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Russia opens an investigation into Dmitry’s death and the Harrison acquittal

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.)


Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article detailing some of the anger in aftermath of the Miles Harrison acquittal, Russian Furor Over U.S. Adoptions Follows American’s Acquittal in Boy’s Death, (dated Jan. 3rd.)

Last Tuesday (December 30th) the Russians began their own investigation:

On Tuesday, Russian federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the boy’s death, and the authorities have called to restrict or end the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

“When we give our children to the West and they die, for some reason the West always tells us it was just an accident,” Tatyana Yakovleva, the first deputy chief of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, told reporters. “It’s hard to believe.”

By which they speak to the much larger pattern of Russian adoptees’ deaths here in the states due to the actions of those who adopted them. (See Marley’s chronicling of the cases in her blog post CASES: FOREVER FAMILY, FOREVER DEAD.)

Naturally, Mile’s Harrison’s lawyer, Peter Greenspun is still playing publicist, pretending Dmitry’s Russian origins and citizenship were irrelevant:

Mr. Harrison’s lawyer, Peter D. Greenspun, said Russian prosecutors had no jurisdiction in the case. He said that he understood Russia’s interest in the case, but that calling to restrict adoption by Americans “is really politicizing the case unnecessarily.”

“This was a tragic accident which occurred without regard to the country of birth,” he said. “It could have been Guatemala, it could have been Kansas, it could have been South Africa.”

What Greenspun misses or glosses over of course, is that Dmitry’s death was an international incident from the moment it occurred, and is part of a much broader pattern of deaths of Russian adoptees here in the states.

His latter comment is of course laughable,

The Russians, of course aren’t buying excuses nor spin attempts for one moment:

Russian officials saw it otherwise. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “Serious doubts arise as to the legitimacy of the practice of transferring our children for adoption to a country where their rights, primarily the right to life, turn out to be unprotected.”

“In the United States,” it continued, “punishment is absent for those guilty of such tragedies on, apparently, the sole ground that they are ‘full-fledged’ citizens, whereas their adoptees are not.”

Whether or not Dmitry’s adopted status was a factor in the acquittal of Miles Harrison, there remains a core truth to the lack of adoptee rights.

Dmitry was brought to Virginia, a state where adoptees are not given equal treatment under law as non-adopted people.

Virginia is a sealed (adoption) records state.

Adoptees from Virginia do not enjoy the same right to unimpeded access to their original unaltered birth certificate that non-adopted citizens enjoy. Instead, Virginia adoptees are forced by the State into a separate system, (link opens a PDF) that grants them only the right to “non-identifying background information about themselves and their birth family from their finalized adoption record.” Requests to gain full access to unaltered documents are locked away behind gatekeeping mechanisms.

While Virginia adoptees have the right to apply for their unaltered information (should they even be aware that they are adoptees) they have no inherent right under the State’s laws to the State held information that non-adopteed Virginians can readily access about themselves.

Simply put, Virginia adoptees do not enjoy the same rights that non-adopted Virginians do.

Internal to Russia, Speaker Gryzlov has decryed the American adoptions in the rhetoric of nationalist, and supremacist language, not understanding that to the American adopters’ persepctive it’s not a matter of Russian adoptees as some mythical form of “superior stock” so much as it is many American adopters’ relentless quest to get a hold of white adoptees.

To some American couples it makes no difference where the kid is from, so long as they can pass for white, or more importantly, pass as the child off as “their own.”

At a public hearing in the lower house of Parliament, Speaker Boris Gryzlov declared himself “indignant.” Foreigners want Russian children, he said, because they are “genetically smarter and healthier.”

This sentence in particular from the NYT article greatly oversimplifies the Russian grievance:

News of the judge’s ruling revived public outrage that was provoked in 2005 by the deaths of two Russian-born children after severe abuse at the hands of adoptive parents in North Carolina and Maryland. Both cases resulted in convictions.

This is (as the rest of the article makes clear) not a matter of two such cases, and while in those two there were convictions, many other cases have resulted in sentences of less than ten years. See Marley’s blog post, THE RUSSIAN ADOPTED DEAD: A REVIEW OF KILLERS AND SENTENCES. The tragic cases are numerous, and the sentences often light.

The article does go on to quote Alina Levitskaya of the (Russian) Ministry of Education and Science, who makes it clear, the number is certainly higher than the mere two cases the article focuses upon:

Fourteen adopted children have died of abuse in the United States since 1996

In addition to those Russian kids who have died due to the actions of their adopters, there have also been other examples where the kids have survived. Masha, who was adopted by a divorced, father ,paedophile, Matthew Mancuso, as a sexual toy, photographed, starved, and abused over the course of years being perhaps the highest profile of them.

Masha gets a single sentence mention in the NYT piece, though not by name.

In addition, that year a Pennsylvania man was convicted of sexually abusing a girl he had adopted from Russia and of posting pornographic photographs of her on the Internet.

I have only written about Masha twice to date, but Marley has written ba number of posts laying out a fair amount of information.

My post Masha II gives the roughest outline of some of what all she has endured (and to the best of my knowledge, continues to endure.)

Her story alone is enough to give anyone pause concerning these adoptions, as from the pathetic “home study” forward it was clear something had gone terribly wrong.

While Greenspun and the U.S. continue to dismiss the far reaching implications of the Harrison case, the Russians patience is running out. That which is treated as all but irrelevant here in the U.S. to almost all but wanna-be-adopters trying to extract kids from Russia before any rule changes can occur, is household dinner table discussion fodder in Russia.

No doubt the “over-reaction!” and “unnecessarily politicized!” whining will only increase should the Russians decide to make changes to their (already previously tightened) adoption policy.

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