The Russian Ban On U.S. Adoption: A Ray Of Hope For Kids With Special Needs

Take a look at these beautiful children.

They’re all former Russian orphans, adopted in 2012 by U.S. parents through the non-profit Reece’s Rainbow. A Down Syndrome Adoption Ministry, since 2004 it has found homes for more than 900 orphans with DS and other disabilities primarily from Russia, Eastern Eutrope, Asia and Latin America.

With the Russian ban on American adoptions that went into effect this week, many children will be withering away in Russian orphanages. According to The Promise, more than 200,000 children in Russia are institutionalized; Reece’s Rainbow founder Andrea Roberts estimates that 1000 of those kids have Down syndrome. More than 60,000 children have been adopted from Russia in the last two decades, per UNICEF. President Vladimir Putin’s political move is going to have a very personal, cruel effect on orphans/

“The law that Putin signed would literally be a death sentence for hundreds, if not thousands, of Russian orphans with special needs,” Andrea Roberts told First Things writer Matthew Hennessey, father to a little girl with Down syndrome. Hennessey notes that children with Down syndrome often have health needs, including heart defects, that are best handled when a child is young. He spoke of his own daughter’s issues with aspirating thin liquids, and how at home they thicken up water, juice and milk to avoid her drawing it into her lungs and getting infection. “If Magdalena were left untended, fed a diet of typical institutional fare without accommodations, she would aspirate daily, contract pneumonia several times over, and likely die within a few years,” he said.

A new development could bring relief to children with special needs;  lawmaker Robert Schlegel from the majority United Russia party has proposed an amendment to the law that will allow an exception for Russian orphans with special needs. “There are children who need help, and until we can provide that help in Russia, we should allow somebody else to do that, no matter if those willing to help come from America or any other country,” he told The Daily Beast in a phone interview.

Over on Reece’s Rainbow Facebook page, an update referring to the proposed amendment reads “A small window of hope for our kids with disabilities…please pray that this window absolutely OPENS!”

Kids with disabilities need our prayers. All those kids in Russian orphanages need them. Sometimes in life, we’re not able to head off tragic outcomes for children. This is one time it is possible, if only Putin would come to his senses.


Photos: Reece’s Rainbow


Add a Comment
Back To To The Max
  1. by Eri

    On January 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    It’s a complicated issue.

    On one hand, our adoption relationship with Russia has not been good for quite some time — and for understandable reasons. Do you remember the family who returned that seven year old boy, with nothing more than a note? The family sent him back because he was “troubled”. Beyond the fact they put his safety at risk by putting him on a plane without so much notifying Russian authorities, the fact that they somehow managed to adopt an older child without knowing that he would likely suffer from attachment and trauma-based issues — as well as trouble adjusting to a different culture and language and way of life — is disturbing. From what we know, they did not even attempt to seek out help so that he could heal…they just abandoned him. It was later reported that the adoptive mother had taken advice from a lawyer she found on the internet and may have abused the boy while he was in her care. The calls for an adoption ban began then.

    In light of that, can you blame them [Russia]? While they may be under-resourced in terms of their dealings with orphan children and may still harbor a high level of stigma towards disability, that does not mean they are callous. They approved an adoption of a child in need and ended up with a situation in which a traumatized and needy boy was further hurt. While the US and Russia did strengthen procedural regulations after that incident, the political gears were already set.

    The international aspect of the adoptions further complicates things. Taking a child away from their family is a drastic step, but taking them away from their country and culture? That is severe. It should only be done in cases of last resort. It should not be done because the quality of life is perceived as better or opportunity more plentiful in America; it should be done only because there is not a safe, loving place for that child in their home country. All other measures, including providing welfare and health assistance to poor families, must be tried first. The goal should be for a country to have 0 international adoptions.

    Along with banning adoptions, this bill also included a presidential decree to change the way the country deals with orphans, including those with disabilities. Russia needs that and is moving in the right direction.

    That said, I do not believe that a full ban on adoptions was appropriate, as seeing Russia is not close to being “there” yet, so to speak. This does hurt the children in a way that is unfair and unacceptable; in a way that is unethical.

    In the immediate, families that have been matched should be allowed to proceed with their adoptions, particularly those that have already met with their children. An exemption for disabled children, children with special health concerns (ex, HIV+), children at risk for institutionalization and older children should be created, as these children are the most at-risk and hard to place.

    The US and Russia should then sit down and work together to figure out ways to minimize the need for international adoption and, when it is needed, how to make sure it is done securely. This should include classes on trauma and attachment. The US should also consider making adoption supports afforded to special needs foster children (defined as any child hard to place due to disability, age, place in a sibling group, race and other factors) post-adoption available to international adoptees who meet the same criteria. These supports include items such as Medicaid eligibility, which can cover intensive mental health care.

    I also think the US should ask itself why we are so up in arms about the Russian adoption ban, supposedly only because those children need homes, when we do not allow any other countries to adopt from our foster care system? US children certainty need families and US families alone do not seem to be enough. Right now, there are 104,000 children free for adoption in our foster care system and 20,000 will age out each year without being adopted. Those who age out are at higher risk of incarceration, homelessness and having their own children removed from care. Only about half graduate from high school. Why are we so angry about children in Russia, but not about this? Why are we not screaming for better here?