In Search of Disappeared ChildrenBy Michelle Arevalo-Carpenter for Asociacion Pro Busqueda de Ninos y Ninas Desaparecidos
The DNA Reunification Project seeks to identify young adults who were abducted as children by the military or placed for adoption under duress during the armed conflict in El Salvador, 1980–1992. It is a partnership between Asociación Pro‐ Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos (ProB) in El Salvador, the Human Rights Center (HRC) at University of California, Berkeley, and volunteers from the Alliance of Forensic Scientists for Human Rights and Humanitarian Investigations.
In many cases, the military handed the kidnapped children to military families or they were placed in Salvadoran orphanages and arranged for their adoption. These children were adopted domestically and also internationally in such countries as the United States, Italy, France and Spain, sometimes fraudulently portrayed as legal to the country of the adoptive family.
Pro‐B provides investigation, legal, advocacy and psychological support in the process of reunifying these disappeared children with their biological families. Since 1996, a partnership with forensic scientists and a Salvadoran expert added DNA analysis to their investigative toolbox to match lost children to biological families. HRC has provided additional support following leads about abducted children (now adults) in North America. This essay focuses on the families of abducted children – their grief, resilience, and hopes for finding their lost ones again. Beyond visual documentation, these images will support the partnership’s advocacy work to find justice and collective memory for the families.