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Caring for Haiti’s Children

The country's earthquake focuses more attention on its orphans.

Before Haiti's earthquake, the CIA World Factbook recorded 38.1 percent of Haiti's population at 14 years and younger. Many were already orphans. Many more are newly orphaned, roaming the streets.

When Reuters reported on the religious songs rising into the night from groups of people huddled together, the reporter said that despite the songs, "the jarring shrieks and sobs of injured children – some lying in the street clutching bloody gashes – are a haunting reminder of the untended suffering in Haiti."

The Rescue Center of Real Hope for Haiti posted photos of two children pulled from the rubble of their school the day after the earthquake. The children could not remember their names or parents. No one has come looking for them.

20/20 posted a series on the children of Haiti, already at risk before the earthquake.

Orphans spared

Diane Sawyer interviewed Lisa Buxman of Heartline ministries for ABC News. When the walls of the orphanage where Lisa worked collapsed, she moved the 20 children into her home. Buxman writes that since the interview, the children have returned to the girls' home.

"It can't be anything but a miracle," said pastor Jean Paul, a former New York City cab driver told NJ.com after his church and dining hall roof flattened the building. The 56 children are fine because supper was late. "We have lost everything and yet we have lost nothing," he says. Paul was an orphan in Haiti until a Presbyterian missionary took him to Brooklyn. Seven years ago he returned at the urging of a recurring dream to form Reformation Hope in La Plaine, just outside of Port-au-Prince, which includes an orphanage and micro-enterprise projects.

One week ago, Lifechurch in Allentown, Pennsylvania, showed a video of the children in the church-sponsored orphanage in Port-au-Prince. Tuesday they did not know who had survived. On Friday, MSNBC reported that a mission team from the church arrived at the orphanage in the night – to be greeted by shouts of welcome from the 11 children and four staff members sleeping in the garden.

Haitian adoptions in limbo

As adoptive parents in the U.S. await news of their Haitian orphans, one father-to-be flew from Nashville to Port-au-Prince to be with his daughter. As MSNBC reports in this video, the Haitian court must approve all adoptions. That court has collapsed.

Dixie Bickel, director of God's Littlest Angels orphanage outside Port-au-Prince, told CNN that paperwork could be buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings. "I would like to see the international community come up with a plan for the children that have been adopted by European, Canadian, and American citizens of how these children can go to their adoptive parents' countries, either under refugee status or emergency status of some sort," she said. Her hope is that it would not only speed adoptions, but also open beds for new orphans.

Adoption.com cautions people wanting to adopt the new orphans in Haiti that the process won't be easy. "[W]e want to reiterate that it can be extremely difficult in these circumstances to determine the eligibility of children for intercountry adoption."

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