Russia’s Ban on U.S Adoption

On Friday December 28th Russia’s president Valdimir Putin signed Federal Law No. 186614-6, dubbed the Dima Yakovlev Law, named after a Russian-born child who died in the care of his U.S. adoptive parents. The law prohibits the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families and will go into effect on January 1, 2013.

Tom Difilipo of the Joint Council on International Children’s Council summarized the bottom line of this action well: “The closure of Russia to intercountry adoption follows what is now an all too familiar strain of tragedies.  Children in Vietnam, Nepal, Romania and too many other countries suffer the life-long effects of institutionalization due to the elimination of intercountry adoption as a viable option.  However unlike other closures which were generally based on child protection issues, the Russian ban is particularly stinging in that it is an act of politics, pure and simple.”

The politics he refers to are the string of events that started in 2008 when Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian attorney, was arrested after alleging large-scale systematic theft from the Russian Government sanctioned by officials. He died in prison in 2009 having been refused medical treatment and apparently beaten to death.

Magnistsky’s death was met with outrage throughout Russia, and human rights organizations around the world. Russian officials believed to be connected to his death had their assets frozen and were banned from entering European countries and Canada. The Magnitsky Act affects the same sanctions, and also includes other human rights violations and corruption components, for the United States. The act was signed into law on December 14th.  The Dima Yakovlev Law is a retaliatory law that also includes sanctions for individuals violating fundamental human rights and freedoms of the citizens of the Russian federation.

Although the Russian adoption ban is signed, we do not know now if it may or can be altered in the future, so it is important to share your opinions and thoughts of this situation with your Senator and U.S.  Representatives. Visit www.contactingthecongress.org to find your representatives. President Obama and his administration also need to know of your concerns.  Ask them to continue to advocate for the thousands of young Russian children left languishing in orphanages.

While Spence-Chapin supports all efforts to place children within their country of origin, we worry about the thousands of children in Russia who will not find permanence in that country and due to this series of events, will not have the opportunity to be placed within a loving home here in the United States.

 

For on-going updates visit the U.S. State department website.

CALL TO ACTION: Russian Adoption

JCICS has issued an immediate CALL TO ACTION, inviting all members of the adoption community to sign its letter to President Medvedev and President Obama: the letter asks both Presidents to ensure that intercountry adoption continues uninterrupted; and join its campaign to ensure that the world knows about successful adoptions.  Click here to participate.

The Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) works to ensure that orphaned and vulnerable children can live, grow and flourish in a family.  Advocating for high standards, ethical practices, and child-centric policies, Joint Council educates governments, professionals and families all with a goal of finding a safe, permanent, and loving family for every child.  Spence-Chapin is a supporting member of JCICS.

Visiting the Tula Granny Program

Linda Wright, director of development, comments on the visit she made at the end of March to an orphanage in Tula, Russia, where Spence-Chapin has sponsored a Granny Program to help those children most at risk, through daily, individual attention from women in the community.

For many years, I’ve listened to our social workers describe their experiences in orphanages and looked at thousands of pictures of the children living in them.  Last month I found myself standing outside the orphanage in Tula, Russia, where Spence-Chapin had just started to sponsor a Granny Program – our newest and first in Russia.  The Children’s Home and grounds were visually pleasing.  In fact, in 2005 Spence-Chapin helped the staff at this orphanage replace dirt patches with grassy fields, install secure fencing, curbs and sidewalks, and purchase child-friendly playground equipment with a grant from The W. O’Neil Foundation.  What a joy to see the results of the project in person!

Entering the Children’s Home I was struck by its bright walls, open spaces and cleanliness.  Five years ago, the director and her staff oversaw the renovation of the entire facility.  It is a model, both in its physical appearance and its operation.  The director, who was previously with a pediatric unit in a local hospital, and her staff are totally committed to “doing what’s best for the children.”  She is determined to “maximize each child’s ability to go to a family.”  It was immediately clear to me this attitude is exactly what we wanted for the successful implementation of Spence-Chapin’s Granny Program in an institution where dedicated staff care for 70 children (infants to age 4), all with special needs of varying seriousness.

After an intensive two-day training with Rita Taddonio, director of Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Resource Center and early child development specialist, the eight grannies and staff members were eager to begin addressing the children’s cognitive and emotional development.  The director announced at the end of the training that she now felt everyone more fully appreciated the importance of the one-on-one relationship and that she would be matching each granny with two of the children most in need.

After this two day visit to the Children’s Home, we can wholeheartedly assure The W. O’Neil Foundation that their underwriting of this start up of the Tula Granny Program is a wise and compassionate investment that will touch the lives of many children in a very wonderful and lasting way.

Spence-Chapin also sponsors granny programs in Bulgaria, Moldova, China and Colombia.