Towards the end of 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new policy into law: starting Jan. 1, 2013, American have been unable to adopt children from Russia.
This was not always a problem. In the past year alone, Russia was the third most popular country for Americans to adopt children from. In Feb. 1993, I was adopted from Russia by American parents; my younger sister was adopted in Dec. 1996 and my older brother was adopted in Dec. 2000, both from Russia. The process took a little while, but it was never a real problem.
So why stop adoptions now? I suppose it depends on whom you ask. I have been engaged in various debates about this particular topic, because people who know I’m from Russia ask for my opinion. Let’s start with their opinions. I have heard a lot of this: “Maybe Putin is trying to build a stronger Russia.”
Counterargument: If he halts U.S. adoptions out of Russia, a stronger Russia becomes less and less likely. Population-wise, Russia will probably be stronger (I say “stronger” rather hesitantly for a reason soon to follow). Mental health-wise, probably not. Russian orphans, if they are not adopted or mentored – or taken in by someone at all – by age eighteen, are kicked out of the orphanage because they are officially adults, meaning they have finally grown out of the system. A large number of these young adults end up on the streets, which severely reduces the chances for their success. It increases the chances of illegal drug activity or alcoholism, unemployment, or even suicide (which is why the country might not actually be growing stronger in terms of population – again, that opinion would depend whom you ask, as well the statistics when you ask). They have not been prepared for the real world, they have nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. How can people argue that Russia will be stronger?
As an adoptee from Russia, I find what Putin has done very difficult to accept, and I don’t know if I would believe any reasons he gives, even if he were to argue that Russia will be stronger. There are orphans who desperately need homes because the rest of the world has forgotten them – except Americans; they love Russian kids, which is why so many have been adopted over the years. Approximately 1,000 children were adopted from there last year, and there are American families who were in the middle of the adoption process when adoptions by Americans were stopped.
And what about the children with special needs, such as severe developmental disabilities? Who will take care of them? Will Russia? My argument is no, they will probably not take care of the children the way they need to be taken care of, and once those children turn eighteen, they will be on the streets, too, with an even higher chance of having limited to no success.
I do acknowledge that Russia is probably not actually doing this to spite Americans. There have been cases – in fact, there was one in 2010 – when a Russian child that the parent(s) could not deal with was given a one-way ticket and sent back to Russia. The case in 2010 sparked outrage, but it wasn’t only in Russia. Everyone who had ever been adopted, or who or had ever adopted a child, was angry about this. People who knew nothing about adoption were angry, because this was a child in need of a home, and his adoptive mother sent him back like a package that had been delivered to the wrong place. The child had violent tantrums, true, but I do not believe she should have sent him back; no one did. So maybe that’s why Russia isn’t letting Americans adopt from there anymore. But not all families do that. Not all families adopt a child and then send them back from whence they came. Despite the fact that not all children are sent back, representatives from the Russian Foreign Ministry have said that Russian children are not given adequate protection in the United States. They have taken a few cases – one in particular – and applied it to all Americans, ensuring that no Americans can adopt from Russia.
Not only are the Russians punishing Americans for one woman’s mistake (and any other mistakes that happen very rarely), but they are also claiming that the United States has not yet signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child – but it has, even though they have not yet ratified the convention (they signed it with the intention to ratify).
International corporations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have rejected the policy, acknowledging what many people already know: the most vulnerable children in Russia will grow up alone and end up on the streets as a result of this new law. I have signed a few petitions that are to be sent to Putin’s desk as soon as enough signatures are acquired. If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that I would not be where I am today without the help of my American family, and I believe that every other child, in Russia or elsewhere, deserves that same right to a family and the opportunities that I and my siblings have been afforded. It is a basic right that Putin has taken away by signing into the law the ban on Americans adopting from Russia.
Russia needs to allow the United States to help their children again, because Americans have done good work there, despite all of the obstacles they have encountered. Without the help of loving American families who genuinely want to help a child, Russia’s chances of being able to protect its children have been greatly reduced.