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With encouragement from local authorities and charities, more and more Russians are interested in adopting or becoming foster parents.
By Svetlana Smetanina
June 26, 2012 / Russia Beyond The Headlines
In early June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the National Child Welfare Strategy. Its main idea is simple: every child has the right to live and grow up in a family, and the state must ensure that right. Therefore, a decision was made to minimize the number of orphanages by transferring 90 percent of orphans to families in various forms of guardianship.
The document indicated another important task: a gradual reduction in the number of children made available for international adoption. Russian orphans should to be adopted by the Russian citizens. This is the first official announcement of the kind coming from such a high level.
Russia is currently experiencing a demographic crisis; at the same time, the number of couples wishing to become foster parents is growing within the country.
Today in Moscow, there are 32 schools to train foster parents. The schools were created by the Moscow government, but they came about largely through the example of the first school at the Family Charity Fund, which was established in 2000. The experts from this school developed the programs for the municipal schools. Twelve professionals teach at the Foster Parent School of the Family Fund, including doctors, psychologists and lawyers. Seven of them have also adopted children. One of their main objectives is to dispel popular myths about adoption, for example, the myth that all children in orphanages are sick.
In recent years, the government has significantly increased funding for orphanages. The expenditure per child ranges from 350,000 – 600,000 rubles ($11,000 - $18,000) - depending on the region. This money is not spent so much on the children, however, as on school maintenance, staff salaries and utility costs. In addition, orphanage staff members receive substantial bonuses for working with sick children, which leads staff members to add diagnoses in some cases. At the Foster Parent School, teachers encourage parents to look at the child first – before reading anything about any diseases they might have.
The process of adding diagnoses is also encouraged by the laws regarding foreign adoption. Russian legislation says that a child cannot be approved for international adoption until he or she has been rejected by five potential local foster families. Orphanages make more money from foreign adoptions, whereas Russian families can adopt for free, so orphanage staff are encouraged to give a child as many diagnoses as possible to scare off potential foster parents from Russia.
Anton Zharov, an attorney who also teaches at the Foster Parent School, relates a typical story: A family wanted to adopt a three-month old baby living in an orphanage, but three families had refused the baby because of his terrible diagnoses, which included such diseases as hepatitis. The couple went ahead and adopted the baby anyway, only to discover that the child never had hepatitis, nor any other disease. The orphanage then confessed that they were preparing the baby for foreign adoption.
"I am confident that the foreign adoption is causing serious harm to the Russian domestic adoptions. Therefore, in my opinion, foreigners can be given only the children with real disabilities that we are unable to help anyway," said Family Charity Fund Director Mikhail Pimenov,.
According to data published at the U.S. Government Department of Foreign Adoptions' website, in 2011, Americans adopted 970 Russian children. Only China (2,589) and Ethiopia (1,727) have a higher number of children adopted by American families. All in all, foreigners have adopted more than 3,000 Russian orphans.
Today, however, more and more Russian regions are working to encourage families to keep their children at home and preparing foster families. For example in the Krasnodar Territory, there were 25 foster families in 2005. Today, there are over 2,000. The territory has changed its approach to the problem of orphans. There are programs on TV regarding adoption; local authorities began searching for people who could become foster parents. They started taking them to local orphanages, showing the children to them and telling how smart and talented they are. As a result, 9 out of 10 orphans in Krasnodar today are living in families. The state encourages this process financially, too: the adoption of a child with a disability is supported with up to 500,000 rubles. The foster parents themselves also receive a monthly payment.
In the industrial city of Cherepovets, until 2006, there were nine orphanages for 300,000 children. The local authorities then realized that the problem's solution starts with the family and the charity fund Doroga k Domu (The Way Home) appeared in the city and opened a Foster Parent School. Soon, the number of orphanages was reduced to five. Most importantly, no foster families have returned children placed with them.
In the Tyumen Region, local social services are designed to help families in crisis. Parents in need are given help finding a job and giving up drugs and alcohol, if needed. They are granted financial assistance to start small businesses. As a result, the number of parents deprived of parental rights has been sharply reduced. And 89 percent of the children live in families.
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The Foreign/American AP Effect on a Child's Best Interest
As disturbing as it really is, I'm always glad to see media outlets reporting on the effects American adopters have had (and do have) on domestic care and domestic adoption programs:
It's bad enough some will change birth-facts, (like a birthdate, making an older child much younger - and therefore more desirable to potential adopters) so an adoption plan (with all its paid service-fees) can be completed. But to think some will go as far as create a fake illness for a child, all so one can deter locals from a domestic adoption plan, and push for an ICA plan, instead? Just how sick and demented (and self-serving) have certain workers within the adoption industry become?
Clearly, this particular orphanage was preparing for the increase in profits an ICA plan makes and brings, putting the basic needs of the child nowhere on its list of Important Things To Do.
The thing is, Americans defending ICA should not quickly claim, "this was an isolated incident", as I expect many will do. The truth is, the vast majority of American adopters choosing the foreign adopion option DON'T WANT TO KNOW how often lies are told and used so others can make a profit through a shady adoption plan. This convenient denial held by foreign adopters puts families-in-crisis at risk... the risk being, ANY financially struggling parent facing a family-crisis can quickly and easily lose rights to a child, and any child can be mislabeled to suit the wants and needs of those willing to make thousands of dollars through child-trade. It's all about money.
