The number of unclaimed children in Haiti is growing in the wake of the earthquake, but adoption's not the practical way to help at this time.
"The problem with actually starting adoption right now is that we don’t know which children are orphans and which aren't," said Tom Difilipo, president and CEO of the U.S. branch of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, which secures homes for orphaned children around the world.
Before the earthquake, there were more than 200,000 orphaned children in Haiti, and on average, 2,000 were placed in homes off the island every year.
In one Port-au-Prince orphanage 53 of 123 children didn't survive the earthquake.
"These children have already lost their family," Difilipo said. "They’ve lost their community. They've lost anything that they had. All they had was a temporary shelter in an orphanage, and now they’ve lost that, too."
Of those who did survive, some are being treated and then getting lost again.
"The earthquake hits, and you assume that this child has no parents because no one has shown up for a month, a week, a day, yet that father, that mother may have been in the hospital," Difilipo said.
JCICS is working to get U.S. assistance and authorization for a compound for unclaimed children that will offer a system to document them, feed them and give medical attention and, most importantly, keep them safe.
"This is a very, very critical situation," Difilipo said. "We're not just talking conceptually here."
Those who do want to adopt can still express an interest to adoption agencies and possibly get on a waiting list for when adoption of Haitian orphans begins again.