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Russia’s Booming Baby Market

Hot on the heels of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has adopted a Russian baby.

Mosnews broke the news on Monday, revealing that Jolie fell in love with baby Gleb the moment she saw him…

A source from the orphanage, Baby House No 13, revealed: “He is just what Angelina saw in her dreams. ”She took him in her arms and kissed him.“

However, The Sunday Times expresses concerns that Jolie has used her star status to circumvent normal Russian adoption procedures.

Officials say she does not appear to have complied with the rules because she went to orphanages in person during a subsquent visit.

Under the regulations, potential foreign parents are supposed to choose a child from a central register, with the help of photographs and detailed medical records. Only then are they allowed to see the child.

If they decide not to take that child, they are supposed to go back to the register to continue their search.

I’m always (as I noted in August) sceptical about adopting from abroad. While I know that it is often difficult to adopt children from one’s own country, and that many are genuine in their desire to help children from abroad, I can’t help buy worry that many adoptions are motivated, at least partly, by a desire to have an ‘exotic’ baby.

There are plenty of orphaned and abandoned children in the US (and the UK) that need adopting just as much. While it can be frustrating to go through masses of red-tape to help them, is that really a good enough reason to give up and go abroad? Adopters are, effectively, abandoning one child for the sake of their own convenience. That they are helping another child is probably of very little comfort to the child who is abandoned.

Scarily, this issue has also prompted Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultra-nationalist LDPR party to, for the first time ever, say something I agree with. Lubov Blizhina asks…

“Don’t they have their own children to adopt?”


  • I agree with you 100%, we have kids in the US that need adopting. I say this as someone who was adopted and it’s a very personal issue for me. I think the main issues are as follows, though:

    1> Many people want kids who look like them, and white adoptees are in short supply in the states, relative to demand. Many of the adoptees are black, and adopting a black kid opens the whole Pandora’s box of race. Not that I’m against it, of course, I highly encourage all adoptions, but I can understand why some parents in the US might be scared of this.

    2> The courts and the bureaucracy in the US is scary. I remember a case a few years back where a kid who had been in an adopted home for two or three years was taken away by the courts and given back to a birth parent who had sobered up and wanted her kid back. This was allowed because of some paperwork glitch. This is every adoptive parent’s nightmare, and potential parents remember that. You adopt a kid from Russian or China, it ain’t gonna happen.

    3> Adopting exotic kids is popular for several reasons, not all bad. Girl orphans in China have literally been thrown away by parents who want a boy. Many decent feminists want to reach out to these kids, both to help and to make a point. And rescuing kids from an orphanage in the 3rd world is a bigger deal than rescuing a kid from the foster care systeem in the first world.

    My thoughts. Do what you will.

  • I think Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s comment sounds a bit bigoted.My wife and I are in the process of adopting two Russian children and along the way we have encountered some of this attitude as well. We have close Russian friends here in Texas and even they almost seem to feel it is better for kids to stay in their own countries instead of being raised in what can be a positive and loving home environment by American parents. We don’t care where we adopt from,children are children, wherever they may be from.It is far better they be in a loving environment with a mom and dad than to spend all there years in an orphanage only to be kicked out at the age of 17 or 18 with no skills, and we all know where that will potentially lead.Our regret is that between the governments and the agencies, the cost of adoption is far greater than it needs to be. It is very expensive and for this children are falling thru the cracks of societies worldwide

  • I can certainly appreciate that people do have altrustic motives in adopting, wherever they happen to adopt from. I don’t want it to seem like I’m condemning adopting from abroad out of hand – I’m not. I’m just very curious what would make people go so far to save someone when there are children who need saving on their own doorsteps, and sceptical of the motives that are behind some (but not necessarily all) of these adoptions from abroad.

    I’m also a little curious what the attitude of many who adopt from Russia would be about a middle class Russian couple coming to New York or London to save a deprived child.

