' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Russians say "nyet" to US adoptions

Friday, December 28, 2012

Russians say "nyet" to US adoptions

Vladimir Putin
While the international adoption community is all in a tizzy because the Russians are about to ban adoptions to the US--Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the ban today--we at First Mother Forum say, it's about time. 

“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?"

According to the New York Times, the Russian ban is in retaliation against U. S. legislation enacted earlier this month that aims to punish alleged Russian human-rights violators, and prevents them from traveling to the U.S., or owning property here. Children are being made the pawn of international diplomacy.

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."

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.

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.

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.
Russia’s Plan to Bar American Adoptions Upends Families
Russia: Vladimir Putin Signs Bill Banning Americans From Adopting Russian Children
Russian Adoption Ban Sent to Putin
**Russian Furor over U.S. Adoptions Follows American's Acquittal  in Boy's Death
US Department of State: Intercountry Adoption 
Masha Sues Adoption Agencies
Russia's Move to Block U.S. Adoptions Sets Off a Wave of Worry
Proposed Russian adoption ban dismays US adoption groups

From FMF:
Foreign Adoptions Aren't Plunging Fast Enough
Open Adoption is "one free baby-sitting scam".... (about a Russian adoption)
Good news: Foreign Adoptions Decline


  1. I was interviewed yesterday on Russian-American TV on the ban. This is a way to short cut version of the entire interview:


  2. The commentators on the NYT article are appalling. Especially Kaiser Soze with his constant refrain about involvement with those pesky bio parents.

    At most per year, 5k children were adopted. Out of 700k. Each adoption is estimated to be around $50k for a grand total of $250 million per year. Can you imagine what that kind of money could do for the orphanages? Of course, that would mean putting the needs of the children over the desire to parent the few and we can't have that!

  3. I embedded the video from Russian television in Washington at the end of the post.

  4. The Russian ban isn't motivated by any concern fro the welfare of their orphans. It is revenge for a human rights law recently passed in the US.

    I am not quite sure why people want to adopt from Russia, many of the Russian adoptees seem to have some quite serious adjustment issues and Russian officials are difficult to deal with. However, any child is better off not growing up in an orphanage even if it was well funded which most are not.

    What people chose to do with their 50k is really their business. I doubt the ban is going to lead to any 50k donations to orphanages though.

  5. What people do with their 50k is the business of the Russian government if they plan on using it to take a Russian child thousands of miles away from his family and his culture.

    If people like the Summers (profiled on the CBS Evening News) really cared about helping children they would stop bawling on TV and adopt American children who need homes. Then they would use their 50k to do good.

    The truth is that people like the Summers' just want a kid who is young, cute, and healthy and they figure because they have the bucks, they're entitled to such a child. As a plus, they won't have to worry about the child connecting with his first parents.

    Their money corrupts the system and likely prevents Russian families from adopting because they can't afford to pay the fees and in some cases the bribes which the Americans pay to get the kids.

    The kids suffer from the separation of all that is familiar and not knowing their families. They may act out, in which case the adoptive parents can use their bucks to ship them off to a far away "treatment" program. If the kids continue to misbehave or the adoptive parents cannot afford treatment programs, the American taxpayers likely get stuck with the bills, first for special education, then for incarceration or treatment for substance abuse and mental illness.

    Many of these kids are killed, beaten, and abused. They are not better off than if they grew up in orphanages.

  6. Author Brooks Hanson went to Russia basically to not have to avoid an open adoption: "Just because we'd been through the IVF wars and lost, that didn't mean that Elizabeth [his wife] should always have to save an extra seat at the dance recital." He's incensed that prospective adopters could pay for the care and "late-night Whopper runs" of a pregnant woman who was considering giving them her child and then "change her mind, keep the baby, and not have to pay back the prospective couple one red cent..." He calls open adoption with its "update letters, report cards, scheduled visits, etc., "seem like one giant free baby-sitting scam."

    So it's off to Russia to adopt where they get Ilya or Theo,....
    from an earlier blog:

    Open Adoption is "one free baby-sitting scam"....

