Wednesday, May 2, 2012

International Adoption: The American Dream?

That's the title of an lengthy article in the St. Petersburg Times, addressing adoption in and from Russia, though it's a a bit opaque in figuring the connection between the headline and the main point (if any!) of the article:
When American Denise Wesolowski found out that she could not have her own biological children, she was upset, but years after learning the news, she said she was “glad it worked out that way.”

“That’s because now we have our Anna!” Wesolowski told The St. Petersburg Times.

Back in 1993, Wesolowski and her husband turned to Russia to adopt a child.

* * *

According to official statistics from Russia’s Ministry of Education and Science, during the past 12 years, more than 45,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans. Thousands more have been adopted by Spanish, Italian, German, French and other families. Taking into account the uncontrolled statistics of foreign adoption in the 1990s, the figures then will have been two or three times higher, experts say.

In recent years, Russia, along with China and Ethiopia, has become one of the top countries from which Americans adopt children.

However, Russia is now becoming a trickier option for foreigners wishing to adopt, as Russian authorities are trying to significantly decrease the number of Russian children adopted and taken abroad for a number of reasons.

In March of this year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for the minimization of foreign adoption in Russia.

* * *

However, Svetlana Agapitova, the children’s ombudsman for St. Petersburg, said that the Russian authorities do not intend to completely freeze foreign adoption.

“The idea is to create a situation in which only accredited and reliable adoption agencies can set up and manage adoptions,” said Agapitova. “They would monitor the adopted child’s life and well-being. There are currently many agencies that don’t have the required status. That is why Russia is now working on certain agreements with other countries regarding the matter,” she explained.

Agapitova said it is impossible for Russia to ban foreign adoption.

“First of all, there is no line of Russian adoptive parents waiting to adopt that would allow for all Russian orphans to find a home,” said Marina Levina, president of the St. Petersburg Roditelsky Most (Parents’ Bridge) charity organization.

* * *

A few years ago, the Wesolowskis decided to try and get in touch with Anna’s Russian family. Lidia, Anna’s birth mother, was very happy to finally learn what happened to her child. Back in the 1990s Lidia, who already had three older children, gave Anna up for foreign adoption when she realized that she wouldn’t be able to provide her newborn daughter, who was deaf, with proper medical care.

* * *

“I truly hope that the Russian authorities keep adoptions open to Americans,” Wesolowski said.

“The help that Anna got from living in the United States was a true miracle. What would her life be like if she had never been adopted?” Wesolowski asked. “She would live with her parents in their apartment and have no access to the hearing world. She would not have learned to speak or lip-read or even be able to go to school. By hearing the success stories of the children adopted from Russia, how could they not want children to have a better way of life?” she said.
I suppose that last part is the "American Dream" part of the article.

I find it's' pretty typical for adoptive parents to play these kinds of "what if" scenarios, imagining that their children would have died, or suffered, or had a terrible life, if they had not adopted them.  Maybe it's true, BUT WE DON'T KNOW! We can NEVER know.  And the more we play that "what if" game, the more we start thinking of ourselves as saviors.  And the more we're asking our children to be grateful. . . .

What's a bit strange about this particular "what if" story is that the adoptive parent is imagining what would have happened if the child had never been placed for adoption; usually it's a "what if" they had languished forever in an orphanage. Here, the adoptive parent speculates on how terrible the child's life would have been if she had remained with her biological parents.

In addition to that WE DON'T KNOW part, it's pretty judgmental and condescending toward those parents, assuming that they would not do the best to take advantage of whatever resources they did have if they had decided to parent.  It's also, in most cases,  pretty ignorant toward a culture we know nothing about, and based on provincial assumptions about the superiority of our own country and culture. Is it any wonder that the phrase "ugly American" has entered language worldwide?!

1 comment: said...

I don't know any adoptive parents who think they saved thier child. I am sure they exist but I have yet to meet them. I don't expect my daughter to be grateful that we adopted her. I am grateful that we were allowed to adopt her. She was adopted from China as a special needs adoption (I don't like that term). I know that in China unless her parents could afford to pay for medical care she was most likely not going to get it which is most likely the reason she was abandoned. I do not think one country is superior to another but I know that had she been born in the United States it is much less likely her parents would have to make the decision - abandon her so she gets care or keep her and she may not live.