Halted adoption process leaves Utah woman stuck in Haiti

Mar 22, 2024, 6:34 PM | Updated: 6:51 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A Provo woman said she and several other American families living in Haiti are unable to come back to the United States due to a halted adoption process.

Erika Charles has been trying to adopt twin six-year-old girls for as long as they have been alive. A few weeks ago, the country’s central adoption authority (IBESR) was ransacked, which has become an issue for many families trying to adopt Haitian children.

Charles has been living in Haiti for more than a decade. What she said started as a short volunteer stunt turned into something long-term.

“I started a mental health organization. I work with a team of Haitian psychologists, and we provide mental health education, mental health advocacy awareness, as well as direct individual and group support to Haitians throughout the country,” she said.

Charles also met her husband while in Haiti. They married in Salt Lake City eight years ago, and she has been helping him raise his 14-year-old daughter.

Then came the twins. Charles said she is considered their legal guardian, but in the six years she has had the twins she has been unable to complete the adoption process with the Haitian government.

“This process has taken some families over 10 years to get through the Haitian process. And then after that point, you can go to the U.S. government and be able to immigrate back to the United States with your child that you’ve adopted in Haiti,” she said.

Charles said her children do not have Haitian passports or have any travel documents to legally leave the country due to the delayed adoption process.

Charles reached out to the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. She said after explaining their situation, there is not a clear option for Charles and several other families in the same situation.

“The only option is to leave our kids behind,” she said.

Charles and other families hope the State Department will grant her kids humanitarian parole or visitor visas.

Amid chaos, Charles is using her work in psychosocial to help keep her kids calm, and praying for peace in a country that means so much to her.

“A lot of prayer,” she said.

Charles has been in contact with Rep. John Curtis’s office. A spokesperson said because the adoption authority was ransacked, the State Department is having trouble getting the appropriate paperwork needed to help these families. Curtis said in a statement he is working closely with the State Department to help expedite these families’ cases.

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Halted adoption process leaves Utah woman stuck in Haiti