It will be interesting to see if the Russian government comes up with a plan to replace the foreign adopters, but there likely won’t be one since a good number of children adopted by Americans were special needs kids. These kids simply are not adopted or taken in by foster families because the Russian government doesn’t provide the financial support families would need to care for these kids. Special needs kids will likely spend their lives bouncing from one orphanage to another.
The foster care system has improved a lot since its beginning in Russia. As was pointed out, many foster families initially took in kids to get the financial incentives offered by the government, then they quickly returned the kids to the orphanages. While that still occurs, it is less common than it once was. The main reason kids are returned now is the fact that these families are ill-prepared to take care of a kid with the emotional issues that nearly every kid living in an orphanage has. Most were abused by their parents, then they were shipped off to an orphanage. Few foster parents have the experience and training to deal with the fallout from such things. So, they feel overwhelmed, and they eventually send the kid back to the orphanage. Americans who adopt these kids tend to have the financial resources to get additional help and services when problems occur. Most foster families simply don’t have the financial resources or access to any support network.
But, there are some amazing foster parents out there. I work with several during my summer program, and it truly is amazing how they’ve created real families for these kids. The two I work with most often adopted 4 boys and the other adopted 6 boys and girls. The kids call the foster parents grandma and grandpa since they are older, having raised their own biological kids. All of the kids are thriving, but the parents do struggle financially because the kids’ needs exceed the limited amount the government provides, and the foster parents have limited incomes themselves. In Russia, students are required to pay for all of their textbooks and other school supplies each year. You can imagine the financial impact on foster parents who take in several kids. Clothing is another issue.
I’ve directed more of our programs to focus on the foster families rather than just the orphanages over the past couple years because kids in foster families really do have a much better chance for a normal life, but those families do need more support than the government provides and they can provide themselves. Hopefully other small charities will see the benefits of working with foster families rather than just focusing on capital projects at orphanages that would actually be financed in many cases by the Russian government (which has directed a substantial sum to improving the housing at orphanages, though many other needs still are underfunded). A little additional assistance goes a very long way with foster families, and the results are immediate and tangible. While small charities can only do so much, they can have a pretty dramatic impact on a couple families that have made the choice to take in kids and give them a real chance at a normal life.
My hope is that parents who have adopted from Russia don’t give up on the kids left behind despite the decisions made by the Russian government. Many of us working to help these kids have seen donations reduced by folks who want to send a message to President Putin. Unfortunately, it will only be the kids that receive that message. Putin has no interest in what foreigners think of his policies. The kids, the orphanage directors, the orphanage staffs, and the foster families really do appreciate everything that charities and individuals do for them, even more so when their government makes these decisions. Hopefully things will change soon in regard to foreign adoptions, but until then, those kids still need our thoughts, our prayers, and our support.
Director, Kostroma Kids Program
Ascent Russian Orphan Aid Foundation
Info sent by: Deborah Mumm, Everything For Adoption