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Adopting Russian Children is an issue in Russia.
Only 15,000 of the 700,000 Russian orphans find families every year. Foreign parents adopt half of these children. The Russian public started discussing the issue more frequently after Gerhard and Doris Schroeder, the German chancellor and his wife, adopted three-year-old Vika from St. Petersburg. Russian children are "exported" primarily to the US, Germany, Italy, Spain and Israel. "Russians have an undisputed advantage to adopt," said Lyudmila Petrova, director of a children's home in Moscow. "But the number of those who wish to assume the serious responsibility of providing for the future of an abandoned child has decreased because of Russia's economic hardships. In fact, there is no line at all." Children are entered into an international adoption database after three sets of potential Russian parents decline adoption. "Foreigners frequently adopt children with medical problems, as they have the financial capability of providing the necessary treatment," said director of an adoption company Viktor Savelyev. "There are no children's homes in the US," said Petrova. "The orphans they do have are immediately adopted because there is a long line of potential parents willing to do so. This is why Americans became the first to start adopting Russian children." Last year, Americans adopted more than 5,200 Russian children. Astronaut Thomas Stafford adopted two brothers from the Moscow region and film star Angelina Jolie is dreaming of "a Russian son." "Adopting Russian children has become fashionable and is a sign of sympathy for Russia," said Savelyev. "In Germany, 15,000 couples would gladly adopt a child, but there are few orphans in that country. Unwanted children are aborted and hence there are very few children without parents," said Alfred Wolf, a lawyer and a professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, explaining Germans' reasons for adopting Russian children. "I have adopted a Russian child because Russians have the same values that we do in Spain," said Carlotta Sole, a sociology teacher from Spain. "Children's homes in Russia are maintained by the state and hence the children have guarantees and protection. The state also controls the adoption process, which is very important for children and their future parents." In the newspapers, on television and on the Internet, "concerned" citizens say: "The nation's gene pool is endangered," "We let our children be adopted abroad despite the demographic crisis in Russia." "It is painful that there are so many orphans in Russia and that our children are adopted abroad," said Lyudmila Petrova. "But when I help a child by facilitating his or her adoption, I am happy." However, even the best intentions can be suspect. One of the worst scandals was in Volgograd, where one of its former residents who had moved to Italy, Nadezhda Fratti, created a highly profitable business. She acted as the intermediary for illegal adoptions by falsifying documents and bribing officials. Her "royalty" per adopted child was $2,500. She "sold" 558 kids to Italy from 1993 to 2001. Three-fourths of adopted children in the Smolensk region west of Moscow went abroad. "The trouble is that good deeds are sometimes done for money," said Viktor Savelyev. "Some see an adopted child as a new source of entertainment and others buy the care and love they will need in old age." Russians were shocked by the story of 7-year-old Viktor, whose adoption eventually cost him his life. His adopted parents, Brenda and Bob Matthey, "cured" his fits with ice showers and locked him in the basement at night. The Mattheys were found guilty of homicide. Another couple in Utah put their two adopted Russian children on a starvation diet. These stories are certainly exceptional, and parents in Russia sometimes abuse their children too. Yet society drew the following conclusion: just as any other long-term and responsible project, adoption calls for a very careful procedure. Not all potential parents deserve to be trusted.
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