Trying to think of the children--where do I start?
September 10, 2005 3:16 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find reputable information on adopting children orphaned by Hurricane Katrina?

I have heard a great deal about people taking in adults and even whole families, but I can't help wondering, "what about the newly orphaned children?" Presumably, there are many. Does anyone know if any sort of authoritative info is available yet? What sorts of costs/commitments/unforeseen hurdles might there be in the process?
Asking anonymously because my wife and I are relatively early in the talking about it and thinking it's the right thing to do stage, and I don't want to give the false impression that we're saints before we actually commit to anything. FWIW, we do not have any children, adopted or otherwise, as yet.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total)
It's way too early to have authoritative info yet. Until the dead have been collected and identified, and the regional family courts and child protective services are re-established, there's no way to even declare a child an orphan--much less put them up for a adoption (these are separate processes).

Keep in mind that there's an elaborate social services process that has to happen. The authorities will need to investigate the parents' disappearance, and confirm that they are deceased. But given what we've been hearing, many of the dead may never be found, and those bodies that are recovered will be very difficult to identify. That means that many Katrina orphans will stay in legal limbo until a court declares them officially orphaned (oh and the the local family courts are going to have one heck of a backlog, not to mention the procedural complications from lost records). In the meantime, social services tries to find a relative to foster parent, and encourages family members to adopt the child once they're legally freed for placement. All this is going to take months to sort out at a minimum, probably much longer.

If you're ready to meet an immediate need, contact your local social services dept about getting qualified as a foster home. That's a while lot of traumatized kids in need of a stable home life while authories try to locate their parents, siblings, and extended family.

If you've just started to think about adoption, social services can give you some general introductory info about that too. Keep in mind that right now there's a surge of inquiries pouring in from people eager to adopt a Katrina orphan, just as there were in December for tsunami orphans. The outcomes will probably be similar.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 4:17 AM on September 10, 2005

Many N.O. parents have been separated from their children. On the other hand, I haven't heard anything about orphans. Given the prevalence of extended family networks in that community, I think it's unlikely there would be many truly orphaned children.
posted by alms at 7:09 AM on September 10, 2005

Are you interested in adopting children, or specifically children orphaned by Katrina? Because there are certainly lots of children ready right now to be adopted into loving homes such as yours that aren't necessarily attached to this tragedy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:16 AM on September 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

You seem to be taking this seriously, which is a good thing. One question you should ask yourself is why you are interested specifically in adopting children orphaned by hurricane Katrina. There are always children in need of parents; if you weren't interested in adoption before these recent events then you should ask yourself what is different now.

If you just want to make a personal contribution to help with a recent news-worthy disaster, that's probably not a strong enough reason to commit to parenthood. On the other hand, if recent events have simply renewed and clarified your thoughts about adoption and parenthood, that's great—but a true desire to be a parent should not be restricted to orphans of a particular disaster.

By the way, while Hurricane Katrina is different from the tsunami last year, the following still seems relevant:
"We certainly have received a few requests on how to adopt children," said Shima Islam, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Children's Fund in London.

UNICEF recommended against the practice, she explained.

"Wherever possible, children should be placed within their own communities because that's where people know them best, that's where they have their friends, they have extended family members who can look after them," she said.
—China Daily, "Aid groups warn against adopting tsunami orphans"
posted by mbrubeck at 7:16 AM on September 10, 2005

You will first have to become licensed foster parents in your state. I suggest that you start there.
posted by LadyBonita at 12:23 PM on September 10, 2005

I would imagine that most of the kids have extended families that will take them in.
posted by delmoi at 1:42 PM on September 10, 2005

Also, the pink elephant in the room is that if you are not African American, you will have to do research on interracial adoption. Obviously not all orphaned kids may be African American, but based on the percentages of those who were trapped in their homes/water/city, it looks like many of the worst off, including loss of life, will unfortunately be African Americans.

Interracial adoptions certainly more common than they used to be, but placement requirements do look at the support network for raising children of a race other than your own. Also, as delmoi says, many/most of these kids will be taken in by extended family members. The process won't even begin for months, I'd imagine.
posted by fionab at 1:56 PM on September 10, 2005

Note: Pink elephant. White elephant. Elephant in the room. All different.

Interracial adoptions are also discouraged nowadays as a form of misguided paternalism. White parents in white communities, especially, can be unprepared to guide an ethnically-different child through the minefield of even mild societal racism.
posted by dhartung at 2:13 PM on September 10, 2005

Crap, dhartung, you're right, and I just had a conversation about this sort of thing the other day. What a moron I am today [er, most days...]! Thanks for noticing.
posted by fionab at 2:36 PM on September 10, 2005

Continuing with the concerns over interracial adoption, here's a very sad story, but a great article about what sort of trouble can come from interracial adoption written by one of my favorites, Tim Wise. His point is that even well meaning white people are often blind to racism, and this can lead to some real problems. From the article:

"...the culture white folks so desperately need to understand, if we are going to have any constructive interactions with black people, let alone raise them in our homes, is our own..."
posted by dsword at 8:16 PM on September 10, 2005

Interracial adoptions are also discouraged nowadays as a form of misguided paternalism. White parents in white communities, especially, can be unprepared to guide an ethnically-different child through the minefield of even mild societal racism.
posted by dhartung at 2:13 PM PST on September 10 [!]

That is bullshit. Discouraging interracial adoptions is against federal law. And why should black kids languish in foster care? That's the worst kind of racism. I'm all for trying to keep black families of origin together through better social supports, but it's a travesty to let race stand in the way of adoption. It makes me want to puke that white families go all the way to China to adopt Asian babies, while African American babies are being adopted out to Germany and Canada.
posted by footnote at 8:25 PM on September 10, 2005

Also, the most severe part of Marcus Dixon's sentence (discussed in dsword's link) was overturned.
posted by footnote at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2005

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