REFORM Talk Response to Proposed Russian Ban on US Adoptions
I have been reading all the reactions over the likely Russia ban on US adoptions and it is time to weigh in. While it is surprising that this is the way that Russia will likely stop adoptions to the US (and I don’t agree that adoption should be politicized in this particular way), it is not surprising that the situation has come to this, as I have been reporting on the problems in Russia for years, mostly to the blind eyes and deaf ears of PAPs who didn’t want to know.
That’s because the premise that Russia has been on board with international adoption in recent years is a myth. I know that the bilateral agreement was signed in November of this year and that US agencies and APs and PAPs gave a victory cheer, but anyone who has followed the Russian reactions at the time could see that there were major concerns that had yet to be assuaged during the process.
To PAPs and fellow APs: Might it be possible that Russia actually does want to reform their child welfare system ?
Three years ago, Russia named Pavel Astakhov to become the Children’s Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation, often called Children’s Ombudsman. Naming an ombudsman is usually Step One to cleaning up a child reform system. Many US states have created this position. In early 2011, Astakhov was already voicing concerns. See our post from January 26, 2011: Ombudsman wants halt in adoptions .
All the Chicken-Little responses against the ban have the following in common: they are solely focused on the future for the prospective adoptive parents; they have completely bought into the false marketing by adoption agencies; and they feel that past happy US adoption statistics somehow should be reason to grant US citizens the authority to adopt Russian children. (I am including Russian adult adoptees who recount their own experiences and petition here). None of the Cry-Me-Me-Me-Me-a-River responses so far focus on the goals of child welfare reform in Russia; the real and multiple alternatives to international adoption; or what the US is not providing to Russia.
This decision does not constitute an emergency. Children in orphanages will not drop dead like flies. The world will not end. There are alternatives other than dying or being stunted in an orphanage or being adopted to the US (or other countries). Find a sampling of alternatives at the end of this post.
Let’s Get Real on Statistics
The number being thrown around in most US publications in the past week is that there are 740,000 children in care in Russia. This is derived from a UNICEF report and like the 147 million orphan number derived from another UNICEF report, it is being misused. What is not being stated is that includes ALL types of care—family and out-of-family care. I have seen comments that lament over how political this Russian decision is but what really is political is constantly repeating the 740,000 number that is meant to tug at the heartstrings of the US public and make them think that 740,000 children are in dire and immediate need of adoption…and even more crazy–international adoption. This is JUST NOT TRUE!
Our February 2012 post cites a more realistic number of children that are in need of new or better care options. It says “140,000 in orphanages” and “The percentage of orphans living in orphanages dropped from 23 percent in 2006 to 16.5 percent in 2009.”
The number of children in out-of-home care is trending downward. Fewer children in orphanages means less of a need for child placements regardless of the reasons which include population implosion and orphanage reform. It is documented that the Russian population is in great decline, so wouldn’t it make sense for Russia to develop better programs to keep their children in Russia?
There is even a lower number reported on December 27, 2012: This Reuters article says that only 110,000 are living in institutions .
It is hard to take any argument seriously when a figure 7 times greater than reality is continually being used as the reason that US citizens should be allowed to adopt Russian children.
The Reuters article makes an erroneous claim, however: that disabled children will suffer because of this decision.
So, let’s look at disabled child placements. Our December 29, 2011 post quotes from local statistics:
“Last year foreign citizens adopted 3,355 children. Out of these 3,355 only 4 per cent – to be more exact, 148 children were handicapped. Which means that Americans adopted 44 disabled children out of more than 1,000. Russian citizens adopt disabled children far more willingly.”
My analysis from that post a year ago bears repeating:
“There’s one more thing that should be mentioned here – they say that foreigners adopt the children which were rejected by potential adoptive parents in Russia. In reality, they adopt children under 3 years old, that is, the children for the adoption of which Russian citizens are queuing. People also say that foreigners pay children’s surgical operations, thus, saving their lives. Meanwhile, in Russia high-tech medical help was offered to more than 50, 000 children, including orphans in the first place, last year. “
Let’s mention domestic adoptions in Russia: Our December 15, 2011 post gives a statistic: 72,000 domestic Russian adoptions. Other articles quote 7 to 9 thousand per year which fits with this total number.
