Russia and the United States have resumed the talks on the adoption of Russian orphans by American families, which were suspended after a US woman sent an eight-year-old adopted orphan Artyom on a one-way flight back to Moscow.
Russia has not prohibited international adoption, but suspended the process until it signs a separate agreement with the United States. The critical talks will be held on May 12.
International adoption is an old and painful problem dating back to 1990, when the first Russian orphans were adopted into American families. Russians did not have a uniform attitude to it, with the number of advocates of foreign adoption growing to an all-time high in 1990-1992, when Russia was in the grips of an economic crisis and every American looked like a millionaire because of the dollar's high exchange rate.
The situation has changed since then, with a "patriotic" view of the problem gaining momentum. However, most Russians are unwilling to take an extreme position on so delicate an issue.
The uncontrolled issue of permissions to foreigners wishing to adopt Russian children because "they will be better off abroad, one way or another" does not take into account the right of children to be brought up in a healthy family. Life in a family is better than in an orphanage on all counts. But living in a family of sadists or being sent back to an orphanage after you have become accustomed to living in a family is much worse.
The Russian and the American delegations seem to agree on that issue. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Michael Kirby, head of the US delegation, said: "We agree we want to do the best for the children."
But the question is how to help adoptive families become real families.
The main opponents of international adoption say that Russian children must be adopted by Russian families. That is a good principle, but there are very many children in Russia who are either orphans or who do not live with their biological parents, which is one major argument in favor of international adoption.
Yelena Mizulina, chair of the parliamentary committee on the family, women and children, said there are 697,000 such children in Russia, more than were left in that position during WWII.
So it would seem reasonable to allow both national and international adoption, especially since Russian families have been adopting more children than foreign families since 2004-2005.
Russian authorities have approved a policy of ensuring that each orphan gets a family. Vladimir Putin formulated it in 2006, when he was president of Russia. It was decided that Russian families that adopt children will be given $200-$300 a month, which is a large sum in the Russian provinces.
The current Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, who is fighting the commercialization of this noble project, has proposed strengthening public regulation of the process.
Regulation is a good thing, but the main goal should be helping adoptive families, including by providing consultations and priority access to kindergartens and other state services.
This is exactly what the Russian adoptive families need. Unfortunately, the temporary suspension of the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans came at a time when more Russian families returned their adopted children to orphanages.
"Over the last two years, [Russian] adoptive families returned about 30,000 children to orphanages," Mizulina told RIA Novosti.
Many Russian families are unable to cope with problem children, while Americans have been temporarily prohibited from adopting Russian children. Against this background, the story of Artyom, although shocking, seems to be an exception rather than the rule regarding Russian children adopted by American families.
Why have many adoptions by Russian families failed? Boris Altshuler, coordinator of the Child's Right humanitarian program, gives two reasons. The first is insufficient psychological and medical assistance provided for adoptive families. And the second is the long financial reports they have to write to account for each ruble the government allocates them.
"Adoptive parents simply fear supervisory agencies," he said.
The ban on the adoption of Russian children by American families looks senseless so long as these problems remain unresolved. No matter what decision is made on May 12, we must not forget the main principle: every child has the right to have a family.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Dmitry Babich)