Forward Thinking

Hidden Victims of Russia's Adoption Ban

By Susan Armitage

I used to see them fairly often in airports, nicer hotels or restaurants. Living in Eastern Europe, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine and later working for a non-profit in Russia, I’d become adept at spotting other Americans in public.

I sized them up, taking into account the color and style of their clothing, their footwear, and the snatches of conversation I overheard: Businessman? NGO worker? Diplomat? Missionary?

There was one group of Americans whose reason for being in Russia was much easier to guess. With strollers in tow, they were on the final leg of an international adoption journey, preparing to bring a Russian child home.

When I read about Russia’s recent ban on adoptions by U.S. citizens, I couldn’t help but think of these families, as well as the children I’ve met in Russian orphanages, and the little Tatianas, Sergeys and Svetlanas I got to know, on paper at least, during my brief stint processing post-adoption reports at a U.S. child assistance foundation.

The reports showed pictures of Russian kids, sometimes with new names like Jessica or Jacob, celebrating the Fourth of July, playing soccer and blowing out birthday candles with their American siblings. But as these adoptive families build new traditions together, most do want their Russian children to know where they came from.

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The Losers in Russia's Adoption Ban

By Susan Armitage

I used to see them fairly often in airports, nicer hotels or restaurants. Living in Eastern Europe, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine and later working for a non-profit in Russia, I’d become adept at spotting other Americans in public.

I sized them up, taking into account the color and style of their clothing, their footwear, and the snatches of conversation I overheard: Businessman? NGO worker? Diplomat? Missionary?

There was one group of Americans whose reason for being in Russia was much easier to guess. With strollers in tow, they were on the final leg of an international adoption journey, preparing to bring a Russian child home.

When I read about Russia’s recent ban on adoptions by U.S. citizens, I couldn’t help but think of these families, as well as the children I’ve met in Russian orphanages, and the little Tatianas, Sergeys and Svetlanas I got to know, on paper at least, during my brief stint processing post-adoption reports at a U.S. child assistance foundation.

The reports showed pictures of Russian kids, sometimes with new names like Jessica or Jacob, celebrating the Fourth of July, playing soccer and blowing out birthday candles with their American siblings. But as these adoptive families build new traditions together, most do want their Russian children to know where they came from.

Read more



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