Jennifer and Steve Rayno's odyssey began in earnest in 2008, when they filled out paperwork with a U.S. agency specializing in Haitian adoptions, underwent a home study, filed more forms, and waited. (Adopting from Haiti can take up to two years.) Meanwhile, the Haitian government placed the baby, whom the nurses had named Damien, at an orphanage near Port-au-Prince. A complete medical and personal history had to be created for Damien before he could be legally adopted. This included making sure he had no living relatives who wanted to raise him.
Then, on January 12, 2010, the earthquake hit. "I was worried sick, not knowing what happened to Damien, and suddenly there he was on CNN, sitting beside a reporter," says Jennifer, who had visited the boy she already considered her son just a month earlier at the same orphanage, now half-collapsed. "My heart was pounding as the reporter explained how 35 children, along with four or five caretakers, were sleeping outside, running out of food and water."
Thankfully, the earthquake actually sped up the process of bringing Damien to his new home. He was able to come to the U.S. on humanitarian parole, which the Obama administration authorized after the disaster. "We held tight for directions on how to proceed with our son's adoption, and on January 20 Damien was home with us and our family was finally complete," says Jennifer.
Haiti Fast Facts
U.S. adoptions in 2010: 133 children
The children: Boys and girls through age 16
Estimated cost: $24,000 to $27,000
Key requirements: Couples must be 35 or older and have been together for ten years, and have no more than three biological children living at home. (Exceptions may be made for couples with infertility who are close to 35 and married for seven years.) The process is complex; papers must be filed with a number of different government offices, most of which don't have computers or, in some cases, a working phone.
Travel: Parents are required to travel to Haiti to meet their child and sign a statement of adoption agreement. The cost is approximately $2,500 for a five-day trip.
Wait time: Up to three months for a referral; up to 24 months to pick up the child
Advantages: There's a low incidence of alcohol or substance abuse among birth mothers. Many children have been raised by a parent or other biological relative, so there's a lower overall incidence of psychological issues compared with what can be seen in children raised in institutional orphanages.