Mid-South Adoption Agencies Fielding Calls About Haitian Orphans

MEMPHIS, TN – Thousands of children in Haiti need families since the earthquake that devastated the country. Mid-South adoption agencies say calls have been pouring in since the earthquake hit. Adoptions that were interrupted by the quake may get some help from the federal government, but people interested in adopting now face a lot of hurdles.

The calls have already started pouring in at Bethany Christian Services, a private agency that handles domestic and international adoptions.

“Just in the last couple of days we’ve received about 10 phone calls here locally in Memphis,” said Elizabeth Burton, the agency’s executive director. “Families are responding to what just happened in Haiti.”

Families want to open their homes permanently to orphans, but international adoptions are complicated even in the best of times.

“It’s important to know that right now, with the chaos and the grief and everything that’s going on, the priority right now is the children that are already free for adoption,” Burton said.

This week the Department of Homeland Security announced the United States will, for humanitarian reasons, grant visa waivers to Haitian children who were in the process of getting adopted.

“Just today visas were granted for almost 60 children at God’s Littlest Angels, who were already identified as orphans and free for adoption to travel to the U.S. on humanitarian parole,” Burton said, referring to one of two orphanages in Haiti that partner with her agency.

But for other families who want to adopt, “it will not happen fast,” said David Jordan, executive director of AGAPE Child & Family Services, Inc. “If you’re not already in the process, it will not happen fast.”

Even children who eventually find homes in the U.S. face a tough road, Jordan said.

“Maybe they weren’t an orphan at the time [of the earthquake], and you lost your parents and you became an orphan now so you have all these loss issues,” he said.

The uncertainty that clouds the future of the orphans also haunts their past.

“The government has to make sure that these children are true orphans and that they truly are available for adoption,” Burton said. Still, she said those who want to give these children homes shouldn’t be discouraged.

“It is important to go in with your eyes open to know that it’s going to take some time,” Burton said.

Jordan said “the need is still there.”

“I don’t want to discourage any family that wants to adopt,” he said. “The important part is to listen to your heart, make that call, then go through the discernment process to discern is this really right for me and my family.”

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