In some countries the rush to adopt children from Haiti has raised concern about the fate of potential adoptees.
It is estimated that the earthquake orphaned tens of thousands of Haitian children. As a result, countries such as the Netherlands have moved to fast-track adoptions from Haiti. The United States has announced plans to airlift prospective adoptees for care In the US.
Although snap decisions may occur, rush adoptions are not the best form emergency aid, experts say. Authorities must first verify that the child has no living relatives. Based on experiences with other catastrophes, authorities have found that relatives very often surface after some time.
”Their family members and relatives are often found soon after these incidents. The assumption that the child is an orphan is always under question,” said Irene Pärssinen-Hentula, head of international adoption services for the Save the Children organisation in Finland.
Experts are unanimous on this question. The past is full of examples of adoptions gone wrong, as well as of human trafficking. Intentions are often good, however, said Riitta Högbacka, a researcher of international adoptions and a lecturer at Helsinki University’s Social Sciences faculty.
”We go in with good intentions, but then we find that they are not orphans, but children whose parents are searching for them.”
Högbacka said this occurred in places such Chad, where in 2007 the French organisation Zoé took Darfur children to France for adoption. The same organisation saved children following the Vietnam war in the 1970s, resulting in Vietnamese parents losing their children.
Getting out of Adoption is Difficult
It is not easy to return adopted children to their home countries, even if their parents have been located. Högbacka points out that poor parents don’t necessarily have the resources to find their children. For her part, Pärssinen-Hentula emphasises that adoption is a legally binding agreement, which is difficult to dissolve.
”In principle, adoption is permanent,” she added.
In Finland international adoptions are organised by Save the Children, Interpedia and that Social Services of the City of Helsinki. None of these organisations, nor the Ministry of Health and Social Services, has permission to adopt Haitian children.
There are currently 500 Finns queuing for international adoptions. Adoption agencies say Finns have not yet been asking to adopt children from Haiti.
Haiti may become an adoption location only when its government becomes stable. Building up conditions in Haiti to acceptable levels could take years under present circumstances.
Now, what Haitian children need are emergency aid, hospital care, safety and child-friendly places to call home. According to the experts, Finland can best help by providing financial aid.