U.S. has ‘deep con­cerns’ over ban

Adop­tions

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Con­tin­ued from A NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

or­phaned chil­dren, chil­dren left with­out parental care, and es­pe­cially chil­dren who are in a dis­ad­van­ta­geous sit­u­a­tion due to their health prob­lems.”

Putin brushed aside crit­i­cism that the law would deny some Rus­sian or­phans the chance for a much bet­ter life in the United States. In 2011, about 1,000 Rus­sian chil­dren were adopted to Amer­ica, more than to any other for­eign coun­try, but still a tiny num­ber given that nearly 120,000 chil­dren in Rus­sia are el­i­gi­ble for adop­tion.

“There are prob­a­bly many places in the world where liv­ing stan­dards are bet­ter than ours,” Putin said. “So what? Shall we send all chil­dren there, or move there our­selves?”

U.S. of­fi­cials have strongly crit­i­cized the mea­sure and urged the Rus­sian government not to en­mesh or­phaned chil­dren in pol­i­tics.

“We have re­peat­edly made clear, both in pri­vate and in pub­lic, our deep con­cerns about the bill passed by the Rus­sian Par­lia­ment,” said a State De­part­ment spokesman, Pa­trick Ven­trell. “Since 1992 Amer­i­can fam­i­lies have wel­comed more than 60,000 Rus­sian chil­dren into their homes, and it is mis­guided to link the fate of chil­dren to un­re­lated po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions.”

In­ter­nally, how­ever, Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have been en­gaged in a de­bate over how strongly to re­spond to the adop­tion ban, and how to as­sess the po­ten­tial im­pli­ca­tions for other as­pects of the coun­try’s re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia.

The United States, for in­stance, now re­lies heav­ily on over­land routes through Rus­sia to ship sup­plies to mil­i­tary units in Afghanistan, and has en­listed Rus­sia’s help in con­tain­ing Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram. The former Cold War ri­vals also have sharp dis­agree­ments, notably over the civil war in Syria.

And with the White House and Congress heav­ily fo­cused on the fis­cal de­bate in Washington, there seems to be lit­tle room for de­vel­op­ing a more force­ful re­sponse on the adop­tion is­sue.

The news led to shock and de­spair among the hun­dreds of Amer­i­can fam­i­lies wait­ing to adopt a Rus­sian child.

“I’m a lit­tle numb,” said Maria Drewin­sky, a mas- sage ther­a­pist from Sea Cliff, N.Y., who was in the fi­nal stages of adopt­ing Alyosha, 5. She has flown twice to visit him and speaks to him weekly on the tele­phone.

“We have clothes and a bed­room all set up for him, and we talk about him all the time as our son,” Drewin­sky said.

The bill that in­cludes the adop­tion ban was drafted in re­sponse to the Mag­nit­sky Act, a law signed by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ear­lier this month that will bar Rus­sian ci­ti­zens ac­cused of vi­o­lat­ing hu­man rights from trav­el­ing to the United States and from own­ing Amer­i­can real es­tate or other as­sets.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had op­posed the leg­is­la­tion, fear­ing diplo­matic re­tal­i­a­tion, but mem­bers of Congress were ea­ger to press Rus­sia over hu­man rights abuses and tied the bill to leg­is­la­tion that granted Rus­sia new sta­tus as a full trad­ing part­ner — a mea­sure that was re­quired by Rus­sia’s en­trance into the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion ear­lier this year.

Putin de­layed an­nounc­ing whether he would sign the adop­tion ban even as the lower house of Par­lia­ment, the State Duma, ap­proved it by a large mar­gin, fol­lowed by the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil, which backed it unan­i­mously. Like Obama, he can now say he is sim­ply sign­ing a bill with over­whelm­ing sup- port from the leg­isla­tive branch — though Putin holds far more sway over Rus­sian law­mak­ers than Obama does over Congress.

The adop­tion ban set off im­pas­sioned ide­o­log­i­cal de­bate here in Rus­sia. Crit­ics said the ban would most hurt or­phans al­ready suf­fer­ing in Rus­sia’s deeply trou­bled child wel­fare sys­tem. Sup­port­ers said Rus­sians should care for their own and pointed at spo­radic abuse cases in­volv­ing adopted Rus­sian chil­dren in the United States.

The re­sponse has been equally emo­tional in the United States, where three Rus­sian adoptees, in­clud­ing Tatyana McFad­den, 23, a medal­win­ning Par­a­lympics ath­lete who uses a wheel­chair, de­liv­ered a pe­ti­tion against the ban to the Rus­sian Em­bassy in Washington.

Mean­while, sup­port­ers of the ban in the United States said there were more than enough Amer­i­can chil­dren in need of adop­tion.

“The clo­sure of U.S. adop­tions from Rus­sia would be tragic and not in the best in­ter­est of the many thou­sands of chil­dren liv­ing in or­phan­ages or other in­sti­tu­tions,” said Les­lie Case, a spokes­woman for SpenceChapin Adop­tion Ser­vices in New York. “Hav­ing chil­dren spend more time in in­sti­tu­tions is detri­men­tal to their devel­op­ment.”

The ban is set to take ef­fect on Tues­day, and some se­nior of­fi­cials in Moscow said they ex­pected it to have the im­me­di­ate ef­fect of block­ing the de­par­ture of 46 chil­dren whose adop­tions by Amer­i­can par­ents were nearly com­pleted.

Adop­tion agency of­fi­cials in the United States who work reg­u­larly with Rus­sian or­phan­ages said they ex­pected the num­ber of fam­i­lies im­me­di­ately af­fected by the ban to be far larger, about 200 to 250 who have al­ready iden­ti­fied a child whom they plan to adopt.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin (right) speaks at a State Coun­cil meet­ing in Moscow as Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev looks on Thurs­day. Putin an­nounced that he will sign a con­tro­ver­sial bill ban­ning Amer­i­cans from adopt­ing Rus­sian chil­dren.

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