Dima Yakovlev Bill, Russian Adoptions, and Dissolutions by Death

Many in the adoption community are discussing the December 28th Dima Yakovlev Bill or ban on Russian children adoptions by US citizens. Dima Yakovlev was the original name of a toddler Russian boy, adopted by US parents, who was left in a hot car in the summer months and died. The news has brought forth high emotions on social media and in the articles’ comments sections. The themes that are most common seem to be the following: the United States has many children needing homes, why go abroad? Adoptive parents (majority white) choose Russia to adopt same race, white children, and thus do not have to worry about cultural socialization, and finally, white adoptive parents do not want to adopt children in the US because they are of color and because first parents can still be involved. All of these are valid points but don’t address the current ban, it’s purpose, and motivation.

This ban, clearly retaliatory in nature, came after the US instituted Magnitsky Act. That law imposes asset freezes and visa restrictions on Russian officials linked to the death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail in 2009 and other alleged human rights abuses. Now Russia is reportedly outraged by abuses of Russian children that happened in the past decade and instituted this ban. This is incongruent at best and a downright fabrication at worst.

Last summer a group of adult adopted persons, self included, many of whom are founding members of the Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative (APRC) met with members of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) on Capital Hill to discuss many policy concerns. Among them was adoption dissolutions and disruptions and the fact that these largely go unmonitored.

Here is an excerpt of what I said:

I will take a moment to highlight the Dissolution by Deaths for internationally adopted children. We are grateful for the Forever Family Forever Dead tribute found on the Daily Bastardette blog. It acknowledges the over 18 Russian children who have died because of murder or gross negligence by their adoptive/forever parents. More recently we acknowledge the death of Hana Williams, an adoptee from Ethiopia, who was slowly starved and tortured to death at age 13 by her adoptive parents. Dissolutions by death or less drastic means are NOT monitored in a central database. Agencies are NOT held accountable for reporting dissolutions.

If these deaths were truly the motivation for this ban than Russian most certainly would not have entered into a new negotiation on international adoptions with the United States as recently as November 2012 and this ban would have been enacted years ago. Perhaps after Artyem was returned at age 7 by a US mother who reported that she no longer could parent him. What is outrageous is the timing of this ban and impact on Russian children in institutions.

Yesterday, on the President of Russia homepage, this post revealed new orders to establish policies that would encourage more inter country adoption and provide support for adoptive families. Vladimir Putin indicated that maybe the quality of life in Russia was not as good as elsewhere (meaning the USA) but questioned why they are sending their children to live abroad when they should be caring for them at home. Somewhere I read that he questioned their loss of national identity and culture. These also are valid points. Ones that are made frequently in the international adoption arena. My hope is that Russia is serious in its new policy mandates to care for its thousands of institutionalized children.