Late last month Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Dima Yakovlev Bill which will prohibit Americans from adopting Russian children. That doesn’t sit well with several area families all of whom have adopted Russian children.
The bill is seen as a retaliatory measure to Congress’ Magnitsky Act, which prevents alleged Russian human rights violators from entering this country. Putin also maintains that Americans suspected of violence toward adopted Russian children go unpunished. The Russian bill is named after a three year old Russian child who died in 2009 at the hands of his American adoptive father’s negligence.
Russian officials maintain they only want to encourage more Russian citizens to adopt orphan children.
Reports say that Americans have adopted 60,000 Russian children over the last 20 years and that’s why parents like Tim and Kim Breske, formerly of Webster and now living in Madison, and Mark and Joyce Levsen, Webster, are saddened by the Russian decision.
They wonder why child adoptions are now put in the same boat as any other commodity embargo.
“I don’t know why they did it,” said adoptive parent Tim Breske. “There are a lot of children over there who need parents. It’s got to be a political thing.”
“After age 16 children who live in an orphanage are put out in society,” added wife Kim. “They leave with no family, no support system and no job. That creates more to a problem that the Russians are supposedly trying to solve.”
It took three years, a mountain of paperwork, two trips to Russia, thousands of dollars and an emotional roller coaster ride, but the Breskes say it was all worth it to adopt their now five year old Russian daughter.
It was the same story for the Levsens when they adopted their two children.
Joyce says she especially feels for the 46 American couples who were in the final stages of the adoption process when the bill went into effect.
“Some of them were just a few days or weeks away from bringing their new children home,” she said.
The Breskes initially planned to adopt a Chinese orphan and had even gone as far as to retain an adoption agency to help them through the mountains of bureaucratic red tape but 18 months into the process they received word that Chinese authorities were limiting foreign adoptions which meant three to five years and no guarantees.
The Levsens turned to Russia after growing frustrated trying to adopt within the United States.
“Adopting in Russia and China has grown more difficult,” Joyce noted. “But this latest development has drawn more attention of kids around the world in orphanages. It’s helped spotlight the needs in Guatemala and Ethiopia.”
A quarter of all adopted children in the United States come from international sources. Russia is the third largest source of international adoptive children after China and Ethiopia. Currently there are an estimated 740,000 children in Russia not in parental custody, while only 18,000 Russians are waiting to adopt.
Russian adoptions are closed which means the biological parents have given up all rights to the child and can never have contact with them unless initiated by the adopted child.
The Breskes termed conditions at the orphanage where their daughter was staying as “sad.”
There were 150 kids from four and under and they were watched over by 12 workers,” Kim said in an earlier interview. “The babies slept two to three to a crib.”
“They had adequate health care,” Tim said, “”but there was no personal attention. No bonding.”
Joyce agreed with that outlook. “It’s my understanding that once an orphanage child reaches 14-16 they are sent out on the streets. They don’t have much of a future to look forward to. They get no parental nurturing or care,” she said.
One silver lining in this retaliatory situation is that adoption and treatment of adopted children is being pulled into discussion.
But the downside is this bill also severely curtails the work of U.S. nonprofits receiving funding from the government.
Russia isn’t the first to constrict foreign adoption due to issues of national pride. Other nations have chosen to relegate their orphans to the streets or orphanages of their home country, rather than allow them to find homes abroad.
There is a grassroots effort to get the two sides to settle their diplomatic differences and possibly reopen the door to Russian adoptions. We The People has set up a website with a petition it hopes to present to president Barak Obama with 20,000 signatures. You can find it at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/help-46-families-wchildren-caught-politics-bring-their-court-approved-adopted-child-home-russia/SgvPTKR2.
“We are very fortunate to have our daughter,” the Breskes concluded. “She is truly a blessing to us.”
“I encourage everyone to pray for the world’s orphans and give their support in any way they can,” Levsen said. “I cannot imagine life without my two Russian children.”