By Rob Watson | The Next Family
Vladimir Putin is used to winning. He is undisputedly a winner from the recent LGBT confrontation-free Olympic Games. He now has his eyes set on the Ukraine and he has taken control of the Internet in Russia. The biggest snowjob was not the white wet stuff on the ground in Sochi, it was the year of naysaying by the Olympic and Russian authorities about treatment of gay people in the former Soviet Union.
Last week came news that Mr. Putin has been nominated in another contest -- for a Nobel Prize due to his influence on the conflict in Syria.
As a dad, more than as a gay man, the idea of Putin getting any kind of an award is unfathomable. His treatment of LGBT people is horrific, with gay men being hunted, humiliated and abused, as seen in the film "Hunted."
Then there are the million children. Putin and his policies are one of the single greatest forces of child destruction in the world.
It is estimated that across Russia there are about one million un-parented children living in poorly managed foster care homes, and many living is overcrowded orphanages. The abuse of these kids is legendary. According to a Human Rights report, the children are force to stay still and not move, be tied to furniture, lie in urine soaked sheets, stand en masse in wooden pens even in winter, be beaten, starved and ignored. When the children reach 15 or 16, they leave the system. A UNICEF report estimates that a third of them then live on the streets, twenty percent become criminals, and ten percent commit suicide.
The children who have been rescued from this squalor are among the most damaged of the world’s orphans. Parents worldwide have reported how the children they receive into their open arms are ones with all hope and vigor drained from their beings. Saving them is a long process.
Journalist Mary Gold described her own experience when she got her daughter who had been in a Russian foster care home, “We have since heard horror stories of dreadful conditions in some homes, of babies with dummies taped into their mouths for hours on end; of children who are still being bottle-fed at the age of eight and haven’t been taught to walk or talk. We discovered that our baby had left her cot only to be washed. She had never breathed fresh air — the room in which she was confined was stiflingly hot — and neither had she seen her own reflection. When we collected her four months after we first met her (the time it took for the adoption process to be completed), she was 17 months old but still weighed a pitiful 17lb.”
Russian doctor Vera Drobinskaya told the BBC last year that she discovered conditions in the one orphanage were so bad that “at least 41 children had died over 10 years, apparently of neglect.”
A group in Russia is charted with a desperate band-aid mission. The group called Russia Without Orphans has targeted Moscow where they estimate there are 18,000 orphans. Their goal is to create a solution for the 4000 of those kids who are not placed in foster care homes. The perk of the program is that the people who sign up for it get a state funded apartment in which to raise the kids. The requirements are that the participants must take a minimum of 5 children “of which at least three teenagers over 12 years or children with disabilities."
This is a situation that calls for a massive international relief effort. Putin’s government is not the least bit interested. Rather than establishing means to better care for parentless kids, they seem fixated on minimizing the potential international parent candidates by propping up homophobia. The parents from the United States have been banned for over a year. CNN also reported, “Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree banning foreign same-sex couples — as well as single people from countries where same-sex marriages are legal — from adopting Russian children…The portion affecting singles appears to stem from concerns Russian lawmakers have publicly expressed that single prospective adoptive parents could turn out to be gay and enter a same-sex marriage in their home countries.” This action closed down prospective adoptions from over a dozen countries. Whether blinding bigotry drives this policy or whether LGBT abuse is a smokescreen to distract the world from Russia’s social failures is open for conjecture.
As a dad, I need to speak up. Will I be listened to? Probably not, but if I don’t sound out on this, I can’t expect others to either. If no one does, then a million children will stay trapped, abandoned, and facing a horrific present with a destructive dysfunctional future.
Dear President Putin,
I am the dad of two kids. You are essentially the father of a country and one of the most powerful men on earth. There are days that I am not sure I have the power to make my kids clean their room. Yet, I have the audacity to write to you and offer you advice to your horrifically failed systems regarding the Russian children. I also represent the one community who could be your greatest resource for help, the world’s LGBT families.
