Friday, October 8, 2010

An Open Letter to Russian & American Adoption Officials

I cannot tell you how many people I have met or that email me on a daily basis to tell me that they too have been caught in this adoption nightmare. One visit to FRUA's web board and you will encounter a staggering number of potential adoptive parents whose lives have been turned upside down. Even though our situation is precarious, the situation that single parents have been thrown into is even more daunting. We hope that once an agreement is signed we can bring Charlie home. I have spoken with numerous single folks that don't have that promise. Will the agreement ban singles from adopting? When will we know? Should we forget about the children we've met? Our children?
I've described our situation as an endless feeling of helplessness. You feel so helpless and small. No one can give you answers. No one knows when this nightmare will be over. No one really understands what it's like to have your heart living across the ocean, thousands of miles away for the better part of a year. Unless, that is, you have been living in this nightmare since April. You wonder how long you can keep this up, you wonder if it will ever be ok.
Now, I say helpless, but not hopeless. Our hearts are fixated on hope. Hope of our son remaining happy and healthy until we can bring him home where he belongs. Hope that God our father hears our cries and is working everything out for his good and glory. Hope that we will someday be made whole and be made a family. We will never loose our hope.
This is a letter from a fellow adoptive mom who also happens to be Russian-American, her blog is called "destinations, dreams, and dogs". You can check her out here. She wrote this "Open Letter" and it has struck a cord with me. Undoubtedly, she has encountered several people that are existing in this "limbo-land" everyday just like us. I hope that someone is listening to these powerful words. Here they are:

Dear Russian Foreign Ministry and U.S. State Department officials,

Four times over the past months you have met together in good faith to craft a bilateral US-Russian adoption treaty. This has stemmed from adopted child Artyom Savylev being returned to Russia in April 2010 by his single adoptive mother, Tory Hansen of Tennessee, due to his severe behavioral issues. Certain Russian regions immediately began to close to single adoptive parents and/or all American adoptive parents in light of this incident.

Then, recently, the Leschinsky family in Colorado was accused of abusive practices toward their three daughters adopted from Stavropolsky Krai. We understand that this region has also temporarily closed to Americans until a bilateral agreement has been signed by both countries.

We have reports of adoptive parents whose court dates in different regions have been set and postponed repeatedly over the last five months. They met the child, said yes to the child, gathered additional documents for court, been issued a court date… and now cannot proceed. The child sits in an institution, lost in limbo-land, his family ready and willing to bring him home, but nyet, it is not to be.

In an unofficial poll of adoptive parents in-the-process, numerous accounts have been shared with this writer, both publicly and privately. Most wish to remain anonymous, while others do not wish for their comments to be posted at all, due to the fear that their case will never move forward. All are heartbroken, crushed that they could proceed with an adoption, only to have the rug pulled out from under them at the last moment due to someone else’s misdeeds. Thank you to all who responded. Let’s let these adoptive parents-to-be speak for themselves….

“I am single and still waiting on a court date after two postponements. My first scheduled date of April 30th was postponed and then my second date of June 3rd was also postponed. I am now waiting for the signing of the bilateral agreement with the hopes that I will still be able to complete my adoption, but with no guarantee.

"There are no singles currently being processed in my region and this is directly due to the Hansen case. It has now been a little over 7 months since I met my son and my court delay has been 5 months. The waiting is absolutely horrible and probably the hardest thing I have ever done.”

“Things are tense for all prospective adoptive parents, but as singles, I think we are on eggshells because of the extra scrutiny because of some unthinkable acts by a few people…. My dossiers were recently sent for translation and registration and only a few regions are accepting singles but there are still some. Just pray they do not close or have any other changes that will prevent children from finding loving, stable homes.”

“I’m so sorry to hear Stavropol and other regions are temporarily shut down (in light of the Leschinsky case of August). I’m single and adopted my daughter from there in 2008. I loved the region and my time spent there. Everyone I met along the way was truly very friendly. I can’t tell you what a joy my daughter has been to me. We just came back from vacation and had a great time. She is such a happy and friendly child.”

“It would be my hope for the Russian public, court officials and other leaders to see that the shutdowns hurt the children the most. Especially when the shutdowns happen without warning to the families that have referrals and court dates. When a region is ‘shut down’ it may seem temporary. But for those of us in the process of adopting, a failed referral or court date can be a permanent loss, financially and emotionally. The child wants parents, a family. We promise them that, and then a shut down destroys the dreams of an innocent child. Shutdowns should occur in a fair and planned manner so all parties involved know what they are getting into.”

