@YellowHatJSWGC: Categories Unnamed: Children as Political Pawns

This is the third post in a series which began with Adopting a Child: Categories Unnamed.

The premise of this series is that -- despite many wonderful individuals who officially and unofficially work to bring adoptive families together -- the network of governments, policies, agencies and institutions in which they work do not see these children as individuals, but as a class of individuals that need to be categorized. Furthermore, because of what these categories say -- not about the children they classify, but the societies who create them -- these categories that cause children to languish without families remain largely unnamed (click here for first). The point of this series is that those categories get called out in order that we can instead call these children by name.

#2: Children as Political Pawns

Although there are many examples, some more sensationalistic and brutal than others, this unnamed category is best illustrated not by the greatest horrors, but by the example that affects the greatest number of children waiting for adoption. As my wife and I experienced, this is true not only for the country involved, but for all international adoptions, for when one of the largest participants in international adoptions suddenly closes its doors, it overwhelms the resources of smaller nations who consequently see a surge in applications.

In other words, globally, it takes longer, and fewer children find a family.

But let's focus on the immediate power play of using children as political pawns.

Russia has some of the most stringent (pro-child) regulations on foreigners wishing to adopt Russian children, and yet is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption.


Because on the home front Russia does not -- and does not appear willing to -- meet the Hague's standards for the protection of children while they are still in the state's care.

This raises the question why Russia is more concerned about the welfare of its children after they leave the country than while they still reside within its borders?

Russia will claim it's because of a few high-profile tragic (but inflammatorily and not always accurately reported) cases of adopted Russian children in America.

However, how do those isolated incidents -- however regrettable, however tragic -- compare with the thousands of successful American-Russian adoptions? How do those isolated incidents compare with the tens of thousands of children adopted by Russians in Russia who were subsequently sent back to their orphanage because their new Russian parents couldn't handle those children's myriad (and often undisclosed) challenges? Or how do these isolated incidents compare to how the hundreds of thousands of children still waiting in Russia's Soviet-era style state run orphanage system are faring?

In this context it is clear that Russia -- as a state, without casting any aspersions on Russians as a people nor denigrating any Russian individual who has to cope with that system -- is not focused on the well-being of the child. Rather, the Russian state instead opens or closes (and, indeed, for the moment has closed) its doors to American adoptions entirely dependent on the state of American-Russian diplomatic relations unrelated to these children.

Children as tokens of favor to be offered or withheld without concern for the child in question.

And that brings us to our third category for next week: Children as Assets and Liabilities.


@YellowHatJSWGC is 1 of 3 streams of tweets and blogs from Good Counsel. To learn more, follow me on Twitter or visit the "Read Me" page at goodcounsel.squarespace.com