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Haiti 'orphans' taken by missionaries reunite with families

From Sara Sidner, CNN
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Haitian 'orphans' reunited
  • Agency reunites 32 children with families after six weeks of separation
  • American missionaries who took children arrested, children placed with caregivers
  • "I am leaving my mother," Daphnis Adrien, 12, says of caregiver
  • Daphnis' mother gave him away voluntarily in hope of better life for him

Port au Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Tears stream down 12-year-old Daphnis Adrien's face on the day he is supposed to be reunited with his family after six weeks of separation.

His mother walks up to him, but he won't hug her. Instead he clings to the woman who has been caring for him for more than a month and cries.

"I am leaving my mother," he says in a whisper, referring to his caretaker from SOS Children's village.

Daphnis knows his biological mother gave him away after the earthquake. He is one of the 33 Haitian children that the government placed in the SOS Children's Village after they were taken to the Dominican border by American Baptist Missionaries, who said they were trying to help the orphans in the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake.

It turns out none of the children is an orphan, according to the government, and under Haitian law, that means they must be returned to their parents.

Elvita Dorlis says she loves her son deeply but did not apologize for trying to send him away. She says she simply had no means to care for him after the family lost its home.

"Life was so bad," she says. "He was leaving with foreigners to go to Santa Domingo to look for a better life and things went wrong."

Authorities arrested the group of 10 missionaries because they did not have proper documentation to bus the children over the border. Now they are charged with kidnapping and leader Laura Silsby is in jail facing more charges. Silsby and the others deny wrongdoing.

On Wednesday the focus was on the children and the parents. Many smiled and grabbed each other tightly. Some of the children dug into the sacks of goodies they were given and excitedly pulled out a toy.

"I'm happy," one mother said as she held her son's hand. One by one, 32 of the 33 parents signed papers and picked up a sack of supplies from the SOS Children's Village in Port au Prince.

The one child left behind is still there because the agency says it has to verify some paperwork to ensure it is giving the child back to rightful parents.

Many may wonder why the parents give their children away.

"These families lost hope after the earthquake that they would ever be able to provide for these children the way they wanted to," SOS Children's Village spokeswomen Lina Nielsen said.

"Now they've been sensitized and better informed about the risks that this might entail for the children," she said.

The parents watched videos about child trafficking and other evils while police warned them that they could have been arrested for what they did. But there is great concern on the part of the former caretakers that the children may still be at risk.

"If the parents could take care of them in the first place," housemother Amonis Richard said, "the kids wouldn't be here with me."

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