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A local couple hopes their appearance on a national morning show will help shed light on the adoption need of earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
In October, the Rev. John Kraner, his wife Julie and seven other members of Wayne Street United Methodist Church traveled to Haiti as part of a mission trip to HIS (Haitian Interdenominational Shelter) Home For Children. Kraner said the orphanage, based in Port-Au-Prince, has seen a boom in children since the massive earthquake rocked the Caribbean island two years ago.
“As you can imagine, there was a tremendous transition because of it,” Kraner told The Evening Leader, noting the trek was his fourth trip to Haiti. “HIS Home was able to have 70 kids receive their adoptions through diplomatic channels within days of the earthquake. That cleared out a lot, but the earthquake created thousands and thousands more orphan children. The Haitian government has been working hard to place these newly created orphans in orphanages throughout the country.”
While at the orphanage, the volunteers painted a nursery, some beds and helped prepare a shop to open that will serve as a micro-enterprise business for some of the older orphans. Kraner said once an orphan turns 16, he or she is ineligible for adoption.
“They have to have a future,” Kraner said. “They have a large number of dresses that have been donated that are formal and they will be setting up a dress shop where they can rent these dresses. The older girls are going to learn how to be seamstresses, do the marketing and customer service and basically run the store.”
During their down time, Kraner said the volunteers got a chance to interact with the children. It was then when the Kraners met Rose Berline — a 10-year-old girl who would ultimately steal their hearts and prompt them to start the adoption process.
“We did not go down there with any intention to adopt,” Kraner said. “Rose Berline, she gravitated toward Julie and spent a lot of time talking with Julie.”
Rose Berline lost her mother in the earthquake. After bouncing around several different relatives, she ended up at HIS Home.
“On a recreation day when we were playing ball, she and I started connecting,” Kraner said. “Each night, she would spend time with us. One night, she handed Julie a note that ended with the words, ‘I love you very much, will you be my mom, adoption.’”
Kraner said his wife read the note and tried not to give Rose Berline any false hope, knowing Haiti’s current adoption laws would make it difficult to take Rose Berline home soon.
“One of the laws we are running up against is they want you to be married 10 years,” Kraner said, noting the couple has been married two years, but have each previously been married and have eight children between them.
“Haiti is changing that to five years. The problem is once a child hits 16, they cannot be adopted. By the time you do the math, that puts Rose at 14 and the process can take up to two years and she would be on that line of where she could become ineligible.”
Julie Kraner said the handwritten note prompted mixed emotions.
“She’s kind of shy and darted off a bit, but it was to where she could still see me,” she said, noting she found out the day before the couple had not been married long enough to be eligible to adopt Rose Berline. “I knew she was watching me ... It was almost like a melancholy joy and sadness that she wanted that from me and chose me and the sadness of knowing we couldn’t fulfill that dream. I didn’t want to reject her, but I couldn’t give her false hope.”
Julie Kraner said she walked over and hugged the girl and told her she wasn’t sure if she could make it happen. Given the language barrier, she said Rose Berline could not completely understand.
“That hurt me more than anything,” Julie Kraner said. “Not understanding the laws that are in effect.”
To coincide with the two-year anniversary of the earthquake, CBS This Morning is scheduled to air a story about Haiti that will feature Rose Berline and the Kraners. Kraner said officials at HIS Home told CBS staff about Rose Berline and the Kraners’ adoption process and they jumped on board.
“We did a phone interview from New York for an hour and a producer and crew came about a week or so ago and spent five hours in our home in Celina,” Kraner said.
“They flew to Haiti and met Rose Berline and interviewed her on camera and as a favor to us, delivered some Christmas gifts for us that we weren’t able to get down there in time. They brought us back pictures of her opening her gifts.”
The show is scheduled to air between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Thursday.
“They were very gracious to come and our whole focus with them was to say we didn’t want the story to be about Jon and Julie adopting, this is a story that focuses on the need of Haitian children to be adopted and the older children who don’t get the attention they deserve.”
The national story could be a double-edged sword for the Kraners. Kraner said if another couple sees the story and is able and willing to adopt Rose Berline — and they fit the five-year requirement — he and his wife would be willing to withdraw their application.
“If the good that comes out of this is another family would step forward to adopt Rose Berline, we would be thankful,” Kraner said. “The goal is for her to come to this country to have a future. The last thing we want to do is be selfish and say it’s our way or no way — she comes here or no one gets her ... If that doesn’t happen, we will continue to move forward and get it done. It will just take longer.”
Julie Kraner agreed.
“We have to be advocates if nothing else,” she said.
“As much as we would like to have this little girl, we want her to have a forever home, especially those older kids as well. These are kids who have lost everyone they loved and they had a home and a family and they know what they are missing. They want someone to love them and take care of them and that’s Rose Berline.”
Fighting for Rose Berline and all the children
Kraner said while he understands the need to protect Haitian children from possible abuse, he hoped officials would understand exceptions should be made when the situation warrants one.
“We understand there needs to be laws to protect children from adoptions that can go wrong — there are times when children are horribly abused, so we know Haiti intends to do the right thing,” Kraner said. “We understand they would prefer a couple married a few years, but we are not a couple who are 25 or 30 who just got married two years ago and never had children. We understand there needs to be regulations to protect children, there just seems there could be some case-by-case exceptions made like an instance where you’ve raised a number of children. We have eight children and of those eight, six are adults.”
No matter the outcome, Kraner said he and his wife plan to continue their quest to bring Rose Berline to Celina to become their ninth child.
“You just never know what can happen — we have a lot of hope as we move forward,” Kraner said.
“We’ll have that dossier submitted so when five years hits, it’s ready. We believe faith can move mountains and if by some way it’s meant to be, we want to get Rose Berline here sooner rather than later.”
Julie Kraner also said she planned to continue to fight to bring awareness to the situation.
“Our ultimate goal is to support the orphans and encourage adoptions,” Julie Kraner said. “We feel very strongly the children are Haiti’s future. Our goal is for those children, the older ones, to find them homes.”
For more information on HIS Home, visit HisHomeForChildren.com.