On February 18, CNN reported that Russian officials are outraged after the death of Max Shatto, a Russian boy living with his adoptive family in Texas. Texas Child Protective Services is investigating the boy’s death, citing the suspiciousness of his injuries revealed in preliminary reports from the medical examiner.
Konstantin Dolgov, special representative for human rights at Russia’s Foreign Ministry, believes that the three-year-old boy’s death is “another case of inhuman abuse of a Russian child by U.S. adoptive parents.”
Russian lawmakers recently passed a moratorium on the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens which is scheduled to begin in January, 2014. President Obama recently signed a law which restricts the travel and financial flexibility of human rights abusers in the U.S. – Russia’s ban on adoptions is viewed by many as a retaliatory measure.
What does all of this mean for Arizonans? According to the U.S. State Department (via CNN), around 1,000 Russian children were adopted last year by U.S. citizens, making Russia the third-most popular foreign nation from which U.S. families adopt.
Russia’s outrage at 19 reported deaths of Russian adoptees since 1990 is mostly a political issue, but many families have pending adoptions which could be blocked by the change to Russian law, likely resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars of expenses already paid toward securing an adoption abroad.
To make matters worse, Russian authorities are calling for the criminal prosecution of Max’s parents and the immediate removal of Max’s younger brother, Kirill, from the family’s custody and his return to Russia. Texas CPS officials are monitoring Kirill’s safety, but are waiting for final autopsy and toxicology reports before moving further.
If Russian commentators’ contentions that Max was beaten, drugged, or otherwise neglected hold true, it is unclear whether Kirill can (or should) be returned to Russia, where he previously lived in an orphanage.
In any adoption, there can be unforeseen legal pitfalls. Foreign adoptions, in particular, could become subject to the diplomatic meanderings of the day. Although the 19 deaths of Russian adopted children in the U.S. since 1990 are each tragic whether they involved foul play or not, there have also been over 60,000 successful adoptions in the same period. Extreme measures like Russia’s total ban could result in thousands of children and families not being matched – a scenario in which everyone loses.
Furthermore, the national headlines attached to this case can cause the public to associate adoptive families with negative stigmas (that adoptive parents are more likely to abuse their children, for example). Such stigma could result in more calls to CPS and civil and criminal actions being brought against perfectly fit parents. All of these phenomena will likely continue to drive up the already extreme cost to adopt a child as agencies seek to tighten their standards for selecting parents and parents are forced to parry legal matters which arrive as a result of heightened scrutiny into their personal lives.
If the Shattos abused Max, then sanctions are certainly appropriate. The extremity of national and international reactions to this case, however, could result in more harm being done to children without homes and fit families who would offer them a better life.
For more insight into the potential pitfalls of foreign adoptions, click the following link: http://woodnicklawchildcustody.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/foreign-adoption-a-tragic-ending-to-a-happy-story-2/