Russian Parliament Sends Adoption Ban to Putin[NY Times 12/26/12 by David M. Herszenhorn] says: “There were slightly more than 10,000 adoptions in Russia in 2011, about 3,400 of which were by foreigners.” Hmmm…sounds like some reform is happening, doesn’t it? All Russians must not be evil and uncaring.
Disruption, Abuse, Death, Concealment, Blockage,Violations
Here is a sampling of cases showing the breadth and depth of issues that have angered Russia over the past two years. I dare you to argue with me that Russia should just shut up and take it and keep placing to the US when situations like this occur on a chronic basis.
From the US adoption cases: Russia was the top disrupting country in past 2 years, and the top abuse and death country in past several years, yet it was NOT the top sending country. See our disruption data and international adoption abuse, death and other crime data .
Missing or disrupted children show that the US has not delivered postplacement information that was promised: On January 28, 2011 , we reported about the 400 missing children. They may be missing due to unfiled post-placement reports or disruptions or worse.
Concealment of Disruption by WHFC: From Oct 2012, see here.
Secretiveness of RTC/unlicensed Ranch for Kids From June 30, 2012, see here. (As an aside, the owner of Ranch for Kids had the gall to be interviewed today about the ban on adoptions.)
Canada concealment Dec 2011 of 2002 death: See here .
Craver Child Death case. On November 21, 2011, Russia wanted to arrest them: Obviously, US law would not allow this. See here.
December 2, 2011 Russia just learns of the 2005 Isaac Dykstra death and is not happy about adoptive dad’s acquittal: See here.
Some adoptive parents said at the time of this report that Russia should have known about this case and that it was “political” to bring this death case up, even though the trial did not occur until 2011. As there was no mechanism for reporting incidents with internationally adopted children in place at that time and still isn’t, how were they supposed to know?
June 2011 Ksenia Antonova case of disruption and abuse in new family: See here.
Blockage of access to Maxim Babayev: This one is extremely fresh on Russian minds as Russia requested access to an abused adoptee AFTER the bilateral agreement was signed. Access is a requirement of the bilateral agreement: See here Do you think US judges will allow access even if it is part of a bilateral agreement? I certainly don’t.
Russian Judges experience US PAP entitlement: From February 2012, see this post involving Reece’s Rainbow .
Violating Rights of Russian Adoptees : From Russian Parliament Sends Adoption Ban to Putin[NY Times 12/26/12 by David M. Herszenhorn] says: “In addition to banning adoptions by Americans, the bill approved on Wednesday would impose sanctions on American judges and others accused of violating the rights of adopted Russian children in the United States. “
Practicality of Adoptions from Russia
We thought it was obvious in May 2012 that regardless of the political wranglings, Russia adoptions were not going to be practical anymore. We issued a notice to not start a Russian adoption despite continuing bilateral talks and laid out the reasons here .
Adoption industry publicly admits they don’t prepare APs in public child welfare forum : From June 29, 2012, see here
Historic Issues from PoundPup Legacy’s JCICS files that we summarized:
July 12, 2005-deflecting child deaths
Coming off of a Russian adoptee death in North Carolina, JCICS was starting a strong push to deflect attention away from this tragedy, and market families who are doing well instead.
January 2006-Industry concerned about its own longevity
The JCICS concerns were competition with the NCFA and business closures, not corruption and fraud perpetrated upon PAPs.
“A group of accredited agencies met in November before the conference held in Worcester. They have selected NCFA as their spokesperson. The latest concern is what the reaction in Russia will be now that an article has been published in Moscow regarding the investigation/closure of Yunona.”
January 2007 Psychological Testing (remember that this is part of the screening that Russia requires in bilateral agreement)
Countries like Russia, Colombia, and others require a psychological exam for the homestudy. These meeting notes described attempts to water-down the psychological checks.
