The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


February 23, 2013

Russian government sacrifices many in name of few

The Russian government’s ban on American adoptions is about as wrongheaded a policy as can be enacted. And America knows plenty about wrongheaded policies.

The latest episode in the saga — the death of a 3-year-old boy in Texas — gave the Russian government its righteous indignation to justify the ban that took effect in December. Posturing Russians are accusing the U.S. government of covering up the facts in the death.

Max Shatto died last month in Texas. The Washington Post reports Texas authorities are investigating to determine whether the boy was abused and died of injuries. In 2008, an adopted Russian toddler died in Virginia when he was left in a hot car.

These are tragic deaths, but for the Russian government to suggest some kind of American conspiracy toward Russian-born children is preposterous.

The Post reported that Pavel Astakhov, the ombudsman for Russia’s children, said Shatto was beaten and given drugs. The Foreign Ministry’s human rights officer, Konstantin Dolgov, said the boy was treated cruelly.

Therefore, Russia demanded access to the Shatto investigation, the return of the boy’s 2-year-old brother and the cessation of pending Russian adoptions.

It’s a gruesome fact that plenty of native-born American children are beaten, abused and killed each year. Dysfunctional American parents are no more or less perfect than dysfunctional parents in any other country.

To suggest by extension that any Russian child adopted by U.S. parents is worse off than if the child had stayed in Russia is blatantly false.

If Shatto’s parents are to blame for his death, they should be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law. The Russian government’s high-handedness would be better off directed toward its own country.

My church supported missionaries to Russia for several years. Conditions for all Russians are sad, but they are worse for children.

Young people are held en masse in preyutes — Russian orphanages — with little hope or resources. Children with physical or developmental disabilities can be dumped at the preyute door with little or no hope of adoption or even survival to adulthood.

These children barely have enough to eat. The goal of our missionaries was to take a book or small gift and an item or two of food to each child for Christmas. That was a big deal for the children to have such abundance one day of the year.

Once they reach a certain age, they are turned out of the preyute to fend for themselves in any way they can.

The Post reported about 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by U.S. parents and 20 of them have died.

That’s a better success rate than the Russian government can guarantee. Indeed, Astakhov said more than 89,000 Russian children in his own country received violent treatment last year and that 2,100 died.

So where’s the logic and justice in a ban that will hurt more than it helps?

Anti-American sentiment is contributing to the adoption accusations, The Post reported. If that’s so, the Russian government should be sharpening its ax on the American government, not its own children.

Josef Stalin had very narrow ideas of how the world should be, and he didn’t hesitate to slaughter unknown thousands of his own people in the name of those ideas. Surely Russia does not want to return to that brutal legacy.

Lift the ban, and give the children a chance.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© 2013 by Nerissa Young

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