Skip to main content

Every Russian orphan deserves a family

By Michele Bachmann, Special to CNN
July 10, 2013 -- Updated 1628 GMT (0028 HKT)
Jack, with his family and Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Jack, with his family and Rep. Michele Bachmann.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michele Bachmann: Russia should lift its ban on American adoptions of Russian orphans
  • Bachmann: For an orphan, there is no substitute for a family and parental love
  • She says Russia's ban is punishing the weakest of the most vulnerable of its society
  • Bachmann: I've introduced a bipartisan resolution urging Russia to reconsider ban

Editor's note: Michele Bachmann is the U.S. Representative from Minnesota's Sixth District and is co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.

(CNN) -- A little boy named Jack, adopted from Russia several years ago as a toddler, celebrated Father's Day this year with his family in my home state of Minnesota. Jack is now 8.

Across the ocean, his little brother Teddy, 5, didn't even know it was Father's Day. He simply woke up and lived yet another day of his life in a state orphanage, dreaming of his brother and the parents he met last year, knowing that they are waiting for him in a home somewhere far away.

Jack's parents found out about Teddy too late to adopt the two brothers together. But as soon as they learned about Teddy, they knew they would adopt him, too. They were still in the midst of a drawn-out, three-year process to adopt Teddy when on December 28, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a ban on all American adoptions of Russian orphans.

The news of the ban devastated hundreds of children and families like Jack and Teddy's. Dozens of families were only days or weeks away from flying to Russia for the final court date that would have allowed them to bring their child home. Many of these families have shown me pictures of these children they already love so much.

Michele Bachmann
Michele Bachmann

These are children who have known only the life of an orphanage since birth and whose disabilities make it unlikely that Russian families will adopt them. These orphans now sit and wait, clinging to photos of their American parents, asking when their mama and papa will come for them.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, 740,000 children live in Russia without parental care. The Russian Ministry of Science and Education estimates that 110,000 of these children live in state orphanages . In contrast, only 7,400 domestic adoptions took place in Russia in 2011, with an additional 3,400 adoptions of Russian children by families from abroad.

These numbers are tragic. For an orphan, there is no substitute for a family. Not even the best orphanage can provide a child what a loving mother and father can. Staff, not parents, run orphanages. And despite any government's best intentions, hunger, neglect, extreme heat and cold and other forms of deprivation are common features of institutional life.

But even more crushing is the lack of security, connection and deep emotional bonds that can grow only within a family. Children who grow up in orphanages tell stories of never having heard the words "I love you" and never receiving a single spontaneous hug throughout their childhood. A government can pay someone to wash and feed children, but it cannot pay someone to love them.

Children with disabilities face an even bleaker fate.

For a host of reasons, children with disabilities are rarely if ever adopted in Russia and elsewhere. Because of the harsh realities of institutional life -- limited staff; scant resources for food, utilities and other needs; little to no medical care -- a large percentage of orphans with disabilities do not even survive childhood.

This means that for children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or other disabilities, being adopted by an American family may be the only chance they will have not only to receive specialized therapy and life-saving medical care but to know the unconditional love, acceptance and joy of being a cherished member of something special called family.

It is these orphaned children -- the weakest of the most vulnerable -- whom the Russian adoption ban has punished.

In June, I traveled to Russia with a bipartisan congressional delegation, taking part in meetings related to national security in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

We also made it a point to reiterate our profound hope that the Russian government will reconsider the adoption ban, and at the very least, allow for the completion of the cases for the children and families who were near the end of the adoption process. I emphasized in these meetings our desire to provide whatever post-placement reports and information might be necessary to provide the Russian government their desired assurances of the well-being of adopted children.

I've also introduced a bipartisan resolution emphasizing much of the above, and most importantly calling on Russia to remember that every child deserves to be in a loving, protective and permanent family.

I am confident that House leadership will move this legislation forward and that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will proactively reaffirm our commitment to building a better future for every child in desperate need of a family.

Even in the complicated tides of modern political life, the weakest and most vulnerable members of society must never be forgotten or cast aside.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michele Bachmann.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT