The American Adoption Controversy

Ever since we launched this trip on Sept. 1, we've been getting emails and comments from Americans who've adopted Russian children. Many have asked us to do a blog posting on the issue, and it's certainly worthy of one, as it's a major new trend since 1995. Americans now reportedly adopt more children from Russia than from any other foreign country except China.



Denis (l) and Kristina are orphans at Moscow's Children's Home No. 19. (David Hillegas)


In fact, I came here in 2003 with a friend who was adopting a little girl from the orphanage in Tula, about three hours' drive south of Moscow. I'd only visited one other Russian orphanage -- in St. Petersburg in 1995 -- and the conditions there were pretty dire. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the Tula orphanage clean, well-equipped and well-staffed. My friend adopted her daughter, a blonde fireball named Anna, and since then they've been enjoying a happily-ever-after life in the Washington suburbs.

But the issue of Americans adopting Russian children has provoked lots of controversy here lately, with commentators raising questions such as: should Americans be free to take so many children (reportedly about 6,000 a year, as of 2004) out of Russia? Does the $10,000-plus price tag on many adoptions equate to an "exporting" of children? Should international adoptions be considered only as a "last resort"?



Ten-year-old Lera lives at Children's Home No. 19. (David Hillegas)

Fueling the debate here was a July incident in which an American adoptive mother allegedly killed her Russian child -- a case that lit up the Russian airwaves and print media. This closely followed news of a manslaughter conviction for another American mother whose six-year-old Russian child had died. Both these cases inflamed anti-American-adoption sentiment in Russia.

Yet the question remains -- what can, or should, be done with the rising number of Russian orphans? The Russian Ministry of Education reports that over the last 10 years, the number of abandoned and orphaned children has risen sharply. Official estimates put the number at about 700,000 Russian orphans. And Russian families are historically averse to adoption, which continues to bear a stigma here that's been slowly disappearing in the U.S.

I'm curious to hear readers' experiences with adoption in Russia -- especially anyone who has adopted more than once. How difficult or easy was it? Did you meet with any resistance from Russians, either officially or unofficially?

---

Happy October Revolution Day, everyone! This used to the be the biggest day of hoopla on the Communist calendar, but now it's just another Monday -- except in Moscow, where Mayor Luzhkov has inexplicably planned a big military parade on Red Square, complete with Soviet-style banners and giant medals. It'll be the first time tanks have rolled across Red Square since the fall of the Soviet Union. So don't be afraid to celebrate old-style tonight, with a shot of vodka and a pickle chaser!

By Lisa Dickey |  November 7, 2005; 9:33 AM ET  | Category:  Moscow , Travel
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Comments

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I haven't adopted from Russia but may consider it someday after we are done having biological children-- my Russian husband has talked about it.

I think more Russians are open to the idea than in the past, but many of the children in the orphanages now have health problems and I don't know how many Russians will be willing to adopt them because of that-- there are fewer ways to effectively ingegrate a child with a disability into society than there are in the US and there is a lot more stigma.

I know an American woman who adopted a Russian girl with a genetic disease that will cause her some health problems, including probably infertility. I sometimes wonder if the girl would have been available for adoption but for the disease.

Posted by: aprilushka | November 7, 2005 12:06 PM

My husband and I have adopted 2 children from Russia, our son who is now 19, we adopted in 1993 from Moscow. Our daughter, now 14, we adopted in 1996 from Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. For us, it has been the defining event in our lives and the most positive thing we have ever done. Of course, we have a family we never would have had, and that's been the best thing for us and for our extended families.
In addition, if our kids had not been adopted, where would they be now? Probably running the streets, committing crimes, doing all sorts of unspeakable things to stay alive. If your statistics are correct, then where will all the other 700,000 kids end up? Same place. This way at least a few of the kids will be saved from that fate. But again, what's important is that we have become a family; our children will grow up to be productive members of society; they may or may not go back to Russia, but they will always know it's their original home. For all of us, it has been nothing but positive.
True, we know a few families who adopted Russian children where the experience has not been wonderful. But realistically, there are many biological families in Russia and in the U.S. that have less than wonderful lives. And even with that, compare the kids lives with what their lives would have been if they'd stayed in the Russian orphanage.

