The shocking images of bloodied children walking the streets of quake-hit Haiti have touched even the hardest of hearts. Many thousands of children have been orphaned and will need support, counselling and care for the foreseeable future.

It was probably inevitable that some organisations would begin encouraging people in the west to adopt children. While this might feel like the right thing to do it is misguided. One hundred Haitian children have already been "adopted" in the US in this fashion even though it is impossible to tell in the confusion of the moment whether or not the children in question are indeed orphans. All the evidence shows that it is in the best interests of a child's recovery for them to remain in their communities and for family and relatives to be sought out. Removing vulnerable children from their communities only increases their distress in a situation that is very confusing and frightening for them.

Plan has worked in Haiti for 37 years and fully understands the needs of the children and their communities. Sadly we have little or no knowledge yet of the whereabouts of many of the 42,000 children we have been supporting in our various programmes.

With the right level of assistance the Haitian community will cope with this disaster but talk of international adoption of children is misguided.

David Dalton

Plan Ireland

126 Lower Baggot Street,

Dublin 2