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Melanie Verwoerd: Adoption of Haitian children calls for great care

Last Thursday, three days after the Haiti earthquake, there was a moment of joy.

Redjeson Hausteen Claude (2) was pulled from the ruins.

As rescuers lifted him out, his mother Daphnee Plaisin ran forward and he spotted her, giving a delighted smile of recognition as only a child can do for his mother.

But imagine if Daphnee was not there -- she might have gone for water. Imagine if they took Redjeson to one of the care points for separated children.

Perhaps his mother could not find him or did not hear amongst all the chaos that they took a baby out of the rubble.

And then a few day later, he gets shipped off in a plane to Ireland -- with his mother never realising that he was alive.

On this page yesterday, Sinead Ryan wrote a piece suggesting that Irish people should start adopting babies "now".

Amongst others, she encouraged people who want to adopt babies to email Minister Barry Andrews TD with their request.

I am sure that we all want to do something to help the children of Haiti. But what needs to happen now is for children to be taken care of in Haiti.

This is what Unicef and many of our partners are trying to do -- to the best of our ability.

The priority is to make sure that children are safe, fed and medically looked after.

Our next priority is to reunite them with their parents or family members. Before we can even consider any adoption, we have to ensure the children are truly orphaned and that there are no surviving relatives.

To cut any corners in the adoption procedures would be extremely dangerous.

During the Indian Tsunami in 2005, traffickers immediately started preying on vulnerable children -- both for the sex trade and also for foreign adoptions.

Reports from our staff in Haiti indicate that in the field hospitals, suspicious people are already attempting to remove children without permission.

Without any doubt there will be many children orphaned by the earthquake, who, in months to come, will need a good home.

In the interim, the best thing to do is to support those agencies that can look after the children and try to unite them with their families.

To suggest other wise is irresponsible and dangerous.