To the distress and dismay of many Americans, it was announced at the end of December that Russian president Vladamir Putin signed a law banning international adoptions to the U.S. This act is being considered retaliation for the Magnitsky Act passed by U.S. Congress in response to Russia's human rights violations.
[Graphic from the New York Times].
Many are calling this a political move using children as political pawns, amid concerns about the fate of the thousands of children currently in Russian orphanages. Although the numbers of Russian children adopted by Americans have declined in recent years, last year just under 1000 children were adopted to the U.S. according to the U.S. State Department.
Although Russia named the ban after Dima Yakolov, a Russian child adopted to a Virginia family that died in their care, and state this ban is driven in part by the 19 deaths of Russian adopted children and the return of Artyem by adoptive parent Torry Hansen, the ban ends the bilateral agreement that the U.S. and Russian recently implemented that would provide for greater protection and oversight of Russian adopted children.
In reading the many news articles, op-ed articles and blog responses to the ban, I had the following thoughts:
- While this ban is directed toward the U.S. and means that children will no longer be able to be adopted by American families, this ban is not a wholesale ban on international adoption. Russian children will still be able to be adopted by families in other countries. Some are mistakenly stating that these children will be considered "unadoptable" - they are not, they will no longer able to be adopted by Americans but they can still be adopted by others.
- Russia has been working on improving their domestic adoption programs and while they have many issues they need to address, they are at least working on it. They are - like the U.S. - trying to figure out how to encourage their families to adopt children that are older, part of sibling sets, and who have disabilities. While the U.S. is right to be concerned about these Russian children, we should keep in mind that there are over 100,000 children waiting for adoption in the U.S. foster care system that are older, part of sibling sets and with disabilities. Globally, we ALL need to improve our domestic adoption programs.
- Some are saying the ban on U.S. adoptions is in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Russia has ratified. That may be true, however I think it is interesting because the U.S. has not ratified the UN CRC.
- Global adoption programs are constantly changing. In the future it might not be unexpected if other countries close their adoption programs as well.
- Russia needs to put resources behind supporting their domestic adoption programs if they want to increase adoptions and reduce the number of children in orphanages. As with the U.S. and other countries that have large numbers of children in care, we also all need to work on the underlying issues that cause children to be in care in the first place.
To read more about the ban: