Russian adoptee in the US was beaten and given drugs used to treat advanced forms of schizophrenia of adults

Date: 2013-02-19

In the ongoing story of Russian adoption in the U.S. a three-year old boy has allegedly been killed in Texas. The boy, Max Alan Shatto of Ector County, died of wounds associated with abuse. The child also was found to be given adult psychopharmacological medicines, generally prescribed for schizophrenia. To look into the story of this boy, his brother and international diplomacy we’re joined by Konstantin Dolgov, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Human Rights.

Welcome, Mr. Dolgov!

“Thank you very much! Yes, we actually received this information from the local authorities in Texas. It looks like a three-year old boy, Maxim Kuzmin – that’s his Russian name, has been killed by American parents. When I say “killed”, obviously the investigation is going on and there’s presumption of innocence and we don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the investigation, but the information we received – I would stress once again, from the American authorities – is shocking! The three-year old boy has been repeatedly beaten by his American mother and when the autopsy was performed, they found out that his entire body was all in bruises! And, of course, you mentioned the drug which he was treated to, the drug which is used for certain very, I would say, advanced forms of schizophrenia of the adults – and he has been given this medicine for quite some time. This is shocking evidence! And the information we received obviously is extremely disturbing. And what we’re speaking about is a three-year old kid! And, of course, we will follow the investigation very closely at the Foreign Ministry, at the Russian Embassy to the U.S. And we hope that if the investigation finds that his American parents are guilty of his killing, his assassination, we hope that, of course, they would be brought to justice.”

Now, just some follow-up questions. And I don’t know if you know the answers to this, but based on what you’ve learnt, did Maxim have any disabilities, did he struggle with any psychological issues?

“Well, that’s what his American parents told the American government representatives and our Consular officers, but it’s not clear. Obviously, we’re speaking about a three-year old kid and when he’s given the medicine which is usually used and deployed for adults – it’s something strange! He had been severely beaten! And that’s not our conclusion! These are findings of American doctors, doctors who had performed the autopsy. So it’s a very disturbing case and the result is that the three-year old child is dead. He actually turned three in January and he died in January, just a few days after his birthday. The investigation is to go on and we hope that it’ll be an impartial and professional investigation.”

Do we have any information about the state of his brother? Two boys were adopted – one was Maxim and another is, I believe, to be four.

“Well, we don’t know much about the other Russian kid. It looks like he was his brother, but we don’t know much, we don’t know much. We know that he’s with his American father. And of course it’s also something of a real concern to us.”

So right now, as far as we know, this boy is still in the custody of his adoptive father, not with the mother.

“Well, that’s a piece of information that has reached us. But it looks like his mother still has the possibility, the chance to see him every now and then. And obviously it’s not a very positive situation. Once again, there’s a presumption of innocence. And we understand that the investigation will go on, we hope that it’ll be a professional investigation. We also hope that if the investigators find that his American parents – mother or father or both of them – are guilty of the boy’s killing, this time the perpetrators of this crime will not go unpunished. It’s very important.”

Moving slightly outside the case of the child, there’re also agreements that had been signed between Russia and the U.S. in terms of accidents in the cases of adoption. I understand that the U.S. was a bit lax or tardy or negligent in this regards. Had they failed to meet their ---

“Well, I could only say at this juncture that the Department of State unfortunately did not provide in a timely fashion the information we needed. The information was provided by the local authorities, local American authorities in Texas. And I think it’s Ector County, but this’s somewhere in Texas. For the time being, we have bilateral American-Russian agreement on adoptions. It’s still in force for around a year, technically. And all the monitoring is still in action. We believe that the Department of State is to perform its duties.”

Tell me, what those duties are and what the timeline is expected to be?

“Well, they have to notify us about such accidents within a certain timeframe. And he died on the 21st of January this year – so it’s almost a month!”

There’re two things that break my heart about this situation. One is of course the individual incident about a child who is harmed or, in this case, killed and, regardless of nationality, politics or whatsoever, – that’s something that touches us all. The other thing that always sort of affects me is the impact of anecdotal evidence – we hear about these individual stories and it creates a spectrum of fear in which many-many good adoptive relationships may get ruined or never get a chance to happen. How do you understand the balance of making sure that these things are well-policed, but that we recognize that the majority of adoptive relationships are healthy?

“Nobody denies that the majority is healthy, nobody has ever denied this fact. But it’s not only about mathematics, it’s about the lives of children. And unfortunately, if this case is proved, if they come to the conclusion that this particular boy has been killed through beating, through certain abuse, if they find this – and I always say “if”, because the investigation is going on – if they find that the boy was killed by his American parents, it’ll be №20! And unfortunately, it’s a huge number. And each and every child’s live is extremely important. This American child or Guatemalan child or Russian child – any child – we hope, once again, I don’t want to prejudge the events, but we hope that if the investigation finds someone, I mean, American parents guilty, we hope that the justice will be done.”

So if the numbers reached 20, is there a problem in the vetting process in determining who should become a parent?

“Who should be become the parent?”

Yes.

“As you know, the federal law has been passed in Russia which actually bans American adoptions of Russian kids. And if we speak about American adoptions, we’re in a very clear situation, which means that any further adoptions for the time being are banned by the federal law. So I think that there’s a very clear-cut answer to this question. But there’re thousands of Russian kids who are living in the U.S., who are living in the American families, who have been adopted by the American parents. And we sincerely hope that, first of all, they’re fine and, second of all, we have adequate access to the information about how they are living, because most of them are Russian citizens. Once again, there’s absolutely no paradox involved. We’re speaking about the best interests of a child. And we want to live up to obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. It’s very unfortunate that the U.S. is not party to this particular convention, but Russia is! So we hope to ensure that the best interests are catered to, first of all. And secondly, there’s the Consular Convention between Russia and the U.S., bilateral convention which provides for the consular access. And we demand this access to the Russian kids, to the Russian citizens.”

Looking at the sad case of the three-year old boy who was killed in Ector County, Texas, I’m Andrew Hiller for the Voice of Russia. We’ve been joined by Konstantin Dolgov, he’s Russia’s Foreign Ministry Special Representative for Human Rights.

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