International Adoption: Haiti

Historical Context of Haiti Adoption

Haiti is a French and Creole speaking Latin American country located in the Greater Antilles archipelago on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. This island of Greater Antilles was discovered by Christopher Columbus on December 5, 1492. The total area of Haiti is 27, 750 square kilometers (10,714 sq mi) and its capital is Port-au-Prince.

Haiti is the least-developed county in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest i the world. Comparisons of social and economic indicators show that Haiti has been falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti’s economic stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate economic policies, political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental deterioration, continued use of traditional technologies, undercapitalization, migration of large portions of skilled population, and a weak national savings rate.

Haiti has the highest rates of infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the Western hemisphere. Diarrhea, respiratory infections, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS are the leading causes of death. It is estimated that about 5.6% of people aged 15-49 years old in Haiti are living with HIV/AIDS. This include about 19,000 children. Antiretroviral drugs are extremely scare.

The population of Haiti is 8 million, with 1 million of those being abandoned or orphaned children. The children are typically loved by parents, but placed in orphanages due to poverty or the death of a parent. They are often malnourished, but otherwise healthy. Issues such as fetal alcohol syndrome are not seen. Children available for adoption are typically given psychological exams that pinpoint any possible developmental delays, and each child is tested for HIV, Sickle Cell Anemia, Hepatitis B, VDRL (Syphilis), and is given a Complete Blood Count (CBC).

The quality of care in the majority of orphanages is not up to typical American standards. However, with careful research potential adoptive parents can find homes where the care rivals any American day care setting, both in cleanliness and education opportunities.

Haitian children are beautiful with dark hair and skin, bright white smiles and large brown eyes with long, curled eyelashes. Girls typically have braided hair while boys keep their hair cut very short. Both adults and children tend to be smaller than average Americans, and children are usually thin and very athletic.

Quick Facts

Number of adoptions from Haiti by Americans 2006: 313
2005: 234
2004: 355
2003: 248
Age/gender of children adopted from Haiti in 2006 59% Female
2% under 1 year of age
52% 1 – 4 years of age
Estimated Cost $13,000 to $17,000
Profile of Children Both male and female healthy infants, children, and teenagers are available. Sibling groups and special needs children are also available for adoption. Haitian babies are often developmentally delayed when compared with North American babies of the same age. Much of this is cultural and most of the time it is reversed soon after arriving in North America. Many infants are discouraged from standing or crawling by their mothers due to poor living conditions. Most Haitian children crawl between 9 and 12 months and walk between 13 to 17 months. After a baby arrives in their adoptive homes, they start advancing quickly and usually have caught up within 6 months.
Timeline The length of a wait to bring a child home from Haiti is usually between 12-14 months from the time the dossier is sent to Haiti.
Parent Requirements Married couples must be at least 30 years of age unless there is documented infertility, and they must be together at least 5-10 years. Families with up to 3 biological children can adopt. Single women may adopt, however same-sex couples and single men are not allowed to adopt.
Travel Except for rare occasions, you will need to travel to Haiti to pick up your child and will stay about 5 days.
Comments Information on parent requirements varies depending on the source and may range greatly. However, the requirements above are provided by the actual facilitators on the ground in Haiti and reflect what they typically experience.