Orphan children at the Nelidovo Rehabilitation Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities in Russia.
The Russian goverment has announced that its new ban on adoptions to the United States from that country won't take effect for a year. And while the U.S. State Department has yet to post updated details on its adoptions page, adoption experts are trying to make sense of what the delay means for would-be adoptive parents.
Russia is one of the top three nations from which Americans adopt children. At the end of December, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the ban into law. Observers expected it to take effect soon afterward, leaving adoptions in progress up in the air. Now, the Russian government says it won't enact the ban for another year.
The two countries maintain a bilateral adoption agreement, and it does require a year's notice before either government can withdraw from it. But public reaction has also likely played a part, said Tifany Markee, an immigration attorney in San Diego who handles international adoptions.
Photo by jrodmanjr/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Several years ago in San Diego, I met a family of three children whose parents had been deported after losing their bid to become legal residents. The kids had, technically, been left in the care of a relative who lived nearby. In reality, they were pretty much on their own, with the eldest, a girl of 16, stepping in as surrogate parent to her siblings, 13 and 9.
This is not an uncommon scenario after the foreign-born parents of U.S. citizen children are deported. Sometimes the parents opt to take their kids with them. Others remain in the U.S. with relatives when other family members can be located, though as with the three kids in San Diego, this works out to varying degrees. But when relatives can't be located or the parents are shuffled off quickly, sometimes into the labyrinthine detention system, there's nowhere for the kids to go.
Photo by Chiceaux Lynch/Flickr (Creative Commons)
New American Media featured a moving story this weekend from Hyphen magazine, which covers the Asian American diaspora. It told the stories of two Korean adoptees who, when deciding to adopt children themselves, turned to the country of their birth.
One woman, Rebecca Eun Hee Viot, and her biological brother grew up in Minnesota with their adoptive white family, disconnected from their ethnic roots. When circumstances prompted Viot and her husband to adopt, they chose Ruby, a 9-month-old from South Korea. From the piece:
Since then, Ruby has brought peace to Viot's life and tightened Viot's bonds to her birth country. “I never took a pride in being Korean," Viot said, though she wasn't necessarily ashamed. “I was often confused and sad because I knew I didn't fit in. I just didn't know who I was.”
Motivated by her daughter, Viot has begun to explore Korean food (she can now cook kaktugi, bulgogi, japchae and kimchi jigae) and the Korean language (she has learned to read Hangul and aspires to speak it with her biological family). She is also interested in learning Korean drumming and dance through the Korean Heritage House, which recently opened in the Twin Cities; Ruby will be enrolled when she turns 4.
“We're learning together,” said Viot, who has founded an Internet forum for parents undergoing the adoption process. I have to stop myself from thinking that just because [Ruby and I] look alike that is enough. I'm still learning about the traditions. I have to do my homework, just like my [friends who are] Caucasian adoptive parents.