Post-quake snag slows adoptions from Haiti



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Posted on March 29, 2010 at 10:10 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 30 at 5:48 PM

PARKER COUNTY — Two-year-old Eva Barnes shapes a glob of blue clay into a necklace and says, "Play-Doh. Play-Doh." Then she looks up and clearly asks, "Go outside?"

Eva is wasting no time picking up the vocabulary of the all-American toddler, even though she's just two months out of an orphanage in Haiti, where she spoke mainly Creole French.

John and Christi Barnes of Weatherford are in the long process of adopting Eva. They're one the lucky few couples who got their child out of Haiti after the devastating earthquake through a program called "humanitarian parole." The U.S. government used it to evacuate orphans quickly.

But the program applies only to families who began their adoptions before the quake hit.

"When she came, it was so quick," John Barnes said. "Everything just happened and doors flew open. We have the other people waiting in line, 17 or 18 families. All of a sudden it's closed."

Humanitarian parole and adoptions were temporarily halted after the arrest of an Idaho church group in January for taking kids out of Haiti without proper documents. Some of the children turned out not to be orphans at all.

But the kids at Eva's orphanage were there before the quake. Nineteen of them have homes waiting for them with a group of Parker County families who are growing desperate to get them to Texas.

"The greatest thing about this is if we get all our kids together in Parker County, they don't get separated; they get to stay together," said adoptive mom Amber Bachelier.

Their spirits rose two weeks ago when Haiti reopened adoptions. But the Parker County families still can't get their kids, because they didn't commit to adopt them until after the earthquake.

They might have to wait two or three years.

Rochelle McKinley holds up a photo of a little girl. "This is Guyelle," she said. "This is our daughter. We don't have her yet. She'll be six years old tomorrow."

Heather Skipper also has a photo of the child she's trying to bring to Texas. "This is our little Sonya. She's six."

The prospective parents say it's critical to get the children out now, before Haitian orphanages are overwhelmed by earthquake refugees.

"Now it's time to see it's not humane," says McKinley. "These children are dying over there."

A Michigan congressman has introduced a bill to expand humanitarian parole. House Bill 4603 by Rep. Pete Hoekstra is called the Hope Act. Hopeful adoptive parents are trying to whip up support.

"Those are our children," Bachelier said. "We need to do whatever it takes to bring them home."

Back at the Barnes home, Eva holds out a loop of Play-Doh for her dad. "Bracelet Daddy?"

Other adoptive parents see Eva and think of what could be. So do John and Christi Barnes. They returned to the orphanage last month with food and supplies. They had to leave Eva's playmates behind.

Christi Barnes recalled a painful exchange with one child who asked, "Do you love Eva?" "Yes," Barnes replied.

"Do you love me?" the child asked. "Yes," Barnes said.

"Are you going to take me home, too?" the youngster asked.

John and Christi Barnes said it was a difficult moment. But life is getting easier each day for Eva — playing with her brother, who's also adopted; cleaning her plate at every meal; Learning to like shoes.

And feeling secure enough to even smile at goodbye, and add a cheerful "see you later!"