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Earthquake upends adoption process

HOMESTEAD — Pascale Francis is waiting for the green light to go to Port-au-Prince to bring her baby home.

There, the Homestead nurse hopes to reunite with Charly, a 4-month-old she and her husband, Jacques, are in the process of adopting.

For now, Charly is staying with her cousin, Eline Jean-Francois. They are camping outside the destroyed home of the in-laws of Jean-Francois’s son.

Survival is getting harder. Wednesday’s aftershock leveled a house nearby. Her family in Haiti has no money and getting water has been a “mission,” said Francis, 41.

“I’m hoping we are only a phone call away. I have a bag ready,” she told reporters Thursday at Homestead Hospital, where she works.

“I’m extremely thankful that Charly is alive, while at the same time I’m deeply saddened by the tremendous loss of life in my homeland,” said Francis, one of 16 children. She immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 1990 at age 25 to live with her sister.

She and her husband began the adoption process last September shortly after Charly was born. They expected it to take 18 months before last week’s earthquake upended Haiti. It took 26 months to get Lourdes-Miah, 3, whom they adopted in 2008.

Recent U.S. policies have given them hope.

On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the federal government was granting humanitarian paroles to hundreds of Haitian orphans, who were waiting to be adopted by Americans before the earthquake.

The policy will be used on a case-by-case basis. It applies to children deemed eligible for inter-country adoption by the Haitian government and who are being adopted by U.S. citizens. It also helps children previously identified as eligible for adoption outside Haiti and who have been matched with U.S. citizens.

“The laws governing internal adoption have not changed,” U.S. Air Ops director, Col.

Buck Eldon, said at a briefing Thursday in Port-au-Prince. “What has changed in this situation are those children who had been matched with adoptive parents have been moved as quickly as we could to join those parents. We do not want people who would take advantage to get into this process. Strict vetting will continue.”

A Bond of Love, an 18-year adoption business in Sarasota and the only local company in Manatee and Sarasota counties, has been receiving calls during the past few days from people interested in adopting Haitian children left homeless and parentless after the quake.

“We don’t do international adoptions so the only thing we can do is refer them to a company in Orlando,” said Suzanne Martin, executive director. “It’s very wonderful that people want to do this.”

On Tuesday, a flight brought 54 children, bound for adoptive parents, to Pittsburgh.

The children had been living in an orphanage run by two nuns based in Pittsburgh.

On Friday night, a Vision Airlines flight will bring children from For His Glory Maison des Enfants de Dieu orphanage near Port-au-Prince to Miami International Airport.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s office has been helping the Francis family, said spokeswoman Adriana Pereira.

When the 7.0 earthquake hit last week, Francis’ cousin was about to feed baby Charly.

They huddled in the doorway of the cousin’s bedroom as the house shook violently.

Meanwhile, Francis was with her sister in Miami, buying an outfit for Charly’s christening in Haiti that was set for Valentine’s Day.

“I pray to God that I will be able to bring Charly home as soon as possible,” she said.