By Andrea Mitchell, NBC News
After expediting adoptions that were in process before the earthquake, the Haitian government has since slowed the adoption process, saying only orphaned children whose cases have been thoroughly investigated will be allowed to leave the country--leaving many potential adoptive parents confused and eager for more information.
Below you'll find the answers to some of the most frequently asked viewer questions.
Paul & Milena Goralski, Kent, WA: Do a man and woman married less than 10 years have a chance of adopting a child(ren) from Haiti?
Andrea Mitchell: Yes, couples married less than ten years can get waivers from Haiti's government, but unfortunately the earthquake has frozen any action on new applications. For the time being, only couples who had previously applied and been matched with a child are being considered. The wait may be long: the United Nations recommends a two-year hiatus before any new adoptions are considered after a natural disaster-a "time out" so that displaced children and distant relatives can be reunited, if possible.
Amy, Everett, PA: How can a couple start this process if paperwork hasn't begun? Should a couple find an international adoption agency? Or has there been a special agency set up for this disaster?
AM: Reputable international adoption agencies will likely advise that Haiti's government has decided to halt all adoptions except for the approximately 1100 that were already underway before the earthquake. This ruling has been endorsed by the United Nations, the State Department and Save the Children because of a high risk that children can be exploited after natural disasters. Unfortunately, in poor countries like Haiti, children are often trafficked, sold for labor, as sex slaves, or otherwise abused. UNICEF has been trying to prevent that from happening in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Susan, Washington, DC: Are there any charitable or other organizations trying to provide encouragement and support to Haitian extended families who take in recently orphaned children so these kids WON'T be adopted and shipped out to other countries? This happened in Aceh. Is it happening in Haiti? A country's children are its future.
AM: You are raising an important issue, the risk that children either orphaned or separated from their extended families will be taken from the country during this crisis. The U.S. embassy is being vigilant about identifiying legitimately adopted children before they can be brought to the U.S. Other countries may be less actively engaged, but UNICEF, Save the Children and other NGOs on the ground are working closely with Haiti's government. Despite the devastation of its own infrastructure and loss of live among civil servants, Haiti is being rigorous about sticking to it's very tough guidelines on adoptions.
Barbara Novak, Pearl City, HI: If you have been married more than 10 years but have two children do you still need to get a waiver to adopt?
AM: Yes, if you are married more than ten years but already have two children you still need a waiver to adopt a child in Haiti. In the past, those waivers have been granted with relative ease. Now that situation has changed, since the immediate focus is on families that were previously matched with children. The freeze on future adoptions could last for several years.
T.W., McPherson, KS: Are there any new adoptions being started for children who were already orphaned or children newly orphaned in Haiti? If so, what's a legitimate organization to contact regarding adoptions? Will the adoption process be as lengthy as Haitian adoptions of the past?
AM: Reputable adoption agencies would tell you that neither the State Department nor Haiti's government are considering new adoption applications at this time. Their primary concern is the safety of children who may have been separated from surviving relatives and need time to be reunited with extended family. Be very careful of any agencies that claim they can help you locate a newly orphaned Haitian child.
Burt & Sue Kidwell: Is it possible to "adopt" a Haitian family and to support them in Haiti? due to our ages, we cannot bring anyone to the U.S. but we could support a child or two with or without their parents.
AM: I don't know of any way to "adopt" a Haitian family, but the Red Cross and other aid groups are eager for any cash contributions that can help buy food, water, medical supplies and other desperately needed aid. The State Department's website has information on where to send contributions.
Valerie Arnold, Valdosta, GA: Is the U.S. Government going to help expedite adoption of Haitian orphans without all the red tape/waiting? Are they going to provide assistance in the way of monthly stipends, and medicaid to help assist Americans who are willing to give a home to a Haitian orphan?
AM: The U.S. government has been expediting paperwork for children already matched with families before the earthquake. This includes finding ways to grant visas even if the child's paperwork was lost in the earthquake. Once a child is adopted there is no special assistance related to the earthquake other than the usual government programs for which an adoptive family would otherwise qualify.
