Child Trafficking Major Concern After Quake

Thousands Of Children Left Without Parents

By Mike Paluska/CBS Atlanta

January 14, 2010

ATLANTA -- UNICEF and international adoption agencies said getting children into safe zones is a top priority after the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit the island of Hispaniola has left thousands of children without parents.

Before the quake even hit UNICEF statistics from 2007 show there were 380,000 orphans already in Haiti.

“There are so many children that are in desperate need of help that’s what we are here to do to keep them alive and get them the nutrients they need and clean water. It becomes the one place of stability for the kids where they have people UNICEF workers they can relate to they have educational material so they can start back with school,” said Alissa Silverman, deputy director for UNICEF in the southeast region. “UNICEF is tracing family members and caring for children orphaned by the disaster to protect them from harm or exploitation."

The number of children on the island is staggering. Forty-six percent of Haiti's population (nearly 10 million) is under the age of 18, more than half of the population is under 21. Prior to the earthquake, four of every 10 children lived in homes with mud floors or severely overcrowded conditions.

“My first concern is who is with the kids how many of our nannies our ok and who is watching the kids and then all the kids on the streets,” said Chareyl Moyes, the program manager for Wasatch International Adoption. Moyes works with a number of different agencies and orphanages in Haiti. She said early reports about how much damage they suffered are good.

“But, there is going to be a concern about child trafficking so both Haitian and the United States governments are going to be careful about forging ahead with new adoptions. The need is going to be great,” Moyes said.

A lot of families in the U.S. according to a number of international adoption agencies across the country said some people were at the very end of the process to adopt a child from Haiti. “Now, it will set everyone back,” Moyes said.

Even though child trafficking is a major concern for Moyes she worries about the immediate help children need trapped in the rubble from a country in ruins. “How long will that child survive without somebody rescuing them," Moyes said.


900 adoption applications pending in Haiti??,0,5769617.story
Children are safe, but US parents' adoption dreams are buried in rubble of Haiti earthquake

Associated Press Writers

10:24 AM PST, January 15, 2010

The teen girl who Rebecca Williams was set to adopt already had the dress she planned to wear on what she calls her "voyage" home to the United States. But the trip from Haiti to Tampa, Fla., might never happen for 15-year-old Darline.

On the day she was to get the passport that would allow her to come home to her adoptive family, a magnitude-7 earthquake ravaged her home country. Now Darline's adoption is in limbo, along with those of hundreds of other orphans being adopted by U.S. families.

Williams knows her daughter is safe for now. But she and her husband are racing the clock to get Darline home before her 16th birthday in November, when she will and no longer be eligible for adoption because she will be considered too old.

"We are the only parents she's known since she was 11 years old," Williams said Friday. "She already should be in her dress to get on the plane."

Tuesday's earthquake has thrown U.S. adoptive families into a state of chaos. Many are finding themselves mired in a desperate search for answers about how their children are faring. Some fear paperwork — which can take months or years to finalize — may be buried or lost forever in crumpled buildings, stalling the adoption process for good.

"When you've held your child in your arms and loved on him, and then something like this happens where you can't get to them — it's the most helpless feeling in the world," said Kim Wise of Indianapolis. She and her husband, Warren, have been trying to adopt a Haitian boy named Mika for two years, a saga marred by food riots, four hurricanes and now the earthquake. Mika turned 4 the day of the earthquake.

Many families have enlisted the help of immigration attorneys, adoption advocates and congressmen in efforts to get their children home on emergency visas; others have contacted the State Department with pleas for help, saying they fear orphanages will need to serve the thousands of children who may have been left homeless or without parents after the quake.

State department officials did not immediately comment Friday.

Adoptions from Haiti make up a fraction of international adoptions to the United States each year, but the number has been growing steadily as countries such as China and Guatemala have slowed or closed to international adoption in recent years. The U.S. State Department issued 330 immigrant visas to Haitian children last year, up from 96 in 1999.

In the eyes of the Haitian government, many of those waiting to bring children home are already legal parents. Adoptions are finalized in Haiti, but it can still take months for final approval to bring the children home to the United States.

Even those who haven't completed the Haitian adoption process may have already met the children they hope to call their own. Unlike other countries, Haiti matches prospective parents and orphans early in the adoption process, so families have photographs for months, said Heather Breems, Haiti coordinator and international supervisor for Adoption-Link in Oak Park, Ill.

"It's what makes a situation like this so difficult for families, because they've been matched with children already," said Breems, whose agency has five families matched or waiting to travel, including a single mother who was supposed to leave this weekend to bring home her HIV-positive daughter.

Jill and Bruce Lear of Watertown, S.D., have visited their 9-year-old Haitian children, Pierre and Ange-Laurette, twice and have already decorated the children's bedrooms.

"I have this bed sitting there with a doll and a teddy bear, and little pink daisies, and she is in an orphanage with 150 kids without water tonight," Jill Lear said.

Adoption advocates who met Thursday in the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to discuss the quake's impact on adoptions agreed that efforts should be made to expedite proceedings for the relatively small number of U.S. families whose adoptions were nearly complete.

There almost certainly will be substantial delays in most of the roughly 900 pending adoption applications because of the chaos in Haiti, including widespread loss of essential documents, said Chuck Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Council for Adoption.

"Many of the orphanages have probably been damaged, records lost," he said. "It's going to be very difficult to proceed with intercountry adoption in the imminent future."

Tom DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, said his group has set up a Web-based registry through which families can try to get information about the Haitian children they hope to adopt.

But the immediate focus is on the safety of the children and providing emergency relief, he said. Adoption is "part of the plan, but it's not the priority today," DiFilipo said. "The devastation is just phenomenal. We have a lot of work to do before we can move forward with the adoptions."

That leaves parents in the U.S. filled with worry about what comes next.

Kim Lewen, 40, of Willowbrook, Ill., learned by e-mail Wednesday afternoon that two young sisters she is adopting are safe — for now. The single parent-to-be started the adoption process in September and visited 1-year-old Sandina and 3-year-old Benciana in October.

"I need them to be here to be safe. I want them to know they have food and that they are not at risk of disease and they are not terrified," she said. "I can't imagine how terrified they are."


Associated Press Writers Charles Wilson in Indianapolis, David Crary in New York and AP videojournalist Mark Carlson in Chicago contributed to this story.


On the Net:

Are all eyes now on Haiti?

Danger grows for Haitian girls amid chaos.

"UNICEF estimated 100,000 Haitian girls were in domestic service in 2007, while a CARE report says the number could be double that.

Impoverished families may turn their children over to other families, where there is at least hope of food and shelter. Few receive an education. These children are known as restavek, from the French rester avec, or "to stay with." The pejorative term implies their families abandoned them.

Amnesty also reports a trend toward brokers who search for children, especially those in large families, "enticing them to give up their children by making empty promises of a brighter future for them."

Susskind said, "If you feel your child is at risk of starvation, you give them to a house where they have a chance. ... things you never think a mother would do are her single best option."

And there is another concern. "What will happen with the orphans?" asked Ducos. "We know there was trafficking of children out of Haiti, fake orphanages operating illegally and trafficking to the Dominican Republic where orphans beg in the streets. Orphans in the wake of the earthquake could be another human catastrophe.""

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