Most Have Homes, But Some Haitian Orphans Still In Shelters


In the middle of a snowstorm nearly a year ago, a planeload of 54 Haitian children landed in Pennsylvania as part of an airlift of orphans stranded by the powerful earthquake that devastated their country.

They were taken to Pittsburgh's Holy Family Institute, where they were thrilled by the flush toilets, running water and plentiful food, said the institute's president and CEO, Sister Linda Yankoski.

Their stay at the facility for troubled or abused children was supposed to be temporary, just until U.S. adoptive families took them in, she said.

Wednesday is the first anniversary of the Haiti quake, and by now most of those children have moved into adoptive homes, as have hundreds of others around the country who arrived in similar airlifts.

But many spent months in federal custody -- some even experiencing their second winter detained in shelters in Pennsylvania and Florida, still waiting for their lives in America to truly begin.

"They are confused, they feel rejected, they wonder what's going to happen to them and whether they are ever going to be with a family as they were promised," said Michelle Abarca, a lawyer with the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, which is representing some of the children who were taken to Miami.

"They faced rejection in Haiti, rejection here. It's all rejection."

The children's complex legal status unfolded because they were airlifted out of Haiti in the midst of a crisis, believed to be orphans in the process of being adopted by U.S. parents. The plan was to finish the adoptions in the United States, an unusual exception to international adoption protocol.