Bridget Browning, Egg Harbor, WI; Will there be some sort of waiting list to adopt the children who have become orphaned in the quake? I am single and have a home and would love to provide a home for one of these orphans. It sounds like this will not be possible from your report. I would sign up for a waiting list if there was some hope of these children coming here someday in the future. Please advise.
AM: Because of the dimensions of the crisis, Haiti's government and the State Department are limiting themselves to focusing on the children who are already matched with American families. Unfortunately, although people like yourself are eager to help, Haiti and the U.S. government are not creating a waiting list at this time.
Anonymous, Lima, Ohio: Will the children who were already identified as orphans and available for adoption prior to the earthquake be available to be adopted if there are families working with the orphanage and matched after the earthquake?
AM: For the time being, children identified as orphans are not being made available to families working with agencies, unless there was a previous match between family and child.
Anonymous: What are the ages of the children? what are the costs of the adoption? What are the requirements on the interested parents that want to adopt the children?
AM: The children are of all ages, from infancy to teenagers. Costs vary widely, especially in the current circumstances.Unfortunately, parents who are just beginning this process will have to wait several years before adoptions can resume. Interested parents must be married ten years, more than 19 years older than the child they are adopting, and not have other children - although Haiti's government often waives those requirements.
Christina Pierson, La Mesa, CA: Can an older single woman adopt a child from Haiti?
AM: An older single woman would need to get a waiver from Haiti's government before being able to adopt a child. I think at this time it would be difficult to get permission, because new adoptions are not being considered at this time.
Ellen Lanse, Silver City, New Mexico: My husband and I are older and are grandparents but we really want to adopt or foster Haitian children to give them a loving secure home and a chance to be all they can be, going to school etc. I don't know if we are too old to qualify.
AM: I don't know of an age limit that would disqualify you and your husband, but Haiti's government is not considering new applicants for children until they determine whether there are surviving relatives. This may take several years to sort out, according to U.S. officials.
David Schoening, Fernandina Beach, FL: Can parents with existing children qualify for Haitian adoptions?
AM: Many families with existing children have been approved to adopt children from Haiti. However, new applicats are not being considered during the current emergency. U.S. officials say this may take several years to sort out.
Meghan, Worcester, MA: As I understand it, the Haitian government has strict guidelines as to who can/can not adopt children. Will Haiti ease the adoption requirements as a result of the earthquake?
AM: You are correct, Haiti's government has very strict guidelines as to who can or cannot adopt children. The government is expediting paperwork for previously approved families, with the assistance of consular officers from the U.S. embassy. However, they are not considering new applications at this time.
Alexandra Honeyghan, Ardmore, Alabama: My husband and I will be married 6 year in April. We have no children, have steady jobs for over five years, own our home home, and we are liscenced foster parents for Madison County in Alabama. I am Haitian-Americian born in NY. My husband is Jamaican. We would like to adopt a child from Haiti. Do we qualify? How much does it cost to file paperwork? How long does it usually take for the adoption process to complete? Thank you.
AM: Haiti is not approving new adoptions at this time - other than for families who were previously approved. State department officials say that it may take several years before this will change, unfortunately.
Mary, Fairport, NY: Is there a different process for bringing pre teen and teen orphaned children to the US from Haiti? They may or may not need or want to be formally adopted.
AM: The process is the same for all minor children, including pre-teens and teen orphaned children. They are only matched with families through formal adoptions.
Barbara Lanciers, Brooklyn, NY: Can single people or gay and lesbian couples adopt from Haiti?
AM: Single parents actually CAN adopt from Haiti -- the single parent just has to meet age and other standard requirements. But, that doesn't change the fact that neither Haiti nor the U.S. State Department are considering new applications right now.
Karen, Brooklyn, NY: I have a completed, sealed dossier for Haiti and an I-171H approval, but was waiting for a referral when the earthquake struck. Am I far enough along in the process to hold out hope for still adopting from Haiti?
AM: The State Department Consular Affairs Office says that "Karen" should contact them directly at AskCI@state.gov about her situation.