Every Child To Be Given Best Possible Chance of Being Reunited with Family Members
(January 21, 2010) The current situation in the earthquake-affected areas of Haiti places many children at risk and without adequate care. A large number of children may be separated from their parents or extended families due to death, injury or the sheer chaos created by the disaster.
These children are at risk of malnutrition and disease, trafficking, sexual exploitation and serious emotional distress.
Save the Children has accepted the United Nations' request to coordinate efforts to reunite separated children, and we are working alongside other international aid organizations, local organizations and the government of Haiti to assess the status and needs of children without parental care in centers and institutions, and to identify and register children separated from their families so they can be reunified.
With Infrastructure Severely Damaged, Need Systems to Ensure Correct Identification of Orphans
Save the Children has received many well-intentioned calls from people who wish to help the children of Haiti by evacuating them to foster and adoptive homes in other countries. While we realize this is a natural instinct, long experience tells us that it is almost always in the best interests of a child to remain with their relatives and extended family, when possible.
Haiti's infrastructure has been severely damaged by the disaster, and with it the systems to ensure that children are correctly identified as orphans. The possibility of a child being mistakenly labeled as an orphan during this time is incredibly high.
The international adoptions of children from Haiti whose full legal documents were completed prior to the earthquake should certainly go forward, so those children who had already been clearly identified as orphans before the disaster can be transported to their new homes.
Extreme Caution and Time Must Be Taken to Carefully Trace and Verify Situation of Children Separated from Relatives
But we ask that no new adoption procedures of children affected by the earthquake begin until every child has been given the best possible chance of being reunited with his or her family. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, extreme caution must be used and time taken to carefully verify the situation of children. Only once the family tracing effort has been exhausted and it is determined that children cannot be reunited, and after proper screening, should international adoption be considered.
Save the Children is concerned about the mass movement of Haitian children to other countries, and we are asking governments and international organizations to respect Haitian law pertaining to the movements and adoption of children. Cases of children already taken for care should be screened and managed once they have arrived and suitable care options identified when the child is physically recovered.
Reunification Services to be Provided
Save the Children is committed to providing care and reunification services for unaccompanied and separated children in Haiti. We know that the best help for the majority of Haiti's children will be to enable them to rebuild their lives surrounded by the love and support of their own families.
Learn more about our emergency response to the earthquakes in Haiti.
Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Save the Children USA is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, a global network of 29 independent Save the Children organizations working to ensure the well-being and protection of children in more than 120 countries. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Last updated Jan. 23, 2010