Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.
Many American families aren’t sure what the future holds for them after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law last month banning the adoption of Russian children by American families.
Putin put the law into effect after he claimed U.S. authorities routinely let Americans suspected of violence go unpunished.
This was a reference to Dima Yakolev who was adopted by Americans. He died in 2008 after his father left him in a car for hours in blistering heat. Yakolev’s father was not found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Backers of the new bill said that American adoptive parents have been abusive, citing 19 deaths of adopted Russian children since the 1990s.
In 2012, an American woman sparked outrage after she sent her adopted son back to Russia on a one-way flight. The woman said that the boy, then 7, had violent episodes that made her family fear for their safety.
Out of the 60,000 Russian children who have been adopted by American families in the past two decades, 59,981 of them are still alive.
Russian leaders don’t seem to realize that all of the 19 deaths were, most likely, accidental.
For example, China did not ban adoptions after Christian songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman’s daughter was accidentally killed.
But it’s not just the Americans who are frustrated by the turn of events; the Russians are upset as well. On Sunday, Jan. 13, thousands marched through Moscow to protest Putin’s ban on adoption. The march was led by many who also want to put an end to Putin’s 13-year reign. One poster read “Parliament deputies to orphanages, Putin to an old people’s home.”
Maybe now, Russian leaders will consider lifting the ban since it’s not only the Americans who are upset.
A Putin spokesperson tried to ease some of the anger by announcing that most of the adoptions currently under way could proceed. This will allow the children who have already met their adoptive families to leave the country without any difficulties.
But what about the other thousands of children who are without loving families to care for them?
UNICEF estimates about 740,000 children in Russia are without parental custody, and only 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt. While leaders are encouraging more Russians to adopt, that is very unlikely to happen.
When a Russian orphan reaches the age of 15 or 16, UNICEF estimates that one in three live on the streets, one in five is a criminal, and one in ten commits suicide.
Many families as well as adoption advocates are hoping and praying that the ban will be lifted so children can become members of a loving American family.