As the humanitarian disaster continues to unfold in Haiti, one of the most vulnerable populations are the orphans. Before the earthquake, 15% of the country's children were orphaned or abandoned. In Port-au-Prince there were 380,000 orphans alone. Post earthquake, that number could double.
The orphanages are severely damaged and under staffed following the disaster. A realistic fear remains likely that a second wave of casualties will ravage this vulnerable population if they are not evacuated from Haiti as soon as possible.
The formal process for adopting a Haitian child can take up to 18 months. Clearly, the formalities of the past do not adequately address the emergency these children face today.
The LGBT community responded to the crisis in Haiti with a profoundly open heart. The Rainbow World Fund continues to send resources as contributions come in to increase their initial give of $35,000. They've raised an additional $75,000 in less than a week.
As our community continues to evaluate ways we can help, I know some of you may wish to open your homes and hearts to one or more of Haiti's orphans.
International adoptions for the LGBT community are complicated and require the advice of a specialized family attorney. Most countries prohibit the adoption of children by LGBT families. However, single parent adoptions are a loophole commonly used by prospective LGBT parents. Haiti offers such an option.
The HRC explains:
The landscape of international adoption by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families is quite complex. At this time, no country will knowingly allow placement of a child with a same-sex couple. And although not all countries have explicit laws prohibiting adoption by GLBT individuals, the majority of countries will not place children with single parents whom they know to be GLBT. Thus, when a same-sex couple pursues international adoption, they must identify one person who will be the "adopter," and the entire process is based upon a single-parent adoption model.
Some couples can tolerate this process better than others. It typically requires the couple to misrepresent themselves to an adoption agency, a home study social worker, an attorney and other professionals involved in the adoption process. It also requires that just one member of the couple functions as the "adoptive parent," which means that although both parents fully intend to raise a child together, only the adopting parent's income, health insurance, family background, parenting capacities, etc. are part of the application and home study. If second-parent adoption is available where you live, you can pursue that legal process once you finalize the adoption from another country, hence granting both of you legal status as equal parents.
The bureaucratic processes of the past are impossible under current conditions. Considering the humanitarian crisis Haiti faces, the United States, Canada, and Europe, should open their boarders and hearts to these helpless children. The State Department should facilitate a streamlined process for families of all shapes and sizes, including LGBT families, to foster or adopt Haitian orphans.
Currently adoption laws are mostly governed by the states. Some orphans are trickling into Florida, but Florida prohibits lesbians and gays from adopting. They can foster children, but they can not adopt.
Other states are far more progressive and fair minded. Washington allows gay and lesbian adoptions, and with the approval of Referendum 71 eliminated the costly home study gay and lesbians couples once had to pay during second parent adoptions.
Irrational fears about LGBT families should not guide a new emergency policy to process Haiti's orphans. LGBT families should not have to lie about who they are in order to open their homes, and save a life.
Despite this urgent need, the Obama administration does not appear to be lifting immigration restrictions to Haitians or their orphans any time soon. A stern warning was issued to Haitians to discourage them from trying to seek refuge in the United States. And yet, as the situation deteriorates, who can blame the Haitians for trying to save their own lives by leaving for a country with so much to offer?
Unfortunately, survival instincts alone will not help Haiti's orphans. As governments determine how to best handle the humanitarian crisis, interested same sex families should immediately consult an attorney to get the ball rolling.
You should also contact your representatives and ask them to support the "Every Child Deserves a Family Act" which will open up adoption to same sex families nationwide.
Hopefully, bureaucratic tape will won't strangle the process while those most in need are left to fend for themselves.
For more information and attorney referrals check out HRC's adoption portal.
You should also check out the Family Equality Council for important information about LGBT adoptions and pending federal legislation. http://familyequality.org/