Office of Refugee Resettlement Haitian Children and Humanitarian

Devastating earthquake hits Haiti at a 7.0 magnitude.
Estimated 92,000-220,000 people killed; many more injured;
great loss of homes and severe damage to infrastructure
1300 schools, 50 health care facilities, and numerous
orphanages were destroyed or significantly damaged
USG concerned for welfare of
children and directed certain
efforts towards those children
in orphanages who were in
adoption process
DHS initiates special Humanitarian Parole (HP) program for Haitian
Orphans, beginning January 18, 2011 and ending April 14, 2010.
Program Criteria: Evidence that prior to 1/12/10, child was:
• (1) legally adopted in Haiti or legally eligible for adoption (e.g., fully
relinquished for purposes of adoption), AND
• (2) matched with U.S. prospective adoptive parent (PAP).
Two categories:
◦ Category 1: Haitian adoption completed; family awaiting completion of process
through U.S. Embassy to secure travel documents for entering U.S..
◦ Category 2: Haitian adoption process begun but not completed; child eligible
for adoption AND matched to U.S. family, i.e., child was in the queue for
adoption prior to January 12, 2010.
At port of entry (Miami), DHS/Customs and
Border Patrol (CBP) reviewed documents and:
(1) If Category 1, CBP released child
to adoptive parent.
(2) If Category 2, CBP released child to HHS/
Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Child transported to His House - an ORR-funded child care
facility - for ORR to process release of child to prospective
adoptive parents. His House provided food/shelter/safety for
children while PAPs met with ORR representatives.
BACKGROUND: To safeguard the welfare of undocumented
children and youth apprehended and detained by Immigration, the
Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA) created the Division of
Unaccompanied Children’s Services (DUCS) placing it in the Office
of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
When an unaccompanied alien child is apprehended by DHS, by law
DHS must transfer the child/youth into ORR/DUCS custody and
care. These children are in immigration proceedings and must
appear before an immigration judge. The HSA (§462(g)) defines
an Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) as a child who:
does not have a lawful immigration status in the United States;
◦ (b) has not attained 18 years of age; and
◦ (c) with respect to whom —
 (i) no parent or legal guardian is in the United States; or
 (ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide
care and physical custody.
Every year, up to 9,000 UACs are transferred by DHS to DUCS
where they are placed in the least restrictive setting and cared for
in one of more than 41 child care facilities nationwide. These are
temporary placements while case plans are created to determine
the next steps.
◦ Some UACs may be eligible for immigration relief, including
asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).
• Some UACs may be repatriated; and
• Other UACs may be released to families or family friends who
serve as sponsors. In 2010, approximately 5000 UACs were
released to sponsors. Releases are only made after strict safety
conditions are met. In certain cases, DUCS may provide postrelease services.
THEREFORE: Haitian children in Category 2 who entered the
U.S. under the humanitarian parole program for Haitian orphans
were deemed to be Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC)
because they were:
◦ (1) under 18 years of age
◦ (2) without a visa or “valid” immigration status (HP is not
considered a lawful immigration status, although the U.S.
government authorizes entry and is aware of the parolee’s
◦ (3) without a parent or legal guardian to take physical custody.
At the port of entry (Miami), DHS/CBP released the Cat2
children into the care and custody of ORR.
ORR met with PAPs at His House (an ORR/DUCS provider). While
staff reviewed home studies, FBI clearances, and identity documents,
PAPs were able to play with the children.
When ORR determined it would be a “safe” release and the documents
indicated that the family appeared able to provide for the physical and
mental well-being of the child, the child was released to the physical
custody of the PAP.
NOTE: The ORR release was based on safety and child well-being and
was not meant to serve as a Federal approval for adoption. Only a court
in the PAP state of residence is authorized to determine whether the
family meets State adoption criteria, i.e., evidence of adoptability
(child is relinquished and eligible for adoption) and evidence that the
family is able to provide for the child’s needs.
370 L’Enfant Promenade, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20447
PAP Name
PAP Address
Re: Placement of [insert child’s name] for the Purpose of Finalizing Adoption
Dear [insert PAP name(s)]:
On behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for
Children and Families (ACF), I write to congratulate you on the wonderful new addition to
your family, and to provide important information that will help you in moving forward swiftly
to finalize the adoption of [insert child’s name] pursuant to the laws of your state of
You have been through a difficult and highly emotional process - identifying a child to adopt,
and securing the necessary clearances and approval from the Government of Haiti and the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for parole of [insert child’s name] into the United
States under the Special Humanitarian Parole Program for Haitian Orphans. As you know,
when your child was paroled into the United States, as an “unaccompanied alien child,” DHS
transferred custody to HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a component of ACF.
You were initially screened to be a sponsor for the child because you were in the process of
adopting [insert child’s name]. Once ORR made a determination that you were able to provide
for the child’s well-being, you qualified as a custodian sponsor under 8 U.S.C. §1232(c)(3)(A).
