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NewsWorldHaiti earthquake: Groups urge adoption freeze, believing kids' kin may be alive

Haiti earthquake: Groups urge adoption freeze, believing kids' kin may be alive

Thursday, January 21st 2010, 12:06 AM

A UN peacekeeper yells at a crowd to maintain order while standing guard at a barricade on a road that leads to warehouses where food is stored in Port-au-Prince.
Jacobson/AP
A UN peacekeeper yells at a crowd to maintain order while standing guard at a barricade on a road that leads to warehouses where food is stored in Port-au-Prince.

Added to the heartbreak in quake-ravaged Haiti is the uncertain fate of tens of thousands of newly orphaned children.

As aid workers scrambled to set up child-friendly zones in Port-au-Prince, a string of relief groups called for a moratorium yesterday on new adoptions.

They fear the potential for children to be whisked out of the country before they could be reunited with their families.

"The vast majority of the children currently on their own still have family members alive who will be desperate to be reunited with them and will be able to care for them with the right support," said Carolyn Miles of Save the Children.

This week, U.S. officials waived visa requirements for Haitian children already on the path to adoption. That paved the way for Tuesday's arrival in the U.S. of roughly 50 Haitian orphans.

But what will happen to the thousands of children who have lost their parents in the earthquake is still being hammered out, officials say.

"We're not sure right now how it's all going to work," said John VanValkenburg, a spokesman for Bethany Christian Services, one of the nation's largest adoption agencies.

Even before the quake, adopting Haitian children was thorny due to the number of kids in orphanages who still have parents.

"It's not at all uncommon for poor families to put [their kids] in orphanages with a view of getting them back later," said Christopher de Bono, a Unicef spokesman.

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