On Adoption, My Family, and Putin

I come from a large family. I’m the oldest of eight children. One of my brothers and four of my sisters are adopted – three of them from Russia, one from Kazakhstan  one from El Salvador.

It’s been a wonderful experience growing up with adopted siblings. The love from my parents choosing a child as opposed to the birthing process has been no different than the love I have had for my two biological siblings. In 2002, I had the wonderful experience of accompanying my father and one of my sisters to Russia to pick up the newest addition to our family, my sister Chloe. She was being flown in from Kazakhstan by someone from the orphanage to Moscow and after my parents had spent over a month in Kazakhstan a few months prior, the process was finalized and we could pick up my sister. It was an emotional and amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for anything – seeing my sister, hugging my sister for the first time was wonderful.

There are many stories like mine across this great nation. Overseas adoptions have been a blessing to many of the children adopted and the families who receive these children. I support and love adoption as some call it – the loving option. We need to be promoting it.

Now, we have Vladimir Putin ready to sign a bill to prohibit Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Here’s more from the NY Times:

President Vladimir V. Putin said Thursday that he would sign into law a ban on adoptions of Russian children by American citizens, retaliating against an American law that punishes Russians accused of violating human rights and dealing a potentially grave setback to bilateral relations.

Mr. Putin announced his decision at a meeting with senior government officials on Friday, including cabinet members and legislative leaders. The adoption ban, included in a broader law aimed at retaliating against the United States, was approved unanimously by the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Parliament on Wednesday.

Mr. Putin also said that he would sign a decree, calling for improvements in Russia’s deeply troubled child welfare system that the Federation Council also adopted Wednesday. “I intend to sign the law,” Mr. Putin said, “as well as a presidential decree changing the procedure of helping orphaned children, children left without parental care, and especially children who are in a disadvantageous situation due to their health problems.”

United States officials have strongly criticized the measure and urged the Russian government not to involve orphaned children in politics.

Since Mr. Putin returned to the presidency in May, Russian officials have used a juggernaut of legislation and executive decisions to curtail United States influence and involvement in Russia, undoing major partnerships that began after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The adoption ban, however, is the first step to take direct aim at the American public and would effectively undo a bilateral agreement on international adoptions that was ratified this year and that took effect on Nov. 1. That agreement called for heightened oversight in response to several high-profile cases of abuse and deaths of adopted Russian children in the United States.

About 1,000 Russian children were adopted in 2011 by parents from the United States, which leads in adoptions here, and more than 45,000 such children have been adopted by American parents since 1999.

Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s child rights commissioner and a major proponent of the ban, told news agencies on Wednesday that he expected it to be enacted and to immediately block the departure of 46 children ready to be adopted by parents from the United States. He said the adoptions would be blocked regardless of previous agreements with the United States and even though some of the adoptions had already received court approval, and he expressed no regrets over the likely emotional turmoil for the families involved.

“The children who have been chosen by foreign American parents — we know of 46 children who were seen, whose paperwork was processed, who came in the sights of American agencies,” Mr. Astakhov said in his statement. “They will not be able to go to America, to those who wanted to see them as their adopted children. There is no need to go out and make a tragedy out of it.”

This is outrageous. Especially that these 46 children who are ready to be adopted are going to be blocked. They have loving parents ready and waiting for them. Why block that? Why cause the emotional turmoil for the families involved AND potentially for the children. Before arrival, some of them have met their new parents. Some have had mandated bonding time with their new parents. Some have been looking at pictures, etc provided by their new parents. You are hurting so many people, especially children, to make a statement President Putin. Consider the children. Consider my brother.

My brother is 18 years old, mentally slow, mildly autistic, and was born with one leg – a double whammy of handicaps. It’s difficult for him, but through the amazing work of the Shriner’s organization, my parents can afford his prosthesis. From a hyper-local school program, he’s in a job training style program for mentally handicapped children to hopefully learn some skills. I am not sure if he will ever be able to live on his own and neither are my parents. How would he have made it in Russia had my parents not been allowed to adopt him? It is doubtful he would have been adopted domestically. He would have been on the street this past February after being kicked out of the orphanage at 18. He would have been alone. He would have no discernible skill set. He would not be able to get around without his prosthetic leg. What would happen to my brother had he not become my brother? I don’t want to even think about it.

This is a poorly made decision seeking retribution for a nation and hurting children. I pray for the children who remain in these Russian orphanages as other international adoptions slowly become outlawed. I pray that the hearts of those leading Russia are softened to the plight of these children. I pray for the 46 children and families who are being torn asunder by the actions of Russian leaders. I hope you will join me in praying as well.

Image via Business Recorder