MIAMI — Six Haitian orphans completed a whirlwind journey Wednesday when they landed in Miami and were united with their new parents, four days after Haitian police seized them and sent them to a tent city because of fears they were being kidnapped.
"They're very calm," Sabrina Sosa of a children's home helping with accommodations said. "I guess they're still in some kind of shock."
The orphans were headed to the Port-Au-Prince airport Saturday when a group of 20 men blocked four women accompanying the children, shouting, "You can't take our children!" Police briefly detained the women, and the orphans — ages 1 to 5 — spent three nights sleeping on the ground in a tent city. The U.S. Embassy official carrying the documents needed to take them through immigration had been running late.
The children were with their adoptive parents and being bathed and fed a typical Haitian meal of brown beans, chicken, rice and plantains, said Sosa, of His House Children's Home.
Fears of child trafficking have made it harder than ever for impoverished Haitian children to be adopted. Last month, 10 U.S. missionaries trying to take a busload of 33 children to the Dominican Republic without proper documentation were arrested. It turned out none of the children were orphans, and two Americans remain in jail in Port-au-Prince.
A judge hearing their case said Wednesday that he expects to decide their fate this week.
In a case involving an orphan rescue organized by Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, the federal government has asked the American Red Cross to trace the family ties of 12 children among 53 flown to Pittsburgh on Jan. 18.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center consultant Leslie McCombs said the children all had documents signed by at least one parent and Haitian court officials surrendering custody. But she said they didn't have American families waiting for them, which was part of federal guidelines established the day those children left Haiti.
Thousands of desperate Haitian parents, unable to care for their own children, have eagerly given the youngsters away in hopes of giving them a better life. At the same time, they are terrified they will be tricked by predators who will enslave or sexually abuse the children.
Haiti's government immediately halted new adoptions in the chaos that followed the Jan. 12 quake, allowing only those already approved to move forward.
In Miami, two awaiting parents, Josh and Katy Manges, had been in the process of adopting 2-year-old Malachi since he was a few months old. Born with a deformity in his thigh bone, the boy was abandoned at a Haitian hospital when he was just a few weeks old.