The Americans, the Russian boy, and the Russian adoption authorities
- Girls adopted by Edelwina and Steven Leschinsky
- American Parents of Russian Adoptees Make Voices Heard in Russian Government
- Acts to watch - pass it on
- Russia Votes to Ban All Adoptions by Americans
- Nina Hilt (Viktoria Valeryevna Bazhenova)
- U.S. urges Russia to sign adoption treaty
- Yuri Pintus Fiori (Kirill Pushkin)
- Jessica Albina Hagmann
- The United States, international adoption, The Hague Convention, and child abuse
Recently, the adoption blogosphere has become abuzz with the case featuring a Christian family wanting to adopt, a Russian boy with Down Syndrome, and the Russian government.
Greg and Tesney Davis, a couple from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, seem to believe their desire to adopt this "special" boy is being blocked by the Russian court, and their story has made small-time news. The news-media version of the story begins with the following three lines:
"This child is better off just staying in an institution than having a forever family."
That's basically what a judge had to say after a hopeful and prayerful Alabama family was questioned last week in a European court room. Questioned by judge and prosecutor. Questioned for FIVE HOURS.
Apparently the prosecutor and judge were having a hard time understanding why the couple would want this particular little boy
The dramatic and emotionally-charged article ends with a final post script note, written by the author. As if in "Pst!" formation, she posts, "*** Not only is this devastating new [sic] for Kirill & his family - but also for 2 others families seeking to adopt children with Down Syndrome from the same region (which means the same judge)."
Thankfully, the news article provides a link to the original story, which reveals more details, not covered by those anxious to call the press.
The chain of current events began in 2009, when the adoption application for a child with Down Syndrome was submitted to Reece's Rainbow, an adoption agency directed by Angel of Adoption Award Winner, Andrea Faris Roberts, People's Hero, saving little lives.
Greg and Tesney believed they were following God's lead, as they " prayed over the faces of thousands of orphaned children with Down Syndrome" (found on the Reece's Rainbow website?). In many cases, PAPs often report they felt "love" (among other longings) when they look at the photo images of faces of poor orphans, in hungry want of something. This is a very clever sales tactic used by adoption agencies, or adoption facilitators. Preying upon the weakness of heart-strings often translates into an increase in adoption applications -- applications that require a hefty processing-fee. This free look at a child's photo and stats is a "service" that has received criticism, sparking only minor controversy.
the ministry says putting the information on the web makes people erroneously believe that anyone can pick any child on the Internet or in the press and apply for the kid to be entrusted to him/her as an adoptive or foster parent.
People's reactions to the information have been often based on their momentous emotional constellation.
"Spreading of information about children who do not grow up in their own families on the web, in the press or other media has an irreversible and negative impact on their privacy and can harm them for the rest of their lives," Miloslav Macela, head of the ministry's department for family and welfare systems, said to explain the position issued by the ministry.
Marie Vodickova, chairwoman of the Fund of Endangered Children, that has come under criticism in this connection, on Wednesday indicated that putting a child's data and photo on the Internet helps increase his/her chance of being placed with a new family.
A child has the right not only to privacy but also to a family. The question is which of the two rights is more important.
Nevertheless, a young married Christian couple prayed, and fell in love with the idea of adopting a sweet Russian boy, born with Down Syndrome, and saving him from the harms that go with long-term institutionalism. How open minded PAPs on a specific mission can be! Indeed, international adoption is the only way a child with complex long-term special needs (like autism, Down's Syndrome, or any other condition that renders disability "permanent") can ever be given the hope and help that comes from a good, loving, attentive close-knit
Unbeknown to this couple, their spiritual journey was going to take them through an unexpected lesson in the laws of international adoption when they were given a court date. In February 2011, they learned their adoption plan would not be approved.
On their blog the Davises offer their own report about their experience in the Russian court room:
But when the ruling was read, the judge said, “Your application to adopt is rejected.” The basis given was that Kirill was “not socially adaptable” due to his “medical condition” and he was better off in an institution than in a home with a family.
In order to understand the moment this confident couple was facing in that court room, readers need to see how a praying couple chose to see and interpret the "blank check" they offered God, through prayer.