Posted by: Nancy Lashnits | November 7, 2005 01:18 PM

I'm interested in knowing more about how the Russian children in orphanages feel about the prospect of being adopted out-of-country. It's my understanding that in many cases, these children are not orphans in the usual sense- no surviving relatives- but have been placed there because their parents have no means of supporting them.

You've posted pictures of older children. Surely they have some thoughts on the matter? Thanks!

Posted by: Jennifer in Washington, DC | November 7, 2005 01:20 PM

I think this whole process needs to be stopped. Without legal safeguards in both countries it is impossible to determine whether the adoptive parents are simply people unable to have their own child or potential abusers. Another issue is we have no shortage of orphans here in America, sadly they are mostly minority children or children who have been so previously neglected and abused they are often a handful for prospective parents. Minority children, in particular African American, have a near impossible chance of ever finding loving homes. Kudos two Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman for adopting to non-white children when they were married. I believe the best way to help these children in Russia are donations to Red Cross and civil society groups in Russia.

Posted by: James in Sarasota Florida | November 7, 2005 02:49 PM

My wife and I adopted two children in Russia. First time in 1992 (boy from St. Petersburg) and second time in 1994 (girl from Novosibirsk). Both experiences were incredibly emotional but absolutely positive on the Russian side. We heard nothing but support for our decision and concern about what would happen to these children if foreigners didn't adopt them (especially back then when the Russian economy was so much worse than it is now). Frankly, the only bad experiences we had were with the American embassy when we were trying to get visas to bring the kids back to the States -- they made the Russian bureaucrats seem downright friendly and efficient in comparison!

Posted by: George from Burlington, VT | November 7, 2005 03:03 PM

We have adopted 3 children from Russia. From Irkutsk in '97, Moscow in '99 and Komi in '03. All three adoptions were wonderful. We came to really appreciate the country who allowed us the priviledge of raising these 3 amazing children who are the lights of our lives.

It's a shame that a few bad situations have the ability to cast a shadow on the wonderful adoption experience. Perspective adoptive parents do go thru extensive homestudies, police and FBI checks prior to be approved for adoption. Unfortunately, a few people who should not be parents were not caught during the process. The overwhelming majority of adoptive parents have an abundance of love for these children they have traveled halfway around the world to bring into their families.

The Russians we dealt with were very supportive of adoption and were thinking of the best interest of the children. We will forever be in their debt for helping us to become a family.

Posted by: Karen in TN | November 7, 2005 03:44 PM

I'm mostly responding to James of Florida because his comments give a false idea about the amount of legal safeguards involved in adoption. My husband and I are going through the steps to adopt from abroad. There has been no shortage of checks on us, including criminal history checks, multiple fingerprintings and having ourselves and our home checked by county social workers, fire workers and the adoption agency's social workers. We've had to submit tax documents, employment documents, financial papers, medical test results and reports, doctor statements, family background statements, home photos and personal referrals by individuals not related to us. Some of those referrals have had to be interviewed as well. These are just a few of the steps we've taken in the process to build our family. It's taken several months and we're not done. We'll have to submit reports for years after that adoption as well. I hardly think there is a lack of legal safeguards though no system is full proof.

Posted by: Howard County | November 7, 2005 04:42 PM

My husband and I adopted 2 children (3 and 5 years old at the time of adoption) from Russia last December. They are thriving here. The adoption paperwork, which requires satisfying county and State requirements as well as both US and Russian requirements, is very extensive and seems to be getting more and more stringent as a result of the horrible deaths you mentioned. Our Russian sister-in-law has been very supportive of our adoption, but from conversations with her it sounds like the prevailing views towards adoption in Russia are similar to what they were in the United State back in the 1950s. The terrible thing is that there are so many children in the orphanage system in Russia and that their prospects once they "age out" are so grim: statistics vary, but most seem to agree that about 10% commit suicide and higher percentages end up homeless, drug addicted, or as prostitutes. Ending international adoption is not the solution to protecting Russia's children.

