Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update from Safe Families National Director, David Anderson

I thought I would update you on our current knowledge of the Haiti situation. If you've been following the news, you probably know:

  • 150,000 confirmed dead with estimates of 200,000 total
  • 194,000 injured
  • 3 million affected
  • 800,000 to 1 million displaced
  • 300,000 children below 2 yo in need of critical nutrition

These are staggering numbers. Although searches are still going on, efforts are expanding to meet basic needs of food and water. Flights into and out of Haiti are increasing as well. They are now projecting 130 - 150 flights per day. United will again be flying charter missions later this week to drop off supplies and bring back people.

I've also learned a lot about the State Department. Illinois had us prepare for what they thought would be a surge of Haitian children starting last week and possibly continuing on for a period of time. This weekend, I was contacted via phone and email by a number of orphanges who were seeking assistance in extracting children. However, as time has gone on, it appears as though the State Department is standing firm on only allowing US residents or Haitians with pre-approved Visas to enter the States. They did ease some immigration restrictions by expediting children who were already in the pipeline to be adopted and had a family identified. So far, 263 orphans have been evacuated and connected with adoptive families. However, as of yesterday, the US embassy in Haiti halted the evacuation of orphans who were already in the pipeline to be adopted, per David Levanthal from Hope for the Orphans. Paul Pennington from Hope for the Orphans was in Haiti at the US Embassy yesterday with 20 children who were pre-approved for adoption and had awaiting families. They were told that the evacuation of those children is on hold. Paul returned to the states last night.

So... until the State Department eases immigration standards, that's where we are. However, they are routinely reviewing these decisions and changes may occur depending on need and capacity. Recent statements by the State Department indicate their commitment to provide support to Haitians in their own country. We've had discussions with DCFS yesterday about providing short-term care (6 months) to help alleviate some of the suffering. This was well received. However, until the State Department eases standards, this probably won't be an option.

Thanks so much for your interest. Keep praying for the people of Haiti and for wisdom for people in the State Department. The Christian Industrial League and the Red Cross are still processing legal immigrants coming on flights from Haiti. We've let them know that some of our families may be interested in accepting a parent and their children.

As we get more information, we will keep you informed.