Adoption Thoughts: Update on Russia and What Makes Cases Hard

A couple of adoption items have been on my mind recently.     I thought I’d cover them here even as we all wind down towards the end of the year.   (And on that note, I hope everyone has an enjoyable and warm holiday, surrounded by serenity and by those you love.   (I wonder if those two things are by their nature inconsistent?))

First–an update on the situation in Russia.   This is from the morning paper.  Two things seem clear to me here.  One is that this is now a political football.   On one level it seems wrong to me to turn the fate of children into a political football but there is a part of me that thinks this happens all the time in many different ways.   I think back to the whole fuss around Elian Gonzalez, say.

The second thing is that this is one of those instances in which there is both a short-term and a long-term problem and it’s easy to tangle up the solutions (or possible solutions) to both of those.   In the short term it seems clear that there are many children in Russia languishing in orphanages and/or foster care.   Not enough people are offering to adopt these children, many of whom have spent most of their young lives in institutional care.   And, I’m afraid to say, it seems like it is poor institutional care.   Granted that the system that has placed children with US families may not be perfect or even very good.  But it seems like cutting off that avenue entirely in what amounts to a fit of pique is just wrong.   Make it better–sure.    Close it down to appease some nationalist fervor?   I hope not.

In the long-term, there is obviously a larger and a deeper problem:  Too many unwanted children and no good way to care for them.  Kisrita mentioned the need for birth control in a comment on the earlier post and this is a good point to remember.   One approach would be to reduce the number of unwanted births.

But there are apparently also social systems that somehow encourage parents to abandon their children to the care of the state.  (I use the unmodified “parent” here deliberately because I really don’t know what the most common underlying situations are.)   That’s as opposed to encouraging people to continue to take responsibility or to supporting them in their efforts to raise children.    This, too, increases the number of children consigned to state care.

It’s a funny world we live in. Their are countries like Japan and Italy where demographers worry that not nearly enough children are being born to ensure a viable society in thirty years.   And there are countries like Russia where there seem to me more children than anyone wants to care for.   If children were a commodity you can see a solution–reallocate the excess supply from Russia to Japan and Italy.   But (just to be clear) children aren’t a commodity and cannot be reallocated that way.

The second adoption item is here.  It’s sort of a reflection piece about a case that the US Supreme Court may or may not take.   In this instance, a young child has been living with one set of parents (prospective adoptive parents) for some time but there is a competing claim for legal status from her genetic father.    This is akin to some of the recent stories out of Utah–stories about genetic fathers who want to enforce claims to legal parenthood after a child has been placed for adoption.  But the complicated factor here is that the genetic father is a member of the Cherokee Nation and ICWA gives special consideration to children whose genetic heritage links them to a tribe.

There are no easy answers in these cases.   They remind me (us?) again of how difficult the passage of time makes cases involving placement of children.  In the months or years it takes a court to rule, children grow up.  They live their lives.   They form bonds with the people who care for them.    Some of the delay is inevitable–the produce of a deliberative and participatory process.  But surely we could think about fast-tracking these cases in order to minimize the harms wrought simply by the passage of time.

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11 responses to “Adoption Thoughts: Update on Russia and What Makes Cases Hard

  1. Tears well in my eyes for the children in the NYT story of Russian Adoptions. I wonder also about the motives of anyone for adopting a teenage girl or boy.
    I hope Russia does cut off adoptions to outside the country. The only reason people here adopt children from there is because they want their sick little forever family to be more difficult to dismantle. So much harder for the child’s family to come after their lost children if they are on the other side of the globe.
    In other countries people put their children in orphanages until they can come back for them and take care of them. Even in this country I’m learning that people would check their kids in and out of orphanages frequently for their care and safety. The Hebrew Orphan Asylum in NYC is showing up frequently in my donor offspring research as I trace the family trees of their relatives. People would check their kids in and then take them out several years later when they could “afford to maintain”. What these children need is nice semi permanent homes. Where people agree to take care of them as long as necessary without the title of parent without changing the child’s name without secrecy or sequestering. Hopefully this could be in their own country, but it would be fine abroad but only if they could freely return to their own families at any time they should be so able to maintain them.

    The commodification part comes in where people are shopping for children so that they will be legal parents based on the twisted sick idea that the effort of raising a child should somehow EARN a person the title of parent and RIGHT to custody of a child. A child is not an object that you can earn and neither should be parental title. It should not be something that you get because you earned it because then anything you can earn can also be bought. Its just a title indicating obligation due to being responsible for their existence, not a position that can be purchased or sold.

    Here is the test of whether American prospective adopters are objectifying these children. Would they want to go to the effort and expense of raising these children if they were not going to get to wear the title of parent like a badge of honor? If they were not allowed to refer to these children as “their chilren”? If they had to return the children to their biological parents when they were on their feet capable of meeting their parental obligations?

    Not a GD Damned one of them would be willing to help the child if they did not get to call themselves that child’s parents. They are not doing it to help a child in crisis they are doing it to build their own pseudo family out of the wreckage of another couples’ tragedy. Foster parenting makes sense to me. Adoption is disturbing but I do like the background checking and recordkeeping that both offer.

