In addition to the 30, the orphanage has received many requests to take newly orphaned children, including a recent request to accept 70 more orphans.

The orphanage and FHG remain firmly committed to the children and the people of Haiti. Pat Flowers, an FHG board member who has been in Haiti this past week consulting with the orphanage staff, agreed, saying, "We must act responsibly in accepting new orphans to ensure that we will have sufficient supplies and facilities to care for these children." Flowers explained that not only is each child, who is united with adoptive parents, helped, but much-needed space is opened up at the orphanage to help other children. He added, "The need in Port-au-Prince is great."

All 135 of Maison des Enfants de Dieu's orphans not only survived the unprecedented disaster but came out uninjured. The orphanage had 80 staff members before the 7.0 magnitude quake. Two nannies died—one with her two children. Some staff members are still unaccounted for.

Kim Harmon reiterated the need to quickly complete the departure process of the remaining 27 children, who have been granted humanitarian parole. She stated, "These children have adoptive families waiting to care for them in the United States. The faster we resolve the departure issue, the quicker we will be able to reach out to those unfortunate children in Port-au-Prince who now have no one."

FHG urges adoptive parents, supporters and all those concerned about the welfare of the orphans in Haiti to contact their congressmen, senators, governors and the White House to urge the secretary of state to quickly resolve this issue with Prime Minister Bellerive.

Ms. Teri Schure is the founder of Worldpress.org, lectures on issues pertaining to publishing, and is a consultant in the magazine, web development and marketing industries.

Check out Teri Schure’s blog The Teri Tome.

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