So a friend recently posted this petition on her Facebook status to help 46 families with court-approved adoptions bring home their children from Russia. In case you haven’t heard, in late December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial law banning American families from adopting Russian children.
One commenter offered some dissenting thoughts including the following:
- Russia had a legal right to pass the law.
- Americans don’t have a right to adopt internationally.
- Thousands of children in our own country need adopting, so why would someone adopt outside America?
- The United States should use its energy to make domestic adoptions less complicated and less expensive.
- U.S. citizens should not worry about another sovereign country’s laws.
I wanted to respond to his thoughts and question, but I found myself writing a rather long diatribe for a Facebook comment. So here are my views of this situation.
Thank you for sharing your views as they provided inspiration to share my own opinions on this matter. You are correct in that it is Russia’s right to pass this law; however, simply because it is their right doesn’t necessarily make it a wise decision or prioritize the best interests of Russian children.
Please understand, I’m a supporter of in-country adoptions if that is feasible, but many countries do not have enough citizens with the financial means or adequate social systems to provide for the country’s orphans. I’m also a huge fan of ethical adoptions, and if Russia’s program is suffering from corruption, coercion, or any other misconduct, then by all means, I hope the government makes the necessary reforms. However, there are various reports that Putin’s decision has to do more with political power games than concern for children. According to this article, “the move is widely seen as retaliation for a law that U.S. President Barack Obama signed on December 14. That bill, called the Magnitsky Act, imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.”
I’m not a fan of using children as political pawns. There’s always room for improvement in adoption practices, but those changes will take time. A complete halt to U.S. adoptions will mean that hundreds of children (many with special needs) will remain in institutionalized care until they age out of the system rather than becoming part of a family.
And 46 of those orphans have already met their families. They were kissed and hugged and promised a new and better life. One of those orphans is HIV positive. Another has Down’s syndrome. It’s not as if there are 46 Russian adoptive families lining up to take these children. Instead, if this situation is not resolved, they will likely remain in the system for many more years….if not for their entire childhoods.
Are you aware of the physical, social, developmental, and mental impacts on a child in an orphanage? Even in the better facilities, there simply aren’t enough caregivers to provide the physical contact and stimulation that a baby needs to thrive. Studies have shown decreased mental capacity and an array of increased health problems for institutionalized children.
I also agree with you that Americans have no inherent “right” to adopt children from other countries, but as a Christian, I do believe we have a responsibility to love all God’s children in whatever ways are possible. You asked why people are going overseas rather than adopting U.S. children? Allow me to share my thoughts, if you will.
First, you should probably know that I am an adoptive mother, but perhaps you would approve of me. We’ve built our family thus far through domestic infant adoption. In addition, we’ve also provided a family to two young men (our unofficial foster kids) for the past year, and we’re planning on adopting a toddler from foster care in the next six months.
However, in the future, we may choose to adopt internationally, and we have many friends who have built their families in this way with children from Ethiopia, Russia, China, Nepal, and other countries.
I believe people adopt from other countries for a multitude of reasons, and when you ask “why?” I tend to think, “why not?”
American children are no more deserving of a loving and safe home simply because of their proximity. God doesn’t look down on His children and prioritize care of one country over another. I firmly believe that all children deserve a family. If you choose to adopt locally? Great! If you have the resources to adopt internationally? Fabulous! In both cases, a child grows up surrounded by love, and that is all kinds of awesome.
Also, while America has thousands of children who need a home, there is at least a system in place to provide for their well-being. A child who finds himself without parents or caretakers in America will have a court-appointed advocate, a social worker, a counselor, foster parents, a doctor, and others who, ideally, will fight for his well-being. Granted, the U.S. foster care system is incredibly flawed and needs massive reforms, but at least there is a system. In many countries, children starve to death because there simply isn’t any food. They die from preventable diseases. When their parents die, they are left in pigpens or on roadsides as the country simply has no infrastructure for dealing with the masses of orphans. While I do think America needs to work on its “savior-complex,” there are millions of children in need of families. This post, from Rage Against the Minivan, does an excellent job of describing the fine line between avoiding the savior mentality while not shying away from advocating for orphans.
People are going overseas for children because those children need a family too.
Also, for the record, foster-care adoptions in the United States are highly affordable with generally little to no cost. According to Adoptive Families, “ninety percent of the children adopted from foster care in 2010 qualified to receive an ongoing subsidy.” Certainly, there’s room for reform on the costs involved in adopting domestic infants, and I’m adamantly against for-profit agencies, but that’s an entirely different conversation.
In the meantime, no matter what Russia decides to do in the future, it should at least honor the adoptions that were already in progress. The sovereign country should uphold its agreement with the couples who jumped through every hoop in hopes of bringing home a child and carefully consider what’s in the best interest of its children before making such rapid decisions.