Russians in Backlash Against Foreign Adoption

The removal in Russia of a child recently adopted by an American couple has sparked discontent over international adoptions. Members of the Duma recently decried the adoptions, accusing foreigners of "stealing" children and worsening a demographic crisis. The U.S. embassy issued a stern statement saying that police conduct in the case was possibly illegal. NPR's Anne Garrels reports.


The actions of Russian authorities have been called into question in two cases involving the adoption of Russian children. Two couples, one Italian and one American, were recently detained and their newly adopted children were taken into custody by Russian police after observers claimed they had been abused. Italy and the United States protested Russia's handling of the cases, and the US Embassy accused the Russian press of inflaming growing public hysteria over foreign adoptions. From Moscow, NPR's Anne Garrels reports.

ANNE GARRELS reporting:

Jan(ph) and Todd(ph), a couple from Wisconsin, hosted two Russian orphans last summer through a program called Bridge of Love and, after a year, are finally at the US Embassy in Moscow wrapping up the last paperwork to adopt the eight- and 10-year-old boys. They got caught up in bureaucratic wrangling that delayed foreign adoptions last year, and now one of the boys has chicken pox delaying his departure. Given recent events, adoption agencies are urging parents and their newly adopted children to keep out of sight. Jan and Todd are wary of giving their full names.

JAN: We just want to be careful because we want to--our second child isn't scheduled to get out of the country, so we're just thinking we just need to be careful.

GARRELS: Some here argue that with Russia's declining birth rate, foreigners are stealing the country's wealth. Members of parliament have expressed alarm that foreign adoptions, now at about 9,000 a year, exceed domestic ones. The national media has played up the trial of an adoptive mother in Illinois who was sentenced to 12 years in the death of her six-year-old Russian son.

Ms. NINA OSTANINA (Duma's Committee on Women and Children): (Russian spoken)

GARRELS: Nina Ostanina, a member of the Duma's Committee on Women and Children, which has led the charge against foreign adoptions, says the government doesn't have enough control over the fate of Russian children taken overseas. She's demanding yet another moratorium on foreign adoptions to rectify the situation. Galina Kreznitskaya(ph) with the NGO Orphanage of Childhood(ph) says yet another moratorium would simply hurt children who need homes. At 200,000 nationwide, the number is rising by 20,000 a year.

Ms. GALINA KREZNITSKAYA (Orphanage of Childhood): (Through Translator) Last year, government problems meant adoption agencies could not work normally. The result is overcrowded orphanages.

GARRELS: She says the Russian parliament could resolve problems by ratifying The Hague Convention on International Adoptions, something it has so far refused to do.

Ms. KREZNITSKAYA: (Through Translator) The children have become hostages of the politicians and the wishes of political parties.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

Mr. ERIC BOTZI(ph) (Kidsafe): Hello. Kidsafe.

GARRELS: Eric Botzi, who runs the Moscow office of US-based Kidsafe, says while officials increasingly oppose foreign adoptions, they're doing little to encourage Russians to adopt. There are financial obstacles for many Russian families, and Botzi says there continues to be a stigma against adoption.

Mr. BOTZI: Many people in the public simply have--still believe in old stereotypes about orphans, that they're genetically flawed, that they're predestined to become hooligans and prostitutes.

GARRELS: While focusing on improving conditions so more Russians will adopt, Kidsafe and other organizations help send orphans overseas so they can live with a foreign family during the summer. This is how Jan and Todd from Wisconsin first met the two boys they've now adopted. Organizations say 90 percent of the kids ranging in age from five to 11 who live with foreign families during the summer are eventually adopted. Despite this or because of it, Russian officials have been slow to approve such trips this summer. Anne Garrels, NPR News, Moscow.

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