Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Brother and sister from Haiti find a home in Canada

By Brandy Yanchyk

Johnny and Jael in the snow
Johnny and Jael joined their new family in Canada last month

Carmen Lynne will never forget 12 January, the day the devastating earthquake struck Haiti.

Mrs Lynne, who lives near Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta, was hovering by the phone waiting for a call to tell her to fly to Haiti to pick up her newly adopted children when news of the quake broke.

"When I first found out that my kids were okay, then my second question was, if the paperwork is lost what does this mean for me?" Mrs Lynne said.

"I didn't want to have to start from scratch all over again. My new daughter is nine years old, I was thinking if we have to start again she could be a teenager before she gets home."

There is something inside of you with adoption that people don't understand until you do it
Carmen Lynne

Luckily for Mrs Lynne and her husband, Steve, their adoptive children were among 150 cases fast-tracked by the Canadian government because the adoption process was in the final stage when the earthquake happened.

It was a process that began three years ago to allow the Lynnes to adopt Jael, 9, and Johnny who is 6, from the Bresma orphanage in Port-au-Prince.

It involved the Christian Adoption Services in Alberta coming to check their home and interview them to see if they would be suitable parents. They also had to gain permission from the Alberta government to adopt the brother and sister, and then the Bresma orphanage in Haiti had to give its final approval.

The orphanage then paired Mrs Lynne and her family with the two children but they still had to wait for the paperwork to go through.

Multicultural family

The Lynnes are both pastors and travel to Haiti each year to work with churches and schools there.

During their wait for the adoption to be finalised, they visited their new children at the orphanage.

"I've been with them four times, my husband has been with them twice," Mrs Lynne said.

The Lynnes and their children
The Lynne family has now grown to nine

"There is something inside of you with adoption that people don't understand until you do it. Your heart bonds with a child very quickly when you are told they are yours."

This is not the first time the Lynnes, who have two biological children, have adopted from Haiti. In 2003, they adopted twin sisters who are now 10 years old. And in 2006 they adopted a boy who is now six.

"I always wanted to adopt, I always wanted to have a multicultural family, a multiracial family," Mrs Lynne said.

The Lynnes chose to adopt from Haiti because it "was such a poor nation".

"Even before the earthquake, there was so much going on there. So much trouble, so much poverty," Mrs Lynne said. "Changing the world one child at a time was kind of the philosophy."

Learning English

Jael and Johnny have never been to school and only speak Creole. Mrs Lynne plans to teach them at home alongside their adoptive brothers and sisters.

She says so far the language barrier hasn't been a huge issue because she speaks some Creole. She plans on working with them on their English right away.

Johnny plays in the snow
Johnny gets to grips with Canada's snowy winters

"The kids are so smart, they are writing their letters and are doing so good," says Mrs Lynne.

Mr Lynne says he is also concentrating on building the children's self-esteem and helping them to feel comfortable within the family. He is drawing on the lessons he learned from when they adopted their other three children from Haiti.

"For speaking English, it took them three or four months to sort of start to get the hang of that," said Mr Lynne.

The children soon started to come out of their shell, he said, "rather than feeling like I'm an excluded outsider. We really work hard to get them to do that."

The other three children that the Lynnes adopted from Haiti can hardly remember what it was like to live there and they no longer understand Creole. They say they like living in Canada and enjoy the cold winters in Alberta because they can go snowboarding.

But Mrs Lynne says their Haitian children "are being raised with an awareness of Haiti and a love for their nation." She says when they get older and are teenagers they will take them to Haiti on missions with them.

Adoption concerns

Child welfare organisations argue that children should, where possible, remain within their own communities, culture and ethnic backgrounds.

According to UN guidelines, two years should pass after a disaster before adoption should even be considered, giving time to exhaust all efforts to locate family members first.

Mrs Lynne believes that in many cases Haitian families do not have the financial means to look after another child other than their own.

"In Haiti, what I have noticed from being there many times, is that most of the other relatives barely have enough to provide for their own children. They are just not set up to take on two more or three more children of maybe their sister who died," she said.

"They are not in the position to feed them. Most average children in Haiti do not get an opportunity to go to school."

Mrs Lynne, given her experience, believes that international adoptions can be part of the solution, if carried out properly.

"I believe they need to interview families but if there are loving homes that have been waiting and have been wanting to have another child or would like to adopt a child from Haiti, I believe the doors should swing open and they should make it a very quick and simple process for people," she said.

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