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Dmitry’s Death and Miles Harrison’s Acquittal- part III, The Adoption Industry waits with bated breath

If you are searching for general information about the case and the verdict please see my earlier overview post entitled No, no justice for Dmitry.

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This post is an update to an ongoing series of posts I have made about the death of Dmitry Yakolev/Chase Harrison and the agency that placed him, European Adoption Consultants (EAC). EAC is one of the largest international adoption agencies in the world and the top agency in Russia (and had been in Guatemala.)

Russian law requires officials be kept up to date by the placing agencies of the disposition of the children placed through them with regular updates for the first three years. In the aftermath of Dmitry’s death, the Russian Federation Ministry of Education and Science opened an investigation into EAC for their apparent failure to report his death immediately.

Dmitry is the the second Russian child EAC had placed who died apparently as a result of actions by their adopters. Logan Higgenbotham was killed by her adoptive mother in 1988. You can read my previous posts about Dmitry and EAC by clicking here (read from bottom to top, as entries are in reverse chronological order.)


Despite what appear to be at minimum impending changes in the Russian adoption system for Americans, by and large a “wait and see” silence has fallen over those portions of the industry most likely to be directy affected.

Russian adoption related message boards and blogs filled with prospective adopters have gone into a tissy in response to the Russian statements:

from- The Moscow Times- Tough New Rules for Adoptive U.S. Parents

The government will toughen regulations for Americans wishing to adopt Russian children after a U.S. court acquitted a Virginia man of felony charges in the death of his newly adopted Russian son earlier this year, officials said Thursday.


The ministry has already prepared an official demand to be sent to the U.S. State Department regarding the adoption of Russian children, Levitskaya said. The statement gave no specifics about possible stricter requirements. Ministry spokesman Alexander Kochnev said by telephone Thursday afternoon that officials were in the process of working out new rules.

from RIA Novosti- Russia slams acquittal of U.S. man over Russian-born son’s death

“We will demand that U.S. authorities review the extremely unfair ruling. Further cooperation with the United States in adoption will depend on Washington’s readiness to take practical steps to ease our concerns,” the ministry said.

The statement came after criticism earlier on Thursday by a senior Russian education and social protection official, who said adoption requirements for U.S. nationals would be toughened following the acquittal.

also from RIA Novosti-Russia to toughen adoption rules for U.S. over Harrison acquittal

“We are outraged by the court ruling and believe it to be totally unjust and unacceptable,” Alina Levitskaya was quoted by the Education and Science Ministry as saying. “It questions the reliability of the U.S. system of protection of adopted children’s rights, and will lead to tougher requirements for U.S. nationals in Russia.”

Levitskaya said the ministry would demand that authorities in the United States step up monitoring of children adopted from Russia. She said the education ministry and the Russian Embassy in the United States would seek a guilty verdict for Harrison.

The industry on the other hand, appears to be holding its breath and collectively crossing its’ fingers.

EAC, European Adoption Consultants, despite being at the center of the case, for both placing Dmitry and failing to live up to its obligations to inform the Russian government as to his disposition thus sparking an official investigation, is also tight-lipped.

Earlier they had placed two different versions of a brief statement about Dmitry’s death on their front page of their website. In the wake of Miles Harrison, their “forever family” forever client being acquitted EAC has continued on about business as usual.

JCICS, or the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, a membership trade organization and industry lobby with numerous adoption agencies as members, is remarkably silent. Their Russian news page last updated November 11th.

Unlike these others, NCFA, the National Council for Adoption, yet another adoption industry trade group and lobby, who have been remarkably quiet about both Dmitry’s death and the trial of Miles Harrison, has stirred from its slumber now that it understands its member organization’s incomes streams may well be affected by the verdict.

NCFA’s statement by and large, runs on two patronizing themes:

  • Now now, let’s not act hastily!
  • Calm down and let cooler heads prevail, anything else would be irrational!

Both wrapped up with a holiday bow of but THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN! Adoptions MUST allowed to continued- for the sake of the children! (and NCFA member agency’s pocketbooks!)

The full statement, currently available on the NCFA homepage, reads:

National Council For Adoption Calls For Calm and Rational Response to Harrison Verdict

The National Council For Adoption (NCFA) has followed closely the events and legal proceedings involving the tragic death of young Chase Harrison on July 8, 2008 and the not guilty verdict on manslaughter charges brought against his father Miles Harrison. The verdict has attracted a great deal of international attention questioning whether the verdict was in any way related to the child’s international adoptive status.