Two years ago Greg and I began praying for God to do whatever he wanted with our lives. We handed him a “blank check” so to speak, and told him to cash it. He opened our eyes to children with disabilities wasting away across the ocean in Eastern Europe. We joined God and started our adoption journey.Our family is more than equipped to handle a child with special needs. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education. I am a member of the Board of Directors of Best Buddies of Alabama. I have volunteered for RISE and Eagles’ Wings. All of these organizations serve individuals with special needs. My husband I have close friends and family who have special needs and we are a big part of each other’s lives. Our wedding party included some of these special people. Our involvement with individuals with special needs led us to adopt a child with special needs; specifically, we chose Down Syndrome.[From: Our Eyes Opened, March 24, 2011 ]
Since then so many things have happened. A tragic story of an adoptive mother sending her child back to his country alone on a plane with a note pinned to his shirt rocked our world…he was from Russia. Adoptions in Russia came to a screeching halt. Kirill’s region stopped processing adoptions for eight long months. The judge refused to accept any Amercian adoption cases until an official treaty was signed between the United States and Russia.Even though we wouldn’t be able to finalize the adoption in court until the treaty was signed, we were allowed to go visit Kirill and sign our official petition to adopt him in August 2010. We fell more deeply in love with him. This was our son.During that time, we found out that Kirill is the first child from his region EVER to be adopted with Down Syndrome. A birth mother keeping her child with Down Syndrome is unheard of in this area of the world. Adoptions of children with Down Syndrome just don’t happen there, these children are literally hidden away from society in orphanages and mental institutions. As our process continued, it became apparent that Kirill would be a pioneer. If our adoption was approved, it would pave the way for other children with special needs to be adopted from this region.Then, a miracle happened around Christmas and the judge in this region suddenly changed her mind and began processing American adoptions again. We were elated. Could this be the light at the end of a very long tunnel? I was somewhat nervous about Kirill being the first child adopted with Down Syndrome from his region, but our agency was very confident that if we got a court date, our adoption would be approved. In seventeen years, they had never had a case rejected IF the family was issued a court date. We were told not to worry, so I didn’t. After meeting the judge’s requests for several supporting court documents, we were finally granted a court date-March 17, 2011. St. Patrick’s Day…I was thrilled. This would be our new favorite holiday! Our son was coming home!
We may never know what exactly inspired the judge's decision, but those who follow the signing of treaties know, this decision was no small move.
Those familiar with abused adoptee cases will notice the "Our Eyes Opened" blog did not mention an important adoption case, that has striking similarities that cannot be disputed.
In February 2008, Fyodor and Kimberly Emelyantsev, a couple from Tooele, Utah, adopted a 13-month-old boy with Down Syndrome, Nicolai. Less than 4 weeks later, the child was dead from blunt-force trauma to the head. Nicolai also had a bruised face, head, knee and anus.
Just like Greg and Tesney Davis, the Emelyansevs were "called by God" to adopt a child with Down Syndrome and also used Reece's Rainbow to facilitate the adoption.
Nicolai's adoption and abuse case was prominently featured in the Russian press back in 2008, and It is more than likely the Judge in the case of Kirill was familiar with it.
Whether this precedent had an impact on the judge's decision is unknown, but it does place the case in a different context, and in new light.
Instead of seeing a cold-hearted judge condemning a child to an institutionalized life, it now becomes possible to perceive this decision as one where the judge was unwilling to take a chance that yet another vulnerable Russian child might end-up in the home of an American who, on paper, looks really good.
One can easily see how adoption mimics a messy divorce, when the adults on both sides are going to court and fight for permanent child custody. The outcome is supposed to be in the child's best interest. Sometimes judges err on the side of over-protection, and sometimes they err on the side that supports adoption advocates.
When judges err on the side of the adoption advocates, and not child advocates, things can become strangely surreal, as was seen in the recent Doctor v. Florida Department of Children and Families case. In that all-American case, we can watch a young life develop and end, right before our eyes, as we read a small portion of a major recent news event:
The judge on the case sided with the experts who found no problem with the children living with the Barahonas. Ferrer recently spoke to that guardian ad litem, who she says is devastated over what happened to the children.
He is not the only one.
The twins' biological aunt and her husband wanted to adopt them, according to their attorney Steven Grossbard.
"Unfortunately, the expert opinion suggested that there was a significant bond, and the courts are inclined to go with experts' opinion," Grossbard said. The bond he referred to was the five years the twins lived with the Barahonas as their foster children before their adoption in 2009.
Over the years, problems in the Barahona home were brought to officials' attention.
"Several times we've been out to the home," Florida Department of Children and Families spokesman Mark Riordan said.
One of those complaints came in June 2010, charging that the children looked "unkept" and unfed, Colyer said. An investigation into those claims was closed without any state action.
That same month, the little girl's endocrinologist, whom she has been seeing since birth, voiced concerns about her weight, according to testimony Wednesday by Dr. Walter Lambert, the state child protection physician who interviewed the girl's doctor. Lambert's testimony came during a placement hearing in Miami for the three surviving adopted children.
Carmen Barahona told the doctor the girl's weight was due to a diet, Lambert testified. He also said that during the appointment, the little girl's mother told the endocrinologist her office was too far away and she was going to change doctors.
The most recent -- and urgent -- cause for concern was a call the child abuse hotline received last Thursday, four days before the twins were found in the truck, according to Colyer.
Lambert testified Wednesday that the information in the hotline call came from the 7-year-old daughter of Carmen Barahona's biological daughter.
"When (the 7-year-old) would go to this home, where these children were being locked in the bathroom -- they were being tied, but they were being untied to eat," Lambert said.
The granddaughter was told by her mother and grandmother that she was to keep "family secrets" quiet, Lambert said.