“I am single and met my child eight months ago, and I am also between trips. I was supposed to get my court date in May. The Hansen case has had a tremendous impact on my adoption. As another said, I think the children are the ones who suffer the most. My child was told that I was his ‘Mama’, then I never came back for him. I know what is happening and can barely get through it - some days are very difficult. If things fall through, and I am unable to get him, it will shatter my dreams - but I will somehow try to find a way to have a family. My boy, however, is an older child living in a remote orphanage who will likely never have a chance to become part of a family. My heart breaks for that possibility.”

“I am so very thankful that I was able to complete my adoption in the shadow of the Hansen case. I am single and have been home for 3 months with my son who by all accounts is happy, healthy and thriving in his new home. He is loved by an extended family of friends and aunts, uncles, grandparents and I am surrounded by more support and help than I could have imagined. I think that the statistics stand in singles favor in terms of how many successful and loving homes have been created through the gift of adoption from Russia and that one bad apple should no more color singles as a group than any case by a 2 parent family should color them as a group, either.

I would want the Russians to know that these women left hanging and waiting for their children for the better part of a year, love and think about their child every day. I would tell them that the child’s room full of toys and clothes are gently refolded and organized as they watch their child grow from afar and that each time a well intended friend asks, ‘Any news?’, it really hurts their hearts. These women have shown great dedication, love, and commitment to the child they have promised to parent.

Many other people (single or married) would have walked away and asked to be moved to a region where they could successfully complete their quest to become a family - but they stay. They stay because through good times and bad, sickness and health, these children are theirs in their heart and they can’t abandon them now. If the Russians were looking for the ‘right kind’ of parent, I’d suggest that the dedication shown in the face of adversity by anyone forced to wait is just that sort of test. I hope that the bilateral agreement is signed soon and that anyone left hurting in regions halting completion are able to breath a sigh of relief and hold their child again.”

So we must ask ourselves, are these repercussions happening for the children’s well-being and protection? I think not. Statistically, it is much more likely that a child will be abused or beaten by a Russian family than an American family. My own children, who are all older and have recollections of their pasts, could speak for some time about this issue.

That means that the adoption delays and denials must stem from a political issue. There must be a reason why Russian officials wish to make their own institutionalized children, as well as American adoptive parents, languish in despair. Perhaps one day, grown Russian children will launch lawsuits against the Russian Federation asking why their futures were put on hold and they were kept from viable adoptive families, purely for the whims and careers of elected officials, for political gain and nationalistic pride.

If a country wishes to shut down their international adoption program, then that is their prerogative. Keep your own children as long as you can pay foster families to take one or two, or farm families that take three or four, never mentioning the thousands that are returned to the orphanages each year by Russian families when the placement “doesn’t work out”. Ignore the numbers that are beaten by their Russian foster families, as our son was, until he wrote to local officials and insisted that he be returned to his less-than-ideal internat.

Close it down, or keep it open, but don’t leave hanging the children and well-meaning adoptive families who are mid-stream in the process and wonder if they will ever be reunited. The issues of abandonment often take a lifetime to heal, and you are compounding this psychic hurt on the souls of Russian children. Not to mention those of us with older children from Russia who hear the news and shake their heads in shame that some of their friends left behind will be further delayed from finding a family.

American adoptive families have many checks and balances already in place: extensive home studies, medical and psychological testing done prior to adoption, in addition to criminal checks, educational courses, and personal references verifying their fitness to parent. After adoption, there are annual post-placement reports by a trained social worker which track a child’s health, education, and upbringing. Russia could immediately ratify the Hague Treaty as one viable alternative. Closing regions to single parents, or to all Americans, or dragging our feet on a bilateral treaty does not a help the children in question, rather, it hurts the very ones we are all trying to protect.

The vast majority of American adoptive parents are highly educated, upper middle class, loving individuals. They do not abuse children, nor adopt them for nefarious purposes. They love their Russian children, celebrate their culture and language, and speak well of their native land.

Please resolve this situation without further delay.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah - I have tried to comment several times on your blog, but apparently our blogs "don't get along" (mine is on Wordpress and when I try to use that profile, I can't seem to make it work. My comments never seem to make it through.

    Anyway, you are too right that there are many, many families now caught up in this mess. We are one of those families also. We visited our son Ollie in March, thinking we would be back to get him by June. Too bad that we were working with WACAP, and too bad that due to health problems there weren't any other US adoption agencies working in our region. We figure that because we had to get a new homestudy (oh yes, our homestudy was with WACAP too), switch agencies, and the agency we were switching to had to establish a new program in the region, we'll be one of the last families to make it out the other side.

    But like you, we have hope and we are actually pretty sure that we will make it through this nightmare and eventually be a family. It will just take more time than we'd hoped, and our child will spend more of his childhood in an institution than really should have been the case.

    Anyway, hang in there - you are not alone.