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Child Adoption During a Natural Disaster

Not an Option During the Crisis


A child rests in an evacuation center after natural disaster in Japan.

Japan adoption not possible so soon after natural disaster.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Many people are impacted by the images seen through the media coverage of natural disasters. The December 2004 tsunami that hit South-East Asia, Hurricane Katrina of 2005, the January 2010 earthquake of Haiti, and the March 2011 triple natural disaster of Japan tug at the heartstrings of those wishing to help the youngest victims through child adoption.

It's during these times that adoption agencies are flooded with phone calls from people with good intentions wishing to adopt orphans. Many countries hit by a natural disaster like a tsunami or an earthquake put bans on foreign adoptions. Here are some reasons why:

  1. There are many people who use tragedy as an opportunity to steal children for child slavery, sex trade, or adoption for major profit. You have probably heard of different stories where people have been arrested for trying to remove children from areas hit by a disaster.

  2. Families have been separated. It may take several months to figure out which children are in need of homes and which children have extended family who are willing to parent them. Sometimes, children are dropped off at a shelter while their families assess the damage done to their homes. These children are not orphans.

  3. It's usually a better option to keep children with extended family, if possible. This again takes several months to sort out after a disaster.

  4. Agencies that would be in charge of adoption or kinship placement are busy at this time with providing aid to the suffering.

  5. Some countries affected by a natural disaster do not allow international adoption due to their religious beliefs. Other countries have strict adoption criteria, again the effort at the time of a crisis is placed on rebuilding and aid.

  6. It's important to follow adoption law and meet the requirements as outlined by the U.S. government and immigration law as well as for the child's birth country. A child would have to meet the U.S. definition of an orphan as well as the legal guidelines and requirements of the child's country of origin. During a time of natural disaster needed documentation required may be difficult to locate or has been permanently lost in flood waters or rubble.

  7. The children have lost their homes, families, friends, and schools - is it necessary to lose their culture, traditions, and country? The shock of a move to another country may be just another trauma for the children to endure so soon after a disaster.

  8. It may be emotionally healthy and healing for children to see their homeland recover from the destruction of a natural disaster. It may give the children closure to a tragic and traumatic time in their lives. They can not just be loved out of this loss.

In times of crisis we must consider the big picture and put the needs of children first. Consider these organizations and check out other ways to send help:

The above links are well known and safe bets for making donations. They are also usually very up to date on their information.

Learn more about Japan adoptions.

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