Helping Russia Solve its Demographic Crisis
Russians can successfully adopt Russian children
M o s c o w -- North American Christians are willing to help Russian parents turn around their country’s demographic crisis. Professor Lanny Endicott, head of the Social Work department at the primarily-Charismatic “Oral Roberts University” in Tulsa/Oklahoma, believes more of Russia’s social and factual orphans could find homes within Russia. In a conversation at Moscow’s “Russian-American Institute” on 28 May, the professor suggested that programmes be put in place which encourage Russian couples to adopt and take care of their country’s parent-less on location. Endicott’s involvement in the “Indian Child Welfare” programme in Oklahoma, which helps native Indian families adopt Indian orphans, has shown him the importance of not separating children from their roots.
The USA has over the past two decades been a major recipient of Russian children: Only China and Ethiopia permitted a greater number of orphans to be sent there. Though US-adoptions of Russian children have dropped significantly over the past five years (down from 5.878 in 2004 to 1.586 in 2009), around 750.000 minors remain “without parental care” in Russia. Only a third of these are cared for in public institutions.
A slight population increase was registered for 2009 – the first one in 15 years. But Russian birth rates remain low and death rates – especially among men – high. Following a peak of nearly 149 mill. in 1991, and despite massive immigration from the Central Asian republics, population was hovering just below 142 mill. in early 2010.
Dr. Endicott reported that in Russia as many as 80% of the relationships between adopted children and their new parents fail. In the US that number, though still uncomfortably high, is significantly lower. “The real issue is a lack of resources,” he contended. “Children do get adopted in Russia, but the resources to help these families – information on parenting skills, education and health care – are usually not available. So the objective in Russia must be not only to find homes, but to provide a support system for families who have taken on these children. Families need to help families deal with adopted children. Orphaned children need a lot of special attention – they have more physical and mental health problems than others.”
Families could even be offered a financial stipend to defray some of the costs of their new child. As an alternative, lobbying work could be done to encourage the government to plough the money it saves from having fewer children in orphanages back into the families who have had the courage to adopt.
The professor reported in Moscow that the churches in some regions of Oklahoma have adopted, as a starter, a one-church, one-child programme. The objective is that the families of a congregation eventually adopt more than just one child. He spoke of one large Russian congregation in St. Petersburg in which families have already adopted over 100 children.
According to Endicott, an initial step would be to find a geographical region in which potential parents could network to share and council on their experiences. Such families and networks would need to be coached by trained mentors. He suggests that native-Russian “trainers be trained” not only by him, but also by an international children’s agency with which he co-operates in Oklahoma. He regards it as ideal if Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant congregations within a given region coalition to support adopted children and their parents.
The professor from Oklahoma suggests that Vladimir might be a possible initial pilot region. Endicott has already taught short-term on three occasions for the “Russian-American Institute” and has developed a number of church and government contacts in Vladimir region, located 200 km east of Moscow. Endicott would like to co-operate with the 2008-founded “Orphan’s Tree” (see “orphanstree.org”), which dedicates itself to working with older orphans in Moscow region. Its founder, George Steiner, is also associated with the Colorado-based “Children’s HomeChest” organisation.
Being a professor at heart, Endicott cannot imagine carrying out such a project without the gathering of data. He stated: “So often we lose the value of what we have done if we don’t develop good data research. Otherwise, our work is anecdotal – it consists solely of stories.” He would prefer to gather systemised information from parents and even the children after an initial six months for a total period of up to three years.
The entire project would have a great overarching and “superordinate” goal, the professor added. It would give both church and state a common agenda, allowing them to drop their individual concerns for the sake of a larger and higher good. He regards this as a possible win-win situation for all parties involved.
Professor Endicott would welcome the suggestions of others. His address is: “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Moscow, 14 June 2010
Press service of the Russian Evangelical Alliance
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