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Man Offers Own Mountain Of Proof Against Russia's U.S. Adoption Ban

In June, Alexander D'Jamoos hiked to just beneath the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for the work of Happy Families International Center, a U.S.-Russian NGO that aids orphans with special needs.
In June, Alexander D'Jamoos hiked to just beneath the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for the work of Happy Families International Center, a U.S.-Russian NGO that aids orphans with special needs.

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Photogallery In Magnitsky Tit For Tat, Russia's Orphans Become Political Poker Chips

Russia's State Duma has passed in a final reading new legislation that bans Americans from adopting Russian children. Child-welfare advocates say the move will deprive thousands of needy children from ever finding a family.
By Richard Solash
Alexander D'Jamoos, a 21-year-old college student in the U.S. state of Texas, thinks others deserve the chance to walk in his shoes. They are shoes that last spring helped him climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. But six years ago in a Russian orphanage, D'Jamoos had no shoes. Without working legs, they would have done little good.

D'Jamoos is one of several disabled U.S. adoptees from Russia who have taken on activist roles in recent weeks, protesting their birth country's ban on American adoptions. While the ban is now in effect, D'Jamoos says he's not done fighting a law he calls a "violation of human rights."

"The law assumes that a child will have a better life not living in an American family," D'Jamoos says. "It's a very nationalist policy, and I think that's the biggest crime, really, and a logical fallacy, because it's a fundamental right for every child to have a family, regardless of nationality. [The child] doesn't go to the United States to become American. They go to the United States to have a family. If there's an opportunity for a family, I think it's immoral to take it away from a child."

Signed by President Vladimir Putin on December 28, the Russian ban on U.S. adoptions has thrown thousands of lives into limbo. Doors closed for U.S. parents in the process of adopting, as they have for many of Russia's more than 700,000 orphans. U.S. families have adopted 60,000 Russian children since 1992, including many with disabilities. More Russian children were adopted by U.S. parents in recent years than by families from any other country.

Seen As Tit For Tat

While the ban is nominally an attempt to protect Russian children from abuse they may face by U.S. parents, the measure is seen mainly as a response to U.S. legislation signed into law in December. That legislation imposes sanctions on Russian officials implicated in the 2009 prison death of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other officials who have acted with impunity in committing alleged gross rights violations.

Alexander D'Jamoos skiing in ColoradoAlexander D'Jamoos skiing in Colorado
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Alexander D'Jamoos skiing in Colorado
Alexander D'Jamoos skiing in Colorado
As the U.S. adoption ban sped through Russia's parliament, D'Jamoos decided to take action. On December 20, he initiated an online petition that gained more than 11,000 signatures in a week.

On December 26, Paralympics gold-medalist and Russian-born adoptee Tatyana McFadden delivered the petition to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

D'Jamoos says his own story was the best evidence he could offer in appealing to Putin. He wrote:

Throughout my childhood, I had never expected to be loved by a family. My biological parents had left me in the hospital because of my disabilities. My orphanage housed about 100 children, all of whom were physically disabled and had been neglected by their parents. Some of the horrible conditions at the orphanage included no heating during harsh winters, lack of water during summertime, rudimentary education, lack of sanitary facilities, inadequate accessibility equipment, and the worst of all, lack of love and care. I expected a gloomy future in a state-run nursing home.

But D'Jamoos had luck on his side. Just barely.

Fitted With Prosthetics

Natasha Shaginian-Needham, the co-founder of Happy Families International Center, a U.S.-Russian NGO that aids orphans with special needs, was filming a documentary in 2006 in an orphanage in the town of Nizhniy Lomov, outside of Penza, southeast of Moscow. It was there that she met D'Jamoos, then Alexander Shulchev, whom she remembers rolling across the floor on a board with wheels.

Natasha Shaginian-NeedhamNatasha Shaginian-Needham
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Natasha Shaginian-Needham
Natasha Shaginian-Needham
With Shaginian-Needham's help, he was connected with Michael and Helene D'Jamoos of Dallas, Texas. They agreed to house Alexander during a trip to the United States for surgery. A local hospital agreed to operate without charge, amputating his deformed legs and fitting him with prosthetics.

The D'Jamoos family, meanwhile, grew attached to the boy and decided to adopt him. It took bribing, Alexander admits, to speed up the process. At 15 years of age, he was just one year away from being too old to be eligible for adoption.

From then, D'Jamoos says, his life has been "dramatically transformed." He has learned to ski, earned scholarships to attend the University of Texas at Austin, and volunteers with Happy Families. In June, he hiked to just beneath the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for the organization's work.

Now, D'Jamoos says he doesn't want his disabled orphanage friends, with whom he still keeps in touch, to be the victims of "political demagoguery."

"It's difficult to battle the media control that exists in Russia, but I will continue," he says. "I will do whatever it takes -- whatever I can, really -- to speak out against this ban. I have not done a lot of writing in Russian for the Russian audience, so I'm thinking maybe to get together different essays and collect essays from different adopted children here in the United States [and] maybe spread their letters somehow in Russia to Russia media, maybe small newspapers."

Studying Foreign Affairs

D'Jamoos, in fact, is not a stranger to Russian media. Shaginian-Needham filmed a documentary chronicling his story, which she says was broadcast in 2012 on the state-controlled channel TV Tsentr.

"That was a big surprise," she says, and one she "doubts" would be repeated after D'Jamoos's petition against the Russian law.

D'Jamoos, who is studying foreign affairs, says he would like to work on U.S.-Russian relations after college. Intercountry adoption, he notes, has long been a sensitive issue.

While he welcomes recent pledges by Putin to boost state funding for the country's disabled orphans, D'Jamoos says deeper change is needed before Russia can even consider rejecting outside help.

