Wednesday, August 24, 2016


U.S. Families Rejoice As Some Pending Adoptions From Russia Go Through

Kendra Skaggs and her husband, Jason, pose on Red Square with 5-year-old Polina, now known as Polly.
Kendra Skaggs and her husband, Jason, pose on Red Square with 5-year-old Polina, now known as Polly.

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Video Russian Orphan Thrust Into Spotlight By Adoption Ban

A 14-year-old Russian orphan has been making headlines since his country adopted a controversial law banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens.
By Richard Solash
It's a moment that Kendra Skaggs dreamed about, even as the dream faded.

"My hope gets less and less every day," she told RFE/RL in early January.

Then, Skaggs and her husband, Jason, were still reeling from the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed a ban on all U.S. adoptions, effective January 1. The legislation was part of the Kremlin's furious response to U.S. sanctions enacted in December on Russian officials linked to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other alleged human rights abuses.

The Skaggs were among several dozen U.S. families who were arguably hit hardest. When the ban took effect, each of those families had already seen their children-to-be twice in Russia and were in the final 30-day waiting period required before bringing them home.  

Today, Kendra is still reeling, but this time from a kinder twist of fate. Polina, a 5-year-old orphan from Moscow who was born with spina bifida and a clubfoot, is now known as Polly. She's in the United States and is a member of the Skaggs family.

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

"[When the plane touched down] we told her that it was America and she started clapping her hands and saying, 'America! America!'" Skaggs says. "That was really neat because in the apartment we were staying in in Moscow, she was sitting in the windowsill watching the Moscow traffic, and she said, 'I bet I'm not really going to America. I bet I'm going to the hospital,' because that's the only place she had ever been outside the orphanage. And so it was really a relief to see her knowing and understanding that yes, baby girl, we are taking you to America and we're here now."

Allowed To Leave

In the last two weeks, Russia has quietly allowed some pending U.S. adoptions to go through, despite the ban. A statement posted on the Russian Supreme Court's website on January 22 said all U.S. adoptions that had been approved by Russian courts before the ban took effect were eligible to be completed. The clarification came after conflicting public statements by Russian officials about the fate of final-stage adoptions.  

Now, the first of those adopted children have arrived in their new homes.

A U.S. State Department spokesman confirmed to RFE/RL that "several adoptions have been finalized under Russian law. The embassy in Moscow has processed the applications of these adopting parents."

Five-year-old Polina on one of her first days in the United States.Five-year-old Polina on one of her first days in the United States.
Five-year-old Polina on one of her first days in the United States.
Five-year-old Polina on one of her first days in the United States.
The spokesman said the embassy "will continue processing those cases that are approved by Russian courts."

Skaggs, a 33-year-old special education teacher from Arkansas, flew with her husband to Russia in late January after hearing of another family who had successfully brought their child back. Still, there were stories that some regional courts were refusing to allow the adoptions through, Skaggs says.

In Moscow, a Russian television crew followed her and pigtailed Polina from the orphanage to the airport, even capturing Skaggs practicing counting in English with her new daughter.

A local television station captured their arrival in the United States on February 2.

Only then, Skaggs said, did she finally have a chance to begin processing what had happened.

"That night, I just lay in bed and bawled my eyes out," she says. "It was just a release of all those emotions that had built up and relief for having [Polly] home."

More To Fight For

Kim Summers, 49, and her husband, who live in New Jersey, were also among the U.S. families who were just days away from picking up their child when Putin signed the ban.

Preston Summers, who is nearly 2 years old, enjoys his first french fry at home in the United States.Preston Summers, who is nearly 2 years old, enjoys his first french fry at home in the United States.
Preston Summers, who is nearly 2 years old, enjoys his first french fry at home in the United States.
Preston Summers, who is nearly 2 years old, enjoys his first french fry at home in the United States.
Under a pseudonym, she previously told RFE/RL that she would travel to Russia's Kaluga region anyhow, vowing not to return to the United States without her son. She was already there when the Supreme Court made its clarification.

The local authorities gave Summers the necessary documents, but she still needed to get a passport for 22-month-old Stanislav, who is now known as Preston.

"There, we hit a brick wall," Summers says. "The woman at the passport office took a look at my husband's passport and said to the [adoption] facilitator, 'They're Americans. What about the ban?' And the facilitator said, "No, no, they have their decree. It was before. It's OK. You can do the passport.' She was not going to do the passport. She said she had to check it out and said we should come back the next day. We went back to the hotel and just sat and prayed and didn't sleep all night."

Eventually, passport in hand, Summers went to Moscow, where she says she was joined at the U.S. Embassy by 15 other adoptive families. She says she met with Ambassador Michael McFaul before heading to the airport on January 20.

Both Summers and Skaggs say that although their adoptions are complete, their missions are not. They say they will continue to fight for the hundreds of U.S. families who were at earlier stages in the adoption process when the ban took effect -- and for the more than 700,000 Russian orphans they say have been made political collateral.

