Orphanage: Adoption plan needed for Haitian children

15 January 2010

Orphanage: Adoption plan needed for Haitian children

By Melissa Gray, CNN

January 15, 2010 3:05 p.m. EST

Chris Skelton (center): "The situation is dire -- there will be many more children in need of help."


Orphanage head urges governments to accept Haitian children for adoption

Paperwork for many adoptions in process lost in quake, officials say

(CNN) -- Foreign governments should urgently accept Haitian orphans on humanitarian grounds following this week's devastating earthquake, an orphanage director in Haiti and adoptive parents said Friday.

Emergency visas and passports could help push through adoptions that were stalled after the quake, and would open up beds for children who lost their parents in the disaster, said Dixie Bickel, director of God's Littlest Angels orphanage just outside Port-au-Prince.

Paperwork for adoptions that were under way when the earthquake hit Tuesday night may now be buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings and lost, said Bickel, whose orphanage cares for 152 children, including 84 babies.

The government officials who deal with adoption cases may be missing, hurt, or otherwise focused on the disaster, which means the adoptions won't go through, she said.

"I would like to see the international community come up with a plan for the children that have been adopted by European, Canadian, and American citizens of how these children can go to their adoptive parents' countries, either under refugee status or emergency status of some sort," Bickel told CNN.

God's Littlest Angels is considered one of Haiti's larger orphanages. Parents who have adopted children through the orphanage are also pressing their governments for emergency action.

"The orphans need to be granted refugee status and allowed to come home to their adoptive parents," said Allison Garwood of Los Angeles, California, who adopted a boy from GLA and brought him home last year. "The U.S. needs to not only allow but demand that children be sent to their adoptive families right away."

Video: Child trafficking in disasters Video: Couple adopts Haitian child





British citizen Chris Skelton, who arrived in Haiti hours before the earthquake hit to sign paperwork as part of the adoption process, wrote a public letter urging foreign help.

"I cannot express the sheer magnitude of the plight that the children of this country have faced, one which will now spiral downwards further with devastating results," Skelton wrote in the letter. "The situation is dire -- there will be many more children in need of help, and GLA and other orphanages cannot cope with the increased need."

The foreign ministries of Britain, Belgium, and France said they could not immediately respond, but Luxembourg's Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the issue.

"The Luxembourg authorities are informed of the situation of Miss Bickel and the children at the orphanage God's Littlest Angels, and our authorities are in touch with the Red Cross and the local authorities to solve the issue," spokesman Robert Steinmetz told CNN.

Bickel said her request is only for those children who have been adopted but who are still in Haiti as their cases go through a lengthy government approval process which can take anywhere from six months to two years.

The children's paperwork may have been in the pipeline but after the quake, the status is now unclear, Bickel said.

"Some of my papers were in the Palace of Justice -- that building is no longer there," she said. "Some of my paperwork was in the Ministry of the Interior -- I don't know if that building is there. I had passports being printed (for the children). I don't know if the paperwork is still there."

Bickel said her lawyer told her the country's top adoptions official, Judge Rock Cadet, was killed when the courthouse collapsed.

As long as the adopted children can make it out of the country, Bickel said, the orphanage can ensure the children's paperwork is completed in Haiti. If the children can't leave the country, it will mean orphanages like Bickel's must turn away any children newly orphaned by the earthquake, she said.

"It leaves me with children in my care who are going to sit here for an additional five, six months at least," she said.

"It's going to prevent me from taking in any children that were affected by this disaster. My beds are full. I can't take any children in, not unless I put them on the floor or I put two or three children to a bed."