A charter plane heading to Haiti to pick up 109 children being adopted by Dutch families will reach Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, the Dutch government said, as an adoption expert warned against hastily plucking children out of the quake-shattered nation.
The Foreign Ministry said the children were being gathered in an orphanage in the Haitian capital and will be bused to the city's airport for medical checks before the plane lands.
The plane, carrying relief supplies as well as immigration officials and adoption workers, was in the Netherlands Antilles on Tuesday, waiting for the final short hop to Haiti.
All but nine of the children had already been assigned to Dutch families before the devastating magnitude-7 earthquake struck Jan. 12. The Justice Ministry has stressed that all 109 children were in the process, before the quake, of being adopted through two respected Dutch agencies.
Fifty-six of the children were waiting for travel documents before being united with their new families, while 44 others had been matched with new parents but a Haitian judge had yet to formally sign off on their adoptions.
Foster families for some
Nine children, who had been approved for adoption but not yet matched with a family, will be put into foster families when they arrive in the Netherlands while suitable parents are sought.
Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin agreed to speed up the adoption procedure because of the devastating earthquake that crippled the country and left tens of thousands dead.
But one adoption expert, Professor Rene Hoksbergen of Utrecht University, warned Tuesday that authorities should take great care in dealing with orphans from such a disaster.
He said the new parents of the groups of 44 and nine children should fly back to Haiti once normality has returned to ensure that all regular adoption procedures are correctly followed.
"Please, check that the procedures are fine. It is important for the children later on," he said.
He also feared that the hurried evacuation could send a wrong signal.
"You have to be very careful in adopting these children from a country in chaos," he said. "It might look like when a country is a disaster it is easy to adopt children there."
Wereldkinderen — Dutch for World Children — one of the two agencies involved, said all the children it was bringing back to the Netherlands "have a complete adoption dossier."
U.S. making it easier too
Martien Miedema, a spokeswoman for the group, said she shared criticism of rushing to adopt children from Haiti after the quake.
"We also believe that adoption is not a form of aid that is appropriate in this situation," she told The Associated Press. "But for these children it is completely different. We knew before the quake that they were coming to the Netherlands."
On Monday, the U.S. government said it also was making it easier for Haitian orphans being adopted by Americans to enter the United States.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the humanitarian policy will be applied temporarily, on a case-by-case basis, to orphaned children from Haiti who are being adopted by U.S. citizens or who have been matched to prospective adoptive parents who are U.S. citizens.
In Belgium too, authorities are seeking to speed the adoption of children from Haiti and 13 could be arriving in a week or so.
Even before the earthquake, Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries, was awash in orphans, with 380,000 children living in orphanages or group homes, according to the U.N. Children's Fund.