Western couples hit by Russian adoptions revolt
From Jeremy Page in Moscow
RUSSIA’S laws against foreign adoptions have come under fire after two Western couples had their newly adopted Russian children taken from them on the basis of eyewitness reports that they were abusing them.
The authorities took a three-year-old boy from his adoptive American parents last Wednesday after a woman called police to report that the mother grabbed the child’s throat in a café in Hotel Ukraine, Moscow.
Then, a six-year-old boy was taken from an Italian couple on Friday after a cabin attendant reported that the mother hit the child on a flight to Moscow.
Prosecutors are considering child-abuse charges against the parents, who deny wrongdoing. The cases have raised fears that Western couples are becoming the targets of a nationalist backlash against the rise in foreign adoptions.
The US Embassy issued an unusually strong statement criticising Russian authorities and media for their handling of the American couple’s case.
“The unusual attention to and handling of this case by Russian authorities and the Russian press suggests that a double standard exists for Americans and other foreigners with respect to child welfare,” it said.
“Whereas little appears to be done to stem effectively the mistreatment of children in the Russian Federation resulting in the existence of over 700,000 orphans in the country, Russian authorities have specifically victimised this American family, forcing them to depart the country without their child over disagreements on child-rearing practices.” Natalia Smirnova, the woman who called the police, opposed foreign adoptions and regarded Americans as unfit to raise children, the embassy said. Russians were horrified by the case of Irma Pavlis, an American adoptive mother who was jailed for 12 years last month for the involuntary manslaughter of her sixyear-old adopted Russian son.
Senior Russian officials have responded by calling for foreign adoptions to be restricted or outlawed and the Government began a publicity drive last week featuring television advertisements and a new website to encourage Russians to adopt. Many adoption workers say that the authorities are fuelling public hysteria while depriving orphans of good homes. Last week’s American couple adopted three-year-old Rashid from the Na Kalinke children’s home in the Siberian oil town of Surgut after meeting him for the first time about three months ago.
“Of course, he was very happy to have a mother and father. When he met them, he said ‘Mama! Mama!’ in Russian. All of them were very happy,” Ivan Bozhenov, the director of the home, told The Times.
“Can you imagine, if these people wanted to beat him, that they would do it where everyone can see it? I’m sure there was only one problem — the language barrier. He is a normal happy child and the parents have normal biographies, normal characteristics.”
Rashid has been taken to a children’s home until the investigation is completed. His adoptive parents were allowed to leave the country but are hoping to return to collect him.
The Italian couple have been asked not to leave the country and are staying in a hotel in Moscow. Fausto Fiori, a spokesman for the couple, said: “Their objective is to demonstrate that the accusations towards them are false since there was no violence towards the child — as is backed up by the Italian witnesses on the flight.”
One of those witnesses said that the boy had been running around and shouting excitedly so the mother had put him back in his seat and told him to be quiet. “Nothing violent happened on the plane,” he said.
On arrival in Moscow, however, the Italian couple were approached by plainclothes police, who took their documents and detained them for eight hours. Their son, meanwhile, was taken to hospital where he is still undergoing examination.
Russia has 700,000 abandoned and orphaned children in state institutions — double the number a decade ago Some 10,000 were adopted by foreigners last year, with half going to the United States The number of Russan adoptions has halved over the past decade, while foreign adoptions are up by 500 per cent Foreigners pay $5,000 (£2,725) to $10,000 to get the latest information on adoptable children and to cut red tape, even though adoptions are technically free in Russia Russia’s population has shrunk by 3.5 million since the collapse of the Soviet Union