Members of Congress Speak Again…

26 01 2010

Following is a CNN article covering the efforts of Members of Congress….

January 26, 2010 2:12 p.m. EST

Washington (CNN) — Dozens of lawmakers support legislation that would set up a more streamlined system for matching Haitian orphans with families in the United States, a U.S. senator said Tuesday.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, said that the initial focus of the legislation would be on children orphaned by the January 12 earthquake in Haiti but that in the long term, it also would address other adoption efforts.

She and other senators will press this week to get the Families for Orphans Act out of a Senate committee so it can go to the floor for a vote, she said at a news conference.

The bill would set up a separate office in the State Department to handle adoption issues, similar to the office that handles human trafficking, Landrieu said. The office would focus on the issues of orphans and adoptions.

“The old regular process, the old regular bureaucracy, is not going to work,” she said.

Landrieu said there are 900 orphans for whom the U.S. and Haitian adoption process has begun, and some of the adoptive parents have waited years. Before the quake, Haiti had 380,000 children classified as orphans, she said, quoting figures from the United Nations.

The first priority, she said, would be to reunite a child with its family, or to find other relatives or a family in Haiti willing to adopt the child.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri said the red tape in Washington shouldn’t slow down the adoption process for Haitian children.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, agreed.

“We have to have a better process here. These are extraordinary circumstances,” she said.

Last week, 14 orphans heading to Pennsylvania weren’t allowed to leave Haiti because they had no papers, said Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pennsylvania, who had gone to Haiti to accompany the group to the United States. The paperwork was lost in the quake, he added.

Finally, with intervention from several agencies and the White House, the U.S. Embassy approved humanitarian waivers, or paroles, for the children.

Several senators at the briefing mentioned the need to keep children safe from human trafficking while they are awaiting travel or in transit.

Their concerns echoed those expressed by charities, aid groups and Haitian officials in recent days.

“We know there have been reports that children left the country without going through the authorization of the prime minister or other authorities,” Julie Bergeron, chief of child protection for the United Nations Children’s Fund, said Sunday. “We have such reports. We are trying to discuss with different authorities to find a solution to prevent trafficking of children. …

“But it’s very difficult to have the overall picture at the moment. It’s overwhelming particularly because there is no registration system. So now that is what we are trying to do: have registration of children so that we have a better idea,” Bergeron said.

According to Haiti’s minister of communication, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lessgue, “The Haitian government is very clear on this. We are facilitating all of the adoption applications already submitted. Other than those, no child will be leaving the country for adoption, only those whose applications are already on file.”

Cinzia Angotti, a child protection officer for the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission to Haiti, said workers are trying to identify the children at risk, “the ones who are along without family, and to respond as quickly as possible to the lack of protection of children during this disaster.”

Groups including Save the Children and World Vision have called for a halt to adoptions, saying that many children who may appear to be orphaned have simply been separated from their families.

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One response

26 01 2010
Samariya Smith

I am compelled to advocate for the orphans of Haiti due to the circumstances in which they currently reside. I am aware of the protocol and procedures of adopting internationally, but I am MORE concerened with the quality of life that the children now have in Haiti. Yes, ALL of the people there are living in conditions that are far less than standard (even for a third world country). I am concerned about the exposure to diseases and the catostrophic stuff that the children have had to witness and endure. Doesn’t it make sense to work expiditiously with Haitian governement to get as many people (especially orphans) to safe havens as possible???

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