Topic: US Adoption Ban
WASHINGTON, December 20 (By Maria Young for RIA Novosti) - Word of a possible Russian ban on adoptions by US parents spread across the US adoption community like a tsunami Thursday, leaving in its wake hundreds of distraught would-be parents, scores of incensed adoption agency workers and frustrated officials frantically scrambling to change the direction of a political nightmare some fear is now inevitable.
“It’s terrible – not just for us but for every family that’s trying to adopt a child from Russia right now,” said a West Virginia woman who is in the process of adopting a young girl from Russia and who asked not to be identified by name for fear of jeopardizing that process.
“It’s terrible for these children too,” the woman, who together with her husband adopted a young Russian boy earlier this year, told RIA Novosti.
The director of a US adoption agency was more blunt. “It’s like preying on the weak. They should be ashamed,” she said, referring to Russian lawmakers pushing for the ban on adoptions by Americans. The agency director also spoke on condition she not be named for fear of retaliation by Russian authorities.
Both women, like the thousands of prospective American parents and adoption agency workers involved in the process, watched in horror this week as a proposed Russian ban on adoptions by US citizens that many at first saw as political posturing took a decidedly sharp turn.
The legislation passed its second reading in the State Duma on Wednesday and appeared to get a nod of approval from President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
“It’s an emotional, but adequate response,” Putin said at his annual news conference.
The proposed amendment banning US adoptions is part of a larger Russian bill retaliating for the enactment this month of the Magnitsky Act in the United States, which freezes the US assets and bans US visas for Russian citizens deemed by the United States to have violated human rights.
That US law is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower lawyer who died in a Russian prison after being denied medical care. The Russian bill, which goes to a final vote in the Duma on Friday, is named for Dmitry Yakovlev, a Russian toddler who died of heatstroke in 2008 after his American adoptive father left him in an overheated car for nine hours.
If approved Friday, the bill would go to Russia’s upper house of parliament for approval before heading to Putin’s desk.
“I can’t believe that the Magnitsky Act, which I’d never heard of until last week and has nothing to do with orphans, is the instrument that anti-inter-country adoption politicians are using to ban adoption,” said Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the non-profit adoption advocacy group National Council For Adoption(NCFA), to RIA Novosti.
“I am very concerned about the life-threatening impact its passage will have on Russian children. It sometimes feels like this American cares more about Russian orphans than some Russian politicians.”
Many Russian officials and indeed ordinary Russian citizens bristle at such sentiment, saying it is simultaneously sanctimonious, ignorant and at odds with the facts. They point to 19 Russian adoptees they say have died in the care of their American families since the mid-1990’s.
Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s ombudsman for children’s rights and an opponent of foreign adoptions, said Tuesday the ban “should have been done long ago.”
“We need to protect our children,” he added.
Above all, say many Russians, it is Russia that needs to care for its own children.
US adoption experts don’t dispute the death toll. But they dispute the logic behind using those cases as a reason to halt all adoptions.
The vast majority of Russian adoptees, they say, are loved and well-cared for, and they point to a new adoption treaty with Russian officials, signed last month, to address concerns about post-adoption oversight and more education for potential parents.
The US State Department reports more than 45,000 Russian children have been adopted by US parents since 1999, 962 of them last year. They are on track to have at least that many US-Russian adoptions this year, some of them involving children who have been languishing in orphanages for years.
According to new figures released by the US government this week, there are approximately 700,000 orphans in Russia, though many of them may be “social orphans,” who have living parents but who have been removed from those homes because of abuse, neglect or extreme poverty.
A ban at this point makes little sense, say the American adoption experts.
“It’s all about trying to go after the weak,” said the director of the US adoption agency who asked not to be identified. “We are trying to provide long term homes for children who have literally no future.”
She tried to explain in an email to her group of hopeful families how children in Russian orphanages have been caught up in a game of political pay-back.
“Adoptions are THE political football that Russia always throws when it has an axe to grind with the US,” she wrote.
It is hard for would-be parents – some of whom already have emotions raw from years of trying for biological children, going through fertility treatments, and caught in the red tape of the adoption process – to grasp.
Everyone on the list called within minutes of the email going out, trying to understand the turn of events and looking for reassurance she couldn’t offer.
“Do you think any adoptive parent is nonchalant about this? It costs upwards of $50,000,” she said. “No one is taking it easily.”
The State Department and members of Congress are working furiously behind the scenes to calm the furor and resolve the adoption dilemma.
But adoption experts estimate there are also hundreds of Americans in the process of adopting Russian children, who are on pins and needles, helplessly watching like pawns in a giant political tug-of-war as the tensions play out between the two governments.
There are “tens of thousands of families who have adopted, happy with their children and children happy in their adoptive families, who are hoping that this ban will not go through, so that other children can find their ‘forever families,’” said Larisa Mason, who specializes in Russian adoptions as a board member with the non-profit adoption advocacy group National Council for Adoption (NCA).
One of those adoptive mothers is Paula Lahutsky, who adopted her son, John, from Russia, under conditions that she describes as bleak in 1999.
“My first concern would be for the children back in Russia, and just hearing about it makes me very sad,” she told RIA Novosti. “There are so very many children with so much need.”
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- dykalganti-Russian attitude in USA12:21, 21/12/2012The response of American adoption agency officials and prospective parents reveals a hostile and ignorant attitude to Russia. They seem to believe that a bann on American adoptions will leave the children with no hope of finding a permanent family. It may be a shocking revelation to these officials that there are other countries in the world. They are Swden, France, Germany, Canada.....etc. And many more.....
- jgCharity begins at home13:57, 21/12/2012It would be even better if these children could be adopted in Russia, with a better chance of retaining their culture and language. With all that oil and gas money, one would have thought that a wealthy Christian country like Russia could look after her own children.
- jgHague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption13:39, 21/12/2012Why has Russia signed but not ratified the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption?
If Russia had ratified this convention, adoptions of Russian children in all other signatories (including the USA) would have the protection of international law and many of the sad cases in the USA would not have happened because the convention would give US and Russian authorities more visibility in every adoption. Instead, adoptions of Russian children internationally is handled by private adoption agencies, with limited oversight from the authorities in the countries involved.
The only Americans who will be hurt by this ban will be the private adoption agencies but most of the effects will likely be on Russian children.
- kylesvetsimple17:35, 21/12/2012Americans can adopt all the children needing families in America and there are a lot...
I understand that half a million kids need adopting just within the US!
- arsanlupinIncorrect21:36, 21/12/2012According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the total number of children waiting to be adopted as of July 2012 is 104,236.
Please check your facts before making foolish comments. It took me less than 10 seconds to find this documented proof.
- arsanlupinMore nonsense05:10, 22/12/2012The actual number of children awaiting adoption in the USA as of July 2012 is 104,236 – almost all in foster care. Russia has 7 times as many orphans, out of a population less than half that of the USA.
In the last 15 years, 19 adopted Russian children have died in accidents in the United States – out of 45,000 adopted by American families – while more than 1,200 adopted children have died in Russian families during the same period, according to Boris Altshuler of Russia’s Right of the Child.
Russia as a nation is impoverished, in that most of its people must struggle to feed themselves on monthly salaries of less than $500 – and groceries there cost about the same as they cost in the USA – or more. Russia’s so-called natural resource wealth is ALL being funneled into the pockets of the bureaucrats in the government – so much so that the rampant corruption is distorting the Russian GDP. Russia is an impoverished for the same reason that Vladimir Putin has an estimated net worth of over $40 BILLION. Care to guess where he got all that loot?
They cannot feed their own families – how can they feed almost a million orphans?