Haiti's Orphans: Adjusting to Life in America

From forks to footie pajamas, families say orphans adjusting well.

ByLEE FERRAN and KATIE HINMAN via via logo
January 19, 2010, 1:47 PM

Jan. 29, 2010— -- It's been 17 days since a massive earthquake claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions of people in and around Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but for the hundreds of orphans that were brought to the U.S., less than three weeks has meant a world of difference.

Four-year-old Maya Ester has been here a little more than a week, and the American couple, who is in the final stages of adopting her, said the change from an orphanage in Haiti to a happy home in the small town of Pella, Iowa, has gone smoothly.

"She's adjusting really well, Robin," Matt Poulter told "Good Morning America" today as Maya Ester sat sleepily on his wife's lap. "She's getting a lot of attention, and she loves the attention. We're doing everything we can to shower her with love."

Have questions about adoptions in Haiti? Click here for our fact sheet.

According to the Poulters, Maya Ester is healthy and happy with her five new brothers and sisters, but she's not too fond of the family dog.

"It's a little chaotic around here and that just adds to it," Matt Poulter said.

Maya Ester is one of more than 500 orphans evacuated from Haiti in the past two weeks who have settled into new homes in more than 30 states across the U.S.

In Colorado Springs, Colo., 2-year-old twin brothers, Ethan and Brecken, are going through a similar adjustment since they were brought home by Tanya and Aaron Ramsey.

Other than small difficulties with novelties like forks and footie pajamas, the Ramseys said the brothers seem to love their new life.

"They're adjusting really well, loving life," Tanya Ramsey said. "They're eating, and they've been sleeping through the night."

The toughest adjustment for the twins, the Ramseys said, was getting over the fear that they would be left alone again.

"Ethan, he went hysterical" when the Ramseys left the home for a short time, Aaron Ramsey said. "He thought we were leaving. They're so used to people coming and going."

Rescuing Maya Ester

In a quake-ravaged country that seems plunged into darkness, it was a rare, bright moment when the Poulters reunited with Maya Ester in Port-au-Prince.

"I just was so relieved and just so happy and so very emotional to be able to touch her and to hold her," mother Mandy Poulter said then. "We haven't really put her down since."

On the night of Jan. 13 -- 24 hours after the quake hit Port-au-Prince -- "Nightline" spoke with the Poulters. They had lost contact with the orphanage where Maya Ester was living while they awaited a visa for her. The couple had spent three years travelling back and forth to Haiti, and were just weeks away from bringing Maya Ester home when the earthquake struck. Like so many others waiting to hear news about loved ones, the couple prayed for their daughter's safety but were left to imagine the worst.

After three excruciating days of being unable to reach the orphanage via phone or the Internet, they gave "Nightline" directions to the Central Texas Orphan Mission Alliance near Port-au-Prince.

Robin Roberts and her crew drove through the broken streets until they found the orphanage. It was damaged, but Maya Ester and the eight other children were all right -- frightened but safe.

Mandy Poulter was exuberant when Roberts spoke to her through Skype with the news.

"We definitely found her," said Roberts. "I am looking at her right now. She's OK. She's not injured. She's ready to go home to Iowa."

Through her tears, Mandy Poulter gave Roberts a message to convey to Maya Ester: "Can you tell her that Mommy and Daddy love her and we will come as soon as we can to bring her home," she said. "Just tell her we love her, and give her a hug and tell her Mommy and Daddy will be there."

Roberts whispered the message into the sleeping child's ear: "Ester, your mom and dad love you, and they are going to be coming to get you as soon as they can."

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