Before the quake, Haiti had about 380,000 children in orphanages and now the U.S. State Department is estimating there could be tens of thousands more children left without parents.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says:
“One area we are urgently focused on is the plight of Haitian orphans,” she said of the thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of children who were left without parents after the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck last Tuesday.
” ‘We will also be doing everything we can to unite the many children and families that have been separated in the aftermath of the earthquake and to do all that we can to expedite the travel of children who were in the line for adoption who have a legal, permanent home [or] guardianship waiting for them. We will not let red tape stand in the way of helping those in need.’ ”
“According to The New York Times, that process was already under way, as a group of 53 Haitian orphans touched down in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the first of what is expected to be a large wave of children who will arrive in the U.S. after the country loosened its policy on visa requirements to expedite the adoption of parentless Haitian children by American families. It normally takes up to three years to adopt a child from Haiti.”
According to a Canadian Web site France will immediately take in 276 children from quake-hit Haiti who had been matched with French parents for adoption, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Wednesday.
While researching for this story I found another site from a children’s organization in Haiti saying that the situation is not as dire as the State Department is thinking and believes they will have far fewer children to place.
“Despite making a public statement discouraging people from trying to adopt earthquake orphans We have been inundated with offers from around the world from well meaning couples wanting to know how to set about adopting. Please could we make the following points very clearly:
- Despite exaggeration in the media by people who wish to make a dramatic story, the actual number of children orphaned by the earthquake is likely to be 5-10,000, based simply on the experience of other major disasters. After the tsunami reports of 1.5 m orphans from the same sources turned out to be quite false, with the final figure of about 5,400. There were similar ratios of overall fatality to number of orphans created in each country.
- There are hundreds of thousands of children in need of immediate help but most will have some traceable family somewhere. These children will need schools, homes and so on and longer term donations are needed to support them.
- Of the 5-10,000 orphans typically, with support from family strengthening programmes such as those we already run in Haiti, 80-90 % would have family whom they know in some position to care for them. This leaves perhaps 1000 newly orphaned children aged 0-18 from the earthquake the older of whom with have deep linguistic and cultural routes and would have a difficult time adapting to competitive Western schooling etc. We expect to end up with many of these older children, in the usual pattern of events. Perhaps 50 babies orphaned by the earthquake may be suitable for adoption whereas many children already orphaned were already in the process of adoption.
- The total number of fatalities from the earthquake is likely to exceed 200,000 which is 2% of the population of Haiti, with a heavy concentration in poor urban areas. The current number of orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti is about 380,000 of whom more than 2% have probably died in the disaster. There are therefore probably fewer actual orphans in Haiti as a result of this disaster, although the number is still horrific and the conditions of they and other children have deteriorated sharply.
- Children who have just been orphaned by the earthquake will not have been properly assessed with families traced etc until at least 18 months time, given the state of records and so on in Haiti.
Many thousands of couples worldwide have stated an interest in adopting an earthquake orphan. There is a huge mismatch between offer and actually need.”
I’m not sure what to make of the differential in numbers. I guess we will have a much better idea as the rescuers are able to match children up with their families. If there is a need, would you adopt an orphan from the Haitian earthquake? What would it mean to the children we already have?