MK Danon: Israel should adopt no more than 50 Haitian kids

February 3, 2010 01:19
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Israel should adopt orphaned children from Haiti as a symbolic gesture of humanitarian compassion but must not take in more than 50 youngsters, Likud MK Danny Danon, chairman of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, recommended on Tuesday

He was speaking at a meeting called to discuss a government proposal to adopt children who lost their families in the January 12 earthquake.

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According to Danon – who heard from representatives of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and the Foreign Ministry, as well as from children’s rights organizations – Israel must focus on taking in a small number of children and ensuring their successful integration into society.

“We don’t want to see a large wave of children here from Haiti,” Danon told the committee. “Adopting no more than 50 children as a symbolic gesture of humanitarian assistance is fine, after a comprehensive process of integration and absorption is properly established.”

Danon said that the country’s social welfare services seemed well prepared for such a complicated international adoption operation, one involving children who have gone through an experience as traumatic as the earthquake that devastated the poor Caribbean country last month. He encouraged the services to move forward with the plans.

Orna Hirschfeld, director of the National Authority for Inter-country Adoption, which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, said that a committee had already been established to create a program for absorbing the children.

She added that about 200 families had already come forward asking to adopt youngsters.

“We are currently in the process of carrying out initial background checks on potential families who have expressed interest in adopting Haitian orphans,” said Hirschfeld, highlighting that it would cost the ministry around NIS 100,000 per family to assist with international adoption fees.

Foreign Ministry director-general Rafi Barak told the committee that while the diplomatic process of adopting Haitian orphans was moving forward, “The Haitian authorities have yet to receive an official request from Israel to adopt children.

“Basically, there is still no functioning government in Haiti,” he informed the committee. “However, in the coming weeks, a representative of the Foreign Ministry will be heading there to discuss this matter.”

While the government insists that adopting Haitian orphans is just another extension of its humanitarian aid to Haiti, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, urged the committee to rethink the move.

“I know this stems from good intentions,” Kadman told the panel. “But I strongly recommend against adopting even one child from Haiti.”

According to Kadman, taking children who experienced such a trauma and transporting them to a strange country could be extremely disturbing.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post last week, Kadman said, “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.”

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