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Mariet FOSNES

RULES AND EXCEPTIONS

Sasha does not remember her parents. She only remembers her granny, and how she and granny cried when some people woke them up and took her, Sasha, away from her home. She was taken to an orphanage with a strange language; Kazakh in the region of Kazakhstan. As time passed, a family began to visit her. Those people spoke another strange language. Those visitors were her future family from America.

To meet adopted Russian children in America has been a major personal goal for me since I moved to the US. To learn their individual and common stories is explicable, because in Russia, international adoptions are spoken about badly or not acknowledged at all. I wanted to see for myself, rather than to hear from others, the true American experience of adopted children from my homeland. I did not have to look far to see these children; there are many young Americans with Slavic faces here. If Russians are still holding themselves on a pedestal as the most literate nation, Americans seem to be the most active nation for adopting children from every nation in the world. It catches your eye immediately. First, it is normal for Americans to have several children. Second, people here do not necessarily expect children to be the same color as their parents. White couples with African or Asian born children are not a rarity at all. When these parents are asked the question, why not to adopt local orphans, adoptive families respond almost the same: orphans in economically weak countries have less chance for the future. After the recent earthquake in Haiti, I remember a line of those who wanted to adopt children which lost their parents. I expected opinions like If we lived like Americans we would adopt too. I dare to object, not all adoptive parents here have Angelina Jolis income; far from that. And yet this is not what matters. As raising a child is more than a financial commitment, it is an expression of a familys will and determination to devote their emotional energy and love into the life of a new child brought into the family.

I came to meet these adopted children and their families at a traditional festival of the FRUA INC organization. The goal of FRUA INC is to support adoptive parents with advice, exchange experiences, and celebrate the cultures of the adopted children. Russian, Ukranian, and other Slavic holidays are shared in order to introduce and enhance Slavic culture for these adopted children who now reside so far from their homelands that many left as young school age children, toddlers, and even younger. At the entrance to hallroom of the event, guests were greeted by baba Martha, an American mother roleplaying in a Bulgarian dress. Next to her, a young girl in a Russian folk costume greeted me with bread-and-salt. My attention was drawn to Russian music and a long table line of Russian and Slavic foods arranged in buffet line for the guests. Along two long walls of this large hall were lines of connected tables with standing posters, books, national costumes, and regional symbols with writing done in the languages of those countries from which the children had been adopted.

My wish to be there and write about the event was not approved at once: Sharon Kiddle, the president of the organization passed on my request to the crowd of familes, addressing the room with a microphone. Families were encouraged to share their stories with me as they desired. As I visited and interviewed people sitting family style at round tables in the hall, I was openly accepted and parents were glad to share their experiences. There was not one objection. Interestingly, this openness did not mean that all of the stories were simple, happy tales. I was touched by the genuine care these parents had for all of their children which included many special needs related learning disabilities, as well as even more serious issues related to biological and psychological effects incurred via compromised health in pregnancy and diminished initial care leading to problems like abandonment syndrome and other emerging dilemmas. In spite of these difficulties, I was impressed at the consistent care and resolve by these parents to effect development in their children and families including the use of professional assessments and therapies to promote wellness in the growing lives of their adopted children.
 

In the USA, as well as in many other countries, single people are not allowed to adopt local orphans, therefore I went to Russia to get a daughter, says Shauna McGuinn, hugging her eight year-old Madigan.
 


Shauna McGuinn with Madigan

Michael and Molly Foster do not have biological children. A Buryat boy, Dima, has been brought by them from Russia. They have also adopted a daughter from China. Looking at them, I thought that adoption of foreign children must have its peculiarities. When I asked the Fosters for their opinion, Michael answered, When you take a resposibility for a child from a different culture, you get interested in the nation the child comes from. I think we would never learn as much about Russia and China if it was not for our kids. Molly Foster went on to say, Dima was sick when we arrived to meet him at the orphanage. He had dysentery and a bad cold. In fact, Dimas life began in an orphanage and he didnt get as much care as he could get in a family. After getting in the family he recovered. Dima has some problems with learning, but the Fosters understand that any child can have this kind of problems.