First, “Some time ago an agency posted contact information of a therapist who was willing to do a psychological testing over the phone. Upon investigation, the American Psychological Association indicated that this is not acceptable protocol within the professional field.”
November 2007-demanding agencies receive clearance to place (Russia stated in 2011 that the number of agencies would decrease threefold when bilateral agreement specifics came into force.)
Here’s a new one: They tried to influence Interpol through the Department of Justice!
Joint Council is working with a few members of congress & CCAI to leverage the DOJ to pressure Interpol to issue clearances for agencies waiting for approval since July.”
The 46 children “caught” in the possible shutdown: First of all…really… only 46 children?I know that these are the ones that passed court, but until the child’s case passes court, the children are merely in referral stage. Russia appears to be prepared to place them locally, stating that they will give $50,000 to each domestic family to take each child. Giving families money…like US foster care! APs in America are moaning about this, yet they spend…$50,000 to adopt from Russia!
Russians spend $50,000 = bad. US adoptive parents spend $50,000 = good.
Each region operates its own placements. This is never stated in the propaganda articles circulating in the past week. Many regions do not need international adoption at all. Our June 26, 2012 post discusses 3 areas of success and how Russia needs to be looked at by region. Note how Russia recognizes that corruption causes children to be diverted to international adoption over domestic:
Orphanage funding: “The expenditure per child ranges from 350,000 – 600,000 rubles ($11,000 – $18,000) – depending on the region”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s June goal set forth in the National Child Welfare Strategy: transfer “90 percent of orphans to families in various forms of guardianship.”
Schools in Moscow to train foster parents: 32
Where the money is used: “not spent so much on the children, however, as on school maintenance, staff salaries and utility costs. In addition, orphanage staff members receive substantial bonuses for working with sick children, which leads staff members to add diagnoses in some cases.” ” Russian legislation says that a child cannot be approved for international adoption until he or she has been rejected by five potential local foster families. Orphanages make more money from foreign adoptions, whereas Russian families can adopt for free, so orphanage staff are encouraged to give a child as many diagnoses as possible to scare off potential foster parents from Russia.”
Krasnodar Territory foster parents: “25 foster families in 2005. Today, there are over 2,000.” “As a result, 9 out of 10 orphans in Krasnodar today are living in families. The state encourages this process financially, too: the adoption of a child with a disability is supported with up to 500,000 rubles. The foster parents themselves also receive a monthly payment.”
City of Cherepovets (largest city in Vologda Oblast): “until 2006, there were nine orphanages for 300,000 children. The local authorities then realized that the problem’s solution starts with the family and the charity fund Doroga k Domu (The Way Home) appeared in the city and opened a Foster Parent School. Soon, the number of orphanages was reduced to five. Most importantly, no foster families have returned children placed with them.”
Tyumen Region: “Parents in need are given help finding a job and giving up drugs and alcohol, if needed. They are granted financial assistance to start small businesses. As a result, the number of parents deprived of parental rights has been sharply reduced. And 89 percent of the children live in families.”
Orphans, Other Countries and Child Welfare Reforms
The Australian Adoption website AICAN shows that many countries receive Russian children. For example, Italy adopted 704 in 2009 and Spain adopted 899 in 2008.
A graphic that shows how nonUS countries are on the rise for receiving internationally adopted children can be seen in the second graph at this link . It clearly shows that the US has been cut in half over the past few years.
I am not saying that these countries have less corruption than the US programs, but I link to this only to show that there would still be international options available if Putin does sign the bill as he stated today.
