Russian attitudes about adoption

This morning I learned about an NPR series on Russia and today's morning edition report was about how attitudes towards adoption have been changing in Russia (thanks, Third Mom, for bringing this to my attention).

“In the past, the only way to save our
children was through foreign adoption, but now the government is
providing funds for families who might not otherwise be able to afford
to take on a child.”

– Nadezhda Gertman, head of child welfare in Chelyabinsk

I had a chance to meet with a delegation of Russian child welfare practitioners and family court judges this past September, to discuss domestic adoption. Many of the issues in this article stated by the people in this article were also mentioned by this delegation. Like Korea and China, a focus on how families in Russia were being discouraged from adopting is one of the things they are trying to remedy. Many people think (just like folks in the U.S. erroneously think African-Americans don't adopt "their own") that people in other countries don't want to adopt. This delegation stated emphatically that it was not true that Russian families don't want to adopt.

I think it is an easy and simplistic way to justify international adoptions – by blaming the country of origin. Yes, it may be true that there are pervasive attitudes that favor biological children over adopted children but can we honestly say it's that different in the U.S.? And, are we looking for why these societal attitudes are present, or are we just accepting them wholly based on anecdotal evidence?

Adoption and child welfare issues are much more complex than "we want them, their home countries don't." When an international adoption brings in more money than a domestic adoption (as it does for agencies in the U.S. and in other countries), it is not too surprising that the focus becomes promoting international adoptions rather than domestic.

And finally, a problem that is pervasive everywhere, in Russia, Korea, China, Guatemala, and the United States – it is NOT the babies and toddlers that are lingering in the orphanages waiting for their "forever family." It is the older children. One of the reasons why the Russian delegation met with my agency was because they wanted to learn from us how to do recruitment for older children – the kids who are truly waiting for adoption. Russian families, it seems, are like families everywhere – and they want the babies.

And I believe I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. The delegation said the one thing they were most surprised to learn was that there were hundreds of thousands of children in the United States in foster care – they thought we'd solved our problem of institutionalized children since we were going to other countries to adopt. What a surprise to find out families were preferring to go to Russia than to adopt domestically. They knew there were many obstacles for them in encouraging domestic adoptions in Russia and in working to close orphanages (one of their goals) – but adopting children from other countries while there were children still waiting at "home" – well, that was something they had a hard time understanding.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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