Pedro Pan-style rescue of Haitian orphans is unlikely

Florida is unlikely to see a wave of Haitian children orphaned by last week's killer earthquake, as Haitian and U.S. leaders do not favor a recreation of the famed 1960s Pedro Pan effort that rescued thousands of children from communist Cuba, the state's top social service administrator said Tuesday.

"The Haitian civil government is starting to reemerge," said Florida Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon, who has been meeting with state, county and federal leaders for several days to coordinate refugee resettlement efforts.

"The desire of the Haitian people, to the extent that this can be done, is for the children to be cared for in Haiti," Sheldon added. "That is their preference."

Florida and U.S. government leaders, Sheldon added, are also reluctant to airlift hundreds or thousands of orphans because of concerns that children who lived through the earthquake may be too fragile to withstand being uprooted from their homeland.

"These children who have gone through the earthquake have suffered a tremendous trauma," Sheldon said. "To move them now to a foreign country where they don't speak the language and do not have families would be to re-traumatize them."

Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami, reiterated the Catholic church's offer to help spearhead a Pedro Pan-like rescue effort.

"This is an offer from the Archdiocese of Miami to the federal government, to our president, that we stand ready to assist in anything that the children of Haiti would need as far as a temporary housing facility that the Archdiocese would have," Ross Agosta said.

The Archdiocese's offer last week drew enormous interest almost immediately.

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