The Many Facets of Adoption
By Ken Walker-
When I wrote a story for the March issue of Christianity Today on Russia’s pending ban on adoptions by American parents, I had more than a passing interest.
For one, my mother’s parents emigrated from the Ukraine (part of the Soviet Union before Communism’s collapse) to western Canada in the late 1800s.
Before their deaths, my closest aunt and uncle attended an Eastern Orthodox Church in Chicago and still spoke Ukrainian with some of their friends. Because of my heritage, I have always had a keen interest in developments in Russia and other nations in that region.
Secondly, I have seen the heroic selflessness of adoptive parents in action through a niece and her husband.
After their three sons were in high school and college, they adopted a boy from Central America. The special needs he faced and the bleak prospect of anyone in his homeland being able to meet them touched their heart like few experiences had.
After talking with three different couples who had either adopted children from Russia or had to abandon their plans because of the parliament’s action in December, I felt a similar admiration.
These couples spent tens of thousands of dollars to adopt. They included a husband and wife who had already raised five children, but adopted a 16-year-old, hard-to-place girl who had been removed from her home because of neglect.
To give a fuller picture of their sacrifice, the husband was on the verge of taking early retirement when a friend who had been to Russia raised the prospect of them adopting.
After their new daughter arrived, his wife quit her job because of a requirement that for the girl’s first six months here, at least one parent stay at home fulltime.
As the old adage goes, action speaks louder than words.
Having an Impact
Although it won’t take effect until next January, Russia’s ban is already having an impact, as the gears of bureaucracy grind slower. I suspect there are also efforts afoot in Russia to play up claims of mistreatment, as seen in the recent story about an 18-year-old man who alleged his adoptive U.S. parents treated him badly.
However, several days later other reports emerged. The adoptive parents told a story 180 degrees opposite. They told of treating him well, but his increasing disrespect and bad behavior after using drugs and alcohol on a trip back to Russia.
I recognize that mistreatment exists, particularly the tragic February death of a three-year-old in Texas whose adoptive mother reportedly abused him. As my story revealed, 19 Russian children died over two decades at the hands of adoptive parents in America. Yet that is just one percent the number of Russian children who died at the hands of biological parents or caregivers in a single year (2008).
Aside from the geopolitical controversy that accompanies such stories, there is another aspect of this situation that is worth noting.
Over the past year, I have written several stories on adoption. Several advocates have emphasized the long-term solution lies not in American parents adopting internationally, but encouraging more in-country adoptions by native couples.
Those who are working to facilitate that see the Russian adoption ban as a strategic move that could ultimately benefit children. As Anita Deyneka—co-founder of Russian Ministries—says, “For a long-term, mass solution, it’s glorious what is happening with Christians (elsewhere) moving forward.”
Now a resident of the Chicago area, Deyneka encourages Americans to consider sponsoring children overseas. These monthly stipends are used to do things like help adoptive parents there build an extra room or buy special medications.
This is the kind of step that is within the reach of far more couples than those who can afford expensive adoption fees or are willing to raise more than one set of children.
And, it represents the same kind of grassroots action advocated by those fighting human trafficking. By sponsoring a child in a poverty-stricken country, people may well be preventing that child from becoming a trafficking victim. Which goes to show that everyone can make a difference, no matter how small it seems on the surface.