“Let me assure the international community that adoptive parents in the United States have the same responsibilities to their adopted children as do biological parents to their biological children,” said Chuck Johnson, NCFA’s vice president and COO. “Likewise, children who are adopted enjoy the very same rights and protection of full citizenship under the law as do children born in the United States. We are confident that Chase Harrison’s status as an adopted child in no way influenced the judge’s ruling or diminished the seriousness surrounding this case.”

“NCFA fully understands how difficult it may be for some to accept this verdict as appropriate and just. However, the number of successful adoptions whereby Russian children have found safe, loving and permanent homes weighs heavily on the side of accepting the Harrison case as unfortunate, tragic and sad – but is in no way representative of the overwhelming majority of U.S. adoptions of Russian-born children,” Johnson said.

NCFA encourages a calm and rational response to the verdict, and hopes that the Russian government will continue to work with the United States government and the American adoption community to keep the adoption process between Russia and the United States transparent, safe and successful for the benefit of thousands of Russian-born children. Those who would suffer most from a disruption of Russian adoptions are the thousands of innocent orphans who otherwise would have been adopted into loving American homes.

While industry may feel threatened, this very press release shows how blithely unaware the industry can be in relation to the very rights and long term well being of the children it places.

Let’s start with what may be the single most amazing quote I’ve ever heard out of NCFA:

…children who are adopted enjoy the very same rights and protection of full citizenship under the law as do children born in the United States.

This is an astounding statement, clearly, provably, patently false.

Adopted people (whether international or domestic) such as myself do NOT enjoy the same rights under American law as the non-adopted.

Non-adopted people, as but one example, do not have records pertaining to their identity and birth confiscated by the state and held under lock and key in all but 6 states (Alaska, Oregon, Kansas, Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine.) They do not face legal hurdles and barriers such as having to obtain a court order to see their original unaltered birth certificates. We do not receive equal treatment under the law in regard to our authentic documentation.

This affects adopted people in numerous everyday ways from the hoops some of us must jump through in attempts to get something as basic as a driver’s license, to attempts to gain pensions.

The ways in which those adopted in this country do not have equal rights as the non-adopted in this country forms of long list of grievances. Groups such as Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization owe their entire existence to the fact that we do not receive equal treatment under law.

As for adoptees and citizenship protections, perhaps the folks over at NCFA would care to explore Pound Pup Legacy’s ongoing list of deportation cases of international adoptees. Under the Bush administration, the Department of Homeland Security has stepped up the deportation of adoptees with criminal convictions. As for one reason or another (often lack of knowledge that gaining such was necessary, or in other cases, being told the child already had citizenship) these adoptees never received their American citizenship, the the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, applies to them, and they have been shipped back to their countries of origin, even if they left as infants and know nothing of the culture or language.

The case of Joao Herbert being doubly sad in that after being deported to Brazil, he was murdered.

In short, if NCFA thinks adoptees “enjoy the very same rights and protection of full citizenship under the law as do children born in the United States” they either haven’t been paying attention, or are outright lying to protect their industry.

Next, let’s tackle this line:

NCFA encourages a calm and rational response to the verdict, and hopes that the Russian government will continue to work with the United States government and the American adoption community to keep the adoption process between Russia and the United States transparent, safe and successful for the benefit of thousands of Russian-born children.

For starters, you gotta love the way NCFA attempts to portray any response to the verdict other than that which they want as perhaps irrational, or not coming from a calm (and clear headed) position.

Such framing, of course denies the ongoing history of adoption policy between the two countries. In the wake of other Russian adoptees dying due to the actions of their adopters, Russia has taken steps to keep the process open while trying to improve information flow. The Russians government has responded “calmly” and “rationally” time and again, yet despite their efforts at making the process work, certain aspects are still not working.

The Dmitry Yakolev case makes it abundantly clear, adoptions to the US from Russia are NOT “transparent.” Despite the previous Russian tightening of restrictions, attempting to ensure that information about the disposition of Russian adoptees (who are Russian citizens) in the US would be reported back, Russian officials learned of Dmitry’s death not from the agency, European Adoption Consultants, (EAC) responsible for maintaining tabs on Dmitry’s health and well being, but from the newspapers after his death.

By any measure, clearly an information break down occurred. EAC failed to live up to it’s obligations.

The process has not been “transparent”, “safe” or “successful” in relation to Dmitry and a growing list of other Russian adoptees.

Russia’s response to such HAS ALREADY been measured and maintained the process in light of previous calls for a full moratorium.

The Russian embassy had a representative in the courtroom throughout the process, watching closely as Miles Harrison’s trial played out. In many ways, they gave the American judicial system every chance to get this right. In light of Harrison taking the full walk, industry reactionaries such as NCFA have no business feigning shock and displeasure at the Russian response. It’s been a long time coming. The Russians have kept the process open time and again in the face of earlier calls for closing to American adoptions.

