ISS Opposes Completing Adoptions

20 01 2010

International Social Service (ISS) has issued the following position statement regarding intercountry adoption.

In summary, the ISS position includes suspending adoptions without a full and final adoption decree issued by a Haitian court.   It is Joint Council’s assessment that suspending pending adoptions is overly restrictive and would subject vulnerable children to further victimization.  The ISS statement fails to consider the psychological and physical damage  when children are forced to remain without physical or psychological safety.

Joint Council will issue a complete statement shortly.

As in every dramatic event that affects a country, the question about the intercountry adoption of children arises again in the Haitian context.

In this regard, ISS / IRC first recalls that, in general, international adoption should not take place in a situation of war or natural disaster, given that these events make it impossible to verify the personal and family situation of children. Any operation to adopt or to evacuate children that are victims of the earthquake to another country must be absolutely avoided, as was the case during the 2004 tsunami.
However, the intercountry adoption situation in Haiti highlights a new problem: what response should be given to the multiple adoption dossiers which were in the process of being finalised before the earthquake? As of today, some receiving countries have announced their intention to ‘freeze’ all pending adoptions due to the present incapacity of the Haitian authorities to follow the required procedures. Yet other receiving countries have already planned to launch evacuation missions for children as quick as possible and in this situation, ISS/IRC would like to reiterate the
following points.
Given the actual state of the country, the transportation of relief supplies of basic necessities is extremely difficult due to the congestion of different channels of communication and transportation (in particular, the airport at Port au Prince). Mobilising forces in this emergency context should focus on meeting the needs of the greater majority. All initiatives that involve an additional burden to the existing relief efforts should take place later, to give priority to current operations focusing on basic needs.
Regarding the adoption of children, a difference must obviously be made between those who have been declared adoptable and those for whom an adoption order (judgment) has been delivered.  For children where matching has occurred and there is an adoption order (judgment), the transfer of these children to their adoptive families could be considered under the following conditions:
1) identification of the child and his/her location is secured by the necessary safeguards,
particularly through copies of his/her dossier lodged in the receiving country, personal data
is stored appropriately;
2) the psycho-social adoptability of the child (ie ability to be adopted) is re-evaluated,
considering the trauma s/he might have suffered (emotional shock, physical injuries, etc.).
3) it is established that the child’s dossier is complete and that the adoption order (judgment)
has been delivered;
4) the diplomatic representatives of the concerned receiving countries are able to verify the
actual identities, adoption dossiers and alternative care conditions of the children;
5) the Haitian authorities are duly informed and involved in the finalisation of the adoptions in
For children who do not meet these conditions, no action should be undertaken at this point to accelerate the adoption procedure. It is important to remember that for sometime, intercountry adoption in Haiti has been subject to numerous serious concerns owing to the lack of guarantees and transparency. Where the necessary safeguards are not available, intercountry adoption should be suspended until the reinstallation of the administrative and judicial systems in Haiti.
The ISS / IRC, stresses that the above mentioned conditions require time to be fulfilled and they can not be undertaken in an urgent manner. Moreover, these children are currently experiencing extreme stress so that a sudden shift to a new country and a new family can have a psychological impact that is impossible to measure. According to the Guidelines developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the evacuation of such children or their temporary placement in families abroad is also traumatic. It is considered as an added disruption to the injury already suffered by the child. In the emergency phase, the efforts of the authorities of affected countries, international organisations and NGOs should focus on providing basic protection to the child (eg: accommodation, food, medical, emotional and psychological attention, education) that is as close as possible to the daily living conditions and any regrouping should be with other familiar children or adults.
Finally, ISS / IRC reminds receiving countries in charge of intercountry adoptions to consult each other as well as UN agencies and NGOs in order to develop a unified approach to this problem in order to avoid conflicting decisions and poor initiatives.

