Too Soon To Adopt Haitian Children, Officials Warn

Filed under: In The News

Young children are seen at an orphanage on January 18, 2010 following the earthquake that hit Port au Prince on January 12, 2010.Credit: Julien Tack, AFP / Getty Images

Your heart no doubt goes out to the 380,000 children orphaned by the earthquake in Haiti.

However, officials at the Joint Council on International Children's Services don't want Americans to start adopting Haitian children too soon.

Mass adoptions and airlifts could break up families and leave Haitian children prey to black-market adoption rings, leaders of the American advocacy organization tell the British newspaper The Guardian.

The newspaper reports the organization has received hundreds of inquiries about adopting Haitian children in the past few days. There are usually only about 10 per month.

The Archdiocese of Miami proposed an airlift of thousands of Haitian refugee children. A similar airlift brought 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children to the United States in the early '60s.

It's too soon for that, adoption advocates tell The Guardian

"Bringing children into the U.S., either by airlift or new adoption during a time of national emergency, can open the door for fraud, abuse and trafficking," reads an official statement by the organization. "Every effort must be made in a timely fashion to locate living parents and extended family members. Many children who might appear to be orphaned may in fact be only temporarily separated from their family."

Tom DiFilipo, the president of the council, tells The Guardian he understands people's humanitarian instincts.

"If you see a child fall over on the sidewalk, your natural tendency is to pick it up," he tells The Guardian. "People are seeing the disaster in Haiti and they want to help so they call us and say: 'We could take one of those children.' It's a fabulous sentiment, but it's not good policy."

Leaders of the U.S. Council for Adoption agree, releasing a statement that: "Even in the name of humanitarian interest, we cannot risk the premature adoptions of vulnerable children who may have been separated from their families by this tragedy."

Meanwhile, workers for UNICEF [United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund] are trying to register children and reunite them with their surviving family members.

"Discussions about fostering and adoptions are premature and it's highly likely many children have become separated from their parents. Our primary concern is safety and shelter for these children," a spokeswoman for UNICEF tells The Guardian.

However, not all nations are heeding that advice.

Some 110 children were airlifted from Haiti to be adopted by parents in the Netherlands.

But Patrick Mikkelsen, a spokesman for Holland's justice ministry, tells The Guardian the adoptions were orchestrated by two respected Dutch agencies.

"We do not simply pick up children from the streets and bring them to Holland to be adopted," he tells the paper.

How To Help Haiti

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