In making the determination to release [insert child’s name] into your care and custody, ORR
examined the home study, financial and other personal documents you submitted, and
confirmed that FBI criminal background clearances had been obtained. You completed the
ORR Family Reunification Packet, and provided us with suitable verification of your
identification and citizenship. ORR released the child to you with the understanding that you
would finalize the adoption process which you initiated before the earthquake in Haiti on
January 12, 2010. ORR recognizes the authority of the courts in your state of residence to
grant you legal custody of [insert child’s name] and to finalize adoption proceedings in
accordance with your state’s laws. You should now proceed as promptly as is feasible to
complete legal adoption proceedings and to secure formal legal custody in accordance with
the laws of your state. The court will determine whether you meet the criteria required
to assume legal custody of and to adopt [insert child’s name]. If you meet your state’s
criteria, the court may consider this letter to serve as ORR’s formal consent to the
If you need help finding an attorney to help you obtain a custody order or complete the
adoption, you may wish to see the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law
special “Haitian Child Welfare” web page. The web page includes contact information for
lawyers who will have participated in a special ABA internet-based training on the process for
securing adoptions for children who arrived in the United States under the Special
Humanitarian Parole Program for Haitian Orphans
( We also encourage you to check with the
American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (
As you may know, it is possible to complete your international adoption in Haiti. For purposes of this letter,
we assume that you will be completing the adoption in your state.
Your state or local bar association may also have information about attorneys who can
assist you with the adoption requirements in your state. The law of each state may vary
in some respects and you should seek counsel experienced with your state’s procedures.
Please note that your child entered the United States as a parolee and does not yet have
permanent immigration status. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is
issuing letters about the steps that can be taken to regularize your child’s immigration
status and information can be found on the USCIS website at It is very
important that you take the appropriate steps as soon as possible to ensure that your
child may obtain a permanent resident status and United States citizenship.
To create a support network for families with children who came to the United States
under the Special Humanitarian Parole Program for Haitian Orphans, ORR is in the
process of developing a distribution list, and will be providing further information
concerning possible benefits under Federal programs and other supportive services. Your
child has undergone numerous and potentially traumatic changes in the last several
months, including adjusting to a new family, a different language, culture, and new foods.
We strongly encourage you to consult your pediatrician for guidance on your child’s
physical and mental health and to take advantage of supports in your community that can
help both your child and your entire family adjust to these changes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is conducting a survey to find out
about the medical conditions of public health significance seen in children from Haiti
entering the United States after the January 12, 2010 earthquake. CDC has requested
that we ask you to please complete a brief survey found at Your participation is completely
voluntary and confidential and will take about 5-10 minutes of your time. The information
obtained will help CDC better understand and respond to the medical needs of Haitian
adoptees entering the United States.
If you do not wish to participate in the distribution list, or if you have any questions or
concerns about your responsibility towards [insert child’s name], please notify Elaine
Kelley, Associate Director for Child Welfare, at ORR/ACF/HHS, 901 D Street, S.W., 8th
Floor, Washington, D.C. 20447, or [email protected]
Please send us a copy of the adoption decree or legal custody order as soon as it is
finalized. I look forward to hearing from you soon. If you have a picture to spare, it
would brighten our day to receive a copy of that as well. It has been our privilege to have
been part of the process that brought you and your child together. We wish your family
the very best.
Eskinder Negash
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Many families of Cat2 children have successfully completed their U.S.
The Help Haiti Act of 2010 permits a child who entered under the HP
program for Haitian orphans to apply for adjustment of status to
Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR). If adopted by a U.S. citizen
before his/her 18th birthday, the child is deemed to meet the
requirements of sections 320 and 322 of the INA and automatically
become a U.S. citizen and eligible to apply for a Certificate of
Note: Only Haitian children who entered under the special orphan HP
program qualify for the benefits of the Help Haiti Act, i.e., a Haitian
child entering under HP for medical purposes is not eligible.
Unexpected timing for child’s arrival and family not prepared
(financially or otherwise)
Changes in family dynamics
Challenges in securing Social Security Number
Cultural/Language adjustment of children
Issues with school enrollment
Loss of original legal documents
“Independent” adoptions may
lack resources and supports
and others….
Disruption or dissolution of adoption
◦ Several children from disrupted adoptions who have humanitarian parole
have been received back into ORR care to be placed in foster homes with
a goal of adoption, while others have been placed by the original PAPs
with new families who plan to adopt them.
◦ Parents must work with their State courts to dissolve an adoption.
Reasons for disruption/dissolution may include:
◦ Family has financial or personal crisis
◦ Child’s behavior extremely disruptive to family life, i.e., aggressive
and/or violent behaviors toward household members; extreme sibling
conflict, etc.
◦ Child acting out sexually, perpetrating abuse on younger siblings in
Since January, 2010, HHS/ORR has processed releases of more than
650 Cat2 Haitian children to U.S. families in 45 states. The majority
were released to PAPs the same day. DHS has processed approximately
400 Cat1 children, releasing them directly to the PAPs at the airport.
Currently, there are still a few children in the queue to leave Haiti once
their paperwork is completed and they have Haitian passports.
HHS/ORR has also received into custody a small number of Haitian
children evacuated for medical purposes and who entered the U.S. under
humanitarian parole and without a parent or legal guardian. Some have:
◦ returned to Haiti after treatment, when parents indicate they are able to care for them;
◦ others remain in the U.S. to receive further medical attention and to await notification
from their family in Haiti that the family is able to tend to the child’s medical and other
needs upon return home.
Elaine M. Kelley, PhD, MSW
Associate Director for Child Welfare
HHS/ACF/Office of Refugee Resettlement
901 D Street, SW – 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20447
[email protected]

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