Haitian Siblings Survive Earthquake, Meet Their New Family

Kim Segal, CNN, January 19, 2010

[We urge readers to view the remarkable video accompanying this story below.]

Dayana and Moise smile as they shovel chips, with a mix of sand, into their mouths on a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

They dig in the sand and run from the waves.

The Haehre family looks like any other family on vacation, but this unplanned trip to Florida was where their brood grew from two children to four.

Mindy and Oyvind Haehre started the process to adopt siblings Dayana, now 7 years old, and Moise, 5, from a Haitian orphanage in 2008. The adoption was to be completed next month when the family expected to move the children from a Port-au-Prince, Haiti, orphanage to their home in Loveland, Colorado.

But that orphanage partially collapsed in last week’s devastating earthquake. All 25 children there survived, but they had to move out onto the street.

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The Haehres heard that Dayana and Moise might be among a small group of Haitian children whose adoptions were set that the U.S. military would fly to Florida. So they packed up their other two children, Silje and Jakob, and caught a flight to Fort Lauderdale.

On Sunday as they checked into their hotel, the phone rang. It was the call they were hoping for. Their children were indeed among the small group of children from the orphanage being evacuated to the United States.

The flight was heading for an airport in central Florida. The Haehres jumped in their rental car and drove about four hours north.

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Big brother Jakob admitted he didn’t enjoy the drive but said: “I was pretty excited. It was really fun to know that I can bring them home.”

Dayana and Moise were already familiar with their new family. They had met in Haiti several times while the adoption process was slowly moving along.

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“Within probably 10 minutes all four kids were running around the customs area of the airport, playing and being noisy and acting like kids,” Mindy Haehre said.

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A group of 53 Haitian orphans landed in Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning, the first wave to arrive after the United States loosened its policy on visa requirements to expedite Americans’ adoptions of parentless children living in the post-earthquake ruins.

But the new policy, announced late Monday, affects only 900 children whom the Haitian government had already identified as orphans, and whom adoption agencies had matched with couples in the United States.

Tens of thousands of children are believed to have been orphaned in the quake, and their fate remains unclear, aid groups and United Nations officials say.

Catholic leaders in Miami are pushing both governments to have children who appear to be orphaned airlifted to temporary group homes in South Florida. Several aid groups who focus on children, however, say every effort should be made to reunite them with relatives.

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Under the new policy, announced Monday night by the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the United States is waiving visa requirements on humanitarian grounds for Haitian children already in the pipeline for adoption. {snip}

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Homeland Security Department officials said they were walking a fine line, trying to let in bona fide orphans without opening the floodgates to all children who have been separated from their parents.

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