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Home from Haiti

The 1,000 or so children who were in the adoption process when the earthquake struck were granted humanitarian parole to join their families in the U.S. One family talks about their happy ending against the backdrop of utter tragedy.

Kim Rhodes visited Haiti during high school, and the experience changed her life. "Since that trip, my heart has always been drawn to Haiti," she says. She had an opportunity to travel back to the country in May of 2008, and she and her husband, Dave, applied to adopt soon after. The couple was about 10 months into the process of adopting, and had received their referral for the little boy they had already named Frankie, when the earthquake hit.

Economic conditions in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, had created an enormous number of orphaned children even before the January 12 earthquake.

Americans immediately began contacting U.S. adoption agencies in droves, but, as in the case of any natural disaster, new adoptions from Haiti halted for an undetermined length of time. A January 14 State Department notice explained: "It can be extremely difficult in such circumstances to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are eligible for adoption." Currently, families wishing to adopt from Haiti are advised to wait and see how things develop.

Amazingly, they knew within 20 minutes that Frankie was OKóan employee at the orphanage, Heartline Ministries, updated his Facebook statusóbut worried that their process would be stalled for years. Kim joined with the families and organizations pushing for humanitarian parole for children in the adoption process or who had been identified as orphans at the time of the earthquake, and, on January 23, the Rhodes were able to bring Frankie home.

"We thought we had another year in the process, so there are a lot of books we haven't read," says Rhodes. But, of course, she wouldn't trade having Frankie home for anything. "We're not so naÔve that we don't expect some hurdles down the road, but we'll take them as they come."

The transition has been smoother than they anticipated. "It's almost as if Frankie's always been here," says the new mom of three. "I think it has a lot to do with the way we involved our daughters in the process. There hasn't been a day since we've known about Frankie that we haven't prayed for him or talked about him. The only difference is that now he's here."

As this issue went to press, the Haitian government had imposed new requirements for children leaving the country under humanitarian parole, which added time to the process. "Our story has a happy ending," says Rhodes, "but we're very aware of the many families who are still in limbo."

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