Russia may impose moratorium on child adoption for US

December 11, 2011/

Russia's ombudsman for child rights, Pavel Astakhov, said on Saturday he did not rule out that a moratorium for adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens may be imposed.

“It is not ruled out that after the joint activities with the Prosecutor-General's office, the Foreign Ministry and the Education Ministry we will propose to impose a temporary moratorium on adoption of our children and their transportation to America until the concluded agreement is ratified,” he said after the meeting with Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika.  

The United States “demonstrates inability to fulfil its obligations to our children who are taken to America,” he said.  

According to the most modest estimates, around 100,000 Russian children have already been adopted by American parents.  

“In this situation ratification of the agreement between America and Russia can be postponed, as there are no real actions taken by the United States,” he said.


Will Russia really do it?

I'm beginning to think these threats to suspend or end adoption trade between Russia and the USA is nothing but strategically-timed hot-air put in-print.

Despite the many known abuse cases that feature adoptive parent sexual misconduct (with or without exploitation), physical brutality, or child abandonment, Russia has continued to allow/send Russian children to live with American APs in their private adoption agency approved adoptive homes, knowing damn well there could easily be some serious risks for the adopted child.   Sure, a grand political  show may be made when Russia officials are not happy with a ruling in an American court  -- most recently was the angry response to the Craver case sentencing --  but all the bells and whistles that go with local disgust don't seem to amount to much once the cameras and reporters leave the "outraged" government official.

So I ask, over and over again:  How many abuse/abandonment cases and deaths will it take for something radically significant to be done, for the sake of adopted children? 

Just for kicks, let's review what we have collected in our own archives, so far:

Abuse cases*

Case Receiving country Date
Kristoff Beagley (Daniil Bukharov) United States of America 2010-11-17
Girl adopted by Theresa McNulty United States of America 2010-02-21
Girls adopted by Edelwina and Steven Leschinsky United States of America 2010-01-12
Xenia - girl adopted by Mary and Michael Grismore United States of America 2010-01-01
Nathaniel Michael Craver - (Ivan Skorobogatov) United States of America 2009-08-19
Chase Harrison (Dmitry Yakovlev) United States of America 2008-07-08
Six children adopted in Lapeer County Michigan United States of America 2008-03-31
Nicolai Emelyantsev United States of America 2008-03-07
Boy adopted by Jane and Timothy Cochran (Kuzma) United States of America 2006-02-03
Isaac Jonathan Dykstra United States of America 2005-08-13
Yuri Pintus Fiori (Kirill Pushkin) Italy 2005-07-06
Nina Hilt (Viktoria Valeryevna Bazhenova) United States of America 2005-07-02
Rashid, boy adopted by Robert and Tracy Lynn Beatty Russian Federation 2005-06-03
Girl adopted by David and Karen Gilmore United States of America 2005-01-22
Dennis Gene Merryman (Denis Uritsky) United States of America 2005-01-22
11 Children adopted by Tom and Debra Schmitz United States of America 2004-06-30
Alex Pavlis (Alexei Vasilovich Geiko) United States of America 2003-12-18
Liam Thompson (Dmitry Sergeyvich Islankulov) United States of America 2003-10-13
Jessica Albina Hagmann United States of America 2003-08-11
Masha Allen (Mariya Nikolaevna Yashenkova) United States of America 2003-05-27
21 Girls adopted by John and Marian DiMaria United States of America 2003-02-01
Girl adopted by David and Holly Meyers United States of America 2003-01-01
Maria Anastasia Bennett United States of America 2002-10-23
Yana and Anatoli Kolenda United States of America 2002-10-21
Sacha Vallée Canada 2002-10-09
Children adopted by Theresa and Reed Hansen United States of America 2002-10-02
Kelsey Hyre United States of America 2002-09-26
Zachary Higier (Nikita Khoryakov) United States of America 2002-08-15
Jacob Lindorff United States of America 2001-12-14
Luke Evans United States of America 2001-11-30
Viktor Alexander Matthey (Viktor Sergievich Tulimov) United States of America 2000-10-31
Logan Higginbotham United States of America 1998-11-25
Girls adopted by Karen and Richard Thorne United States of America 1997-07-03
David Polreis, Jr. (Konstantin Shlepin) United States of America 1996-02-09

*This list features only the cases covered and reported by media outlets; the actual number of victims is likely to be much greater.