Posted by: Michelle in Montgomery County, MD | November 7, 2005 05:16 PM

We recently adopted a little boy (13 mo. at the time) from Perm, Russia. We returned to the states on April 29 of this year. I cannot even begin to explain the way our lives have changed, but I expect every parent feels that way when they have a new child. Our experience was incredibly positive, particularly on the Russian side. We had the most talented and professional facilitator and driver. I was there for two weeks alone waiting for the 10-day waiting period to be over. They took it upon themselves to keep me sane, and safe and happy. and it worked! We went to the ballet, I walked along the Kama River every day, I ate in very good restaurants. I met our dirver's wife and his little boy. It was one of the most fun and interesting trips I've ever had. Once I obtained custody, they helped with getting my son medications and baby food. They made sure that I had every single required piece of paper, plus copies, and more copies!

In addition, although the orphanage was old, it was clean and the children appeared to be very well cared for. Our son was 'the favorite' of one of the staff and as we were walking to the car, she cried. It made me happy to know that he was so well-cared for. Our son will know about his Russian history and heritage and if he wants to return someday, my husband and I will happily accompany him.

Posted by: Jenn in SW DC | November 7, 2005 05:58 PM

We adopted our son at 16 months from an orphanage in Volgograd, Russia in December, 2003. The process was costly and time consuming. I made 2 trips to Russia, my husband 3. It was an experience that has forever changed my entire family. My son, now 3, is cherished and adored by his parents, brother and extended family and friends. He was so malnourished at adoption that the Harvard trained doctor who examined him for his exit visa told my husband we "rescued him just in time". The thought of what might have become of my precious little boy horrifies me. Everyone we met in Russia was incredibly supportive and appreciative of the smallest kindness (donations of fresh fruit, clothing and other necessities). The orphanage caregivers were thrilled that our son was going home with parents and a new brother. During the wait between trips they showed him pictures of us and his brother so he would be familiar with us. By the time we returned he recognized us on sight and could point to pictures of his brother. They cried with joy when my husband carried him away. My fervent wish is to return to Russia and bring him another child.

Posted by: Jamie in Bucks County, PA | November 8, 2005 09:10 AM

My wife and I have adopted two children from Russia. John from Astrakhan in 2001 (first day we were with him in the orphanage was 9/11), and Hanna from Kostroma in 2003 (war in Iraq started the day we got there on our first trip and ended while we were there on our second trip.)

Our experience was nothing but positive. The Russian officials we interacted with seemed to want what was best for the children. More than once we heard comments to the effect the children were going to have a much better life. The Americans at the Embassy were also friendly and supportive.

Our experience may have been shaped somewhat by world events, too. In the wake of 9/11, the Russians were extremely supportive, and wanted us Americans to know how sorry they were for what had happened.

During the initial invasion of Iraq though, the Russians were not terribly supportive of that effort, and we got the impression they didn't hold Americans in too high a regard. There was a large demonstration outside the US Embassy one day while we were in Moscow, and our translator said it was best if we just stayed in the hotel, and not go out on the streets. We did not see Russian attitudes affect our adoption process, however.

We did adopt before the process became more stringent, in part as a reaction to the events you mentioned.