With that fact of adopted life, given all the information one can find on the internet, it is no longer acceptable for anyone to deny there is a tremendous amount of false-labeling and fake claiming taking place, all so every first-family tie can be severed, and a money-making foreign adoption can be executed. This pattern and method found in child trafficking markets is WRONG, (it always has been), and I think foreign adopters need to learn how to own their part in this crime against other parents and children.
Back to the case that created an orphan's false health-history for ICA's interests. In order to put this not-so-isolated-event into context, readers ought to ask how many American-based adoption agencies were connected to, and doing business with, this orphanage. In other words, how many Americans was this particular orphanage serving? What other countries were using the orphanage for it's "child welfare services", as well? What was the going rate(s) and price-difference between foreign buyer and domestic adopter at the time? And last but not least, does anyone really think this incident is limited to this one particular case, at this one particular orphanage, in this one particular country?
I sure hope more people are beginning to see the light that's being cast upon the dark-side of adoption; I hope more are starting to understand why so many foreign adoptees hustled or trafficked into poorly monitored adoptive homes are so angry towards adopters and the adoption system itself. The actions done against children found in most care-systems are criminal, but instead of putting an immediate end to ICA, ICA advocates and their ICA facilitators are praised and thanked for their trans-global humanitarian efforts.
After many years collecting data for PPL, it's become very clear to me that many social services around the world are not making quality child-care a real priority within their own child welfare programs. Ironically, it seems the pattern of poor care and a disinterest in domestic adoption is seen in some of the world's wealthiest nations. There is an added insult that goes with all the traumatic losses and injuries children put in-care are forced to accept and endure. Given all the ways corruption exists in Adoptionland, in spite of all it's glorious promises, ICA programs will (and do) make already woeful child welfare programs much much worse, putting the already grossly disadvantaged children at a higher risk for receiving the worst and most undesirable labels a person could have in that social circle.
Just ask a few adoptive parents how lies (to protect the guilty) are received when they learn the child they adopted was either kidnapped or was abused in-care, but was never told about the abuse.... or both. Ask adopters how many thought the thousands of dollars they were paying in the name of "orphanage fees" was going towards care of the child chosen for them, as opposed to going towards salaries that have been self-created.
As many modern-day adopters know, lying about a child's health history is just one example of what members of the pro ICA camp will do to ensure an ICA plan takes place.
As a foreign-born adoptee, I find it both offensive and maddening to see just how far some will go to limit, (or even reduce), the number of domestic adoptions made in a particular region/country. While Pro-ICA advocates will pontificate the ills of institutional living and all the harm 'not having a family' may cause, they are forgetting the harm and dangers child trafficking and trade can cause, especially to a naturally healthy child.
High on the harmful and damaging list is the way in which children are neglected and abused whilst in-care. The implications are huge, especially when one considers the way malnutrition and trauma affect a child's growth and development.
Unfortunately, neglect in-care happens to be a huge selling point and feature for foreigners wanting to help poor, disadvantaged "orphaned" children. As long as domestic child welfare programs remain inadequate in troubled/corrupt countries, there will always be a good excuse to adopt a child as a way to end a child's suffering. And for some strange reason, for ages it seems, the pro-adoption camp has been selling the idea that only through foster/adoptive homes and families can a disadvantaged child be kept away from the path of self-destruction.
Just to see how far government disinterest and neglect can go in a care-system, look at America's Foster-care/adoption program. In states like Florida, conditions are so dismal -- care is so poor, state-oversight is so bad, and drug-use has become so rampant, ICA has to be the rescue for some -- but even that hasn't worked as planned, because the US care-system is so bad. Aren't Americans ashamed of this? (They should be...which is why they should not be looking for foreign orphans to "save".)
But by all means, let the fact that ICA is used as a "last resort" and in turn it is creating more harm than good remain in the place so many American adopters like and prefer -- the state of denial.
My hope is, Russia will close it's ICA doors to every receiving country, and focus on improving domestic-care, instead. I would love to see Russia take good care of it's own children, and I'd love to learn Russia's foster-care/adoption system doesn't look anything like America's poor excuse of a social service for its young and most vulnerable. After all, how many countries can afford the mess we see in America's school system and prison population?
Finally, as more articles from and about Russia's adoption programs come out, I hope a reality check for American adopters will kick-in. I look forward to the day when Americans become more humbled and less arrogant about what it means to be "proud" and "American". I welcome the day when more American parents become less fixated on their neighbors - and what the Joneses are doing or buying - and more focused on the simple things, like the happiness, health and well-being of their own children/family members. For the sake and best-interest of American children put in America's care-system, I hope someday soon, all of the American religious orphan crusaders hell-bent on a humanitarian mission will step away from their global map and take a good long look at America's great cities and tragic heartland... and maybe hear God's call and reminder that generosity and altruism begins at home, and from there, the power of love and kindness grows.