  7. It's politics. That doesn't mean that Russia shouldn't address the needs of its own needy children, or that America shouldn't do the same either:

  8. I read Kirstie Alley's new autobiography where she writes about the closed adoption of her son. She talked about the horrors of open adoption in California where first mothers can move in with celebrity PAPs and then turn around and blackmail them and *gasp* due to the state's revocation period can change their minds and not even turn over the baby.

    After hearing about so many celebrity adoption horror stories, Ms. Alley decided that a closed adoption was the only way to go. She was connected with a mysterious woman named "Mary" in Maine (another state where Kirstie and her husband owned a home) who could find any wealthy couple a newborn. A healthy newborn was flown in to Kirstie and her husband in record time. Kirstie never seemed to question how this was possible when most people wait years for a domestic infant adoption.

    She also wrote about how even though she was raised by her bio-mother, she and her mother were never close, so therefore, based on her singular experience, biology means nothing. She didn't want to know the first mother's name or have the first mother know her identity. Of course, Kirstie mentioned how she could love a non-bio child just as much as her own flesh and blood, so therefore adoption was a non-issue. And as usual, there was absolutely no mention that her adopted son might feel differently. That he might want to know who he is biologically related to, his ancestry and his medical history. Or who he looks like and who he shares traits with. It boggles my mind that this is the accepted belief system about adoption when there is no mention of how the adopted child or the first parents feel.

  9. Robin: Where did you read this nauseous thinking of Ms. Alley. I kinda liked her until I read this.

    If there is a link, please put it here.


  10. Judging by the state of the orphanages, the Russian Government does not particularly care about the welfare of its children. I doubt anything will change for the better now this law has passed.

    If the Summers "just want a kid who is young, cute and healthy", they would probably not be adopting from Russia. Its probably true that many of the kids are abused while in Russia and some are abused after they are adopted by Americans. I think most the children are at less risk after they have been adopted. I think it is impossible for their money to corrupt anything in Russia because Russia is already completely corrupt.

    Adopting American children can cost far more than 50k if the adoption runs in to legal complications which many seem to. There are also plenty of people that don't think American children should be adopted either.

  11. Yes, Russian orphanages need to improve. And with Putin's commitment and the publicity let's hope they do. Let's hope further that Russian does more to prevent the problems that cause children to go into orphanages in the first place. Most of these kids are not true orphans; they have at least one living parent. The kids are in orphanages because of poverty or family problems like alcoholism.

    Less than one percent of the kids in orphanages got adopted to the US and few of these were older or disabled, the kids who really needed help. The adoption program the media is bellowing about really did next to nothing for Russian children.

    American adoptions only cost big bucks if the PAPS want a cute, fair-skinned, infant. Fees are based on race, age, and gender. New born white girls whose parents have some college might go for $35,000 to $40,000. A black toddler boy might be had for less than $10,000. In fact adoption agencies make so little on black kids, that they market them in Canada and Western Europe where they may bring more money.

    Children in foster care are free; in fact states pay people to take them. States also provide on-going help with medical expenses, counseling, and so on.

    People adopting from Russian are on their own once the little bundle of not much joy arrives on our shores. That is, unless the adoptive parents can game the system and get schools and child welfare agencies to pay for services. And speaking of the taxpayers, keep in the mind that adoptive parents get a tax credit of $13,000+.

  12. "States also provide on-going help with medical expenses, counseling, and so on."

    Yeah, like in the state of Nebraska a few years ago, when they introduced safe havens without specifying any age limit.
    The state really scurried around when all those teenagers got dropped off because their parents hadn't been able to get them the medical and psychiatric help they needed,

  13. The book is called "The Art of Men" by Kristie Alley. I liked her, too, and was enjoying the book until I got to the part where she writes about her eldest child's adoption. I did know that she was an adoptive parent. But what she wrote really disturbed me.
    Be forewarned.

    The book and the Kindle version can be found on Amazon.com

  14. Anon,
    State provides help to people who adopt from foster care, if for no other reason than they don't want the kids returned.

    Help for children who are not in the custody of a state or adopted through a state foster care program who need counseling, medical care, etc. is not good throughout the country. Maybe with Obamacare we'll see an improvement.