Posted by: Jeff Kouba | November 8, 2005 10:17 AM

As a single mother of two young boys adopted from Russia I have to echo the comments of those who noted what an incredible experience it has been to not only become a mother, but to become the mother of these two boys from Russia. I can speak only for myself and fairly certainly on behalf of many other parents of children from Russia to say that we all now have good friends in Russia - the many people who took care of us while we were there and made sure all the proper documentation was in place and that we and our new children had every need met while we were guests in their country. Those who run the orphanages and care for the children were TRULY happy to see each of these children adopted - it didn't matter to them where we were from. One of the directors said, "We give these children as much as we can, but can't give them what they need the most - a family." We all have pictures of caregivers hugging our children goodbye. I have notes to both my boys from the caregivers that I will share with them when they are older. My boys know they're adopted and from Russia and so are many of their friends. Most people who've adopted from Russia have a respect and love for the Russian people and it's unfortunate that there are those in Russia who don't understand that. In response to the uninformed gentleman from Florida - I can only suggest that he do more research on adoption before he criticizes those of us who've had numerous criminal background checks, proven our financial stablity with 3 years of tax returns, shared our monthly budgets with the INS (BCIS) and multiple others, had to describe our plans for child care, our backup plans for child care, our educational and career goals for the children we were hoping to adopt but had not yet met. If every teenager in the United States or anywhere else had to prove what we've had to do before they gave birth to babies, we wouldn't have teenagers parenting children and we wouldn't see nearly the number of reports on child neglect and abuse. If the gentleman from Florida has adopted older children in the United States and/or children of a race other than his own - I applaud him. Until he's done that, than his opinion on either of those situations is uninformed. Everyone has to build their family in a way that is most successful for them - on a timeline that works for them. Special needs children require extraordinary care - and only those people who are able to provide that care should adopt them....no matter what country they're from. Building a family with children of a race other than your own is a very personal decision - and NO ONE should judge that decision. The bottom line is that every single child who is adopted - from this country or any other - will likely have a better life in a family than if they had not been adopted. And every parent who's had the privilege of adopting a child will likely have a better life with that child in it. How fortunate the world is that there are people who are able to adopt children - it's not likely that every child who needs a family will get one - but for those who do the world is a better place. In response the person who wondered how the older children feel ....I know several families who've adopted the older ones and every one of those children is so happy to become part of a family, (the older ones have to agree in court to be adopted)- most of them know what life holds for them if they "age out" of the orphanage. They know that life in a family - even one out of their country - holds more promise than being alone.

Posted by: MomOfTwo | November 8, 2005 10:53 AM

We adopted our 2 sons (8 months & 3 yrs old at the time) from Tyumen in western Siberia in 2000. They are siblings by birth as well as by adoption. Like so many of the others posting here, our experience was positive. The caregivers in the children's home did their best with the children they had in their care, but were thrilled to see them adopted. It was heartbreaking to see all the children in the home, and we've often wondered how many ever found families (6000 adoptions a year out of a pool of over 700,000 is a drop in the bucket).

Both boys needed minor surgery when we got them home, but they're both thriving at home and in school. It's hard to imagine what our home was like before they arrived. We've been blessed. They both know they're from Russia and that they're adopted, and we talk about and share in Russian traditions so they know something about their roots. We hope to be able to go back some day (perhaps on a tour like you've taken) so they can see Russia for themselves.

The changing attitudes of some Russians toward international adoption is disheartening, especially when you've seen some of the faces of all of those kids who, through no choice of their own, are caught in the mess. Hopefully calmer heads will prevail and officials will look to see what's best for these kids... and for the families who want to adopt them.

Posted by: Nelson in VA | November 8, 2005 12:56 PM

We adopted our daughter in 2000 from Komsomolsk-na-Amur in the Far East Krai of Russia. Our process was supported by wonderful family, friends, coworkers, Agency staff, and by the coordinators in Russia. Everywhere we went in Russia with our daughter we were overwhelmed with the outpouring of gratitude. Most every person we came into contact with said Thank You for saving her and God Bless You.

She has been the light of our lives. To the gentleman in Florida, please check your facts before commenting. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the fact remains that our backgrounds were checked out thoroughly (FBI, local police, child protective services, fire, sanitary inspections, employers, friends, family, IRS, INS, the Russian courts, Ministry of Education & the Russian embassy) and we continued to verify the status of our daughter through 6 post placement home studies.

The Russian Government has taken steps to ensure the safety of their children by requiring full medical evaluations including psychological by Russian Doctors of the families wishing to adopt a child. This is an additional expense that all families will have to pay, but it is a small price to pay for the joy that the little girls and boys bring to a family.

I have told my daughter on more than one occassion that we went to the other side of the world for her and would do it again 100 times over. I wish that every child in the world had a loving family to call their own and didn't have to go to sleep alone wondering what would happen to them tomorrow. I hope that more families are able to bring home their forever children formed by adoption.

Thank you for giving us adoptive parents a chronicle that we can share with our children about their homeland.

Posted by: Kelly in VA | November 9, 2005 01:18 PM

It saddens me to see how public opinion in Russia has turned against American adoptive parents. When I adopted my wonderful daughter in 2000, I was met with nothing but encouragement and gratitude (and lots of advice!) from the Russians. My daughter was cared for as best as was possible at her detsky dom, but food and medicine were in short supply and the orphanage was overcrowded. She, like most Russian children adopted at that time, was pale, malnourished and off-the-charts small when she came home, and ate nonstop her first six months home. I am haunted by the sad, yearning little faces of the other children at the detsky dom who were not being adopted. I would love to adopt another child, and probably will if I can, increased requirements and the changing atmosphere make it much more difficult and expensive than it was then. And it wasn't easy then!

I have taught my daughter to be proud of her Russian heritage and will be forever grateful to the country that gave me the light of my life. I pray that a few truly sad but isolated incidents will not stop what has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for adoptive parents and a source of immense gratitude toward and connection with the Russian people.

Posted by: Happy mom of Russian princess | November 9, 2005 02:33 PM

I agree with Kelly in VA and others that people such as the man from Florida should become better informed on subjects before posting statements that reflect obvious ignorance.

My wife and I adopted a 9 month-old baby girl from Rostov (about an hour south of Moscow by plane) in December 2001. We are entirely grateful to the people of Russia who helped us while we were there. Just by nature, it is a very stressful process, but the people that worked with us in Russia really guided us every step of the way and minimized our anxieties. Our agency provided us with an outstanding liason named Boris who took care of us from the moment we arrived to the day we departed with our baby. He made sure that everything went smoothly from paperwork and translation to getting the heat fixed in our hotel room to finding us good restaurants and driving us wherever we needed to go. In addition, since our adoption took place so soon after 9/11, the Russian government allowed us to complete the entire process during a single trip. We were there long enough (almost 3 weeks) that we had the opportunity to experience the Russian culture and become familiar with our daughter's birthplace.

Both my wife and I feel so blessed and happy (beyond words) to have such a beautiful little girl that it is impossible to think of Russia in any other way but positive and with extreme gratitude. I also find myself thinking about Russia quite often as it was such a life-altering experience. Russia will ALWAYS be in our hearts.

Posted by: Jeff in New York | November 9, 2005 04:19 PM

My husband and I adopted our son from Murmansk in July of this year. We were there when the news of the most recent child's death hit the media in Russia. It scared us to death. We were so afraid that we would not be able to bring our beautiful son home. After years of infertility treatments, reseach on domestic and international adoption we decided that international adoption was our best choice. We went through numerous background checks, criminal, financial, etc.

We chose Russia because though there are many children in the USA who need homes, the birthparents have many more rights and can come back and "claim" the child years later. We knew that we could never deal with that kind of pain or that possibility hanging over us.

We admit that we felt a bit uncomfortable while in Murmansk with our son. It was quite obvious to everyone that we weren't form around there. However, we loved Moscow. We had a great time and worked with great people to finalize our adoption.

Our son is the most important person in our lives and we look forward to adopting a little sister for him in a couple of years.

Posted by: Jennifer in Florida | November 9, 2005 05:16 PM

We adopted our daughter from Murmansk, Russia in 2003. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives. We loved the 2 trips to Russia. We are of Russian heritage and these trips gave us the opportunity to visit the land of our ancestors. We loved the people we met and found them to be friendly and supportive of our adoption. Our little girl has blossomed here in America and will have every opportunity at success and happiness here. We are so thrilled to have the opportunity to raise such an extraordinary child. She has given us great joy and brought much light and laughter into our home.

I am saddened by the recent events of abuse in the US and how they may negatively effect adoptions from Russia. I know many families who have adopted their children from Russia and the kids are happy and healthy. All children should grow up in a loving family....why take this away from children in the orphanages of Russia due to a few isolated incidents. The majority of children adopted into American homes are enjoying wonderful lives.

I continue to feel a connection to Russia and it's people through our adoption experience. I will be forever grateful to this country for giving us our precious daughter.

Posted by: Lily in NY | November 10, 2005 01:38 PM

How nice to see letters from those who adopted Russian children. The bottom line is that many of you would prefer a WHITE child and that is what you took from Russia. None of you are capable of giving a child from your home country that same loving home you so readily give to a needy foreign child. James in Florida was correct in his criticism but all of of your letters sound alike. You all sound happy but remember: there are children here who need loving homes. It may have been the best thing that those of you who chose to go abroad didn't adopt them. You don't sound capable of giving that same 'loving' homelife to a U.S. born child.

