By Lisa Milbrand
More than 60,000 kids from Russian orphanages have found families in the U.S. since the Russian adoption program began more than 20 years ago--but now Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to put an end to one of the most popular international adoption programs for American families. And that's a big mistake for everyone--especially the thousands of Russian children who will end up growing up in the sterile, stifling orphanage environment, rather than the embrace of a loving family.
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If you look back, there have been rumblings of a ban for the past several years. Russian officials are angry about the 19 Russian children who died in the care of adoptive parents here in the U.S. (as they should be), and are concerned that some children have ended up in institutions here, after their parents deemed them too difficult to manage. And when Torry Hansen sent her son back to Russia in 2010, after she deemed him "dangerous" to her family, Russia halted all adoptions until some major diplomacy smoothed things over. But this new move, in retaliation for an American law that proposed sanctions against human rights violators from Russia, seems like it will be much harder to undo.
The biggest tragedy of this ban is that it means that 1,000 more children each year will join the 700,000 other orphans currently wasting away in Russian orphanages, with no opportunity to join a family. (Children only become available for international adoption in Russia if there's no one available in the country to adopt them.) The effects of institutionalization are well documented--including problems attaching and developing relationships with others, and pervasive developmental delays. These are the kinds of things that the support of a loving family can help a child overcome. But these kids will never have that possibility, thanks to a government that's all too willing to sacrifice the lives of these children out of spite for an unpopular American law, the Magnitsky Act.
It also means that 1,000 American families each year will lose the opportunity to become parents--a fact that's going to be even more devastating for the thousands of families who are currently in process to adopt from Russia, and may have already seen a picture or even visited with the child that they hoped to adopt. And it means even more people will be looking to adopt domestically, as there are very few viable options for international adoption at this point.
In a perfect world, these kids would be able to stay with their birth families, and everyone who wants to become parents could. And if kids needed to be adopted, they would always find themselves with the right parents, who will treat them well and ensure that they are loved and supported. Yes, there have been abuses (on both sides) in the Russian adoption program, but the good that's been achieved for the many happy families created through this international adoption program far outweighs the negatives. Let's hope that Russia's leaders can keep their children's best interests in mind--and consider repealing this act, before it's too late.
This article first appeared on Parents.com. Lisa Milbrand regularly writes for Parents blogs In Name Only and Goodyblog.