I don’t generally touch on political issues in this blog, but the unbridled cynicism of Vladmir Putin in banning US adoptions of children in Russian orphanages in order to get back at the US for taking steps to impose sanctions on Russian human rights offenders makes it hard to remain silent.
An article by Sharon Dilworth in The Tablet confirmed everything I had heard from acquaintances who had seen the inside of Russian orphanages:
It was early April of 1999, and the temperatures were unseasonably warm in the low 70s. Our driver parked near a small gated playground where there was a wooden slide, a seesaw, and an unpainted miniature merry-go-round. It was abandoned. We would later learn that the children were not taken outside because they did not have winter clothing. They played outdoors only in the summer months.
We were assured several times by our agency and by the social workers handling our case that the children were all getting the best care in this facility, though judging by the number of caretakers we saw we couldn’t imagine how this was possible.
On our limited tour of the orphanage, we saw two rooms where the children sat on the floor. There were no toys, no games, no music—nothing for the kids to do. They looked up at us but did not engage. They did not play with each other. These were children who had learned early that crying got them nothing, so they didn’t waste the energy. They were docile and obviously bored. On his first car ride our son stared at the trees outside the window, apparently fascinated because they appeared to be moving.
We were given our son’s daily schedule at the orphanage and noticed that he had a 15-minute massage every other day. “That’s when he’s touched,” the translator explained. His back was rubbed and his leg muscles stretched. This was to help his bones grow, the staff explained.
My husband and I were asked if we would like to feed our son and then chastised for our pace: One worker fed 15 children onion soup in a matter of minutes. She shoveled it into their mouths with such haste we were afraid they would choke. They ate the non-nutritious, watery soup twice a day.
There are those who say that conditions in orphanages in Russia have improved since the nineties; however, children who are fortunate enough to be adopted by families in the US undoubtedly – with some very rare exceptions – have an opportunity to be raised by loving families who will offer them physical and emotional advantages they simply wouldn’t have in a Russian orphanage.
The claim made by some Russian politicians that Russians can look after their own children doesn’t seem to be borne out by a reality check. An article by Joel Brinkley in World Affairs is both harsh and sobering; it explores “baby boxes” in Russia and elsewhere in Europe, where unwanted children can be dumped and then passed on to orphanages. So, it doesn’t appear that the Russian population is exactly clamouring for more children to nurture and raise.
Apparently there is a protest planned in Russia against the move; let’s hope that for the sake of the children, the forces of humanity and reason prevail.