LOCAL NEWS

Utah couple struggles to bring adopted children home from Haiti amid state of emergency

Mar 8, 2024, 6:36 PM | Updated: Mar 9, 2024, 11:36 am

OREM — Of all the rooms in Cherry Stewart’s Orem home, it is her kids’ room that just might be her favorite.

Stuffed animals, books and toys are throughout the room next to neatly tucked beds.

“This is my sweet spot,” Stewart said. “We chose a dragon theme.”

The only thing missing in this room is her kids.

“It has been a long time since we have been waiting for the kids to come home,” Stewart said. “It is hard because sometimes we go a couple of weeks without internet connection and sometimes, we go a couple of weeks without hearing from the orphanage. So, it is always a question of if they are safe and ‘did something happen?'”

Stewart and her husband, Zachary Stewart, are a little more worried these days because their kids are in Haiti.

Working with the Wasatch International Adoption agency, the Stewarts were on a list for six years and finally matched with two children in 2023.

Just when they neared the time to bring them to Utah, Haiti erupted into enough violence and chaos the past few weeks to fall into a state of emergency.

“It is terrifying because you see them. You talk with them. We interact with them on the phone and we know that they are there and it is scary,” Zachary Stewart said.

Like many Utah couples, and couples across the country who have matched with their Haitian children, the Stewarts are now wondering how they can get the proper paperwork needed for their children when the Haitian government has seemed to crumble.

“I mean, it is beyond a mess because there is just no leadership in the country, so it’s not like, who do you turn to? Where do you turn? It is a mess,” said Chareyl Moyes, a case manager with Wasatch International Adoption based in Ogden.

Moyes is hoping the U.S. government can help during this time of crisis.

“These adoptive families — some of them have been in the process, some of them for five, six, years. And to then have this feeling of despair, they’re worried they are not going to be able to get their kids out of the country,” Moyes said. “The only thing close to this was the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. After an earthquake, it is a humanitarian crisis. People rally around. I was able to go down to Haiti, go to the embassy and work with the embassy to get the kids that were in the process of adoption out.”

Because of the current violence, though, with gangs taking control of many areas, it has become even more dangerous for people in Haiti.

“I have a guy that works for me down in Haiti and he goes house to house to have a place to stay,” said Moyes, who also helps run schools for children in Haiti. “If they know he works in adoptions and he is associated with any kind of people in the United States, he could be kidnapped or hurt and killed. It’s that scary.”

It’s why the Stewarts, and their friends, are writing to their legislators and government officials. There is even a form on the National Council for Adoption website the couple is asking their friends to fill out that will go to their federal representatives.

“We are sitting here, one of countless families across Utah and across the United States who are hoping and working towards getting their kids to come home,” Zachary Stewart said. “There is power in the government just to get something done.”

They are hoping to raise awareness to get some type of emergency flight or waiver before things get worse.

“That is the ultimate fear, right? Is that it will all shut down and it would feel like a death,” said Cherry Stewart.

There is a bedroom in their home that already feels empty enough.

“They are waiting and they are meant to be here,” she said. “We want them here.”

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Utah couple struggles to bring adopted children home from Haiti amid state of emergency