    Yes, Nebraska really did it to itself when it passed a baby dump law without an age limit. Actually any baby dump law is bad.

  15. Kirstie Alley is a scientologist. Truth is not one of their strong points.

  16. Kirsti Alley? For heaven's sake, who takes her seriously? It's not what she's about.

    "Actually any baby dump law is bad."
    At least we agree on that.
    "Maybe with Obamacare we'll see an improvement."
    It'll need a lot, and meanwhile there's the meantime.

  17. "What people chose to do with their 50k is really their business."

    It is, but don't try to claim that it's to help the children of Russia.

  18. Putin's commitments mean nothing. He really does not care about child welfare or human rights (he is old school ex-KGB after all).

  19. What is most objectionable about this is the way Putin is using Russian children as a bargaining chip.

  20. Oh please, what's worse? Being made a bargaining chip or merchandise to be purchased? Let's not pretend its all about the children here...if it was we wouldn't have tens of thousands of our own children aging out of foster care each year.

  21. Hi. I have two Russian adopted children for about 20 years now. I am wondering if anyone on this blog wants to share their experience of your relationship with your adopted child who is now grown. I am curious how it is for others. Or if there is a site that can be recommended to me, I would sure appreciate it. Thanks

  22. Yo! Anonymous, Jane and I and others have written a great deal about our relationship with our reunited children. You may search for old posts simply by using the search facility at the blog, either at the top left or the very bottom, or just trolling through old posts, year by year, found in the sidebar on the left.

  23. Oh please yourself, Paige. Your knee-jerk response exemplifies the kind of attitude that deters people from getting involved in adoption reform in the first place. I don't believe children are "merchandize to be purchased" any more than I believe Putin's or anyone else's pretense that "it's all about the children". The truth is the Russian adoption ban is about political opportunism, appeal to nationalist sentiment and it is objectionable. Of course we should be looking critically at our own broken adoption and foster care systems. Excuse me for not spelling that out.

    No matter whether this ban has a salutary effect on international adoption practice in the U.S or not, if it is just part of some nationalist program to keep children in Russia, it's still doomed to failure within that country unless it commits itself to actually working on and improving their failing child support system. If that happens and also has the effect of changing for the better the behaviors of unscrupulous adoption agencies here, then all to the good. But there's no guarantee it's going to work that way. Even if things do work out well, that doesn't make the Russian decision honest or right. It's only pretending to be about bettering children's lives. The old Soviet Union, Putin, American adopters-at-any-cost, unscrupulous adoption agencies and their Russian middle-men all deserve their share of blame.

    Some of the comments the ban's supporters have reportedly made are deeply cynical. To quote one of them, "Millions of Russian children dream of living in an orphanage". If that's true, what does it say about the situation of homeless or abused children in Russia? Even in Russia itself, there is considerable questioning of the rightness of the ban.
    As others have pointed out, the infrastructure just doesn't exist in present day Russia to deal with the numbers of children who need care and support. And wishing alone isn't going make it so.

  24. If people like the Summers (profiled on the CBS Evening News) really cared about helping children they would stop bawling on TV and adopt American children who need homes. Then they would use their 50k to do good.

    Jane - The anti-adoption crowd in the US is part of the reason adoptive parents go overseas to adopt. No matter how abusive or neglectful (some) biological parents are, the state usually favors them. Instead of being against forced/coercive, unethical adoptions, the family preservation movement has become so rabid and extremist (such as in Mirah's case), that it is now against all adoptions.

    AP's get to avoid that crap oversees. Just my 2cents, as the daughter of a father who was taken from abusive parents and adopted by a loving couple

  25. Anonymous, some of what you say may be correct about why people go overseas, but a larger reason is that people who want to adopt and erase the natural mother go overseas to avoid an open adoption, as did Brooks Hansen so that his wife wouldn't have to be saving a seat for her at the dance recital, as he put it in his book.

    Please read: Open Adoption is "one free baby-sitting scam"....