"It's really not a financial issue. It's not an economic issue. It's a social issue," he says. "You have a social catastrophe, essentially, with such a large number of orphans [in Russia] -- some sources estimate 800,000 -- and there's no money in the world you can fix this with. It starts with the cultural realization that you have disabled people who you should accommodate, who you have to accommodate, into your society."
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
January 03, 2013 15:03
Yes,the man has proved he can climb a mountain without legs,just as the putins have proved they can sink lower and lower under the bottom without a grain of humanity.

by: Peter Dodds from: USA
January 03, 2013 15:41
I was adopted from a German orphanage by an American couple and applaud the ban prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children. In this television interview, I describe international adoption from a unique perspective--that of a foreign orphan adopted to the United States and harm caused when uprooting children from their native countries and cultures.

Peter Dodds
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1kEbQ-5p5g
In Response

by: Jack from: US
January 03, 2013 18:07
even if you have a point, the concern for the orphans was last on the mind of Duma scumbags. They just wanted to hit back at Amerika and they chose to punish the orphans in their own country. The scumbags just have too much vested interests (properties, offshore accounts, etc) inside USA and inside its NATO minions to dare to punish anyone else other than their own orphans. This is a truly sad story and it shows such thing as Good Government does not exist anywhere
In Response

by: tatiana from: Washington, DC
January 03, 2013 18:36
Peter, you really don't get it, do you? trust if the US doesn't adopt those kids nobody would, and then what future do they have?
In Response

by: Anonymous
January 06, 2013 00:06
why

""" if the US doesn't adopt those kids nobody wouldif us don't adopt children """ !?!?
In Response

by: Anonymous
January 04, 2013 12:06
I hope you realize how different your case is from theirs, Peter. No comparison possible -- you were not handicapped, you didn't have Down syndrome...

You're entitled to your opinion, of course. Just make sure you don't ignore others.
In Response

by: KATERN from: USA
January 10, 2013 23:07
You have a right to your opinion but not the right to condemn the thousand of orphaned children. My older 2 daughter would be dead if they had not been adopted. No one spoke to htem, held them or cared - not their birth family and certainly not there country. They didi not loose anything from being adopted to the US. What they got was life, food, education and a family that loves them. My youngest, who was in a good orphanage, was given a very poor education, hit by those who were supposted to take care of her, and no future. Here she is getting a good education, a future and a fmaily who loves her. She has her culture, as much or as little as she wants, plus she keeps in contact with her friends in Russia. For 8 years, no one wanted her. She is happy she was adopted and she has a future.

I am sorry if you did not have the family you wanted but thousand of children have not only a family but a life and future. Their opinions matter as much as yours.

by: John from: Canada
January 03, 2013 20:25
As noted in the article, D'Jamoos would probably have never been adopted unless bribes had been paid. In the case of saving orphans from a very sad, short life, using bribery to secure their safety is probably as "unethical" as paying corrupt Nazis to save Jews from the Holocaust.

Cynically tying the Russian anti-adoption ban to the US Magnitsky Act shows that Putinist Russia prefers harming innocent Russian children instead of several Russian bureaucrats implicated in the Magnitsky death who now can't to go New York to check on their real estate investments.

A clear sign of cynicism is that Putinist Russia did not take the important first step to reduce corruption and increase the orphan protection by ratifying the Hague Adoption Convention that it signed back in 2000. US, UK, China and many others are Convention countries – but not Russia.

And breaking the recent US-Russia adoption treaty is another gesture of cynicism suggesting little real concern in Putinist Russia about the fate of Russian orphans in America.

Now the Putinist child-protection minister Pavel Astakhov is making grandiose promises for a "Russia Without Orphans" [Россия без сирот] by 2020, but his message just smacks of gimcrack-policy cobbled together just to rationalize their Putinist anti-orphan, anti-American-family action.

Maybe there will be another shoe to fall, but so far, it seems that the US State is just rolling over (with its weak "deeply regrets" criticism of the Russian adoption ban) and letting Putin win another one (last one being Putinist shutting down US/European funding of Russian human rights NGOs).

by: A.T.
January 04, 2013 06:17
As a Russian, I'm sickened by the state Duma and Putin for this "response" to Magnitsky act.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 04, 2013 11:57
It is interesting to see that the article on the adoption of children - the topic that strictly speaking interests NO ONE in this "free" Europe - has a "Comments" section, while the article on the adoption of the Russian citizenship by the French actor Gérard Dépardieu - a topic that EVERY European newspaper (and even some newspapers here in Brasil where I am having a vacation currently :-) writes about DOES NOT HAVE such a section. One can be sure that many more people would be interested in commenting on Dépardieu that on D'Jamoos.

by: JR from: United States
January 05, 2013 02:56
I'm tired of hearing that this is a retaliatory law. When is not true. The retaliatory law was that any Russian the gets his or her human rights violated abroad Russia will get justice. The perpetrators will have their assets frozen and visa denied. I wish this guy convince Russia to have this places more open to the Russian public , so they can adopt them or take them out often. Having activities is great. Also I agree with this law. Why they need to go to other countries? They should even be accepted thru conscription. Giving them office jobs or professional jobs and study opportunity.

by: Dalma from: Australia
January 05, 2013 06:28
I think most people would be aghast if their mother's deserted them at childbirth ? Happens all the time..every where. Rich Nations or poverty stricken..in toto..every where. What people forget, is the adoption system is plagued with crime figures who trade in babies at a price. So how much is a female worth ? Like money laundering, people enslavement is rife, and tot's are groomed for sick minded ghouls who spend vast amount of money travelling the World to hot spots e.g Thailand, Manila, Macau etc to satisfy their sexual thirst on innocent children who Authorities turn a blind eye too. Read UNESCO Report for details. Shocker.

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