US lawmakers intend to press the government of Kyrgyzstan to expedite the adoptions of 65 Kyrgyz children by American families. The adoptions have been stalled as Kyrgyz officials mull changes to the Central Asian state's adoption framework.
Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) are preparing a letter to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev concerning the 65 stalled adoptions, according to a spokesperson in Sen. Brownback's office.
Despite encouraging signs earlier this fall that the situation might be resolved, the Kyrgyz Parliament failed to take action on new adoption legislation in a mid-November session, as had been expected. The parliament pushed off further talks on the issue to February 15, citing a need for "deeper study," according to the parliamentary press service. The latest delay is causing some of the prospective American parents to lose hope that they will ever be allowed to bring the children to the United States.
"Every time we think we're right there ...something changes in the government," said Ann Bates, a Pennsylvania pediatric nurse who has been waiting since June 2008 to bring home the four-year-old girl with mild cerebral palsy she was matched with. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
The prospective parents thought they had achieved a breakthrough back in September when Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov promised senators Brownback and Casey that he would urge parliament to expedite the pending adoptions. But three weeks later, Chudinov resigned in a governmental shakeup by President Bakiyev. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
It was Chudinov who instituted a moratorium on international adoptions in February of 2009 amid allegations of fraud and child trafficking on the part of orphanages and adoption workers. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The government has been investigating those claims, and, with the aid of UNICEF, is developing a new adoption framework.
The 65 US families had gone through the often year-long process to be matched with an adoptable Kyrgyz child and were in the final stages of adoption when the Kyrgyz officials stopped processing applications. Many of the children have disabilities, including one girl who has become blind and deaf and has incurred brain damage during the wait because of late-diagnosed hydrocephalus, a problem that likely would have been treated immediately in the United States, the girl's prospective adoptive mother, a Florida pediatrician, believes.
"The human costs of these delays are so enormous," said Lisa Brotherton, who has been waiting to be handed the baby girl with whom she was matched since 2008. Brotherton, who visited Bishkek last August, believes the baby has Cerebral Palsy and is malnourished based on diagnoses she received from doctors who examined photographs of the girl.
"For her to continue to be victimized by languishing in a place where she can make no life-long bonds adds insult to injury," said Brotherton, who worries that the adverse psychological effects -- like attachment disorders, depression and PTSD - will affect their children.
The prospective parents are well aware of an ongoing Harvard Medical School study called the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, which has shown that children in Romanian orphanages had significantly lower IQs (65 versus 103) than children living in the community. Those living in orphanages also have a much higher rate of mental illness than those living in the community, the study also shows. Those placed in foster families made dramatic recoveries in mental health and language acquisition - but the success rates were significantly diminished for those who were older than two when they were put into the foster homes.
The US State Department has tried to intervene on behalf of the families, raising the adoption issue in meetings with Kyrgyz diplomats, according to a State Department official. The US government also brought a group of Kyrgyz MPs this May to the United States to discuss the adoptions and to meet with some families.
"The Department of State has urged the Kyrgyz government to complete its criminal investigation and resolve the pending cases so that eligible children can be placed in permanent homes," the official said in an e-mailed response to EurasiaNet's questions. "The Department will continue to engage the Kyrgyz government on this issue."
Laurie Rich is a EurasiaNet staff writer.