TODAY   |  January 14, 2010

Couple anxiously await word of Haitian adoptees

Jan. 14: Kendra and Brett Schlenbaker adopted two children from Haiti last summer, but their arrival to the U.S. was delayed by paperwork. The worried couple speaks with TODAY’s Meredith Vieira about the whereabouts of their children in the wake of the powerful 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: We are back at 7:49. Many Americans who have loved ones in Haiti are anxiously awaiting word. Last July, Kendra and Brett Schlenbaker adopted an eight-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother from an orphanage in Port -au-Prince, but because of problems with paperwork, the children have not yet been able to leave Haiti . Kendra and Brett Schlenbaker are with us now. Good morning to you both.

Ms. KENDRA SCHLENBAKER (Adopted Children Still in Haiti): Good morning.

Mr. BRETT SCHLENBAKER (Adopted Children Still in Haiti): Good morning.

VIEIRA: Kendra , if I could start with you, the children that you've adopted in -- from Haiti are Dejennika , who's eight, and her brother, Djouvensky , who is six. They are not with you at this point because of a delay with paperwork, as I just said. So what went through your mind when you heard about this earthquake?

Ms. SCHLENBAKER: Well, fear and very -- just a lot of turmoil, not knowing if they were OK. They were so close to the palace that had crumbled that we were very worried about their safety.

VIEIRA: But I understand you realize given the time when the quake actually hit Haiti that they were probably not inside the orphanage, is that right?

Ms. SCHLENBAKER: That's what we were hoping for. I was just down there in December, and they're very rigid on their schedules. And so when the quake hit at 4:30, everybody should have still been outside with all the handicapped children. So that's what we were praying for.

VIEIRA: Brett , the communication with Haiti is almost nonexistent, so how did you hear that the kids were OK?

Mr. SCHLENBAKER: We got a phone call from one of the -- our friends from church who got an e-mail from a gentleman that was on a mission trip down there and he just happened to be staying at the orphanage when the earthquake hit. And sometime yesterday, he was able to leave the orphanage and get out to an area where he got cell service or somehow he got word to somebody in the States and an e-mail went around saying that everybody in the orphanage was OK.

VIEIRA: And was the orphanage, the structure, still intact?

Mr. SCHLENBAKER: No. The -- what the e-mail said, it was real general, but it said everybody was OK. They lost part of the church that's in the compound, and the compound's surrounded by about 12-foot concrete walls and so most of the walls had crumbled down. But other than that, everything else was OK.

VIEIRA: Kendra , we mentioned -- we mentioned that there was a paperwork delay that was keeping you from bringing the children home.


VIEIRA: You have officially adopted them. So what happens next? Are you going to head to Haiti ?

Ms. SCHLENBAKER: Well, at this time, we'd love to just get on a flight and head down there and see for ourself that they're OK, but we're trying to work with the government . The children are legally ours and I have copies of all the paperwork stating that. So at this time, we're working with Congressman Rick Larson and his aide in hoping that maybe the right people in government will see our paperwork and help us get passports and visas for the kids to get them out of the country , because that's all that we're needing. And that way, we can get them home.

VIEIRA: Yeah. You already have two biological children, as well, Karson and Austin , that are waiting to see their brother and sister . What do these two little children mean to you?

Ms. SCHLENBAKER: Mm-hmm. They're part of our family . They have been for three years. So we talk about them like they already live with us. They're very much involved in our family . Everybody -- we come from a large family , so everybody talks about them like they already are living here. So to have them here would just be amazing.

VIEIRA: Kendra...

Ms. SCHLENBAKER: And to actually get them out of there.

VIEIRA: Kendra , we're going to have to go.


VIEIRA: I thank you, Kendra and Brett , so much for this very happy ending . We'll be back after your local news.