  • There is good reason to be skeptical. *Some* of these adoptions happen because it’s the trendy thing to do. *Some* because the rules and regs in foreign countries may be less strict than in the US so parents who might not qualify in the US can still adopt a child. A certain amount of skepticism is warranted, although I suspect that most foreign adoptions are done in good faith all around. Like I said in my posts, there are sound reasons that parents may want to do this, even if it may not make sense to an outsider.

    Mr. Washburn, can you tell us why you chose to adopt from Russia instead of the US or somewhere else?

    And yes, a wealthy Russian celebrity adopting a poor black kid from Detroit would certainly rankle a few in the States, even if it did give the kid a better home.

  • To be totally honest Dave, my wife first came across the two children almost a year ago and felt God had had led her to these two, so I don’t begin to question her faith, these two just happened to live in Russia. We love children all over the world and have no intention of stopping with these two. It is our desire to have a large family and we will probably adopt from Haiti next or perhaps an Asian country, anyway our Russian friends here have been extremely helpful and help us along the way with the language differances and have offered to help our children once they are here,they have been very supportive and are making our adoption process easier to go thru,we cherish and value their friendship.We are learning the language because we want our children to continue to speak Russian as well as English.Oh, and I really have NO problem with a foreigner adopting an American child if it is in the best interest of the child.

  • In our case, there’s nothing “trendy” about it. We already have a biological family, so we’re not looking for a baby, either. However, we do have a large home and large hearts and if another child can fit in there, who otherwise would have almost nothing to look forward to in life, then we have the love to give that older child.

    It’s quite expensive, and we’re certainly not rich. We’ve sold every luxury we have in order to give a child a forever family. We feel called by God to do it.

    Children in the US foster care system actually have it pretty good – they get all their needs met, including a college education. They own their own clothes, shoes, and “things”. They are well fed. Children in other countries have nothing, not even the clothes on their backs.

    My friend has two biological children and four adopted children from the US Foster System. She often has to pack all six of her kids up in her car, drive at least an hour for one of the adopted kids to have a meeting with birth Mom, only to have Mom not even show up. So she packs them all up in the car and drives home that long distance again. She does this a minimum of once a month for all four kids.

    I think one of the reasons Russian children are so attractive, too, is that they are so well cared for in the orphanages and they are very bright and lovable.

  • We are currently adopting a child from Russia. While visiting, we asked our Russian facilitator what Russians think of people from other countries adopting their kids. She said that the educated, informed population knows that it is a good thing. She said the others should either adopt a child themselves or visit all the children in the orphanages and then say that other countries should not adopt.

    We chose Russia because we were hoping to have a Caucasian infant. We have a two year old bio daughter and wanted a child younger than her. And, quite honestly, adoption in the US scares me. It is too open. Birth parents seem to have more rights than the children. Also, our friends who have adopted from the US were scammed by one couple and had their hearts broken by another mother who changed her mind. It took them 4 years to get a child under the age of one.

    In my mind, a child is a child. A child orphaned in Russia needs a good home as much as a child in the US. The difference is that the US actually does have a foster care system (albeit, one with problems) while in Russia, each child is institutionalized. There is nothing exotic about dirty diapers and spit-up…regardless of where a baby originates. But, there is something exotic and wonderful about creating a family either through birth or adoption.

    I think everyone forgets that most of our families came from other countries at the turn of the 20th century. My grandparents came from Germany, my husband’s from Poland. This has only enriched our country. Also, many citizens of other countries apply for a green card to the US every day to be able to work and give their family a safe life. We are very fortunate. Even our children who need adopted in the US are very fortunate…they have the opportunity to get an education and excellent medical care.
    I guess I don’t understand what is wrong with giving these advantages and a wonderful, loving home to a child from Russia?

  • I would be interested in comparing the % of children available for adoption in the US that are actually adopted each year by US citizens to the % of children available for adoption in Russia that are adopted by Russian citizens each year. I would bet the % of children adopted domestically is much higher in the US than in Russia. Just a guess.

