Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ranch Becomes Focus for Russian Adoption Outrage

I posted before a report from Russian media about Children's Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov's reaction to a Montana ranch where Russian adoptees are sometimes sent by American adoptive parents, and now ABC News reports on the reaction from the ranch's owner Joyce Sterkel:
On one side of the gate stood a group of Russian government officials with a Moscow television crew in tow, demanding entry into the ranch that one of them had called "a trash can for unwanted children."

On the other side, indoors and away from the camera, were Joyce Sterkel and the 25 adopted children under her care at the Ranch For Kids in remote northwestern Montana.

In the decade that the ranch for troubled adopted children from foreign countries has operated, it has been lauded by parents, advocates and the press as a refuge for adoptive parents to bring their children when they have nowhere else to go. But on June 28, some of the outrage and suspicion that Russians have toward U.S. adoptions of their children landed on its doorstep.

At Sterkel's gate were Russian children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov and human rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov. Astakhov claimed in comments carried by the news agency RIA Novosti that the children at Sterkel's ranch near the Canadian border were completely isolated from the outside world and questioned whether they were getting the necessary care or treatment.

Sterkel, who bristles at Astakhov's claims and says he is wrong on every count, suspected she was being set up for a made-for TV confrontation for political gain in Russia. She decided that they wouldn't step foot on her property without State Department officials, parental permission and an independent film crew on hand to document the visit.

Russian children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov claims the Ranch For Kids is a place for American parents to cast off their adopted children, and that the children receive substandard education and health care and lack security. As a bilateral adoption agreement between the U.S. and Russia makes its way through the ratification process, Sterkel is concerned that Astakhov will try to shut the ranch down.

Dolgov spoke of the Montana visit in July 5 comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

"We regret that we have been denied access. For all our respect for American law we think there are channels which must allow Russian officials to visit Russian citizens. All of these children are Russian citizens," he said.

Sterkel said she is concerned that they will try to make good on their promise to try again after a bilateral adoption agreement between the U.S. and Russia wends its way through the ratification process.

"This is a test case. This is to test the integrity of the bilateral agreement to see if they have the muscle to come onto American soil and push their way in," Sterkel said. "I think they want to see if they really can come in and visit children without parental consent."


Leah said...

So Russia maintains hellish institutions that cause massive psychological damage to the orphaned children in their "care", and then blames the adoptive parents for not being able to magically cure (with ~love~ of course) the extreme, dangerous behaviors of their mentally ill children? What did they expect, exactly?! Adoption = TRAUMA. Some children are too severely traumatized to life safely in a family. Let me stress that this is the minority of adopted children, on the far end of the attachment disorder spectrum. But what else are these parents supposed to do? Where are they supposed to turn? Mental health resources for children and adolescents (never mind mental health resources specializing in adoption trauma) are few and far between -- not to mention prohibitively expensive and often not covered by insurance.

These parents did not ship their kids back to Russia on a one-way ticket. They're trying to get their kids desperately-needed help. The Russian officials should be focusing on why these Russian children need so much help in the first place. Hint: being confined to a crib in an understaffed orphanage with zero stimulation for the formative months and years of their lives might have something to do with it! Being prenatally abused by drugs and alcohol probably didn't help either. And then being given to naive, woefully unprepared foreigners and shipped halfway around the world? Really, how could this turn out well?!

As usual in cases like this, my sympathies are entirely with the poor kids who have been failed so badly so many times. I hope they are able to heal...but I know it isn't likely.

Truly Blessed said...

I agree with Lzzz.

Better than storming the gates of this Montana ranch, why don't these Russian officials pay a surprise visit to one, two or a dozen of their own orphanages? There, they might see the first effects of institutionalization, the lack of care and lack of stimulation that can prevent some children from ever bonding or attaching to another person. And after they have witnessed some of the atrocities that I have seen (full disclosure: just on videotape, not in person), maybe they will begin to understand why some of their children are so damaged that they do not do well in families who desperately try and want to parent them.

And then allow them into the gates of this Montana ranch where these troubled children live, and some of these children thrive.

Poor, poor children.

-J.D. Humenay said...

Gotta love the irony... they are being accused of having poor security- yet the film crew couldn't get on property. Doesn't sound like poor security to me.