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Dutch plane sent to pick up adopted Haiti children

January 18, 2010

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - Dutch adoption agencies and the government sent a chartered plane to Haiti on Monday to airlift out more than 100 children who were in the process of being adopted by parents here before an earthquake shattered the country last week.

Justice Ministry spokesman Patrick Mikkelsen said all 109 children were in the process, before the quake, of being adopted through two respected Dutch agencies.

"We do not simply pick up children from the streets and bring them to Holland to be adopted," he said.

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin agreed to speed up the procedure because of the humanitarian situation in Haiti following last Tuesday's earthquake, which left tens of thousands dead.

Mikkelsen said he was not aware of any other European countries performing such an airlift.

Neither of the adoption agencies involved immediately returned calls seeking comment.

One of them, Wereldkinderen Dutch for World Children said on its Web site that it helped link 28 of the children with Dutch parents, many of them more than 18 months ago.

The organization said it had medics and a psychologist on the plane to care for the children and a team of trauma specialists will meet them at the airport when they arrive in the Netherlands.

The 109 children include nine who were in the process of being adopted but have not yet been assigned Dutch parents, Mikkelsen said. Those nine will be placed in foster families until permanent parents can be found.

Fifty-six children were awaiting travel documents when the quake hit. The remaining 44 already had been matched to parents but were still waiting for a Haitian judge to approve their adoptions.

Mikkelsen said the top Dutch diplomat in Haiti had met with the country's president and prime minister, who gave approval for the children to be brought to the Netherlands.

It is rare for Dutch children to be put up for adoption, so many prospective parents look overseas. Mikkelsen said that, in 2008, 767 children were adopted from overseas, including 91 from Haiti. More children 299 came from China than from any other country.

In France, Haiti is the main source of overseas children for adoptions, and families in the midst of the lengthy process are urging the government to speed it up.

On Sunday, several dozen women lined up plastic mineral water bottles in front of the Foreign Ministry bearing the names, and sometimes photos, of children they plan to adopt.

Christine Citerne, one of the would-be adoptive mothers, said she hoped the French would "follow the beautiful example of Holland."

The Foreign Ministry said it does not plan to accelerate the process, but said children for whom the Haitian procedures are complete will be brought to France "as quickly as possible."

There were 731 adoptions of Haitian children in France in 2008, compared to 403 in 2007, the ministry said.

Italy's International Adoptions Commission said there are no pending adoption cases in Haiti. But the commission has been flooded with e-mails and calls inquiring about adopting children from the devastated island.

The commission said in a statement that, in cases of natural disasters, wars or other catastrophes, it is best to wait for the situation to return to a semblance of normality to check that children are really orphaned or abandoned.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ozlem Canel said the plane from Amsterdam was carrying relief workers and supplies as well as adoption agency staff, immigration and consular officials. It was expected to arrive in Port-Au-Prince in the early afternoon.

Canel said consular workers will check the children's identities and give them travel documents.

If possible, they will be flown to the Netherlands on the same plane, arriving as early as Wednesday.

However, Canel said communications are still very patchy in Haiti following and it was not clear how quickly the children could be gathered together from several different children's homes in Port-Au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti.



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