Haitian officials turn six orphans over to US officials

Adoptions will go on as planned

STOPPED AT THE AIRPORT An angry group stopped the orphans and their escorts, yelling ‘You can’t take our children,’ said Sarah Thacker. STOPPED AT THE AIRPORT
An angry group stopped the orphans and their escorts, yelling ‘You can’t take our children,’ said Sarah Thacker.
By Frank Bajak
Associated Press / February 24, 2010

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haiti has handed US officials six orphans its police seized over the weekend as they were about to board a plane for the United States, a top Haitian official said yesterday.

Social Welfare agency chief Jeanne Bernard Pierre would not say when her office transferred the children to the US Embassy.

A spokeswoman for US Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who intervened on behalf of the four women trying to escort the orphans out of Haiti, said the children were cleared to depart Haiti by all the required government agencies.

They are scheduled to leave this afternoon for new homes and families in the United States.

News of the hand-over followed a meeting between US Ambassador Kenneth Merten and Haiti’s prime minister.

The children, ages 1 to 5, were seized by police Saturday after an angry crowd accosted the women escorting them at the airport in Port-au-Prince.

Their seizure - despite apparently complete legal paperwork - occurred as many Haitians fear that foreigners are exploiting post-earthquake chaos to illegally take children from the country.

The perception was fueled by a case involving 10 US Baptist missionaries who were stopped while trying to take 33 children across the border without the permission of Haitian officials.

The six children halted on Saturday came from the Children of The Promise orphanage in the northern city of Cap-Haitien and were bound for Miami, where adoptive parents were waiting.

As they emerged from taxis at the airport accompanied by four women, a group of about 20 Haitian men accosted them, blocked their path, and called police, said adoptive mother Sarah Thacker of Fergus Falls, Minn.

“It was by far the scariest moment of my life,’’ Thacker said. “It was just automatic screaming, ‘You can’t take our children!’ ’’

A US Embassy official bearing documents signed by Haiti’s prime minister - which are required to take children out of the country and get them through US immigration in Miami - arrived late, after the group was in police custody, said Stephanie Anderson of Homer, Ala., one of the escorts.

The women were all detained by police but released several hours later.

A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity, said the Children of The Promise snag has held up the departure to the United States of 50 Haitian orphans, all with their papers in order.

Jan Bonnema, the Minnesota-based founder of the Cap-Haitien orphanage, said all the orphans in the Children of The Promise orphanage “have been in our care since they were infants.’’