Monday, September 17, 2007

Problems with Russian Adoption

In 1990, Russia made adoptions open to foreigners. However, this became quite controversial when several different Russian kids became the victim of severe child abuse by their adoptive parents.
In October 2000, six-year-old Viktor Matthey died of cardiac arrest after he contracted hypоthermia. It was later discovered that his adoptive parents had locked him in a damp unheated pump room overnight, and also beat him frequently. Both parents were found guilty of excessive corporal punishment, as well as failure to provide medical care. Tragically, Viktor Matthey was one of several Russian children who had suffered similar fates.

Since 1990, 13 child abuse cases that resulted in death and involved Russian adopted children have been reported; and 12 of these occurred at the hands of American parents. Although these deaths were viewed as great tragedies in the United States, the deaths of these innocent children have provoked an even greater public outrage in Russia. In general, Russians prefer that their children remain in Russia, however, Russians rarely adopt. In a June 2005 poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Studies Center, 81% of Russians said they did not plan to ever adopt; however, only 13% of Russians believe that opening adoption up to foreigners was necessary to curb the problem of child neglect in Russia.

Russian adoptions in the United States ranks third in popularity, behind China (number 1) and Guatemala (number 2). In 2006, Americans adopted 3,706 Russian children; however, since 2005 Russian adoptions have actually slowed by a third. This drop in adoption rate is most likely the result of the backlash that occurred after various incidents of American parents murdering their adopted child.

In Russia, the Education Ministry, which overseas foreign adoptions, has come under scrutiny by the State Duma. The Duma is accusing the Education Ministry of trying to make a profit off of its foreign adoptions; it has since stopped accepting new adoption applications. While it is important for the Duma to make sure there is no corrupt business dealings within the Education Ministry; it is also extremely unfortunate that the adoptions rate has steadily declined as a result.

The victims of these adoption scandals are the other 700,000 orphans in the country waiting to find a family. The deaths of 12 innocent Russian children in the U.S. is a great tragedy; however, it seems like an even more sad fact that because of the malicious and cruel child abuse several Americans inflicted on their child, thousands of Russian orphans may never be considered for adoption.

Russia is currently in the midst of revising its foreign adoption policies. Some of these revisions would include stricter psychological testing of parents wishing to adopt; as well as, giving Russians officials the authority to intervene in the lives of children adopted by Americans.

Here are some articles on this issue:

1 comment:

Dr. Michael A. Denner said...

very interesting. i was just talking with a colleague whose neices were adopted from russia and we talked about this case. i couldn't remember the facts (no surprise), and i had wanted to reread some articles on this matthey case. you saved me the trouble.

the russian outrage is (maybe) understandable. for one thing, they're faced with an unprecedented depopulation problem, and the idea of hundreds of thousands of russians being "sold" to americans (which is, lamentably, how russians often see adoption) clearly must exacerbate the tensions. that said, i visited интернаты (orphanages) in the early 1990s, and saw the conditions there... pitiful, chilling, depressing. (the workers and admins were decent human beings, but they were given literally pennies a day to care for way too many wards.) and, as you remark, the russians simply DO NOT adopt. i've never met an adopted russian, or russians who have adopted, or even anyone who KNOWS any russians who have adopted. i'm sure they exist, but it's not like here in the USA where adoption is commonplace: i have two close family members who were adopted; my next-door neighbors' daughters both adopted children from ethiopia, my son's best friend is an adopted russian, etc. -- it's just plain common here, while elsewhere, all over europe, it's not common.

i don't see how any action to decrease the number of adoptions out of russia is in the children's best interest. and there, i think, ends the debate.