A plane that carried the hopes of several Atlanta families landed Friday night in Lawrenceville with empty seats that had been reserved for Haitian orphans.
The plane departed Briscoe Field Friday morning to deliver medical personnel and aid to earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince. It was to return later with as many as a dozen orphans who had been destined for local families before last week's earthquake. But regulations for transporting orphans out of the country are being closely monitored, even on the airport tarmac.
"No kids are allowed to go out on non-military or governmental planes unless they have U.N. paperwork," said Dan Lynch, co-founder of God's Plumbline Ministry of Marietta, one of the sponsors for the relief effort. "It's not all a bad thing. We picked up a couple of doctors and a nurse that are coming back to Atlanta and we dropped off five doctors and medical supplies."
The episode described the procedural difficulties private groups may encounter in coming weeks in bringing orphans out of Haiti, where jurisdictions between rescue organizations may overlap. An estimated 200,000 perished in the Jan. 12 earthquake, leaving tens of thousands of orphans behind.
Loosened visa requirements this week has helped to expedite the transportation of some 900 children that Haitian authorities had already identified as orphans. But God's Plumbline's endeavor Friday revealed obstacles in place.
The plane, a corporate jet donated for relief efforts by Kids ‘R' Kids of Duluth, had a one-hour window on the ground in Haiti to make all the arrangements, said Charlene Taylor, the company's communications director.
Lynch, whose wife Sheila was on the mission, said he was told the children they were going to bring out were later scheduled to leave on a U.S. Embassy plane later Friday and arrive in Orlando.
"Hopefully we can shoot back down there Tuesday or Wednesday next week and do it again," he said. "And this time hopefully we can get some kids to come back with us that have the correct U.N. paperwork."
Lynch said the indications he got from his sources in Haiti is the U.N. is clamping down on adoptions because of the risk of child-trafficking.
God's Plumbline has been performing missionary work in Haiti for the past several years. Lynch said the organization has 15 children with adoptions in play right now. It has been partnering with a Haitian organization, Heartline Ministries, to coordinate the adoptions.
Kids ‘R' Kids founders Pat and Janice Vinson said they wanted to do something to help the relief effort.
"They feel blessed and they want to bless others," Taylor said. "This is their way of giving back."
Friday's news hit Scott and Janet Cain hard. The Lawrenceville couple adopted two little girls from Haiti two years ago and are in the process of adopting two more, a boy and a girl, through a Denver agency.
Both spent the day hoping their kids were destined for the flight back to Lawrenceville, but they said communications in Haiti have been so spotty, they couldn't know for sure.
"We weren't necessarily expecting our children to be on that flight," Scott Cain said. "It's hard to explain to people what you're going through with this."
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