Russian Adoptions May Resume – But Should They?

Not without major reforms, writes family attorney Maya Shulman, and not without weighing your options.

Maya Shulman September 10, 2017
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The turning point for Beth Remboldt of Napa, CA came one evening as she and her 9-year-old daughter, Galina –adopted from Russia – unloaded the dishwasher. As the New York Post first reported, when Beth briefly stepped away, Galina smeared feces on the clean plates. When Beth asked why, Galina told her to eat poop and die, which caused Beth to fear for her safety.

Over three years, Beth and her husband Tom had weathered Galina’s temper tantrums, refusals to bathe and brush her teeth, and wetting herself in public places then refusing to move or clean up. But the dishwasher incident drove the Remboldts to place Galina at a ranch for adoptive children with behavior disorders.

After a year, the Remboldts made the heartbreaking decision to give up their parenting rights. No amount of positive attention or therapy had helped their daughter, and Galina was too disruptive toward their other children.

Many adopted children who endured years of neglect and abuse in Russian orphanages suffer from reactive attachment disorder (RAD), in which a child exhibits markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate ways of relating socially in most contexts.

There are more sobering drawbacks involved in Russian adoptions.

  • Many Russian facilities and programs ignore government guidelines;
  • In most cases, prospective parents are unable to meet their child until adoption day, and receive no family medical or psychological background information; and,
  • There have been instances where parents have received children with physical disabilities or psychological impairments they were not told about in advance. Sometimes the children have been a different age or even a different child from their original match.
  • Once these problems arise, the adoptive parents have little legal recourse.

At the G-20 summit – four years after American adoptions from Russia were outlawed by Russian President Vladimir Putin – President Donald Trump said he and Putin discussed reopening the pipeline so that, “thousands of babies could be adopted” by U.S. citizens.

Although it is unclear whether Trump and Putin will work out an agreement, in the meantime, I can’t stress enough how many worthy, eligible children are waiting to be adopted in the U.S. According to a 2017 Harris poll112,000 American children live in foster homes, in contrast to the 1,000 cases in Russian orphanages in 2012. The poll also noted that of all the children placed in foster care, 43 percent were Caucasian, 23 percent were black, and 22 percent were Hispanic.

The age breakdown looks like this: 28 percent of the children are under 5 years old, while 50 percent are between 6 and 10. Nowadays, U.S. adoption laws offer greater flexibility, lower fees, and few language barriers.

Half the states now offer open adoptions in which birth and adoptive parents share contact information and stay in communication until the child is 18. Adoptive parents also have access to medical and background information, unlike years ago.

Nothing has been more rewarding in my 17 years as a Los Angeles family law attorney than seeing the luminous faces of orphan babies and foster children given a second chance at life.  I have known many American parents only too eager to provide love and share milestones – baby’s first steps, first tooth, first day at school, report cards, birthdays, etc.

I advise against adopting a child under conditions that might undermine or even destroy that relationship. Weigh your options wisely.

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Maya Shulman

Maya Shulman of Shulman Family Law Group of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara is one of Southern California’s leading family law advocates. In addition to adoption issues, the firm handles all aspects of family law including divorce litigation and mediation, finances, and property. Among the firm’s extensive clientele are celebrities, sports figures, and business executives.


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