Michael and Molly Foster with their kids

 

The Langhans had two children of their own when they decided to adopt a child from Russia. But it turned out to be impossible, because Svetlana Langhans was not an American citizen. She told me, We wanted to adopt a child from St.Petersburg where I am from originally. But when we were refused, we had to head for Kiev. In the Ukraine, adoption is allowed by American parents if one parent is a US citizen. Thus, my husbands American citizenship allowed us to proceed. By that time we realized that it didnt matter where the child was from. There are so many orphans in both Russia and the Ukraine, and we were glad to make at least one of them happy in our family, says Svetlana. Their mission continued. After they had brought their adopted daughter home Svetlana became pregnant. The Langhans now have four children and they plan to adopt one more.


Russian Sahsa is happy with her American Mom

 

Your Mummy is beautiful, isnt she? I asked Benjamin who was sitting on the lap of Susan, his mother. Which Mummy do you mean? I dont remember my other Mummy, replied the four-year old whose answer took me by surprise. Susan Carollo told me about how her husband had been adopted by Italians as a young boy. His grandmother was Russian, thus the Carollos looked for a Russian boy and adopted Benjamin from Moscow.

While the children were playing on the stage the parents got acquainted and shared their stories. Then a piano music was heard and an older American, who was a large and jovial grandfather kind of man, reviewed a simple childrens song naming the parts of the body in Russisan language and text. Song sheets were shared and the children sang and laughed through the lyrics in broken Russian. Those who didnt know the words glanced up and down at the songsheets. I watched one child writing on her paper in English and there appeared I love Russia.


Children making gifts for orphans from Russia

I watched the children and thought, if a military conflict happens between Russia and America, these children will not participate because both countries are their homelands. I hope that they will never have to make a choice of this kind.

After reviewing Russian media reporting cruelty of American adoptive families, I was ready to see children having consequences of too much control or conversely, apathy, but I didnt notice anything of the kind. On the contrary, these were children spoiled in a good sense.

Sharon Kiddle expressed her point of view related to her broad exposure to adoption of foreign children by American families. Sadly, there are children who suffer from cruel treatment of adoptive parents, yet the majority of children get into good families. According to multiple statistical reports, 15 to 17 Russian children died due to abusive or negligent care during the last 15 years in American families. It is reprehensible and demands increased control of international adoption procedures. Compounding these difficult reports is more statistical data on adopted Russian children dying in Russian families. The reported cases average from 9 to 15 children dying each year in Russian adoptive families. It is not fair to blame only the families; Russian or American. Note that the physiological ability for conceiving does not necessarily mean the ability to live in a family or care for children. Nor does the wish to adopt a child always mean that parents are ready to raise that child. Therefore, adoption applicants should be well-informed about realities and costs of this important decision. It is known that not all adoptive parents have use licensed, legal, or registered agencies. In order to simplify the process, foreigners accept help from nonregulated, and possibly untrustworthy individuals or agencies who are not necessarily concerned about the future life of the child. Even worse, corruption is common in the adoption system. These problems are the major reason for the difficult outcomes in adoptions of Russian children. Forbidding all Americans from adopting Russian children makes no more sense than forbiding all women from giving birth because one desperate mother may toss her baby into the garbage. There are opinions that Russian children will be happier in their home country including the orphanage, even with the probability of jail in the future, but still live at home because adoptive parents cant love as much as biological ones. I did not believe this argument before my involvement with adoptive families. The exposure I have experienced confirms the positive lives of adopted Russian children in American families beyond my expectations. In conclusion, if Russian children had been loved in their native country, they would have a place to go after the orphanage or not have been abandoned in the first place by their biological parents. Furthermore, the business of orphanages and adoption would be less vulnerable to corruption.

Sasha doesnt remember her parents. Nor does she remember her native langauge. She takes private classes learning Russian as she dreams of traveling to Russia together with her American parents to find her Russian mama and hopefully visit with her, if her birth mother agrees.

 Kirkland, USA

It Is Published: April 2011

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