Russian adoption ban saddens local parentsWith President Vladimir Putin on Friday signing a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, it abruptly terminated the prospects for more thatn 50 youngsters preparing to join new families.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
Wade Pearson recalls the verbal grilling he and his wife, Dianne, went through to adopt their children 11 years ago from the Republic of Chuvashia, east of Moscow, Russia.
“We got the ‘third degree,’” he said. “It was their way of being direct — to make sure the kids go to a good place,” he said.
The interrogator was probably a bureaucrat who oversaw the children’s orphanage, he said. In court, she lauded the Pearsons — much to their surprise — and they were quickly awarded custody of Christian, Lyola and Karley, siblings who were 4, 3 and 2, respectively, at the time.
In April 2001, the Pearsons brought the children home to Buxton, N.D.; Wade Pearson is president of Home of Economy stores, based in nearby Grand Forks.
They are among the thousands of American parents that have made America the top destination for adopted Russian children. And like many of those parents, they greeted with dismay a new law that prohibits Americans from adopting Russian children.
Pearson said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to sign the bill into law is “really disappointing,” especially for Americans in the middle of the adoption process. “I can’t imagine what it would be like for them, going through this process, trying to make this commitment. It’s an emotional time.”
The law went into effect Tuesday.
Russian children awaiting adoption in orphanages will suffer, Pearson told the Herald. “It’s awful on the kids. For them (adoption) is their way out of the institution.”
There are about 740,000 children without parental care in Russia, according to UNICEF. Over the past 20 years, more than 60,000 Russian children have found homes in the United States, the U.S. State Department said, as it decried the Russian law.
The North Dakota Department of Human Services receives notice of North Dakota families adopting children from outside the state. Julie Hoffman, administrator of adoption services, said she was not aware of any family in the process of adopting Russian children.
The ban on U.S. adoptions is widely viewed as retaliation against a new U.S. law that allows Washington to deny visas and freeze the assets of Russian officials who commit human rights abuses.
Pearson agrees. “It seems like a retaliation. They’re using the kids as pawns.”
“The dynamic between the United States and Russia has been fairly tentative for the last number of years,” Hoffman said.
The “whole landscape of international adoption” can change as cultural attitudes shift and new legislation is enacted, she said. “Families are aware of that. They’ve been prepared by their (adoption) agency about the likelihood of this happening. That doesn’t make it any less difficult.”
Most would-be adoptive parents have been trained to be resilient, and most would stick with it or move to another program, she said. “They look at adoption as a form of ministry and service to the larger community.”
Only 11 children from other countries were adopted into North Dakota families in the fiscal year ending September 2011, said Hoffman, citing the U.S. Department of State records.
“That’s down from a high of 27 in ’07 and ’08 — a fairly significant drop,” she said. “Economics has something to do with it.” International adoptions are very expensive, she said.
She also cited some foreign countries’ decision to join the Hague Adoption Convention as a factor. Participating countries’ must scrutinize adoptions more to curb human trafficking and fraud, slowing down the process.
For North Dakota adoptions, China, Ethiopia and other African countries are among the most common points of origin, she said.
“Russia has never been a lead country,” she said. “I don’t believe there will be a large number of families affected by this ban.”
Lindsey Ness, a family case manager with the Fergus Falls, Minn., based God’s Children Adoption Agency, said her agency hasn’t worked with very many adoptions from Russia either. She said she has seen area families adopt children from China and Africa.
For families waiting for children, the impact of the Russian ban is “huge,” Ness said.
She suggested that families anxious to adopt look at older or special-needs children because the paperwork is often ready. Healthy or newborn children take longer, she said.
And American children are in need of homes, too.
Older and special-needs children here are also easier to adopt, Ness said.
Hoffman said that some would-be adoptive parents look overseas because they feel the wait for an American child is too long. “I think that is less and less the case. It may have been true 10 years ago, especially if they wanted an infant.”
That was the case for the Pearsons.
In 2000, when they began the adoption process, it would have taken five to seven years to adopt an American child, Wade Pearson said. After adopting one, they would have had to wait to adopt another, he said.
In Russia, it took less than a year to complete the adoption of their three children, he said.
Economics probably played a key role, he speculated. “They were recovering from the Communist age. Families didn’t have the resources” to care for and raise the children.
Trudy Dick, Devils Lake, who adopted a daughter from Russia nine years ago, told the Herald in an email, “There are so many children there that need homes. Our daughter has a heart defect that I believe kept Russians from adopting her because it was believed that she would need surgery.
“Our lives would definitely be less exciting without her. We are so glad the doors were open to adopt from Russia when we went through our adoption process.”
Call Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1107; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this story.