• July/August 2005
  • Vol. 6, No. 6

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Lessons From the Tsunami

Tragedies of great proportion, such as the Southeast Asia tsunami of 2004, reveal both the best and worst of human nature. In the case of the tsunami, enormous generosity, including offers to adopt orphans, existed side by side with exploitation, including trafficking in children. In the aftermath of such tragedies, the need for policies that will protect the most vulnerable victims—the children—becomes apparent.

A recent policy brief by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute examines the role of intercountry adoption in emergencies such as natural disasters and armed conflicts. The brief outlines the unique threats to children and current policies, such as the U.N. Declaration and the Hague Convention, that regulate and guide intercountry adoption in these situations.

Suggested organizational responses to children's needs in the wake of emergencies are outlined under the following categories:

  • Protection of children (including safety, security, and basic physical needs)
  • Family tracing and reunification
  • Family and community solutions (including an emphasis on family care over institutional care)
  • Widespread trauma
  • Respect for nation, culture, and religion

Recommendations include the use of intercountry adoption, under specific circumstances, but never immediately after an emergency. Other recommendations include:

  • Use of concurrent planning along with reunification efforts when family members are difficult to trace
  • Engaging child welfare experts in the immediate aftermath of the emergency to help assess needs and develop long-term systems of care
  • Priority for adoption by relatives
  • Establishment of international standards for care of children in emergencies

The full policy brief, "Intercountry Adoption in Emergencies: The Tsunami Orphans," can be downloaded from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute website at www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2005_Brief_ICA_In_Emergencies_April.pdf (Editor's note: Link no longer active).

Related Items

For more information on U.S. and international policies regarding intercountry adoption, see the following:


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