Editorial: Haitian adoptions require circumspection

By Staff Editorial

Tuesday morning provided a glimpse of light and happiness in a story beset with tragedy…. Tuesday morning provided a glimpse of light and happiness in a story beset with tragedy. Fifty-three young Haitian orphans landed safely in Pittsburgh, away from the destruction of their country and into American arms. New families will — hopefully soon — be able to adopt the children.

Upon landing, the tired children were taken to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC to undergo medical examinations. Fortunately, all were free of significant illness and were provided homey rooms in the hospital to stay in until their adoption or foster-home arrangements are finalized.

The children’s arrival proved a spectacle with abundant media coverageby local and national news agencies. These children are arriving from an orphanage operated by two sisters from Pittsburgh, Jamie and Alie McMutrie. Still, the optimism of this story resonates on a national level.

Amid the spectacle, UPMC’s hospitality was evident. But the hospital remained focused on the national spotlight. While it held general press conferences, UPMC spoke directly with only national media.

UPMC recently closed its longstanding Braddock hospital, citing low patient admittance and inadequate revenue — a move that caused controversy regarding job losses and the hospital’s pivotal role in the community. It seems UPMC had a chance to redeem — shine, even — in the national spotlight. While taking in the Haitian orphans was an act of charity, it was also a very sound political move.

More orphaned Haitians will make their way to Pittsburgh and other cities in the future as willing, open arms seek to provide new homes. Those 53 children were quickly brought here after the U.S. eased its policy on visa requirements on Monday, thus allowing quick refuge and transport for the Haitian orphans.

Thousands more children have been orphaned by the quake’s destruction, and there’s sure to be an influx of families seeking to adopt Haitian orphans. But despite the success story of those 53 children, the process must be carried out carefully. Those 53 children were already on Haiti’s government’s list of 900 known orphans. Although there are now thousands of orphans, there are certainly some families that have been separated in the wake of the disaster.

As part of the reduced visa requirements, the U.S. has agreed to let in children who were partnered with American families for adoption but had not been given a final okay from Haitian officials. The process typically takes three years because the government is cautious — as U.N. officials have pointed out, not all of the approximately 200 orphanages in Haiti are legitimate, and there is potential for child trafficking, according to The New York Times. It seems other countries will also look into adopting orphans. Some of the prospective adopting families of those 53 children are from Canada and Spain, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

No doubt the conditions in Haiti are deplorable and still unsafe — and not just in regard to desperate locals becoming violent. Just yesterday a 5.9 magnitude aftershock trembled Haiti’s already razed buildings and broken ground causing a tremor of fright and unease in locals. Temporary housing outside of the country — alternatively, a group of Catholic leaders suggested orphans be housed in Southern Florida — would be a response for the moment. But amid the still critical situation, efforts should be focused on first trying to reunite families and further stabilizing the country while organizations take time to ensure the safety of the situations children may enter.