Compass: Politics keeps Russian children from loving homes

By SUSAN BOMALASKIDecember 31, 2012 

Susan Bomalaski is executive director of Catholic Social Services Alaska.

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I was distraught to learn about the measure approved by the Russian Parliament and signed into law by President Putin banning Americans from adopting children from Russia. About 25 percent of the adoptions that Catholic Social Services (CSS) facilitates through our international adoption program are from Russia.

His ruling will have a severe negative impact on several local families that are currently matched or waiting to be matched with a child from Russia and on the hundreds of Russian children who are living in dismal conditions in institutions instead of loving, stable homes.

More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted in the United States in the past 20 years, and there are about 740,000 children without parental care in Russia today, according to USA Today and UNICEF.

CSS provides adoption pre-placement counseling, home study services and post-placement services for Alaska families adopting from outside the United States and acts as the liaison between the placing adoption agency and the adopting family. We have cooperating agreements with many placing adoption agencies (usually operating outside of Alaska) throughout the United States who work directly with the foreign country. In addition, CSS assists adopting families in accessing local adoption resources and in navigating the filing of pertinent documents with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

I have followed the negative high-profile stories involving children adopted from Russia by American families that have been in the news the past few years and often think about how complex human relationships are. Adoption adds another layer of intense emotion. International adoption by itself is complicated but added to that is the fact that our society lacks a structure to support positive parenting for families who have adopted older children.

Child development studies have shown how critically important the first five years of life are to emotional, social and physical development. Unfortunately in international adoption the living conditions experienced by the child as an infant may not have been optimal. As a result, there may be long-term effects on the child's mental, emotional and behavioral condition. Being raised in an orphanage is just not best for a child.

Adoption is a life-changing experience for all parties involved. The opportunity that a successful international adoption provides for children who are currently living in orphanages is truly profound. As stated by a representative of the U.S. State Department, "It is misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations."

As a nation and as a world we must realize that the best interests of children should be put before politics.

Susan Bomalaski is executive director of Catholic Social Services of Alaska.

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