A member of the Dutch Royal Airforce, right, and a what is believed to be a member of a Dutch adoption association, left, carry Haitian children wrapped in a blanket to a bus after arriving at Eindhoven airport. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Updated: Thursday, 21 Jan 2010, 12:11 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 21 Jan 2010, 12:11 PM EST
EINDHOVEN, Netherlands - A Dutch airlift brought 106 children from quake-ravaged Haiti to new lives in the Netherlands and Luxembourg on Thursday, as anxious families waited to hug children they had been in the process of adopting for months.
The children, aged 6 months to 7 years, were carried or walked from the plane one by one, wrapped in blue blankets, after it arrived at a Dutch military airport in Eindhoven.
Most of the children had already been matched with new parents, but some were being introduced to those parents for the first time. Nine had been approved for adoption but not yet matched with a family, and they will be placed in foster care until parents can be found.
The waiting parents were excited to meet the children but also anxious about their health following the quake, said Letje Vermunt, a spokeswoman for the Netherlands Adoption Foundation, one of two agencies organizing the adoptions.
"It's a double feeling," she said. "Laughter and tears are very close together."
The children were accompanied on Thursday's flight by a team of medics, including some with experience in dealing with post traumatic stress, such as that induced by last week's magnitude-7 quake.
One boy waved from the window of the plane. Local temperatures were around freezing and patches of snow remained from a recent storm. All that could be seen of one girl as she was hustled to a waiting bus were her pink shoes, dangling from blankets.
At least some of the children speak a little Dutch after undergoing daily language lessons in a Dutch-run orphanage in Haiti. Fourteen of the 106 were going to Luxembourg into the care of that country's adoption authorities.
The quake killed up to 200,000 people, orphaned thousands of children and reduced large parts of the Haitian capital to rubble. It has triggered a rush of inquiries around the world about adopting a child from the impoverished Caribbean country, which before the quake already had an estimated 380,000 orphans in need of new homes.
Rene Hoksbergen, an academic who studies adoption at Utrecht University, warned earlier this week that the Dutch airlift could make would-be parents think it is easy to adopt from a country in chaos. He said formal procedures should always be followed.
Most of the children Thursday had been waiting for travel documents before being united with their new families, while another large group had been matched with new parents but a Haitian judge had yet to formally sign off on their adoptions.
UNICEF said it was working to prevent children being abused and exploited in the aftermath and to reunite them with family members.
Earlier this week, 54 orphans arrived in the U.S. city of Pittsburgh in a mission that involved officials in the White House, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Those orphans were given medical care and placed in group homes until adoptions are finalized.