Russian Children

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In April of 2010, the adoptive mother of a 7-year-old Russian boy put him on an airplane back to Russia, alone, with a note explaining that she couldn’t handle parenting him. In November of 2011, a couple was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the case of their 7-year-old son, adopted from Russia. In 2012, a 9-year-old boy who emigrated from Russia with his birth parents and was later adopted by an American family died in a house fire when his adoptive parents were away. In January of this year, a three-year old boy recently adopted from Russia died in the hospital after being found in his backyard with severe trauma to his abdomen.

Hearing such stories, it’s no wonder that Russian authorities and the Russian people have serious concerns about the quality of homes and good judgment of social workers approving American families for adoption. However, the fact that these children were adopted, or the fact that it was American families who adopted them, is not really the point.

With all that an adoptive family has to go through in order to be approved to adopt, one would hope that the worst candidates should be weeded out in the process. Several of the parents cited above claimed that their children had severe behavioral or emotional problems which led to self-injury and/or the parents’ inability to handle their needs. This begs the question; were they not made aware and prepared for the unique challenges of the children they were adopting? Were they not counseled, educated, and trained on how to parent a special needs child?

So many people erroneously assume that the romantic cliché is true: “love conquers all.” In the case of special needs adoption, not everyone willing to try to love a child will be able to parent her or him effectively. Is it possible that some of those in the business of international adoption actually believe that it is always better for a child to live in a family home rather than in a children’s group home?

In theory, a family home has a more favorable adult to child ratio, allowing for each child to receive regular one-on-one attention that is so crucial, especially in the first few years of life, to learning to form healthy attachments. However, if these parents are not fully qualified – and fully committed – to helping the child adjust to his or her new environment, then mere statistics are useless.

Sending children away from their country, culture, native language, familiar foods and customs, on top of separating them from caretakers they have come to know and love cannot be the first line of defense against orphanhood. Children are not a commodity. International adoption has its place. Hopefully, the controversies over Russian children in the last few years have opened up the lines of communication so that the best interest of the orphaned child can be reexamined anew.

Credits: Karolina Maria

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