  2. I am afraid you are mistaken Marilyn. Children are much more likely to be mistreated in institutions and foster care than in a permanent arrangement.
    The idea that Russia should leave all these children in institutions rather than let them be adopted (albeit with better oversight) is troubling.
    I brought up birth control because I was told by a Russian woman about the difficulty obtaining birth control in Russia.

    • Ki no doubt. But what poor parents need in countries without welfare is a place to leave their kids for a few years where the kid’s identity is not altered and they can visit them and they can come get them when they can afford to support them. What they don’t need is “forever” family vultures hovering around their tragic financial collapse.

      • agreed. children whose parents retain full rights and come look after them are less likely to be mistreated in an institutional setting. Only I believe many of these kids have been abandoned.

        • I’ve now assisted several families in looking for children adopted out of asian and south american orphanages. The general impression I’ve gotten is that without public assisstance these families kind of view orphanages like we view rest homes for the elderly. They visit sporatically always hoping to earn enough to get the kid out but often not before the child is whisked away to the U.S. or Europe. South American families I’ve spoken with are more under the impression that it is like forign exchange student kind of thing. Like an opportunity with a host family or something. That would be killer. Except the host wants to be referred to as Mommy not Mrs. Smith. The Asian families are just wrecked f-d up distrought that their kids were airlifted out – yes because it was war and unsafe but it’s not like they had no parents or family visiting them. Many Vietnamese were in hospitals from war injuries like little baby hospitals birth defects and whatnot. There is one girl I’m looking for who may be retarded her uncle is worried I had a line on her in France but she got scared I need someone that speaks French fluently to write her for me and tell her I’m not a scammer. So abandoned I think is relative. In China some scary stuff is happening they are manufacturing children to export kidnapping and whatnot. Russia with all it’s blonds. Who knows, I surely don’t but it is worth a closer look. It’s worth asking why we don’t have a system that says if you have offspring you are always a parent and we can help you find someone to help raise your child like a foreign exchange student thing but those people will never take over as parent’s perse and if the parent becomes financially viable should have to resume support if not physical care. Far more respectful of the person’s identity. It should not matter who does the work or who has the relationship and bond the obligation should remain with the parent always. And it should not be possible to earn yourself a child through hard work they are not objects or property, they are people that while minors are dependent upon the two who made them.

          • I mean they feared she was retarded and it looks like the brain injuries were not as severe as they seemed when she was born.

        • I totally forgot my own mother was put in one. Her mom was widdowed and had to put her in one for a while. My mom tells horrible stories about abuse by the nuns. She says it was the only time she did well in school though. Anyway my grandmother came and got her out when she had the money. Someone might have adopted her I guess. This is how I think many still operate around the world.

  3. Julie how does the state encourage parents to give their children over to the care of the state and why?

  4. one more comment about adopting older children- seems that there are serious drawbacks for an older child to be adopted overseas- in addition to family adjustment, he/she has to learn an entirely new language and culture all of a sudden.
    Since there is no shortage of foster children in the US who need to be adoped, i also wonder why people would go overseas to do that. Perhaps those are the people who are trying to escape oversight?

  5. Julia, I believe Russia is also facing the same problem of not enough babies born.

    I do think politics is being played out – but I also cannot place the blame solely on the Russian government side. When was the last time that the US did the same to China for their Human Rights violations? To tag Russia but not another country, combined with the actions of both AP’s and agencies in the US makes ‘adoption’ an easy retaliation. Russia didn’t think the slaps on the wrists sentences for the different deaths of their children (they retain citizenship in Russia) appropriate, and when you see some of the other sentences handed down in the US for far less than a death – you have to agree. Nor are they at all happy about the Montana unlicensed ranch where many if not most ‘patients’ are Russian adoptees. Then there is the problem of not advising (per agreement) Russia of child deaths timely, or dissolutions and rehoming/adoptions. Last but not least, there is the lack of timely and missing post-adoption reports to Russia that is also per the agreement that has been an ongoing issue for as long as I have been on-line.

    The Native American case that they hope goes to the Supreme Court. None of us have seen the transcripts but he prevailed at the State Supreme Court and took his daughter home. Continuing to fight serves no purpose because she also is currently bonded to the family she lives in.

    The Utah cases – they need to get off their high horse and make the law understandable to the citizens.

  6. Julie – I have been looking into the politics. When Russia joined the WTO the US was caught in a bind because of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment in 1974 trade bill – since the 1990’s the amendment has been waived yearly but with Russia joining the WTO that doesn’t work now. In order to get that amendment removed so that the US could enter into Permanent Trade with Russia and be competitive with other countries – they needed to repeal the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. In order to get bipartisian support to get a Permanent Trade agreement – enter the Magnitsky Act to be included in the bill. Not to say it was, or wasn’t warranted – just that there are always reasons behind the scenes, and without the economic benefits to the US which required the repealing of the 1974 J-V amendments – would the Magnitsky Act have been so important to push through a congress that has done the least in recent history?

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