I write because I can. I write because we come from two different worlds. My sons enjoy the Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass stories. To them, they are pure fiction. For you and I, they seem to be an allegorical reality. I come from this side of the looking glass, from atop the rabbit hole. You rule the other side -- the one where the leaders wear the picture of a big heart while screeching for their subjects to lose their heads.
Here is why I am writing to you. You are a child abuser. You are nominated for a Nobel prize, but you abuse the children of Russia.
Your children services infrastructure has failed and the children it tortures are among the world’s most traumatized when they emerge from it. That is, if they are lucky enough to emerge from it at all.
Meanwhile, in your through-the-looking-glass logic, you attack gay families and call us child molesters. A University of Cambridge study showed that gay dad lead families are the most likely to come to the rescue of kids like the ones you have trapped in a hopeless and bureaucratic system. An Australian study, the most comprehensive and accurate of its kind, shows that kids raised in LGBT families fair BETTER than they do in heterosexual ones.
It is inconceivable therefore that you shut the door to countries who allow such families to adopt. Even in the United States a few decades ago where LGBT couples were not allowed to marry anywhere, they were still allowed to be foster care parents in most of the states of the union. While the anti-gay forces towed their party line that marriage was for only for heterosexuals with children, they were pragmatic enough to know that they needed our families to take kids who would otherwise suffer with neglect.
Down the rabbit hole, such logic does not seem to exist. Instead, you insist that children either suffer in groups, or are put in your “best case” scenario, that in our country would itself be considered substandard. I know what these kids really need because my two sons are special needs kids. They would not be OK in Russia.
Both my sons were adopted as babies from drug addicted heterosexual parents. They are now eleven years old, born four months apart from each other. My oldest has had therapy to help him process language, to understand sequences and conceptual ideas. It was only a year ago for example, that he could understand what the words “yesterday” and “tomorrow” meant since the actual days they represent change…daily. He had to be taught things that most kids will learn by osmosis.
My other son has severe issues with the ability to focus and used to write everything as a complete mirror image of itself. He too had to be taught…everything. We had to teach him how to turn things around, and make them right.
This is just what I am pleading for you to do in your own country. Turn things around and make them right. I am hoping that the dad in me can reach the dad of a country in you. To that point, one of the things I have learned as a dad is that you cannot do it all alone. At times, it is OK to ask for help. That has been true for me. It is obviously true for you.
You cannot solve your orphaned children situation alone. Forcing even three special needs kids into a home with two other kids and an adult paid to parent them, is not the answer. While it is better than children chained to a bed, it is still far from the minimum those children require for healthy lives.
My sons just returned from a three-day science camp. As I cuddled with my son Jesse in a pile of stuffed animals, he told me about his adventures. He rested his head against my chest and I could feel his world in this teddy bear pile, get as safe and warm as is humanly possible. I gently kissed his head, as my mind wandered to the idea of a Russian Jesse, alone, shut down, with no daddy in sight. My heart breaks knowing there are a million Jesses in your country.
You need help. Rather than restricting your adoption policies, you need to open them wide. Rather than rejecting families who do not biologically procreate, you need to embrace them.
Magic can happen on this side of the looking glass -- if you reach out for help, you will get it. If you confront the situation as it really is, and let the world know you need one million families who are willing to love the most needy kids on earth, those families will step up.
They will forgive you, and they will be there for those kids. They will love them, nurture them and heal them. People will call them heroes, but they will consider themselves to be the lucky ones, because they will have the privilege of loving. I am not speaking in theory. This is characteristic of hundreds of LGBT foster families I know.
If you reversed your policies, and emerged from the “Wonderland” world, making things right-sized and no longer backwards, then these families could do what they were meant to do. Others would look at them and tell them how they all deserved Nobel Prizes for their work.
They would not accept those accolades, however; they would want the prizes to go instead to someone who made it all possible.
They would want to give the prize to you.
Rob Watson is a writer for The Next Family and Evol Equals and lives with his husband and children in Santa Cruz, California.