Mommy Wars: Media sensationalism at its best

If you are waiting parent you are likely like me. You have a google notifier set up to send you an email the second a new story about Russian adoption is thrown into the media circus. I was once you. I checked religiously to see if new information was posted that would get me closer to my child. I spent countless hours every day hunting down as much information as possible on reaccreditation and the state of Russian adoption. I ignored my family. I neglected my friends. I became a hermit hiding in my home staring at my computer screen. I read things like, “let’s create a letter writing campaign to make those Russians give us our children.” “Those children are just wasting away in those orphanages.” “The Russians don’t care about the kids, look! there are 750,000 of them!” “Grab your pitchforks and clubs and let’s all whip ourselves into a media fed panic and criticize another country on their politics. After all we’re Americans and Americans are the best.”

Day after week after month. Websites, newspapers, blogs, forums… they all said the same thing. I quietly sat in my house, bitched on my blog, but did nothing. I didn’t respond to the accusations. I didn’t participate in any letter writing campaigns. I simply drunk myself into a stupor waited. 2 years later I am a mom.

Today’s article in USA today is American media sensationalism at its best. (I would link it, but my Windows clipboard is dumb and I am lazy.) Today the accreditation of the last two agencies expired. It is an unfortunate circumstance. However, I don’t believe the Russians are doing this simply out of spite. I don’t believe they are deliberately closing the door on Americans adopting their children. And the operative word in that sentence is their.

Russians have a responsibility to their own children. Just as Americans have a responsibility to American children. Russia has done some things in the past 6 months to aid their children. They are making the process more difficult, sure, but they are doing so with the interest of orphaned children at heart. Can you imagine the outrage of the American people if foreigners adopted American children and we turned around and heard media reports of abuse and deaths? I can tell you it would be 1000 times worse than the sentiment in Russia.

In recent months Russian officials have tightened the scrutiny of PAPs. They are requiring additional paperwork, medical exams and additional waits. All of this is to make sure those adopting really want to do so. I am here to tell you from first hand experience you really have to want to adopt from Russia to make it out with your sanity.

The Russian government is also requiring more of the agencies who place children. From what I understand there are additional post placement reports required, agencies now must have NGO (non-governmental organization) status, and they have to submit additional paperwork for the accreditation.

All of this truly is in the best interest of the children. Russians are making sure they are placing children into the hands of 1) parents who are truly want a child and know how to care for a child and 2) by agencies who are reputable.

The additional obstacles that PAPs face, the monetary incentives, are also in the best interest of Russian children. They are working toward a foster care program. It is new in their country. And the incentive program isn’t, “adopt a kid and get ten-grand.” The money is in the form of vouchers and not given to the family until 3 year after placement. Similarly, the vouchers are only good for certain services such as housing and schooling. All “monies” paid go to improve the life of the child.

Now I see a lynch mob forming outside my window for supporting such ideals, but remember I’ve been there. I’ve waited for accreditation. I’ve lost a child to a Russian family. I’ve traveled 3 times. I’ve had heartbreak. But I survived. And after all that I’ve been through I still support all this. I believe agencies should be accredited. I don’t believe agencies should be able to work out special deals with the regions and continue to work. I believe accreditations should be suspended for agencies who don’t follow the laws. I don’t believe agencies should be allowed to pay “special fees” and get special privileges. And don’t say that doesn’t happen because we all know it does.

I will say that there are some regions that the children are severely lacking. I can say, however, that in my son’s orphanage they did the best that they could with the resources they had. I had no problem with the care he received and did not worry about his health or safety at all in the months we waited for him. The same was true for Alexander.

Hate me if you like. Disagree if you must. On this subject I won’t change my views.

Now go and buy some chocolates. You only have 2 days left!

14 Comment

  1. I hate that no US agencies are accredited now. I think it’s taking longer than needed and I think there are political motivations in Russia that extend beyond the welfare of the kids. (Think George Bush and gay marriage — hot button topics that can sway a public during election times.)

    But that article in USA today was crap. Saying Russia is “effectively closing it’s doors” was so inappropriate. This has been coming, everyone knew it, and there’s no reason to sensationalize it. Those are the articles that do more damage than good.

  2. M- says: Reply

    Elle, amen! Russia was very good to me, the first time I adopted. It was easy and quick (7 months from signing of paperwork to having my son home). This time, sure its more difficult, but, as you say, they are THEIR children, until the day my adoption decree is granted. And then they are still Russian citizens. My region took darn good care of my son, with the very little resources they had. I can’t fault them for being rural and poor.
    Now, the American media is a totally different story. Perhaps, they need to look at the circus they create, and the histeria that follows. They make me crazy (not that I needed any help)! I don’t pay attention to any of it. I figure when my agency tells me I need to switch to a different country, I’ll start paying more attention.

  3. Susan says: Reply

    Well said, Elle!! The Russians have recognized they have a tremendous problem with so many orphaned children, and they are doing something in order to hopefully provide homes for these children in THEIR country!! They do a lot of things right….. like continue to make parents pay child support AFTER their parental rights have been terminated. I know for our boys, even though they came from a very poor, economically depressed area, they were VERY WELL cared for!! I never worried it they were OK or not, while we were waiting for our court date. The caregivers were so loving and nurturing to them…..I knew they were as happy as they could be for those circumstances! I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate your comments!