"When we left that baby house, there were eight other little children in his group that my husband and I would always visit with when we were visiting our son, whether it was just to touch their face, kiss their hand, take their picture -- we were their only voice," Summers says. "And, I mean, it brings tears to my eyes now to think that these children will never have a chance if this stays the way it is. It can't be. It just can't be."
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Comment Sorting
by: Stan from: Ky
February 06, 2013 11:36
How lovely that the Skaggs and Summers families got the Russian kids they purchased for upwards of $50k per kid home!

All that's left to do is wait for them to tire of their new Russian kids and kick them to the curb. My guess is it'll take less than 6 mos.
In Response

by: JSW from: US
February 06, 2013 14:37
Shame on you, Stan. You don't look clever with snarky remarks like that, just sad and pathetic.
In Response

by: Jon from: Seattle
February 07, 2013 06:24
Stan, keep you negative thoughts to yourself. We all know life is ups and downs so just leave it at that.
In Response

by: R from: San Francisco
February 07, 2013 05:51
You have no idea what you're talking about. That $50K is spread out through the system that Russia created. It goes to paper work the Russians require, apostilles, doctors visits, financial statements, adoption process in the US (required approval before one can even hope to adopt internationally), Russian adoption coordinators, translators, transportation, hotels, etc etc. Take your ignorance back to hillbilly land. These kids have special needs that will NEVER be taken care of in Russia, you goat.
In Response

by: Mark from: Victoria
February 07, 2013 21:49
The cost also goes to a six-month search for Russian adoptive parents for the child, a requirement instituted several years ago. Adoptions from Russia by Americans have declined steadily from a high of 5,862 annually in 2004 to only 962 in 2011, and if they continued without a ban the numbers would fall below the threshold of statistical significance within the next 5 years on their own.

Although the press consistently zeroes in on those adopted children who have special needs, because it makes such a great story, most adopted Russian children have nothing wrong with them and those who are disabled are a tiny minority. Less than 10% of the Russian children adopted by Americans - 44 out of 962 - had any kind of disability.

By contrast, Russians adopted more than 4 times as many disabled children. There are plenty of American children awaiting homes who are disabled, as well as plenty to choose from who are sound and healthy, and some states even help you pay for adoption so that it costs little or nothing.
In Response

by: colleen from: ny
February 07, 2013 22:08
"In 2012, of the 700 or so Russian orphans adopted in the US only 52 were handicapped"
In Response

by: Adoptive Parent from: USA
February 12, 2013 04:10

You have no idea what you are talking about. "Spread out through the system that Russia created" - what a joke!

This system was created by six or seven major US adoption agencies who formed a cartel to control adoption prices. They were starting with $3k in 1990s and ended up with price lists going to $100k+.

Before they divided Russian territory into "zones of influence" they spent a lot of money fighting each other. This was taking the bulk of the gravy - had to bribe officials, hire bodyguards, sue, steal referrals, etc. After the pact they were able to concentrate of driving non-US competition (Italian, Irish, Canadian agencies) by threats and acquisition.

Most special needs referrals were actually held back by adoption agencies because they were not as profitable (families were expecting to get discounts) as the "blond babies."

by: Mark from: Victoria
February 07, 2013 04:10
Couldn't just say, "Thank you", could they? Nope, they had to make it political, now that they're safe back in the good ol' USA. We will continue to fight for the hundreds of American families who By God have a right to adopt Russian children. My, yes, that'll make the Russian courts kindly disposed toward others who were in the late stages of adoptions in Russia - the obvious lesson is, when they're in Russia, Americans cry and pray all the time that they'll be allowed to have their sweet little child, but when they're back in the USA they're suddenly infused with zeal against the Russian state's laws and start micking it up to reporters.

There are hundreds of thousands of American kids waiting for homes, too. The difference is, it costs more, and a lot of them are black. Russian kids are mostly white.

But hey, wasn't it heartwarming to see young Preston tucking into his first french fry, in America? You know, the country where almost 36% of adults and almost 17% of children aged 2 to 19 are obese?

That's a dandy example, but the myth persists that you can't get potatoes fried in oil anywhere else and eating french fries is just part of the good life in America. You can bet he wouldn't get any of those yummy fries in the orphanage, and that would have been a shame.
In Response

by: NA from: Central Asia
February 11, 2013 14:13
Mark, they didn't make it political, Putin and his cronies made it political. I also would guess (not knowing these parents) that it's not that they were "suddenly infused with zeal" against Russia's laws when they arrived back in the US; doubtlessly they were infused with that zeal all along but were smart enough to keep their mouths shut until safely out of the jurisdiction of an indisputably repressive state. Personally, I am impressed by these parents and others who fought hard to keep their commitment to the kids that they love.

As for your french fry comment, well that is just dumb. First of all, kids need fat for the developing brain. Adoptees from abroad are not known for being an obese group-- quite the opposite, in fact. They often arrive in the US malnourished and under-developed. They need to get calories in, and most adoption nutritionists would advise parents to just make sure that the kids eat, eat, eat. They are making up for lost developmental time. Of course I doubt that these parents are going to feed their kid a diet of non-stop french fries-- no reasonable person would draw that conclusion from a single photo-- but that doesn't stop you from passing judgment.

There are certainly a lot of problems with the US, and I wouldn't argue that it is paradise. But to fault these parents for wanting to give a child-- whether "disabled" or not-- a stable, loving home rather than a life in an institution is just callous.

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