“There are probably many places in the world where living standards are better than ours,” Mr. Putin said in announcing his decision. “So what? Shall we send all children there, or move there ourselves?” This sounds like our response to people who always talk about the "better lives" that poor children, children with only one young parent, children otherwise living in less than ideal conditions might have if only they could be adopted: does that mean one should go to the supermarket and snatch a child because you can give him or her a "better life?"
CHILDREN IN LIMBO
The bill would abort the adoption of about 200 to 250 children who had already been linked to prospective adoptive parents. This has created a furor in the media and on blogs, much hand-wringing, lots of sympathy elicited for the prospective adoptive parents and sorrow for the children left to languish in Dickensonian orphanages. Life is tough for these kids, no doubt about it, but no tougher than for the kids who have not yet been linked with prospective adoptive parents, the 120,000 who will still be in orphanages, not to mention the 740,000 who lack parental care.
Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council For Adoption, states that the government's action may "deny many thousands of Russian orphans the possibility to grow up in loving, adoptive families." According to a Wall Street Journal only 18,470 families have signed up as potential adoptive parents. On the other hand, more may sign up since they don't have to compete with well-healed Americans willing to pay big bucks bucks to corrupt officials for the children. The total cost to adopt a Russian child is about $50,000 which would help many, perhaps thousands, of Russian mothers to care for their children.
The simple truth is that children throughout the world are suffering from poverty, illness, and neglect including millions in the U.S. Adoption cannot resolve these problems--at its height only about 5,000 children were adopted from Russia each year, and the number has declined to less than a thousand annually. Sound welfare policies which support natural families is the best tool for helping the vast majority of children and this is the direction the Russians are headed. President Putin said that in addition to signing the bill, he would sign "a presidential decree changing the procedure of helping orphaned children, children left without parental care, and especially children who are in a disadvantaged situation due to their health problems."
RUSSIAN CHILDREN ABUSED IN THE U.S.
While the hand-wringing goes on, we must point out that life is not always peaches and cream for the children who come to the U.S. The Russian bill, known as the Dima Yakovlev Law, is named after a boy who died on July 8, 2008, a little more than three months after he was adopted by an American couple. His adoptive father, Miles Harrison, strapped the 21-month-old boy into a car seat but forgot to drop him off at day care and parked his SUV at his office. Nine hours later, a co-worker noticed the child's body. A judge in Fairfax County, VA found Harrison not guilty of involuntary manslaughter because Harrison had not shown "callous disregard for human life."
Dima joined 18 other children killed by their American adoptive parents. Many more have been sexually or physically abused, including Marsha Allen who as a five-year-old was placed with a divorced man, Matthew Mancuso, who not only sexually abused her but placed pictures of her on Internet porn sites. A couple of years ago Tennessean Torry Hansen put her seven-year-old adopted son on a plane and shipped him back to Russia. Other parents unhappy with their adopted children's behavior have placed them in a youth ranch in Montana which has been operating without a license since 2010.
AN EXCEPTION FOR CHILDREN WITH MEDICAL NEEDS
While we at FMF think Putin and the Russian parliament are on the right track, we would support an exception for severely disabled children for whom no medical treatment is available in Russia. This is the position of the Russian Orthodox Church which "called for an exemption in the law for seriously ill orphans who would get treatment in the U.S. that isn't available in Russia." This would include children like Tatyana McFadden and Alexander D'Jamoos. Tatyana was born with spina bifida, paralyzed from the waist down, and at age six adopted by Deborah McFadden. Alexander was born without legs. At age 15, he was brought to the U.S. to be fitted with prostheses to enable him to walk. The Dallas couple who agreed to host him temporarily, Helene and Michael D'Jamoos, became so fond of him that they adopted him in 2007. Since then he has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, became a talented skier, and is pursuing studies in government, international relations, and Russian at the University of Texas.
WHAT ABOUT THE COUPLES WAITING?
As for the American would-be parents featured in the New York Times article about the decision today, such as Maria Drewinsky and her husband who have clothes and a bedroom all set up for the boy they hoped would be their son, and Robert and Kim Summers whose house is filled with toys and clothes, a stroller in the dining room and a partly assembled crib, they can put these to good use by adopting an American child from foster care. They are waiting too.
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**Russian Furor over U.S. Adoptions Follows American's Acquittal in Boy's Death
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Proposed Russian adoption ban dismays US adoption groups
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Good news: Foreign Adoptions Decline