Tuesday, January 12 dawned and progressed like any other day: afull day of school and teaching with the added stress of preparing for conferences. Auditions for the musical had been successful; the cast was being finalized. Life was normal. By the time I returned home, all that had changed.
A 7.0 earthquake occurred in Haiti. Reports of the devastation began rolling in through the news. No reports at all rolled in from Holt Fontana. It was such a long night.
Thomas and I headed to school without knowing anything. I can remember the heart ache and worry so very clearly. Both of us remembered so perfectly the ramshackle building where we signed court documents during our last visit. The document was a spiral notebook with lists of signatures. How could that ‘courthouse’ survive, let alone a stack of spiral notebooks? What did this mean to our process? But most importantly, how were the kids and the staff at the village?
By mid morning we received news that all children and staff at the village were safe and well. Holt was trying to find out what this meant to the process. The relief combine with the horror of the situation and the selfish feelings of worrying about our adoption were almost crippling as I struggled through 6 hours of parent conferences.
We had 2 days of no word. The yahoo adoption group was a massive list of rapid fire question and answers. People were headed to Haiti to wait in line at the consulate or attempting to get their kids out on their own. Holt promised they were working on it and asked us to remain in the US and wait for an official process. We contacted our senators and representatives. We prayed. A lot.
The first Friday after the quake NBC ran video footage of a military plane leaving Haiti with children bound for the Netherlands. All children who were in process. The Netherlands had decided that they would first get the children out and second figure out how to make them citizens. The US had decided the opposite. Too many unknowns, too many phases to be worked with, too much chaos. Children should be left at the orphanages unless they were in danger. Thomas and I were just ill.
No word from anyone the entire weekend.
By Tuesday progress had been made. The US had decided that they would grant Humanitarian Parole to all children who met certain criteria. It didn’t take long for us to realize that Via met the criterion and would be coming home. The twins, we were sure, would never be allowed to leave early. We had just been matched with them in November.
The criterion: a signed and notarized contract of adoption, USCIS paperwork granting permission for the adopting family to bring an immigrant in to the country, proof that the parents had been to Haiti and met the child.
We were good on the contract. It was the first thing we had done after being matched. We had just traveled to Haiti in October. That weird trip seemingly thrown in for no real reason? Now that trip was a saving grace. We had been to Haiti, our signatures were on file there (somewhere.) We had photos with Via and proof we had been to the orphanage. But the USCIS? No way to fake that. We had not been printed or even applied for the USCIS forms for the twins. Heartbreak and elation. Via was coming home, it was just a matter of time. The twins were not and who knew what their time frame was now.
BUT WAIT—our dear social worker from Holt called me at school. Had I looked at my USCIS forms? No I said, I just knew I had them. Look at them she insisted. I dug them out (I had full files of the paper work at both home and school) And there it was. The answer to our prayers. USCIS petition granted to adopt ‘ORPHANS.’ Plural. When we applied for our USCIS paper work we were not matched with a child yet and we had said we were open to a sibling group. We were approved for multiples. Even though we had updated our prints and reapplied for the I600 3 times, twice specifically for Via, USCIS had never changed the forms.
Holt determined to use this loop hole to get the twins home.