Thursday, January 24, 2013

To Russia, on Pride and Prejudice

So I suppose all of you have heard by now: things are not looking good for the Russian orphans trapped by politics and the American families trying to adopt them. An update with some explanations, the information we have now with how this affects us, and a bit of an editorial are long overdue. Here you have it:

The Politics
On November 1, 2012 the bilateral agreement went into affect between Russia and the United States.  This agreement, among other things, called for greater and more in depth pre-adoption training on the part of American families adopting and also allows Russia to have greater oversight in the post-adoption placement of their children--meaning they should have "access" to see how these kids are doing in their American homes. The bilateral agreement also stipulated that, should either party wish to pull out of the agreement, a one year notice was required.

In December the United States passed the Magnitsky act which, to the best of my knowledge bans Russian citizens who have known human rights violations from entering the US and also freezes their American assets. In retaliation, just before the New Year, Moscow passed a bill designed to retaliate against the Magnitsky act.  One small amendment of this bill, which notably did not get added on until the bill had already made much headway in the Russian parliament, was a ban on adoption of Russian children by US citizens. Much to the shock and dismay of many around the country, including many Russian officials and Russian citizens, the bill was passed overwhelmingly and was signed into law by President Putin effective on January 1, 2013.  The Russian officials who endorsed the bill sited the abuse and/or death of 19 (out of thousands and thousands) of Russian adopted children brought to the USA in the past decades as reason for their support of the amendment.  

This bill is a domestic law, and as such it (apparently) overrides the "bilateral" agreement that was put forth in November which I referenced above and thus the Russian government does not feel the need to honor the "one year notice" clause given in the bilateral agreement. At the time of the signing of the bill there were somewhere between 26 and 50 kids in Russia who were "legally" in the custody of their American parents (meaning the Americans had passed the 2nd and final court hearing in Russia) but who were in the mandated 30 day waiting period before they could legally be taken to the US. At the time it was said that these children would not be allowed to leave the country and would be returned to the orphanages and the Americans sent home.

The Progress
There has been little progress made in negotiations on this bill, but not for the USA's lack of trying. We have had 2 conference calls with the state department. They are actively working to try to urge Russians to allow those cases who are already in process (i.e. have a submitted Russian dossier) to continue in the spirit of the "one year clause" of the bilateral agreement. Russia has gone back on their initial word about those 26-50 children and the supreme court recently issued a statement saying that all of those children who have passed the 2nd court prior to January 1, 2013 would be allowed to leave the country with their American parents. So far 19 of those children have successfully exited Russia. More will undoubtedly leave in the next few weeks as the regional courts have been given the "ok" to process adoption decrees and passports for these children. There has been no word thus far on the rest of those families in process to adopt from Russia--i.e. anyone who has not yet had 2 court dates. There are ongoing attempts by the state department (including a recent letter from Hillary Clinton to the Russian Parliament) urging them to allow those families in progress to continue. However, nothing official has been stated and it is my perception, though I do not know it to be fact, that the overall sentiment in the Russian government is not looking good for us.

Where we stand
Our adoption agency has urged us, on multiple attempts, to stay the course. They truly believe that we will be allowed to process our adoption, they just believe it will take months to get it sorted out. They have worked in Russia for decades and so I have some trust in them. However, I am deeply concerned by the general lack of support from the Russian government and I am not very optimistic.

In a very interesting, and rather depressing, turn of events, I found out a few weeks ago from our adoption agency that they have identified a little girl for us and her information is in our file. They informed us that she was coming available for referral in January and we would have received her information to view this month.  We were so, so close to getting to see our (potential) daughter. Tim and I now wonder if we can be considered in the category of people who have gotten a referral but have not yet a court date since it appears that the Russian adoption people released her information to our adoption agency as a referral who then put it in our file, to be tabled until after the holidays. We have not gotten word yet as to whether or not we would be considered to have already received a referral, and frankly, this does not really matter as not even people who have received a referral and traveled for one court day have been allowed to continue with their adoption. We continue to wait for Russia to make some kind of official announcement as to whether or not our adoption can proceed, but I expect this will take months.

Because many of you are wondering, yes, yes, we will lose the $15,000 that we have already put into this process. We will lose all the emotional energy, all the hope, and all the time we put into this. But it is not about the money. It is not about the time. Its about this little girl, still waiting in Russia, who was supposed to go to our family. She is still sitting in a Russian orphanage, being fed watered down tea and coffee instead of milk, watered down oatmeal and soup, getting more malnourished by the passing month. She is not developing her language skills, her motor skills like she should. I believe that the Russian orphanage workers are wonderful, kind hearted good intentioned people, but they cannot love each child like they need to be loved for proper development.  This little girl is getting far, far more punished than we are--as I sit here by the fire place, with tons of toys from our two, healthy, well adjusted children on the floor around me. The Russian children--not the American families--are the real losers here.

Our plans
Well, this royally screwed up our future plans. We had originally planned that I would delay residency by one year and stay home with all 3 kids once we brought our girl home from Russia. But looks like I have to proceed with residency. We have researched other international adoption alternatives, and found several good ones, but none will be so quick as to be completed in such a timely manner as to be reasonable to delay residency. The same thing was told to us about domestic adoption options. I definitely think that we will adopt (hopefully internationally) in the future, but with residency looming it's not smart to start that process until after we have moved. Once we start a process, pick another country, etc, etc it will likely be years until the adoption is final. In the meantime, we will wait out Russia and see what happens and continue to pray for a miracle. Many have asked us (and some said rather nonchalantly) whether or not we would just have another biological child. The answer is most certainly of course. I am not waiting 2-4 years until I can add another child to my family (if I can help it), but I would really rather that tomorrow Russia called me and said that we could bring this little girl home from the orphanage.  I have become so invested in this process I hate to just nonchalantly say, "oh well, we'll just have another baby."  That, and (let's be honest) I totally believe Tim and I can make only boys.

My thoughts
I believe it goes without saying that I am upset, outraged, in shock, utter disbelief. Perhaps I have too much optimism (or denial) in saying that there is a small part of me that believes Russia will get it in gear and allow us to finish. I cannot believe that their government has decided to sacrifice their most vulnerable children for pride and a political statement.

But this is sin. This is the perfect picture of sin. This is the same sin that allows a young man to walk into an elementary school and indiscriminately shoot 6 year old children. The same sin that causes parents to neglect and abuse their children--landing them in orphanages or foster homes around the world. The same sin that causes broken, damaged, and lost relationships with family and friends.  Even the same sin that has caused the death and abuse of 19 adopted Russian children here in America. his is the same sin that is in my heart, my husband's heart, my children's heart. I do not mean to say that the Russians passing this bill is equivalent to Matthew hitting Samuel after we tell him not to, but I do mean to say that in the sinful world we live in, anything is possible. Sin drives men towards all sorts of evil. Pride. Greed. Retribution. Selfishness are the root of much conflict and evil.

In 12th grade English class I had to do a project on "the human condition."  This is it. The ugly part of it. Sure, there are wonderful, wholesome, feel good parts. I believe it was Anne Frank who said that "in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."  That may be true, Ms. Frank, but I think you of all people would have to admit that, even if we are really good at heart, we have a remarkable ability to act on our pride and selfishness in ways that hurt, damage, and (in your case) destroy others. History continues to paint pictures of prideful, selfish men (and women) who, for their own gain and due to their own prejudices, sacrifice the most vulnerable around them.  

And so, I continue to look to the One who will one day wipe sin from our world.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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