Disruption cases*

Case Receiving country Date
Artem Justin Hansen (Artem Saveliev) United States of America 2010-04-08
Viktor Perdue United States of America 2005-10-05
Elena Thomas United States of America 1999-05-20
Samantha - girl adopted by Crystal and Jesse Money United States of America 2000-02-01
Inga Whatcott United States of America 2000
Alexander Hedstrom United States of America  

* This list of unwanted adoptees is incomplete, as many adopted children are moved around and "traded" within a lucrative underground network.  This network is comprised of foster care-givers and unlicensed therapists and made headline news in 2006, when adoptive parents,  Debra and Tom Schmitz, were put on trial for abusing some of their 18 children in Tennessee :

"There are homes all across the United States that transfer kids from one place to another. No one's keeping tabs on this. ... These kids just come and go," says Sheriff Joe Shepard of Gibson County in rural northwest Tennessee, where the Schmitzes live.

"Dump and run — it happens all the time," says Ronald Federici, a neuropsychologist in Alexandria, Va., and author of Help for the Hopeless Children who has adopted seven children. He says one adoptive family abandoned a child in his office. He says there are hundreds of e-mail chat rooms in which people who adopted children are trying to find new homes for them outside the public system.

"They don't want to sell the kids. They just want to get rid of them," he says, explaining the children may have health problems the adoptive parents never expected. "It's not the merchandise they bought." He says many of these parents are looking for the cheapest and fastest placement.

As far as I'm concerned, the above lists tells me something.  They tell me the immediate wants of "desperate" PAPs and the desires of a "struggling" sending-government come well before the rights of children put in care and put on the intra-country adoption block. How else can one explain the way in which far too many adopted children are treated post-adoption, and how else can one explain the delay in bilateral ratification?

Personally, I think a moratorium is the only ballsy action that will speak louder than media-covered words.  Unfortunately, I still seriously doubt Russia will have what's needed to tell the USA government what it needs to hear: enough is enough -- abuse in the adoptive home will NOT be tolerated.

Instead, I think and fear, child-trade between Russia and the USA will continue as usual, and we will see more of the same.  (What a horrible visual...).  

Russian moratorium?

Astakhov is playing to the galley in an election cycle where Putin, having declined massively in popularity, is playing the foreign enemies card because it is usually good for a boost in the polls. I doubt they really want to piss off the US by putting a moratorium in place.

Russia prosecutes thousands of its own abuse cases of adopted and foster children each year, but it's not as much discussed in the press (though not totally ignored, either). And hundreds of kids taken into families from state care are also returned by those families each year right here in Russia. So the needs of real child protection, and the need to score points against resented foreigners have to be separated.

The stereotype of Russia as a "struggling sending country" has to be laid to rest. They're planning to loan a few billion to the IMF to bail out the eurozone, for goodness sake. Russia is not lacking money to care for what it calls its "social orphans" (the vast majority of kids in the system have living parents or other relatives), but it is, in my still forming opinion, lacking political will to truly attack the problem of social orphanhood. And though it is rich, it also prefers to keep social expenditures as low as possible, so the money coming in from foreign adoptions has to be welcome.

Why do they continue to tolerate ICA? Partly because they can't get enough Russian families to foster or adopt the kids in the system, and they know the system is truly not working for kids. And doing what it takes to dismember the system and build more foster-home type institutions would be a radical change that would attack entrenched interests. So would taking more serious steps toward family preservation.

So the system continues

entrenched interests

I agree with much of your post, especially the following:

Why do they continue to tolerate ICA? Partly because they can't get enough Russian families to foster or adopt the kids in the system, and they know the system is truly not working for kids. And doing what it takes to dismember the system and build more foster-home type institutions would be a radical change that would attack entrenched interests.

The same could be said about America (American politicians) and those pushing the ICA card.  Just recently, Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., founding Co-Chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, announced key provisions for a bill for "vulnerable children" have been approved by Congress.  Her  Families First Pilot Program is to provide up to $4.5 million for partner governments to help improve their programs for children living outside of family care.  (Key working-phrase being "partner governments").  According to the article, Landrieu Priorities for Vulnerable Children Pass Congress, (December 18, 2011), the purpose of the Family First Pilot Project is to:

• Demonstrate how comprehensive, research-based policies and programs with family-based alternatives for children without parental care can be successfully implemented.

