[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/HEALTH/conditions/10/05/hfh.alcohol.breast.cancer/art.wine.glasses.gi.jpg caption="FAS can occur when a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy."]
Program Note: Be sure to watch AC360° at 10 p.m. ET. for our story on the rehabilitation of a child adopted from Russia with fetal alcohol syndrome.
National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. For more information on fetal alcohol syndrome, read NOFAS' fact sheet here.
Anderson Cooper talks about the outrage over the 7-year-old adopted boy sent back to Russia and other international adoption problems with Dr. Jane Aronson, international adoption specialist and founder and CEO of Worldwide Orphans Foundation and with legal analyst Lisa Bloom.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/04/09/us.russian.adoption.return/story.russian.boy.rtr.jpg caption="A 7-year-old Russian boy adopted by an American family last year was put on a return flight to Moscow this week because of violent and psychotic behavior, according to a Tennessee grandmother." width=300 height=169]
Editor's Note: In 1998, Dr. Jane Aronson, adoption medicine specialist and Director of International Pediatric Health Services in New York City, traveled to Russia to learn more about orphanages and pediatric care, and to check up on one particular little girl, Anna. Read Dr. Aronson’s account of her trip below and watch AC360° at 10pm ET tonight to hear her thoughts on the adopted boy who was sent back to Russia alone.
Dr. Jane Aronson
Director of International Pediatric Health Services
January 24, 1998
It's hard to believe that I really traveled to Russia 4 months ago. As a pediatrician specializing in international adoption, I wanted to visit orphanages in Russia and learn more about the medical care of children in Russia. When I talk about my visit to Moscow and Saratov, I get passionate about every adventure. Even 90 degree temperatures did not seem to bother me. The mosquitoes kept me from sleeping comfortably, but I love telling everyone about my 20 mosquito bites in Moscow. In case you're interested, there are no screens in Russia.
My great grandmother, Rose, was born in Chernigov in Ukraine in the mid-1800's. My grandfather, Abe, was born in Skritsk, a small Jewish ghetto about 500 miles north of Odessa at the turn of the century. I felt as if I had something in common with all the Russians whom I met. I wanted to tell them about my heritage and they were truly interested in my family origins. People acknowledged me as Russian.
Saratov, a small city of 1 million people about 500 miles southwest of Moscow along the Volga River was our first destination. The orphanage in Saratov was shabby and old, but as we entered the infant and toddler living areas, the light from the large windows filled the room. There were very few staff caring for the children, but they appeared to be friendly and kind. This orphanage was occupied by 80 to 100 children with a staff of five; there was one director and a full time doctor. I met with the doctor and the director and after the initial "stranger anxiety" we amiably discussed the medical needs of the orphanage. I made a list of their requests and explained that we would work very hard to bring them medical supplies on subsequent trips to Saratov. They were very appreciative, but I really don't think they thought we would ever return.
Program Note: To learn more about problems and issues associated with international adoption and to hear from adoption medicine specialist, Dr. Jane Aronson, watch AC360° tonight at 10pm ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/04/09/us.russian.adoption.return/story.russian.boy.rtr.jpg caption="A 7-year-old Russian boy adopted by an American family last year was put on a return flight to Moscow this week because of violent and psychotic behavior, according to a Tennessee grandmother." width=300 height=169] FRUA, Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption, has put together a list of 10 common-sense steps to help you get the information and support you need when planning to adopt a child.
1. Prepare yourselves to parent.
There’s no such thing as too much information. Most families use an adoption agency, and you can expect your adoption agency to require you to take training Welcome the opportunity to learn all you can. There are also online courses available to prospective adoptive parents.
2. Support is critical.
Start lining it up now to help you navigate the adoption process and to help your family through the post-adoption adjustments and beyond. Let extended family and friends know you’ll need some extra support during this pre-adoption time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in very concrete ways – someone to drive with you to your state capital to get an apostille on a document, for example, or to advise on the necessary equipment to care for a baby. When family and friends offer help, take it.
3. Maintain realistic expectations so you won’t be disappointed frequently.
There are many unknowns in this process and plenty of opportunities for disappointment or feeling like a bad parent. Take Dr. Aronson’s advice: Do your research; and set appropriate expectations. Don’t plan, for instance, to throw a huge party to introduce family and friends to your child as soon as you arrive home. You need to give your child time to adjust to the new environment and to bond with you first.
4. Know who you are, whom you want, and what you can handle.
This may seem self-evident, but giving thought to these questions early in the process will save you time and disappointment. For instance, you may think you know the characteristics of the child you want, but are you sure you know how your partner feels? If you disagree, how will you work this out? Would you both be OK with a trans-racial adoption? Do you know what racial identity issues can arise as your child grows up, and how you would handle them? Do you prefer an infant or an older child? Boy or girl? Sibling group? Could you handle a special needs child? What inner resources and strength do you have to love and nurture a child who turns out to have special needs years after the adoption? Do you have a faith, family, and friends to sustain you? Do you have the financial resources to handle any post-adoption medical, developmental, behavioral, or learning issues? Do you have other children whose needs must be considered? Can you appreciate the culture of your child’s birth country and seek out ways to help your child learn and value the culture?
