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Children adopted from Russia - 2002-04-18

English Feature #7-34299 Broadcast November 27, 2000

Americans adopt more children from Russia than from any other country. Last year, for instance, almost four thousand five hundred Russian orphans became part of adoptive families in the United States. Today on New American Voices we'll talk about children adopted from Russia and how they adjust to life in this country.

A recent survey has found that Russian children adopted by American families face a number of similar problems.

"Some of the issues that they faced - most frequently was a language delay, which is not terribly suprising. The next issue they had to deal with, was malnourishment, that was the case with about 15 percent of the kids. The third delay reported was a developmental delay, about nine percent of the children. We found that the biggest emotional issue was an attachment disorder. It was very encouraging, though, that out of all the children only 20 percent were having any emotional issues."

That was Dr. Patti Price of the organization "Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption", or FRUA, which conducted the survey. Dr. Price says FRUA wanted to produce a balanced outlook on the adopted children, to look not only at their problems, but also on their achievements. And indeed, the survey found that many of the children were considered talented.

"More than 40 percent of the children had been recognized as being above-average in intelligence, and more than a quarter for being above-average in language ability. And music came in third, they seem to be very musical. And also excel in athletics and swimming, gymnastics, overall motor development, they're doing very well, and then also on the creative side in art and dance."

Another question covered by the survey was how adopted children adjusted to life with their new families.

"We asked how the children got along with the parents, and at the beginning some of the children had some attachment issues. But we found out that from the time of adoption to currently, most of the children were doing exceptionally well. They had bonded with the parents, they were getting along well with siblings, getting along with peers, etcetera."

The results of Dr. Price's survey will, no doubt, be encouraging to prospective adoptive parents, who generally do not have much information about the child they will bring home. Ernie Jones, who lives near Seattle in Washington state, is a member of FRUA and the adoptive father of two Russian daughters. Three years ago he and his wife Debbie adopted a seven-year-old girl, Nadia, from an orphanage in Siberia. The Joneses told the adoption agency that they did not want an infant, and that they wanted a girl. But other than that the selection process was almost a matter of chance.

"We were originally given a photo listing from the agency and went through and picked out, let's look at these three or four girls. And they sent us a video then, each video might have been of each child maybe two minutes long, and some medical background information, and somebody from the agency had met the kids as well, so there was a little bit of understanding from them what the child was like, and from that - that's about all you get to go on."

But the adoption proved to be a success for both sides. So a year later Ernie and Debbie Jones went back to Siberia to adopt Nadia's older sister. Julia is now thirteen, Nadia ten. Their father says the girls are now very much like any American children their age, but they did have major obstacles to overcome.

"You have to understand that these kids give up everything, they don't speak the language, the food's different, and it's a total shock for them, and they're trying to understand or learn the new rules of the family. They know how to function in the orphanage, with both the spoken and unspoken rules, but now they're coming into a house, into a home, and they're trying to find these new limits and boundaries, and trying to establish some control in their lives."

Next week on New American Voices ten-year-old Nadia Jones will talk about her life in America. We'll also talk about the costs of adoption, and about how, in retrospect, adoptive parents feel about the experience.