  • Like a number of the others have said, kids in the worst of our foster care homes have it better than the best institution in another country. It is too bad that when celebrities adopt it makes it look bad for all of us “normal” people. We want to help a child and we do not want to deal with visits from bio-parents and courts that will give a child back to the parent on a moments notice, etc. This is not an easy process. Talk about red tape, look at all the things we have to do before we even meet the child. As for Russians adopting American’s-why not? If they are willing and able to provide the child a good home I don’t care about their nationality. They could be from mars. It’s about the child not about race or anything else.

  • Let’s look at a few statistics:
    100s of thousands of children are living in Russian orphanages
    8000 or so each year adopted by foreigners
    7000 or so adopted by Russians
    That still leaves 100s of thousands of children in orphanages in Russia, which, by the experience at my son’s orphanage, was not a horrible place but was certainly not a great place. He came to us anemic, severely malnourished, and developmentally delayed. Should we have left him there to instead wait 2+ years (this is what we were told by a domestic agency) for an infant in the US who, by some accounts, has 30 parents waiting for him/her? Or done foster-to-adopt, which I admire greatly but would potentially have been full of ups and downs and great emotional turmoil after 3 years of trying to have a baby and 5 miscarriages?
    We didn’t adopt our son because he is exotic. I find that laughable. We adopted him because we wanted a 2nd child desperately and the program in Russia moves smoothly and quickly. You go through the process and you get a baby.
    I think it would be wonderful if those children could find homes in Russia but the fact is that they aren’t. Are you saying that it’s better for them to stay in orphanages? Have you been to an orphanage in Russia?

  • I found this statistic for China from Adoptive Families Magazine:
    “In 2003 Americans adopted 6,859 children from China, the largest number of any country.” That number was up by 1,800 from the year before…

    This is what I found for Russia:
    “In 2003, US citizens adopted approximately 5,209 children from Russia”
    (down nearly 700 from year before, I wonder why?)

    Here are the stats I found on the US Embassy site:

    Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans: Fiscal Year IR-3 immigrant visas issued in Moscow to orphans adopted abroad IR-4 immigrant visas issued in Moscow to orphans adopted in the U.S. (when only one parent travels)
    FY-2000 4655 22
    FY-2001 4956 48
    FY-2002 5836 50

    The figure I saw for number of children in 900 Russian orphanages was 500,000. In China, it’s about a million. So only 1% are being adopted by Americans.

    My mom’s father was adopted from Canada and my dad’s mother was adopted from Puerto Rico.I’ve wanted to adopt since I was 12. I knew infertility was a real possibility.

    The majority of children readily available for adoption in this country are black and hispanic. There is a strong voice in the black community that feels black children should not be adopted by white families. For example, in our county of 1,000,000 people, 7% are black. 97% of the children in foster care are black. My friend has been trying to adopt a black baby that she has fostered. He is now 3, and the adoption is still not certain even though she was told in the beginning that his parental rights would be terminated…

    We also would like to adopt a child with clubfoot. Of the 100,000 children born with clubfoot each year, only 20,000 receive treatment. It is a very easily corrected condition, if you have access to the proper resources.

    This is a global society. We will make at least one trip to russia when our children are older. There are even American families adopting from China who are moving to China!

    Sorry so long! It’s all an incredible journey. Joanne W.

  • PS American magazines are reporting that Angelina Jolie did NOT adopt the Russian child. She may be getting back with Billy Bob…

  • How is adopting a baby from Russia “exotic?” If anything, they blend in. What difference does it make where someone is born, under artificial borders that have been imposed by modern man. The borders could change, wouldn’t it it be a kick if Russia and the USA merged in 50 years. Then would those children become “ours” all of a sudden? We are all on the same planet. Also, there are many more babies available for adoption in Russia. This simple fact is the explanation for why people go there, nothing more.

  • Also, people who adopt are not “saving” a child. If that were true, there would be many more adoptions of kids born in the US. Most of kids available for adoption here are older, many of them abused or suffering from their birth parents’ actions. They are the ones really in need of “help.”

    People adopt to have a family, not to save anyone. People who adopt generally have not been able to have a biological family because of fertility issues.

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