Family Law

Haiti Quake Shakes Up Adoptions

After 38 months, the paperwork was finally complete Monday on an Arizona couple’s planned adoption of a 7-year-old boy from Haiti.

But Tuesday the courthouse crumbled in the country’s massive earthquake. The adoption decree is somewhere in the rubble. And, worse, Heather and Jason Goracke weren’t even sure that their new son, Evens Paul, was even alive, reports the Arizona Republic.

They quickly got good news about that—he and the other 26 children in his Haitian orphanage all survived. However, his lawyer is missing. The Gorackes hope that he survived, too—and has a copy of the adoption decree. Otherwise, the future is uncertain.

“We have to get him out of there,” Heather Goracke says of Paul, “but there’s really no normal legal process to do it right now.”

Officials are scrambling simply to find food, water and other needed supplies for orphans and other residents of the country, and both in Haiti and in the United States the legalities of dealing with children whose adoptions were nearly finalized are unclear, the Republic reports.

Families who have an adoption decree may be able to get the United States government to agree to allow the child into this country on an emergency basis, the newspaper says. However, officials swamped with emergency issues may be hard-pressed to find time to focus on adoptions anytime soon.

A New York couple trying to adopt two Haitian children has similar concerns. They suffered a setback earlier in their two-year quest when, in a tragedy unrelated to the earthquake, their Haitian lawyer was kidnapped and murdered, reports the Buffalo News.

Now, as a result of the earthquake, they may have lost the adoption paperwork.

Unless a United States official can help, “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” says the Rev. Charles “Chuck” Whited. He himself survived the quake this week while in a Haitian orphanage along with a missionary group from his church in Tonawanda, N.Y.

Additional and related coverage:

Associated Press: “Children are safe, but US parents’ adoption dreams are buried in rubble of Haiti earthquake” “US Deportations to Haiti Halted After Devastating Earthquake” “ABA Prez Calls for Haiti Donations After ‘Heartbreaking’ Quake; BigLaw Gives Big Money”

Texas Lawyer: “Haiti Veteran, Former Akin Gump Associate Discusses What Lawyers Can Do to Help”

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