Dear Dr. Debbie,
My husband and I are contemplating a foreign adoption and have chatted with a few friends and relatives about this. We were shocked and disbelieving when friends who are adoptive parents cautioned that if we adopt a male baby from Russia, he would remain a Russian citizen and would be subject to being drafted into the Russian army. For this reason they have told their son he shouldn’t expect to go back for a visit until he is at least twenty-eight-years-old and no longer eligible for conscription. Are other countries like this about babies that have been adopted by a U.S. family? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to the child to know he or she is welcome as a visitor but securely belongs to his adoptive family and country?
More to Consider
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From a psychological point of view, yes, an adopted child needs the same emotional security that any child needs – which is to say an unequivocal feeling of belonging to and being cherished by his family. His identity as being foreign-born can add to his sense of being a member of a wider group – whether that means culturally, politically, or just helps to identify another place in the world that is part of his story. Adopted children from other lands, as well as people with well-mixed genetic backgrounds, can claim more than one homeland or culture which just adds flavorings of diversity to one’s notion of “family.”
Most families with foreign-born adopted children embrace pre-adoption photographs, physical mementos, such as a boarding pass, and ongoing cultural experiences to keep a connection to a distant place and people. While all children benefit from knowing positive details about their arrival into a family, an adopted child may need solid evidence of having existed within a culture before becoming part of his forever family. Adoptive parents can sustain a connection in many ways. Depending on the child’s interest, this might be a pen pal relationship with a same age child who lives in the birth country (check with the organizations listed below for suggestions, or see if a school, scout troop or religious group near you has such a program), taking a class together to learn the language or the cuisine or the dance traditions of that country, and or delving into children’s books and movies that take place there.
It would be wonderful if it were possible to include family trips to the child’s country as he grows up. Group trips have been arranged by adoption service agencies such as Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption.
However, it seems your friend is correct about Russia’s hold on its adoptees when they are at the age of military service. International Family Services,
which has been placing children with U.S. families since the early 1990’s, keeps up with the legalities concerning a foreign-born adoptee. According to information on their website, there is a time-consuming paperwork process required to end a child’s Russian citizenship at the age of eighteen. Otherwise, “adopted males 18 – 27 years of age will be subject to the Russian conscription laws, eligible to be drafted into the Russian military.” Travelers beware.
My advice is to connect with an agency well-versed in international adoption to guide you in your adoption journey.
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What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.