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Children who have survived the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria need help finding their families, not adoption

Adoption is not an appropriate response for unaccompanied children until local authorities and humanitarian agencies have exhausted all efforts to trace and reunite them with their families and extended community
16 February 2023

Viral images of children being pulled out of the rubble in Syria and Türkiye have prompted an outpouring of offers from families all over the world to adopt children who appear to have lost their families.

However, affected families, local networks, humanitarian organisations, and authorities on the ground are working diligently to reunite children with their immediate or extended families. Some of these children may have extended family but limited cell phone reception, collapsed powerlines and damage to infrastructure makes it challenging to reunite families during a crisis.

Efforts to support family tracing, reunify children with their families, and find appropriate care in the interim for those with limited options is paramount in times of emergencies to ensure children remain protected from harm.  

Rebecca Smith, Acting Global Child Protection Director, Save the Children International, said:

“It’s natural to see these heart-breaking images and want to help in any way possible, but adoption should never be pursued during or immediately after an emergency like the recent earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye. Though offers to adopt children who appear unaccompanied, separated, or may have lost immediate family members may be well intentioned, this is not the appropriate immediate solution at this time. 

“Save the Children has been responding to children in crisis for over a century, so we know how important it is to provide them structure and support in their own homes and communities. Children have already been through so much upheaval, they need safety and support in an environment as familiar as possible.”


Like in many other contexts, many families in Syria and Türkiye have taken in unaccompanied or separated children who are children of relatives, neighbours, or friends. As such, support for families, including through cash to provide a protective barrier is critical for helping mitigate the impacts of the earthquakes, especially those caring for unaccompanied, separated, or may have lost their immediate family members. 

The best way for people to support children was by donating to trusted local organisations on the ground and humanitarian agencies who have expertise in this area. 

In Türkiye, Save the Children is coordinating with the Türkiye Ministry of Family and Social affairs who are organising family tracing and reunification. In Syria, humanitarian organisations have established a referral and case management to help these children in the most appropriate way possible. 

In Türkiye, Save the Children is supporting the national response in close coordination with national provincial and local level authorities, stakeholders, and partners. 

The organisation is distributing food, temporary shelter items and essential emergency relief items, including blankets, warm clothing, heaters, and hygiene and sanitation items. The organisation is also bringing in a team of water sanitation and hygiene specialists, who will assess the needs on the ground, and also support the government in its response. 

In Türkiye and Syria Save the Children is planning to reach a total of 1.6 million people, including 675,000 children. This includes 1.1 million people, including 550,000, children in Syria, and 500,000 people, including 125,000 children, in Türkiye.

Save the Children Australia welcomes the announcement by the Albanese government of an additional $8 million to support those made the most vulnerable by the disaster. 

In the chaos after disaster strikes, children are more vulnerable to exploitation, violence, starvation and trauma.

To support Save the Children’s work responding to emergencies visit: https://www.savethechildren.org.au/donate/appeals/childrens-emergency-fund.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: Mala Darmadi on 0425562113 or Joshua McDonald on 0478010972 or media.team@savethechildren.org.au.

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