Posted by: Mia in NY | November 13, 2005 04:40 PM

To Mia in NY--you didn't say how many US born children you have adopted and what your experience has been. The tone of your letter seems to indicate that we are all a bunch of anti-American racist who who are unwilling to open our hearts and homes to available children here in the US.

I can only speak for myself and quite a few others in the international adoption community where I live, that, this is not true! Many of us started our adoption journey with foster-adopt or private open-adoptions in mind. I personally know of one couple who had 3 failed infant adoptions where the birth mother changed her mind (the last after the baby had been in their home for 3 days!). They were finally able to adopt 2 unrelated toddler boys from Ukraine.

Since you seem to have a lot of knowledge about US adoptions, you probably know how difficult it is to find a single, healthy child between the ages of 2 and 4 years (of any race)in the foster-adopt system, ie., not part of a sibling group and without severe emotional and/or medical problems related to abuse or neglect by the childs birth family. My spouse and I knew what we were capable of handling and what age we wanted our child to be at the time of the adoption (toddler or preschool age). We were told over and over again by multiple foster-adopt programs in our surrounding counties that there were no children fitting our request in this age group(we did not specify race or sex). We were told that we could be put on a waiting list, but, as one social worker told us, "...the list is long and you may be so anxious to have a child, that you will take the first child that is available, and, that may not be the best child for your family." I was told that children in this age group who are the oldest in their families (or an only child) usually do not have a long enough history of abuse and neglect to have parental rights terminated and become available for adoption---unification with birth families is the ultimate goal.

As for many of us preferring a WHITE child---I can only speak for myself and some close friends--what we prefer, not only for ourselves but for our children is PRIVACY, and that these children blend into our families. Kudos to those with rainbow families (you yourself Mia?)! I think its wonderful! I personally love to talk about our Russian adoption with anyone who's interested, but my adopted son is almost 6 (adopted at age 4) and I have to respect his privacy and with whom we share this information. Blended families can't count on this privacy and have to resort to other strategies that can be wearing on adopted children and families (sharing personal info with curious strangers on a daily basis would have driven my husband over the edge!). We made our decision after much thought and adoption education through books and seminars.

We also made a decision to 1.)adopt an older child who had spent his entire life in an orphnage (at age 4 our son had almost aged out of the baby home with roughly a 5% chance of adoption once transferred to an institution for older children), 2.)adopted a boy--even though we already had a birth son (girls are adopted at a much higher rate, where many boys never get adopted), 3.)adopted from a notoriously difficult region with a low rate of international adoptions (2 per month from all countries---meaning many of the children in this region are never adopted).

I think rather than be so critical of those parents who choose a different adoption journey than you yourself have chosen (you have adopted, right?), you need to remember that a child is a child---no matter what country they are born in. These children need a loving home and each and every child that winds up adopted is one less orphan without a future in a world that is shared by all of us. And, Mia and the guy from FL, if you haven't adopted---which is what I suspect---educate yourselves, and, if you're interested in adopting, do what's right for you and your families. That's what the rest of us did!

Posted by: Julie in Colorado | November 14, 2005 02:38 PM

Julie -
Kudos,I could not have said it any better! Jim and Mia - Lets hear your adoption story - What? You haven't adopted. Humm, just what I thought.
My Husband and I adopted our two sons from Arkhangelsk in 1997, and then their biological brother in 2004. We went to Russia for almost the identical reasons that Julie stated in her letter. We are blessed to have our boys. We were treated with nothing but kindness and respect by everyone in Russia. The Director and Staff took such good care of all the children with the little they had. They are all heros to my family!

Posted by: J. in New England | November 15, 2005 02:47 PM

My wife, Lisa, and I adopted boy-girl twins from Arkhangelsk. We brought them here when they were 21 months old, following two trips to Russia totaling 23 days. The process, from conception to the arrival of Nick and Lena, took almost exactly one year.

We were not approached by anyone who said they opposed what we were doing, although the sentiment obviously is there among some of the population. The officials in charge of the adoption processes did everything they could to ensure things worked out. We felt we might be being overcharged, or made to stay in the country longer than necessary, but put those thoughts aside because our focus was on adopting the children and we didn't want to jeopardize or diminish that in any way.

