Questions surround Haitian airlift to Pa.

Feb. 24, 2010 at 8:57 AM
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Twelve children flown from Haiti to Pennsylvania remain in limbo, living in juvenile care facilities as guardianship issues are reviewed, officials said.

The children -- between the ages of 11 months and 10 years -- may not be orphans and are staying at a Pittsburgh-area facility while authorities determine whether the kids have relatives in Haiti who can care for them, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

In the coming days, the Red Cross said its workers will interview the children to determine if they have families in Haiti.

Details about the children's departure Jan 18 after the devastating 7-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti Jan 12 are fuzzy, officials in the United States and Haiti told the Times.

Haitian Ambassador to the United States Raymond Joseph said he wouldn't approve Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's request to remove children from Haiti who weren't already in the adoption process. However, an aide to the country's prime minister said officials had assurances from Rendell and U.S. officials that the children would be well cared for in the United States.

Officials in President Barack Obama's administration told the Times the chain of authority wasn't clear. Because U.S. officials were concerned about the children's well-being, they allowed Rendell to remove them from Haiti even though they didn't have clear authorization.

"I don't know how it happened, but I didn't ask a lot of questions," Rendell told the Times. "(And) if you had seen the faces of those children as we loaded them onto the airplane, you wouldn't have asked a lot of questions, either."

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