• Establish model programs that, once tested for effectiveness, will be available, replicable, and adaptable on a global basis;

• Identify a series of interventions, which result in family preservation, reunification, and permanent parental care for orphans;

• Determine which in-country factors enhance or negate efforts to achieve family preservation, reunification, and permanent parental care for orphans.

Given the many failures and corruptions found within our own government funded foster care programs,  I can't see how any US Senator can seriously think Americans are in the position to teach other sending countries what programs work for children in-care, and what fails those same children.   After all, what is being done to ensure a reduction in  the number of child abuse cases in US foster homes?  What is being done about the over-use of prescription drugs on American foster kids?  Not much, as far as I can see. 

Sen Landrieu offered the swell sounding statement, ".... Today’s youth will inherit the world we leave behind, so it is imperative that U.S. investments abroad successfully provide vulnerable children with opportunities to reach their full potential,” but I believe once again, American politicians are forgetting the power of domestic investments and they are forgetting the vulnerable abandoned children still struggling in their own back yards.  

From a teaching, sending and receiving perspective, I think it would benefit more "vulnerable children" if ICA between Russia and the USA were suspended.  In fact, I believe until ALL our own American children in-care have been treated with care and dignity, and given the same "bright future" opportunities Landrieu wants to gift foreign children languishing in poor-care, our interests in ICA should be either cut, or at the very least, severley reduced and limited.

But for a professional politician, such a move or suggestion would be political suicide, wouldn't it?

consequences of suspension

Suspension would prevent the horror stories in America; it would also prevent the decent placements. I don't have enough data to know how many there are in each category. In Russia, it would have one of two effects--either the 500-1000 kids now adopted by Americans each year would remain in orphanages, or there would be an uptick subsidies and thus in Russian foster/adoption placements.

As for those who remain, the generally accepted statistic here is that only 1 in 10 kids graduating out of the orphanages "makes it" into a stable occupation and life; most of the others drift into illegal trades and at least 1 out of those 9 is lost to suicide within the first few years after leaving the orphanage. This despite the rather generous subsidies for apartments and living stipends the state provides. For those who are adopted domestically, there is a high rate of return in Russian domestic placements which will cycle some kids back into the system; only this year is a-parent education becoming mandatory here and it's in its infancy (as are psychological and other family support services for adoptive and all other families).

Pick your poison.

Is suspending adoptions

Is suspending adoptions really the rational option here? If you look at the statistics, the children are much better off being adopted then being left in the orphans. After leaving their orphanages: 50% - fall into a high-risk category 40% - become drug users 40% - commit crimes 10% - commit suicide I can't find specific numbers for abuse for Russian children adopted in America, but the general number for abuse to all adopted and foster children in America falls around 1%. Of course we need to make sure all children are safe and we should do anything we can do stop abuse to all children, but it is ridiculous to think it is a good idea to halt all adoptions. Most of the adopted children are living in loving and caring homes.

outcomes and improvements

An often heard argument in favour of inter-country adoption is that the child welfare system in the sending country has really bad outcomes. This is one of the reasons why there is little or no protest against the adoption from American foster children by Europeans. After all, the outcomes of the American foster care system are bad enough to warrant the export of American born citizens.

Whether children actually fare better in an adoptive family is unknown. Nearly all adoption outcome statistics pertain to children adopted through the American foster care system, not adoptions from foreign countries. Once an adoption is finalized, all contact with either state government, federal government or child placement agency become voluntarily. As a result, cooperation is less likely among abusive families.

After having worked on the issue of abuse in adoptive families for many years, we still have to find proper statistics about abuse in adoptive families. Such figures are not available. So any statement about the well-being of adopted children is at best an educated guess, at worse an empty phrase or wishful thinking.

When asking experts about statistics, they agree there is no data, but estimate the numbers to be relatively low because of screening procedures.

There is some validity to that point. Home studies create some barrier for prospective adopters, weeding out those candidates that have a long history of alcoholism and/or child abuse, but are much less effective weeding out unsuitable candidates that look good on paper.

Finally, removing children from a dysfunctional child welfare system and exporting them to a country with demand for adoptable children, helps maintain the situation in the sending country. With large numbers of children being sent to rich Western countries, the Russian authorities have very little incentive to improve their own system. Only when faced with their own problems, do sending countries have an incentive for improvement. This is very well observable in Russia, that in response to the many abuse cases and disrupted or dissolved adoptions in the US, has made it an issue to seek for more adoptive parents in their own country.

Pound Pup Legacy