Monday, December 31, 2012

Cruel Consequences of Russia's Adoption Ban

My two were style mavens from the moment they first set foot in this country

While the world has seen more than its share of horrors and outrages during this year, my heart ached particularly when the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed the law banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans.  The level of cruelty behind this move is beyond understanding.  I speak from the perspective of one of those parents who gave her heart to two school-aged children she first met through a shaky video years ago showing a roomful of Russian children all trying to “out-cute” each other in order to win the golden ticket that would send them to forever families across the ocean.

I cry inside for the parents who have chosen their children but may never get to hold them.  I cry for all of the children who will never find families if the ban stays in place.  While the administrative paperwork and amount of money involved in international adoptions makes it seem like a business transaction, the creation of families happens in an instant.  Believe me, when you look at a video and choose your children, you are immediately as hopelessly in love with them as any parents are with their unborn baby after hearing  “you’re pregnant” from a doctor.  So to lose this child in the middle of the adoption procedure is as traumatic as a miscarriage.  Only this time it’s much worse because the children – who have no sense of the politics – are left to believe that they’re damaged goods or completely unlovable.

The new law is in retaliation for a recent law in the United States that banned those in Russia accused of human rights abuses from traveling to or owning assets in the U.S.   So 650,000 children remain in a holding pattern of foster homes and orphanages. About 120,000 are available for adoption.  A large percentage of those are special needs cases.  My husband and I were blessed that our two children didn’t come to us disabled, did not suffer from H.I.V., or have any known diseases, but they had an enormous number of special needs after living every minute of the first eight years of their lives in an institution.

Some people say that the ban is good because there are children in the U.S. who need homes.  Americans shouldn’t cross the ocean to find one to adopt, they say.  We should focus our attention on those here.  However, with so many children all over the globe who need families, we should all rejoice when any one of them finds a home.  The decision to adopt internationally (or adopt at all) is not made lightly, so those who choose this long, expensive, and difficult route shouldn’t be second-guessed any more than they should be considered saints.  They’re simply following their heart to where their longed-for children live.

Some in Russia say the ban is good because the country shouldn’t be giving away its children.  The truth of the matter is, though, that many countries don’t nurture an adoption culture.  Issues of poverty, rules of inheritance, cultural distinctions, religious laws and the like discourage families from embracing unrelated children as their own.  With this new blockade raised, I’m not sure what plan Russia has now for locating homes for the hundreds of thousands of children currently languishing in its institutions.  It currently has only about 18,000 families registered to adopt.

However, I do know what will happen to those children who fail to find a home before they age out of the system between 16 and 18 years old.  Generations to come will end up on the street without money, without support, with little education, with no one to love them.  Russia passed its new law in retaliation for our law against human rights abusers.  Unfortunately, the only ones who will actually suffer real consequences are the children waiting day after day for a mommy or daddy to take them home, wherever that home may be.  It’s just one more abusive blow to them. 

I can only imagine the agony of the American parents-in-waiting who are caught in the middle of this game of political one-upmanship.  I can’t bear to imagine where my beautiful children would be now if my husband and I hadn’t been able to bring them home 17 years ago.  While countries might wildly disagree on any number of issues, it just seems so basic to me that a universal and unwritten agreement would exist that you don’t hold children hostage for political gain.  Haven’t children in an orphanage already lost enough?  

Now everybody go hug your children – because you can.

I don’t often write overtly political blog posts.  Today I’m not sure what question to leave you with.  Perhaps you can talk to me in the comments box about children’s issues that occupy your mind and heart.


Nadine Feldman said...

This breaks my heart. We can only hope that Putin will lift the ban soon, but unfortunately, prospective adoptive parents don't have strong lobbies behind them (that I know of).

I had missed this story because we were on vacation (hubby said he saw the article). So, thank you for sharing this information. I know that the blog gurus want us to avoid making political statements in posts, but in this case the political is also personal...and I, for one, really like reading posts like this.

Tele said...

Seconding Nadine's comment, Julie... You've got a delightful, funny writer's voice - and you've also got the expertise and heart to back up a "political" post. I value hearing what you have to say about this (and have loved other adoption-related posts you've written.) Thank you.

One of our closest friends is a man originally from Ukraine, where he worked in an orphanage for many years. We've had a lot of talks about our very different experiences serving young people in crisis, and thanks to the internets, we both still keep in contact with many of our former kids. He and his partner recently adopted their son out of foster care. I agree with you on rejoicing when any child finds a forever-home, and what a heartbreaking, unfathomable message those Russian children will take from vindictive adults.

Hugs to you and yours.

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks, Nadine and Tele. When we were going through the adoption process it was so hard to stick with only two. I've always wondered what happened to a sibling group of three we saw. The oldest was twelve and the father had brought them in because there was no mother and he couldn't or wouldn't deal with them anymore. So sad.

Anonymous said...

Julie, what a great post! You're right to raise the issue. And the photo - it's just terrific. As for Russians - they've never been known to act reasonably. Their new ban is not a punishment for America but for their own blameless orphans. Gosh, look at their other policies. They do everything they can to drive the best people of Russia out of the country: the best artists, the best scientists, the best businessmen, the best everything. They've been doing it for decades. And their own children are the first to suffer.

the fly in the web said...

This use of children for political ends is many ruined young lives.

Closer to home in the U.K.there is a scandal reported upon in 'The Telegraph' whereby social services departments are fulfilling the adoption quotas for their area by harassing mothers deemed to be 'unsuitable' and seizing their babies at birth, while allowing children desperate for families to languish in what is laughingly called 'care'...whence some 10% disappear without trace...for lack of adoptive parents of the appropriate ethnic background.

For a civilised country like the U.K. to set up secret Family Courts which countenance this crime is, to me, growing up with a sense of British justice,almost worse.

One expects little better from used to expect a great deal more from the U.K.

Tami Clayton said...

When I read about the Russian government's ban on international adoptions, I was disgusted. Children used as pawns is never acceptable. And like you point out, they will be the only to suffer.

I also liked how you said this: "The decision to adopt internationally (or adopt at all) is not made lightly, so those who choose this long, expensive, and difficult route shouldn’t be second-guessed any more than they should be considered saints. They’re simply following their heart to where their longed-for children live."

As I've mentioned, I adopted two girls who were born here and have received a variety of comments about the choice to adopt (vs give birth to my own biological children). As soon as I saw their photos, I fell in love with them. As soon as I was chosen as their mother, I was smitten for life. And through all the heartbreaking challenges, that has never changed. Like you said, we are not saints. We are parents.

Kudos to you for writing this! And a happy new year to you and your family. :)

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for all the comments. I've read about UK adoption issues. I think I read David Cameron gave social services a challenge to speed up the time frame for getting kids into permanent homes.

Patricia said...

Julie, more posts like yours are needed to help people understand the truth of what is happening with these shameful political decisions. I've been following the story. Adoption "runs" in my family beginning with myself as an infant, one of my sons and a nephew. It's second nature to us. The horrific experiences these children of Russia face with no chance of being welcomed into homes outside their country are simply unthinkable.

Scoop (Leslie Scoopmire) said...

Russia already gave away its children by not caring for them, and this law is absolutely unconscionable. This post is just so wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing.

Laura@Catharsis said...

What a cruel form of retaliation. I can't understand why we have to use our children as bargaining chips in political warfare. My heart goes out to these kids, and I hope this decision is reversed soon.

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks all. I hope it's just a blip in political oneupmanship.

Muriel said...

At the end of the day, the children will suffer. Why is it only the weakest who have to suffer?

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