Putin Adoption Ban Plays Russian Roulette with the Lives of Children

There’s nothing easy about adoption. The process, however frustrating and bureaucratic, is one of many challenges when considering raising a child with a muddled past and often unseen and unknowable mental, physical and emotional difficulties whether that child is adopted internationally or domestically. But to mix politics into a process in which it has no place but is forever hovering, looming, threatening, is utterly devastating. That’s what the Putin adoption ban does.

This is easy for me to say. My son has already come home. We brought Vovie home six years ago from Russia but even then, without any specific threat, I did not believe the adoption was official until we touched down in Newark Airport for the final time. In adoption the rules are always subject to change.

This does not make the ban on US adoptions in Russia any less heartbreaking. And it does not make Vladimir Putin’s reasoning for the ban, which appears to be a retaliation for the law President Obama signed earlier this month placing U.S. travel and financial restrictions on Russians accused of violating human rights, any more justifiable.

I am not one to readily pass judgment on another country’s policies, customs or culture, and I believe in the importance of approaching other sovereign nations with respect and an attempt at understanding. This case, however, does not appear to present much for one to understand.

I can accept Putin’s argument for the country to take care of its own citizens. I imagine the U.S., if under similar circumstances, would assert the same. Russia, like any other, is a proud country, and keeping children close to their homeland and heritage, would seem an ideal solution. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be a feasible one at present.

If the country’s populace were able or willing to adopt children left in the government’s care perhaps there would be no more need for orphanages. But it’s not that simple. Nothing ever is when dealing with human lives.

Ultimately, what is most important when dealing with such situations is finding solutions that actually work. Strip away the external noise. Strip away power plays and egos. Strip away national identity and pride. At the end, at the most fundamental level, what we are talking about here are children, ones without families and families without the children they so desperately want. Location on a map becomes irrelevant when the ability to love and care for a child is at issue.

When adopting my son I struggled with all the ethical questions international adoption poses. I wanted to be sure we were doing the right thing. I wanted to know the real story behind how Vovie came to live at the orphanage. I wanted to know about any possible family members. I didn’t want to be an interloper. I didn’t want to rip Vovie from his native land when I couldn’t possibly provide adequate cultural instruction or even maintain the only language he knew.

But when my husband and I considered the limited information we had and the facts as they appeared to us, we made the best decision we could. Casting aside the confusion questions without answers, this is what we knew: Vovie had a heart condition which required an operation as an infant and life-long care afterward; Vovie had been in the orphanage for three years, at which point children become eligible for adoption if family members have not returned to claim them or officially filed paperwork consenting to adoption; Vovie was living in a decent but underfunded facility without a family to provide the love and support for him to thrive.

In that situation how could adopting him be anything but right?

In adoption there are no ideal solutions. What we are left with is the reality. And the reality is there are thousands of children living in institutions with inadequate resources and inadequate care no matter how capable and well intentioned the nurses and care-givers may be.

I cannot imagine the anguish of the 46 families who were mere weeks away from bringing their children home, who now have to wait out the next political move, knowing their children are there, subsisting, waiting to start their lives. I don’t want to imagine the children who now may never find a family, and I pray to God Putin listens to the Russian people protesting in the street who recognize the absurdity of the law, and he realizes the ones he’s actually hurting are his own smallest, most vulnerable and neediest citizens.

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  1. The US violated the adoption treaty first by refusing to allow Russian officials consular access to a Russian-born boy that was abused in Florida called Maxim Babayev.

    If the US government is unwilling to hold up its end of the adoption treaty all of seven weeks since it came into force, why should Russia?

    Russia’s not required to allow Americans to adopt their kids. The sense of entitlement of so many adoptive and prospective adoptive parents is galling. If 19 American kids had been killed at the hands of their Russian adoptive parents, I’ve no doubt US politicians would pass a law banning Russians from adopting to be 100% certain there won’t be a 20th dead American child.

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