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Haiti Earthquake Appeal: premature adoption warning

Haiti Earthquake Appeal: premature adoption warning

Wednesday 20 January 2010: The world’s largest orphan charity, SOS Children, has urged people to think twice about adopting Haiti earthquake orphans.  Instead, the charity says the best option is to provide a loving environment that is culturally local where children can feel secure. They have also cautioned all organisations working in Haiti against premature adoption decisions. 

SOS Children International Secretariat called for all emergency relief actors in Haiti to put children first and work in accordance with the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.

"Children are consistently one of the most vulnerable groups in emergency situations. The Guidelines for the alternative care of children, welcomed by the United Nations in November 2009, provide a framework for working with children in emergencies which should be observed by all relief actors in Haiti.Children separated from their mother or/and father might be accompanied by another relative and maybe being cared for by aunts, uncles, or older siblings."

"However, many children will be unaccompanied, meaning that they are not cared for by a relative or other legally responsible adults. These children may be in the care of neighbours, friends of the family, complete strangers, or are alone and in an extremely vulnerable position.

It is vital that a coordinated approach is taken by relief agencies in Haiti to identify, register and document these children as quickly as possible with a view to the earliest possible reunification with their family. At this moment, the situation of most unaccompanied children cannot be fully assessed on a reliable basis. SOS Children's Villages therefore cautions all organisations working in Haiti against taking premature decisions on permanent care solutions (e.g. adoption) for them. "

Andrew Cates, SOS Children CEO said earlier: “When you see any child who has lost their family on the news, your natural instinct is to want to go and pick them up. Of course sometimes international adoption is the right solution for a child, but far more often it is not. A child who has started growing up in a community and lost their parents still has some inner security from knowing their environment … in fact, sometimes parents are found years later still mourning the child they thought was dead. SOS Children has a well proven model for orphans based on family groups of about ten children with a well-trained mother. About fifteen families live together in one purpose built village and is a good solution for local children. We provide a loving environment that is culturally local, with local language and religion where children can feel secure.”

SOS Children, who has two Children’s Villages in Haiti is preparing to provide a long-term home for children who have been orphaned by the catastrophe. The first delivery of ten tonnes of food, water, medicine and tents arrived earlier this week, and a second shipment arrived by air today. Specialist psychologists and social workers were also sent from Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic to help children cope with trauma and where possible, reunite children separated from their families.

SOS Children has been working in Haiti since 1978 and provides a family for life for children who have lost their parents through war, famine, disease, natural disaster and poverty. Over 78,000 orphaned and abandoned children are currently cared for by SOS mothers in clusters of family homes in more than 500 of Children's Villages in 124 countries worldwide. Thousands more children benefit from SOS Children's outreach support which includes education, vocational training, medical care and community development programmes.