  4. I think as a card carrying member of America I am easily swayed to believing that WE ARE THE BEST!!! But guess what- this isn’t a football game and my “team spirit” has certainly changed since having such a close and in my case devastating look at adoption. It is natural I suppose to have allegance and pride in your country but as far as I am concerned our governments ALL OF THEM -America included- are lying, narcistic, con jobs who are out for the good of their pocket books!!!
    If adoptions have slowed I am left believing it is for the eventual good of the Putin pocketbook… slow now, more expensive later! Call me jaded, but thats how I see it. Add to that mix a little “kick in the butt” to the big headed Americans- we will show them who has the power!!! and WALA you have international adoption!!!
    I am sorry for the families, sick at the ridiculous, never ending, red tape, and tired of the drama.

  5. Lauri says: Reply

    Good Post Elle…. anyone who is in the loop knows what that article really means.. no agencies have accredidations right now… and the changes in place should in the long run benefit the children.

    I do believe that the Russian people want what’s best for the children but its really hard not to see the poltical stuff .Its hard to have been there and hear what the majority really think about americans adopting from Russia.

  6. Janet says: Reply

    I knew when I read the news yesterday, it was a very bleak day for many that are adopting from Russia. My daughter and son-in-law adopted recently from Russia. I know how this type of news affected all of us.

    This is an extremely difficult journey. It is a journey that leaves tears along the way. At the end though, it is lots of joy and laughter.

    I’ve always supported anything the Russian government does to try to keep their children safe. Even when it meant waiting for an indefinite amount of time. It doesn’t mean I waited through it without feeling the discouragement.
    But even with all the tears and heartache, it was worth it.

  7. I agree I so dislike all the sensationalism…ugh don’t even like to read it anymore and actually stopped reading while we were in the process:( I believe, the people closest to the orphans really want what is best for them caretakers,socialworkers, directors even judges,now most of the political leaders I don’t believe all of them really have the children’s best interest in mind and that is so sad. Our agency mentioned these individuals making these decisions have most likely never stepped foot in an orphanage, so sad maybe if they saw the conditions and heard the happy ending adoption stories but unforunately with our media and theirs the happy endings are rarely publicized. I will forever be grateful to Russia for our precious daughters and hold no bitterness towards them our government isn’t much better:( I definately don’t think we are superior to them just some differing views. I do hope in the end this is resolved and these children find loving homes either in Russia or here.

  8. Janet says: Reply

    Elli, where did you find your information on Russia implementing a voucher system? I would like to read that article.


  9. Carla says: Reply

    As someone waiting for a China adoption (with a projected wait of 24 MORE months), I’m well aware of how the media sensationalizes information about IA. We just went through that with the new rules that have come out. I know of one instance where an adopted child from China was killed through abuse, but I think that combined with all the news about the children from Russia are what have caused great concern in other countries about IA period.

  10. Certainly the media twisted that story. However, I don’t see how it could be in the best interest of children to have to wait in orphanages for two years to be adopted when given up at birth. That can not be in the child’s best interest. However, I agree that the Russians believe they are doing what is best for their children. Part of the problem is the cultural difference between U.S. and Russia. Because of this there is a lot of redundancy and paperwork that doesn’t make sense. I do not fault the Russians. Like I said I think they are doing what they think is best. I just don’t think it is. I think the whole thing could be streamlined and the protections tighter. Things that don’t matter (like when we were forced to move into a bigger house when our original house was just fine) can go and things that do matter (like post placement reports) can be enforced better. Just my two cents.

  11. Tricia says: Reply

    I totally agree with your post, and I’m in the waiting stages. I wouldn’t want to adopt our children unless they were given the full opportunity to stay with their birthparents (if that was in their best interest), or within their own country. I think what Russia is trying to do is in the children’s best interest… That said, I think it could be done faster, but that’s just because of what I am used to in America. It took me a very long time to get used to “waiting” for things when I lived in the UK in the 90s…and we are talking about Russia here… we are just very spoiled here!!!

  12. DebiP says: Reply

    Elle…speaks ….and speaks well…thanks you Elle

  13. good post! Luckily, I am in the pre-paperchasing stage (aka haven’t started officially), so waiting for accreditation doesn’t effect me yet. I’m hoping and assuming it will be completed by the time it does effect me. I agree with you, though. It is not for Americans to say how the adoption system in another country should be run. They need to do what is best for them. The voucher system makes sense to me – it sounds better than a lot of the wacky welfare systems set up in the good ole USA. I don’t know much about agencies getting special treatment for special fees or not following laws – unless you’re talking about the umbrella thing or the Adoption scams. However, I’d like to know more about what you are talking about (privately) so I can avoid potential future issues.

  14. Debbie says: Reply

    I totally agree with you. And I’m waiting. I’ve finally found some patience in this wait, who knows about my future waits.
    But one of the reasons we are with our agency is because I know they do things by the book. They won’t do what is not allowed and I appreciate that. I don’t want us to hinder anyone in the future bringing their children home.
    I agree that any agency that breaks the rules should lose their accreditation. If that’s what it takes for people to obey the rules then so be it. They shouldn’t make all of us pay for their mistakes.
    Very good post. I always enjoy hearing your point of view on this.

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