Orphan Care in Haiti
The January 12th earthquake that created widespread destruction in Haiti has created an outpouring of support and compassion from the international community.
Looking ahead to the weeks, months and years following the devastating earthquake many of us find ourselves wondering, "what will happen to the children?"
While resources and emergency responses that prioritize the needs of orphans and vulnerable children are of vital importance in Haiti, we also encourage Christians to carefully consider the longer-term needs of affected children, their families and their communities.
Despite destruction of portions of Haiti's infrastructure, many churches and community ministries still exist. Wherever possible, ongoing partnership with these local groups has the potential to make a tremendous difference for orphans and vulnerable children.
With longer-term needs in mind, the Faith to Action Initiative continues to promote the message that every child grows best in a family. We believe that meeting the needs of the Haitian children orphaned or separated from family will require a coordinated response from governments, faith-based organizations, NGOs, and local Haitian churches to ensure that the use of orphanage/institutional care is limited only to temporary and life-saving measures.
Meeting the needs of orphans and vulnerable children is a challenge in the best of circumstances.
Although some disagreements exist regarding how best to meet the needs of orphans and vulnerable children following a disaster, there are many areas of strong consensus. The following strategies represent those agreed upon by the large majority of both Christian and secular organizations when addressing children's needs in a complex emergency situation such as the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake:
The following are links to articles and online resources that may be helpful as you and/or your church community consider responding to the need in Haiti:
- The first focus after any disaster must be ensuring basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, medical care and security for the vulnerable.
- After meeting basic needs aggressive efforts must be put towards reuniting separated children with their parents or extended family members. Orphan status cannot be defined until all efforts to identify and locate family members have been made.
- Interim care must be provided during tracing and reunification efforts. Interim care may fall on a broad spectrum that includes emergency shelters, placement with relatives (kinship care), short-term foster care, placement in small group homes, or temporary care in orphanages and institutions.
- While providing interim care, children need support dealing with grief, stress and trauma. Beyond meeting basic needs, interim care programs should involve children in decision-making as well as provide them with activities that support mental health, normalize routines and activities, and offer safe places to play and talk with trusted adults.
- The search process to trace separated family members should be as timely and thorough as possible. After this has been done children can be made available for domestic or international adoption.
- The use of large-scale orphanages/institutional care should be limited and should not be seen as a permanent or long-term solution. All children should be cared for in family-style settings, and in foster or adoptive homes if not with their family of origin.
Haitian Orphans and Adoption Questions
Many families are wondering if adoption from Haiti is currently an option. Children who were already in the adoption process are being brought to the U.S. to be united with their adoptive families (families who were already in the process and had been matched with a child.) At this time however, it is not possible to begin the paperwork process to adopt a Haitian child. The websites below will help to answer any questions you might have about adoption from Haiti.
World Vision News Release (PDF)
World Vision Statement on Child Adoption from Haiti
Joint Council on International Children's Services Blog
Christian Alliance for Orphans Blog
Issues in Caring for Children Separated in an Emergency Situation
Better Care Network links to key documents:
Making a Donation
Tips for Donating to the Relief Effort in Haiti
Faith to Action Initiative Member Organizations in Haiti
Bethany Christian Services