Before we could be approved for adoption, we were required to undergo medical tests, home inspections and interviews, background checks and were asked to provide financial records and submit to home visits for several years after the adoption went through.

It was a challenging but wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and by that I mean not just the children, but seeing some of Russia as well and remaining connected to the heritage through events at the embassy in Washington, D.C., and with other adoptive parents.

As to the current controversy over foreign adoptions, it's obvious that everything possible must be done to ensure the children go to homes where the parents don't abuse or kill them. Providing or requiring that prospective parents get some kind of counseling or education about the issues they will face in adoption would be a positive step. We got some of that, but it didn't fully prepare us. It can be more stressful than you think it will be, once they are in your home and the initial excitement subsides.

However, my opinion is that the foreign adoption process should not be stopped or slowed down (it has been slowed down) because the benefits to the children far outweigh the risks as portrayed by the recent cases. One thing the kids don't have is time, either to wait for the system to be improved or to be adopted by just Russians. The odds of being adopted drop as they get older and those who are never adopted face high odds of a short and bleak life (drugs, crime, prostitution, suicide, overall short life expectancy -- low 30s, I believe).

Posted by: Mike in Newport News, Virginia | November 15, 2005 02:51 PM

My husband and I have been involved with United Methodist mission work in Russian orphanages every summer for the past 8 years, and partly because of those experiences, we adopted two Russian children. Nearly 5 years ago, Sergei (now 18) and Natasha (now 13) turned us into parents after 11 years of marriage. Because we speak Russian, they have been able to retain their native language in addition to becoming fluent in English, and they are happily bilingual. Our lives are fuller and richer than I could ever have imagined.

There are all sorts of reasons why the adoption of Russian children by Americans is controversial. Naturally, the Russian government does not like the implication that the country is unable to care for these children, and their concerns about loss of culture and language are valid ones, as well. On the American side, it is true that there are many children here who need to be adopted into loving families, though it is rare for the people who make this objection to do so themselves.

For us, it was a matter of being deeply connected to that particular country and feeling a real sense of calling to parent older Russian children. We have already taken them back to Russia once and plan to do so again next year so they can reconnect to the land of their birth. Have there been losses in the process of adopting them and taking them from their native land? Of course. But there have been immeasurable gains, as well. They have what all children need most, a mama and daddy who love and care for them, and if you ask them, that's what it's all about.

Rev. Donna L. Fowler-Marchant
Fayetteville, NC

Posted by: Donna L. Fowler-Marchant | November 16, 2005 11:09 AM

The demographic decline of the Russian people is the greatest tragedy it faces today. It is ironic that a nation which withstood over seventy years of totalitarianism is now in peril over its inability to take care of a declining population. The only answer to this problem is a better economic and cultural life for the Russian people. Let us all hope that they get there soon.

Posted by: erik vilius, usa | November 18, 2005 03:22 PM

I admire Americans who adopt kids from Russia and wish all the best to their families but I also agree with James and Mia in that your black countrymen orphans are in no less need to have their loving families.

Posted by: Yuri in MD | November 24, 2005 11:51 PM

I think that we can all agree that the children of the world need to be cherished. Are we global citizens, or is this all flag waving? Is a child more or less precious because of the city, state or country of their birth? Of course not. Domestic adoption, international adoption or the fostering children are all equally admirable.

Posted by: Tessa in San Francisco | December 1, 2005 12:28 PM

My wife and I have adopted our son from Astrakhan, Russia in 2004 at the age of 15 months and are in the process of adopting again right now. We went through two attempts at domestic adoption and found it to be a horrible experience. Most birth mothers were in it for the money available while they were pregnant, and US law allows varied time frames for mothers to reclaim there children after collecting considerable money without any legal responsibility to return a nickel if they re-claim the child. Because our country provides so much aid and welfare $$ assistance to parents, most of the children available for adoption in the US have serious health or mental issues.
We are forever thankful that Russia is making children so needy for a family available to those of us that cannot conceive biologically.
For those who concentrate on the horrible actions of a few bad people, please research the percentages of American (and Russian) parents abuse childen and compare that to the numbers of Russian adopted children !!!!!!

