News / Europe

Adopted Russian Children in US Maintain Homeland Ties

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Russia may suspend adoptions to U.S. parents over concerns about the treatment of some children. Last year Moscow lifted a previous ban after signing an agreement with the United States to provide safeguards, but Russian officials now say that agreement needs to be strengthened.

While there have been isolated problems, adoptive parents say most of the 60,000-some Russian children are doing well in the United States.

And some parents encourage them to maintain ties to their homeland. Speaking Russian with his grandparents back in St Petersburg via Skype is a routine activity for 15-year-old Dimitry Miller, known as Dima.

He says his relatives love to hear his voice and are re-assured that he is healthy and happy in his home here.

“They are thankful that I live in a good place,” Miller said.

His 11-year-old sister, Dasha, could speak no English when they arrived here in July, 2009, but now she has lost most of her Russian and relies on her older brother to communicate by telephone or internet.

Their adoptive father, Bob Miller, has encouraged them to keep up their connections with family.

“We really wanted them to keep their culture; we really wanted them to stay in contact ... as long as they have cell phones or computers, we can keep in touch,” Miller said.

Bob's wife Karen says they had planned on adopting a baby, but when they went to Russia they learned about the more than 700,000 children who have either lost their parents or been abandoned.

She says these older children are often at risk of suicide, drug addiction and crime as they grow older and face life on their own.

Karen and Bob first found Dasha at an orphanage and then learned she had an older brother, to whom she was very attached.

So they decided to adopt them both.

“We just wanted to make sure they knew how badly we wanted them and how much we loved them already,” Karen Miller said.

Although their father was dead and their mother incapacitated, their elderly grandfather was still very much attached to them.

Bob said getting his approval for the adoption was a priority.

“We talked to Dima and said we needed to make sure this was going to be okay with grandfather and Dima said, 'Yes, I need to talk to grandfather and get his blessing,'" he said.

Although Bob and Karen speak very little Russian, Karen, a musician and music professor, learned a Russian song and continues to sing it.

She says Dima had learned some English in the orphanage school, but the first weeks at home here in Texas were a challenge nonetheless.

“They used their non-verbal communication skills very well, but sometimes we had meltdowns (communication breakdowns), we had difficult emotions,” she said.

Bob and Karen hope to take both children back to Russia for a visit one day so they can continue to maintain their ties to the country of their birth and the relatives there who miss them.

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