Russia’s recent law that prohibits the adoption of Russian children by United States’ citizens illustrates the enormous complexities of international adoption and exposes the multiple parties and interest groups that have a stake in the process.
Thus far, a single interest group that has a particular interest and agenda has dominated the discourse surrounding Russia’s adoption ban. Namely, adoption agencies and organizations that represent adoption agencies are powerful; their money, media connections and access to lawmakers have fueled the construction of a legal system that legitimizes and promotes an agency-centric agenda. Their massive media blitz condemning Russia’s adoption ban has silenced other stakeholders, legitimate voices seeking strategies that genuinely benefit abused, destitute and abandoned children.
As adoptees, we are especially sensitive to the plight of children adopted from Russia who suffer the loss of being separated from not only their natural parents, but also from their ancestral homeland and culture. Often overlooked is the Russian adoptee’s struggle for identity as well as other emotional and psychological challenges experienced by children adopted from abroad.
Unfortunately, the ”best interest of children” is too often pushed aside as competing stakeholders pursue differing agendas. Sending and receiving nations, adoption agencies, religious organizations, natural parents, adopting parents, human rights organizations, adoptees, international relief organizations and mental health professionals often have differing perspectives when it comes to the adoption of children from abroad.
Members of the Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative (APRC) believe the following four issues are critical to include in the discussion concerning the Russian adoption ban:
1. The best interest of all Russia’s children
Russian government leaders and child welfare experts are now emphasizing the need for Russians to adopt their children and develop social services in order to keep children from being uprooted from their culture and homeland. Issued on December 28, 2012, the president of Russia’s Executive Order Concerning Orphaned Children aims to provide for more in-country care of its children which, at minimum, appears to be moving in the right direction.
The APRC stresses the need for Russia to take this opportunity to improve and bolster its services and programs of children in care.
2. The corrupting influence of money
International adoption can be viewed as big business: The natural mother is the producer, the adoptee the product, the agency acts as broker and the adopting parent is the consumer. UNICEF emphasizes that the ”lack of regulation and oversight, coupled with the potential for financial gain, has spurred the growth of an industry around adoption, where profit, rather than the best interests of children, takes center stage.”
The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs reveals some agencies make tens of millions of dollars from adoption fees alone. Moreover, Russians have also financially benefited; drivers, hotels, orphanages, institution employees, doctors, and nurses, to name a few, profit from the international adoption of Russian children.
3. Russian children murdered by their United States adoptive parents
Since 1997, U.S. citizens adopted 47,464 Russian children; the corresponding murder rate is extraordinarily high. At least 19 Russian children have been murdered by their United States adopting parents. As a comparison, 32 children have died from drop-side cribs since 2001. The probability of a Russian child adopted into the United States being murdered is substantially higher than a child dying from a faulty drop-side crib.
For decades, most international adoption agencies have turned their collective backs on these helpless children and done next to nothing to reform a broken and deadly system. This is the result when agency profits become more important than the safety and well-being of children.
4. Foster care children in the United States
Silent in the discussion of the Russian ban are the 100,000 United States foster care children available for adoption. Foster care adoption is by far the least expensive form of adoption, costing at most a few thousand dollars, juxtaposed with agencies charging up to $64,357 to adopt a foreign child. The Russian ban is an opportunity for the United States to focus on improving methods to better help its abused, abandoned and destitute children.
The case of Russia provides an opportunity for all aspects of the international adoption process, the domestic adoption process, and the social welfare systems in both the U.S. and abroad to be re-examined, critiqued and improved so the best interest of children are first priority.
The APRC stands ready to engage in tough discussions with other stakeholders surrounding the role of money in adoption, the United States’ social welfare system, protecting children after they are adopted, as well as other vulnerabilities surrounding the international adoption system.
The APRC was established to identify, create, implement, and sustain ethical adoption practices through collaboration with other stakeholders. The APRC is a diverse group of adoptee professionals, clinicians, researchers, educators, artists, and activists from across the United States.
Although our members celebrate their differences, we believe that to effectively bring forth positive changes in adoption practice we must unify our voices on key adoption issues. Our purpose is to effect change by engaging in dialogue with other stakeholders — adoptee groups and organizations, first parent groups and organizations, adoptive parent groups and organizations, lawmakers, adoption agencies, adoption advocacy groups and organizations, and government institutions.
This statement was provided by Adoption Policy & Reform Collaborative, http://adoptionpolicyandre form.com.