Posts Tagged ‘ russian adoption ’

Why International Adoption Matters

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

International adoption is always a hot button issue—and my recent post about Russia cutting American families out of their adoption program was no exception. Inevitably, any story about international adoption brings out a slew of people commenting that “American families should just adopt from the U.S.” (And just as inevitably, those people are rarely people who have adopted or plan to adopt themselves.)

But domestic adoption isn’t the best choice for every family—and it cuts thousands of children from around the world off from the possibility of a loving family. Here’s why international adoption matters, to my family and the thousands of others who were created that way.

Domestic adoption can be challenging. Most families who adopt domestically eventually succeed. But the time frame before you’re picked by a birthmother is completely random—some families find a match within days of putting their information out there, while others wait for years. And many families have at least one “failed placement,” when the birthmother decides she wants to parent her child. (Fabulous for the birthmother and child—but heartbreaking for the potential adoptive parents.) My husband and I simply couldn’t deal with all of those unknowns.

Today, most adoptions in the U.S. are open, which means the birth family and adoptive family maintain contact. Open adoption is much better and healthier for everyone involved—especially the child. But there are some families who aren’t comfortable with that, and international adoption is a more closed option.

Foster adoption can be even more challenging. People point to the number of children in foster care in the U.S.—463,000—and say that we should all simply adopt from foster care. But keep in mind that some of those children do end up being reunited with their birth families weeks or months later. For those who remain in foster care, sometimes it is possible to adopt young children, but in many cases it’s older children who are available, many of whom have seen and experienced things no child should have to experience. These children need a special kind of love and support that some families are simply not equipped to provide.

All children deserve a loving family. Does our capacity for love and kindness really end at the border? Ideally, children in Russia or China or Ethiopia should find a loving family nearby, to help them preserve their connection to their birth culture. But many of these children—especially those with special needs—have few prospects for finding a family within their own country. If there are willing and able parents somewhere in the world who want to raise them, why should we stop them?

Life in the orphanages is devastating to a child’s future. Institutional care is always subpar, no matter how “good” the orphanage is. There is no replacement for a loving family—and it bears out in research, which shows that a baby who is raised in an orphanage loses a month’s worth of development for every three months she spends there. (Which means that an 18-month-old sitting in an orphanage is much more like a 12-month-old.)  Children in orphanages often have limited opportunities for education, and are sent out into the world as young as 14 years old, left to fend for themselves.

Until you have personally visited an orphanage, you simply can’t understand how devastating it is. I do.

Imagine a classroom filled with 30 cribs. The cribs have no mattresses, and the babies all lie on wooden slabs in the cribs. Every single crib is filled except for one by the window (which is where your new baby rested her head until a few days before). There is one single attendant charged with caring for all of these babies, and she walks around with the same dirty rag to wipe the babies’ noses—it seems that all of the babies are horribly sick with colds.

The babies all stare at you, and reach out to you. You touch their hands, and wish you could simply scoop them all up and take them out of there. There are no toys (despite the fact that you and other adoptive parents have donated plenty), and nothing to stimulate these babies as they lie in their cribs day after day. Most of them (including your baby) have huge flat spots on the backs of their heads, due to lying on their backs for months. They are fed the same thing every day—a mix of rice cereal and formula, put into a bottle. The attendant has too many mouths to feed, so the babies aren’t held when they’re fed—the bottle is propped up for them.

This is where my daughter would have spent her days. Because she has a small medical issue, she would have had little to no education—despite the fact that she is incredibly bright. If she was lucky, she would have gotten a job at a nearby factory after the orphanage left her go. If she wasn’t….well, I shudder to think about that.

Foster care isn’t ideal, but these warehouses of children are far, far worse. This is why I chose to adopt internationally—not once, but twice. And why I continue to support charities that work with the orphanages, so that the kids who are left behind can go into foster care, get an education, and get proper nutrition.

Maybe someday, we will get that perfect world, where kids can stay with the parents who gave them life—or with friends and family nearby. Where anyone who wants to be a parent can make that dream happen. But until we get that perfect world, we have to make the best of the one we have.

Photo: Mother and child by AISPIX by Image Source / Shutterstock

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The Problem With the Russian Adoption Ban

Friday, December 28th, 2012

More than 60,000 kids from Russian orphanages have found families in the U.S. since the Russian adoption program began more than 20 years ago—but now Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to put an end to one of the most popular international adoption programs for American families. And that’s a big mistake for everyone—especially the thousands of Russian children who will end up growing up in the sterile, stifling orphanage environment, rather than the embrace of a loving family.

If you look back, there have been rumblings of a ban for the past several years. Russian officials are angry about the 19 Russian children who died in the care of adoptive parents here in the U.S. (as they should be), and are concerned that some children have ended up in institutions here, after their parents deemed them too difficult to manage. And when Torry Hansen sent her son back to Russia in 2010, after she deemed him “dangerous” to her family, Russia halted all adoptions until some major diplomacy smoothed things over. But this new move, in retaliation for an American law that proposed sanctions against human rights violators from Russia, seems like it will be much harder to undo.

The biggest tragedy of this ban is that it means that 1,000 more children each year will join the 700,000 other orphans currently wasting away in Russian orphanages, with no opportunity to join a family. (Children only become available for international adoption in Russia if there’s no one available in the country to adopt them.) The effects of institutionalization are well documented—including problems attaching and developing relationships with others, and pervasive developmental delays. These are the kinds of things that the support of a loving family can help a child overcome. But these kids will never have that possibility, thanks to a government that’s all too willing to sacrifice the lives of these children out of spite for an unpopular American law, the Magnitsky Act.

It also means that 1,000 American families each year will lose the opportunity to become parents—a fact that’s going to be even more devastating for the thousands of families who are currently in process to adopt from Russia, and may have already seen a picture or even visited with the child that they hoped to adopt. And it means even more people will be looking to adopt domestically, as there are very few viable options for international adoption at this point.

In a perfect world, these kids would be able to stay with their birth families, and everyone who wants to become parents could. And if kids needed to be adopted, they would always find themselves with the right parents, who will treat them well and ensure that they are loved and supported. Yes, there have been abuses (on both sides) in the Russian adoption program, but the good that’s been achieved for the many happy families created through this international adoption program far outweighs the negatives. Let’s hope that Russia’s leaders can keep their children’s best interests in mind—and consider repealing this act, before it’s too late.

Mark III Photonics / Shutterstock.com

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