First, I owe you all an apology. My presence here has been spotty at best. I will tend to this short post and then take a stab at comments for a while. I think I have time right now.
And now for the news, which is not really news so much as more of the same. The Russian adoption ban has become law. (I’ve written about this before and the result here is not surprising.) As the article notes, the most immediate effect of the bill is to prevent 52 children who were in the adoption process from completing the process–or maybe I should say fifty-nine families from completing the process. The difficulty this creates for those families is clear.
Part of the problem is there are so many children in Russia languishing in orphanages or other state institutions–perhaps as many as 120,000. What will become of them? Perhaps we can all agree that the best answer would be to avoid the problem in the first place–and in fairness Russia has pledged that it will improve things in this regard. But since the motivation for the adoption-banning legislation isn’t concern with child welfare but rather foreign policy pique, I wonder about that.
I understand that many people have concerns with adoption generally and international adoption and what you might call international adoption trade in particular. This essay reflects that concern. But simply banning adoptions as this legislation resolves those concerns in a sort of whole-sale, go-at-it-with-a-meat-ax way that, it seems to me, leaves things worse than they were in the first place. While it is true that there will be no problematic US adoption in the future (if the ban stands) there will also be no unproblematic ones. Is that trade-off really a good one?
There have been around 60,000 adoptions from Russia to the US in the last 20 years. Nineteen children have died–an appallingly high number, I agree. (Though I wonder about the rate for any group of 60,000 children.) Doubtless there have been many more adoptions that were troubled in less serious ways. But I do not doubt that the vast majority of the 60,000 children who moved to the US were better off. (This is because of the Russian system of institutional care.)
It’s clear–I don’t think anyone really denies this–that what’s going on is politics, plain and simple. It’s not about child-welfare. And to use children (and adoptive families) as a political pawn is grotesque. I don’t know what happens after this but it is a sad note on which to end the year.