Our April 14, 2011 post shows that the orphan number is half of the UNICEF number:
“The number of orphans in Russia is also decreasing from year to year. In 2005 there were some 450,000, today that number has decreased to 370,000. This decrease is the result of two things: an overall drop in the Russian population, and the placement of orphans in adoptive or foster families in Russia. According to the Ministry of Education, around 9,000 children are adopted every year by Russian citizens. “
The Russians recognized the need for reform a decade ago. They are not there yet, especially with aging-out children, but perhaps the current focus on how they will be helping these children may spur even greater changes. The CoMission for Children at Risk, 2002. Excerpts from the report:
Child Welfare Reform
“In the opinion of experts from the Ministry of Education, the number of orphans could be reduced through a special foster care system to help both poor families and adoptive parents. Today, the guardianship system has a mainly punitive function: It imposes fines on negligent parents, deprives them of their parental rights and puts their children in orphanages.
Positive examples of such services already exist in several regions of Russia, such as Tyumen. They help families in need find work or organize a small business. They offer these families financial subsidies as well as treatment for alcohol or drug dependence, if necessary. Most importantly, there is no talk of depriving these parents of their parental rights and putting their children in orphanages.
A draft law drawn up by the Ministry of Education would make such help mandatory. You would think that no one could object to a much needed law like that. But it has prompted real resistance. The problem, it turns out, is money. In recent years the oil-rich Russian government has spent large sums on orphans—over 6 billion rubles ($20,000,000) a year. To provide for a child in an orphanage officially costs between 45,000 and 65,000 rubles (from $1,500 to $2,000) a month. Yet there are few families in Russia that can afford to spend that much money on their own children. Needless to say, not all of that official money goes directly to the orphans. A substantial part of it goes to pay for all the various staff members in orphanages.[emphasis Rally] Boris Altshuler, head of the NGO Right of the Child and a member of the Public Chamber, is convinced that regional departments in charge of social welfare are opposing the draft law because they do not want to lose the vast sums allotted to them by the government. If fewer children are put in orphanages and increasingly placed in adoptive and foster families, then in time orphanages will disappear altogether”
This ban decision really dovetails to another law that was enacted earlier this year:
From BBC on July 21, 2012 Russia: Controversial NGO bill becomes law
“President Putin has signed into law a controversial bill forcing foreign-funded non-governmental groups (NGOs) involved in political activity to register as “foreign agents” in Russia.
The Kremlin has said the law is needed to protect Russia from outside attempts to influence internal politics.”
“Such NGOs would also have to undergo financial audits and issue twice-yearly reports on their activities.
Failure to comply will be punishable by heavy fines or even a two-year prison sentence”.
“The US State Department earlier expressed “deep concern” about the new law – but was swiftly reproached by Moscow for “gross interference.”
Alternatives that people concerned about Russian orphans and children at-risk could support
This is merely a sampling:
SOS Villages Russia We highlighted them in our June 11, 2011 post . According to SOS, currently there are five SOS Children’s Villages, three SOS Youth Facilities and eleven SOS Social Centres in Russia.
Additions: Charity Fund Murland aka Murzik, a Russian-run charity, which boasts a team of 700 people that go out to orphanages to assist and they check to see that their donations are being used at the next visit. See here. I recommend also looking at the December 2011 photos at this link showing disabled children getting new wheelchairs.
Americans don’t have the power to stop Putin from signing the bill. This bill was overwhelmingly voted for by the lower and upper Parliaments and a recent poll had 53% of the Russian people supporting it. Do the Russian people get to decide what happens to their children or do Americans get to?
Petitions about happy placements really do not address the serious concerns that Russia has moving forward, nor do they assist in any of the reforms that are already taking place. The ultimate goal of child welfare reform should be for countries to handle their own children. International adoption has always been a temporary bandage for poverty and child welfare and should always be seen as a last resort. Instead of crying “It’s not fair!” why not pool the caring energy (and money)that US APs and PAPs have for the children of Russia into supporting the many efforts that have begun?
And ask yourself this: Do the Russians tell us how to run our child-welfare programs? Do the Russians adopt American children? Does one sovereign nation have the right to demand that another sovereign nation give up its children for adoption?
When you can answer honestly, perhaps you will then be able to look at the current situation with a clearer and less emotional perspective. This is not a surprise to those of us who have been watching country after country close due to adoption industry practices and corruptions and US government turning a blind eye to the whole thing.
REFORM Puzzle Piece