In the wake of the devastation caused by the 8.9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan earlier this month, tragic reports continue to pour in. According to the latest tally by Japan's National Police Agency is over 10,000 people have been confirmed dead, and 17,500 are still reported missing.
As the death count continues to rise, people around the world are hoping to help the children who have been -- and will be -- orphaned by this disaster.
Orphan advocacy groups and adoption agencies, however, have shut down the possibility of adopting Japanese children who have been affected, at least for the time being. Despite concerns over the destruction that has left many homeless, the impending threat of radiation and the inclement weather that continues to affect those without power, experts say it is better for children to remain in their home country.
Dr. Jane Aronson, founder of the Worldwide Orphan Foundation, explained the importance of affected children remaining in their home countries to The New York Times last year, following the Earthquake in Haiti:
"Adoption is not the way to solve absolutely massive, tragic issues of vulnerable children," she says. "An earthquake is a traumatizing event. The best thing for these children is to keep them in their communities, with neighbors and relatives, and with food and shelter and safety."
Martha Osborne, spokeswoman of Rainbowkids, an international orphan advocacy organization and adoption agency, agrees. In an article on the Rainbow kids website she describes several reasons why international adoptions are ill-advised after disasters.
One main issue is that it is difficult to distinguish those children who have actually been orphaned from those who have been separated from their families. Families can be torn apart during catastrophes but there remains hope for reunification. Adoption agencies, such as Dillon International, have emphasized the need to exercise all options for keeping children in their homeland, prior to allowing for international adoptions.
"As with any natural disaster, family members can become lost or separated from each other, therefore, it is imperative that every possible effort be made to first reunite children with their birth families or relatives."
"Intercountry adoption is appropriate only if a child is unlikely to find a permanent, loving family in his/her birth country, Osborne explained in an email to HuffPost.
In Japan this is highly probable. An article on Fox News reports that culturally, the Japanese place great importance on family. Japanese children are less likely to be regarded as orphans and rather taken in to be cared for by relatives.
Another issue stems from the actual adoption process. Even prior to the March 11 disaster, the Japanese adoption process was difficult and drawn out. In Osborne's article she elaborates that adoptions are usually long ordeals, in which the adopting parents are evaluated and proper care for the child is ensured.
"In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, a country's government may be in disarray and what resources are available may be deployed on projects such as providing safe water and food, caring for the injured, burying the dead, maintaining order, etc. Thus, the courts and other entities that could handle relinquishments and adoptions may not be functioning at all."
According to an article in the New York Times, these issues were not properly addressed following the earthquake that ravaged Haiti last year, resulting in controversy that continues today. Shortly after the Haiti disaster, orphan adoption requests from the U.S. and other counties poured in. In an effort to aid the devastated country, U.S. officials allowed adoptions prematurely.
Over 1,000 Haitian children were brought to the U.S., some of whom still had families in Haiti. Others, in the rush to remove the Haitian children from their ravaged homes, were brought to the U.S. and had nowhere to go -- adopted parents had not been provided, or were unready to accept the children into their homes.
Japanese children will not meet the same fate, despite the demand growing in the U.S. to adopt orphans.
"Although Americans are acting from their hearts when they inquire about the possibility of adopting, they must understand that these children deserve the opportunity to stay within their country, culture and families," Osborne told HuffPost.
Though there continues to be little information on how Japanese children who become orphans will be cared for, there is hope. The Japanese government and nonprofit organizations from around the world continue to search for survivors and families can still be reunited.
Though adoptions are currently unavailable, those concerned for children can contribute to organizations advocating on their behalf.
Save The Children, for example, is on the ground in Japan, and needs resources. On their website they provide options to sponsor children that need services.
Ashinaga, also provides resources for Japanese orphans. According to their website, Ashinaga will provide education, financial, and emotional resources for children affected by the Tohoku Tsunami.
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