Russia is one of the most popular countries for U.S. adoptions

December 27, 2012

Shortly after announcing that he supports a bill that would prevent Americans from adopting Russian children, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the prospect of a better life in America shouldn't be a reason to send Russian children overseas.

"Probably there are quite a lot of places in the world where living standards are somewhat better than we have. And so what? Will we send all our children there? Perhaps we will move there ourselves?" Putin said at a State Council session at the Kremlin on Thursday, according to the Interfax news agency.

The ban, if implemented, would have a severe impact on U.S. families seeking an international adoption. Russia is one of the most popular countries for U.S.-based adoptions, with 970 last year, as the percentage of children who are designated orphans there is four to five times higher than in Europe or the United States. It's interesting to note that most of those children -- up to 80 percent -- are so-called "social orphans." They actually have parents, but, for reasons ranging from alcoholism to limited resources for coping with disabilities, their parents have turned them over to state care.

However, China is still the most popular country for U.S. adoptions. More than 2,500 Chinese children were adopted by Americans last year, in part because the Beijing government's one-child policy has inadvertently encouraged couples to abort or abandon baby girls in large numbers. China is also one of the easiest countries for international adoptions, according to a CNN report: The process takes about two years and costs between $19,000 and $23,000. (The cost is about $50,000 for Russia.)

Ethiopia is also a prime source country, with 1,727 adoptions to the United States last year out of a population of just 84,734,262. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year on the country's "adoption boom," which has occurred in part thanks to "loose controls that make it one of the fastest places to adopt a child." Unfortunately, that's come with reports of reluctant, impoverished birth parents being defrauded by middlemen seeking a cut of the adoption fees.

In Russia, officials seemed to expand their anti-adoption mission this week beyond their immediate conflict with the U.S. government, with children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov saying the country might shut down all orphanages in Russia within five to seven years, leaving only specialized institutions. Putin also pledged to issue another decree that would offer greater support for orphaned children inside Russia.

"It is certainly necessary to support proposals that everything needs to be done inside our own country in order to give all of our children, including those left without parental care or orphaned children, a worthy future," Putin said.

 

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Olga Khazan · December 27, 2012