Russia (MNN) — In a tit-for-tat move, Russian officials recently put forth legislation banning U.S. adoption. The proposed prohibition comes in direct response to a new U.S. law: the Magnitsky Act.
Sergei Magnitsky was a lawyer who alerted Russian authorities in 2009 to a massive tax scam by top officials. Instead of looking into Manitsky's claims, police arrested the lawyer and held him in a maximum-security pretrial detention center. Reportedly suffering from pancreatitis, Magnitsky was repeatedly denied medical attention while in the center; he died within a year.
The U.S. bill carrying Magnitsky's name was signed into law on Friday and imposes a visa ban and financial sanctions on Russian officials tied to Magnitsky's case. On its heels came the Russian Dima Yakolev Bill.
This bill is named after a 21-month old Russian boy whose American adoptive father left him alone in a car for nine hours; a U.S. court charged the father with involuntary manslaughter. Yakolev is one of 19 adopted Russian children, lawmakers allege, who have died in the U.S. since the early 1990s.
Mike Douris with Orphan Outreach says an amendment to this law will be considered by Russia's Duma at 9 a.m. today and would call for an outright ban on adoption of Russian children by American citizens.
"It's going to have a significant impact on the kids in Russia," Douris says. He recently returned from Russia where he visited one of the ministry's orphanages and met a 9-year-old boy.
"He walked away and then about 3 minutes later came back," Douris recalls. "Through the interpreter, he asked, 'Can you find me a family?'"
If this new amendment is passed, granting that request would become impossible–not only for the boy Douris met, but for approximately 4 million Russian orphans as well.
"It just breaks your heart to know that what these kids want most is a family," says Douris.
Sadly, of the 730,000 children living in orphanages across Russia, 84% of them are never adopted by national or international families. When they leave the system at age 17 or 18, they don't face a brighter future.
The CoMission for Children at Risk says that of the 15,000 Russian orphans who graduate from orphanages each year, 10% commit suicide, 40% get involved in organized crime, and 40% fall into drugs. Half of the girls are trafficked into the sex trade.
"The most hope that we can provide for these kids is a family," says Douris. "Whether that be a foster family in Russia or adoption in the U.S., that's what they want, and that's the best environment for them to be in."
The Duma will give a "yes" or "no" today on the adoption ban.
"We just need to pray that cooler heads will prevail, that the advocates for adoption within the Duma will make an impact, and they will not be able to pass this legislation," says Douris.