Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Russian Adoption Ban: One U.S. Family Counts Its Blessings While Others Fight On

Three-year-old Alina, one of the last children from Russia to be taken in by a U.S. person before a ban on such adoptions took effect on January 1.
Three-year-old Alina, one of the last children from Russia to be taken in by a U.S. person before a ban on such adoptions took effect on January 1.
By Richard Solash
Mary doesn't talk about Preston as the child she might have had. She refers to the 21-month-old boy, sitting in a Russian orphanage thousands of miles away, as "my son." It's not "if" she is able to bring Preston home, but "when."

Mary, who requested a pseudonym due to the sensitivity of her case, and her husband are one of the 46 U.S. families who are being hit hardest by Russia's ban on American adoptions. Each of those families has twice seen their children-to-be and all were in the final 30-day waiting period required before bringing them home when the ban took effect on January 1.

But for Mary, as for several of her counterparts in the group of 46, the ban does not signal the end of quest, but the start of a new one. Some are consulting with Russian lawyers in preparation for a possible legal battle, while others have decided to head east, vowing not to return to the United States without a new member of the family. Mary is one of them.

"Rather than just wait and see how bureaucracy works, we feel that being in country would be our best bet, so we are going to travel as expected," she says. "And it's not a matter of disregarding the ban. It's a matter of 'This is our child.' This is our child, and no mother or father would do anything different."

Mary, who is in her late 40s and lives in the northeastern United States, says her adoption was completed in mid-December. According to an agreement governing U.S.-Russian adoptions, which entered into force just one month prior, a 30-day waiting period was all that separated Mary from returning to Russia to pick up her son. She says the child was first visited by 22 Russian families at his orphanage southwest of Moscow, all of whom chose not to adopt him due to "his birth mother's history." Mary did not elaborate.

She had already found a Russian pediatrician and quit her job of 22 years to become a stay-at-home mom when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the ban on December 28. The move, Russian lawmakers said, was an effort to protect Russian children from possible mistreatment at the hands of U.S. families. Primarily, however, it was a response to the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, a set of human rights sanctions against Russian officials that was recently enacted by Washington.

Playing Politics?

Russia has more than 700,000 orphans and an acute shortage of Russian families looking to adopt. In recent years, more Russian children have been adopted by U.S. parents than by families from any other country. Many of those children have disabilities.

Children's rights activists have decried the move to prevent U.S. parents from adopting Russian children, and NGOs have accused Moscow of playing politics with its most vulnerable population.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has reached out to Russian authorities on the matter, arguing that an exception at least be made for the 46 families about to complete their adoptions.

But Mary isn't waiting. She will fly to Russia this weekend and doesn't know when she's coming back.

"We promised this child that we were going to be his mommy and daddy and I'm not going to sit back and renege on that promise," she says. "This is my baby and I love him dearly -- and if I can't take him out of the country, then I'm going to stay in-country with him. I am not leaving my son."

Once she arrives, she says she plans to collect her documents from the adoption facilitator or go to the local court to try and get them. From there, she hopes to pick up her son from the orphanage. Otherwise, she says she'll stay as long as her visa permits.

And if her visa expires?

"Oh my god, I haven't thought that far," she says. "We are just being very optimistic and hopeful. I am appealing to President Putin as a father and a humanitarian. I hope the U.S. government will back me and help me do whatever I need to do."

Counting Blessings

Meanwhile, the last families to make it out of Russia ahead of the ban are counting their blessings.

Joelle Ziemian, 50, a public relations professional in Washington, D.C., was in Russia to bring back her daughter, three-year-old Alina, just as the adoption ban was flying through the parliament.

Ziemian says Alina, who was born with a lazy eye, had been left in a public stairwell with her birth certificate pinned to her shirt.

She says she was asked by Alina's orphanage in Krasnoyarsk to pick her up on Saturday, December 29, and not the following Monday, as was planned, because her bed was needed for another orphan.

If that hadn't happened, Ziemian may not have made it back to Moscow and out of the country in time.

"The woman [at border control] went through every single page, and there is a massive amount of paperwork, given that this is Russia," she says. "I was probably standing there with Alina for almost a half an hour and finally [the woman] said, 'Bye-bye. Have a good life.' And I started to cry."

For other families hoping to experience a similar moment, Ziemian says, "I wish them well, but it's hard to imagine that they will be successful."

"In my mind's eye, I see these parents going from office to office and seeing only closed doors."

Fading Hope

While several prospective adoptive parents are flying to Russia in the coming days, some are taking a different approach.

Kendra Skaggs, 33, is a special-education teacher in the southern state of Arkansas. She and her husband were also waiting out the 30 days before retrieving their daughter, Polina, when the ban became a reality.

