13,231. That is the number of Russian children who have found permanent, loving homes in America over the last five years. One. That is the number of adoptive parents who made the irresponsible, dare I say reprehensible, decision to return her adopted child to Russia. 800,000. That is the estimated number of Russian children who currently call an orphanage their home. As we talk about the circumstances leading up to the possible suspension of Russian-American adoptions, it is important to keep these numbers in their proper perspective. No one can condone the actions taken by Torry Hansen. Even if her allegations about her son’s mental condition are true, they do not justify her decision to forgo the plethora of options of assistance available for she and her son in the United States. She could have reached out to her adoption agency, who could have directly provided her and her son the necessary support. She could have reached out to the State of Tennessee Departments of Social Services or Mental Health. And in a State that is well known for extensive faith based and community based networks there were undoubtedly people who if asked, would have stepped forward to help this family in need. Sadly, she chose to take a different route and it is now in the hands of the Tennessee legal authorities to determine if her actions constitute a crime.
All that being said, two things we know for sure. First, suspensions of adoption are not in the overall best interests of children. Experience has shown that suspending adoptions do not lead to the legal and programmatic reforms which are used to justify them. What they do result in is children spending additional, and unnecessary years, in institutional care. Take Romania and Cambodia for examples. It has been almost ten years since both countries suspended international adoption. No significant legal reforms have been made and few, if any, efforts have been made to provide children living there with alternatives to institutionalization. The legal and social status of children in both countries remain the same. Both countries still experience high rates of child abandonment, child slavery and sexual exploitation.
The other thing we know for sure is that despite the appropriate use of best practices and protections, there will be cases such as these. Not even the perfect system can protect against all wrongdoing. What needs to exist is an international adoption system which provides for a high level of protection against corruption and abuse, and a federal and state statutes that allow for the prosecution of individuals who, despite these protections, abuse the adoption process or worse, an adopted child. In ratifying the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption, the US took an important first step in providing the U.S framework for such a system. CCAI, along with Members of Congress, continue to push for improvements to the intercountry adoption system and for stronger and more explicit laws against corruption in international adoption. We have and will continue to fully support the Russian Government in their efforts to continually protect the best interests of their children. And finally, we remain committed to work with the U.S. State Department toward developing ways to quickly implement necessary protections.
In the meanwhile, as those who have experienced the many joys adoption brings, we have an obligation to speak out against the myths these types of cases can perpetuate. Older children, even those who have spent years in foster care or institutions, are not by definition, damaged goods. The bond between an adoptive parent and child is, in most every case, indistinguishable from the bond between a parent and their biological child. And regardless of how the relationship between parent and child is formed, being a parent is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences a human being can have.
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