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Quake leaves parents' adoption dreams in limbo

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Jill Lear has decorated bedrooms waiting for the nine-year-old boy and girl she calls her son and daughter even though she hasn't brought them home from Haiti. Kim Lewen wants to wrap her arms around the two smiling girls she left at an orphanage last fall with a promise to return.

Though both know their children are safe after the magnitude seven earthquake that devastated Haiti this week, what they don't know is when they'll be able to proceed with their dream of bringing the children to the United States. They fear for their children's safety in the days to come, and that their months-long effort to adopt the children could be stalled by the chaos.

"I have this bed sitting there with a doll and a teddy bear, and little pink daisies, and she is in an orphanage with 150 kids without water tonight," said Lear, of Watertown, SD.

The earthquake has thrown US adoptive families into a state of limbo. Many are finding themselves mired in a desperate search for answers about how their children are faring. Some fear paperwork - which can take months or years to finalise - may be buried or lost forever in crumpled buildings, stalling the adoption process for good.

number of adoptions growing

Adoptions from Haiti make up a fraction of international adoptions to the United States each year, but the number has been growing steadily as countries such as China and Guatemala have slowed or closed to international adoption in recent years. The US State Department issued 330 immigrant visas to Haitian children last year, up from 96 in 1999.