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Europe Warns Against Tsunami Adoptions

by Julio Godoy

Europe Proposal To 'Rescue' Tsunami Orphans Draws Ire

(IPS) PARIS -- Parents across Europe are being warned against adopting children orphaned by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The French government has ordered a six-month suspension of all adoptions from the region. "The better solution for the children is to be cared for in their societies of origin," said minister for health and family Philippe Douste-Blazy.

"I have talked with all the organizations which take care of children, including UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and all humanitarian NGOs," Douste-Blazy said. "We all concluded that the temporary suspension of adoptions from the region, and the encouraging of the sponsoring of the affected children's education and nutrition by French couples are the best solutions."

The tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean region Dec. 26 killed more than 226,000 people, mostly in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. Thousands of children were orphaned.

Marieline and Jean-Pierre C., middle-aged Parisian parents of two, thought of doing their bit by adopting a child from the region.

"Until now, Jean-Pierre and I never thought of adopting a child," Marieline, a successful lawyer in Paris told IPS. "We have two children, and we are happy with them. But seeing the misery we thought let's help, let's adopt a Thai or Indonesian child."

Thousands of other couples across Europe have expressed an interest in adopting an orphaned child from the tsunami-hit region. But organizations that work with children's interests see this as misplaced compassion.

"We should not follow our charitable impulses, however generous they might be," French commissioner for children Claire Brisset told IPS. "We should first establish that the children concerned really are orphans, which is extremely difficult in such a chaotic situation. We should not add more emotional strains to present traumas."

The emphasis must be to restore "the thread of their lives in the region, with their relatives, or in a local relief center," Brisset said. That way "the children would still be surrounded by their own culture."

Most children's organizations have taken a similar position. "The best caring for the orphaned children can be provided by the larger family, by uncles and cousins and grandparents," said UNICEF spokesperson in France Frederic Sizaret.

German non-governmental organization Terre des Homes also warned against adoptions on humanitarian grounds. "Adopting a child might be a well-meant act," Maria Holz, an expert on adoption with the organization told IPS. But adoption should be considered only when there is no family support available, she said.

Adoption also requires a lengthy identification process, Holz said, and it has to be considered whether the couple and the child suit one another.

Swiss non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Espace Adoption and Service Social International (SSI) have been warning parents there against adoption. "Adopting a child in an outburst of generosity imposes a heavy burden of gratitude on the child, which she probably will never be able to pay," Espace Adoption director Christine Piffaretti told IPS.

SSI director Rolf Widmer pointed out that several South East Asian countries have in any case suspended the departure of all children below 16 years of age.

Fear of kidnapping of orphaned children has led Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other countries to strengthen security controls at sea ports and airports. Officials warn that children could be offered in the illegal adoption market or even to paedophile networks.

European political parties are urging governments to allocate a part of their aid specifically for children and child-caring centers.

Leading German opposition party Christian Democratic Union has urged the government to allocate a substantial part of its 640 million dollar aid "to support protection measures for children," said Christian Ruck, development expert with the party parliamentary group.

In Italy, mayor of Rome Walter Veltroni has called for "distance adoption" of children by offering financial support. The French organization Chain of Hope which supports 15,000 children in Thailand has asked for support to expand present care systems.

"Most of the time it is enough to donate a handful of dollars a week to pay for the education and nutrition of one girl or boy, while allowing them to stay in their home countries and near their larger families," said charity president Alain Deloche.

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Albion Monitor January 19, 2005 (

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