Homeless Children and Adoption Controversies in Haiti


Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, images of helpless children surfaced on the TV screens of American families, compelling them to open up their homes and adopt. Although this is a kind gesture, adoption processes in Haiti are extremely difficult and normally take up to three years to complete. Now, after the earthquake, there are hundreds of more children desperately seeking homes in addition to the children who were orphans prior to the tragedy. Yet some of the orphanages in Haiti are not legitimate. Some are simply facades for human traffickers who either steal children or buy them from their parents and proceed to sell them to various families in other countries. This poses the important question of whether or not more doors should be opened to the homeless children. Should the thousands of families yearning to adopt these Haitians have to wait three years to do so after such a devastating disaster?

UNICEF reported in 2007 that there were roughly 380,000 orphans in Haiti. But since the monitoring of the children in the system has not been accurate, it is close to impossible to distinguish those who were orphaned before the earthquake from those who were orphaned because of it. Much of the documentation of the orphans has been lost in the disaster, making it even more difficult to determine the accurate number of orphans. Save the Children, World Vision, and the British Red Cross have released a statement arguing the view that an immediate stop to all the new adoptions of Haitian children should take place. These groups strongly feel that speedy adoptions might separate families that could possibly still have a chance of coming together. UNICEF’s executive director, Ann Veneman supported this statement by saying, “Every effort will be made to reunite children with their families. Only if that proves impossible, and after proper screening has been carried out, should permanent alternatives like adoption be considered by the relevant authorities.” Taking children out of their country and placing them into another could create even more problems for them. The organizations advocate that the proper solution is not to bring the children to America, but to instead provide them with water, food, shelter, medical care and clothing in Haiti. This alternative solution would give the children’s family members time to find them if they were merely separated after the earthquake.

This matter sparks up much controversy, because although no one wants to rip children away from their families, they also do not want to put the children in danger by keeping them in Haiti. United States senator, Mary Landrieu and other senators from both democrat and republican parties feel that it is time to speed up the adoption process for those children who are “true orphans” and who have already been in the process of being adopted. Although the earthquake left many children homeless, lost and feeling helpless, the orphans who were being adopted prior to this tragedy should not be disregarded. Because of this, the Families for Orphans Act is being addressed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and put on the floor to vote. The act would develop an office in the State Department that would exclusively deal with adoption issues and to try to keep in mind what is best for these children.


If you want to make a difference and show your support for this crucial piece of legislation, you can e-mail Laura Winthrop at and address your e-mail to:

The Honorable John F. Kerry


U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee


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