As the plane prepared to land, I looked out the window at the ground beneath me and held my breath as we touched down onto the wintry landscape that was Moscow in December. I closed my eyes and said a short, silent prayer of thanks for a safe trip so soon after the tragedy of 9/11. We exited the plane and found our hosts – both old friends and new – and piled into the two cars that transported our growing family to the apartment we would call home for the next eight days.
The next morning we said goodbye to our three oldest children, our family friend who traveled with us to supervise them during our absence, and our Russian hostess, Ludmilla. We loaded up a station wagon with suitcases filled with humanitarian aid items for the orphanage and made the 150 kilometer drive to Ryazan to finally meet our son and bring him home to his forever family. This was our second Russian adoption from the Ryazan Baby House.
Three years earlier we had made the same trip while I was six months pregnant with our youngest daughter. Once we made it to Ryazan we spent hours at the Baby House getting acquainted with our son, holding him, playing with him, and feeding him, all while crying over the fact that we finally had the opportunity to be parents again. During that first visit we also saw first-hand what happened to those children who aged out of the orphanage without the luxury of finding forever families. Some begged for spare change outside the city’s churches. Others worked the crowds that attended the circus. And still others sought help from passengers on the city’s various mass transit systems.
"There but by the grace of God go my boys."
On December 24, 2001, our youngest child officially became a permanent member of our family. Undeniably, it was the best Christmas gift ever.
On December 26, 2012, the Russian Federation Council approved, in a unanimous vote, legislation that would ban inter-country adoptions by U.S. citizens. President Putin is expected to sign the ban into law. Suddenly Christmas 2012 is now the worst Christmas for the 46 children awaiting adoption by their forever families. Said Pavel A. Astakhov, Russia’s child rights commissioner and a major proponent of the ban,
“The children who have been chosen by foreign American parents — we know of 46 children who were seen, whose paperwork was processed, who came in the sights of American agencies - they will not be able to go to America, to those who wanted to see them as their adopted children. There is no need to go out and make a tragedy out of it.”
All because some Russian politicians got mad at some U.S. politicians.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot we can do to change this. There is an online petition circulating that interested parties can sign. The potential adoptive parents of those 46 children who are suddenly caught up in an international brouhaha are encouraged to contact their representatives as well as the Department of State. However, despite the pleas from the waiting American families, President Putin announced today that he intends to sign the legislature, putting the ban into effect on Tuesday, January 1, 2013.
This ban is only the latest event in a tumultuous relationship between the U.S. and post-cold war Russia. Since 1991, 45,000 children have been adopted from Russian orphanages into American families – including my two boys and the children of some of our friends. On any given day there are approximately 750,000 children residing in Russian orphanages, and about 25% of those children are eligible for adoption. As more Russian families have opened their homes and hearts to adoption, public opinion of American adoptions has declined. Much of this negative attitude can be attributed to the highly publicized abuse of 19 children by their adoptive parents here in the U.S. While this is such a small representation of Russian adoptions, the fact that any abuse toward children occurred is not just regrettable, it is repulsive. The selfishness of a miniscule number of unscrupulous parents and/or adoption mediators will now affect the lives of thousands of children.