exposing the dark side of adoption
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Children are not commodity


By Eugene Nikitenko

August 24, 2010 / The Voice of Russia

In the wake of not so recent scandals over adopted children’s deaths and violence in the United States, France and Finland, Russian parliament set up a commission on children’s rights, headed by Pavel Astakhov, a top-class lawyer, and children’s rights ombudsman. In a recent interview he spoke about the commission’s activities.

Pavel Astakhov is a lawyer with a name whose opinion counts. As the head of this commission he insists that the number of foreign adoption agencies in Russia should be reduced. This statement came ahead of another round of negotiations on a bilateral child adoption agreement between Russia and the USA. The document should outline mechanisms to control living conditions of adopted Russian children in the United States and other countries.

“At present some Russian 700,000 children need the care of the state. So the issue of adoption legislation have gained a greater than ever importance. In the last several years we came to realize that we must remedy the situation with orphaned children. We also learnt that we have too few children – 26 million or so. This number in the United States, for one, is 72 million. Demographers say Russia is facing the problem of reduction of children’s population, so by 2025 their number can fall to 22 million or so. Compared with the United States again – that country can boast some 100 million children or more. To whom are we going to give the helm, and how strong and competitive will Russia be then,” asks Pavel Astakhov, ombudsman for the protection of children’s rights.

Astakhov says that every Russian child is worth his or her weight in gold. This country cannot afford losing 2,000 children’s lives in car crashes and another 2,000 or so in accidents at home as we had it last year. The problem is not much spoken about, but it must be focused on to find ways out, to speak on the issues of adoption. As things stand now, few orphans find new Russian families. Anything that helps to bring them into families is good, be it guardianship, patronage or adoption. We should offer incentives to adults who want to adopt a child but hesitate not knowing enough about the necessary procedures. As a matter of fact they are rather simple, given that just one precondition is there – the assistance of domestic guardianship bodies. Of course any psychologist would tell the parents adopting a child that they would have problems with him or her. But adults should be able to cope with children‘s problems, seeing their ultimate goal of raising full-fledged citizens with every right they are guaranteed by the state.

“This brings us to the theme of adoption by foreigners,” said Pavel Astakhov. “In the past 16 years Americans, for example, have been very active adopters. They took children from Vietnam, China, Ethiopia, and other countries. Many prefer Russian children and are ready to stay on long waiting lists, because they find them especially gifted and talented thanks to their roots. Americans have already adopted more than 60,000 Russian children. As a lawyer, I refuse to view this as a positive trend,” said Pavel Astakhov, “as we still have no relevant inter-governmental agreement, even though there’s no selling any commodity to the United States without a contract. Children are no commodities but we still allow taking them out without any contract or obligations. And now we have 17 children who died of parent cruelty there. And if it were not for the situation with Artyom Saveliev whom his new American “mummy” put on a plane as a sack of potatoes with a one-way ticket and a note “Take him back!” we still would not have addressed  adoption legislation,” said Pavel Astakhov. 

Now that this issue is being handled, and Russia’s stance on it is quite tough. Without such an agreement we would not let foreigners take children out of Russia. We do have a law that allows foreigners to adopt Russian children, but only if a child has not been adopted by Russian citizens. There are agencies here who try to circumvent this provision by hook or by crook to get their fat profits. This is another problem we have to solve. But, Pavel Astakhov adds, he is against business on children with no guarantees and regular reports about their well-being. We will sign relevant agreements with the United States, France, Germany, Finland and Spain similar to the only one we have with Italy. Ireland had recently announced it would not adopt Russian children any longer. This does not hurt us,” Pavel Astakhov said, adding that he is confident that it would not take too long before motherless Russian children would be adopted by Russian families.

2010 Aug 24