Kremlin: Adoption ban needed to create 'Russia Without Orphans'

Responding to a 20,000-strong protest in Moscow Sunday against the ban on US adoptions of Russian orphans, the Kremlin said that the law is part of a plan to improve Russian orphanages.

Mikhail Metzel/AP
People march during a protest rally in Moscow, Sunday in a protest against Russia's new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children. The protesters' posters have the word 'shame' written in red over the faces of the lawmakers, including President Vladimir Putin, who passed the bill.

After some 20,000 Russians marched through the frigid streets of downtown Moscow Sunday to protest the Dima Yakovlev Act, which bans all adoptions of Russian orphans by US citizens, the Kremlin was moved to offer a rare public response.

In an interview with the outspokenly independent Dozhd Internet TV station, Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitri Peskov insisted that the Kremlin cares just as much about Russian orphans, but that the protesters had failed to understand the point of the adoption ban.

"It's not just a ban, but an intention to create necessary conditions inside the country," Mr. Peskov said.

"People who express concerns about the fate of orphans are absolutely right.... We hope people who have filled the streets to speak their minds are informed about the leadership's plans to adjust the adoption process and to initiative measures to ease orphaned children's lives," he added.

Protesters argue that the law was a hasty and vindictive response to the US Magnitsky Act, which makes Russian orphans into the prime victims of a US-Russia diplomatic spat.

But supporters of the law insist it's part of a broader plan to improve conditions in Russian orphanages, streamline the notoriously tough procedures for adoption, and increase material aid to prospective adoptive parents inside Russia.

And the Kremlin insists it is studying several programs, including one entitled "Russia Without Orphans," penned by Kremlin human rights commissioner Pavel Astakhov, who was a major lobbying force for the ban.

"The queue of Russians willing to become foster parents keeps growing, while there are fewer foreigners. The moment of truth has arrived," Mr. Astakhov told the official RIA-Novosti agency before the law was adopted last month.

"The important thing is not the response measures [to the Magnitsky Act] but the new Russian reality: Believe in yourself, rely on yourself. Support families and not businesses that exploit children," he added.

Step up incentives

Astakhov argues that all of Russia's estimated 120,000 institutionalized children could be placed in foster homes, or adopted into Russian families, if regulations were eased and material incentives stepped up.

According to a report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Russian government has made significant progress in improving conditions for the nation's approximately 700,000 orphans, about 120,000 of whom currently live in state orphanages, since Mr. Putin identified the issue as a national priority in his 2006 state-of-the-nation address.

The percentage of orphans living in orphanages dropped from 23 percent in 2006 to 16.5 percent in 2009, the report said.

In the next few months, the State Duma is expected to pass legislation to help cut red tape in adoptions, boost the pensions given to disabled orphans, and help prospective foster and adoptive parents with larger subsidies and housing assistance.

On Monday, the State Duma declined to act on an Internet petition, signed by over 130,000 Russians, calling on lawmakers to cancel the new adoption ban. Although Russian law stipulates that any petition signed by more than 100,000 people must be treated as a legislative initiative, the head of the Duma’s Constitutional Committee, Vladimir Pligin, told journalists the law lacks an enabling clause and therefore can't be carried out.

Follow through?

The key problem, critics argue, is that Russian authorities took firm action by enacting the ban last month, while all talk of helping orphans is relegated to a rosy but ambiguous future.

"I wish our authorities would have a different focus," says Svetlana Pronina, co-chair of Child's Right, a nationwide network of NGOs that work with children's issues.

"It's certainly worthwhile to ask why in most of Europe the proportion of orphans is no more than 0.6 percent of all children, whereas in Russia we have a stable orphan population of 2.6 percent? One could certainly support this slogan of 'Russia Without Orphans.' ... But the main thrust of what they are proposing is that families who agree to adopt a child should be materially rewarded. This is not right; adoption should not be based on material factors," she says.

"It's difficult to find a proper family for a child. This involves a lot of hard work by caring individuals, and to make it some kind of mass production scheme is completely wrongheaded," she adds.

Even some supporters of the adoption ban in principle say they're leery of the present political direction. Nina Ostanina, a Communist Party deputy of the Duma who for many years thundered against the lack of controls on foreign adoptions, says she's very worried about the new stress on easing regulations for Russians to adopt.

"I was raising the issue of foreign adoptions in the Duma for 10 years, and I think that gives me the right to say that this law was adopted in a cynical and hasty manner. It was done for political advantage, a purely speculative approach," she says.

"My forecast is that once the wave of scandal dies down, the authorities will forget about all the promises they made to orphans," she adds.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Kremlin: Adoption ban needed to create 'Russia Without Orphans'
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today