Child welfare expert warns against adopting from Haiti

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman tells Post that experts agree a person who suffered trauma should stay in familiar place.

January 31, 2010 04:08
2 minute read.
A child looks at water bottles bearing the photos

Haiti Adopted Children Emergency Action Group. (photo credit: AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Adopting children from earthquake-devastated Haiti is a kind humanitarian gesture but not the best way to help them, according to child welfare expert Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child.

International adoptions are not advisable even in ideal circumstances, because of cultural difference, but when a child has suffered such a traumatic experience it is best for them to stay in familiar surroundings, according to Kadman, who will speak about the government’s proposal to adopt Haitian orphans at the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child next week.

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“I know this comes from a desire to help, but it is just not the right solution,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “Most experts agree that a person who has suffered a serious trauma should stay in a place they are familiar with.”

Continued Kadman: “It would make much more sense for Israel to send a team of experts to establish a youth village... and to use resources to improve the lives of Haitian children in their own country.”

Kadman pointed to Israel’s vast experience running youth villages here and gave the example of the Yemin Orde Youth Village near Haifa, which provides a home to immigrant children from many different backgrounds.

Yemin Orde has indeed become a model for youth villages around the world, with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee facilitating the opening last year of a similar village for orphans of the genocide in Rwanda.

“That is exactly what Israel should do in Haiti,” said Kadman. “Send experts from here to help them on their own soil, and not to adopt a symbolic child as a humanitarian gesture. Converting them to Judaism and bringing them to a completely different culture will be very difficult for the children.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, which is behind the move to adopt Haitian orphans, responded by saying that “all international adoptions are conducted according to international law and bilateral agreements with the countries involved.”

She also said that the government had been in discussions with international agencies such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  and UNICEF to make sure any such adoptions were carried out in a sensitive and responsible fashion.

In the meantime, Israel’s ambassador to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Amos Radian, told the Post this week that before any adoptions could take place there had to be an agreement with the Haitian authorities.

“It is a very complicated process given the current conditions,” he said. “There is no central government here and those who are in charge are dealing with more pressing matters.”

Last week, UNICEF warned that the possibility of child trafficking following the earthquake had become a main concern. Many children separated from parents had become vulnerable to trafficking and sexual exploitation, it said.

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