This content is not available in your region

Russian parliament demands orphan returns from US

Russian parliament demands orphan returns from US
Text size Aa Aa

Russian lawmakers have urged the U.S. Congress to help return a Russian boy living with a Texas family, after the death of his three-year-old brother intensified a row over international adoptions.

The motion, approved overwhelmingly without any votes against by the lower house, is likely to increase tension between Moscow and Washington in a dispute that has added to a gradual cooling of relations since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency last May.

The lawmakers, who did not specify how U.S. Congress could help in the case, also called on the United States to ensure the safety of adopted children and pass on any details of abuse of Russian-born children.

Moscow has seized on the death of Max Shatto to justify a ban imposed on Americans adopting Russians on January 1st, which was itself a response to U.S. legislation that imposes visa and asset bans on Russians accused of violating human rights.

Texan officials say Max Shatto was last seen alive on January 21st, and U.S. authorities are trying to determine exactly what happened to him. His adoptive mother Laura Shatto, who is still looking after Max’s two-year-old brother Kirill, said she found Max unresponsive in the backyard and he was taken to hospital where he died.

Russia has announced an inquiry into allegations he was beaten before his death but U.S. police and child welfare authorities only say the matter is part of a criminal investigation.

Adoption – a view from Stateside

Elena looks like any other happy 11-year old American girl. But she actually lived in a Moscow orphanage until the age of 2. Malnourished and underweight, she was found by her adoptive mother. Celia Peacock remembers seeing her for the first time – it was love at first sight. “She is my daughter”, she says of Elena. “I just had to go half way around the world to find her.”

She describes meeting her in the orphanage: “I bent down and looked at her and she looked at me, and it was love at first sight. It really was. My heart … just soared. It really did. She is my daughter. I just had to go half way around the world to find her.”

Today, Elena is a healthy and vibrant child, and enjoys life in her new home in Rockville, Maryland. But she also has learning problems.

Chuck Johnson is President of the National Council for Adoption, non-profit advocacy group. He says many children adopted from Russian orphanages need intense medical and psychological intervention once in America. “The research is very clear: One month in institutional care has a tremendous impact on the child’s development, including smaller brains. And so, children need families.”

Russian adoption rules are very strict and have only intensified after a 3-year old Russian boy died in the care of his American adoptive parents in Texas just three months ago.

The Datz Foundation is an adoption agency run by Mark Eckman. He told euronews about his thoughts on the root cause of the problems with the Russian children.

“The Russian regulations require that there’ll be some medical reason why the child needed to be placed outside of Russia, so that technically a completely healthy child could not be offered to foreigners. And the families who adopted were fully aware of that, they went into it with open eyes, that there would be some negative diagnosis of the child,” said Eckman.

Last year Russia imposed a ban on Americans adopting Russian children, effective from the beginning of 2013. But many are skeptical about the reasons for the new rules. Chuck Johnson says the issue stems from the very top: “The frustrating part for us is when the politicians get involved and step up the rhetoric and use a tragedy like this to advance a political cause. And in this case, I think, it’s not about children. I think it’s about embarrassing the United States.”

Over the last 20 years, 60,000 Russian children were adopted by US families, each paying at least $30,000 (22,000 euros) per child. For children like Elena, the politics do not matter. But there are still others like her in Russia who will be unwittingly drawn into this game of high stakes.

Euronews Washington correspondent Stefan Grobe gave his view on the ground. “The agitation in Russia against US adoptions has stunned Americans. After all, adoptions are expensive and Russia enjoyed financial benefits stemming from this business. The opinion here is that the losers of this whole conflict are Russian orphans who will not find an American home.”