17 March 2010

Haiti: 33 "Orphans" to be Reunited with their Parents

All 33 Children Recovered from U.S. Baptist Group at Haitian Border Return to their Families

March 17, 2010: SOS Children's Villages announced today that the 33 children who were to be taken to the Dominican Republic by ten US citizens and were temporarily cared for at the SOS Village in Santo, Haiti, will be reunited with their biological families. SOS Children's Villages is a global organization that provides family based care for children without parental care, and social services for families at risk.

The children arrived at the SOS Children's Village in Santo, Haiti, on January 30th. SOS was assigned the task of temporarily caring for the 33 children by Haiti's child welfare authority IBERS (The Institut du Bien Etre Sociale et De Recherches) following the arrest of ten US nationals who attempted to transport them to the Dominican Republic under dubious circumstances.

After a lengthy process of family verification handled by IBERS, the children, aged four months to twelve years, will return home today.

"It has turned out that all of the 33 children have parents and SOS Children's Villages is convinced that in most cases, the best place for a child to be cared for and protected is within the family," said Celigny Darius, National Director of SOS Children's Villages in Haiti. "In any case, poverty and lacking resources must not be allowed to be the cause for separation. We are therefore very supportive of the decision of the Haitian authorities to reunite these children with their biological families."

After the children are reunited with their families, SOS Children's Villages will be able to provide additional support to that of IBERS and UNICEF, should it be required.During their stay, all 33 children participated in the daily life of the SOS Children's Village and have been integrated into a household. Siblings and cousins lived under the same roof and all received medical care and professional help from psychologists and SOS social workers.

"The devastation in Haiti shed light on a very important question," said Heather Paul, CEO of SOS Children's Villages in the U.S. "What happens to children who have lost their parents during a natural disaster or civil war? The first responders must put children first…and that is what SOS Children's Villages has been doing for 60 years."

More than 400 unaccompanied and orphaned children have found their way to the safe haven of the Santo SOS Children's Village, near Port-au-Prince, since the earthquake. All are in the process of being registered in a national database, used to facilitate the tracing of relatives. Since the earthquake, SOS Children's Villages has helped reunite 65 children with their families.

In addition, the SOS Children's Villages emergency relief program in Haiti ensures a daily, home-cooked meal for 12,500 children in earthquake-affected areas of the capital. SOS is also active in NGO networks to provide further assistance to children in need.

About SOS Children's Villages

For 60 years, SOS Children's Villages has been providing family-based care for children without parental care and social services for families at risk. Through their Children's Villages, Family Strengthening Programs, and other initiatives, SOS impacts the lives of over 1 million people each year. In 2009, SOS Children's Villages received the Save the World Award. SOS has also received numerous honors including the Mother Teresa Gold Medal, the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, and the Vietnam Friendship Medal. For more information about SOS Children's Villages, visit www.sos-usa.org.