The dramatic story of the BRESMA orphanage in Haiti (photo from Port-au-Prince: PG's Michael Henninger), featuring the sisters from Ben Avon and the politically charged airlift to Pittsburgh, enthralled us all six months ago. Today, the Associated Press checks back in to find that 12 orphans are still held up at an Emsworth orphanage, even though there are American parents willing to adopt them, as the U.S. and Haitian governments work out whether they should stay in the states or return to relatives in Haiti.
"It's astounding to me that the bureaucracy can't get this done," said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who took part in the airlift. "It's unfair to these children. Let's get them adopted by loving families."
Unlike some 1,100 other children flown out of Haiti to the U.S. after the Jan. 12 earthquake, the youths at the Holy Family Institute in Emsworth, Pa., were not part of the adoption process prior to the quake and - according to some legal experts - shouldn't have been eligible for the emergency program. ...
At Holy Family, the 12 children have been shielded from public view, and from the media, since their arrival, but by all accounts are receiving excellent treatment. They experienced their first snowfall during the winter, made field trips to Pittsburgh's zoo and children's museum, and have enjoyed the swimming pool during recent hot weather.
"The children had typical reactions to being whisked out of their country. ... We had bed-wetting and tantrums," said Sister Linda Yankoski, the institute's president. "We're not seeing that now. ... They appear to be very well-adjusted." ...
"What's in the best interest of these kids - to stay in an institution or get them into a family?" asked Tom DeFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, which represents many U.S. adoption agencies.
DeFilipo says parents or other relatives of all 12 children have gone on record as relinquishing legal custody of them and endorsing their adoption by U.S. families.
"Six months is long enough," DeFilipo said. "But no one is rallying around this. These kids aren't in anybody's constituency. They've not got adoptive families. They're not citizens. Nobody wants to talk about this."
The State Department is aware of claims that the children's relatives have relinquished them, but wants to verify any such actions and be sure the relatives understand the ramifications of any statements they've made. The department said the children's cases would be decided individually - so there might not be a common outcome for all 12.
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