5. Choose the right adoption agency.
6. Create a budget.
7. Have the medical information in your referral reviewed to determine as best you can how healthy the child is and is likely to be.
8. Start identifying the resources you will need after your child comes to live with you.
9. Record, record, record.
10. Take care of yourselves.
Program Note: Watch AC360° tonight at 10pm ET to learn more about this little boy's story and other real problems and concerns about adoptions from overseas.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/europe/09/01/russia.georgia.summit.sanctions/art.lavrov.jpg caption="Sergev Lavrov: demanding Russia-America adoptions be frozen."]
The New York Times
There is understandable outrage in Russia after an American woman shipped her adopted 7-year-old son back to Moscow yesterday, declaring him to be “mentally unstable.”
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergev Lavrov responded this morning by demanding that all Russia-to-United States adoptions be frozen. That chill will likely affect hundreds of American families; there were 1,600 Russian children adopted in the U.S. last year. My colleague Clifford J. Levy, reporting from Moscow, quoted one family whose adoption plans now appear to be on hold.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/24/stick.angle.1.copy.jpg caption="THE ACTUAL STICK"]
CNN Senior Executive Producer
My son's most treasured possession these days is a stick. It's an ordinary looking stick. But I’m told it has extraordinary powers.
Can you imagine what powers this stick possesses?
My son can.
He's adept at wielding that stick.
He leaps with it in hand from the couch, to the coffee table, to the chair.
If you're near him (and he knows not to swing the stick when anyone else is too near) you can faintly hear sound effects and dialogue that you can't quite make out. An action movie in whispers.
At one point the other night, in the middle of the action, he paused for a second and declared: "This stick is amazing!"
Why is it amazing, I asked him.
"It can do like 20 things at the same time."
"It can be a knife. Or a gun."
But it was number three that thrilled me.
"Look," he illustrated with the fingers of his left hand - "You can even practice cello positions on it!"
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/06/19/brazil.child.custody/art.david.sean.goldman.jpg caption="David Goldman has been locked in a legal battle over custody of his 9-year-old son, Sean."]
It's hard to watch the judicial farce playing out in Brazil right now and not remember the one that began during the holiday season here in Miami 10 years ago. Brazil's Supreme Court on Thursday halted the return of nine-year-old Sean Goldman to his American father — even though international law clearly dictated that the boy should have been handed over when his mother, who had absconded to South America with the child five years ago, died last year. It sounds a lot like the case of Elián González, the six-year-old Cuban boy who, after washing up in Florida in 1999 after a boat disaster his mother did not survive, was for seven months kept from his father in Cuba by a string of outrageous and politically motivated U.S. court rulings.
The Sean Goldman case sounds so much like the Elián González case, in fact, that Brazil has opened itself to charges of especially egregious hypocrisy. It's no secret that Brazil, especially under hugely popular President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has become a hemispheric counterweight to the U.S. And it loves to play tit-for-tat with Washington. Because Washington still insists Brazilians secure a visa before entering the U.S., Brasilia makes Americans pay for a "reciprocal" permit to get into Brazil; after the U.S. started thumb-printing foreigners in immigration lines after 9/11, Brazil obliged Americans to do the same. Those are understandable counterjabs. But while no one is suggesting that the Brazilian justice system has been keeping Sean from his father as payback for Elián, Americans can't forget how loudly — and rightly — Brazil and the rest of Latin America decried America's violation of international law in the Cuban case.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/12/17/goldman.brazil.custody/story.goldman.cnn.jpg caption="David Goldman has been locked in a legal battle over custody of his 9-year-old son, Sean." width=300 height=169]
There are few winners in the case of Sean Goldman, the 9-year old boy at the center of a custody battle between his American father and Brazilian stepfather. But the losers are easy to spot, starting with common sense. More worryingly for Brazil, a growing nation desperate to be taken seriously on the world stage, is the damage being done to its image.
One of the reasons foreign investment in Brazil has risen so significantly over the last few years is that Brazilian law is relatively solid. Unlike neighbors Venezuela or Bolivia, for example, foreign companies in Brazil do not fear that the goalposts will be moved in the middle of the game or that powerful interests will tear up agreements. Brazilian lawyers said Sean Goldman's stepfather, João Lins e Silva, has diligently followed due process in his attempt to retain custody of his late wife's son. (She died in childbirth earlier this year.) But there is still a sense that the already slow legal system is being swayed, in part, by money and influence. Sean's stepfather's family, the Lins e Silvas, is well known in Brazilian legal circles and they have so far used the system skillfully to retain custody of the child.
"The Brazilian family are respected lawyers and they understand the situation and they know what steps they can legitimately take within the system here," said a U.S. official familiar with the case. "But what we need to make clear is that the Government of Brazil is in agreement for his return [to his biological father]. We need to work through the legal system so the Brazilian government can enforce the return." Indeed, David Goldman had flown to Rio de Janeiro to pick up his son after a federal court in Brazil ruled he had legal custody of the boy, only to be greeted by news that a Supreme Court judge had decided to halt the procedure, declaring that the boy himself had to testify about where he preferred to live.