December 31, 2012

The Dec. 26 editorial “Orphans held hostage,” regarding American adoption of Russian children, missed the real tragedy. 

My wife and I adopted two children from different areas of Russia some time ago, and I served on the board of directors of an international adoption agency for years. I visited Russian orphanages, and I believe the children received excellent care. While they’re never as good as a home with a family, these are not depressing places to live. And while it is heartbreaking to lose a child you’ve started to bond with, Americans who adopt from Russia always run the risk of losing a child to a Russian family before the adoption is finalized. But the risk of losing a child at the last minute are higher when adopting in the United States, which is one reason so many families turn to international adoption.

The real tragedy is the life that Russian children face when they miss their window to be adopted. Russian adoption professionals will tell you that children who aren’t adopted by the age of 4 are unlikely to be. That means such children face life in an orphanage until age 16. Then, when they are released, the Russians don’t have the resources for an effective transition plan. These young people have an incomplete education, no family and no job skills. Often they have little choice but to enter a life of crime. The young men are recruited by organized criminals, and you can easily imagine what the young women often do to support themselves. 

Ken Sprinkle, Potomac