"My hope gets less and less every day," she says. "I am a person of faith and so I trust that God has a plan and he knows what's going to happen and he's going to protect her. And I just hope that his plan is my plan."

As of now, her plan has included consultations with U.S. and Russian lawyers. The Skaggs family is among several from the group of 46 who are considering a legal challenge to the ban. They argue that the U.S.-Russian adoption agreement previously in place mandates a 12-month period before changes are made. Moscow says the requirement no longer applies, as the agreement itself has been cancelled.

Skaggs has heard of the families planning to go to Russia, but feels the effort would be futile.

"The orphanage is protected by gates and it has a guard shack," she says with a wry chuckle. "So it's not some place that you can just walk into. I'm sure I wouldn't I wouldn't be able to get in and they're not going to bring her out to me."

Families like the Skaggs are also holding out hope after Robert Shlegel, a Duma lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, introduced an amendment on December 29 that would allow U.S. adoptions to continue for children with special needs.

Five-year-old Polina, the Skaggs' would-be daughter, was born with spina bifida and a clubfoot. Skaggs says the girl has needed multiple operations because the orphanage is not providing adequate physical therapy.

She says she has been advised to suspend her blog, "Pennies for a Princess," which she had used to chronicle the adoption process and help her raise the approximately $45,000 needed. If there is anything that could be deemed anti-Russian, she fears, she could be denied a visa in the future.

Her town, Bella Vista, has planned a candlelight vigil in support of Russia's orphans on January 12.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Jeanette
January 10, 2013 13:42
It's worth noting that:
1) the USA violated the adoption treaty with Russia first (denying consular access to an abused Russian-born boy in FL late last year). Suing the Russian government for failing to hold up it's end of the of the treaty that came into force on Nov. 1 2012?

2) The couple from the northeast incorrectly refers to the Russian kid as their "child" - the correct term is "referral". A Russian adoption is not final until after court AND the mandatory 30 day waiting period have been passed.

3) Given that little Polina is not yet legally her daughter, perhaps Mrs. Skaggs could consider not discussing the girl's medical condition a newspaper? The little girl deserves at least that much respect and dignity.
In Response

by: Keyser Soze from: Ohio
January 10, 2013 16:38
Jeannette likes to analyze the details of the adoptive process in order to get adoptions banned. People are not allowed to make honest mistakes. Everything a person does in an adoption process should undergo her scrutiny because only she knows what is right. To her, everyone but her in the process has evil intent.

No bureaucratic process is going to be 100% perfect. It is common sense. When mistakes happen the should be analyzed so they do not occur again.

But to think it is better to let an orphan rot in an orphanage because a bureaucrat did not dot an I or cross a T is silly.

In addition, not 100% of all adoptions are going to go perfectly. But in Jeanette's word because of 19 not optimal adoptions, 59,981 children that went through the process without a problem should rot in an orphanage because that is a better place for them in Jeanette's world.

Jeannette suffers from a lack of common sense.
In Response

by: Adoptive Parent from: USA
January 14, 2013 06:33

It is unfortunate that this poster who claims to be a doctor spreads misleading information all over the Internet.

The "19 not optimal adoptions" were MURDERS of children. Yes, the children were murdered by their American families and some of them were tortured before their death.

Comparing this statistic to UN child mortality rates is very unprofessional because these rates include mostly children who die due to severe birth defects and genetic disorders.

And NO, not all of the "59,981 children went through the process without a problem!! In fact, there are several ongoing abuse and neglect cases are currently under way. And many many more that were already prosecuted, but didn't get that much attention because children managed to survive.

Just a few months ago Daniil Kruchin, 8, escaped from his abusive family (Sweeneys is their last name) and sought shelter at their neighbors house. He was severely beaten everyday and malnourished to the point of torture.

Another fine child among these 59,981 is Masha Elizabeth Allen, the "Disney World Girl" whose American father, Matthew Mancuso, was a famous child abuser who kept posting explicit pictures with her.

If somebody thinks these are just isolated cases, check out your local news archives. E.g. in "June 2005, a pastor from St. Paul, Oregon, named David Charles Gilmore, was sentenced in Marion County Circuit Court to 19 years for sexually abusing a nine-year-old girl he adopted from Russia in 2002."

But murders and abuse are not the end of these children stories. The courts hand out lenient sentences unimaginable in cases where American children were involved. "Inexplicably, Mancuso was allowed to plead down from a death sentence to just 14 years in prison." In addition, the children who survived torture and abuse are dumped into American foster care system where they face more of the same.

