Family Law

Haitian ‘Baby Lift’ Brings Legal Limbo as Skeptical Judges Question Adoptions


Legal requirements that had stymied some U.S. adoptions of Haitian children went by the wayside after an earthquake devastated the county and the United States lifted visa requirements for kids in the process of being adopted by Americans.

The effort “quickly evolved into a baby lift unlike anything since the Vietnam War,” the New York Times reports. The immigration program called humanitarian parole brought about 1,150 Haitian children to the United States, more than the entire number adopted here in the last three years.

According to the Times, adoptions under the program “were expedited regardless of whether children were in peril, and without the screening required to make sure they had not been improperly separated from their relatives or placed in homes that could not adequately care for them.”

Now some judges are reluctant to approve the adoptions without more proof of how and why the children are here, leaving the children in “legal limbo,” the story says. At least 12 Haitian children were never matched with new families, and they have been housed for months in a Pennsylvania juvenile care center. Others are in foster care after potential parents changed their minds about adoptions.

Some parents are able to satisfy judges without the usual legal documentation. One Kansas lawyer told the newspaper of his efforts to learn whether a Haitian boy was actually an orphan. He took out announcements on Haitian radio advising the boys’ relatives to come forward if they wanted to claim him. That was enough for the judge overseeing the adoption.

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