Will the Harrison case be the straw the broke the camel’s back? That remains to be seen.

Finally NCFA pleads (on behalf of its member organizations):

Those who would suffer most from a disruption of Russian adoptions are the thousands of innocent orphans who otherwise would have been adopted into loving American homes.

The adoption of Russian children to the US had already been declining (just as the rest of international adoption marketplace has slowed:)

Only about 1,800 Russian children were adopted by Americans this year — down from a high of almost 6,000 in 2004.

NCFA pleading for American market share is an industry pleading for its lifeblood. Agencies need kids (particularly white kids) to place. With both Guatemala and Vietnam closing earlier this year, the industry is scrambling for sources. Terminology such as “innocent” and “orphans” are being used as part of an emotional appeal.

I’ve written repeatedly here on my blog about how terminology such as “orphan” means one thing in the American psyche and common usage and quite another under American and international adoption law.

When NCFA utilizes terminology such as “innocent” they are playing on readers sympathies in in relation to “justice.” They are building a construct where-under “innocent” “orphans” would be “punished” by “denying them adoptions” as if it were a child’s “right’ to be adopted.

This relies upon the twin mythologies of a newly constructed out of whole cloth child’s “right” to be adopted, and that of adoption as always providing some form of a “better life,” both of which while devised over decades by the industry are simply that, mythologies.

Far from a “right to be adopted,” the more internationally agreed upon definition of children’s rights (despite the U.S. having not signed on to such) is predicated upon the right of a child to grow up with the context of their biological family save “exceptional circumstances.” See this brief piece of the broader discussion of such I wrote earlier:

Note the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The ‘rights’ being spelled out for children entail more far more than A family, instead the ‘right’ refers to growing up within their family of origin barring “exceptional circumstances.”

See principle 6, in particular, which states in part:

He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, … a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother.

And as to that “better life?”

That is predicated upon a form of American nationalism that assumes a child will inherently be “better of” with an American adoptive couple, or within a context of American wealth.

To quote Socorro Treviño, the mother-in-law of a Mexican womyn who sold her newborn to an international adoption baby broker who in turn, was selling Mexican babies into American adoptions:

“A better life?” she said in Spanish while surveying the dilapidated house around her. “If that was the case we would have given everyone here up for adoption.

Adoption must not be offered up as the “better life” solution to global poverty and parental desperation.

NCFA’s “solution” to the problems of those growing up in Russian orphages is relocation and redistribution into wealthy American families.

The Harrison’s paid “about 80,000” to adopt Dmitry.

His biological mother was described as “mentally disabled:”

“We received Dima in 2006 straight from the labor ward,” said Natalya Vishnevskaya, the head doctor at the orphanage. “His 18-year-old mother signed a refusal of the child and disappeared. It’s unclear where she is now. She is a mentally disabled, lonely young girl who was also raised in an orphanage.”

Which is to say the problems Dmitry’s original parents (no mention of the father at all) faced (or still faces) are far larger than simply picking up Dmitry and passing him along to American adopters.

NCFA and it’s member agencies rely upon that desperation, that lack of services and support to gain children, or “product” for their industry.

They have no interest in working to change the circumstances and situation that brought Dmitry to the point of adoptability, as doing so would fundamentally undermine their very industry.

Instead, they structure their argument in hopes that their income stream remain intact by co-opting the non-existent voices of infants made available to the adoption process themselves, arguing business must go on unimpeded “for the sake of the children.”

Am I surprised by such?

Not in the least. It’s precisely what industry can be counted on to do.

Industry has shown, it only speaks up when its own interests are at stake, not when the genuine rights and needs of those adopted are at stake (other than its attempts to block them.)

If anything, NCFA has show it is often unaware of the real state of, cares nothing for, or more often, works in direct opposition to adoptee rights.

Again, hardly surprising, in that NCFA was intentionally created as a reaction to the prospect of adoptees gaining access to their authentic documentation. NCFA was created by the industry to once again slam those doors of access shut.

As for NCFA itself, it is an industry trade group and lobby founded in 1980, as a direct reaction to the 1979/1980 Carter administration’s Draft Model State Adoption Act (DMSAA) which had called for restoring records access by adoptees to their own adoption records. NCFA was created very specifically by industry interests to derail and defeat the open records provisions of the DMSAA.

For NCFA to now spout off about how adoptees “enjoy the very same rights” is nothing if not bitterly ironic.

So here we have it, NCFA utilizing the very adoptee rights they have fought so hard against and testified in opposition to in state legislatures across the country in a last ditch effort to attempt to keep Russian adoptions open.

Clearly, they have no shame.

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