    There will always be a need for some families and people to raise children who were not born to them, and there will always be abusive people who should not raise children they give birth to, but many go overseas just to avoid even a whisper of an open adoption. Hansen's father once told me: I was "their worst nightmare." Why? Because I told him I knew my daughter, and she she spent part of the summer here with me, even worked here in the summers. He was horrified. His attitude, I am afraid, is still all too pervasive in America and when adoptive parents leave a comment at FMF that they have open adoptions, and understand a lot of what we say, I am thrilled. Brooks Hansen however is most upset, as his comments to the blog indicate. If being against his attitude makes me "anti-adoption," so be it.

  26. Anon,

    It's a shame your father had a bad experience with his original family. Social workers sometimes make horrible mistakes in deciding whether to remove children from their homes. On the other hand, sometimes children are taken from their families and placed in abusive foster homes.

    There are over 100,000 US children in foster care available for adoption. The 1997 federal Adoption and Safe Families Act favors adoption over family preservation. As a consequence, states remove some children from their families who could safely stay at home according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. (www.nccpr.org)

    Adopting from overseas requires much more money and much more paper work than adopting domestically. However, many people adopt foreign children because they believe incorrectly that these children will behave better than US kids and they don't want to deal with the biological family. Of course the foreign children want to know their original families just like US children do. Today many foreign adoptees return to their countries to find their families.

  27. I read somewhere on your blog (although it was probably written by Lorraine) that we can only save the world one child at a time. And that's what we parents of Russian adopted children are doing. Russian children are continuing to come to America (as recently as today; I'll email you a link if you'd like). You make so many assumptions of us as a group which are as heinous and incorrect as the people who classify first mothers as "crack whores". We would be huge advocates of OBC's for example, but not if we're treated like scum. What the hell, my kids from Russia have their OBC's, why should I help people who have nothing but contempt for me?
    What incorrect assumptions are you making? Let's see...we are wealthy and feel entitled to another woman's child. On the contrary; after years of seeing the effects of abandonment on my children and my hundreds of friends' children, I not only think women have the right to parent their own children, I think they have the obligation. You don't want to raise your child, fine. Go find a family to take them and pay child support for 18 years. That's what happens to men. Women should have equal "rights".
    We pay 50K to adopt a child. My adoptions weren't that high, but let's assume they were higher. That money could've done more good by improving orphanages. Yes, an orphanage with glass windows in Siberia is better than one with cardboard...it's still a prison. You imply that we write a check to the Russian government. All in all, the court costs, lawyers, translators, and advocates are about 20k. The better part of it is travel, meals and lodging. Had we not adopted, our money (our money, our money) would've gone to travel anyway. A round the world cruise sounds really good right about now. We never would've seen the inside of two Russian orphanages. We never would've experienced the horror. We never would've contributed the money to help the people there that we continue to send, because we, like you, would never have seen the atrocities. And the money we spent in Russia? Well, it helped to emply taxi drivers, and waitresses, and tour guides...many of whom have kids that they'd like to be able to aford to keep. Russia banned adoptions to the US in '99, again in '06 and again in '10. It never ended well for the orphans.
    A woman in Russia only has to visit her child (or send someone to visit her child) once every six months to maintain parental rights. That's why there are approximately 700,000 kids in institutions, but "only" 100,000 available for adoption. We're not in this only for our kids, but for every kid we can help. You say we're not helping every last one of them? I say we're helping more than most. I'm stll waiting to hear about the kids you've fostered, or sponsored or....or....but I don't assume you haven't helped millions. None of us is asking for a medal, so my assumption is you have a house full of foster kids and spend every dime on building homes for women with unplanned pregnancies. Because, well, I assume and expect the most out of people, not the worst.
    And that tax credit? Well, my family doesn't qualify because we make too damn much money. But, after being raised by two crazy parents and putting myself through 14 years of post high school education, I'm not going to apologize for my income. I'm really happy about the charitable contributions that we deduct that are approximately 10 times what Al Gore and Joe Biden gave, combined. Mostly to organizations that support first mothers in Russia.


    Barbara Paden you may wish to read a response at the current blog, FMF makes some people mad.



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