In response to the recent earthquake in Haiti, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department have implemented a special process to assist prospective adoptive parents with pending adoption cases in Haiti.  The Humanitarian Parole policy is described in detail in this Fact Sheet issued by DHS.  The policy applies only to children who were orphaned or separated from relatives prior to the earthquake.  More information on adoption from Haiti is available from the State Department here and here.  The New York Times has reported on the current situation in a story by James C. McKinley Jr. and Sean Hamill: “53 Haitian Orphans Are Airlifted to U.S.

On the question of adopting children who may have been orphaned by the earthquake, the State Department has posted this general statement:

Children Affected by Natural Disasters and Conflict

The Department of State receives inquiries from American citizens concerned about the plight of children in areas of conflict and in countries afflicted by natural disasters such as the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, hurricanes, and tsunamis.  Our office shares this concern for children in devastated areas and we understand that some Americans want to respond by offering to open their homes and adopt these children in need.

It can be extremely difficult in such circumstances to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are eligible for adoption.  Children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members during a natural disaster or conflict, and their parents may be looking for them.  It is not uncommon in an emergency or unsettled situation for parents to send their children out of the area, or for families to become separated during an evacuation.  Even when it can be demonstrated that children have indeed lost their parents or have been abandoned, they are often taken in by other relatives in the extended family. 

During times of crisis, it can also be exceptionally difficult to fulfill the legal requirements for adoption of both the U.S. and the child’s country of origin.  This is especially true when civil authority breaks down or temporarily ceases to function.   It can also be difficult to gather documents necessary to fulfill the legal requirements of U.S. immigration law.  There are many ways in which U.S. citizens can help the children in areas of natural disaster or conflict.  For example, individuals who wish to assist can make a financial contribution to a reputable relief or humanitarian organization working in that country.