Abused Girl Asks Putin Not to Halt Adoptions

Date: 2005-12-29

A 13-year-old Russian girl who was molested by her adopted American father has appealed in a letter to President Vladimir Putin to take measures to protect children but also to allow foreign adoptions to continue.

The letter comes as Russian authorities are looking to restrict adoptions after several children died at the hands of their American parents in recent years. Adoption advocates in the United States are worried that adoptions from Russia might grind to a halt.

"Adoption by Americans should not stop because of what happened to me," the girl, Masha, wrote in the letter. "But we need to make things safer and better for the Russian orphans who are sent to America."

Masha was adopted at the age of 5 by Matthew Mancuso, a millionaire who sexually abused her and posted photographs of the abuse on the Internet. He is now serving a life sentence in prison on child abuse charges. Masha has been adopted by another American family.

The Kremlin had no immediate comment about the letter.

Tom Morton, the director of the U.S.-based Child Welfare Institute who carried Masha's letter to Moscow, said that Russian officials had a right to be concerned but that they should not judge all adoptive parents on the basis of the few who had mistreated their children.

Some 40,000 to 50,000 children have been adopted in the past 10 years, and 14 or 15 have died from abuse.

Morton said a system of checks, including home visits, would do much to ensure that children were not being abused. Any visitor to Masha's home would have realized that the house had only one bed, he said.

"You need to make sure those kids are safe and happy so what happened to me doesn't happen again," Masha wrote in her letter to Putin. "Maybe checking up two times a year would help, just to make sure the kids are OK. I want to help!"

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