Eight orphans from Haiti to join adoptive families

By Lindsay Carroll

Some of the orphans who arrived in Pittsburgh from Haiti yesterday will finally be able to join… Some of the orphans who arrived in Pittsburgh from Haiti yesterday will finally be able to join their adoptive families.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security cleared eight of the children for adoption by five families. The others continue to wait for the department to expedite the immigration process for them, Megan Dardanell, a spokeswoman for Allegheny County, said.

Their finalized adoptions come after a collaboration of the families with politicians, charities, UPMC and local officials to bring the children to Pittsburgh from Haiti. Because of the devastation in Haiti, Homeland Security is working to expedite the adoptions for these families, most of whom began the process prior to last Tuesday’s earthquake.

Fifty-three of the children arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport on Tuesday morning. Local officials transported them to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where they received medical exams and other care. They arrived mostly in good health, although some children had colds or upper respiratory infections. Most of the children were younger than 4, and more than half were younger than 2.

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A 54th child arrived in Pittsburgh around 11:30 a.m. yesterday. Dardanell said Emma, 2, went to Children’s Hospital for her medical examination and went through the same process as the other children. Emma got temporarily lost in Haiti and Jamie McMutrie Heckman, who runs the Haitian orphanage with her sister, waited there to find her and bring her to Pittsburgh.

None of those waiting to adopt are from the Pittsburgh area, Dardanell said. Most of them are Americans from all over the country — places like Md., Wash., Kan., and Colo. One family is from Pa., another is from Spain and more are from Canada.

Dardanell said there is no estimate of how long it will take to process the rest of the orphans for adoption.

“The goal here, obviously, is to get them with their families as soon as possible,” she said.

Part of the issue, Dardanell said, is that the children and their adoptive families are in different steps of the adoption process.

Dardanell said many people have called the county asking about donations, adoption and foster care for the Haitian children. People who want to help can visit the county website at alleghenycounty.us/dhs/haiti.aspx for more information.

Seven children who came to Pittsburgh are not yet in the process of adoption. A representative from the Department of Homeland Security authorized to comment on their status could not be reached as of press time.

Liz Navratil contributed reporting to this story.