Four days later, the court appointed adoptive father was found, with gasoline on himself and his adopted son, with a plan. The father of four children adopted from the state's foster care system, told police he was distraught over the death of his daughter and had intended to commit suicide by dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself afire -- but didn't go through with it. Police found the dead body of Nubia, ("his daughter"), wrapped in plastic in the bed of the pickup.
This case certainly shows how a judges decision can be devastatingly tragic when parents who have bonded to a child, appeal for mercy, and win, thanks to home study reports and court testimony.
Let's now go back to the American mother and father, who wanted to adopted a little Russian boy, with Down's Syndrome.
Imagine the confusion and bewilderment, the adoptive parent felt, standing in front of a judge and realizing the spiritual journey they thought they were going to get through an adoption plan, turned out to be their own private hell.
Last week, as we sat in the courtroom and suffered through five agonizing hours of difficult questioning, we were not prepared for anything but an approval of our case. Two doctors, two social workers, and the Minister of Children’s Services all made very strong statements on our behalf. They fought for us. Hard.But when the ruling was read, the judge said, “Your application to adopt is rejected.” The basis given was that Kirill was “not socially adaptable” due to his “medical condition” and he was better off in an institution than in a home with a family. As the judge read her ruling, she stated several times that we were a good family, that we met all the criteria to adopt a child, but that she would not approve our adoption because Kirill has Down Syndrome. She told us that we could adopt another child, because legally our application had no problems according to Russian adoption law. She said she would approve our adoption for a “typical” child, but not this child. Why? The only reason? Because he has Down Syndrome. Even though we were approved by our home study and by the USCIS to adopt a child with special needs. It makes no sense whatsoever. Denying a child a family because he has Down Syndrome is a violation of human rights at its most basic level!
Below is an excerpt from a published news article regarding another adoptive parent's final moments, before a judge and a final decision. The confession must have been liberating, but brutal. One can only imagine how long it takes for the concept of "future consequence" to hit, when a seemingly uncaring judge is behind the final verdict.
Defense attorney Jon Williams noted that one of the couple's three biological children, and the two children they adopted from Russia, were born with Down syndrome.
Williams said Emelyantsev blamed the death of the boy on a stressful home environment and the "pressures of a husband [32-year-old Fyodor Emelyantsev] who would not participate in an extraordinary familial situation."
Williams added that Kimberly Emelyantsev never wanted to adopt this child from Russia, but was afraid to say no to her husband and afraid of how it would look to others if she did not go through with the adoption.
Noting that his client suffered from a depressive disorder at the time of the homicide, Williams asked the judge to impose jail and probation, rather than prison.
Attorney Doug Hogan said the violence involved in the baby's death warranted a prison sentence.
Emelyantsev initially claimed that out of frustration she deliberately dropped the baby twice to the floor on March 6.
But during a recent diagnostic evaluation at the Utah State Prison, Emelyantsev admitted grabbing the child by an arm and a leg, slamming him to the floor, and then repeating the action.
The baby died the following day from a skull fracture, according to charging documents.
The judge told Emelyantsev that although she deserved prison time, "I understand that you aren't a mean person."
"As terrible as this is, there is going to be life on the other side of this," the judge added.
Perhaps, prayerful people can take the time to contemplate the meaning behind these seemingly unrelated events. Events that have taken place within the last few years in Adoptionland. Many believe God is the ultimate judge. With faith, it's not impossible to believe this story was meant to do the unthinkable: gather more witnesses, so more can see the message God is trying to send through very unlikely, unexpected people.
But even the godless can read cryptic writing on a virtual wall: If we do not learn from the many details seen in past-mistakes made with "orphans", we will repeat history in ways that will dishonor and transgress decent society.
What's most striking about this small-town news is how quickly the Christian community responds to a flash-point that features Christian adoption supporters, a prayer request, and the plight of "orphans", left to rot in an overcrowded understaffed asylum/institution.
A quick look at the PAP's blog proves the prayer-chain has been activated. The save-the-orphan from Russia's Institutions crusade has been launched, and people are ready to fight and respond.
The power of prayer is going to work, as misguided "know-it-alls" will use God's name to oppose a Russian judge.
When will prayer-offering people start seeing the straw man is not the enemy?
We at PPL will continue to keep watch (and score) on the legal battles that take place in Adoptionland, as two governments, (Russia and America), debate adoption issues and decide the fate of a fragile ICA agreement.
We at PPL know the treatment and care given to foreign and domestic
"orphans" "adoptable" children has been poor throughout recorded history. Oversight and denial have put innocent lives in grave danger, and many of "the most vulnerable" have suffered the harsh consequences that go with negligence and abuse inflicted upon the innocent.
We at PPL understand, talk and tear-filled pleas from the real victims of corrupt child-trade go unheard and ignored. How can anyone hear the screams if the din of great deceivers keeps repeating in well-rehearsed script and verse, "The vast majority..."
Let those focused on "Christian family-values" focus on that.