Did you happen to see this article on CNN (or any other major news site)?
Today Vladimir Putin signed a law banning all American adoptions from Russia. Banned. As in, it's over.
I first heard rumblings of this online, and even though everything you read online is always true, I had to dismiss this as merely frantic delayed adoptive family rumor. While I know that there have been tensions between Russia and the USA regarding adoptions (specifically since this incident), I honestly didn't believe that there would be a ban - A BAN - on Russian adoptions to the USA.
This is heartbreaking for me on a few levels. First, I am an adoptive parent. I know how hard the road of adoption can be. (For confirmation, please see all failed adoption posts from 2010...) It is not about the money - although there is a lot of money - it is about your heart for a child. Selfishly, I grieve for the other adoptive families who are now left either without any hope of bringing home a child or even worse, those who have been left in limbo - will they or will they not be allowed to complete their adoption of a child for whom they have already received a referral or in some cases even met?
That is my purely selfish reason. I get that it is selfish and I realize it even borders on the slightly arrogant.
Secondly, this ban doesn't seem to be about adoption at all. American sources believe it to be retaliation for the USA's legislation against Russian human rights violators. If this is true, it is the most shameful tit for tat I've ever witnessed.
But mainly, my heart is broken for the children.
The "stereotypical life" of an orphan child in Eastern Europe goes something like this. They are often born with physical or mental delays that are only made worse by life in an institutional setting. They receive little to no food, care, or nurture. They are neglected, perhaps even abused by overworked, understaffed caregivers. They are sentenced to a life behind drab walls and locked windows with little to no chance for independence or success. Those that age out of the orphanage find a lonely dangerous existence on the streets, which often times leads to a life of crime, addiction, or prostitution that tragically is cut short all too often by suicide. That's the stereotype.
Having been to and adopted from an Eastern European country, I bristle a bit at this stereotype for a few reasons. Why? Because just like every child is different, every child's life story is different and their individual story matters. This stereotype does (and should) pull at our conscience, but the assumptions well meaning people can make after hearing this stereotype can be wildly inaccurate (but that's a blog post for another day). I also want people to know what our experience was like in Latvia. We met amazing, dedicated people who sacrificed the majority of their personal life, time, and energy to love, help, and heal these children. The hardest working person I have ever met was our lawyer in Latvia. She is a former orphanage director who has dedicated her life to helping these children find families because families are where children belong. My daughter's foster family are the true heroes of her story. They brought her heart back to life after a difficult start in this world, and they are mentoring and teaching other foster families in their region how to do the same. While we were in Latvia for Alina, we attended a television fundraiser to raise money for physically disabled children to attend camps and to receive services that meant they didn't live life behind the drab walls of an institution. Ours is not the only story like this. The Lat Fams I know have mostly respect and gratitude for the people who cared for their children before we came. Is it perfect there? No. Do we still hear of children trapped in a generational cycle of hopelessness? Yes. Is this stereotype rooted in some painful, gut wrenching truths? Yes. And it is heartbreaking. We need to realize that the answer to this terrible crisis isn't only going to be found in the USA. It will be found in the changed hearts of all people.
The crux of all of this is the sentence in italics above...children belong in loving families. And this is the part that grieves my heart almost to despair about about this new Russian adoption ban. Until there is a major movement in the Russian culture and economy to take these children into their homes and families, I fear it will be a lot longer before we can claim the stereotypical life of an orphan has changed.
I pray that God will change the heart of all people toward His children. I pray that He will change the hearts of men to do His will. I pray He will make a way for families in process to be united with their children. I pray that He will comfort these children and families while He executes His perfect will. Today the only peace I can find is in knowing God is holding those precious children in the very palm of His hand.