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Md. family prepares for new daughter's arrival from Haiti

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 22, 2010; B01

David Hubner was a touch harried as he answered a reporter's phone call Wednesday afternoon.

"I can't really talk now," he said apologetically. "I've got to go buy a car that can fit three kids' car seats."

Barely a week ago, Hubner, 36, and his wife, Christie, 34, expected to wait as long as a year before they could bring the little girl they are adopting from Haiti to their home in Frederick. But that was before the earthquake demolished 3-year-old Ila's orphanage, Maison des Enfants de Dieu in Port-au-Prince, fatally injuring one of the nannies and leaving all 133 children to survive in the open air.

The Hubners had been told that Ila and the other children could be put on a U.S. military flight at any moment. The race to prepare was on.

With two children, ages 15 months and 4, at home, the couple's top priority was to find a larger vehicle. But that was only the first item on the list.

"I'm planning on running out to Target to get some warm clothes, because they'll all be coming in tank tops," said Christie Hubner, taking the phone as her husband rushed out the door.

Then she would need to pack a suitcase. According to an e-mail the Hubners received from the orphanage's U.S. liaison office Tuesday night, the children were to be brought to the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday morning to be processed for a humanitarian parole that would allow them to enter the United States immediately.

Only a fraction of the 800 to 900 children who were being adopted by American families before the quake have been admitted. About 50 were flown into Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning. Roughly 40 more landed in Miami several hours later, and about 80 were scheduled to arrive in Miami on Thursday night.

The Hubners were told Ila's flight could depart as soon as Wednesday night. Or maybe Thursday or Friday. It would probably arrive in New York. Or maybe Miami.

"We still don't know where we'll be going or how much notice we'll have," Christie Hubner said.

Until then, there is plenty to worry her. U.S. Embassy officials told the orphanage staff that they would be unable to provide either food or transport for the children. So the plan was for all 133 kids -- including about 60 who are younger than 3 -- to make the nearly 1 1/2 -mile journey on foot, carrying what food and water they could.

"There's always the concern of someone trying to take their food from them. Especially because I don't know how many staff members there are to help them," Christie Hubner said. "I'm picturing each nanny carrying multiple babies."

But Wednesday night, the Hubners were relieved to learn that Ila and the children had been spared the journey after all. A representative from their adoption agency called to say that staff members from the orphanage had brought their paperwork over instead.

Because of confusion over procedures, the children would need to remain in Haiti one more day, and about 18 children would have to remain at the orphanage indefinitely because they hadn't been matched with adoptive parents before the earthquake. But Ila and the rest would be flying into Miami on Friday night.

By Thursday afternoon, the Hubners had finalized arrangements such as plane tickets to Miami and hotel reservations. Christie Hubner was a study in mixed emotions.

"I feel such sadness that not all the children will be able to come," she said. "These kids have such need. It's heartbreaking."

But her sorrow was leavened by her excitement at the thought that in just more than 24 hours she would finally be united with her child.

Although the Hubners were matched with Ila when she was 3 months old, her birth mother disappeared before signing off on the adoption. The result has been years of paperwork and bureaucratic delays to obtain a new birth certificate that classifies Ila as abandoned.

"I really thought it would be months more before we'd meet her," Christie Hubner said. "It's almost impossible to believe she'll be with us so soon."

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