Posted by: Ray in California | January 28, 2006 11:42 PM

I have a bio son who is now 12 and our daughter is 7. He was born in 1998. We adopted our daughter in late September 2001. We initially started the paperwork early that year. Did we consider domestic adoption? Yes, except that we were looking for a child to adopt, not a child to foster (3 - 7 years of age at that time). We were, quite frankly, encouraged not to foster with the intent to adopt. We did not feel that we could foster a child, integrate him/her with my son and then possibly give him/her back if the biological mother or father or grandmother or some distant relative decided they had their act together (or wanted some tax $$ and didn't really want the child). I believe, in my heart, that children in the US desperately need to be adopted. I also believe that we, too often, put them back into the hands of people that put them at peril in the first place. Or that the new mom can change her mind any time even though you LOVE that child and have given your heart but the US Government decides she is somehow fit. NOW, after that explanation that I don't really owe anyone (Mia, Jim.....,my family), we decided to adopt internationally. Were we looking for a WHITE baby? No, we were looking for a little girl that needed us. We were not looking for the ideal white infant. When given the option (24 hr turnaround for okay) of adopting our daughter, sight unseen, almost three years old, no medical information, only that she did not have AIDS or HIV and we had to decide in 24 hours. At first we thought no....not enough information. Can you imagine? We were so stupid, we didn't know about all the problems we might encounter health and psych-wise, we really were just looking to complete our family. We were fortunate to have a loving God who told us Yes. We went through endless amounts of paperwork, complete invasion of our home, privacy, every possible thing the government could want they got! Taxes, fingerprinting, health exams, psych exams, social services in our house, interviewing us and our son several times, letters of recommendation (including pastor, family, bankers, etc!). We also visited along with our daughter and son, our social service worker for three years after the adoption and paid a specified amount and sent a specified amount of photos showing our family life to the agency we worked with in Russia. If it helps anyone, we didn't need any of this to conceive our son. Unfortunately, in Russia, our daughter was left at the hospital at the time of her birth, her mother who was an alcoholic and in prison for theft at the time, already had three children by a different father in the system and had already had parental rights deprived. It breaks my heart, but in her paperwork it is translated that NOBODY - NOT ONE PERSON was interested in our child during the time spent trying to adopt her out within the Russian data bank. Jim, Mia, does anybody see the need, the overwhelming problem? Can we solve Russia's economy or adoption problems. No. However, we could maybe save one little girl. Or at least try. NOBODY WANTED HER. God did and then so we did. I read all the terrible stories. We just recently found out that experimental surgery was done on our daughter when in Russia. I will not give out information as it is private. Leave it to say, on the day, in court, when we were finally given medical information on my baby, they neglected to mention the surgery. More than one? I don't know yet. Am I the best mom this little girl could have had? I don't know that yet, either, but I'm trying. What are the Mia's and the Jim's out there doing? There's no easy answer for Russia or the for those seeking to bring children into their homes. By the way, we were treated so well in Russia (other than the medical information absence of information, we should look at ourselves in the US!.....) We were treated with kindness, however, told not to mention that we were there adopting. Our translator made more money through us than the full year of his medical employment. The women judges and caretakers were so compassionate and beautiful. They truly wanted these children to have a better life. I was hugged, told by a care worker thank you, that she probably would have either ended up dead or a drug addict or a prostitute had she stayed in the system. She cared. I'm grateful for each of them. Was it easy??? Has it been easy??? Not really or yes? I can't say. We paid off our home equity loan that we needed to adopt our daughter; my husband has good health care (corrective surguries) and are living our lives. We love our daughter and our son. That's our happy ending so far. Sounds better for my baby girl than staying in Russia.

Posted by: Shelly in Michigan | April 21, 2006 08:07 PM

Oh, and are we thankful. You bet! We have a hope-chest full of items purchased via e-bay about Russia for our daughter. And when we can financially afford it, we will bring her back to visit wheres he is from. We constantly reinforce to her the love her bio mother had for her and why God decided we were going to be her family. We have a doll in my daughter's room with her birth mother's name and constantly talk about the possibility of some day visiting Russia! We read books, we look up information on the internet. We are blessed. Russia is part of our lives now and always will be.

Posted by: Shelly | April 21, 2006 08:15 PM

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