Debunking Russia’s adoption myths

By October 6, 2011

Russia (MNN) — Remember the story of the American mother who sent her Russian adopted child back to Russia? Did that shape your mind at all about Russian adoption?

Or maybe you've heard other horror stories of emotionally-stunted children, or kids the orphanage says are healthy but turn out to have a physical disorder of some kind. Maybe you've dismissed Russian adoptions because they seem only to be for older kids.

Whatever negative myths and rumors you've heard, they're about to end.

Debbie Wynne works with Russian adoptions for Buckner International. She's heard the gamut of ideas people have about adopting from Russia, and she says most of them are untrue.

First, there's the idea that the majority of children available for adoption in Russia have some sort of special need. Some say that adopted children from Russia are either physically handicapped or emotionally stunted.

For one thing, Wynne says, "You can't generalize anything about health and emotional well-being to all children. It has to be about the individual child and their needs, and then the family's capacity of what child could they best be able to parent."

It's inevitable that some of Russia's 700,000 orphans have trauma in their pasts or some sort of physical defect. But parents are not randomly assigned children without knowing about these issues. In some nations, parents adopting internationally don't meet the child until after the adoption is filed, but in Russia, the system leaves an exceptional amount of room for parents to decide on who will be joining their family.

"Something that is positive about the Russian adoption system is that a multiple-trip system is required. In that first trip, the family actually gets to meet the child, ask additional questions, and talk to doctors. They can even get a second opinion with a doctor outside of an orphanage if the orphanage permits (which most times they do) before they make the decision to adopt the child," explains Wynne.

That's one myth debunked. Another common misconception is that Russia only has older children available for adoption. Although Russia does have many older children who have been waiting far too long for forever families, little ones are still out there.

"Actually, we have a little two-and-a-half-year-old boy right now that has been waiting, and we don't have a family for almost a year," notes Wynne. "I just can't believe that."

It's true that children under 12 months are often adopted domestically in Russia. But Buckner frequently has children from 12 months to 15 years waiting to be adopted. The sad truth is: now that Russia is improving domestic adoptions, kids waiting for international families are living on a prayer.

"These orphanages that work with the system know that international adoption is the last option for these children to be in a family. I think that's the urgent message that we want to share: once a child becomes available for international adoption, it's really their last hope to be in a family."

Finally, it's worth unveiling the idea that Russian adoptions take longer is untrue. In fact, Wynne says this year in particular, adoptions have been going extremely quickly and smoothly from Russia. Some families who started the process this time last year already have their new child at home with them.

The U.S.-Russia bilateral adoption agreement that was recently made will also ensure that the right kids are put with the right family on both the Russian side and the U.S. side. The agreement is unlikely to slow the process down any more than a month.

Rumors about Russian adoptions are hurting families who want children while also hurting orphans who are waiting much longer than necessary for a family. The need for Russian adoptions is high.

"We have more children be identified for adoption than we have families, and to us, that's really heart-breaking," notes Wynne.

If you want to know more about adopting a child from Russia through Buckner, visit Find pictures of the children currently in search of a family, and consider how God may want you to spread His name through adoption in Russia.

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