I just put my son down for a nap and have a million household chores to complete during his slumber, but my heart is heavy with the thoughts of the 650,000 Russian orphans (120,000 of them available for adoption) who will fall asleep today without being rocked, read to, and kissed as sweetly as my son was before his nap. Yesterday, Vladimir Putin signed the Yakovlev Act, which bans intercountry adoption between Russia and the US, limiting the possibility of those orphans, many with complex medical conditions, finding a loving forever family and 1,500 of them who have already had the promise of a family given to them now with an uncertain future.
Thirteen years ago, my parents traveled to China to bring home my sister. Despite that she was born in a region of the world that I have never seen and a family I can only imagine, she has always been my sister. She was young enough at the time that she doesn’t remember the loss of her birth family, but I assure you that as she enters her adolescence that loss is palpable. A recent documentary film, Somewhere Between, does an amazing job of exploring the coming-of-age of adoptees from China, so I won’t attempt to duplicate it here but rather refer you to this beautiful film. While the loss of her birth family and culture is something that my sister will have to grapple with in finding her own identity, she now has a family who will always be there to help and support her along her journey. I can’t help but think of the Russian orphans who will someday be facing these issues alone, without the unconditional and profuse love of parents or siblings to provide a secure base from which to explore the splendor and sadness of the world.
I am also reminded of the orphans in our own country. Fifty-three years ago, my father was one of them until adopted into a family of his maternal aunt and six cousins. His aunt, my Nana, did not see him as a commodity or political statement, but as an innocent child looking for the love of a family, which she could provide. Without this adoption, he may have ended up in the US foster care system, where 423,000 other orphans experience the transient affection of semi-permanent families, with repeated loss and disruption, and 30,000 of them come-of-age without a forever family.
In my work as an adoption medicine specialist, I am often counseling families about the risk of adopting a particular child, based on their medical, developmental, and emotional needs. We have never discussed the risk though that the child whom they fall in love with and becomes their own will be prohibited from joining their family due to retaliatory political laws. We do not discuss that they may have to parent their children across an ocean, for years, or a lifetime. We do not discuss that while they have a warm bed, plush toys, and endless affection waiting for their child that a crowded, cold, silent room will be their home indefinitely. My heart breaks for these broken families and the children, who already orphaned by a family are now orphaned by a country.
For more information about the above topics, check out:
If you are already in the process of adopting from Russia, the U.S. Department of State requests that you email the Department of State at AskCI@state.gov and state the stage and status of your adoption. Use “Intercountry Adoption in Russia – Family Update” in the subject line of the email.
To subscribe to email alerts regarding Russian adoption, click here: