(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel is looking into the possibility of adopting children left orphaned by the January 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti, Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog told The Jerusalem Post Saturday.
"We see this as part of Israel's humanitarian outreach," said Herzog, referring to the massive Israeli medical operation that has already reached the Caribbean country over the past few weeks, including some 10 tons of medical equipment and more than 100 medical staff.
He continued: "Haiti was one of the countries that supported us on November 29, 1947 [during the UN vote on the establishment of the State of Israel] and now it's our turn to support them."
According to Herzog, an emergency meeting was already held Thursday between representatives of Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, which is responsible through its Child Welfare Services for overseeing all international adoptions in Israel, to discuss the fine details of this particular operation.
While Israel already has agreements with several countries such as China and Russia on the procedure for international adoptions and takes in roughly 200 children a year, no such protocol currently exists with Haiti, Herzog said.
He added that Israel's ambassador to the neighboring Dominican Republic, Amos Radian, had already started looking into reaching a relevant agreement with the Haiti authorities to start adopting as soon as possible in the coming weeks.
"We first need an agreement with the country's government," explained Herzog, adding, "However, with all the chaos in Haiti, this could take a while."
He said that Israel would work with local charities operating in the disaster zone to identify children that needed adopting and highlighted that families in Israel had already come forward offering to adopt Haitian children.
On Friday, the United Nations organization that oversees the welfare of children warned that the possibility of child trafficking following the earthquake had become a main concern. It said that many children separated from parents had become vulnerable to trafficking and sexual exploitation.
In Israel, families that adopt children from abroad are financially compensated by the government, receiving subsidies of more than NIS 100,000. Herzog said that all children adopted from Haiti would undergo the standard conversion process to Judaism.