Well aware of the difficulties and suffering that the earthquake has caused, ISS / IRC presents its
deepest sympathy to the Haitian community and acknowledges, the difficult situation of parents involved in an ongoing adoption. Nevertheless, we invite various actors involved in intercountry adoption to exercise restraint and reflection in managing the current crisis and avoid giving emotional responses to a sensitive issue such as the adoption of these children.
January 18, 2009



4 responses

20 01 2010
Chris Rogers

I would rather have the child we have been trying to adopt in the U.S. adjusting in a stable environment with two loving parents to care for him and help him adjust from this terrible situation than leave him outdoors with lack of shelter, food, water, and medical needs. Leaving the children that were in the process of adoption is irresponsible to the children and the perspective families. There isn’t a logical reason to leave children in a disaster area for weeks and months to try and acclomplish your goals. This will cause more stress, mental, and physical harm or death. Yes death. If the children are left there some will dye. I don’t want children harmed from all of the real problems we have in the world with the way children are abused, but all of you know to get the paperwork done on the U.S. side is sufficient for anyone to adopt a child. That doesn’t mean all of the adoptions are full proof. There is no such thing. If someone gets through the red tape on the U.S. end of the paper trail the Haitian government isn’t going to find a problem with them. They also need to get as many of the pre-disaster orphans out as they can, because the country won’t even be able to take care of the children that have been orphaned from the disaster. Which will probably be taken care of by the same orphanages and volunteers as before.

20 01 2010
Mary Ebert

I wholeheartedly agree with Chris Rogers. All the legalese and professional talk is fine a good under normal circumstances, or even under emergencies. But, this is an absolute catastrophe for the people of Haiti. If I was a mother dying underneath a pile of rubble, my last dying wish would be for someone to help my crying babies in my stead. The children of Haiti, both in Port-Au-Prince and elsewhere in the country, do not have the luxury of waiting for paperwork as they lay dying. And, if it also not advisable to set-up safe havens for them (as I’ve been reading on various orphanage websites) because of the lack of security guarantees, what is the world supposed to do to help? Money can’t put its arms around a crying child.

20 01 2010
Laura Smith

Let’s just do the math for UNICEF — using a very conservative number, you now have 100,000 orphans who need a home in PAP. UNICEF sets up three camps with 33,000 orphans a piece? Each camp is a city that needs food, water, sanitation, medical care plus a staff of at least 3,300. Where is that manpower and resources coming from? This disaster is so big that there needs to be a multi-pronged approach — some in-country, some in other countries (US, France, Canada, etc), but it seems that some organizations would rather serve their ivory tower ideals and the “process” than actually serve the children.

21 01 2010
Marj Bluder, LCSW

There is an old wisdom: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: bite by bite. Each relieve effort is focusing on “one bite” of this tremendous effort. The “bite” JCICS and other children advocates are focusing on is: which children can we rescue FAST? The answer is: those children who have already been identified to leave the country and have paperwork in place to do so — in this case, mostly children already certified as orphans and also chosen for international adoption by famileis of various countries. It seems that 600 children out of 100,000 is a paltry solution to the probem — but it is that many less children to care for, provide food of water for, and keep safe while we look for another “bite” to find ways to help the other 99,400. before they die of dehudration and malnutrician. After these children have been sent to their waiting families, we need to look to see what the next “bite” will be. I think the next “bite” will be those children who have alrady been established as orphans, but have not yet been accepted by a family. These children will also have the paperwork — at an earlier stage of the adoption process, but enough that they COULD come to the US or other countries while the paperwork is sorted out. we could then work with USCIS and the representitives of Haiti for the furture of thse children WHILE THEY ARE IN A SAFE PLACE. I propose that these children be placed under the care of the Department of Human Services, and their licensed representitives, the child placement agencies (CPAs) in each state. Each agency has many families who have been assessed and approved in the present and recent past who would be honored to give children a safe haven until their future could be determined… which could even include being returned to Haiti when the country is safe — if that is in the best interest of a specific child.

Then, UNCEF, plase plan for feeding and sheltering the other 98,000, with our (JCICS members and concerned US citizens) help and support having nothing to do with international adoption plans until the children can (hopefully) be reunited with the adults who are willing to take responsibility for them. The orphanages that have been the previous refuge have had their staffs decimated and their food and water stores looted. Without armed protection, they cannot be depended on to provide safety.

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