Masha Mancuso was adopted by "Faith Allen ( , a single woman named for Allegheny criminal court judge Cheryl Allen, who reportedly experienced similar abuse in her own childhood and graduated from a drug and alcohol abuse clinic. (Faith changed her name from Lynn Marie Ginn to Faith Elizabeth Allen in 2004. She was born Kimberly Murphy and is currently known as Liz Psalm). She stated that she gave up her job as a foster parent to concentrate on Allen alone." "In December, 2004, Faith and Masha suddenly moved to Georgia. In March 2006, Masha expressed the desire to commit suicide. "

In Response

by: Kim
January 10, 2013 16:52
Polina is, in fact, her daughter. The Russian court declared her their daughter on their second trip. That is the purpose of the second of the three trips in the Russian adoption appear before a judge with all the paperwork and be declared her parents. At that point, her birth certificate and passport are issued in her new last name. The third trip, after the 30 day waiting period, is to pick up their daughter. No further legal action to make her "theirs" is taken on the third trip. She is already "theirs" after trip number 2. That is why it is so excruciating for these 46 families caught in this process.
In Response

by: KeyserSoze from: Ohio
January 10, 2013 18:40
How Jeanette likes to play the Let's Ban Adoption Game....

It is sick and weird but this is how it goes.

Jeanette takes a bureaucratic nightmare of a procedure known as adoption and scrutinizes it for mistakes.

Obviously, to Jeanette the reason for these mistakes is the evil and heartless adoption industry.

Jeanette then holds to person that made the mistake to the highest accountability she can muster. They are evil.

Because of all the evil she can find micromanaging other people's processes, the process of adoption needs to be banned.

You, see, Jeanette knows better than everyone.

The psychiatric term for this is narcissism.
In Response

by: Michelle from: LA
January 10, 2013 17:37
'Jeanette' and 'Peter Dodds' are anti adoption trolls posting on every Russian adoption online article. These sad people need to get a life.
In Response

by: Stasya
January 10, 2013 18:03
It doesn't matter if the child is not legally theirs, the fact that they consider this orphan to be a part of the family is what's important in this situation. They have embraced this child in a way that no other Russian family has or will. It's heartbreaking to see that simpleton bureaucratic mentallity like Jeannette's is winning. Russia has never provided even a mediocre environment for its orphans (many of whom are 'social orphans' with parents just abandoning them), not to mention the blatant mistreatment of handi-capped children who are still considered 'sub-par' humans in today's 'modern' Russia.
In Response

by: Catherine Fitzpatrick from: New York
January 11, 2013 15:37
All of a sudden you're worried more about little Polina's privacy than her very well being??? What's *wrong* with you? The KGB-style tactics of the Russian regime -- which you're supporting -- are holding these kids hostage, and making the parents and the US government feel as if they are to blame.

They aren't. The Magnitsky Accountability Act is precisely to deal with the kind of thuggishness that in fact its counter-action is only revealing more of. And we have to keep trying to chip away at that impunity because it's part of the reason why there are even so many orphans, and in such dire straits, as there are.

There's nothing wrong with parents bonding with children they plan to adopt -- indeed, it is a tough road made even tougher by the bureaucracy, and anything they can do emotionally to get through it they should.

Why would one case of US violation of the treaty -- which I'd like a second opinion on, given your other tendentious comments -- be enough to hold up all other cases?!

by: Peter Dodds from: USA
January 10, 2013 14:56
I was adopted from a German orphanage by an American couple and applaud the ban prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children. I collaborated with other "foreign" adoptees to create this video to showcase the human rights abuses embedded in international adoption.

Peter Dodds
In Response

by: Keyser Soze from: Ohio
January 10, 2013 15:37
Peter is another adoption hater. Seems that he feels he was screwed over by his adoptive parents.

Thus, my his standard, no one should adopt unless the adoption is OK in his regards.

Peter doesn't realize that many of us have been abused by our parents (whether adoptive or biological). However, some of us are quite content to let people make decisions that work for them. We mind our own business and are not preachy nags.
In Response

by: Alex L. from: USA
January 10, 2013 17:02
Myself being adopted from Krasnoyarsk in Russia have to disagree with you. I do not believe it is right for the Russian government to use children as their pawns. If I was still in Russia I would have by now probably either: been a drug user, gotten drafted into the military, or been left on the streets to beg. My parents only gave me love and provided me with a caring wonderful family I would not have still in Russia. You sir are wrong .

by: Catherine Fitzpatrick from: New York
January 11, 2013 15:33
The worst possible thing to do with Russia is to fall silent and cancel your blog or stop speaking out because someone "advises" you. Who is this "someone"? An FSB agent or Russian official? An accommodationist in the US?

Russian officialdom plays like the mafia. They tell you, "Be silent, and all will go well with you." Except time after time -- an we have the experience of nearly 100 years now! -- it doesn't work that way. Instead, you are merely strung along and forced to capitulate and grovel even more.

As Sakharov and the other Soviet-era dissidents said, and as their successors say today, publicity (glasnost) is the best weapon. Speak out, keep talking, keep up the noise. It is the only thing that has ever worked.

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