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Putin's Punished Orphans


Kremlin anger proves self-defeating:

After Washington passed a law to punish Russian officials involved in the murder of a whistleblowing lawyer who worked for an American company, Russia passed a law that hinders Americans who want to adopt Russian orphans - many severely disabled.

Putin's Punished Orphans in the Global Spotlight (Gazeta, Russia)

"A year has passed and according to publicly available data, there is information on 196 children who had already been matched with their potential American parents, but were not permitted to unite with them. Ninety five of them, despite the promises of our nation's leaders to find these children families in Russia (and therefore a challenging enterprise!), remained in orphanages at the end of the year. ... Ninety five children who could already have been with a family for an entire year. That's a lot by any measure. I believe that posturing in the international arena is not worth ruining the life of even a single child."

By Elena Alshanskaya  Translated By Rosamund Musgrave January 2, 2014 Gazeta - Russia 

It may be about orphans today, but it all goes back to Sergei Magnitsky: His death in a Russian prison, after implicating top officials in a major tax fraud scheme, is widely regarded as a murder-cover-up in the West, and resulted in the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which targets Russian officials. Moscow has passed its own legislation in retaliation. The trouble is, the Dima Yakovlev Bill, named after a Russian boy who choked to death after his adoptive U.S. dad forgot him in a car, hurts Russian orphans more than it does Americans.

A year ago, in December 2012, the State Duma passed the so-called Dima Yakovlev Law. Or, as it is formally called, an amendments to the federal law “On Sanctions for Individuals Violating Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms of the Citizens of the Russian Federation.” These "fundamental rights and freedoms of Russian Federation citizens," seem to be that if they suddenly become orphans, they have the right to remain in one and not be taken in by a family, if that family has the wrong citizenship or residence.

[Editor’s Note: The Dima Yakovlev Law was passed as a consequence of the controversy over the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky was jailed in 2008 on charges of tax evasion and fraud, after he implicated senior Russian officials in a scheme to defraud the government, and died and was likely murdered awaiting trial. Magnitsky's colleagues say the charges against him were fabricated by investigators, whom Magnitsky had accused of being involved in the theft of $230 million of state funds. The U.S. Congress responded by passing the Magnitsky Act, which punishes Russian officials thought to be responsible for Magnitsky's death, by prohibiting their entrance into America and freezing their U.S. assets. In retaliation, Russian lawmakers passed the Dima Yakovlev Bill, named after a Russian boy who choked to death when his adoptive American father forgot him in a car. The bill seeks to prevent U.S. citizens from adopting Russian orphans, freezes the assets of Americans with assets in Russia deemed to have "violated the rights" of Russian citizens, and excludes them from the country].

When I speak and write about the Dima Yakovlev Law, I always have very complicated feelings, because I truly believe that our country has the potential to get by without international adoptions, and as a person who has worked for many years promoting the family unit, I know how much corruption is associated with foreign adoptions.

Corruption, needless to say, organized at the hands of our bureaucrats, and employees at agencies and services responsible for placing our children. Alas, not one person has been punished for corruption connected with the ban on American adoptions. All bureaucrats involved remain in place, climbing up the career ladder, and bearing no responsibility for anything.

For some reason, the children are the ones held responsible.

When I say we could cope with this ourselves, I am of course not referring to the current situation. Today, neither the system of state aid for children in distress, nor our legislation, nor our society, is prepared to take on the care of our own. We are free to take any position we like and refuse to allow foreigners to help in the name of patriotism, pride, or stupidity. When we are adults, when we decide for ourselves, and when it isn't a question of life and death - that's our business.

I dare say that for children living without a family, the chances of being taken in is a matter of life and death. The opportunity of a lifetime. A chance for personal development. Fully developing a personality within a system of collective care will never occur. The potential and opportunities a child would have had, had they not been brought up in an orphanage, we will never know. Life in an orphanage is to forever steal the life of a child. We can say as loudly as we want that we saved a child from death. But what would have happened had he grown up in his own family? We saved him from death, but didn't give him the chance to live. Then there is the big question of what we have saved him from. I know of many cases in which a child was in no way threatened in his own family, but was nevertheless taken away due to poverty, dirt, or the incompetence of parents - questions that could be resolved and are not questions of life or death to the child.

When I look at children in orphanages, or orphanages for the disabled, I see thousands of ruined futures. Each had a very real chance for salvation. The mother could have been helped or at least not been persuaded into giving up her child with Down's syndrome, on the justification that “he will grow up healthier.” There could have been less laziness and relatives in Irkustsk or Chita could have been found. We could have found a foster family. We could have found any family that would have made it possible for the child to live and develop, have a personality, to be themselves.

Not so for Ivanov or Sydrov, who have been praised for learning how to control and hide their loneliness, their yearning for their parents, and their character. They always do what they are told, sing traditional Russian songs in assembly, and smile politely at visiting sponsors. Nor for Polina from the [Holy Order of the] Sisters of Mercy, who has spent her entire life in one of 12 beds and who, every few months - joy! - goes on a trip because there is only one nanny for every 12 children.

And even the nanny goes home to her own children and her own family after work. But Polina remains, alone with nothing, and no one comes to her as they would to their own child.

A year has passed and according to publicly available data, there is information on 196 children who had already been matched with their potential American parents, but were not permitted to unite with them. Ninety five of them, despite the promises of our nation's leaders to find these children families in Russia (and therefore a challenging enterprise!), remained in orphanages at the end of the year. For them this year, like hundreds of thousands of other children, nothing at all has changed. Group upbringing, group breakfasts, group rooms in which children belonging to no one await an unknowable fate. Ninety five children who could already have been with a family for an entire year. That's a lot by any measure.

I believe that posturing in the international arena is not worth ruining the life of even a single child. The need for officials to somehow take responsibility for their statements has led to orphans becoming a hot topic, which is unprecedented. The media, lawmakers, governors, and ministries - all have, in one way or another, discussed the issue, and measures have been taken to support adoptions by Russians.

The discussion of why the problem remains unresolved despite multiple measures to support adoptive parents would take a long time. Generally speaking, they didn't work. There has been talk of a system of professional families. The sense is that bureaucrats are trying to find the Achilles' heel of orphanhood, instantly come up with a solution, and make everything right with the stroke of a pen. Unfortunately, abandonment, the "Achilles' heel of orphanhood," is due to the socio-economic structure of our society: the life of Russian families is all about survival.

This isn't easy to resolve. From what I've seen so far, the most useful is a draft resolution on reforming the network of institutions that care for orphans. It is called “The Regulation of the Placement of Children Without Parental Care Within Organizations For Child-Orphans.” True, for every step forward this reform takes, there are two steps back. I really hope ministry heads prove courageous enough to carry out these reforms. Then at least children will be able to live within the context of real family situations rather than impersonal anthills, and life in an orphanage will be considered a temporary situation for the child.

That would be something. A first step. Now we stand before the entire world, our system of adoption on display. We have attracted too much attention to ourselves. I hope this proves to be the long-awaited kickstart that finally allows us to make reforms we have put off for decades. Then we will be able to honestly say that we don't need foreign adoptions, because we no longer house children in orphanages.

*Elena Alshanskaya is president of Volunteers and Aid for Orphans CLICK HERE FOR RUSSIAN VERSION http://worldmeets.us/ http://worldmeets.us/gazetaru000040.shtml#.UswL0vvp7a8#ixzz2pipjihaR


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