Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japan: Adoption After Natural Disaster

It was only a matter of time before a question like this came up after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan:
I've read many forums where people say that the Japanese don't give their children in adoption to people who are not Japanese or permanent residents from Japan. However after the tsunami, I can imagine how many kids are left without families, and we think it could be the time to start looking for a child to adopt. Any information will be greatly appreciated.
Looks like it's time for a refresher on the inadvisability of adoption in the aftermath of natural disaster.  Consider this, published in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami in 2004:
Adoption experts say the best thing people can do is to donate money to causes that directly help the children. They say it’s wrong to take a traumatized child away from the environment that they have grown up in.“Adoptions, especially inter-country ones, are inappropriate during the emergency phase as children are better placed being cared for by their wider families and the communities they know,” said the charity Save the Children in a statement released Jan. 6, 2005. International Adoption needs to be well planned. “The last thing they need to do is be rushed away to some foreign land,” said Cory Barron of Children’s Hope International, an American adoption agency. “We have to think of the child first.”
And this, published after the earthquake in Haiti:
When you see any child who has lost their family on the news, your natural instinct is to want to go and pick them up and cherish them. You should not feel guilty about this instinct, it is part of being human and most of us share it. There is also a deep wisdom in this reaction about the need for a proper long term solution for the child not just one day's hot meal. However before taking steps toward trying to adopt an earthquake child, you should stop and think:

1) Is you adopting them the best solution for the child? A child who has started growing up in a community and their lost parents still has some inner security from knowing their environment, knowing other adults, familiar weather, the sound of local language or accents and their general surrounding (even smells, humidity and temperature). You may feel you can offer the most caring environment in the world, but it may not be the one where the child feels most secure.
And this, recently published by an adoption agency, about adoption in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan:
Disasters such as the recent events in Japan or the earthquake in Haiti can stimulate humanitarian efforts to bring the children to America and often spurs an increased interest in international adoption. In situations of conflict or disaster there are inevitably children with no apparent close family. These children are not necessarily orphans, so international organizations use the term “unaccompanied children” to distinguish them. The term orphan can only apply to children whose parents are declared or known deceased. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has introduced measures to protect and assist these unaccompanied children.

Initial efforts are directed towards locating the child's family or finding community members who can care for this child. This and other international organizations work tirelessly to prevent additional unnecessary separations and reunite children with their families as quickly as possible. They try to ensure the children receive the protection and assistance they need, and to find a long-term solution for each child. Therefore, in an emergency situation, an unaccompanied child is not adoptable, at least in the short term. Efforts must first be made to trace family members and to provide basic protection such as food, shelter, and emotional and psychological care. Every attempt must be made reunite children with their biological families. In general, a relatively long period of time must elapse before international adoption is considered. During times of catastrophe, the international community tacitly agrees to not displace children to other countries right away and that adoptions will take place only after civil order has been established or re established and all in country resources have been identified for children. Such placements could add to the trauma they have already suffered. In addition, it is essential that civil order is re established to ensure that all adoptions are processed ethically and in the child's best interests.
So channel your humanitarian instincts toward donations to reputable organizations offering aid in Japan, not toward adoption.  If you're particularly interested in helping children, consider donations to Unicef and Save the Children.  The Happy Hearts Fund, founded by a survivor of the Asian tsunami and dedicated to rebuilding children's lives after natural disasters, is soliciting funds to rebuild schools in Japan.  Please add links to your favorite organizations working in Japan in the comments.

16 comments:

Amanda said...

SOS Children's Villages, which provides all sorts of support for families, help in times of crisis, as well as builds villages (with homes, medical facilities, schools etc.) and provides village mothers for children who have been orphaned, has a location in Japan. I'd recommend them as well.

The adopted ones said...

I was wondering when someone, somewhere would bring up adopting an orphan from Japan...

Agree with Amanda about SOS Children's Village and hopefully they employ dna collection.

Anonymous said...

Japan does have a small IA adoption program, (but not for post-disaster adoptions.)

Japan is a wealthy nation. I imagine they have some kind of child welfare agency in place.

Von said...

Why further traumatise an already traumatised child? The Japanese are capable, resilient people who will have adequate solutions; support them and let them find their way.

Reena said...

There are a lot of good charities folks can donate to help Japan. Check out the Charity Navigator to find one with a good rating.

As others have stated-- Japan is a rich and developed country. I would be more than a little surprise if this country started adopting out their children.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with sentiments shared here but in fact, Japan does have a small IA program already in place. The children are placed primarily as infants and are healthy. Much like the U.S. as a "sender" nation, so too have some Japanese Mothers elected to send their children to families abroad for adoption.

Just wanted to clarify for accuracy as I know of several families who have adopted Japanese children as very young infants.

But to create a full scale International Program in the wake of this crisis would only further add to the tragedy.

Anonymous said...

If you are of japanese heritage it is possible to apply to adopt a child from Japan. Not for disaster reasons, this has always been the case. It is a long process and very expensive. Historically only open to Japanese people or those who have lived in japan for many years prior to the adoption process being started.

Sorry folks, this baby hunting ground is closed!

JBH said...

Yes - thank you for posting it. As soon as I witnessed the disaster for myself...I knew this issue would raise its head...again.

Elaine Vigneault said...

It's not hard to find information about Japan's adoption programs. It's right here: http://adoption.state.gov/country/japan.html

Please note where is says "Japan is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption" which should be reason enough for American prospective adoptive parents to choose another adoption route.

And clearly, the chaos of a crisis (like an earthquake and tsunami) is more likely to result in mistakes during the adoption process. So that's not a good time to begin an adoption.

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